Top Ten Spooky Flicks for Fall

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Every October, patrons come into the library and ask for horror movie recommendations. While I’m totally the person to talk to if you’re looking for Science Fiction, Animation, or TV Show recs, I am completely hopeless when it comes to horror.

I don’t watch proper horror movies. I’m totally a wimp.

Thankfully, we usually have a display full of movies like Friday the 13th, Chucky, and Saw. Otherwise, I’d just keep pointing patrons to films like The Babadook and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night because I like to promote female directors when I can (even if I haven’t watched their movies myself).

While horror movies are mostly a no-go for me, I do like spooky flicks. Give me ghosts, not-totally gruesome zombies, and aliens and I’m good to go. I’ve decided to share a list of some of my favorite spooky films with you. . .just in case any of you lovely readers are a tad squeamish like myself.  

Top Ten Spooky Flicks for Fall

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  • Crimson Peak ~ I always try to sell people on Crimson Peak by telling them it’s like Jane Eyre but with more stabbing. I just love Guillermo del Toro’s gothic masterpiece and I wish more people would fall in love with it too. It’s one of those very few films that feel made for me personally. There’s ghosts, a lady writer heroine, gorgeous costuming, and a heroine saving herself. It’s perfection!   
  • What We Do In the Shadows ~ In a roundabout way, the TV show Legion led me to discover Taika Waititi and his mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. If you liked the idea behind Being Human (a werewolf, a ghost, and a vampire are roommates), What We Do in the Shadows will appeal to you. It’s a quirky and occasionally bloody tale about vampire roommates living in New Zealand. I recommend you watch it before Taika’s Thor: Ragnarok this November!
  • The Visit ~ I’m going to say something controversial: M. Night Shyamalan is one of my favorite directors. He’s had his rough periods, but he’s also made several of my favorite films (Split, The Village, and Signs–all appropriately spooky) and the wacky The Visit. I picked The Visit for this list in particular because it’s one of his creepier yet still funny films. Also, it has a naked, old lady pretending to be a cat–which is particularly unnerving, let me tell you.    
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane ~ I once overheard two middle-aged men talking about 10 Cloverfield Lane at the library. It was hilarious, mostly because it became obvious that neither of them had ever watched Cloverfield. Please, dear reader, watch the far lesser Cloverfield before 10 Cloverfield Lane. It makes the entire thing creepier. As for 10 Cloverfield Lane itself, John Goodman is so creepy in it and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great as the trapped heroine. Sigh. I cannot wait for God Particle next year.

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  • The Boy ~  You know what I’m scared of? Porcelain dolls. Seriously, they freak me out. As a kid, I used to go to Hartville Kitchen with my family and they had a doll nursery there. It was a thing of nightmares. The Boy, about a woman who plays nanny to a possibly possessed doll, is actually a pretty scary film for me. I saw it in the theater with my mom and I may have jumped. A lot.
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ~ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies seems like it would make a garbage movie, but I legitimately loved the zombified film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s book. It’s not scary per say, but there are zombie attacks and blood spatter. Halloween appropriate? I think so.
  • Alien ~ Alien is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s the one proper horror movie that I absolutely adore–which probably has to do with it’s perfect combination of aliens chomping people, androids, and Ellen Ripley herself. I could definitely watch Alien and Prometheus on repeat all fall long.
  • Maggie ~ My Arnold Schwarzenegger love led me to watch Maggie, a relatively tame zombie movie about the relationship between a father and his zombified daughter. It’s a sweet, sad movie, but it still has the right atmosphere for spooky, Halloween viewing.
  • Practical Magic ~ I’m not including Hocus Pocus on this list because, let’s face it, that movie is awesome but not spooky. Practical Magic, however, has just enough spookiness to make the cut. It’s about sister witches and the troubles that occur after they accidentally kill Goran Visnjic. Good times.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts ~ One last zombie movie to round out the list! The Girl With All the Gifts is a dystopian film about a young girl who’s hungry for brains. It’s not a particularly scary or bloody film (although there is chomping) but it’ll definitely creep you out in a slow-burning kind of way.

What are your favorite spooky flicks?

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My Fall Bucket List

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Fall is boot season, and boots are my second favorite type of shoe behind Converses. I’m very excited that it finally being Fall means I get to put away my flats and low-rise Chucks and break out my Peter Pan boots and high tops. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I have cozy blanket scarves and heavy cardigans just waiting in my closet for those chilly 50 degree days.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Fall.

Now that it’s officially Autumn (Yay September!), I get to share my “Fall Bucket List” with you. There’s nothing earth-shattering on it, but I’m looking forward to all the cozy, pumpkin-y activities all the same!    

My Fall Bucket List

  • Carve Pumpkins ~ I have a love/hate relationship with carving pumpkins. I hate the squishiness of pumpkin innards and the mess it leaves on your hands, but oh, do I love the look of finished Jack O’Lanterns and the feeling of accomplishment at having made a funky looking Halloween decoration all my own! I want to have another pumpkin carving night this Autumn, and hopefully, I’ll be able to come up with a nifty design (Spoiler Alert: It’ll probably be Star Wars-related).
  • Watch Four Horror Movies ~ I’m squeamish about horror. . .which is something you might not expect from a person who loves the TV show Hannibal very intensely. When it comes to films, though, I tend to avoid anything with too much blood, gore, and violence (I will never ever watch a Saw film, for example.). I would like to *try* to expand my horizons a little this year and watch a Halloween-type film that’s a bit more adventurous than Hocus Pocus or Practical Magic. Any recommendations for scary films that aren’t that gory?
  • Read a Stephen King Novel ~ Every year, I say I’ll read a Stephen King novel in the lead up to Halloween, and every year, I fail spectacularly. Not this year! I’ve already purchased my to-be-read book and I’m pleased to announce that it’ll be the total chunker Under the Dome. I’ve been rewatching the spectacularly awful TV show adaptation this Summer (I love it so much) so it’s about time I gave the source material a try.
  • Watch Northanger Abbey (1987) for Halloween ~ Watching Northanger Abbey on Halloween is a tradition I started about five years ago. If you’ve never watched the 1987 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, you are missing out. The adaptation is nowhere as good as the 2007 version with Felicity Jones and JJ Field, but it is bonkers and that’s all that truly matters.
  • Read One Classic Novel ~ Every year, I try to read one new-to-me Classic. I did read The Hound of the Baskervilles this year already, but I’d also like to tackle a novel either by George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, or one of the books I’ve missed by a Bronte sister. I’m not certain which book I’ll choose yet. Hopefully, it’ll be one from my shelves so I can check another purchased book off my TBR.
  • Knit Indy a Sweater ~ Indy has a lot of fur so he might not *technically* need a sweater, but I’m sure he could still use one when he goes on walks this (likely frigid) winter. I already have the yarn picked out (it’s a sea green color) and I’d like to get working on it before it’s too, too cold out. I’m also counting on his dog sweater giving me some much needed practice knitting clothes so I can FINALLY knit a Weasley sweater for myself before Winter is out.  
  • Drink Spiced Apple Cider ~ I love Spiced Apple Cider and I look forward to it showing up on the shelves every year. I can only drink it in moderation (thanks to all that sugar wreaking havoc on my anxiety levels), but I love savoring it when I give myself the chance.
  • Watch Stranger Things ~ Oh my gosh, so Stranger Things is back in October and I am hyped. I think I’m having withdraws from all my favorite spooky shows (seeing as they’re either cancelled or abandoned) because I am so glad this show is finally coming back. I really cannot wait to see more Hopper, Nancy, and Steve in particular. They are my faves!
  • Bake a Pumpkin Pie (or Anything Pumpkin) ~ I used to love eating pumpkin muffins and pumpkin roll every Autumn. Now, thanks to being on a gluten free diet, my store-bought pumpkin options are limited to Pumpkin Spice Cheerios and (gross) pumpkin-flavored yogurt. I baked a delicious pumpkin pie last year so I might try that again OR I might be braver and attempt a gluten free pumpkin roll or muffin. Only time will tell. . .
  • Start Recording a Podcast ~ Working at a library gives you ample time to listen to podcasts so I’ve become a tad addicted over the last two years (If you’d like recommendations for non-True Crime podcasts, let’s say I’ve got you covered). Lately, however, I’ve really been wanting to start my own. Unfortunately, thanks to me being horrible at decision making, I’ve been struggling to come up with a definitive focus. This Fall, I need to buckle down a pick a topic and name a just get going–which, for me, is MUCH easier said than done.

What’s on Your Fall Bucket List?

{Friday Flicks} Mistress America

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I love snappy dialogue. That’s part of the reason I both love and hate Aaron Sorkin and have rewatched Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls approximately five times each. I could blame this love on early exposure to screwball comedies–where dialogue is king and fast-talking the norm–and I’d probably be right. Between Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn comedies and a steady dose of the Marx Brothers, I was cured of sappy, expositional dialogue before I’d even become a proper film lover.

Nowadays, I’m always on the hunt for prime dialogue, and let me tell you, Mistress America hits the spot. About twenty minutes into the film, the two main characters Tracy and Brooke are talking about themselves (as they do), and the speed of the dialogue mixed with the sheer gymnastics of the wording made me sigh with happiness. I felt like I was watching a screwball comedy from the 1940’s–only with less slapstick and more swearing.  

It was wonderful.   

Mistress America is the story of two almost sisters. It’s Tracy’s first semester at college and she’s already at a low point in her life. She’s struggling to get accepted into her school’s prestigious literary journal and the boy she thought might become her boyfriend is suddenly dating someone else. In a moment of absolute desperation, Tracy calls her soon-to-be step-sister, Brooke, and is whisked away into the magical and slightly sad life of this dabbler and dreamer. Unsurprisingly, Brooke’s life becomes fodder for Tracy’s fiction as the two become fast friends, and Tracy’s left to decide whether or not she’s a bad person as their relationship escalates and her maneuvering of Brooke increases.

Noah Baumbach directed and co-wrote Mistress America with its star Greta Gerwig. The duo last worked together in Frances Ha, and in many ways Frances Ha and Mistress America tell the same sort of story. Both films focus on female friendship–presenting the highs and lows of their characters’ relationships as Romantic Comedy (with a dose of tragedy thrown in). In Mistress America, Tracy and Brooke go through many of the beats of a romance. They meet-cute thanks to their parents’ impending marriage, and their relationship deepens as the women grow closer through the struggle to get Brooke’s restaurant off the ground. Of course, as always happens in Rom-Coms, there are secrets and lies and the women’s budding relationship falls apart when Brooke discovers Tracy’s been using her life to write unflattering stories for the literary journal. With these women at odds, will the two crazy kids get back together? Sure, but even with the predictability of a Romantic Comedy, Mistress America is completely engaging because its central and only romance is both platonic and between two women. It still is exceedingly rare to find a film about female friendship in which men and male/female romance don’t play an overarching part, but Mistress America is all about Tracy and Brooke–which is absurdly refreshing.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Mistress America. Noah Baumbach’s story of two unlikely friends swept me off my feet, and I’m already  scouring he and Greta Gerwig’s filmography for my next watch.

If you like unlikeable women, female friendship, and snappy, definitely check out Mistress America!

If You Like Mistress America, Also Try:

Image Source: Joe’s Movie Stuff

{Friday Flicks} Singin’ In the Rain

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I love musicals. As a kid, I grew up on films like Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, Newsies, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I also devoured the soundtracks for The Phantom of the Opera, Annie Get Your Gun, and Starlight Express (I know). With that sort of enthusiasm for you might think I’d have come across something starring Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, or Gene Kelly before I was in my twenties. You’d be very wrong. While I’ve always loved what I considered “Proper Musicals,” films that focused more on dance were to be avoided like the plague.

Still, it was only a matter of time until I finally broke down and watched one of the most famous musicals of all: Singin’ in the Rain. With Debbie Reynold’s death a not-so-distant memory, I wanted to watch what was probably her most iconic role. I’d seen her in Tammy and the Bachelor and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, but my memory of her in those roles is foggy–replaced on Tammy’s end with an image of Sandra Dee and in Molly Brown, the image of Harve Presnell in tight pants on a cliff. I wanted to hold a proper image of her in my mind again, and Singin’ in the Rain has definitely given me that.

Singin’ in the Rain focuses on a series of actors struggling to make the transition between silent films and the talkies. For star Don Lockwood, the trouble is that his constant costar has a voice like a honking goose and is convinced he’s in love with her. Fortunately and unfortunately for production company, he’s actually in love with young ingenue, Kathy Seldon–who longs to be an actress herself. When Kathy gets cast in Don’s latest picture, she and Don’s friend Cosmo come up with the perfect idea to save the less-than-stellar film. Of course, their plan entirely depends on Don’s costar remaining ignorant of their scheme.

Singin’ in the Rain is a film which genuinely sparkles during its first act. We’re first introduced to Don as an actor who’s entirely full of himself yet forced to play a part for his production company even off-screen. His lofty opinion of himself is subsequently shattered when he meets Kathy–a girl who’s not impressed with his suave ways and wants to take him down a peg. The duo eventually fall in love, but it’s their early quick-fire banter that shines so much more than their doe-eyed love songs later in the film. It was a blast to see Debbie Reynolds as Kathy hold her own against the charms of Gene Kelly. For most of the film, it’s her sweet, film star looks and fast footwork that carry her role, but in the beginning, she’s given the chance to prove she has personality to spare.

After the film moves past this initial setup phase, Singin’ in the Rain becomes much more about Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor dancing their hearts out and less about characterization and plot. While film musicals based on Broadway plays tend to have song and dance numbers that either advance the story or tell us something about the characters, most of the songs in Singin’ in the Rain do no such thing. They’re more about the spectacle of it all–which I found frustrating after a while. Pretty much the sole exception to this rule were the songs “You Were Meant for Me” and “Singin’ in the Rain” itself. “Singin’ in the Rain” comes fairly late in the film and was so refreshing by that point because it actually tells us how Don feels after realising he’s properly in love with Kathy. “Singin’ in the Rain” was probably my favorite song in the film for that reason alone.  

My favorite parts of the film, on the other hand, were the scene where Kathy comes bounding out of the cake (not long after having a discussion about serious acting with Don) and the diction coaching scene with Lina Lamont. The diction scene was particularly hilarious because it reminded me so much of the “Would That It Were So Simple” scene from Hail, Caesar–which you might have noticed has been gaining popularity again with the whole Han Solo getting an acting coach news.

As for the acting in this film, Gene Kelly obviously stole the show. He was an absolute powerhouse as Don Lockwood and that’s why it was so impressive that Debbie Reynolds was able to keep up with him. She was only nineteen when she filmed Singin’ In the Rain, and she did an amazing job acting her part and singing. I’d love to see more of her early roles (which is a definite excuse to watch Tammy and the Bachelor again). Donald O’Connor was also great in his role. He reminded me strongly of the Marx Brothers as Cosmo. His acting was slapstick and VERY physical, and as the comedic relief in Singin’ In the Rain, he definitely carried his part in the film.

On the whole, Singin’ in the Rain is an entertaining film–even if it felt a bit long (regardless of its 103 minute runtime). It’s not a musical I’ll be watching again anytime soon since I’m still of the opinion there’s such a thing as too much dancing in a musical, but I’m not sorry I sat through it in the first place. If you like dance numbers (a lot of dance numbers) and looking at Gene Kelly, this is a film you’ll enjoy watching too.

What are your favorite movie musicals?

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{Friday Flicks} Sing Street

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My taste in film could generously be called peculiar. By those who know me, I’m mostly associated with my love of superheroes, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, bad action movies, and period pieces. While that’s a fairly accurate overview of the sort of movies I love, every so often a film comes along that completely shatters my preconceived notion of what makes a “Melissa Movie.”

The Social Network was one such film. True Grit another. Sing Street is now the third.

Sing Street centers around Conor, a teenage boy whose family sends him to a new school when their finances become strapped. This new school, it so happens, is a terrifying hellhole filled with bullies, abusive priests, and rioting classrooms. With both school and home quickly transforming into a living nightmare, Conor finds escape when he meets Raphina–the cool girl who lurks across the street–and starts a band.

Written and directed by John Carney (who made both Once and Begin Again), Sing Street is packed with catchy pop music and characters who are just begging to break your heart. The film is set in the 80’s and the music ranges from heartfelt ballads to the super boppy “Drive It Like You Stole It.” The tunes alone make the film worth a watch–especially for those who are slightly addicted to 80’s music and movies–but it’s the characters and the story surrounding all that Pop that makes the film more than just a fun flick to watch on a Summer afternoon.

It’s not often I feel tears welling up while watching a film (I’ve only cried during one movie in recent memory and that was Frankenweenie–I ask you not to judge), but I was holding back the waterworks all through Sing Street. Somehow, Carney successfully managed to break my heart into ittybitty pieces thanks to Conor, Raphina, and all the gang. With these sorts of films, you’re never guaranteed a happy ending so in spite laughing at the band’s antics and nodding along to the music, I was genuinely worried about these characters getting into serious trouble–a feat, really, since the film clocks in at under two hours. A lot of films (much longer that this one) fail to make you truly care about the characters. Carney manages to draw brilliant performances out of his young actors all while staging a catchy musical. It’s beyond impressive.  

Speaking of the performances, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo was amazing as Conor. Not only does he have a lovely singing voice, but he portrayed his character with such depth that it’s shocking he was only seventeen when the film was released. Jack Reynor, who played Conor’s older brother, was also frightfully good in his small role. Before Sing Street, I was rather fond of Reynor’s performance in Royal Night Out. He has a Chris Pratt likeability about him, and I have a feeling he’ll be showing up a lot more in the future (hopefully, instead of Chris Pratt). As for Lucy Boynton as Raphina? Well, I’ll get to her in a moment.  

 First, I absolutely must talk about my two favorite moments in the film. The first is the “Drive It Like You Mean It” music video. In context, it’s a happy/sad scene that fractures reality with a perfect, pastel fantasy. Conor tries filming a music video in his school and it doesn’t go according to plan. Instead of the real product, however, we see what Conor wanted it to be like–complete with everyone in 50’s attire, his mother and father happily dancing together, and Raphina in the audience staring adoringly at him. None of that is remotely reality. Instead, he’s in a sad, dreary gym with some really awful dancers playing the audience. It’s a heartbreaking scene wrapped up in a bubblegum, 1950’s venere. Watching “Drive It Like You Stole It,” I was in awe of how perfectly the layers in that scene were pulled off.

My second favorite scene was by far quieter but no less impressive. About midway through, we finally see Raphina listening to Conor’s music by herself. She’s in her bedroom, taking off her makeup, and she puts in his tape. As she listens to him singing for her, she begins to crumble. This is the first time we see her without her “Cool Chick” armor, and it quickly becomes apparent that she’s much younger and more vulnerable than she appeared. Up until that moment, it was possible that she was going to be nothing more than Conor’s teenage fantasy in the flesh, but that scene reveals she’s more than just some perfect, dream girl. She’s someone who’s broken and it genuinely shocks her that this boy properly sees her. I was blown away by Lucy Boynton’s acting in that scene. Over the course of the film, Boynton presents so many different sides to Raphina that I was constantly surprised by how good she was in the role. If she doesn’t become a famous actress sometime in the near future, I will be absolutely shocked.

Sing Street is genuinely one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly. Between the plot, performances, and overall storytelling, the film was breathtaking to behold. While I was a fan of Carney’s Begin Again, it’s nowhere near the same level of as this film. (That’s not saying you should skip Begin Again. It is very good.) If you’ve ever liked a movie about first love and big dreams, Sing Street is for you.

If You Liked Sing Street, Also Check Out. . .

  • Begin Again
  • Brooklyn

What’s your favorite film musical?

{Friday Flicks} Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

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In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Lorelei and Dorothy are best friends who couldn’t be more different. One is on the hunt for a rich husband and the other just wants to have fun with all the hunky fellas she can find. After Lorelei becomes engaged to a bumbling playboy, the duo make a transatlantic journey in the hopes that the father of Lorelei’s beau won’t get in the way if they’re all in Paris. Of course, the trip doesn’t go quite as planned for the girls as Dorothy’s tempted by a handsome stranger and Lorelei meets a man who’s swimming in diamonds.

Riotous is the best word for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell are laugh-out-loud funny as Lorelei and Dorothy. Between Monroe’s sugary/spacey delivery and Russell’s prowling, the duo dash through their misadventures with aplomb. The beaus in the film are entirely inconsequential because Dorothy and Lorelei’s relationship is so darling. The girls never compete for men (Dorothy likes them tall, dark, and handsome and Lorelei likes them rich) so they’re constantly trying to help each other come out on top. It was sweet to see such a wonderful female friendship at the center of such a wacky Rom-Com.  

This dynamic duo’s most hilarious scene in the film occur around the midpoint when the girls are forced to steal back incriminating evidence from a beau. Monroe’s desperation escalates as she gets stuck in a porthole, attempts to roofie a private detective, and makes swift work of separating a man from his pants. Russell’s great in these scenes but Monroe’s comedic timing and physical comedy are flawless as her character uses her very specific wits to survive and thrive.

Russell’s best moments, meanwhile, come during the song and dance numbers. She has two particularly hilarious performances. In one, she delivers a spot on impersonation of Lorelei (going so far as shimmying to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” for a crowd) and in the other, she serenades a horde of Olympians dressed in nude-toned bathing suits. The latter is a sight to behold, and it’s genuinely a shame we don’t get scenes like that in films today.

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Howard Hawk’s direction is, not surprisingly, fantastic. He brings the funny and gets the actors to perform it to perfection. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes quickly reminded me of how much I cackled watching his Cary Grant features when I was younger. It’s a shame I haven’t seen much more of his oeuvre. . .at least not yet.

If you’ve somehow missed watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (like me), absolutely give it a watch. It’s hysterical, filled with great female characters, and did I mention the Olympians in nude bathing suits?

If You Like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Also Check Out. . .

  • Bringing Up Baby
  • Clueless
  • His Girl Friday

What are you favorite Classic Films?

Image Source: Joe’s Movie Stuff & Gif Source: Giphy

 

{Film Review} This Beautiful Fantastic

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Bella’s beginning were unconventional. Found among ducks as a baby, she was raised in an orphanage where she nursed a fear of the outdoors and soothed her loneliness with books. Now an adult, Bella lives very much alone with only those books, a typewriter, and radio for company. Her interactions with the outside world occur at the library where she works and over a garden wall with her curmudgeonly neighbor. It isn’t until she has an accident in her neglected garden that her lonely little world begins expanding. Gradually, she is forced to let in her cleaner/cook, the aforementioned grumpy neighbor, and a handsome inventor.

This Beautiful Fantastic is a whimsical fairy tale along the lines of Penelope, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and–perhaps the most well-known of all quirky, girl films–Amelie. Jessica Brown Findlay excellently portrays Bella, a character who has spent years building walls to protect herself from the grief of losing her parents too young. It’s a quiet role–one which calls for Findlay’s expressive eyes and gentle, physically comedy–and while Bella is described as the oddest of oddballs by our narrator, the film and Findlay never allow her quirkiness descend to ridiculous levels (that’s left for her manic pixie dream boy love interest). Bella spends her time dressing like Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice, learning foreign languages on the radio, and obsessively ordering her house. She’s essentially a relatable sort of weird and you can’t help but root for her to begin writing her book and make friends the individuals thrown in her path.

These prospective friends come in the form of cleaner Vernon (Andrew Scott), neighbor Alfie (Tom Wilkinson), and inventor Billy (Jeremy Irvine). Each role is played to varying success.  Andrew Scott is impeccable as always as the first person to knock bricks from Bella’s wall. His sweet charm and adorable bumbling-ness make you understand why Bella would immediately make room for him and his calming hugs in her life. It’s a shame really that they cast someone so incredibly likiable in this role because it’s difficult to understand why she would pass up her kind cook/cleaner in exchange for a mad, inventor boy. (Sigh.) Before we get to that mad inventor, it needs to be said that Tom Wilkinson manages wonderfully as Bella’s antagonist/mentor. His character sets Bella on her journey, but he’s more than just the catalyst for the film’s gardening-heavy plot. He’s also given room to grow as he overcomes loneliness and grief of his own. It is the bond and sympathy between Alfie and Bella that centers the story–which is one of the many reasons why her love story with Billy feels so extraneous.

Billy–the main weakness in the film–is in all essentials a Manic Pixie Dream Boy. He dresses like he’s a member of a Steampunk club, builds robots that are powered by moonlight, and always has tea and a spare cup at the ready. His character appears to be part of a separate (far quirkier) film altogether, and his and Bella’s love story sparked my only annoyance with the film. Certainly, his “Luna” gives Bella the protagonist for her children’s book, but it’s her experiences with Alfie that drive the fable she’s writing and illustrating. Billy’s cartoonishness makes for an odd fit tonally in this film, and seeing as he’s the only character without proper development, it would have been better if his role had been written around and out of This Beautiful Fantastic.

Thankfully, Billy’s presence doesn’t break this movie. The writer/director Simon Aboud created a  whimsical tale about grief, creativity, and caring for something outside yourself in This Beautiful Fantastic, and while it might not inspired the viewer to pick up a spade and take to the garden, it certainly reminds one of the importance of creativity and moving forward.  

If You Like This Beautiful Fantastic, Check Out. . .

  • Penelope
  • Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
  • Amelie
  • The Brother’s Bloom

Revisiting the DCEU: Man of Steel

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My first introduction to Superman was the 1978 film with Christopher Reeve. I picked it up back when I was in high school in preparation for the release of Superman Returns. You’d think, as someone who had grown up on Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s gothic Batman films, I would be cheesed out by the brightly optimistic Supes of old. I was not. I fell in love with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and soon after fell even deeper in love with Brandon Routh’s incarnation (I will not apologize for being able to quote Superman Returns by heart). To me, Clark Kent has always been doofy, Lois Lane unable spell, Lex Luthor maniacal and bald, and Superman ready to fight for truth, justice and the American way.

It’s not entirely surprising then that Man of Steel came as a bad shock the first time I attempted to watch it. Here was a dark Superman who hadn’t even become Clark Kent of the Daily Planet yet. None of it set right with me so I turned off the film halfway through in frustration. Henry Cavill was not my Superman. I was not ready to accept this incredibly different vision.

Fast forward a couple years. Thanks to Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, I’ve grown rather fond of  Zack Snyder’s dreary vision for the DC Comics Extended Universe, and with Wonder Woman and Justice League looming on the horizon, I figured it was about time this DCEU apologist rewatched Man of Steel. All signs pointed to the glaring fact that maybe–just maybe–I had been too harsh on it my first time through. It was time to see if that was truly the case.

Man of Steel charts the origin story of Superman from his unconventional (by Krypton standards) birth to his first encounter with a supervillain. Unlike most superhero origin stories, Kal-El doesn’t baulk at becoming a caped hero. From his childhood, he knows it is his destiny to be a protector and a beacon of hope–the only question is when the time will arrive for him to come out of the shadows. The villainous General Zod’s arrival answers that question for him. As evildoers, Zod and his band of misfits are a formidable group for the newly minted Superman to go up against. The Kryptonians’ powers rival Superman’s, but thankfully, Kal-El has more experience using his abilities on Earth. As they become overwhelmed by their new strengths, Kal-El uses his superior knowledge against them–which keeps him alive even when their numbers make it impossible for him to defeat them alone.

It’s to Earth’s advantage then that Lois Lane, the shining star of Man of Steel, takes an interest.

While Man of Steel does have its weakness (pacing, lack of Clark Kent, etc.), its female characters are not among them. Lois might not be the bad speller of old, but the Lois of Man of Steel is still no damsel in distress. She’s equal parts hard-nosed news reporter and co-savior of mankind. If it wasn’t for Lois, Kal-El wouldn’t have known how to defeat Zod and destroy his terraforming machine. She actually blasts her way out of Zod’s ship with that information so she can make certain both Superman and the U.S. Army have the tools they need to make a final stand. That’s just the cherry on top. Lois is amazing throughout the entire film. She never misses an opportunity to be in the middle of the action–even after she gets attacked in a Kryptonian ship and Kal-El cauterizes her wound with his heat vision! Lois Lane is a hero without a cape and Man of Steel doesn’t forget it. That alone endears it in my heart.

Of course, Lois isn’t alone in stealing the show from the male characters. As assistant villain, Faora legitimately overshadows Michael Shannon’s Zod. If you had to choose which of the two to go up against, Faora would not be your pick (Which I suppose is one of the film’s weaknesses. Zod just doesn’t hold a candle to his second in command). Superman’s mother, Lara, also makes a memorable impression by standing up to Zod and feeling genuinely equal to her husband in orchestrating Kal’s future. She even watches her husband die in front of her while saving her son. Lara’s incredibly tough (and dresses like a proper space queen). It’s just incredible how Man of Steel sets the DCEU’s standard for the women stealing the show–something we see again in Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.

Unfortunately, one can’t talk about Man of Steel without addressing the notorious issue of Zod’s death scene. It needs to be said that I am against Superman killing people on principle–just like I’m against Batman killing people on principle (looking at you, Tim Burton’s Batman). However, the scene between Superman and Zod did not bother me as much in context as I expected it to. For me, what it all boiled down to was the fact that the Superman of Man of Steel was completely and absolutely green when it came to being a superhero. This is a Kal-El who just learned how to fly and who has never used his powers in battle before. It’s easy to say that Superman wouldn’t kill, but Kal is barely Superman at this point. He’s still learning to use his powers. It’s absolutely understandable that he might do something Superman wouldn’t. Beyond that, the fact that the killing feels like a last resort is important to me. Our green Superman begs Zod to stop hurting people before he breaks his neck. He is even in tears when he performs the actual act. It’s not an easy thing for him to do. You can tell that nearly breaks him. Kal-El is not a killer, but he is forced into the act as a last resort when he doesn’t know what else to do. In the future, I believe Superman can and will do better. For now, he tried his hardest to do what was right and fell short. I understand why he did it–even if I prefer the story didn’t call for him to do it in the first place.

On the whole, I enjoyed Man of Steel. It’s not a perfect film (it is the weakest film in the DCEU), but knowing the seeds it’s planting for the shared universe endears it in many ways. It also helps that it created amazing female characters and gave Henry Cavill the opportunity to put on nerd glasses as Clark Kent. I am more than pleased I gave Man of Steel another chance. It reminded me how much I love these characters–even if they weren’t quite what I expected to see.

Next up, Batman v Superman!

Who is your favorite Superman?

Image Source: Movie-Screencaps

Top Ten Most Anticipated Summer Movies

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It’s that time of year again. It’s time for blockbusters and superheroes. . .with some sword and sorcery thrown in! While April was a deathly slow movie month, a whole load of exciting movies are gracing the big screen between now and Fall. I know I’m going to be racking up those Regal Movie Rewards thanks to all the films that look AH-MAZING. . .and those others which look just bonkers enough to be worth seeing.

I’ve put together a top ten list of my most anticipated films (in no particular order). Be sure to tell me which movies you’re most looking forward to in the comments!

Top Ten Most Anticipated Summer Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming ~ I never thought I’d be excited to see a Spider-Man film, but thanks to Captain America: Civil War, I am thrilled to see the webslinger on the big screen again (this will be my first time seeing Spidey since that fateful day I took my cousin to see Spider-Man 3).

War for the Planet of the Apes ~ The new Planet of the Apes films are my favorite Science Fiction movies of all time. (Yes, I love them even more than Star Wars and not just because the second one has Jason Clarke.) I cannot wait to see Andy Serkis knocking it out of the park for the third time in this franchise. It all looks absolutely glorious!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales ~ I’ve seen every Pirates of the Caribbean film in the theater, and Dead Men Tell No Tales is not going to be an exception. While I am keeping my expectations in check after the mess that was On Stranger Tides (a movie I forget exists more often than not), I do hope Jack, Will, and the gang will pull it together for one more movie.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ~ The Fifth Element bring me joy so there’s no way I’m not psyched about Luc Besson’s new Sci Fi project. It looks just as bonkers as Jupiter Ascending–which is definitely a selling point for me.

Wonder Woman ~ Wonder Woman, oh, Wonder Woman, I’m so pleased to see you headlining your own movie (with a female director to top it off)! The trailers for the DCEU’s new flick are so promising that I hope, for once, positive reviews will come to the DC Comics’ universe. It’s about time this franchise had a proper win.  

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ~ Let’s be real: This movie looks wackadoo. . .so it’s obviously on my list of must-watch movies. I remember reading that there are giant elephants in King Arthur (rather like Oliphaunts, perhaps?). Between that and Jude Law as the villain, I need no more reasons to pay for a ticket.

Alien: Covenant ~ While I’m nowhere near brave enough to see this on the big screen, I’ve been scarfing down the trailers and featurettes. Sadly, I will be holding off on viewing this until the DVD release, but that doesn’t quell my excitement at there being not one but two Michael Fassbender androids in one film.

Baby Driver ~ Confession time. The only Edgar Wright film I’ve seen is Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. I plan on remedying that soon by FINALLY watching the Cornetto Trilogy (a decision made solely after seeing the trailer for Baby Driver–which looks absolutely divine).

The Mummy ~ While Legendary’s MonsterVerse is more my speed, I figure I should check out Universal Monsters from the get-go. To do so, I’ll have to get over my extreme dislike for both Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe–but hey, at least, they’re be rampant destruction and one angry mummy to distract me!

Dark Tower ~ This is one of those films that seems made for me. It’s got everything: Cowboys, inter-dimensional travel, Idris Elba, and a weird fantasy setting! The trailer was breathtaking and 100% gave me an excuse to pick up Stephen King’s series once again.

What films are you most looking forward to this Summer?

My Favorite Podcasts

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Whenever I’m off-desk at work, I put on my earphones and start up a podcast. It’s calming to shut out the noise of the library and focus on the hosts’ voices and their stories. Since music has never been a huge thing for me and audio books don’t hold my attention, I’m glad there are so many podcasts out there that are funny, educational, and focused, more often than not, on Pop Culture. I’d really be struggling for background noise if podcasts were not such a thing right now.

I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts over the past year, but there’s a few in particular that I keep downloading to my beloved iPod Shuffle, Honey Lemon. I thought it’d be neat to share some of my favorites with you–mostly because I want you to share your favorites right back so I can have more to listen to.

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My Favorite Podcasts    

  • Dear Sally ~ A Felicity podcast that’s a perfect mix of nostalgia and jokes. I haven’t even watched that much Felicity, but I still enjoy hearing these two friends talk about who won each episode: Noel or Ben.
  • Gilmore Guys ~ After I watch a particularly annoying episode of Gilmore Girls, I download the companion Gilmore Guys episode right away. The two “Gilmore Guys” and their guests always have hilarious and insightful takes on the episodes.
  • Common Room ~ #PotterWeek was amazing and Common Room just started a series recapping the TV show, Lost. No matter what sort of geek you are, there’s almost certainly a Common Room episode/series for you.
  • Mousterpiece Cinema ~ Again, with the nostalgia! I have a thing for retro movie and television podcasts. Can’t you tell? Mousterpiece Cinema is Movie Mezzanine’s Disney podcast. Mostly, the hosts review Disney films from the 80’s and 90’s, but there’s a couple of modern movies thrown in too.
  • The Nerdist ~ If you like listening to writers, actors, and directors talk about their craft and other, much more random things, The Nerdist podcast will suit your fancy. I skip around and pick episodes based on my tolerance for the guests, but others might not be so picky.
  • Rosie and Jessica’s Day of Fun ~ A little bit of everything is in this podcast. Most of all you should know they talk about knitting and baking.
  • Nerdonomy: Nerds on History ~ My inability to finish historical non-fiction makes me very thankful for all the history podcasts out there. Nerds on History is VERY eclectic–which is fun because you learn a bit about everything listening to it.
  • You Must Remember This ~ Thanks to The Hairpin’s “Scandals of Classic Hollywood” series, I’ve been getting more and more into Hollywood history. You Must Remember This is a great way to satisfy curiosity about old timey actors and the stories behind their films.

What Are Your Favorite Podcasts?

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