Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

Welcome to an unusually timely review because again I managed to catch a movie in the theater. I know I promised a different review this time but I want to talk about Spider-Man while the impression is still fresh and you might still care. So,

er-spidermanhomecomingSpider-Man: Homecoming

Category: Movies

Find it in: theaters, for now

What it is:
The newest version of the Spider-Man franchise when Marvel has finally managed to regain its flag hero (or partly regain him because it was still branded with Sony; I don’t know, you don’t come here for insider gossip, do you). For the first time ever we don’t get an origin story – instead Peter Parker is getting his sea legs (spider legs, maybe?) as the masked hero and trying to be both a high school student and a wannabe Avenger.

How I found it:
How could I not. I obviously saw the proto-trailer in the third Captain America. Then I saw the really bad actual trailer, which made me think “No way, this is going to be stupid.” But then I listened to a podcast where they said this was more of a high school movie than a superhero movie and I suddenly got way more excited.

Summary judgment:
It’s really pretty good. Not my favorite superhero movie by far but it has many things I normally miss in those. Like actual character moments.

Best things about it:
The tone. It was just light enough, without the unbearable grandiosity of most superhero movies, which made Peter believable. And it did manage to incorporate pretty well the high school aspect of the story, which also gave the creators a chance to dig deeper into character development rather than just to escalate battle scenes (looking at you, Ultron).
And super extra points for the animation in the first part of the credits, it was pretty great: creative, edgy and imaginative. It looked almost like a student project, only a really good one. I salute Marvel for keeping the art of credits alive.

Worst things about it:
Just skip this part because I’m sure I’m irritating you by now with my predictability but, you guessed it, the part I liked the least was the fight on the plane. It took too long – but at least there were just two people fighting, not a whole army of copy-paste aliens/robots.

Other pluses:
Tom Holland is great as Peter Parker. Again, a fantastic casting choice for MCU, up there with Robert Downey Jr even.
Vulture was a decent villain for Marvel, with believable (if boring) motivation. At least he didn’t want to destroy the world, he was just selfish and careless.
MJ! If she is to be a new Mary Jane, I’m all for it because it’s such a good take on this traditionally irritating character. If not – why not?!
I liked that most women looked like real women (more or less), even aunt May, whose beauty everyone was praising. And that her glasses weren’t props (pet peeve).
The school was realistic and neither glorified nor too depressing, with very naturally introduced diversity.
Oh, it had possibly the most successful product placement (the Lego Star Wars set) I have ever seen in that it didn’t bother me at all. I only noticed that it was a product placement when I read it in the credits.
And, most of all, it was a pretty funny movie.

Other minuses:
I didn’t care for Liz. She was one of those too-perfect, boring love interests and I hope MJ will be so much better. I don’t see how she wouldn’t be.
And that’s all! Can’t come up with anything else.

How it enriched my life:
I enjoyed myself. And I really like seeing how superhero movies try new modes and, pretty much, genres.

Fun fact:
So I know everyone has their canonical Spider-Man but mine is probably unsual: it’s the 90s cartoon that I was watching as a kid and it was one of the most exciting cartoons on TV at that time (but only because they didn’t show X-Men here). That, and Captain Planet. They should totally reboot Captain Planet.

Follow-up:
Next up Thor, of course.

Recommended for:
Fans of Spider-Man. Fans of MCU. People who want to see slightly differ superhero genres with actual characters.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: It will be Lizzie Bennet Diaries this time

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Waitress

I’m not a fan of chores (well, who is) but the one I do passionately is ironing. Seriously, the more, the better. And whenever I iron, I watch stuff. Usually I watch TV shows but every now and then it is a movie and a few of my last sessions I spent with

er-waitressWaitress (2007)

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
A sort-of feel good story of Jenna, a – duh – waitress and pie maker who lives in the south of the US with a terrible husband and hates her life. She gets pregnant and starts an affair with her OB/GYN, who has just arrived to the town and is nothing she could’ve expected. Side note: it’s such a weird idea to have an affair with your OB/GYN. Seriously.

How I found it:
Ok, so I don’t really believe in the concept of guilty pleasures that much – if you like it, it’s just a pleasure – but sometimes you like things for reasons you’re not too proud of. And there is this one bad podcast I listen to because of all the wrong reasons where I heard about the movie and it picked my interest.

Summary judgment:
Maybe that’s because I didn’t, luckily, identify with Jenna’s plight but I found myself completely indifferent towards the movie. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t really care.

Best things about it:
I like some of the visual clarity it has, little details that are over the top but create a fairy-like atmosphere of the movie and keep it from being a gritty social drama with an unlikely ending. I liked Dawn’s glasses and the colors in the final sequence, for instance.

Worst things about it:
Well, the movie mostly failed to move me. I’m not a huge fan of Keri Russell – I’m sure she’s a talented actress but her brand of distanced, wide-eyed sensitivity leaves me cold and I find it hard to care much about the characters she plays (and I saw her both in The Americans and Felicity – and Austenland but that barely counts).

Other pluses:
I liked the music, it even included Langhorn Slim. The song Russell sings also sounds great.
Some of the actors were very good, particularly men. And I like Nathan Fillion, even when he plays a pretty reprehensible character like the doctor in this story (honestly, what was his deal?). The other waitresses were fun and I liked how they took care of one another. I also liked their, for the lack of a better term, sass – sassy Jenna actually worked for me.
And always I’m a sucker for a Southern accent. Sue me.

Other minuses:
I disliked the way the husband was written as the Worst Person in the World (TM). He was pretty much like a Marvel villain, with no redeeming qualities and no personality, just with a lot of evulz. That explained why Jenna was so shell-shocked but didn’t make for a particularly interesting character study.

How it enriched my life:
It didn’t. Honestly,  I could’ve been watching more of Younger for my ironing fun.

Fun fact:
I sometimes have troubles with coming up with those, have you noticed? But here goes: I don’t think I have ever in my life baked a pie. I could do this, I’m sure, because baking comes fairly easily to me (unlike most other things in the kitchen), I just never had a chance or reason to do so.

Follow-up:
This is a typical one-and-done thing for me.

Recommended for:
Women in unhappy marriages, maybe? People who like anything smacking of romantic semi-comedy. Keri Russell’s fans. People who like an element of food porn in their movies.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Next time: Lizzie Bennet Diaries

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: The Lego Batman Movie

We spent two evenings recently trying to have fun despite a lot of work and too little sleep and the way we chose to achieve it was watching

er-batmanlegoThe Lego Batman Movie

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
It’s like The Lego Movie only with Batman? It’s like a Batman movie made of Lego? Yep. That.

How I found it:
I liked The Lego Movie. And I have no religious admiration for Batman, like some people do, so I don’t mind his ridiculous rendition (in fact, it was one of the more likeable versions of Batman I’ve seen). So when I saw the trailer on IMDb (yes, that’s how I mostly find out about movies: I like trailers) I decided to watch it some time.

Summary judgment:
I don’t even know! This was such a weird thing. Maybe I expected something a bit different.

Best things about it:
Same thing that was great about the first Lego Movie: the animation that suggested stop-motion Lego movies made by fans and all the cute visual ideas of how to use recognizable blocks to tell the story (or just to insert some visual gags). Yet, I feel it was more impressive in the first movie (not least of all, because then it was a fresh idea).

Worst things about it:
I guess it just wasn’t exactly a movie for me. On the one hand, it had so much chaotic action it was hard for me to follow all the battles. I know I always rant about how I dislike battle scenes but here it wasn’t exactly that: I mostly resented that I couldn’t tell very well what was going on with too much action on the screen and too many elements (hehe) so that I was missing all the ingenious little details. On the other hand, the main theme of the story, how Batman needs to find a new family and have courage to accept it (yep) was clearly directed at (young) children with all the innumerous repetitions. It just bored me.

Other pluses:
I actually liked the unapologetic use of all the trade marks Warner Bros owns, particularly when Voldemort appeared so out of character. It was very in-your-face but, I guess, this kind of humor works for me? Also, I’ll never resent a Harry Potter allusion, whatever it is.
Of course, many jokes were still funny, I just think I hoped for more of them. Many visual ideas were cute.
Will Arnett’s Batman is one I stand behind.

Other minuses:
I managed to put them all into Worst Things and it just doesn’t feel right to look for even more of those faults in a movie whose target I clearly wasn’t. I would feel like harping on a movie for three-year-olds that it didn’t have enough depth and drama.

How it enriched my life:
It was mildly entertaining, and still better than most serious movies I could’ve been watching at the time. I also remember I learned something from the elusive Batman mythology but I’ve apparently already forgotten it…

Fun fact:
So, in case you haven’t noticed so far, I’m definitely a Marvel girl. And I know it doesn’t seem to make sense, as liking Marvel one should also like DC, but somehow it doesn’t work that way. Not for me, anyway.

Follow-up:
So I saw the trailer for the next Lego movie: Ninjago and I’m definitely NOT watching that one. It looks like a very extended ad.

Recommended for:
Children who like Lego and Batman. Adults who like them so much they will gladly watch a children’s movie that has both. Parents who need to watch movies with their children and prefer something that has at least some jokes for parents in it.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Waitress

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Nick Carraway Chronicles

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me: I swallow adaptations of classic books in form of vlogs. Seriously, I go through them like wildfire because I watch them while I work. Or, you know, they play in the corner of the screen and I don’t really watch, just hear them and sometimes glance at the actors. They are often low quality and the acting is usually so-so so I don’t feel like I miss much by not staring at the film all the time. The one that recently kept me company during typesetting was

er-nickcarrawaychroniclesNick Carraway Chronicles

Category: Web series

Find it on: YouTube

What it is:
An adaptation of Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby in the form of a vlog. If all this sounds weird to you, you must not have heard of the thing that is Lizzie Bennet Diaries and the trend that it inspired. Me, I like them all with mild enthusiasm and serious reservations.

How I found it:
When it comes to web series, I started with Lizzie Bennet Diaries and sort of went from there: YouTube or IMDb recommend me new things to watch.

Summary judgment:
I’ll be blunt: most of those web series are not great. But this one I liked despite its flaws (enough to actually write about it here).

Best things about it:
I really like the actor who portrayed Nick. It’s a difficult character to pull off, with his relative blandness that, nevertheless, makes him so relatable and I think he was the most interesting character in the show.
On a more general scale, the show captures some of the brilliancy of The Great Gatsby, which I would expect to be impossible with low budget and other constraints typical of web series. But hey, this book. It’s so brilliant. The naivete that these web stories have underscores some of the childishness of Gatsby characters. It was interesting to remember that they are, in fact, immature because I used to think of them as adults.

Worst things about it:
Well, not to be mean about it but a large part of the cast is not great: Tom, Daisy and Gatsby (who is, of course, almost impossible to pull off and only young Redford ever came even slightly close) were rather irritating.

Other pluses:
I found Jordan quite enticing in her interpretation: I liked how her part was expanded while staying true to the character.
There were some cute adaptational ideas, like transforming “the valley of ash” into “the valley of trash.” I also liked how close they managed to stay to the text of the novel, and didn’t mind even when it made the dialog a bit unnatural at times – probably because I’m such a fan of the book and know it quite well.
Oh, and the accents. It’s easy to forget how all the characters are from the south but it’s, you know, better to remember.

Other minuses:
I suppose the low production value and the acting from some characters might be discouraging to many people but I’m so used to this convention by now that I barely notice these things. With only 30 episodes the time investment is small enough not to be overly picky.

How it enriched my life:
It reminded me of many things I love about the novel and cast some new light into it with this, surprisingly close, interpretation.

Fun fact:
I read The Great Gatsby many times, more than once as obligatory reading, and I always loved its density and dream-like realism (it’s a thing). But the first time I read the book I didn’t know a thing about it: I got a copy as a gift from my cousin and was struck dumb with how amazing it was. This cousin and I don’t even talk now (long, sorry story) but I still have that copy and value the gift I got from her.

Follow-up:
I’m sure I will be watching more web series but I don’t think this particular team has produced anything else so far. Too bad.

Recommended for:
People who either can watch stuff while working, like me, or have too much time on their hands (really? anyone?) OR people who are so obsessed with all things Gatsby that they will watch any interpretation. Hey, it’s better than Luhrmann (don’t even start about that piece of crap with me).

Enjoyment:

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Lego Batman

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Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: God Don’t Like Ugly

A lot, if not most, of my reading choices are quite random and one of those was recently

er-goddontlikeuglyGod Don’t Like Ugly by Mary Monroe

Category: Books

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
A story of Annette Goode, an African American girl growing up in the 60s in Florida and mostly Ohio. Annette suffers abuse at home and unpopularity at school but her life changes when she meets Rhoda, a rich and perfect girl next door. Slowly, Annette learns to stand up for herself (sort of) and make her own choices. It is also the first book in a series, which turns out significant as I will explain later.

How I found it:
I think the cover and the blurb combined to pick my interest. I didn’t know it was a part of a series though, or I would’ve been more reluctant to invest my time in it.

Summary judgment:
It’s a decent book for what it is but it could have a potential for a greater piece if it had the courage and conviction to remain a standalone.

Best things about it:
Despite the heavy themes it reads really well and the term “page-turner” used on the cover turns out quite true. It’s been a while since I went so fast through a book without any (literal) magic in it.

Worst things about it:
With seriousness of the subject matter one would expect the book to attempt a deeper analysis and character study. It calls for some gravitas, particularly that the tone does not suggest otherwise. However, as the story develops, the author seems to get this idea that this would become a series rather than a standalone book and so she never gives the story a proper structure. I felt it missed a real climax and after – spoiler – the abuser is murdered, the story just flops idly till the end of it. We fail to get a satisfying conclusion for Annette’s tribulations, she just goes from one decision to the next. And so the drama veers into soap opera territory: which, I suppose, is to be expected from a series.

Other pluses:
The writing is not only engaging but quite colorful. It easily transports you into the world of the story and keeps you interested in its flawed characters. Up until the very end I was interested in what was going to happen to the characters – the final lack of satisfaction didn’t take that away from the experience.
I love any story happening in the 60s (up to and including that one episode of Beverly Hills 90210; remember that one? good times) so that always adds a little star in my judgment.
I also quite love the illustrated covers for the series: they have so much character and fit the story well.

Other minuses:
I think I covered most of it: I disliked that the story didn’t have its independent resolution, whatever happens in the future books, and that the second half of it was just a series of loosely connected events that didn’t lead anywhere particularly interesting. If I were to sum it up, I’m afraid the book is neither ambitious nor pleasant enough to be entirely satisfying.

How it enriched my life:
I enjoyed reading it, despite not getting a full payoff for my time investement.

Fun fact:
It’s mostly fun for me, not for you, but for the first time since I was really sick, I guess, I spent most of a Sunday lazing about with this book on a couch – and it was exactly what I needed.

Follow-up:
I considered reading further books in the series for the resolution of the story. But then I started reading about them online and it turns out there are quite a few of those books and they seem to completely accept their sudsy fate so there is no resolution in sight. I didn’t like the characters enough to want to spend so much time with them for so little return.

Recommended for:
People who like family sagas and returning to the characters they’ve already met, while not being put off by (overly?) dramatic events straight from a TV drama.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Nick Carraway Chronicles

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Picture Perfect

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Bauhaus in Motion

When we were in Berlin we didn’t have as much time for sightseeing as we would’ve wanted but we listed a few attractions we were determined to see and this included the Bauhaus-Archiv, the museum collecting and curating all things Bauhaus. At the time (and still) the museum has been presenting an exhibition called

er-bauhausinmotionBauhaus in Motion

Category: Events

What it is:
A temporary exhibition housed in the Bauhaus-Archiv which focuses on the notion of movement in the teachings and the very history of Bauhaus, the extremely influential design school operating in 1919–1933 in Germany (which you probably knew, sorry). As Bauhaus is such a cornerstone in the history of modernism and we are, to a large extent, modernists at heart, we did feel the deep need to visit the museum. The exhibition itself shows some students’ and professors’ works created in the classes and studios and archival photographs with some – not a lot – information printed on the walls.

How I found it:
I think our friend Z, who was planning her own Berlin trip, mentioned the Archive and then we just found it in the travel guide. We had no idea the exhibition we saw was temporary until we read about it later.

Summary judgment:
It was not a bad exhibition but altogether I found it disappointing (and, frankly, not quite worth the admission price). I would’ve wanted to see at least one of these two things: either four times as many exhibits or a really impressive design of the exhibition that would make the idea immediately clear. Ideally both.

Best things about it:
Some of the exhibits were interesting – many in the predictable way but some surprised me, particularly photos from PE classes (which horrified me in its own way to think that the estimable Bauhaus school tortured its students with PE classes).

Worst things about it:
As I already said, it was too small, which made it both unsatisfactory and random-looking. There were simply not enough exhibits (and not enough space, probably) to tell a captivating story.

Other pluses:
The building is quite nice and located in a curious area: an embassy paradise where all the buildings are huge and house various embassies of more and less exotic countries. It made for a pleasant walk to get there, particularly that the Tiergarten was partly open that day despite the church day celebrations and we could finally see most of this lovely park.
As for the exhibition itself, knowing that this was a temporary exhibition focused on a particular aspect of the Bauhaus’ history makes it better because I can assume that visiting other smallish exhibitions like this one creates quite a detailed knowledge about the Bauhaus. Too bad we live too far to make it a habit.

Other minuses:
The cafeteria was not great. We love visiting museum cafeterias but most of the places we visited in Berlin disappointed in this respect.
Also, I know it was before renovations but the exhibition space wasn’t really that great (neither the architecture nor lighting) and the lack of legible design for the exhibition made it hard to understand the particular selection of exhibits.

How it enriched my life:
I learned about those PE classes in the Bauhaus school. It was also interesting to see the course projects that students made. Also, the trip made for a rather pleasant walk.

Fun fact:
You can’t buy much of proper food in the museum but you can buy copies of original Bauhaus designs, like chess sets and a lot of toys and cups. They are fun to look at but crazy overpriced.

Follow-up:
I imagine when we visit Berlin some time after the renovations in the museum we will be happy to revisit it and hopefully by then there will be a more impressive and well-rounded collection on display.

Recommended for:
People interested in the history of design and modernism. People with no patience for exhibitions that take a lot of time to see.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: God Don’t Like Ugly

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Rotten Tomatoes

Wildly Enthusiastic Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Recently we had a discussion with friends about good modern movies and I found myself saying and believing that I pretty much don’t like movies as a thing anymore. They all look like they’re made with the same mold and my attention span is not what it used to be. But, as usually happens, there are a few exceptions. Like

er-whatwedointheshadowsWhat We Do in the Shadows

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon | Amazon Prime (if you are lucky enough to have it available)

What it is:
A dark comedy from New Zealand (2014) made by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. It’s a mockumentary about a group of vampires who try to fit into the modern world and yet keep up some of their vampiric traditions. It’s really hard to sum up, guys, because the movie is hardly about the story: it’s all about the jokes and the ridiculous ideas and the fun.

How I found it:
I liked the trailer on IMDb. It was one of those trailers that uses up most of the best jokes but it didn’t matter because the movie has so many great jokes anyway.

Summary judgment:
This has immediately become one of my favorite comedies: it’s absurd and hilarious and it has vampires, which always seems to up the enjoyment grade somehow.

Best things about it:
Most movies these days (or any days, really) are the same: they follow the same scheme so that even if you turn them on in the middle you know exactly whether you’re in the mid-movie crisis or the grand finale. In other words, movies are so interchangeable, they often feel to me like a waste of time. It’s so hard to find originality among movies probably because they cost so damn much but this one manages to be a little bloody pearl of original thought.
Also its sense of humor reminded me of things that used to make me laugh so hard when I was a teen, like Black Adder and Monty Python. It’s great to find something that still works this way.

Worst things about it:
I thought hard about this and I don’t really know because whatever you can hold against this movie is also a part of its charm: like the low budget, the crudeness of some jokes, you name it. If it doesn’t work for you, you’ll hate it but if it does, you will excuse everything. For me there is maybe a bit too much callousness in the characters sometimes but then again it makes so much sense I feel silly even writing it.

Other pluses:
It’s simply hilarious, which I might have mentioned already (and so did the poster). There are so many funny moments and it keeps you surprised, which is something comedies should do easily but they just don’t and you always see the jokes a mile off.
The casting is quite great, especially with the main vampires. It keeps the tone light and slightly unprofessional, like a student project maybe, making it all the more enjoyable, actually. There are so many fantastic moments that I won’t even try to list them all but I do like the werewolves and, of course, the dressing-up-without-mirrors joke is so great you would think someone should’ve done it before.

Other minuses:
I don’t have anything, see “Worst things.”

How it enriched my life:
I saw it twice so far and it made me laugh so hard. It also restored my faith in movie-making business: that it can sometimes produce something which is neither run-of-the-mill boring nor just-kill-yourself-already depressing.

Fun fact:
It has become a source of several running jokes in our home, particularly the “Shame!” scene and the red couch joke.

Follow-up:
I’m sure I will rewatch it again and also I’m really looking forward to Thor: Ragnarok that Waititi is directing. No doubt the money-making Marvel machine will keep his sense of humor in check but I hope some of it will manage to seep through. The trailer leaves me hope for that. Of course, there are also other things Waititi worked on and directed and I’m sure I’ll check them out in due time.

Recommended for:
If you watch the trailer and you like it, it’s a movie for you. If you don’t, don’t even try because you’ll hate it. However, I think so far we’ve been quite successful in recommending it to people, which doesn’t happen too often.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Next time: Bauhaus in Motion, I think.

 

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