21st century girl

reviews – my way.

La La Land (2016)

‘I’m a phoinex rising from the ashes’ 

La La Land is a film following an actress named Mia (Emma Stone) and a jazz musician named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) face the hardships of their aspirations and fall in love. The film also stars John Legend and J.K Simmons.

I heard about this film more from the reputation rather than the film itself, and from the mishap at the Oscars regarding Best Picture. My sisters also like the film quite a bit, even though I’ve generally heard mixed reviews about the film. Indeed, the film is a lot like marmite, you either love it or hate it. Despite the fact that the film was wonderful with the actor choices, visual experience and soundtrack, I couldn’t help but think that the film’s plot has been done many times before. Likewise, the two leads played their part to the T. I like how it references other musicals and had a Grease vibe going on in the beginning of the film, even though La La Land is set in modern times. It is a great homage to jazz, and the accompanying jazz soundtrack was brilliant. I have a huge guilty pleasure for musicals, and this one is probably one of my favourites. Out of the two leads, I’m probably being a bit basic here but I prefer Ryan Gosling’s character. I had previously seen Ryan Gosling in films such as The Notebook and I’m aware of his reputation in films as being the attractive lead male love interest type. Likewise, It shows that if you have a passion for a dream in life then you have to work your way up for it, as shown by Sebastian playing Jingle Bells on a piano in the beginning and achieving his dreams at the end. The same goes for Emma Stone’s character and her character’s scriptwriter/actress aspirations. It was pleasant to see J.K Simmons make an appearance, although I’m still terrified of his characters as a result of watching Whiplash (A film that the La La Land director Damien Chazelle also directed).

Overall, La La Land is a type of film that you think will just be full of recycled old cliches, but the cliches soon fade and you get enthralled in the film. I particularly like the homage to jazz in the soundtrack, especially ‘A lovely night’. Whether the film is good or watchable depends on the person, though.



Arrival (2016)

Arrival is a film about a linguistics professor named Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who interepets the language of alien visitors. It also stars Forest Whitaker.

I watched the film as part of a university cinema society screening, and I approached the film thinking the wrong sort of assumptions. At first, the film was quite hard to get into, though I soon picked up the pattern and the cinematic idea of the hero’s journey that I also learnt about in one of my lectures at university. The frequent flashback sequences of the main character and her daughter Hannah (who, from what I picked up on throughout the film, died from some kind of cancer brought on from the radiation) were also rather sweet, if not poignant at times.

If I were to watch this film again, I would pick up on the things that I missed out on in the last viewing. While this movie wasn’t my favourite movie in the world, the actors did a tremendous job and the the film itself definetly shows the impact of news. I also thought that it was rather clever that the young daughter built one of the aliens out of playdough. I could not help but notice that the flashback scenes are tinted lighter colours, as if to show happier times, while the other scenes are slightly darker, perhaps to show a change of mood and the passing of time. Arrival is one of those movies where you have to watch all of it to understand it otherwise it won’t make sense, and the film takes some time to get into. The montage effect was particularly effective when showing a series of flashbacks throughout the movie. Had I known about the film back when I was in college then a series of ideas that were applicable to the project at hand could be based around some of the aspects of the film.

Overall, a fairly decent film with superb actors, an unpredictable plot and great cinematography. My only criticism would be the fact that it drags at times, but it is still a good enough movie.


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, to put it briefly, follows the story of a former law student named Raskolnikov, who commits an act of murdering two women with an axe. Only a prostitute named Sonya can offer him redemption.

Although I had heard of a few icons in classic Russian literature, such as Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and of course, Dostoyevsky, I had never read any Russian literature in its intirity until I read Crime and Punishment. In fact, my older sister (who loves books) recommended the book to me, and I ended up reading it before lectures and in my own time. Though it was partly ruined by the fact that the famous Moors murderers read it and was a key motivation towards one of their murders, Crime and Punishment seemed like a good book all the same. I am aware that the book has been made into several film adaptations, though I have tried my best to avoid watching the adaptations for fear of ruining my perception of the novel, though interestingly, I realised that the late, great John Hurt played Porfiry in the 2002 version.

The novel, as a whole, teaches that all actions have consequences, and that there was no way that he could ever get away with murder. To be honest, he got what he deserved. I simply love the author’s flowing, overly detailed descriptions. Although some of the novel dragged just a tiny bit in places (i.e pages and pages of dialogue), my favourite part of the entire book was when he told Sonya (perhaps one of the main female characters in the entire book) that he killed the women, who turned out to be connected to her in some way or another. I also think that the novel is a critical reflection of Russian society at the time of when Dostoyevsky was writing it. You had your peasants, members of the police force, and the prostitutes.This book has definitely launched my recently found small interest in Russian literature.

If you have several days to spare, then go ahead and read Crime and Punishment. People always seem to assume that old books are long and dreary, but depending on the book, it is rather interesting, even though the names of the characters in this book were rather long and at times, I was confused with who was who.

Overall, a great, classic novel that has broadened my horizons while exploring new things to read and enjoy.


Wonder Woman (2017)

I shall destroy you!’ 

Wonder Woman is a movie based on the DC comics, and it is about a powerful woman named Diana (Gal Gadot) who discovers her true identity as she fights wars with other men. It also stars Chris Pine and David Thewlis to name a few big names.

I approached the film thinking that it involved Mary-Sue archetype characters, but I was quickly proved wrong. Although it was a little dramatic at times, I  watched it with a large group of people as part of a cinema society taster session at university, and I think most of the people liked it. I ended up discussing it with a group of friends on the way home. I suppose that this would be a good example of a feminist film. The main character Diana had dreamed about being wonderwoman ever since she was a young girl. It’s as though she has been on a journey from an island full of women to being faced with battle. It makes fun of gender norms, showing, in the simplest way possible, that men and women should be and are in fact equal. There is non stop plot twists and conflict throughout the film, even when they’re not on the battlefield. David Thewlis was brilliant in his role too, and I have seen most of his other work as he seems to be in everything, but he makes a good job of it. Chris Pine was also good in his role, along with, of course, Gal Gadot as the leading lady. If I had the chance, I would watch this film again.

Overall, a decent film adaptation from a well known DC comic that proves that not all female characters have to be hapless maidens, but rather powerful superheroes.


The Confirmation

I don’t want to eat Jesus’ 

The Confirmation follows the story of a carpenter named Walt (Clive Owen) who spends the weekend with his son Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher), and a series of events lead Walt and Anthony to bond, including Walt losing his toolbox. It also stars Maria Bello, who plays Anthony’s mother and Walt’s ex wife.

I knew of this film as Clive Owen is one of my favourite actors, so this review may or may not be a little biased. Indeed, Jaeden Lieberher, who plays the son, shows promise in case he decides to pursue roles in the future. I think that, in a way, the movie is more from the child’s perspective. As for Clive Owen, his character was incredibly unpredictable, and as usual of Clive Owen, he delivers a certain degree of charm to his roles. I have also found that his character’s tend to have a personal demon, such as a drink of drug problem, and the former is no different for the character of Walt.

I have also noticed that some of the shots in the film consist of the child by himself, perhaps showing that he does not have a close parental figure, or the child is somewhat independent. There are also heavy religious undertones, from the boy going to church to the lead up to his first communion/ confirmation (a big event in a catholic person’s life) .

If you are a fan of Clive Owen’s work, watch this film. You won’t be disappointed. It is quite interesting how it takes place over the course of a weekend.




Lullaby for Pi (2010)

‘Your name is 3.14 something?’ 

Lullaby for Pi follows the story of a musician named Sam (Rupert Friend) who is recently getting over the death of his partner Josephine, and lives in the hotel room where they first met. Soon, he strikes up an unlikely romance with an artist named Pi (Clemence Poesy), who hides out in his bathroom.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I watched the movie. The premise of the film sounded a bit quirky, but it was executed well enough to be watchable. Rupert Friend is a surprisingly good singer and pianist, though from past viewings of his other films he just tends to throw himself in the role, making himself believeable to the part. If you want to hear him sing and play the piano, then go ahead and watch the movie. I especially liked the duet between him and Pi. As for Clemence Poesy, I had previously seen her in films like Harry Potter, and she played the part of Pi incredibly well.

However, at times, the film seems a bit all over the place, though I would definitely watch it again to pick up on the bits that I did not notice the first time that I watched it. The characters are not just cardboard cutout stereotypes, and they all had real emotions. You have the lonely pianist who hangs out in his hotel room the whole time, you have the rebellious guy who just wants to play the piano, much to his father’s dismay, and you have the rather insecure artist. Had I known about this film at all when I was in college then I would have done an art piece inspired by this movie and I would have somehow gotten hold of a Polaroid camera. The film definitely teaches you that art and music is a way to express yourself and your feelings and emotions.

This film, however, did not go down very well with the critics, and I can partly see why. So far, I haven’t read a positive review about the film. The movie does not exactly appeal to everyone, and at times, the dialogue is admittedly a little cheesy. The soundtrack, however, is fantastic.

Overall, a decent and rather quirky film that manages to embrace its quirks and come out with a good, watchable movie with remarkable actors in it. It also stars Forrest Whittaker.



The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947)

‘And memories. I have those, you know. Even if it was a dream’

The Ghost and Mrs Muir is about a newly widowed woman named Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) who moves with her daughter Anna to a seaside cottage that was previously owned by a sea captain named Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison), who haunts the house. It also stars Natalie Wood as the young Anna Muir, Robert Coote and George Sanders.

Until recently, I had last watched the film when I was a lot younger so I only remembered bits of it (mostly the Rex Harrison scenes and the ending). Likewise, the film provoked my ongoing interest in old, usually classic movies. I also happened to notice, that Rex Harrison’s character stands in the background to give a ghostly prescence, almost to show a sense of belonging that he lived in the house before her, and it’s on a metaphorical scale of either watching over her or guarding his house even though the character had died. He was also originally introduced by a cackling laugh and his shadow to emphasise his presence. He brought a great deal of charisma and charm to his character. Perhaps the light focused only on his eyes in the painting when she opens the door in an early scene shows a sense that she is being watched.

I think that there is a sense of beauty in old movies, perhaps a lost art. I particularly liked the shots of the tide coming in on a stormy day, and the medium close ups of the main characters faces to show expression. I also like how there is next to no successful romantic plot line as Mrs Muir’s suitor Miles ‘Uncle Neddy’ Fairley only led her on only for his wife to reveal to her that he is in fact married with a few children. What I gathered is that it isn’t the first time that he had an affair. There is a huge contrast between Captain Gregg and Miles Fairley. Captain Gregg is foul mouthed but also rather charming (in a good way) and Miles Fairley is a charming yet rather manipulative (excuse my swearing) bastard as he knew how to charm Mrs Muir but not in a good way, but she eventually learns the error of her ways.

This film gives me a great deal of nostalgia from when I watched it when I was younger. Of course, times have changed since the film was originally released so some of the dialogue hasn’t aged very well but the film is still bittersweet all the same. I also think that Rex Harrison is an incredibly theatrical actor and his voice is very distinguished. At one point, he was one of my favourite actors, and I’ve also seen him in other films such as My Fair Lady. As for Gene Tierney, I had previously seen her in Dragonwyck so I thought she was a brilliant actress for her time. I personally find that this is one of the best ghost movies around. Nearly all of the other ones are too sappy or awful or cheesy.

It’s only now that the ending to the film has moved me to tears on a personal level as my sisters refer to the ending to help me manage with the fact that my widowed grandmother is dying. I think it’s the fact that Rex Harrison’s character says ‘You’ll never be tired again. Come now,’ then Mrs Muir stands up and she’s young again. That’s what hit me emotionally.

Overall, a visually beautiful and classic old film with beautiful music that makes the movie seem timeless, even for modern, impressionable audiences.


The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein

‘The car goes where the eyes go’ 

It is a well known fact that apparently a dog is a man’s best friend. Gareth’s Stein’s ‘The art of racing in the rain’ proves that. The book follows the story of a family, a man named Denny, his wife Eve and their daughter Zoe, but it is told from the point of view of their loyal dog Enzo.

My sister recommended it to me as there was a period of time where I didn’t have anything interesting to read. As I have a interest in dogs (though I haven’t owned one since I was thirteen), I reluctantly gave this book a read. I rarely ever put the book down, and ended up finishing it in a day. The author links the relationship between a human compassion towards a dog and a dog’s loyalty towards its owner. Never before has a book made me laugh and cry at the same time as much as this book did. In the last twenty pages of the book, I was in floods. You could just imagine the dog getting older, and it only hit me emotionally as we have a different kind of connection with dogs than we do with humans. In some ways, this book is like a more grown up and better version of Marley and Me. I would definitely reread The art of racing in the rain.

I like how the author connects racing and dogs and humans together, as Enzo the dog had an interest in watching the racing. I especially like how it’s from the dog’s perspective, as we often think that dogs don’t understand, when really, they do. They just don’t know how to speak. Luckily, the author gives the loveable dog a voice and a family, and towards the end of the dog’s life, he sees the limitations of being a dog and wishes to be a human. I think that was rather sweet.

I would highly recommend this book if you love dogs and want something different and interesting to read.


Fatal Attraction (1987)

‘I’m not going to be ignored, Dan,’ 

Fatal Attraction is a film about a happily married man named Dan (Micheal Douglas) who has a one night stand with a book editor named Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), but things start to get worse when Alex Forrest gets obsessive and stalks him and his family.

I had heard about this film long before I got round to watching it, and I was aware that the term ‘bunny boiler’ had been inspired by this film. I was also aware that it was rather controversial for its time.

Likewise, I think that it’s not the best film that I’ve seen, but it’s also not the worst. Glenn Close plays an incredible female villain, and one evil smile from her scared me entirely even before she spoke. I had seen her in 101 and 102 Dalmatians before, so it came to no surprise to me that she plays a brilliant female villain. I certainly won’t be going near rabbits, roller coasters, baths or knives any time soon. As for Micheal Douglas’ character, he was rather vulnerable in his position and she knew that so she emotionally manipulated him. He also played the part of Dan very well. Either way, none of the characters are straight up ‘good people’. Not even the daughter. The children in the film are used as metaphorical weapons rather than actual people.

It is a general observation that this could in fact be comparitable to the Alfred Hitchcock film ‘The Birds’ in the fact that something is always getting in the way of the traditional family unit. If I recall, there is one scene in the birds when the least significant character is pushed towards the back of the room and the traditional family is pushed towards the camera. It can also be applied to this film, as Alex Forrest is looking in from the outside, denied of a happy family while also not being part of his family at all, which could also be elaborated on as there is a black bar between Micheal Douglas’ character and his wife and daughter, showing that the affair had destroyed the family unit. The fact that in some scenes, there are no other sounds other than the phone ringing shows how she is constantly plaguing him. I should also add that the rabbit in the cage is a metaphor for him as Dan feels like he’s in a cage and domestic space, which is usually a comfort, is now his trap. The parallel shots of the daughter running and the mother approaching the pan with the boiled rabbit in it provokes a reaction from the viewer to really show how evil Alex Forrest actually was. The film is not afraid to toy with your fear of heights or water, and uses effective camera angles to do so. The director generally uses a lot of parallel shots and faced paced music in the film to build tension and build up that turns out to be scarier than the film itself.

Anyway, it’s a film that takes me by surprise, but it’s not within my top 5 or 10. It would be a good film to look at from a psychological point of view or if you wanted to look at the role of female villains in fiction. The character of Alex Forrest is what we would now call a ‘psychotic ex’.




Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (film)

‘I’m Abe Portman’s grandson! Please, don’t crap on us!’ 

Tim Burton directs Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar children, a film based on the book of the same name by Ransom Riggs, and it follows the story of a boy named Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) who discovers clues left by his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) which leads the former to a mysterious house for children with special powers, run by a woman named Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). The house also happened to be stuck in a 1940s time loop. It also stars Ella Purnell as Emma, Chris O’Dowd as Jake’s father, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench and Rupert Everett.

I had read the book before watching the film, so I knew what to expect. If I remember, the book combines elements of fantasy with real photographs so there were two major elements of story telling involved. Despite the film’s faults, such as swapping round Emma’s pelicularity of fire in the book to controlling air in the film with another fellow character Olive’s fire power in the film, the film itself turned out rather well and it was in fact better than I expected.

Visually, it was beautiful and incredibly Burtonesque. His rather gothic way of storytelling proves to be a success in adapting a wonderful book into a better than average film with so many unpredictable moments. I have been watching nearly every Asa Butterfield film that he’s done since before he did The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (though I started to get interested in him when I watched said film) and I read the original Miss Peregrine book knowing that Asa Butterfield was going to play the lead boy in the film. He has done incredibly well for himself as a young actor and I yearn to watch some more of his films. As for Eva Green, she was brilliant as Miss Peregrine, and she described herself as an alternative Mary Poppins who combined elements of masculinity and femininity (the masculine being that she smokes a pipe and pipes are commonly associated with people like Sherlock Holmes).

I think it would be a great inconvenience to everyone if you had a peculiarity like the character of Hugh in the film, who can have swarms of bees flying out of his mouth, and that power would only prove to be handy if you had a worst enemy who happened to be allergic to bees. I think that it’s also quite cool that Miss Peregrine has the power to turn into a bird. FilmIf I could have any power from anyone in the film, I would probably have Jake’s power of seeing things that other people can’t see. I found it quite cool how there were time loops involved so the children stayed as children but of course left the loop by the end of the film.

The film and the book (the latter of which, may I add, is part of a 3-book series) combines elements of fantasy and magical realism, two of my favourite genres.

Overall, a splendid, fantasy film that proves to be fun (and a little scary) to people of all ages. A must see, especially if you like Tim Burton. The film teaches that it is alright to be even a little peculiar.