Reflections on the A-Z Challenge – 2018 Edition

It’s been just over a week since the April A-Z Challenge ended for another year and I’m very happy to say I completed it for the fifth year in a row! Can’t quite believe I’ve been taking part in this challenge for five years now, and that means I’ve been blogging for over five years! Time flies when you’re having fun.

My theme this years was My Favourite Songs. I was quite lucky in the sense that I found it pretty easy to find songs for every letter, the difficulty came when I would have about five great songs that I loved for one letter and had to figure out which one would be the chosen one. I found it easy to write each post and I had them all scheduled before the end of the month. I do wonder if because each post was made up of a music video, whether my actual written content wasn’t as good compared to my content generally. The reason I say that is because if I’m honest I sometimes wrote the posts without much real thought, and sometimes I found it difficult to say more than “this is a song I love a lot” and that’s it.

I think my content had an effect on how people interreacted with my blog this year. Compared to last year, I received more visitors but less views and comments which I found interesting. My top three most popular posts of the challenge were Take a Hint, Under Pressure and Mr. Brightside which I think shows off both my eclectic taste in music and the people who came to my blog.

I also did a terrible job at visiting other people’s blogs. I would always try and respond to comments left on my blog (they may be about a week late, but I generally responded to them all – sorry if I missed yours) but I rarely visited peoples blog either via comments left on my posts or by finding blogs through the Master List. April was a bit of a hectic month for me and my mind wasn’t really on blogging in general never mind focusing on the challenge itself. It’s a shame because reading other people’s A-Z posts is always such a joy but I missed out on it this time round.

I think for next year, the best way for me (and potential readers) to get the most out of this challenge is to think ahead and start writing posts for the challenge months in advance. This year’s challenge kind of crept up on me and I didn’t sign up till a week before the challenge started – leaving me with a lot of work to do.

That being said, as I was kind of apathetic to the challenge this year I am considering I might take a break from it next year. We shall see how I feel in early 2019.

I hope all those of you who took part in the challenge had a great time and you achieved what you set out to do. For more information on the challenge and to find many other blogs who participated, check out the blog.

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REVIEW: The Terminal (2004)

When there’s a military coup in his home country while he’s flying to America, Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is forced to take up temporary residence in JFK’s terminal building as he is not allowed to set foot on American soil.

The Terminal is a really sweet heart-warming film that grows on you as the story progresses. It’s tough to see Viktor struggle because he has a limited grasp of English and doesn’t understand what customers agent Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) is telling him about his country. When Viktor sees the news for the first time your heart-breaks for him and it continues to break for him as he struggles to survive in the terminal building with no money and no food.

Over time Viktor begins to make friends with various airport staff including Enrique (Diego Luna) who works in catering, baggage handler Mulroy (Chi McBride) and cleaner Gupta (Kumar Pallana). How his friendship, and English skills, grow over the course of the film is lovely. Because Viktor is such a fixture in the terminal building, pretty much everyone who works there, in the shops, in the food court and in security, get to know him.

An unlikely friendship, and even romance, blossoms between Viktor and air stewardess Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). There’s some crossed-wires as Amelia doesn’t understand that he actually lives in the airport, even though he never really lies to her.

Viktor’s story is like that of the American Dream – or at least what the American dream should be. He always displays a kindness and compassion towards others and in turn receives help and respect and brings out the best in those he encounters.

The Terminal may not be considered one of director Steven Spielberg’s best or most memorable films, but it’s a lovely film about people, relationships and doing what you believe is right. It’s film that balances comedy and drama very well and it’s just a wonderful film. 4/5.

SPOILER REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

WARNING! This is my spoiler-filled review of Infinity War, if you haven’t seen the film or just generally don’t want any spoilers my spoiler-free review is here.

Now I don’t think this will be in any particular order and I definitely won’t manage to talk about everything, these are the things that stuck with me the most that I wanted to talk about.  (more…)

REVIEW: Othello by William Shakespeare

The tragedy of Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, who is misled by his disloyal officer Iago leading to suspicion and revenge.

Othello is a Shakespeare play that I never read during my school career – for me it was Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Henry V and Hamlet that I had to study in either school or at university. I knew nothing about Othello before starting it except that the titular character is usually played by a black man.

I really enjoyed Othello. While it is certainly a Shakespearian tragedy – miscommunication and death abound – but there’s also this very dark thread of humour running through it that I loved. I did find myself wondering if I was classed as a comedy because from the outset Iago is being sneaky and telling lies to different people to get a reaction, but pretty much every other character says at some point how loyal and trustworthy he is. It made me laugh out loud a couple of times because it’s that obvious to the audience watching/reading what Iago is doing but everyone else is so obtuse.

You never really get why Iago has decided to pit all these people against one another. There’s certainly some jealousy there but even he sometimes questions his actions and the consequence he may face. But that still doesn’t get him to stop. He reminded me of the trickster archetype as he uses his wits, and other people, to try and achieve his goals while misleading everyone around him. He’s definitely one of my favourite Shakespeare characters.

Othello is a play I enjoyed reading and found it relatively easy to understand from the outset. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for performances of Othello in the future, and it’s a play I’d recommend to people who may usually be put off by Shakespeare’s work as it’s easy to follow and features some interesting characters. 4/5.

Z is for Zero to Hero from Hercules

Hercules isn’t my favourite Disney film, in fact it’s one I didn’t really watch that much when I was younger, but it’s got some great songs.

Zero to Hero is my favourite from Hercules and one of my favourite Disney songs in general. I love how up beat it is and the voices of the Muses – Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman and Vanéese Y. Thomas – are phenomenal. I’ve always had a soft spot for gospel music and having a gospel style song in a Disney film is inspired.

I love the lyrics in Zero to Hero too. They’re really fun and have a lot of jokes and references that I definitely didn’t get when I was a kid. The lyrics and the big energy choir phrases, combined with a fast-paced tempo and a rhythm you just want to clap your hands to, makes Zero to Hero a great and memorable song.

This is a song I can never get tired of listening to – I’ve even learnt all the words!

REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

When the Avengers and their allies learn of Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his plan to bring balance to the universe by destroying half of it, they must attempt to put a stop to his plan.

Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of ten years of planning and films and it really does pay off. The way the various characters are introduced feels organic, as do the various team ups that happen during the film. Seeing these characters interact is a joy and there’s a lot of moments on humour as they either clash or find common ground.

Infinity War is Thanos’s is film. He is the biggest and baddest villain featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. He is a formidable foe and from the very start of the film you can see how powerful and destructive he is, and from then on you know the heroes are in grave danger. Between Josh Brolin’s performance and the computer wizardry that brought Thanos alive, Thanos was an imposing presence, even when he wasn’t on the screen. Also, you understood his motivation as the film spent time showing the reasoning behind his actions and making him more than just the bogeyman we’ve caught glimpses of in previous films.

The Russo brothers do a great job bring all the characters together and balancing the action, drama and humour. Because that’s the thing with Infinity War, it still has a lot of laugh out loud moments, most of which are from the character interactions, but it also has a real sense of threat as none of these characters are safe from Thanos. How they juggled the action has to be commended and there’s a lot going on at once, with different characters in different places, but no plotline felt dull compared to another. The story flowed really well and while there is a lot of action sequences and fights, there’s still small character moments that make this epic team up special.

Avengers: Infinity War is thrilling, shocking and just all out incredible. It’s runtime of over two and a half hours goes by before you realise as there’s so much happening and there’s never a dull moment. There’s surprises throughout the film and the climatic showdown is brilliant. Avengers: Infinity War is an epic and a more than satisfying viewing experience – there’s a good chance it will leave you speechless. 5/5.

I’ve done my best to keep this review as vague as possible as Infinity War is definitely the kind of film you should go into knowing as little as possible – it’s truly an experience. My spoiler-filled review will be up later this week.

REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

My original review of Thor: Ragnarok from October 2017 is here.

Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) but he must find a way to escape and return to Asgard, where Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is set to takeover.

Thor: Ragnarok is a weird and wonderful comedy superhero film. It’s bright and colourful, with wacky characters, costumes and settings. It’s very different to the previous Thor films which can be a little jarring but once you accept that it’s showing a different side to these characters, it’s a fun ride.

It’s the characters and their interactions that makes Thor: Ragnarok. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back and once again you’re not entirely sure if he can be trusted, but through his conversations with Thor you see a different side to their relationship. There’s so many moments in this film where you can see their history and how they really are brothers who have grown up together. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is a hard-drinking scavenger and a really interesting new character. Her banter with Thor, and playfulness with the Hulk are unexpected but great. When Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk (and also Bruce Banner when he makes an appearance) are together, or any combinations of thereof, their chemistry is clear to see.

The action sequences are a lot of fun and exciting. Seeing Thor and Hulk battle is a real joy to watch while the battle for Asgard between Thor, his companions and Hela is one of the best third acts in a Marvel movie. It’s funny, compelling and has a fair few unexpected moments.

There are some uneven moments in Thor: Ragnarok when it comes to balancing the comedy with the drama. Mostly it works, but a couple of times a joke undercuts the emotion of a scene when is a shame.

Thor: Ragnarok is a lot of fun. It’s bizarre but still manages to have some of the best character development we’ve seen for Thor for ages. It also has more serious themes like colonialism and refugees, while still being very funny. 4/5.