Random Autumn observations…

Greetings patient blog readers, and apologies for the somewhat laissez-faire approach I have taken to blog writing recently. Clearly I haven’t been including enough fibre in my writing diet. But I am back, and have decided to share with you some of my random musings of the past wee while, as the blog has been quite movie and TV focused of late. And you know how I love my random observations. And lists. So here goes…

  1. I just don’t get the big deal about Beyoncé: the internet and twittersphere has been going crazy this week as Queen B (as some people call her apparently) ‘dropped’ a new album out of the blue. And everyone is loving it by the sounds. But, controversial as  it might be, I just don’t get the big deal about Beyoncé. Sure, she’s got a good voice and a great body, but so do lots of other singers who don’t evoke quite the same level of hero worship. What am I missing? Something, obviously. And of course my musical taste could be called into question thanks to me being a Swiftie (a Taylor Swift fan), and I understand that not everything appeals to everyone. But still, the level of excitement Beyoncé attracts from people is a mystery to me…
  2. ‘Congratulations, you have a boyfriend!’ ‘Um, thanks?’: so the biggest news in my life of late is I finally landed myself a boyfriend, after many years in the dating wilderness. And I am beyond stoked about it for SO many reasons – with the main one being he is awesome :-). But the weirdest thing about the whole deal was the reaction I (and he) got from many people when I told them my news, which was ‘congratulations’. Um, thanks? But I didn’t run a marathon or anything. I just did the easy bit, convince a really good friend who I really really like that we should give this dating thing a try. Is it worthy of a congratulations? I think if he was just some guy I met online I wouldn’t have had the congratulations – maybe it’s more about the fact we have been friends for four years and finally had the collective balls to take the next step and people are like FINALLY! Hence, congratulations? Anyway, I will take it. And I am happy people are happy. But it’s just a random thing is all.
  3. Labour, get your shite together! But it could be worse…: As a left leaning voter from way back, who finds John Key an embarrassment of a Prime Minister, thinking about our current political situation stresses me out. The polls are showing that no party has a chance of catching National, and no leader has a chance of being more popular than Key – despite the flag debacle (don’t even get me started on that one…) and ponytail gate. He is still the guy most Kiwis would prefer to be our PM. And as much as it makes me red in the face, I can’t put forward a better alternative. Andrew Little has been doing random as stuff of late, and he is realistically the only real contender. My genius idea is that Labour and the Greens should do some kind of merger and put James Shaw as leader – sure, he’s a bit young and lacking in experience – but he has a great blend of commercial nouse and political savvy. But that’s not going to happen, so a future of National policies and John Key being an embarrassment seems inevitable. But, at least we don’t have Trump. Enough said…
  4. I am quite weird, but it’s just my personality type!: We had a strategy day at work recently and as part of that we each had to complete online personality tests. And the results were fascinating! It’s quite similar to Myers-Briggs, which I have done before, but had interesting insights into things like what you’re like in romantic relationships – which given my current situation was both insightful and useful! I read that section nodding vigorously the whole way through – especially when it said ‘you need constant reassurance that things are going well, which can come across as needy and insecure’. Needless to say I pointed this out to The Boyfriend and said ‘see? It’s not me being a crazy tart, it’s my personality type’! Highly recommend it to anyone to do – in a relationship or not. Here’s the one we used: https://www.16personalities.com/ . (I am an ENFJ btw)
  5. Weight Watchers is the bomb-diggity – for me anyway: Earlier this year I participated in a ‘Biggest Loser’ competition with some colleagues at work – a collective start of the year kick up the bum to lose some weight and be healthier. Didn’t matter what we used to lose it – weird diets and exercise regimes all accepted, no judgement – but the winner (based on percentage weight loss) would take out the prize pool of cash (we all chipped in to enter). And, to my surprise, I won! I never win stuff – especially stuff that requires me to give up my daily chocolate fix. But I did, and my secret was Weight Watchers. It worked for me – and has before, this is the third time I have done it and the third time I have lost a decent amount of weight in a small amount of time. But I do think it’s all about finding the thing that works for you – based on your lifestyle and preferences. For me, Weight Watchers gives me the freedom to continue being a fussy as eater who sometimes likes to have a piece of cheesecake (almost an entire daily allowance of points btw!), but not have this ruin the whole thing. It taught me the things to avoid and useful things to substitute, and just writing down everything I ate was a great (if scary!) start. Also, the accountability of having to be weighed by a third party each week definitely helped me. Highly recommend. I have never been so stoked to be a loser 😉

 

Well, that’s all my random observations for this week! I will endeavour to be back soon with another blog – no doubt Marvel themed given the upcoming release of Captain America: Civil War, which I am super psyched about. Bring on the Marvellousness! In the meantime, peace out people!

Small screen addictions: Autumn

SupergirlGreetings blog readers! Well, I have been back in the blog world for a wee while now but have focused purely on big screen adventures, when there is SO much going on in small screen land that it is a little overwhelming at times. The number of conversations I have with people where they say I ‘must’ watch a new show that is totes amazeballs, has been increasing with alarming regularity. Not that this is a bad thing – the fact we are in a so called ‘golden age’ of TV is pretty damn awesome. But also it’s hard to know how best to use the limited time you have to spend in front of your TV. Well, I feel it is my responsibility to weed out some wheat from the chaff, and let you know what has been knocking my socks off recently.

Jessica Jones: Regular readers will know I am a Marvel addict from way back (and by way back I mean like four years ago..), but that addiction hasn’t necessarily extended to the small screen. I didn’t make it through Season 1 of Agents of Shield, and try as I might to love Agent Carter I just didn’t. However, the Netflix shows – Daredevil and Jessica Jones – have changed all that. And I don’t just like Jessica Jones because she has the best name EVER 😉 The great thing about this show is it isn’t really a super hero show. At no stage does she disappear into a phone box and reappear in some lycra-spandex blend disguise. Jessica Jones is unapologetically who she is – and I love her for it. Add in David Tennant as the best baddie I have seen in a long time, and this show ticks all the boxes. Binge watch immediately…

The Night Manager: God bless the BBC, and the parents of Tom Hiddleston, for this incredible show. Yes, I know, I was always going to love anything with Hiddles in it, but this is almost two good for TV – and I am only two episodes in. Based on a John Le Carre novel, it is the story of good (ex-army now hotel night manager Hiddleston)  vs evil( ‘worst man in the world’ Hugh Laurie). It has a superb ensemble cast, brilliant script and just looks stunning – this is one show with no expense spared. Now, it still has four eps to go and could all fall apart, but I highly doubt it. Screening on TV3 On Demand for those in Nu Zild.

The Mindy Project: I have raved about this show before but it bears repeating – I love it so much. For anyone with a semi romantic bone in their body – this is the show for you. It’s witty, relatable, hits at the heart strings but is also just plain random at times. And Mindy’s outfits are AMAZEBALLS. I will say that I noticed a drop off in season 4 (which was made by Hulu when Fox didn’t renew), which is a shame – but it is worth inhaling Seasons 1-3 quick smart. Danny Castellano will be your new fictional crush, trust me.

Supergirl: now this is definitely popcorn entertainment, and won’t nourish the neurons in any fashion at all, but it’s a fun show. Also – although it wears its feminist heart on its sleeve, whereas Jessica Jones is much more subtle about it – its a great show for young girls to be watching. Even if they all grow up expecting to leap buildings at a single bound (and to always have amazing looking hair despite just doing battle with aliens). Supergirl/Kara is super endearing and surrounding her with guys who are great eye candy makes for great TV for me I have to say. And nice to see Calista Flockhart returning to form as media mogul Cat Grant. Oh, and Channing Tatum’s wife plays a lawyer. What’s not to love?

Homeland: I will admit I was thinking this show had gone off the rails at the beginning of season 4, but I followed my friend Felix’s recommendation to persevere and god am I glad I did (thanks Felix!). This show just knocked it out of the park for me in this season (I haven’t seen season 5 yet since I am one of those non-downloady people). So many edge of the seat/must watch the next ep right now moments. Simply brilliant. Here’s hoping it can keep it up for another season. And here’s hoping we see more of Raza Jaffrey’s Pakistani intelligence agent because…yum 😉

Daredevil: So, it’s not Jessica Jones, but it’s still a pretty damn excellent Marvel show. The fact that it escaped from the shadow of the TERRIBLE Ben Affleck movie is almost praise enough. I have debated at length with a few people whether this show or Jessica Jones is darker/more intense – I definitely found this one the more intense watch, and couldn’t do more than one ep in a row. But it’s a great show – Charlie Cox is brilliant in the title role, and I love his friendship with Foggy (Foggy! What a great name for a lawyer!). And Vincent D’Onofrio’s baddie is pure evil and suitably unsettling. Season 2 comes out on Netflix this Friday, so you have a week to catch up. No pressure guys 😉

Ok, there you go – I could go on and on forever, but this will suffice for now. If you think I have missed any obvious contenders (and yes, I thought about Game of Thrones, Suits, Jane the Virgin and Love, but they didn’t make the cut ;-)) feel free to let me know in the comments. And my plea to you all – please please please watch any of these shows, or literally do ANYTHING else, rather than watch The Bachelor. You’re better than that people 😉

 

 

Oscars: Mini reviews and Jess picks the winners!

RoomAloha patient blog readers! I promised in my last blog that I would review some more Oscar fodder and I am making good on that promise, albeit in a slightly tortoise-like fashion. But, it’s still before the Oscars (just – they happen Monday afternoon NZT for all those who don’t already have it in their diaries!). So, here are my last couple of reviews, and also my picks for who will (and should) win what in the big categories.

Brooklyn: It’s not often I use the word ‘delightful’, but that really does sum up this fantastic Atlantic-spanning drama about a young Irish girl who moves to New York City in the 1950s. Saoirse Ronan is simply fantastic in the lead role – and conveys both homesickness and falling in love in such a sincere way. I was expecting this to be another one of those movies I love to hate – where one girl has two guys fawning over her and I on principle hate her for being greedy. But no. Both parts of the love triangle were incredibly compelling, and I could well relate to her feeling of being torn between setting out on a new life abroad and being pulled back to family commitments. As I think most Kiwis will – though thankfully we live in an age of Skype and international flights rather than dodgy phone connections and weeks on a ship. Nick Hornby’s script is typically excellent, and it is just a beautiful film to sit back and enjoy. A solid 4 multicoloured M&Ms for me. (My one aside on this is that I can’t see it as being Oscar worthy – it’s a great film, but one of the eight best of the year? Um, not quite)

The Martian: I recently re-watched this on DVD and it really is a fantastic film. In theory it doesn’t sound like it should be hilarious – Matt Damon gets left behind on Mars and has to try and survive on quickly disappearing rations for years before NASA can rescue him – but it is one of the funniest films I saw last year. And so compelling. It’s helped by Damon’s charisma of course – I could watch him science the shit out of things all year. But the supporting cast – in space (Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara) and on the ground (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wigg) are also insanely watchable. Again, a great script (from Drew Goddard who wrote/directed one of my fave films Cabin in the Woods) ensures this is one memorable space movie. And special props to Donald Glover (familiar to all you Community fans out there as Troy) for almost stealing the show as a super scientist. Love this film so much. Five M&Ms from me. (A positive aside here – my two eldest nieces – 8 and 10 – loved this film. So if you want your kids to have a break from animated movies, this is the one for you!)

Ok, so now down to the hard part – my picks. I am torn every year between what I think will win and should win, so here I give you both options. Feel free to disagree vehemently in the comments section (that’s what comments sections are for, right?).

Best Film:

Should win: The Big Short. As previously discussed I loved this SO MUCH and have now seen it three times at the cinema. Not only is it hilarious, but it’s also an incredibly important film. And a stellar cast.

Will win: The Revenant. Everyone is saying this is going to take it out. I haven’t seen it, so can’t say it isn’t worthy. But I will say just because a movie was hard to make doesn’t necessarily make it deserving of the Best Film statuette.

Best Director:

Should win: Adam McKay for the Big Short. As is evident I loved this film and everything about it, including the script and the direction. Give McKay all the awards I say.

Will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant. See comments under Best Picture. Though he does have the best name ever.

Best Actor:

Should win: Leo DiCaprio for The Revenant. So I haven’t seen his performance in The Revenant but have only heard good things. And it’s time. He has been awesome in everything. Give him the gold man already.

Will win: Leo DiCaprio for The Revenant. I seriously think there will be some kind of riot in the Dolby Theatre if they give it to anyone else.

Best Actress:

Should win: Brie Larson for Room. As discussed in my last blog Larson was simply incredible in Room. I haven’t seen Cate Blanchett in Carol yet – and she is apparently amazing – but I still think Larson deserves this one. Cate has enough of them already 😉

Will win: Brie Larson for Room. She is on a winning streak. I will be VERY surprised if she doesn’t take it out.

Best Supporting Actor:

Should win: Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight. I love Mark Ruffalo SO MUCH. Not only is he the cutest man alive but he is also a climate change campaigner. What’s not to love? But this call isn’t based on either of those factors – it’s based on the fact he knocked it out of the park as a dogged reporter in Spotlight. Reward him already Oscar!

Will win: Sylvester Stallone for Creed. Again I haven’t seen this one, but I feel like Hollywood will give this to Sly as a bit of a ‘thanks for all your great work over the years, buddy’ moment.

Best Supporting Actress:

Should win: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl. Ok, so I haven’t actually seen this movie – but I did see Vikander in Ex Machina where she was AMAZEBALLS and have only heard good things about her performance in this one. Plus, I am all for rewarding up and comers.

Will win: Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs. As discussed in my previous blog I didn’t love this film but Winslet was excellent in it. But more excellent than she normally is? Maybe not. But Oscar love her so she will get it for sure.

Ok, there you are – all my picks locked and loaded and ready for Monday afternoon! In the meantime all, make the most of this plethora of quality films while you can. It won’t last forever!

Oscar Fodder: Mini Movie Reviews

The big short 2Hello blog readers! Yes, it has been some time, and for that I profusely apologise. I could make up a fancy pants and complex excuse involving aliens, cats turning into dogs and time travel, but instead I will just stick with – I was a bit busy. But, it’s a long weekend, Oscar movies are flooding the cinemas so I feel it is my duty as a often movie-related blogger to inform you of my views on what you should see, and what you can miss. So here you go – the latest four Oscar baiting films I have seen, in order of how soon you should hightail it to the cinema to see them.

The Big Short: I will admit to having watched the (superb) trailer for this around ten times when it came out, so was super amped to see this true tale of the people who predicted that the GFC was going to happen, and made truck loads of cash doing so. I knew it was based on a Michael Lewis book (whose previous fare Liar’s Poker actually made me understand Wall Street a little bit), and that it was jam packed with big stars (Christian Bale! Brad Pitt! Ryan Gosling! Steve Carell!). What I didn’t expect was it to be so freaking funny. Written and directed by Anchorman director (and Saturday Night Live Alumnus Adam McKay) the humour shouldn’t have been a surprise. But the way he manages to get you to a) understand how the GFC actually happened 2) laugh about it at times while also 3) seriously conveying the effect this event had on people around the world, is a truly impressive feat. So impressive I went back for a second watch. This is my front runner for the best picture Oscar, and gets 5 multi-coloured M&Ms from me.

Spotlight: I am a sucker for movies and TV shows where dedicated and dogged journalists work night and day to uncover and expose stories that need to be told (State of Play and The Newsroom being my top two). So Spotlight was a no brainer for me. It tells the tale of the group of investigative reporters from the Boston Globe (played brilliantly by Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian D’arcy James) who launch a no-holds barred investigation into child abuse within the Catholic Church. A controversial issue anywhere, but in Boston where the Catholic Church is literally everywhere, a potentially career ending one. Again, this is a true story, and again this is brilliantly told. Ruffalo’s performance in particular is a stand out, as is the script. And it reminded me yet again of the importance of investigative journalism at a time when click bait is king. Fingers crossed some newspaper editors and TV head honchos watched this and thought the same thing…4 and a half multi-coloured M&Ms from me.

Room: the fact that a movie with this subject matter can be life affirming is a truly incredible one – but true it is, even if the story isn’t. Room is the story of five year old Jack, who has spent his entire life in one room – actually a shed – where, he comes to learn, he and his mother have been held captive, and she has been the subject of continuous sexual abuse. Yes, it sounds intense and depressing and in some respects it is, but there is much more to the film than just that. I had read the book already so was prepared for what happens and is revealed, but even with that background the film still packed a punch. And that was in large part due to the simply sensational performances of Brie (must win the Oscar or I will punch someone) Larson and young Jacob Tremblay. I think any film that makes you look at the world a little differently or appreciate it a little more is a winner, and this wins on all counts. Also 4 and a half multi-coloured M&Ms from me.

Steve Jobs: So this biopic isn’t nominated for Best Film (and reasonably so, I think) but is up for a slew of other awards. I went in with admittedly very high expectations, largely based on the fact my favourite writer OF ALL TIME Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, The Newsroom, The Social Network) had written the script, not to mention the fact it had a great cast (Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels) and a stellar director in Danny Boyle. But, the film left me a little cold. Sure, it was a cleverly told story of Steve Jobs and the various ructions within Apple – told through three different sequences, all in the short time before a new product launch. Sure, the script was witty and clever as you would expect from Sorkin. And sure, the performances were excellent. But I just didn’t love it. I have tried to put my finger on why, and can’t. It could have been another Social Network – but that film was far superior in my view. But, it was still miles better than the terribly shite Ashton Kutcher Steve Jobs biopic from a few years back that is best forgotten. And it is still worth a watch. Four blue M&Ms from me.

That’s all for now folks – though a bit of a disclaimer first. Usually I try and see all the contenders for Best Picture, but I managed to miss Bridge of Spies and I have absolutely no desire to see Leo DiCaprio being mauled by a bear in The Revenant (though I hear it is excellent). But I will see and review Brooklyn soon, will get a review of The Martian up shortly and you can read my (not very favourable) views on Mad Max: Fury Road here. In the meantime, get thee to the movies people. Not just for the movies – there is air con there too 😉

Movie Reviews: Trainwreck and Fantastic Four

trainwreckMovie Reviews: Trainwreck and Fantastic Four

So I have two reviews for your reading pleasure on this sunny (where I am) Sunday. One was a trainwreck and the other one was friggin’ fantastic. Let’s see which was which…

Trainwreck

I went into this Judd Apatow-helmed, Amy Schumer-penned potty mouthed rom com with sky high expectations. Why, because critics had been raving about it, the Twittersphere had gone bananas for it, and I am a sucker for good press. Plus, I have recently discovered the new duchess of comedy herself – Amy Schumer – and was all about watching what she could bring to the big screen. But, as I walked into the cinema, I tried to temper down those expectations, not wanting to be disappointed. And I really really wasn’t.

Right from the get go it’s obvious that this isn’t your usual rom com. Schumer’s character – also conveniently named Amy (there is a liberal dose of her own life used in this flick) – has it instilled in her by her philandering father from a young age that ‘monogamy is not realistic’, and she well and truly takes this to heart. We meet her again in her early thirties as she is partying large, sleeping around, swearing profusely and generally loving life as a men’s magazine writer in New York. But things start to go awry when she meets a sports doctor (Bill Hader – finally getting a solid leading man role) and falls hard. Can it be? Was her Dad wrong all along? Is monogamy actually realistic?

There are many many things to love about this movie – stereotypes being flipped on their head, Tilda Swinton as an unrecognisable magazine editor, Kobe Bryant watching Downton Abbey, awkwardly hilarious sex scenes – but what I didn’t expect to love, and be affected by, was the film’s heart. This isn’t your standard rom-com where everything is going swimmingly in the main character’s life and all they have to focus on is some randomly ridiculous thing preventing them from getting to Mr Right. This film is earthed in the reality of life sometimes delivering you shit to deal with, no matter if the timing might suck for you. Schumer’s delivery of these scenes really hit me in the feels, proving she is not just a comedic talent to watch, but she is also an acting and writing talent on a more dramatic level. Seriously, watch out, she has the potential to inject something new into Hollywood that it has needed for freaking ages.

Suffice to say, I thought this was a fantastic watch. It made me laugh, it even made tough as nails old me cry, and it lingered in the brain far longer than most rom coms. Four and a half multi-coloured M&Ms from me. And if you want to check out Schumer being hilarious in other things, YouTube her show ‘Inside Amy Schumer’. You will thank me. Honest.

Fantastic Four

Well, I have probably given the game away already right? Though, you must have been living under a rock for the last few weeks if you didn’t know the new and not so improved Fantastic Four movie is a turd. A steamy, large, very smelly, turd. And here’s why.

For those who don’t know, this is another superhero comic book adaptation, which has already been adapted in the not so distant past. Now, I haven’t seen those films – they never really appealed – so didn’t go into this with any pre-conceived idea of what this would be. But, I guess I did go in with an expectation that it would at the very least be on par with some of the shittier comic book adaptations of recent years. Maybe it would be like a less boring Captain America, or a slightly more fun Iron Man 2. But no, it made those films look like Oscar fodder. The main issue? Terrible plot, horrifyingly clunky script.

If you are going to have an origin film – sure, explain how the characters came to get their super powers, but you need to give them a decent amount of time to actually use those powers together. Here, they get about five minutes at the end when they are the ‘Fantastic Four’. Prior to that they are just four people who sort of get on but have zero chemistry, using their super random powers in super random ways.

The disappointing thing is they pulled together a great cast here. Miles Teller who knocked it out of the park in Whiplash, Kate Mara who went toe to toe with the Legend That Is Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, Michael B Jordan who earned critical acclaim for Fruitvale Station, and Jamie Bell aka Billy Elliot. But with a lacklustre script and some dodgy as editing, they seem like they are just phoning it in. I am fairly sure they weren’t, but it certainly looked that way in the final product. Much has been made of the fact that director Josh Trank tweeted (then deleted) about the fact that the version audiences were seeing wasn’t his preferred version, and I would hope there is a much better film out there somewhere. But unfortunately it wasn’t the one I had to sit through.

Marvel Studios have set the bar high for comic book fare, but that’s not to say that no one else can match it. Some would argue DC’s Man of Steel gave them a run for their money. But Fantastic Four isn’t giving anyone a run for their money – except maybe Fox Studios who may be lamenting the fact they had already given a sequel a green light. Who knows what they will need to do to make that successful, as if the comic book audience I saw this with were anything to go by, no one will be forgetting how shit this was anytime soon. 1 and a half slightly mice-bitten M&Ms for this. Avoid. At all costs.

A mother of a cold…and an epiphany

Firstly, apologies for this being the first blog in a wee while. I had kind of mentally decided, without informing you, my blog reading public, that I was going to go down to one blog every two weeks, as life just seems a little too busy right now. So, I was due one last weekend, and then got struck down with the mother of all colds. I tried to pull myself out of my sick bed to write something, to keep you all entertained, but I realised pretty quickly that a) I wasn’t going to be pulling myself anywhere and b) I was not in a fit state to entertain. However, I did have an epiphany, while lying there surrounded by a forest’s worth of used tissues, sulking in my own misery, wishing I had a manservant/husband to fetch hot lemon drinks for me. And the epiphany was this – thank god I don’t have kids.

Now, if my tally is right – and my workmates, who constantly hear me adding to this list will no doubt correct me if not – that is reason 346 why I think kids are a bad idea (for me). Seriously, I don’t know how you parents – and mothers especially – do it. You are feeling rubbish, like you are incapable of doing anything to help yourself let alone anyone else, but your kid/s don’t care! If they are babies they still need to be fed, changed, washed, repeat – and only some of those things the Dad (if there is one around) is able to do. If they are toddlers they want EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW OR ELSE THE WORLD WILL END THROUGH MY LOUD SCREAMING and trying to explain to them that the sound of their loud pleading is about to make Mummy’s head explode probably doesn’t help, right?

Now, as a single person, being sick is one of the top five times that I lament my singledom the most. I know I could call up one of my lovely family or friends and get them to pop to the shops or come around and wait on me – but really, a cold doesn’t really warrant that kind of lameness. But if I had a bloke around then, theoretically, part of their job description would be making me food, making sure I had enough fluids and tissues handy, and generally taking care of things so I don’t have to worry. But no, singledom means you make your own freaking vegemite sandwich and clean up your own tissues. That said though, after my epiphany, I would definitely take that over powering through cos Tyler or Jake or Madison doesn’t care that I am sick as a dog (note: none of those names are on my list. Not that I have a list…).

Cos, not only do you have to power through, but generally – based on most relationships I am privy to (with some notable exceptions) – it is very rare for the bloke to man up and say ‘honey, you go to bed and sleep this off, I will take care of the kids, cook the food, keep the house tidy and do the groceries’. Don’t get me wrong – they might offer to do one or even two of these things – but it’s unlikely to be all of them. So if you are lucky enough to get even an afternoon in bed, you will no doubt wake up to a house that resembles an actual hurricane site and to a husband too exhausted to do anything about it. Now, I may be being a little bit unfair to our fair-weather male friends, but just remember that at the very indication of a sniffle themselves, they generally declare themselves unfit for any kind of physical labour and confine themselves to the couch for the duration of the weekend.

So, mums out there – and that includes my own, who I am only now properly realising had way more years than she ever envisaged of looking after sick kids, thanks to my rather late arrival on the scene – you have my full respect and admiration. Codral ads tells you to soldier on, and you really have no choice but to do just that – and pretend that playing with Buzz Lightyear with your two year old is absolutely what you want to be doing, as opposed to lying in bed imagining Tom Hiddleston is nursing you back to health. And, to those of you blokes who do indeed take on all the domestic chores when your wives are sick, good on you – you are setting bloody good examples for our next generation. Peace out. Snif.

Movie Review: Ant-Man & TV Review: Suits

ant man - picAh, winter. For all the bad press you get for your torrential rain, glacial temperatures and unpredictable wind patterns, I don’t think you get the credit you deserve for allowing true sloths like me to embrace our sloth-like tendencies and spend as much time as possible in front of big and small screens. Of course, the creators of the NZ International Film Festival saw your merits and scheduled it wham-bam in the middle of your peak nastiness. But, for mainstreamers like me – the benefits of our winter coinciding with blockbuster summer season in the States means winter is that much more awesome for us down under. Cases in point, massive Marvel release Ant-Man, and new to Netflix addition Suits. Here’s my sloth-like take on both.

Ant-Man

I have to admit to being a little bit sceptical about this latest Marvel outing, despite the fact that anything out of the Marvel studios normally makes me salivate. But this one, even with Brit director/legend Edgar Wright (originally) in the director’s chair, and thinking woman’s crumpet Paul Rudd in the titular role, just seemed a little bit too weird to work. I mean, a seemingly ageless Michael Douglas invents some suit that can shrink a grown man to the size of an ant, make him super strong, and able to control an army of ants? I mean, really?

But, thanks to strong early reviews, some excellent (and hilarious) trailers, and my love for the Rudd, the ANTicipation was building by the time I headed along on Thursday night (sorry, not sorry). And it was well rewarded. Ant-Man is a super fun, super funny, super surprising time at the movies. Sure, it’s a Marvel movie, but it’s kind of like Marvel’s version of an indie movie. For once the film makers resisted the temptation/ignored the Marvel mandate to ensure a massively huge and epic final action sequence. In fact, with a pint sized hero, to have done so would have seemed (sorry again) totally out of proportion to the rest of the film. But that isn’t to say this film doesn’t pack some punch – it uses its small heroes to superb effect, and I am going back ASAP to see it in 3D to really soak it in properly (trusted sources tell me the 3D is incredible).

But the main surprise here was the funny. It definitely is in the same camp as Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of never taking itself too seriously and always finding the laughs. Which it kind of has to when it is getting audiences to buy into an ant-sized super hero (in the same way as Guardians had to with a talking tree). The real comedic revelation here was Michael Pena, as Rudd’s actual partner in crime Luis. Pena has quite the CV of excellent supporting roles, in great dramatic fare like End of Watch, but I have never seen him bring the funny before – and he totally steals the show here. Fans of Jono and Ben may particularly enjoy Ant-Man’s much smarter, better and funnier version of their Good Story Bro. But Pena isn’t the only funny thing here – circumstances are milked for their ridiculousness, as can be seen in the trailer with an altercation between bad guy Yellow Jacket (an excellent Corey Stoll) and a Thomas the Tank Engine train set. Utter genius.

The script is cracking and witty and fast paced – and much of that will be Edgar Wright’s influence. Having seen the film it is very hard to know what led to him and Marvel parting ways half way through production, but the film doesn’t appear to have suffered for it. The choice of comedian Paul Rudd as Ant-Man was truly inspired – and if this doesn’t see Rudd go on to become the huge star he has deserved to be for years then I will eat my hat. Marvel’s casting of Chris Pratt and Rudd – actors with solid comedic chops who also look great/can kick ass, is well and truly paying off for them. This is a fabulous time at the flicks for young and old (it is probably the most family friendly of all Marvel’s offerings yet), and gets 4 and a half multi-coloured M&Ms from me.

Suits

My love for Netflix holds no bounds, and when I learnt they had added the first three seasons of legal drama Suits (which I had seen the first season of already) to their catalogue I was tempted to propose marriage to it then and there. I should start by saying though – with no malice intended – that I don’t really like lawyers. Five years at law school will do that to a person. There are exceptions to every rule though – and my brother, sister in law and good friend who happen to be awesome people while at the same time lawyers, fall into that category. So, it turns out, are the lawyers (or not quite lawyers) of Pearson Hardman – the fictional Manhattan law firm which is the focus of Suits.

The premise of the show is pretty simple. Mike Ross (who may be my new Josh Lyman) is a genius with a photographic memory who spends his time smoking weed and getting paid to sit the LSATS (test to get into law school) for other people. When he accidentally stumbles into an interview room with Harvey Specter – closer extraordinaire at Pearson Hardman – he intrigues Harvey, who ends up recruiting him into the firm, knowing full well that Mike hasn’t attended law school, let alone got a law degree. But what he lacks in qualifications he more than makes up for in geniusness – and drama ensues.

Although Mike and Harvey’s bromance is the central heart of the show, the colourful ensemble of supporting characters – from total boss/Harvey’s PA Donna to clothes horse/Managing Partner Jessica (great name, eh?) to I-can’t-even-describe-him-he’s-such-a-weird-paradox Lewis – are what really makes this show sing. It carefully entwines its procedural cases with its OMG-are-they-really-doing-that series long plot lines to demand binge watching. But it never gets ridiculous (like Scandal, which has well and truly jumped the shark) – everything that happens seems eminently believable in the world of massive egos and pay checks that is corporate law. Netflix only has the first three seasons, with season 5 currently showing on Lightbox (which could start me on a rant about the different streaming services splitting shows with little regard for the emotional impacts on little old us, the consumers). Suffice to say, I will find a way to catch up. I can’t live without Mike and Harvey for long. 4 multicoloured M&Ms for Suits.

To bach or not to bach, that is the question…

Whangaumu Bay

Whangaumu Bay

So I returned from my European travels to some wonderful family news: the wisest and most sensible of us Rodgers, in conjunction with his equally wise and sensible wife, had bitten the bullet and bought a bach (for overseas people, and those from Southland, a ‘bach’ is a holiday home in kiwi parlance). Now, this was no overnight decision, it was something they had been seriously considering for several years. They have been spending increasing amounts of time in Whangamata – with their kids getting involved in junior surf lifesaving (if someone can tell me why it’s called Nippers that would be good…) and generally loving going somewhere by the sea with lots of mates around. So it made sense for them to stick a stake in the ground and buy themselves an abode of their own down there.

Now, the subject of ‘to bach or not to bach’ has been one that has come up on every single family holiday we have had for as long as I can remember. As a child, we used to spend summers at Whangaumu Bay, near Tutukaka. Family friends had a bach there, and we would regularly decamp there with random and numerous extended family. There was fun, there was snoring, there were arguments over board games, there were incidents with boats. And underpinning it all was the constant and relaxing crash of the waves on the beach just metres from the house. That place will always be a talisman of awesomeness for me. Now eventually our family friends decided to sell, and offered my parents first dibs on the place. They discussed it, at length, and decided not to. So, every time we have been on holiday since – whether it be to a rented bach or to another friend’s bach – we would discuss whether or not they made the right call, and whether or not investing in a bach is something we should do as a family.

The arguments were always the same. Pros of owning your own place – you can go whenever you want, have a place where friends and family can get as much enjoyment as you do, have somewhere to store the boat which hardly gets used otherwise, and have somewhere that we can call our own. Cons? You feel obligated to go there every holiday, therefore cutting down on your experiences of other cool places around New Zealand, you have to maintain a second property, which from a time and money perspective can be quite the commitment, and you need the money to do it in the first place. We usually debated this at length, without reaching a decision, then veered off onto the equally complex ‘but where would we buy one?’ debate. With a family like mine where opinions are held firmly and expressed vehemently, there was never agreement.

We have been extremely fortunate to have had an array of friends with wonderful baches in unique places, which we may never have heard of otherwise. The main one for us has been our friends’ place in Kakahi – just south of Taumaranui. It is difficult to find more ‘middle of nowhere’ than that, and we have had amazing times there. Nothing but the sound of the river, the birds and the occasional train passing by on the main trunk line (oh, and that one time a P lab burnt down over the road, but let’s not dwell on that…). Glorious. Equally, we have had many summer holidays at rented baches in various locales – even going back to Whangaumu Bay a few times. Again, glorious.

But now, thanks to my sibling and sibling in law being awesome, we have a bach in the family. I probably wouldn’t have chosen Whangamata – it being way too built up and busy for my liking – but I shan’t be complaining. My nieces will love it, and it will become their Whangaumu Bay, their talismanic awesome place. And I know I will enjoy my trips down there with them, and maybe, if I’m lucky, with some of my friends, or just on my own to write. This Christmas will be there, and it will no doubt be the first of many. Is Whangamata ready for the Rodgers? Not likely. But at least we have one less thing to argue about this time 😉

Mini Movie Reviews: Jurassic World! Inside Out! and more!

chris pratt jurassicIt’s been a while since I dispensed my opinion on the merits and otherwise of the films gracing out screens, and since it is summer blockbuster season in the States which means there is no shortage of fare to review, I am going to give you some short and snappy reviews of some of the big films in cinemas right now. And, if box office takings are anything to go by, nothing is bigger than dinosaurs, so let’s start there…

Jurassic World

I have to say I was pretty excited about this one. Jurassic Park – 22 years ago! – was the pure definition of a fun, family blockbuster – interesting characters, great ensemble cast and some super scary dinosaurs. I still vividly remember being on the edge of my seat for most of the film, and especially when those velociraptors were chasing the kids around the kitchen (for a hilarious twist on that, someone clever went through that scene and replaced the raptors with cats: http://gawker.com/someone-replaced-the-velociraptors-in-jurassic-park-wit-1539021680  ). With the rebooted Jurassic World, the brains behind the operation have tried to recreate the same combo of fun and scary entertainment – even giving us two kids to root for again. Now, I don’t know whether it’s just that in this age of Transformers, Avengers, Terminators and every freaking superhero you can imagine, we have become much more difficult to scare, but I just found this a little underwhelming on the fear front. I only felt a real sense of peril for the main characters once or twice, when it should have been there throughout.

Don’t get me wrong, Chris Pratt as raptor wrangler Owen was FREAKING EXCELLENT (and if this doesn’t secure him the Indiana Jones gig I don’t know what will), and there were also some clever touches like giving the control room geeks personality (in the form of Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus), but for the most part this new Jurassic outing left me a little bit cold. And, I have to say, a little bit ranty. I know you guys LOVE my feminist ranting, but I will keep it short this time – Bryce Dallas Howard’s control freak park manager DID MY HEAD IN. Why does she apparently know nothing about dinosaurs when she runs a dinosaur park? And why does she insist on wearing high heels for the WHOLE MOVIE WHEN SHE IS BEING CHASED BY DINOSAURS??? Now I am sure it wasn’t Howard’s fault, and I could maybe forgive it, but the addition of her sister – played by the normally excellent Judy Greer – apparently being unable to stop crying in every single scene just about made me want to barf. Come on Hollywood, you can create better female blockbuster characters, I know you can. So do it. Now. Sorry Chris, but your Jurassic World only gets three blue M&Ms from me.

Inside Out

Ah, Pixar – you crazy geniuses. Not only have you given us a female protagonist – 11 year old Riley – but you have also peopled her brain with some hilarious comediennes, who make me take a deep breath after writing reviews like the one above and remind myself that there is still hope. For those of you not aware, Inside Out takes place in the brain of Riley – with her emotions of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger battling out for control of what she is feeling. And – as a young kid who has been uprooted from her happy childhood home and moved out to not so friendly San Francisco – there is quite the battle to be had.

I would suggest this is one of the best – if not the best – Pixar films ever. They have always succeeded in combining fun with delivering genuine feels (yes, you may need your hankie) – as well as making you think differently about things. Not a small feat for a movie targeting small people. That said, me and my thirty year old friend laughed a heck of a lot more than our eight year old companions (yep, we kidnapped some kids so we would look less dodgy) – though the kids claim to have loved it (maybe they did more internal laughing). But this film more than delivers for adults, more so probably than any other Pixar film(except maybe Toy Story 3). And Amy Poehler personifying Joy? Brilliant. This is a 4 and a half M&M watch for sure. Get to it, you won’t regret it. And turns out the inside of a girl’s head isn’t so scary after all 😉

Spy

I actually only ended up seeing Spy – the secret agent spoof from the people who brought you Bridesmaids (including the brilliant Melissa McCarthy) – when the session of Jurassic World I wanted to see was sold out. But, who would have thought it would be the better watch? As Kingsman: The Secret Service showed us, there is a lot in the James Bond/spy genre to mock, and Spy does so to hilarious effect. McCarthy plays Susan, a desk bound CIA agent whose usual day involves whispering instructions into Jude Law’s ear (via an ear piece of course). However, when some suitably improbable brown stuff hits the rotating thing, she has to step up and become an actual spy.

McCarthy has great support here, with Law, Allison Janney and Miranda Hart being suitably hilarious. But the real stand outs for me were Rose Bryne, whose evil (or is she?) Russian baddie was equal parts potty mouthed and kick ass, and Jason Statham – who knew the guy could be funny? And not just a little funny – completely, utterly, almost wet myself funny. But this is McCarthy’s show, and it is refreshing to see her playing a much straighter character than normal – infusing her lead with a relatability which made this such an enjoyable watch. And the James Bond style credits at the beginning? Genius. Four M&Ms from me.

Mad Max: Fury Road

I was pretty surprised when this reboot of Mad Max started getting rave reviews, as the trailers had left me a bit ‘meh’. But the critics were loving it, some calling it the best action movie of the last ten years. So, of course I had to check it out for myself. I went in with an open mind, but low expectations – the best way to see anything if you can. And I left feeling…’meh’ (yep, it is totes a word, the Oxford English Dictionary just said so. FYI so is fo’shizzle, so my friends can stop mocking me for that one!). Yep, I didn’t love this new Mad Max. I’m sorry.

In my defence, I haven’t seen any of the other Mad Max films. The only Mad Max I am familiar with is my nephew when you take away his yoghurt before he’s finished. So, I think I missed quite a bit in terms of references to the previous films. But I am a firm believer that a film – even if part of a franchise – should stand on its own two feet, and this one fell flat for me. Sure, from a purely cinematic perspective it was an impressive watch, but I need more than just amazing action sequences and pretty cinematography – I need a story that goes somewhere and characters that I can care about, and I found neither here. Yes, I know this film has been lauded for taking a macho action franchise and injecting some real feminism – which I appreciated – but that didn’t overcome my overwhelming ‘I just don’t really care what happens’ feeling. I know my sister will be shaking her head reading this, but it would be a dull world if we agreed on everything 😉 Only 2 M&Ms from me.

A Few of my Favourite Things: Winter Edition

IMG_9086Hello Blog Readers! I am back from my gallivanting around the globe – and my two weeks of adjusting back to ‘normal life’ are at a close, so here I am, filling up the blogosphere again! As it has been so long between posts it seems appropriate to do a quick summary of my favourite things right now – so here we go with A Few of My Favourite Things – the Winter Edition!

  1. Fave place to visit – Tuscany: Ah, Tuscany, I heart thee so much. I was there just under a month ago for a fantastic five days – despite the weather being slightly inclement for the first few days. This wasn’t my first trip – it was my fourth. Yep, I love Tuscany big time. Why? It is the best of Italy captured in one place, with beautiful countryside and villages everywhere you look. The food? Amazingly simple but brilliant. Normally I am a ‘let’s put all the weird things on the pizza’ girl, but in Italy? Hell no, simple is best. They achieve so much with simple, fresh ingredients. Love it. Also? Gelato. That is almost a fave thing on its own. But it’s not all about eating – the people are generally kind and friendly (unless behind the wheel of a car), and the culture is relaxed and easy. As my friend Sarah put it while we were there, ‘Slow eating and slow drinking is the key to life’. I think the Italians are all over that.
  2. Fave thing about travel: inflight entertainment: I cannot convey in words how much I hate long haul flights. My Dad always tells me off for using the word hate, but it isn’t even close to describing my feelings towards being stuck in a metal machine careening through the sky for close to 24 hours. But the one redeeming feature? Inflight entertainment. With the new tech they have, you can create a favourites list at the beginning of the flight, then work through them at your leisure. And I was stoked to find two TV shows that were on my list of ‘shows that won’t show on normal TV but I need to see ASAP’, on my flights. The first was The Affair – which I watched ten episodes of during one flight. It’s an intense and moody show about, obviously, an affair, but also so much more than that. Leads Dominic West and Ruth Wilson were simply brilliant, as were the supporting cast. Almost worth flying to Hong Kong for 😉 The second was a show I have been looking forward to for ages – the Duplass brothers’ HBO show Togetherness, starring Mark Duplass, Amanda Peet, and our own Melanie Lynskey. It is about a married couple in LA who end up playing host to two down on their luck friends, for way longer than they expected. It’s billed as a comedy, but is very dark at times, though also really relatable. Again, highly recommend (I think it is on Soho/Neon over here).
  3. Fave album – Hozier: I was captivated by Irish singer Hozier’s debut single ‘Take Me to Church’ the first time I heard it on the radio, and the entire album is a delight that I have been unable to remove from my high rotate list (yep, it has bumped off Taylor Swift’s 1989). Soulful, melodic, lyrically genius and surprisingly uplifting, it’s a great listen. He is coming to NZ later this year and I am locked in to see him – am sure he will be a great show if the album is anything to go on. Check it out, you won’t regret it.
  4. Fave online addiction – Netflix: See, I thought I was only going to get Netflix for the free first month, so I could binge watch the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Daredevil, but then I discovered the plethora of great TV shows and movies that I could also watch, and I got sucked in. So, out goes the Fatso subscription and I will replace it with Netflix (which is cheaper – so I am so being good with money ;-)). I already have a long list of shows and movies to watch – some old ones that I missed at the time (like Friday Night Lights) and other new ones which I am super excited about (like Daredevil which I am savouring ep by ep it is so good). And it’s great just being able to dial up whatever movie you feel in the mood for – like last night when I watched the excellent indie ‘My Sister’s Sister’ – with Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass, which I had been meaning to buy on DVD for ages and never did (see? Being good with money AGAIN!). Anyway, promo (unpaid I promise) for Netflix over, but if you haven’t checked it out, it’s worth a look.
  5. Fave thing about my trip: my mates: Lots of people have asked me what the highlight of my trip was, and it should be a tough call. I visited three countries (England, Germany and Italy), went to amazing restaurants, saw a great show (Book of Mormon – freaking genius), kicked some butt at Singstar and generally had an awesome time. But it isn’t hard to say what the highlight was – it was catching up with my mates. Thanks to living in London for five years, and thanks to the fact that Kiwis flock to London like tweens to a One Direction concert, I have heaps of fantastic friends – both Kiwi and otherwise – on that side of the globe, some of whom I haven’t seen in years and years. The sign of a good friendship is where you can pick up exactly where you left off, even if it was more than five years ago, and applying that test then I am insanely lucky to have so many fantastic friendships. It was awesome to see people’s new (and old) towns, houses and kids, but also to revisit the old stuff that we use to enjoy doing (like Singstar – I feel like I need to go to London and Germany to really meet my Singstar match, Kiwis – you need to up your game ;-)). So in a way the best thing about my trip was also the worst thing – I had to say goodbye again. When you are busy with your life you don’t dwell too often on how much you miss those people who aren’t around, but man you feel it when you see them, recharge your friend batteries, then have to say goodbye again. That sucks the biggest kumara ever. But, I would rather have that than not have these amazing people in my life. You guys know who you are, and you rock. Love ya.

And that’s it for this week! I am spending quite a bit of time at the movies right now – for you guys, obviously – so I will be back next week with some reviews. And wish me luck, I am taking not one but two eight year olds called Lola to a film this arvo. There could be carnage 😉