JULY 2021 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Happy August!! Dayum, Summer is surely fleeting by. It has been sweltering HOT the past two months that even 80 degrees feels ‘cool’… We’ve got the most 90-degree days in 9 years in the Twin Cities… I think we’ve had like 22 days so far this year, but feels like there have been more than that. The haze is what’s bothering me the most though, the MN Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for the entire state for days, thanks to the Canadian wildfire. We’re pretty far from the border, so my heart goes out to those living close to these fires.

Ok, now on to the movie report… which is kind of uneventful overall apart from the increasing number of in-theater screenings of late, yay!

NEW TO ME MOVIES

The Tomorrow War (2021)
(full review)

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Croupier (1998)
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I had been curious about this Clive Owen movie when he was still young and clean-shaven. He’s the reason to watch it for me. I think people who enjoy gambling-type movies would enjoy this more but it’s a bit too slow and I also find it a bit odd overall. I was quite taken aback seeing Alex Kingston baring it all in a scene that I thought was out of left field.

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Love Sarah* (2021)
(full review)

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Gunpowder Milkshake(2021)
(full review)

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Jungle Cruise (2021)
(full review)

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The Bank Job (2008)
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When I watched this movie, it said it was based on a true story, which I thought was a regular bank heist. Well apparently it was about Princess Margaret’s sexual affairs with Jamaican men in the 1970s, and of her pictures being caught and saved in a highly secured unknown bank. It’s not exactly like an action comedy a la Oceans 11 or The Italian Job, it’s actually not as humorous and more violent than thought. Still worth a watch for the ensemble cast led by Jason Statham, though this is prior to him becoming a huge action star in the US.

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The Last Letter From Your Lover* (2021)
(full review)

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The Green Knight (2021)GreenKnight-Patel

I just had to see this on the big screen on opening night!
Review Upcoming

Unknown (2011)
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For some reason I was curious to check out Liam Neeson‘s movies directed by Jaume Collet-Serra who just did Jungle Cruise, and this one happened to be on Netflix. I actually enjoyed it, though I feel like this could’ve been re-titled as Lost in Berlin as Neeson was pretty much lost the entire time, ahah. The plot twist is actually pretty creative, I did not see THAT coming.

3.5/5 Reels


ADAM DRIVER Marathon

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I’ll be blogging about this later as part of Mettel Ray’s HIDDEN GEMS monthly series (I’m a couple of days late to the party though… oops!)

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

What If (2013)

Paterson (2016)

Tracks (2013)


Movies indicated with * (asterisk) indicates those directed by women – and sadly, I managed to only watch only TWO movies directed by women this month. Hopefully I’ll still be able to complete the 52 Films By Women challenge by end of the year.


TV SERIES

TEHRAN (2020) – Apple TV

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After watching the stellar Little Drummer Girl, my hubby and I decided to binge on another female-led spy thriller. TEHRAN focuses on a Mossad agent Tamar (Niv Sultan) who embarks on her first mission as a computer hacker in her home town of Tehran. It’s pretty gripping and suspenseful with terrific performances all around. It’s also pretty emotional given the personal stakes for most of the characters involved and it doesn’t paint the ‘enemy’ as one dimensional, in fact, the series shows a pretty balanced view of both sides of the Israeli and Iranian conflict.

Ted Lasso (Season 2) – Apple TV

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I’m so glad the series is back!! Just two episodes in so far but it reminds me of why I absolutely LOVE this series, can’t wait for more!

Loki – Disney+

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Well LOKI proves to be quite a game-changer series! I have to admit I didn’t always enjoy every episode and at times it just went over my head. But that the finale was indelible with the introduction of a new MCU villain Kang the Conqueror (a terrific Jonathan Majors). After Thanos they’ve got to come up with another formidable antagonist for phase 5, and Loki’s expression at the end of the finale says it all! I’m also excited that unlike the previous two Marvel series, LOKI will have a season 2!!

The Movies That Made Us: Jurassic Park (2021)

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I really enjoyed this documentary series created by Brian Volk-Weiss chronicling the stories behind some of the beloved movies of the 80s and 90s. Jurassic Park is one of my all time favorites and it’s always fun to see all the challenges making ANY movie, especially something as huge (literally!) as this Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster.


REWATCHES

I barely have time to watch new stuff this month, but I did rewatch one movie…

My Fair Lady
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JULY MOVIE OF THE MONTH

Paterson (2016)
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Adam Driver and poetry… a truly mesmerizing combination. A quiet but indelible film and it cements Driver as my current cinematic crush. This is only the second Jim Jarmusch‘s film I’ve seen so far, but I really should check out more, starting with Only Lovers Left Alive.


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in JULY?

FlixChatter Review: JUNGLE CRUISE (2021)

Disney once again capitalize on one of their Disney park’s attraction and turn it into a movie. I suppose that’s no surprise since the last franchise based on a popular Disney ride, Pirates Of The Caribbean grossed a total of $4.5 Billion globally with five movies, making Johnny Depp extremely wealthy with a reported $300 mil total for playing Jack Sparrow. I’ve actually never ridden either rides before, despite having visited both Disneyland AND DisneyWorld several times. The original Jungle Cruise opened in July 1955 at Disneyland Park, making it one of its oldest.

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At the center of the story is Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), an explorer who’s a bit like Indiana Jones meets Rachel Weisz’s character in The Mummy. Armed with a map her father gave her and an ancient artifact object she acquired from in a fun heist opening sequence, she is off to the Amazon in search of an ancient tree which flower holds miraculous healing power. Thanks to a scenario of mistaken identity and a clever ploy involving a Leopard, Lily ends up hiring Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), a wisecracking skipper with predilection for cheesy dad jokes on his ramshackle boat La Quilla. His intro during an actual jungle cruise tour is pretty amusing and fun.

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Much like in The Mummy, Lily and Frank didn’t get off on the right foot initially but surprise, surprise, they form a bond throughout the journey. Blunt and Johnson may seem like an unlikely duo but they have a pretty effortless chemistry and the two play each other off quite well, though some of the jokes/puns are cringe-worthy, especially Frank’s obsession with Lily’s pants. In fact that is his nickname for her, a light commentary of the misogyny of the 1930s period. Now, the plot is a bit too convoluted for a movie based on a ride, and the PG-13 rating is warranted given some of the petrifying jungle scenes and supernatural bits. It’s best not to overthink it and just enjoy the ride as it were, and marvel at the visual beauty of the Amazon river and the lush rainforest. 

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Barcelona-born Jaume Collet-Serra, known for his action flicks with Liam Neeson and the shark movie The Shallows (which I quite enjoyed) is pretty adept in directing the action scenes. “Everything that you see wants to kill you…and can.” Frank says, but of course the scenes of perils aren’t really that scary in a Disney movie, which automatically takes the suspense out of even the most intense action sequences. 

As far as the supporting cast go, Paul Giamatti is rather over the top as Nilo, a successful businessman in the Amazonian port town who often extorts money from Frank. Jack Whitehall plays Lily’s hapless brother MacGregor who’s often the butt of jokes for being absolutely clueless about what this dangerous journey entails. Disney attempts to be more inclusive with including an LGBT character though his coming-out scene is downplayed and feels like an after-thought. Edgar Ramírez is Captain Aquirre, one of the three soldiers in the mythology of the ancient tree, but he became kind of a throwaway character given how the ending is written (more of that later). Lastly, we’ve got a scene-stealing performance from Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim, who’s basically a cross between an Indiana Jones + Bond villain complete with his hilarious German accent. I’ve only seen him in one Black Mirror episode so I’m not totally familiar w/ his work. His talking-to-bees scene and casually yelling “Hallöchen!” from his submarine while holding a machine gun are wildly amusing. I’m still giggling over how he pronounced ‘jungle’ as ‘chunkle’ in a German accent, mwahahaha!

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My biggest issue is the way Disney is forcing the romance between Lily and Frank. It’s so hugely unnecessary and adds nothing to the story. I realize that Romancing the Stone is one of the main inspiration for the movie, but the romance just seems so forced and would’ve worked better if Emily and Dwayne are just platonic friends. I also have an issue with the ending SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) Now, in the beginning of the movie Lily says she’s convinced the flower from the ancient tree would change the future of medicine forever, and she’s willing to risk her own life to get it. Yet when she finally got the petal, literally by the skin of one’s teeth, she quickly gives it away to bring Frank back to life. The movie also wants to have the cake and eat it too by making the flower miraculously appear AFTER Frank is back alive again, render her sacrifice inconsequential. I think there’s an opportunity for the team of writers to offer somewhat of a redemption to Aguirre and his soldiers which would have been a more intriguing character arc instead of just having them being trapped by the jungle all over again.

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Given Disney has removed the ride’s problematic colonialism stuff and the racially-insensitive depiction of the jungle natives, the movie also wisely subvert that narrative of them being primitives and offer a fun twist about the indigenous people. Visually, the movie looks beautiful, which is to be expected given the large budget. The movie is shot in Hawaii though obviously there are plenty of CGI use for most of the action scenes. Just don’t expect a gritty depiction of the jungle, everything looks too clean and artificial, down to Lily’s hair and red lips that doesn’t seem to be affected by all the hullabaloos. The production design by Jean-Vincent Puzos is fun to look at and I enjoyed the music James Newton Howard, apart from the weirdly bombastic rock music playing during the jungle flashback scene.

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At over 2 hours, it’s a bloated adventure movie that could’ve easily been trimmed down. Overall though it’s entertaining enough for the whole family, though perhaps not for really young kids. Surely they’re banking on Jungle Cruise to be another lucrative franchise for the Mouse House, though it’s not one I personally am clamoring to see. I’m being generous with the rating here, but a full point belongs to Plemons’ hilarious portrayal, I actually can’t wait to rewatch the movie on Disney+ just for Prince Joachim’s scenes!

3/5 stars


What did YOU think of JUNGLE CRUISE?

FlixChatter Review: The Last Letter from Your Lover (2021)

Romantic dramas based on a book are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, and this one is based on Jojo Moyes‘s 2012 romance novel of the same name. To be honest, I’m not that familiar with her work but I remember her other novel Me Before You was also made into a movie, which I have yet to see. 

The film features a pair of interwoven stories, set in the past and present with its own set of romantic pairing. In 1965 London, there’s the wealthy and gorgeous young couple, Jennifer and Lawrence Stirling (Shailene Woodley + Joe Alwyn).

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Lawrence is a successful industrialist and the two seem like a match made in heaven, except their marriage is cold and distant. There’s a scar on Jennifer’s face and it’s slowly revealed she’s been in a car accident that causes her to have Amnesia. Meanwhile, journalist Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones) is awake in a man’s bed and despite him appearing interested in her, she made a dash out the door after calling him by the wrong name, twice. We’re supposed to think of her as a modern, independent woman with a blasé attitude about love and romance. Yet, when she stumbles upon a trove of secret love letters from the 60s during work research, she is immediately intrigued and wants to solve the mystery of this love affair.

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I must admit I have a thing for letters in movies… there’s something so enchanting about hand-written correspondence in the digital era. Letter writing is pretty much a lost art as people often make or break relationships via text these days. One day, a journalist named Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner) turns up at the Stirling’s luxurious resort in the South of France on assignment to interview Lawrence. When he’s called away on business, as he often is, Jennifer and Anthony immediately formed a bond. Of course it’s no surprise that the initial friendship turns to romance, and Anthony asks Jennifer to run away with him to New York and leave her loveless marriage of convenience behind. As the Bard said in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “the course of true love never did run smooth” … such is the case between these star-crossed lovers that make up the A + J in the letters.

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Director Augustine Frizzell does her best in balancing the parallel storyline, which is a tricky task, but I feel like the constant back and forth between the two stories could’ve been smoother. That’s not the biggest issue for me though, but more in the chemistry, or should I say lack thereof, between the two couples. It’s crucial in a love story like this to be invested in the couple that make up the romance. Alas, the relationships of all involved feel superficial and lacking serious heat, despite the film packing ALL the quintessential romantic setting. Alluring European location, check. Christmas-y scenery with fluffy snowfalls, check. Hand touching/kissing in the rain, check. It sure is beautiful visually, but at the end of the day, it’s the genuine human connection that makes any film memorable.

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I wonder if the casting is the issue. Right from the trailer, I was already skeptical about Turner’s casting and he didn’t exactly prove me wrong. Strangely enough, though Woodley is younger than both Turner AND Alwyn, she looks much more mature in the film, not sure if it’s the makeup or her outfits, but perhaps just the way she carries herself. Both Turner and Alwyn look more like frat-boys that it’s hard for me to take seriously. I think generally speaking the female performers out-acted the male ones by a long stretch here.

The pairing of Jones and Nabhaan Rizwan fares a bit better though. Again it’s no surprise that Ellie forms a bond with Rory, the sweet and polite chap working at the Archives department who’s helping her with the letter investigation Now, it’s not that they have a scorching chemistry, but their tentative romance feels more endearing perhaps because there’s less riding on their romance being all-consuming passion like the one between A & J. I do give the casting director props for finding suitable mature actors to play the older Anthony and Jennifer (Ben Cross and Diana Kent), which works quite well in the brief moment they appear on screen.

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Now, I haven’t read the book so I can’t say if this is a faithful adaptation. There isn’t much depth in the film version, but I have a feeling there’s more complexity in the book that we don’t see. Apart from the fact that Lawrence is constantly traveling, he is not a horrible husband per se, but we’re expected to think what Jennifer does to him is justified. There’s even less we know about Ellie and Rory, and for someone who seemingly doesn’t care much about love and romance, Ellie sure goes out of her way to act the opposite.

The Last Letter From Your Lover is such a romantic title that immediately conjures up thoughts of a swoon-worthy affair. Unfortunately the actual movie is less swoon-inducing but more melodramatic and formulaic. I suppose this is a decent movie to pass the time on a slow Saturday afternoon, but far from being a romance classic. As far as films dealing with infidelity goes, best to just rent Brief Encounter that’s guaranteed to leave you breathless.

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Have you seen The Last Letter from Your Lover? Let me know what YOU think.

7 Favorite Roles of Helen Mirren to Celebrate Her Birthday

Today we celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite British Dames! She was born in July 26, 1945 in Hammersmith, London. She got her start in her acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Oscar-winning actress has had an illustrious career with over 130 credits under her belt spanning over 6 decades, that’s not even counting her various theatrical work which garner her Laurence Olivier Theatre Award and Tony nominations. She is one of the 10 actresses I’d watch in just about ANYTHING … I mean, I even enjoyed her in silly action flicks like Fast Saga and RED. Well, I hope she gets to do more interesting roles all the way to her sunset years.

Before I get to her fave roles, are a few interesting facts about Dame Mirren (Source: Factinate, 10 Facts About)

    • Her father had Russian aristocratic roots, and she was actually born Illiana Lydia Petrovna Mironova
    • Mirren has frequently spoken about her choice not to have children, saying that “I never felt the need for a child and never felt the loss of it. . .I’d always put my work before anything.”

    • Mirren has played a queen six different times over her career. Most notable was her turn as Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 in The Queen, for which she won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a SAG Award. Queen Elizabeth II herself has stated that The Queen was one of her favorite films of that year.

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    • Mirren and Liam Neeson met when they both starred in the 1980 film Excalibur, and ended up dating for four years. Neeson confessed to being “smitten” with Mirren the first time he saw her in her Morgan le Fay costume. The relationship eventually ended when Mirren, seven years his senior, encouraged him to leave the proverbial nest and find his own path in Hollywood. One year after her split with Neeson, she met her future husband, director Taylor Hackford.

      Here’s an amusing reunion on Graham Norton you’ve just got to watch:

    • Mirren is known to have a rebellious streak. When on a visit to a Native American reservation located in Minnesota, on a whim she got a star tattoo made on her left hand.

    • The TV series Frasier was known for having famous voices call into Dr. Crane’s radio show, and Mirren was no exception. She was a caller on a 2004 episode called “Coots and Ladders,” and played a character named Babette.

Now, speaking of her film roles, here are seven of my favorite roles she’s done so far:

The Queen

It’s her most famous role where she practically swept every single award that year, deservedly so. It’s one of my favorite Best Actress Oscar winners and reportedly even the real Queen Elizabeth herself liked her performance! It was more than just her spot-on physical transformation, facial expression, voice delivery, but her emotional delivery makes the performance iconic.

Eye in the Sky

I saw this film because who could resist Dame Mirren AND Alan Rickman in the same film! If you like cerebral war thrillers with a great cast, well then I highly recommend this one. Dame Mirren is convincing as a conflicted military officer who had to navigate through such maddening protocols and bureaucracy in times of war. 

The Good Liar

Now, this one is another thriller that’s worth a watch for the dynamic duo of Dame Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen. They’re truly the reason to see this film that misses from being truly great due to the script/direction being uneven. I love how the two British thespian who are masters of their craft play opposite each other, and as my pal Vince said in his review, the first two thirds of the movie is a slow burn of calculated intensity.

The Debt

Wow, can’t believe it’s been over a decade since I saw this Nazi-themed thriller, but I remember really enjoying it and I saw it primarily for Dame Mirren who’s billed as the lead. She truly carried the film though it’s got a pretty good supporting cast including Jessica Chastain and Tom Wilkinson. She even got to speak a bit of Russian in the beginning, though she actually doesn’t speak the language of her native heritage.

Hitchcock

This is an intriguing film for fans of Hitchcock as it’s set during the making of Psycho. The film showcases the relationship between one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). Though Hopkins is the lead, Dame Mirren is the main reason to see it for me. I love all the scenes Alma is in, especially the part where she passionately gave her husband a piece of her mind during a heated argument.

The Last Station

Yet another period piece where Dame Mirren played a prominent character in a celebrated male artistic icon. As Countess Sofya Andreevna Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy’s muse, she sizzles once again played opposite another prominent British thespian Christopher Plummer. The story centers on Tolstoy’s struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things. I just love her energy, vulnerability and spunk in this role and no doubt the emotional core of the story.

 

Woman In Gold

Last but not least, this is another WWII-themed drama with Dame Mirren as Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee whose family artwork was one of the plethora Jewish artwork plundered by the Nazis during the war. Mirren is perfectly cast as someone with the strength and determination to take on the Austrian government to get back what’s rightfully hers. In my review from 2015, I said I didn’t really care for Ryan Reynolds‘ casting, though in hindsight he’s actually ok in this movie. The star of the film is definitely Dame Mirren, with strong supporting performances from Tatiana Maslany as her younger character and Antje Traue who played her aunt during the war, oh and there’s also Daniel Brühl who’s terrific in everything.

 


So what are some of YOUR favorite HELEN MIRREN’s cinematic roles?

The Wheel of Time – 5 Things to Know Before the Series Arrives this Fall

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Hey, FlixChatter readers, Laura here! I got home about a week ago from a long weekend in Atlanta, where I attended JordanCon, a fantasy convention centered around author Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series. I’d never gone before this one, but I really wanted to attend this year, since it would be the last one before the TV adaptation drops on Amazon Prime.

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While we don’t have a trailer or exact release date yet, show-runner Rafe Judkins said on the virtual SDCC panel that the first season will drop in November. So here are a few important things to know before the show arrives:

1. There is no brief way for me to describe the plot.

The Wheel of Time is made up of 14 books and a prequel published between 1990-2013, and they are long; the paperbacks average 826 pages each, and there are 2,782 named characters in the series. All this to say there is no concise way for me to summarize the story, but I’ll try my best to explain how it starts, since the first season is supposed to be a combination of the first two books: when a mysterious woman named Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) and man named Lan (Daniel Henney) arrive in the small farm town of Emond’s Field, 5 young men and women’s lives are changed forever as they are swept up in an epic journey. I know that’s vague, but it is literally the best I can do without going into too much detail. 

2. It’s not “the next Game of Thrones.

Several media outlets have already compared The Wheel of Time to the HBO hit based on George R.R. Martin’s famous book series, and while I kind of understand their reasoning, I’m worried it will give folks who haven’t read the books the wrong impression. Those comparing the two properties might be trying to say it will be the next hugely successful TV fantasy series, and obviously we all hope that’s the case, but plot- and theme-wise, I don’t think it’s accurate to compare them. Firstly, Wheel of Time is a lot more straightforward fantasy than Game of Thrones was. Yes, Game of Thrones has dragons and ice zombies, but most of the focus was on the politics. Wheel of Time leans a lot more heavily into the magical aspect of the world. Secondly, the tone is a lot different. Obviously I can’t say what the show’s tone will be like, but the books at least aren’t nearly as dark and gritty as Game of Thrones, and I doubt the show will be either.

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3. This isn’t the first TV adaptation of The Wheel of Time.

Back in 2015, Red Eagle Entertainment released a “pilot” (it’s referred to as a mini movie on IMDB) based on the prologue from the first book in the series in order to prevent the rights from reverting back to Robert Jordan’s estate. It aired on FXX  late at night (we’re talking cheesy infomercial air times). It was a greedy, lazy move that was made without consulting Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow and editor, and to this day it is derided and mocked. You can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube, but it’s pretty awful, and it doesn’t give you any idea what the source material is actually like, so I’d recommend just watching Recappa Sedai‘s reaction video to it on YouTube instead, because it’s hilarious and much more entertaining. 

4. The cast is very diverse.

WheelOfTime-cast

Back in 2019, Amazon started sharing casting announcements for the show, and several of the main characters- specifically Madeline Madden as Egwene, Zoë Robins as Nynaeve, and Marcus Rutherford as Perrin- are people of color. While many were thrilled with the casting, there was, of course, an unfortunate racist backlash on social media, especially on Facebook, from whiny fans complaining that the characters were written as white (they weren’t, at least not explicitly) and that this was all just an attempt at “political correctness,” among other, much nastier comments.

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Honestly, I could write a very heated essay on this whole section, but to keep things concise, I’m just going to mention a few excellent points brought up in a JordanCon panel on race in the series:

  • There are 78 characters in the books whose skin color is described as something other than pale.
  • Robert Jordan was a historian and had a military background, so it’s easy to assume he built a world where people would look different.
  • He mixed and matched cultures and skin colors throughout the book, so trying to attribute skin colors to characters is kind of silly.
  • Writers often only describe skin colors other than white, making white the “default,” which shouldn’t be the case.

5. The fandom is amazing.

On our first night in JordanCon, one of the attendees told us on that the people there were some of the best he’d ever met. At the time, it sounded like a bold statement, but less than 24 hours into the convention, I could tell he wasn’t exaggerating. Wheel of Time fans are some of the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming people I have ever met. Are you someone who has read the series multiple times? Great! They’ll want to chat with you about it for hours. Are you just starting the first book? Awesome! They’re excited for you to begin that journey and want to hear your thoughts along the way. While some book purists are worried the show will bring in fans who don’t care enough about the source material, most are just happy to have new blood in the community, people who get to experience the story through a different medium and hopefully gain an interest and appreciation for the books over time. So if you end up liking the show, get involved in the fan communities, especially #TwitterOfTime, where I’ve met so many lovely people (several of whom I actually got to meet in person at JordanCon). I promise will be welcomed with open arms.

Check out some of the photos Laura took at JordanCon:

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Are there any book fans who want potential watchers of the show to know going into it? Let me know in the comments! 

 

 

FlixChatter Review: LOVE SARAH

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We all have our comfort food, whether home-cooked or high sugar/carb variety, we can always rely on to console or uplift you. Same with comfort movies, something guaranteed to have high feel-good content to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Well, LOVE SARAH is the kind of sweet, poignant drama that can be described as my kind of comfort movies… and in this case, the sweetness also comes in the form of all those scrumptious baked goods featured in the film!

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You know the saying how ‘an end can also be a beginning’… well, this movie starts off with a tragic loss that affects three different women. A friend, a daughter and a mother all mourn the loss of the title character. There’s the friend, Isabella (Shelley Conn) who has been waiting in front of what’s supposed to be the new space of their new bakery on the day Sarah dies in a bicycle accident. Then there’s Sarah’s mother Mimi (Celia Imrie) who’s in the middle of writing a letter when she hears the door bell rings with two policemen standing outside. Meanwhile, her daughter Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet) comes home from a dance rehearsal only to be dumped by her boyfriend, leading her to crash at the now-empty would-be bakery and later staying with her grandmother.

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It’s while she was staying with her grandma Mimi that Clarissa comes up with the idea to fulfill her dead mother’s dream of opening her own bakery. Despite Clarissa’s unbridled enthusiasm, Isabella is reluctant to start it up again… understandably so, given how devastating it was to see their original plan just shattered to pieces when her best friend passed. Mimi somehow agrees to fund the venture, so voila! the Notting Hill bakery is born. They even enlisted a Michelin-star-winning chef Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones), an old classmate of Sarah and Isabella in culinary school.

I was immediately charmed by this movie, directed by Eliza Schroeder who’s credited with the story though its screenplay is credited to Jake Brunger. Now, the film has a certain dream-like quality, but it’s realistic enough to depict the reality of a new enterprise. People weren’t exactly lining up to get a piece of the delectable concoction featured on the store window on their first week, which means they have to get creative. For a film about a bakery, they sure don’t skimp on the scrumptious, drool-worthy treats.

LoveSarah-desserts

It got even more mouth-watering when Mimi proposed to transform their bakery to feature desserts from all over the world. Inspired by a delivery man from a Baltic region, she realizes the fact that London is such a big multi-cultural city filled with immigrants from various nations. Soon the bakery became the place where non-English residents can feel a little bit at home while enjoying their favorite treats from their home country. What a splendid idea, it made me wish there were a similar bakery like this exist near me! I love the baking process as Isabella and Matthew constantly learn how to create intricate desserts from places like Lisbon, Australia, Denmark, Japan, etc.

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I know that inclusivity and diversity in movies is on the rise and while that’s a wonderful thing, I also dread it when we’re hit over the head with it. Thankfully the celebration of different cultures here feels organic and natural with the worldwide baked goods practically are characters in themselves in the movie. Speaking of characters, I also love the cast! Celia Imrie and Rupert Penry-Jones are perhaps the most known to US audiences and they’re both memorable here, but I love Shelley Conn as a romantic lead. The romance between Isabella and Matthew might be predictable but they such a palpable chemistry. I also love how the entire ensemble mesh well together and effortlessly makes you root for them and this project.

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Love Sarah is a love letter to anyone who’s ever had a big dream or lost someone dear… it’s also a heartfelt story about second chances that should be relatable to anyone. I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve seen a good rom-com, plus the setting in one of my favorite European city always makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It might not be quite as witty nor bewitching as Richard Curtis’ movies, but it’s certainly got loads of charm and soothing quality that wins me over. I would’ve happily seen this on the big screen had this been released in US cinemas, but since it’s on HULU, I’m glad I can always revisit it.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen LOVE SARAH? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review – Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

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The John Wick films has started a new trend in Hollywood action films. Gone are the awful shaky cam, fast editing and up-close shots during action scenes. Now we get to see careful and well-choreographed hand-to-hand combat and shootout scenes. I definitely prefer this new style of action sequences since I can’t stand the shaky cam/fast editing style of the 2000s. The downside of this new trend is that many the recent action films seem to look the same and it gets kind of boring when most action films start to imitate one another. The newest John Wick clone is called Gunpowder Milkshake from Netflix.

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Sam (Karen Gillan) is a super assassin working for an underworld organization called The Firm. On her new mission, her boss Nathan (Paul Giamatti) tasked her with retrieving money that was stolen from The Firm by an ex-employee. But the mission goes awry when she shoots the ex-employee, discovering that he needs the money to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman) from some nasty men. Making things even more complicated is that on her previous mission, Sam accidentally killed the only son of The Firm’s competitor, McAlester (Ralph Ineson). McAlester wants Sam’s head and orders his men to hunt her down. So, to avoid a full out war with another powerful firm, Nathan decided to betray Sam and let McAlester and his men take her out.

Of course, Sam won’t go down without a fight since she decided to take Emily under her wings and will need help from her mom Scarlet (Lena Headey), who abandon her when she was very young. Also, along for the ride are Scarlet’s old friends Anna May (Angela Bassett), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), and Mathilde (Carla Gugino). Now the women must use all of their skills to defend themselves against the army of McAlester’s men and also aiming to take down The Firm.

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The script is credited to Ehud Lavski and Navot Papushado, the latter also directed the picture. The story is pretty straightforward, sprinkle in some female empowerment theme and a little bit of parent and child reconciliation. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before in other action films, but I did think they should’ve beefed up the villain role. We get a little bit of sense that McAlester is a nasty individual, but we don’t really get to see his true nature. Papushado decided to give the film a comic book style and included some fun action sequences including a car chase in parking ramp and fight/shootout scene in a clinic. Since it’s a John Wick clone, the action scenes were quite brutal, so you’ll see heads gets blown off and limps gets torn apart.

I enjoyed all the performances by the main veteran actors but the one really standout performance belongs to the young and adorable Chloe Coleman. She’s the only innocence person in the entire film and the good guys will do everything to protect her. Gillan whose 5’11 frame is very believable as an action hero and she looked to have a fun time here beating up several men and shoots them in the head. The more senior ladies also looked like they had a great time doing complex fight scenes and shootouts. While he might be on the screen for only a few minutes, Giamatti was also good the caring father figure type but also a business man who has to protect The Firm at all cost. The only disappointment here is Ineson, he’s supposed to be this over-the-top villain but he’s hardly in the movie and by the time he gets to do his evil speech to our hero, it wasn’t that impressive.

Overall, this is a fun action film that will remind you of the John Wick films. If you like those films then you’ll have good time with this one.

3.5/5 Reels

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So have you seen GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE? Well, what did you think?