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Best and Worst Films/Series of 2013

6 Jan

I feel like, all in all, I had a better year in 2013 when it came to movies/series vs. books. There weren’t that many that made my “worst” list so that’s definitely a good thing! I still have not seen Downton Abbey season 4 (waiting for the DVD release), in case you’re wondering why it’s not on any of the lists.

FAVORITES

1. Much Ado About Nothing- This was the 1993 version with Kenneth Branagh. I watched this shortly after reading the play for the first time to help my brother with an English paper. I really enjoyed the play so I decided to watch the film and loved it! The only low point was Keanu Reeves- I don’t know what they were thinking casting him.

2. Call the Midwife Season 2- Although the series really started to stray from the books (they had to, as they used up all the storylines), I’m always happy when a sequel is not a let-down. The one thing about this show that kind of bothers me (but not really), is that Jenny remains by far the least interesting character.

3. Berkeley Square- Purchased this series from Amazon after it kept popping up on the list of suggested items to check out. It’s about nannies in Edwardian London. It was a delightful soap opera slightly reminiscent of Downton Abbey. Very disappointed that it ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger but the series was cancelled due to poor ratings. Apparently it had scheduling conflicts when it aired so no one ever knew when it was on. Such a shame.

4. Lark Rise to Candleford- I watched the entire series and while it was all good, the first season was the best. Why is that the case with so many shows?

5. Catching Fire- Amazing adaptation. I may have liked it even more than the book.

6. Frozen- I could take or leave the 3D animation, but I was happy to see a Disney princess movie where romance is not the main focus (I haven’t seen Brave, but I’m told it’s similar in that regard).

7.  Saving Mr. Banks- I’m not a big Mary Poppins fan or anything but I loved this movie! Whether it was accurate or not I don’t know- but it all looked great and the performances were amazing!

8. The Call- I rented this really late in the year even though I had wanted to see it in theaters. Too bad that I waited! I really enjoyed seeing a thriller with women in the main roles.

9. Prisoners- It was a little too long but I was still glued to the screen.

10. The Paradise (seasons 1 and 2)- I had a few issues with this series (namely, the behavior of the lead characters at times) but I loved it all the same.

WORST

1. Man of Steel- I was really looking forward to this because it looked really good in all the trailers. But the movie was, sadly, pretty horrible. I didn’t have any problems with the acting, but I hated the storyline. And the fight scenes were awful- got pretty redundant once the 50th building was destroyed.

2. Olympus Has Fallen- I had no interest in this and only went to see it because my boyfriend wanted to. Unfortunately I have to let him pick the movies sometimes too. It was very stupid and cheesy, just like I expected. Did anyone else find it funny that the all-American hero was played by a Scottish man, and yet the North Korean terrorist was played by an American???

3. The Paperboy- Rented this because it seemed like an interesting story. It was not. I had no idea what was going on half the time and it was just….really bizarre.

4. Game of Thrones Season 3- What’s this? My favorite book in the series and the TV version of it is on my worst list? I did not hate this series, but it was, on the whole, a disappointment to me. As I said, it was my favorite book in the series so far. But I found the season to be on the boring and draggy side. It had a lot of good scenes in it, still, but I felt like the decision to split the book into two led to a lot of filler. Hopefully the second half (season 4) will be better.

5. Marvel’s Agents of Shield (first half of season 1)- I was really looking forward to this show because I love The Avengers and the related films. But the show has been a disappointment. I would actually like it a lot more if they got rid of the annoying and useless Skye because I like all the other characters.

That’s it for my least favorites. I didn’t hate the last two- they were just disappointments compared to what I was expecting.

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Best and Worst Movies/TV Shows of 2010

1 Jan

I didn’t see nearly as many shows or movies this year as I read books. I rarely watch movies in theaters. I did watch quite a few period dramas, which take up a good part of the list, but most of them were pretty old. I’m going to limit this list to movies that were actually released in 2010. Some of them were technically from 2009, but didn’t come out on DVD until 2010, so I’m going to count those as well.

Best:

1. Bright Star I’ve already posted about how beautiful and understated this movie was. No one I know (outside of the internet) has even heard of it. Such a shame.

2. Downton Abbey– I ignored this while it was airing and finally gave in out of curiosity and was so pleasantly surprised!

3. Emma– This miniseries wasn’t perfect, but it still became my favorite Emma adaptation.

4. Going Postal– It was hilarious. I loved the characters and the whole Discworld universe. The books are still on my TBR list.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1– My favorite Harry Potter movie! I hope Pt. 2 is even better.

6. Iron Man 2– I really only have two negative things to say about this: A. It wasn’t as good as the first one (but that was hard to top). B. Replacement of Terrence Howard.

7. Sherlock- I just discovered this modern-day Sherlock Holmes a few days ago and watched all three (90 minute) episodes in one night. Is it really going to be a whole year until the second season?

8. Sherlock Holmes– I was expecting this movie to just be goofy and silly after the trailer but it was actually really good.

9. Toy Story 3– It wasn’t the best in the series, but it was still really good. I didn’t quite cry, but I almost did!

10. The Young Victoria– It wasn’t exactly a historically accurate movie but it was still a nice romance with nice costumes.

Worst:

1. Hot Tub Time Machine– My cousin watched the DVD with me. She loved it but I thought it was just a stupid, forgettable comedy.

2. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief– Talk about a disappointment! I liked the Percy Jackson book series but it was quite obvious the filmmakers didn’t care about the source material. It was an okay movie on its own, nothing special. But aside from Percy, they butchered the book characters.

3. Return to Cranford– It was…okay. Hopefully this is the end of the whole Cranford saga. I liked the first series, but it seemed like they were running out of ideas for this. Mary was barely in it and instead new characters were shoved down our throats. Who is this Bell family that have supposedly lived in Cranford forever and yet were never seen or even mentioned in the first series? Why are we supposed to care about them? It had some nice moments, but was weak overall.

4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse– No, I did not pay to see this. Why do I keep watching these horrible movies? I am not a Twilight fan. I guess I’m just a masochist.

5. Upstairs Downstairs– It was just trying to cram in too many storylines into too little time. A disappointment.

I’m really happy I couldn’t find more movies to put in the worst list. There were some other old ones that I wasn’t fond of and/or stopped watching because I couldn’t get into them, but I didn’t want to put them all in here. I hope there are some good films and shows in store for this year!

Upstairs Downstairs

30 Dec

Upstairs Downstairs is a revival of a popular 1970s series, which I unfortunately have yet to see. Jean Marsh, one of the creators and actress from the original, reprises her character here. I thought that sounded interesting since it’s been so many years. It seemed to have everything going for it. I highly enjoyed Downton Abbey, which I’d heard had the same feel- showcasing the family as well as the servants of the house. Also,  I absolutely adore Claire Foy, and it looked great in all the teasers I saw. Unfortunately, I thought it was a disappointment.

I don’t know if it’s because it had the misfortune to be aired so soon after Downton Abbey or what, but I couldn’t help comparing the two. I just felt this one paled in comparison. Honestly, it was pretty good…but not great. I don’t know if I would think more highly of it if I saw it first or not. I’m inclined to think not, but I’m really not sure.

I’ll say one thing I loved about the show- the look. It was gorgeous- the sets, the costumes, the production values were all top-notch. Claire Foy has always been beautiful (and looks great in period clothing) but I have a soft spot for ’30s fashions (my favorite part of the 2005 King Kong was the costumes and scenery as well!)  and she really shined more than ever in them. I found myself so envious at times and wishing I could look just like her…silly I know. Her character wasn’t very nice, but she sure was pretty.

The main point against this show was the lack of likable characters. Jean Marsh was pretty forgettable, which I found surprising, given her history with the show and her performance as Mrs. Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility. I’ve never been a big fan of Keeley Hawes and she gave the usual blah performance here. It’s not that everybody was bad or anything, but most of the decent characters were simply not very memorable.

The other big problem was the storytelling itself. There were a good bit of nice moments throughout, but the whole was less than the sum of its parts here. Everything seemed to move too fast- the character development and everything just didn’t seem believable to me. One minute a man and woman are fighting, the next they’re in bed, the next they’ve broken up. A new character is introduced, given a backstory, and killed off in the same episode. Everybody’s got all these issues but then at the end everything gets all wrapped up with no explanation.

Maybe with a new screenwriter, the next season could be an improvement? I dunno.  It wasn’t terrible. It had some nice moments and was a beautiful production. Unfortunately, they just tried to cram too much in to too little time and it’s not good for the sets and costumes to outshine the actors and story.

My Rating: 6/10

Downton Abbey Review

17 Dec

How is it possible that I’ve waited until now to watch this wonderful period drama? I definitely knew of it when it was airing a couple months ago. Did I just not think it would appeal to me? I actually think I just didn’t pay attention to it because I’ve been spending all my free time reading…Whatever the reason, I finally decided to watch it this week and marathoned it all in two days. I was hooked from the first minute.

It’s set pre-WWI and focuses on both the family of Downton Abbey and its servants.  The series takes place over two years, which can be a bit confusing, as months pass from episode to episode. It starts after the sinking of the Titanic (and death of the heir and his son) to the outbreak of WWI in 1914. It’s basically a soap opera, with some of its almost melodramatic storylines. I hate soap operas, but I loved Downton Abbey because, unlike the former, DA has good acting and production values!

The whole cast was excellent. My favorite was Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham. From the previews I expected her to just be an uppity snobby bitch used only for comic relief. But really, she wasn’t. She was a snob, yes. But she had a heart even in the beginning, showing it more as the series went on and was a well-rounded character. I was also surprised by Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery. I thought I would hate her after I saw the first episode, but while she got on my nerves a lot, she grew on me.

I can’t forget the “downstairs” characters either.It was interesting to watch all the goings-on “behind the scenes”, so to speak. I went into this expecting to go ga-ga for Dan Stevens as Matthew, the new heir. But instead I found myself falling for Mr. Bates, the lame valet. The villains, lady’s maid O’Brien and gay footman Thomas, seemed a bit over the top to me in the beginning but I liked how in the end, O’Brien wasn’t as evil as even she thought herself. Too bad she realized it too late.

I don’t want to be too spoilery, but Lady Mary’s “seduction” in episode 3 really made me uneasy. To me, the whole situation seemed at best a coercion, and at worst a rape. Yet afterward, Mary was racked with guilt about it, claimed it was not forced, and referred to her seducer as her “lover.” That’s not what I saw! Was this intentional on the part of the writers, showing the double standard of the time? Maybe that’s the whole idea and I’m over thinking things. Still, I loved the series despite this issue.

My Rating: 8/10

Bright Star

13 Jun

The last period film I watched (and my favorite) was Bright Star. Like The Young Victoria, it is a historical romance- three years in the life of the poet John Keats and the seamstress Fanny Brawne. I’m not really into poetry and although I’d heard of Keats I knew virtually nothing about his life.

I loved, loved, LOVED this movie! Similar to The Young Victoria, don’t expect anything like a biopic on Keats. Though it’s mostly historically accurate, as far as I know, it’s a romance above all else. And it is done very well. The whole movie has a very quiet feel- beautiful cinematography that uses a lot of natural light (it reminds me a lot of the 1995 Persuasion in its realistic look), exquisite costumes, and brilliant acting. Even the music, while beautiful, is quiet. There are sensual undertones throughout, but the romance, like the movie itself, is very restrained. The heroine is usually “chaperoned” by her younger siblings (her sister, Toots, is beyond adorable!), and the pair cannot marry due to poverty and then Keats’ illness. Keats’ friend and roommate, the greasy Mr. Brown, also tries to prevent their romance, but this really seems to only encourage them! The ending is tragic (Keats died of consumption at age 25) but the movie is just gorgeous.

Favorite shots and scenes

The movie is worth watching for the cinematography alone. Everything is understated and subtle, and yet left a bigger impression on me than anything on a grander scale ever has.

The Breeze Coming in from the Window

Just this shot of the breeze lifting the curtain as Fanny lies in bed is so simple and yet so effective.

Keats Lying on a Treetop

Both this shot and the one of Fanny in bed show them in peaceful bliss after they have shared their first kiss.

Hiding from Toots

Toots interrupted their little “date” and as they follow her, they kiss and cuddle in secret. Every time she turns around, they freeze. Brought a dopey smile to my face.

Finding each other through the wall

Fanny in the field of Wildflowers

Butterfly Farm

The girls have butterflies flying all around their room. Isn’t Toots cute?

The Costumes

By far my favorite thing about this movie was the costumes! It’s set in the Regency, which is always a plus (for me at least. I love the fashions from that period). The heroine, Fanny, is a seamstress and prides herself on her fashionable clothes, which she makes all herself. I loved that the clothes in this actually looked hand-stitched. Fanny’s gowns in the beginning can be a bit over-the-top (bright colors, big hats and collars) but become more subdued throughout the course of the film. Most of her shoes are really cute too, take notice! Some of Toots’ dresses use the same fabrics as Fanny’s, which I thought was a nice touch.

Bright Red Spencer

Not a fan of the huge ruffled collar, however.

Patterned Sweater

I’d wear that!

Pink Pelisse

Love all the pinks! Check out the shoes and hat. Contrast Keats’ shabbier outfit.

Pink Dress

This was the dress under the pelisse. Never seen anything like it!

Striped Spencer

This is my favorite in the whole movie! I’d love a jacket just like it.

Final Thoughts

This movie is not for everyone. If you like a lot of action and that sort of thing, you’ll probably hate it. I may get slightly upset if I hear that anyone hates the costumes, though!

My Rating: 9/10

The Young Victoria

11 Jun

I have been waiting to see this movie forever and finally had the opportunity to do so! The Young Victoria is about Queen Victoria’s life just before and early in her reign as queen. It mainly focuses on the love story between her and Prince Albert. It sticks mostly to historical facts but fudged some stuff to make it more dramatic and romantic on screen (I have to admit I had no problems with this).

When most people think of Queen Victoria, they probably think a fat little prudish woman. That was certainly her image as she got on in years but by focusing this on when she is a young woman (and played by the beautiful, slim Emily Blunt) she definitely has more appeal to audiences. The movie is gorgeous, beautifully acted (loved Mark Strong as Sir John Conroy. He’s much better playing villains like this and Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes), and really romantic. As a historical work alone it’s probably not the best but as a historical romance it’s great!

The costumes are all really eye-catching. I was surprised at how much I liked them! It’s my least favorite era in fashion history and most of Victoria’s gowns are borderline gaudy (she is the queen after all!), yet the costume designer and Emily Blunt managed to make them work. Here are my favorites:

Green Gown:

If you look closely, you’ll see a blue pattern on it. This is one of her simpler gowns, actually. Albert’s coat is pretty snappy too!

Silver Gown

The shiny silverish lilac color is gorgeous!

Blue Gown

I love the blue and the flowers.

Yellow Gown

This is one I was surprised to like. The flowers and the color could have been garish and over the top, but it works!

This movie is almost worth watching for the costumes alone!

My Rating: 8/10