Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them | Movie Review

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Release date: 18 November 2016 (United Kingdom)
Director: David Yates
Film series: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Film Series
Box office: 812.5 million USD
Screenplay: J. K. Rowling

This is a film that I have been meaning to watch for ages. Literally ages. Because I am the biggest Harry Potter fan and I love Eddie Redmayne so why it has taken me six months to watch it, I have no idea. But a few weeks ago I finally got around to watching it. And I was not disappointed. The film was quite different to what I was expecting, especially in how dark the film went, but I loved it nevertheless. I adored all the characters, particularly Queenie because I could really connect to her on a personal level, because they were all very complex and interesting and had their own individual quirks and backstories. I did think that a little more time could have been spent on the world building because I think that people who aren’t die hard Harry Potter fans may have had a bit of trouble understanding things. However, the visual effects were brilliant and I loved how all the magical creatures were presented. This was a really surprising film for me as it was very different to what I was expecting but I really enjoyed it all the same.

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The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander – played by Eddie Redmayne – has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

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Let’s just get this out there – Newt’s a real sweetheart, isn’t he? He is so loving and warm and good-natured but still very determined and protective and I love that a Hufflepuff is getting their chance in the spotlight for once (because yes, I am a Hufflepuff). I thought that Eddie Redmayne did a fantastic job, particularly as he had to work with so much CGI in the film, and really brought this socially-awkward yet very intelligent character to life. I also adored the Goldstein sisters and they are both two of my favourite female characters ever. Tina is so dedicated and hard-working and loyal and I love her relenting resilience that never once wavers in the film. But I also loved that she isn’t stone-hearted and goes through a lot of emotions in the film and isn’t afraid to openly show them; she is human and that’s what I love. I also adored Queenie because I think out of all the characters she is most like myself (though I am quite like Tina too). She isn’t ashamed or embarrassed of her kindness and warmth and actually uses this to her advantage when people underestimate her for being a giggly, dumb blonde. She’s also very funny and protective of her sister and I loved seeing Queenie and Tina’s relationship.

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This film was a whole lot darker than I ever could expected; there are themes of child abuse, discrimination and a level of intense hatred and disgust towards certain groups of people that I certainly wasn’t expecting. There were also several comments towards society which I also wasn’t expecting, seeing as this is a ‘kid’s film’. But it’s no ordinary ‘kids film’, this story tells several very important and deep messages about people’s attitudes and what we do when we tell groups of people to suppress themselves and hide away from society because who they are is unnatural – we create the results and consequences of what that individual then does and the results of that are clearly shown in the story. On a lighter note, I thought all the CGI was done brilliantly and I loved seeing all of the magical creatures and the wizarding world come to life. The plot is quite slow at the beginning with a lot of flitting around between different characters but at the half way point, it really picks up and builds into something fantastic.

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This film was definitely a surprise but it was a welcome surprise because I loved all the different elements and all the sub-plots that wove together to create this historical and moving film that even though it is about wizards, still has a lot of relevance to our society today. This is definitely a film for slightly older children to watch because it does get quite dark but both kids and adults can enjoy it – kids can enjoy the wonderful CGI and humour whereas adults can pick up on the hidden sub-text and the themes that the film is trying to get across.

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Belle | Movie Review

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Release date: 13 June 2014 (United Kingdom)
Director: Amma Asante
Screenplay: Misan Sagay
Music composed by: Rachel Portman
Awards: The British Independent Film Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film

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BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | Review

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I first gave this book a shot what must be almost a year ago and I couldn’t even get past the first few pages. Terrified that all the hype surrounding the book had ruined it for me, I put it down and didn’t touch it for a while. I recently gave it another try and I honestly have absolutely no idea what was wrong with me. I absolutely adored this book this time around and now I can fully understand why there was so much hype surrounding this book when it came out. It’s worlds away from the Shadow and Bone series and it’s amazing how much she’s improved as an author in just a few years, which alone makes me excited about her future books. I absolutely adored the characters in this book as they are all so unique and not characters that I’ve ever read about before. Their dynamic is fantastic and the way they joke around and yet still care deeply about each other is something I loved reading about. I loved the plot because who doesn’t live a heist and all the political commentary that was hiding under the surface. I thought that this book was absolutely amazing and now I need the sequel because this ended on the biggest cliffhanger ever!

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist: Break into the notorious Ice Court (a military stronghold that has never been breached). Retrieve a hostage (who could unleash magical havoc on the world). Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it). Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

First, let’s talk characters because the characters in this book are amazing. I have a new all-time favourite character in the form of Nina Zenik. She is exactly what I adore in a character: she’s confident and sassy and intelligent and vivacious and I absolutely love her to pieces. I also love Inej because I could really relate to her on a lot of grounds – particularly her relationship and her thoughts on religion which is something that I’ve never been able to see in a character before. All of the characters are so complex and interesting and all have their unique pasts and flaws and quirks which I’m really looking forward to exploring more of in the next book. For the majority of the book, our 6 main characters are stuck with each other and their joking, sarcastic conversations made me so happy because I love witty conversations between witty characters.

Who doesn’t love a heist novel? And this book is pretty much entirely a heist novel. Obviously, there is a lot more to the plot but the basis is that our fabulous main characters have to pull off a heist. It’s fast and action-packed with twists and turns around every corner and because the story switches between each characters perspective you never really get the full story meaning there are lots of gaps and unanswered questions and as you don’t fully trust any of the characters, it makes everything a lot more interesting. I understand that the switching POVs could be hassle for some people but I thought they really added another layer to the story and made everything more interesting. The world is also wonderfully complex and layered and so vivid and I love it!

This book was engaging and heartbreaking and moving and it’s definitely a 5 star read for me. Now I need to read the next book!

Doctor Strange | Movie Review

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Release date: 24 October 2016 (United Kingdom)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Box office: 677.4 million USD
Budget: 165 million USD
Music composed by: Michael Giacchino

If you know anything about me, then you know that I am an absolutely massive, humongous Marvel fanatic. This film came out at the latter end of last year and, come the middle of March, I was still yet to see it. And this didn’t sit right with me and I desperately needed to give it a watch, so I did. And while it may not be my new favourite Marvel film, it still made extremely enjoyable viewing and was definitely a very different film to what is currently out in the Marvel universe. I really loved the main character Stephen Strange and his partner in crime Christine and the bantering, almost sibling-like relationship like they had with each. The visual effects were also stunning and, as per usual, there was plenty of humour as well as some really deep and powerful messages about time and the meaning of life. This was a really fun, moving and unique film with some strong scientific elements that I think is a must-see for any movie fan.

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Dr. Stephen Strange’s – played by Benedict Cumberbatch – life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.

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Going into this film I was slightly apprehensive about Benedict Cumberbatch playing the main role. This wasn’t because I doubt him as an actor – I think he’s an absolutely fantastic actor – but I was slightly wary if he would be too famous and well recognized from other roles such as Sherlock for me to be fully immersed in his portrayal of Stephen Strange. But I really had nothing to worry about because within the first five minutes I was completely engaged in his character. I think that his American accent helped too for me to be completely immersed in the character of Stephen Strange. He is at the beginning of the film an arrogant idiot but he goes through a lot of character development throughout the film and by the end he still has his incredibly sarcastic humour that is part of his character but is a much nicer guy. My favourite character in the whole film was probably that of his partner-in-crime Christine who, at least in my opinion, deserved a heck of a lot more screen time. She was really kind and considerate but was definitely not a pushover and wasn’t afraid to stand up to Stephen and was probably the most realistic character in the film. I really enjoyed their chemistry because it was believable and still very entertaining.

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As I’ve already said, this film was very mind-bendy and that is the only way that I can really describe it. There are so many colourful special effects that are quite overwhelming at first, mainly because it is very unlike the rest of the Marvel films that are currently out there, but once you get into the film and understand the tone and style of the film then it’s something that really makes this film stand out. The plot of this film was fairly straight-forward and not exactly original but it was executed very well and particularly the end third of this film is extremely action-packed and fast-paced. It wouldn’t be a Marvel film if it wasn’t jam-packed with humour and this film certainly was, with lots of sassy comments and pop-culture references as well.

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This definitely isn’t your typical Marvel movie but did a great job of setting up some future movies with a little bit of history and backstory. It was engaging and entertaining, while maybe being a little too crazy for some viewers, but I immensely enjoyed myself regardless.

Beauty and the Beast | Movie Review

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Release date: 23 February 2017 (London)
Director: Bill Condon
Featured song: Beauty and the Beast
Costume design: Jacqueline Durran
Music composed by: Alan Menken

You may not know but Beauty and the Beast is my joint favourite Disney movie of all time ever (it shares this accolade with the highly underrated The Princess and the Frog) so it’s safe to say that I was absolutely shaking with excitement to this film. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a trip to the cinema and was probably more excited than all the six year olds who dressed up in Belle costumes for the occasion. And, guess what? I now have a new favourite film of all time. And I’m not even joking. I absolutely adored it. I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack since and I keep reliving the film in my mind. I loved everything about it – the characters, the music, the visual effects, the humour, the plot, the costumes and everything else. It was absolutely gorgeous and romantic and quite moving at times and definitely reminded me of why I love this story but was by no means the same as the cartoon. I loved it.

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Belle – played by Emma Watson – a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast – played by Dan Stevens – in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, allowing her to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside.

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The first thing that I’m going to say is not to be intimidated by all the hype surrounding this film because it’s unlikely that you’re going to adore this film as much as I did. This story means an awful lot to me – which is probably why I kept squealing during the opening number – but that certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t absolutely love it either. I firstly want to talk about the characters but it’s impossible for me to fully explain all of my feelings in less than 10,000 words because I loved every character in this film so much. But I adored Belle. I absolutely adored her. She is so feisty and strong-willed but still kind and intelligent and still has a sense of humour. She’s one of favourite movie heroines of all time. I also adored the Beast and as well as the huge character development that he goes through throughout the film, I loved his humour and his kindness and selfless that even is terrible upbringing couldn’t destroy. My darling Plumette was amazing – and I loved her and Lumiere’s relationship – as were all the other objects. Gaston was such an arrogant prick that you hate him with a scary ferociousity but I was certainly sidetracked by the good looks of Luke Evans (like it’s not fair how hot he looks in this film). But I thought that all the performances were brilliant and I can’t imagine anyone else playing any of the roles.

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The main thing that I really enjoyed about the plot of this film, and the thing that I appreciated the most, was the way that it filled in some of the plot holes that existed in the original cartoon and gave all of the characters much more backstory and reason for being the way they were. But they did it in such a clever way that it made everything seem much more realistic and entertaining and also made sense in the context of the story; it wasn’t just shoved in to fill up a plot hole. The Beast’s backstory for example perfectly explained how he turned out to be the rude and arrogant person that he is at the beginning of the film. Something else that particularly appealed to my inner Francophile was how the entire film looked. Everything looked absolutely beautiful; all of the colours were vivid and rich and I loved everything about the castle and its blues and golds. The costumes were also absolutely stunning and wholly transported you into the world of the film. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned the music yet because I really have had the soundtrack playing on repeat since the moment I left the cinema. I love every single song and I just – I can’t cope with how much I love it.

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So yeah. This film might as well have been made for me – from the adaptation of my joint all time favourite Disney movie to Emma Watson, Luke Evans and Gugu Mbatha-Raw to France and the sarcasm and the fact that it’s a musical. I mean, it’s 5 billion stars from me and I honestly urge you – on a wholly personal level – that if you only watch one film make it this.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Review

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I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves for zonks. Literally. And it’s been sitting there un-read and un-loved and I’ve absolutely no idea why because I love Morgan Matson and have loved every single one of her previous books. All this considered, I finally managed to pick this book up and give it a read and I am so glad that I finally did. It reminded me just how much I love Morgan Matson’s books and also got me very excited for spring and summer, which was a feat in itself (funnily enough I am absolutely loving spring at the moment which is a completely new sensation for me). The characters in this book are all realistic and flawed and engaging and they all go through some crazy character development through the course of the story. This book is filled with humour and emotional moments and was a really enjoyable read. I can’t wait for the next Morgan Matson novel!

Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.
Future? A top-tier medical school.
Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around).
Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.
So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out too.
Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?

I have to say that at the beginning of this book, I was too sure whether I was going to really like it or not and that was for a couple of reasons. Andie, our main character, isn’t the best person at the beginning of the book and I was struggling to find anything to connect with her about. And secondly, the plot seemed to be very politics heavy at the very start which I didn’t immediately get engrossed with. But my worries were very quickly quashed. The politics soon take more of a back-seat and Andie soon begins to develop as a character and this was one of my favourite parts of the book. The amount of character development that happens in 500 pages is frankly terrifying and Andie in particularly changes so much into a much more likable and compelling character. As for her friends, I loved the character of Palmer and how strong-willed yet optimistic she was, I liked Bri and I didn’t really care about Toby. In fact, she annoyed me the majority of the time and I felt like she was a bit winey. I really loved the romantic sub-plot between Palmer and Tom and the cute moments that they shared together as well as Clark because who doesn’t love a cute author?

Another element of this book that I really enjoyed was the development in the relationship that Andie has with her father. These were some of the funniest and most enjoyable scenes as well as the most moving and I really enjoyed watching them grow closer as a family. I really could relate to Andie, particularly at her tendency for over-planning and trying to control the situation too much. As per usual, I found Morgan Matson’s writing to be really entertaining and quick to read. I did think however, and maybe it’s just because I’ve read so many of her books, that sometimes her description and action scenes dragged a little and some of her sentences were a little clumsy.

However, on the most part I absolutely loved this book. I was still thinking about it days after I read it and it really put me in the spring mood. I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars and now I’m super excited to see what Morgan Matson comes out with next!

 

Far From The Madding Crowd | Movie Review

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Release date: 1 May 2015 (United Kingdom)
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Box office: 30.2 million USD
Music composed by: Craig Armstrong
Costume design: Janet Patterson

I read this book a while ago and if I’m being completely honest the only reason I bought the book was because I wanted to watch the film that stars one of my favourite actresses, Carey Mulligan. But, because this is the way I am, I wanted to read the book before I watch the film. So I did read the book and I adored it which meant I could now watch the film. I thought that this was a very good book-to-movie adaptation and a lot of details from the book were carried on into the film which I was very happy to see. I thought that all the performances were brilliant and they all managed to perfectly capture the characters that they were playing. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the whole film felt very sunny and fresh and heady, which perfectly summarizes the setting of the countryside. If you love the book or Carey Mulligan or just fancy a visually-beautiful and quite relaxing film then I’d recommend you give this film a shot.

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The story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene – played by Carey Mulligan – who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak – played by Matthias Schenaerts – a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching willfulness; Frank Troy – played by Tom Sturridge – a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood – played by Michael Sheen –  a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance.

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The first thing I want to talk about is Bathsheba. She was my favourite aspect of the book and became one of my favourite all time female characters because she was just so strong. And I think that Carey Mulligan did a brilliant job of portraying all the different sides to her personality, as I knew she would do. She managed to show Bathsheba to a be a very intelligent, strong-willed and determined woman who also has a sense of humour and who also gets upset and feels lonely and makes mistakes. I also loved the part that Liddy played in the film because she’s a relatively small character in the book but her friendship with Bathsheba is another one of the things that I really enjoyed about the book and I was really pleased to see that Bathsheba had a female friend that she could confide in as well as add some comic relief.

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Another thing that I really liked about this film in general was how they expanded a lot of the smaller book characters in order to give them more personality and life and to add some humour. The farm workers, for example, play a much bigger part and have a much stronger relationship with Bathsheba in the film than they do in the book. I also liked the portrayal of the three main men because they all have very different and contrasting personalities and this was really clearly shown throughout the film. On the plot front, I was actually quite surprised how intense and impactful a lot of the scenes were but with the mixture of the beautiful countryside and the dramatic music really made the film feel very action-packed and fast-paced, which contrasts with the calm, relaxing feel of other parts of the film.

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I did really enjoy this film and I thought that it was a really true adaption of the book which, for a book obsessive, was extremely good to see. I really liked the characters and fell in love with Bathsheba again. It’s probably not the best pick for a thriller or action-film fan but it has some beautiful scenery as well as being very emotional and action-packed too.