Author: elenasquareeyes

REVIEW: Arthur Christmas (2011)

When a child is missed on Christmas Eve, Arthur (James McAvoy) the clumsy youngest son of Santa (Jim Broadbent), races against time to deliver her present with the help of elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) and his grandfather (Bill Nighy), much to the dismay of his older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie) who runs a tight ship at Christmas and isn’t impressed with Arthur putting the whole operation at risk.

Arthur Christmas is a lot of fun and a great adventure. It pokes fun on how Christmas is so commercialised nowadays and it’s almost a military operation to get all the presents and organise everything when the shops are heaving with people. At the North Pole Santa is more of a figure head of Christmas, and instead it’s his son Steve, along with millions of elves, that run the show. The sequences of the elves dropping off presents in dozens of homes in seconds are entertaining and inventive and they contrast nicely with the picture of Santa and his helpers that we generally have. That kind of typical Christmas is what Grandsanta reminisces about, when he used a wooden sleigh and a dozen reindeer to deliver presents.

Arthur loves Christmas. He believes whole heartedly in what his father does, the magic of Christmas and that every child matters. He’s almost naïve in his enthusiastic optimism, especially next to Steve’s stoic pragmaticism, but it’s charming too as he wants everyone’s Christmas to be special.

The dialogue is hilarious, and the writing is so sharp that the family arguments feel real. While Mrs Santa (voiced by Imelda Staunton) doesn’t have as large a role, she’s a soothing presence over tense family dinners and a the most practical out of all her family members. There’s a lot of great sight gags too, many of them courtesy of the countless elves running around the place.

The animation is beautiful and impressive. From how the operations centre at the North Pole is shown off in all it’s glory with all the screens and high-tech gadgetry to then how Arthur, his family and the elves feel so warm and alive. The North Pole is all icy blues but the colourful Christmassy jumpers and clothes that Arthur and his family wears brighten up the place and makes it feel lived in.

Arthur Christmas isn’t just a funny film, it’s also one filled with heart and sentimentality without being too twee. It does such a good job at offering a new and imaginative take on how Santa could possibly deliver presents to every child around the world, while never losing the spirit of Christmas. Arthur Christmas is a proper old-fashioned family film that everyone, no matter their age or whether or not they believe in Santa, can enjoy. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Night Before (2015)

Every year for the past fourteen years best friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gone out in New York City together on Christmas Eve. But now they’re getting older and are getting more responsibilities, this year the Christmas tradition is coming to an end and to end on a high they’re finally going to attend the Holy Grail of Christmas parties – the Nutcracka Ball.

The Night Before is very funny. It’s kind of a stoner comedy in the sense that the three friends spend a good chunk of time searching for weed but it is only Seth Rogen’s character that gets high on just about every type of drug imaginable. Cue silly antics as he starts panicking about being a father, loses his phone and is generally not able to function. There are some great cameos in The Night Before, some of them are truly unexpected yet brilliant, and the supporting cast is a lot of fun too with Mindy Kaling being a highlight. Then there’s Michael Shannon who plays Mr. Green the intense yet strangely wise drug dealer. His scenes are some of the funniest while also being oddly Christmassy as he often makes one of the trio of leads think about their lives and what’s important to them. He’s kind of like a stoned version of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life, and amazingly it works and adds to the Christmas feels that are there beneath the cursing and dick jokes.

In amongst all the drugs and swearing, the main theme of The Night Before is surprisingly sweet and heartfelt. Gordon-Levitt, Rogen and Mackie all have great chemistry and they really feel like lifelong friends. They are each at different stages of their lives, Isaac is about to be a father, Chris is a famous football player, while Ethan is feeling a bit lost as he’s no longer with his girlfriend and his career isn’t going anywhere. At its heart this film is about the trio of best friends and how friendships evolve as people grow up but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends and grow up together.

The Night Before is funny and often silly and ridiculous, but with the three leads having such great chemistry and New York City feeling so Christmassy, it unexpectedly feels like a true Christmas movie in the sense anything can happen, and it’ll be in the spirit of Christmas. 4/5.

Thanksgiving Book Tag

OK. Thanksgiving was last week so I’m a little late with this tag but we’re just going to deal with that. This tag was created by Fangirlscity on YouTube and I saw it on Aoife’s blog, Pretty Purple Polka Dots.

1. Bread – What book is purely fluff, and has no real plot line?
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
I flew through this book and it was a cute, fluffy read with a lot of nice relationships but it was so character-focussed that it didn’t really have an overarching plot.

2. Turkey – What book made you want to fall asleep?
The Book of Ebenezer le Page by G.B. Edwards
I’m currently listening to the audiobook of this and it’s not bad but the narrator sounds like an old man as he’s telling his life story and it is very soothing and is just the sort of thing I could accidentally fall asleep when listening to it.

3. Gravy – What book makes the whole series worth reading?
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
I listened to the audiobooks of Chaos Walking series last year and really struggled with it. My main issue was Todd, it wasn’t until Monsters of Men that I actually started to like him and the therefore the half of the book that was from his perspective.

4. Stuffing – What book is stuffed full of action scenes?
Flashfall by Jenny Moyer
I read this as a part of my NEWTS in August and the action never really stopped, especially once it got past the halfway mark.

5. Mashed Potatoes – What book looked good, and then wasn’t?
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
A Blade So Black isn’t bad exactly, but it wasn’t like what I expected, and the ideas were better than the actual plot.

6. Cranberries – What book has the sweetest romance?
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
I don’t read a lot of romance, but I found the romance in The Unexpected Everything to be really sweet and Andie and Clark really complimented each other.

7. Corn – What’s the corniest book you’ve ever read?
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
Sophie Kinsella’s books are always a little corny, fun, but corny, but I think Twenties Girl was even more corny than normal what with the main character being haunted by her great aunt or whoever it was.

8. Green beans – What book is too long and needs to be shortened?
Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
This was such a fat book. It was over 700 pages and it really didn’t need to be that long. I read it while I was at uni and I’m pretty sure it took me over a month to get through it and I’m not sure I even knew what was going on half the time.

9. Pumpkin Pie – What book do you read to get out of a reading slump?
In general, I read graphic novels or comics to get me out of a reading slump. Naturally they’re short and while I’m not saying I concentrate on them less than a novel, with the images it does make things easier if my brain’s having difficulty getting through a lot of description in a novel.

10. Dog/Cat- What’s your favourite Thanksgiving food that you would steal from the table?
Not had a Thanksgiving dinner before but I could always eat a lot of mashed potatoes.

And that’s the Thanksgiving book tag! If anyone fancies being even later to the party than I am, then consider yourself tagged. Also I hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a wonderful day.

READ THE WORLD – Chile: In the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein

Translated by John Cullen.

Vera Sigall, now eighty years old, has lived a mysterious, ascetic life far from the limelight of literary circles. This powerful character has a profound effect on those around her – Daniel, an architect and her neighbour and friend, unhappy in his marriage and career; Emilia, a Franco-Chilean student who travels to Santiago to write a thesis on the elusive Vera; and Horacio, an acclaimed poet with whom Vera had a tumultuous, passionate affair in her youth. When Vera suffers an accident that puts her in an induced coma in hospital, Daniel, Emilia, and Horacio are brought together and as they tell their stories, they reconstruct Vera’s past, and search for their own identities.

I found the writing in In the Distance with You to be beautiful and almost lyrical at times. The whole story is like a love letter to an author and to their works and the people surrounding Vera really feel connected to her in different ways. In some ways In the Distance with You is a story about stories; the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we tell others, and the ones we may write and publish to great acclaim.

In the Distance with You is told from three different points of view – Daniel’s, Emilia’s and Horacio’s – with the chapters alternating between the three of them. Daniel is the one who discovers Vera after her accident and tries to figure out what caused it as she lies in hospital. He’s a character that grew on me over the course of the book, as he grew as a person. He starts off being quite self-absorbed and only really cares about what’s happening with Vera, pushing his wife aside in the process, but when he meets Emilia, he finds someone else that he cares about and starts to open up more. Emilia learns so much about Vera from her own works and studying the few bits of information there is about her past. It’s interesting to see how a novelist may put bits of them into a story and it’s through these breadcrumbs that Emilia starts to put together a picture of the kind of woman Vera is. Horacio keeps his distance after Vera’s accident and instead revisits the past; how the two of them met, fell in love and worked together on their writing.

The mystery at the heart of the novel is Vera and her life. She’s pretty much a recluse with Daniel being the only person who saw her regularly, and even he doesn’t know that much about her past. As the story progresses, the layers of Vera’s life are slowly pealed back by each of the three main characters, and it’s only through all three of their point of views do you get a full picture of who Vera is. It’s interesting having a book so focused on a character that spends the majority of the story in a comatose state. Daniel, Emilia and Horacio orbit Vera even when she’s unresponsive and her being in that state almost forces them to reconsider who they are and what they want from life and those around them.

In the Distance with You is beautifully written story with fully realised characters. They’re flawed and it’s fascinating to see how even though Daniel, Emilia, and Horacio are very different people, they are connected by a love of or fascination with one person. 4/5.

TRAILER REACTION: Black Widow

The first trailer for the long-awaited Black Widow movie was released yesterday and I liked what I saw.

Now let’s get what will obviously be big talking points about this movie out of the way – the fact that this movie exists after certain events and that it probably should’ve happened a lot sooner. Also, that’s a spoiler warning for Avengers: Endgame.

Yes, Black Widow is a film that probably should’ve happened a long time ago, when Natasha Romanoff was the only female hero we had in the MCU and really had space to shine in amongst all the male heroes. Post-The Avengers was probably when it was the height of her popularity and would’ve made sense to have a solo movie. Nowadays it’s a bit odd we’re getting a Black Widow movie considering the fact Natasha dies during the events of Endgame but, it is a prequel. When it’s exactly set I’m not sure (because you know me, I don’t like to know too much about MCU films going into them) but it would make sense if it was post-Captain America: Civil War as that’s when the Avengers broke up, Natasha made her escape before the rest of Team Cap were arrested and we don’t really know what she was up to in the years between Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

So in short, it kinda sucks we’ve had to wait this long for a Black Widow movie, and for a film that may not have lasting consequences for the overarching MCU and its characters as it’s a prequel, but it’s here now so let’s sit back and enjoy it.

Though Natasha’s voiceover quote is from Endgame and can obviously be applied to the whole Avengers team, I’m happy that Clint and Fury are the one’s singled out when it comes to her family. Clint was sent to kill her but made a different call and it was probably down to Fury (and maybe Coulson) that Natasha was allowed to prove herself and be a part of SHIELD. I’m a big fan of the OG SHIELD squad being a family.

Speaking of family, it looks like the family of choice trope is going to be alive and well here which I’m always happy to see. I won’t lie, I know very little about the characters who are in this movie. I know Florence Pugh plays Yelena Belova and I’m pretty sure I’ve read some Black Widow comics where she’s featured so I have a rough idea of who she is, but who Rachel Weisz and David Harbour play? I have no idea and even just seeing their characters names on IMDb doesn’t jog my memory at all but I’m OK with that. I’m liking the very brief look into what the dynamic between these four characters/actors could be like because as I said, the found family/family of choice trope is my jam.

I really liked the fight between Natasha and Yelena. I thought that was a great way to introduce this new character and set up her relationship with Natasha and show she’s just as good (if not better) as Nat. I also like the general vibe of the trailer. It feels like an espionage thriller but with added superpowers in the same way Captain America: The Winter Soldier did and as The Winter Soldier is one of my favourite MCU films, that works for me!

Black Widow is going to be the first film in Phase 4 of the MCU so even though it’s a prequel, the world is kind of its oyster. We have no idea who or what could be the overarching Big Bad for this phase of the MCU, or even if they’ll start dropping heavy-handed hints for it yet. Plus, with Florence Pugh becoming a bit of a rising star this year with Midsommar, Fighting with My Family and Little Women, the powers that be may be setting her up to return in future MCU movies as the new Black Widow or have her own new superhero name. I’m just guessing here.

Have you seen the Black Widow trailer? What did you think of it? I’m sure May 2020 is going to come around much faster than we expect.

My Blogging Resolutions

I’m attempting to take part and complete Blogmas again this year. I know the posts during Blogmas are supposed to be Christmas/Holiday related, and mine will have some of those (there’s going to be Christmas film reviews every weekend till Christmas!) but I also take it as a challenge to write and post about anything for 25 days.

So today is going to be about my blogging New Years resolutions. I’ll talk about my film and book-related goals of 2020 in early January, but I thought now was a good idea to talk about my blog, what I like about it, and what I want to improve.

My main blogging resolution is to be better at commenting – both replying to comments I receive and seeking out and commenting on different posts. It can take me weeks and sometimes even months(!) to reply to the comments people leave on my blog and I’m so sorry about that. Sometimes I’m just forgetful. I see the notification and read the comment then think “Oh that’s a lovely thought/question, I must reply to that when I’m not doing X” but then I forget. Then sometimes I leave it so long to reply to a comment it becomes a whole thing like should I actually reply when the person left the comment like a month ago or would that be weird?!

In the end I do reply, or like the comment, because I think every comment deserves a response because someone’s taken the time to leave their thoughts on my post. So, here is where I say sorry to my readers and commenters who I leave hanging for far too long. I will aim to do much better in 2020 and I’m going to set the goal of replying to comments within a week of receiving them. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I shan’t lie, I’m really bad at the community aspect of blogging. I started my blog for me, to get writing again and to share my thoughts on stuff. I’ve never been great at reading other peoples posts about things. I think part of that is I don’t read reviews of books/films I plan to read/watch before I’ve had a chance to read/watch them. I like to go into a story knowing as little as possible so avoid reviews of the media I know I’m already interested in and am making plans to engage with. When it comes to books/films I haven’t heard of or have no interested in, I don’t mind reading those reviews – because you never know, I could then become interested and seek that book/film out. So if/when I do read these posts, I really should start commenting more, even if it’s just like “Ooh I hadn’t heard of this before but it sounds great! I’ll check it out.”

Other posts out there like wrap ups, favourites lists, or more general posts I do read more often (though again, not often interact with) because that’s where people can share a couple of lines about why they did or didn’t like something without being spoilery and it can be enough to grab my attention. It is becoming clear that I’m quite the spoilerphobe.

I think I’m going to set myself the challenge to comment on just two posts a day, if I do more than that then great but it’s got to be at least two. Like anything in life, it’s habit-forming and I need to break out of this quite insular bubble I’ve got when it comes to blogging.

My final kinda blogging resolution is not to be so hard on myself when I won’t meet self-imposed deadlines or schedules. For the nearly 5 years I’ve been consistently posting on this blog, I’ve said that there will be a film review on Mondays and a book review (or something book-related) on Thursdays. For the most part I stick to this, but it does kinda stress me out when I haven’t finished a book by Thursday, or I haven’t watched many films or one that I want to write about that week to post on Monday.

Towards the end of this year I’ve been missing the odd day and guess what? My blog didn’t self-combust! I like having a schedule because I like the routine and having goals to meet, but I also shouldn’t stress about it so much. I’m sure people aren’t noticing when there’s only one post one week instead of two, and even if they do, they don’t hate me for it or anything.

So, to sum up, my blogging resolutions are:
1. Respond to comments I receive within a week of receiving them
2. Comment on two different blog posts a day
3. Don’t get worried if I miss a self-imposed blogging deadline as this is supposed to be fun!

Quite simple and supposedly easy blogging resolutions that I will hopefully be able to stick to, and in doing so, will make my blogging experience more fun, stress-free and more community focused.

Do you have any blogging resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them, and I’ll respond within in a week even though it’s not 2020 and my resolutions haven’t official kicked in yet!

REVIEW: Charlie’s Angels (2019)

When systems engineer Elena (Naomi Scott) blows the whistle on her employer misusing a dangerous technology, Charlie’s Angels Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) are called into action to save Elena and to stop the technology from getting into the wrong hands.

It seems that Charlie’s Angels has been predominately slated before it was even released here in the UK and, after seeing it, it definitely doesn’t deserve all the hate. That being said, while Charlie’s Angels is more entertaining than you might’ve heard, it’s not without its problems.

For almost every fast-paced and exciting action sequence, there’s one that is just a little dull. The same can be said for the comedy, some one-liners really work, while others really don’t. But, it’s the cast, who all look like they’re having a lot of fun, that make this film.

Kristen Stewart gets the chance to show off her comedic chops and steals just about every scene she’s in as the sarcastic and motormouth Sabina. Naomi Scott does well as the fish out of water Elena while still almost seamlessly finding a place amongst the super spies, while Ella Balinska gives a star-making turn as the serious Jane. All three of them have their “hero moments” and they are all really satisfying.

The supporting cast are all good too. The title of Bosley is now what all the Angels’ handlers are known as and Djimon Hounsou, Patrick Stewart and Elizabeth Banks all put their own spin on what a mentor-type character should be like. Sam Claflin plays Elena’s power-hungry boss and while he’s no in the film a lot, his scenes when he’s scared for his life are hilarious thanks to the expressions on his face.

The third and final act of Charlie’s Angels is when the film really comes into its own. Once the trio of heroines are more of a cohesive unit and all the motives and bad guys have been revealed, that’s when everything comes together. This is when you truly see what a Charlie’s Angels film with these three characters could be like and it’s so fun and entertaining that you wish the film had found its groove sooner. Seeing Elena, Sabina and Jane be proper action/spy heroines makes me hope that this film somehow gets a sequel because now this trio is a solid team, I want to see them save the world again.

Charlie’s Angels is fun. The humour doesn’t always land but the charm of the three leads pulls it through. The final thing I have to quickly mention is the costuming in Charlie’s Angels as it is brilliant. It’s so nice to see female characters in outfits that are practical but look good and show off each character’s personality. 3/5.