Movie Review: Ocean’s 8

This post comes out a fair bit of time after the movie release, but it’s taken me a while to put my thoughts together, and I saw it twice, so I feel like I have more insight into how I feel about the film. So you’re thinking, she has seen it twice – so does it mean it’s a good movie? Not necessarily… read on!

Ocean’s 8 follows on from the original Ocean’s films: 11, 12, and 13. In this movie, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of the now-deceased Danny Ocean, is whom we see first, reminiscent of the first few scenes of Ocean’s 11. Debbie is released from jail after five years – for a crime we’ll learn more about through the course of this movie – and soon goes back to her con-woman ways. She re-unites with her friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) who’s busy running a club and diluting vodka, and pitches her a heist. A heist of a piece of jewellery by Cartier, currently in a highly guarded vault. The idea is to get movie star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) to wear the Cartier necklace for the upcoming Met Gala, and then steal the piece there. So begins the assembly of the team: fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), jeweller Amita (Mindy Kaling), weed-smoking hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), hustler Constance (Awkwafina), and ex-associate and now-bored homemaker Tammy (Sarah Paulson). And so begins the story of how they do it…with a twist in the end. There’s also a sub-plot about revenge on Debbie’s ex Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) floating about.

If you have watched the Ocean’s movies before, you’ll know there’s a certain pattern that follows. Team assesses the situation, encounters a few roadblocks, solves ’em, heist in progress, twist, fun end. OK.

While there were quite a few fun performances, the standout for me was Anne Hathaway, who just stole the show as the petulant, extravagant and pouty film star. Bullock was a calm, calculated Ocean, while Blanchett’s punk rock biker girl personality was brilliant. Bonham Carter and Paulson got a decent amount of screen time (the accent was all over the place, I thought), but it was frustrating for me to not get enough of Rihanna, Kaling or Awkwafina. They didn’t get much to do or show more of their personalities beyond the plotline.

The plot. OK, I mentioned this earlier, but while it sticks to the tried-and-tested formula, which is FINE, what it doesn’t do is give me a sense of urgency, like the previous Ocean’s movie did. As soon as a problem cropped up, it was solved immediately. No stress. Nothing. I can think of a couple of points where I thought, hang on, surely this isn’t *this* easy.

The other niggle I had was related to the actual relationships portrayed on-screen. I didn’t feel like the team bonded, or showed that they did, and it didn’t give me the ‘buddy’ movie vibe that I thought I’d get.

However, the movie was still fun for most part. I don’t know that I should have watched it the second time because I definitely enjoyed it more the first time around. But, what it does show is that it doesn’t matter whether you have male front runners or female, a movie can still be a heck of a lot of fun, engaging, and can fill cinemas and draw multiple laughs. So here’s to more diversity on screen!

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Movie Review: Mamma Mia 2 – Here We Go Again

Ten years after the first movie came out, we have the sequel to Mamma Mia. But does it work? Will it get the movie-goers up and dancing?

The premise is simple: Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep) passed away a year before the events of this movie (we are not told what happened) where her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is reopening the hotel as Villa Bella Donna and making her mother’s dreams come true. But there are challenges: her beau Sky (Dominic Cooper) has been offered a job in New York and he is thinking about taking it and not coming back to the island, and her two fathers out of three (Bill Andersen/Stellan Skarsgard and Harry Bright/Colin Firth) can’t make it for the re-opening. And her on-island father Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan) is grieving for Donna. While we follow Sophie’s journey and her struggles, we are also taken back in time to when Donna was growing up, and how she met the three potential fathers. Does everything work out in the end?

Well, yes. This *is* a feel-good movie after all!

Let’s start with the returning cast. Amanda Seyfried is really good in this one – I really think I preferred her in this movie compared to the original, and I absolutely and unequivocally loved the duet between her and Sky after their phone call where it seemed as though the relationship was at at end. Not only were both their performances heart-breaking (in a good way, I was totally in the moment), but the way it was shot was beautiful.

Sky (Cooper) isn’t in the movie much, much like the first instalment. But I did have a niggle with his contrived plot point: I mean, okay, he came back mid-way but why did he? Fine, every single decision doesn’t have to be explained, but I was genuinely confused with his ‘I couldn’t stay away’ reason, but hey-ho I’m just nitpicking now.

Both of Donna’s friends, played by Christine Baranski and Julie Walters in the current day, were as brilliant as always. And it was amazing to see that their younger selves, played by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn, were so perfectly cast, I couldn’t believe it. Both forms of these characters were so in sync, I was well impressed.

And the same goes for young Donna. Played by Lily James (I first discovered her in Downton Abbey), I was blown away by her voice and her performance throughout the movie. Cannot wait to see more of James in the future.

Now, on to the dads. Pierce Brosnan still isn’t necessarily the best singer of the lot (sorry Remington Steele, I still adore you) but he puts on a better performance than 10 years ago. How much he misses Donna can be seen through his nuanced acting, and I felt like I could feel his pain as he looks over her photographs. Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard were hilarious, and Firth’s comic timing is still perfection. Quick note about the younger actors who played them: I hadn’t actually noticed them in anything before, but they were great! And such good singers too!

So, Cher is in the movie. When she starts singing, it’s like, OK this is what we were waiting for. She obviously, absolutely nailed every song she performed. I almost wish we had had more of her powerful voice in the movie. Andy Garcia is also in the movie, as the older, still smouldering, hotel manager, and his role in an enjoyable song later in the movie led to so many laughs and cheers in the theatre. I wish so much I could have heard him sing more, though.

Mild spoiler alert, so maybe gloss over this para if you can? There is a touching scene at the end of the movie which left me tearing up. The whole mother-daughter connection (what, you thought it was all about ABBA?!) was strong in the first movie, and is strong here too – especially where we are seeing the parallels between what Sophie is going through and what Donna was dealing with so many years ago. But it all comes to a satisfying, bone-tingling and eye-tearing end when Sophie and Donna share a duet, in a ‘she’s looking down at you from the heavens’ way that worked, that actually didn’t make you think, ‘well this is cheesy’ but made you sing along and cry because that’s how wonderful it was.

OK YOU CAN READ FROM HERE ON, SPOILER AVOIDERS!

The plot isn’t exactly strong and obviously some points seem built just so a song could be sung, but it’s so much fun nonetheless. Since so many of ABBA’s hit songs were used in the first movie, there are some that are repeated (like Mamma Mia, Waterloo, I Have A Dream and so on) but done well enough that it doesn’t matter. Look, I watched this movie right after Mission: Impossible – Fallout which stressed me out so much for nearly three hours, this one calmed me right back down and I left feeling chirpy.

Do you enjoy ABBA, love singing, and want to see a feel-good movie that may make you cry and laugh? OK, here’s your chance.

And stay for the last song where all the characters get to sing and dance together, it’s so worth it.

Movie Review: Game Night

The premise of Game Night is relatively simple: a group of die-hard gamers (who indulge mostly in board games) enter a real-life ‘game’ of their own where the stakes are life or death. And hey, it’s a comedy!

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, and they are introduced to us in an almost Up-esque montage of two people who meet over common interests, bond, and then host game nights forever. Once the cutesy montage is over, we reach a point in their lives where they are trying to have children, but Max is brutally told by the doctor that his sperm are lazy and tells him that it’s also most likely a by-product of his sibling rivalry with his brother, Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler, whom I discovered in Early Edition which I LOVED). Brooks is constantly living the jet-set life much to the envy of Max, but he returns one day and offers to host the couple’s regular game night at his new swanky digs one day. He hires a company to engage them in a real-life mystery game, but that’s when it all horribly goes wrong. Brooks is taken by real goons and, while the group of six don’t realise it at first, they soon catch on that this is playing for the high stakes, where nothing is really transparent.

So I said group of six. In addition to Max and Annie, we have Billy Magnussen as Ryan (who is a character that’s slightly blank and seemingly superficial) who, to this game night, brings along Sarah (played by Sharon Horgan), who is pretty different from the usual kind of date he has on hand. The final two are married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury). Added to this is the standout performance of Jesse Plemons as Gary, the next-door neighbour of Max and Annie’s, who is their friend Debbie’s ex-husband as well as a cop.

This is a movie with comedic moments, sarcasm, hilarity, and some brilliant deadpan moments. The chemistry between Bateman and McAdams is pretty good, and both their comedic timing is perfectly in tune with each other. Plemons, as I said earlier, steals the show. His character is devoid of any reactions of personality and his blank face and creepy expressions just add to the fun in the movie. And Chandler is great as a rake!

By creating sub-plots for most of the characters, the writers have cleverly pulled off depth and backstory for them, which is nice. There’s a few cool set pieces in the movie, one involving a dog, and the other involving a fairly absurd chase through a huge mansion. The plot isn’t necessarily straightforward though – there are twists and turns, and by the climax scene, it’s almost like the characters are acknowledging that there have been an almost silly number of ‘gotchas!’ – you’ll see what I mean when you see it.

So yes, the story gets absurd at some points. But what works in this movie is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a game night-themed movie that was presumably set out to entertain audiences, and that’s just what it does.

Movie Review: Black Panther

nullIt’s been a while since I saw Black Panther, but I’ve been:

  • (a) too busy to pen all my thoughts down
  • (b) letting these thoughts percolate into something more cohesive than: ‘OMG THAT WAS AMAZING’.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, have a look at the trailer before moving on… I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible.

So here’s the basics: Black Panther sees the return of T’Challa whom we saw in Captain America: Civil War, where we witnessed the death of his father, the king of Wakanda. In this movie, he returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to assume his role as king. But an enemy of the state returns, and he must work with his friends and allies to keep both Wakanda and the world safe.

This is possibly one of my most favourite Marvel movies yet. What struck me straight off the bat was the visual oomph this movie possessed. Not only how everything looks from landscapes, architecture, and overall set design, but also clothes. I’m not exactly someone who notices outfits in movies, but the vivid colours and designs lent themselves to the story. It’s not just that, but the music is beautiful. Beyond the fantastic work by Kendrick Lamar on the songs, the background score is also fitting. It’s a great way of showcasing how music and design enhance storytelling.

The characters are equally vivid. Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa is restrained, and sometimes I wanted him to break free of those restraints but as the movie progressed I realised that actually added to his nuanced performance. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger was brilliant; he showcased a range of emotions from rage to sensitivity, to cruelty with aplomb.

The women though. Oh. My. Goodness. These are not women who need to be rescued. These are not women who could just as well be written out of the plot. These are women who are an integral part of the story and that was absolutely amazing. Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, who plays a spy/activist/protector-of-all. She’s also the woman T’Challa loves, but isn’t defined by it. She fights alongside and without him, she is there to support him but is there to protect Wakanda and all that she holds dear.

And what can I say about Danai Gurira’s character Okoye? I’m not going to lie, I do not like her character in The Walking Dead, so I was almost ready to dislike her here. No such thing. Her role as a warrior and the leader of the all-female troop of bodyguards is pretty cool. I loved her sass and her complete dedication to Wakanda.

But for me, Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, was the best. She is intelligent, smart, irreverent (and has amazing outfits omg), and is the backbone to her elder brother. Played by Letitia Wright, she is funny, has these great one-liners and is responsible for a lot of laughs in the audience when I watched it. She is integral to so many plot points, and her portrayal of this cool geek was on-point.

Martin Freeman as Everett Ross and Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue lend admirable support, as does Winston Duke as M’Baku, who was more or less an antagonist but then rallies around for the good of Wakanda. There are many more well-written characters with not as much screen time, but were important to the plot, from Angela Bassett as the queen mother, to Forest Whitaker as Zuri, and Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi.

I clearly found the movie impressive, but my only niggle is with the slight abruptness of a certain moment at the end of the final battle sequence, but that’s it.

Something else that’s absolutely relevant and beautiful about this movie is its diversity and inclusion; it’s something many others have written about so I’ll let you explore that on your own (as a starting point, read this piece by TIME).

Can’t wait to watch the movie again, if I’m honest!

I mean, even Michelle Obama loved it!

Some autism movies on my to-watch list

In the last few weeks, I’ve come across two movie trailers, where the main protagonist is autistic. I’m always curious to see how people with autism spectrum disorders are portrayed in the cinema. So I’ll definitely try and watch them. I’ll post reviews if I get to see them!

Here are the trailers, let me know what you think:

  1. Jack of the Red Hearts
  1. Janes Wants a Boyfriend

Jane Wants a Boyfriend | Official Trailer from William Sullivan on Vimeo.

 

May the Fourth be with you, always

IT’S STAR WARS DAY!!!

And right on time, I got an awesome press release drop in my inbox the other day… if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll like this one.

Rdio has put together a playlist to “make you feel like a Jedi” (YEAH I WANNA FEEL LIKE A JEDI!).  You can click on the direct link below to get to the music list.

May the Fourth be with you, and happy listening!

Star Wars Day Playlist by Rdio:  Direct link:  http://rd.io/x/QXgPYDPTcZk/

Track Listing:

  1. Main Title from Star Wars – John Williams – John Williams – Greatest Hits 1969-1999
  2. The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  3. Princess Leia’s Theme – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  4. Yoda’s Theme – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  5. Binary Sunset (Alternate) (Medley) – London Symphony Orchestra;John Williams – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  6. Han Solo and the Princess – John Williams – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  7. The Asteroid Field – John Williams – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  8. The Throne Room/End Title (Medley) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  9. Duel Of The Fates from Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – John Williams;London Voices – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  10. The Emperor Arrives/The Death of Yoda/Obi-Wan’s Revelation (Medley) – John Williams – Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  11. Anakin’s Betrayal (Episode III – Revenge of the Sith) – Global Stage Orchestra – Star Wars – The Story Continues
  12. Cantina Band – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  13. The Forest Battle (Concert Suite) – John Williams – Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  14. Victory Celebration/End Title (Medley) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

 

Movie review: Man of Steel

Minor spoilers, none give away plot but refer to elements within the movie.

Man of Steel follows the story of baby Kal-El from the planet Krypton who is jettisoned into space by his parents Jor-El and Lara when General Zod attempts to take over the planet, which is rapidly dying. Kal-El crashes into Earth and is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent who take him in and raise him as their own son – Clark Kent. Thirty three years later … General Zod arrives to find Kal-El … and something else…

The character of Superman is meant to be perfect – how do screenwriters show perfection on screen? Thankfully, in this version, they scratch away that veneer and break it down. Make him real. Make us believe that he can exist. They manage to show that even Superman can struggle.

One of the small things that the writers do to aid this perception is strip away the use of the word “Superman” as much as possible. You hear it only three or four times at best. This is a coming of age movie. We don’t start off with Clark Kent as a reporter on the Daily Planet. We start with him struggling to accept who he is, wondering if the world will.

In this movie, the first thing that struck me was that the origins of Kal-El was explained very well. Why does Superman have a cape? We now know. Why does Superman wear a lycra-esque outfit? We now know. Why does he get affected by Kryptonite? WE NOW KNOW. Was Superman that egotistical to wear a massive “S” for Superman emblazoned on his mighty chest? Actually he wasn’t. A minor spoiler if you will: the “S” isn’t actually an S but it means “hope” on Krypton. Fair enough.

Krypton itself is detailed exquisitely. We learn a bit more about its society, about its people, and its fauna. We learn that the planet has indulged in breeding babies – with Kal-El being the first naturally born baby on Krypton in centuries. Fleshing his back story out has allowed the movie to take the story in a slightly different path yet stay true to the character.

Special mention to Kevin Costner for a fantastic performance as Jonathan Kent; there was a scene in the movie where Costner’s single hand gesture to Clark left me in tears. Absolutely loved him. Russell Crowe was excellent (as Jor-El) as well, delivering a measured performance as he is prone to do. Two absolutely moving appearances by these formidable thespians.

Michael Shannon as General Zod was a pretty good villain and thankfully doesn’t follow the cheesy villain pattern we’ve seen so far in this series. Although in terms of character development, I didn’t understand why he was doing what he did on Krypton or on Earth for that matter. What were his motivations? Did he really need to attack Earth? I suppose it’s sort of explained when he says he was bred to do all he could for his planet but it didn’t feel like a satisfactory enough explanation for me.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane? I wasn’t convinced. She doesn’t make the character very interesting and her pouty rendition of the line, “I’m a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist” served me to be put off by her more than anything else. And I’m sorry, but in the movie, HOW did she manage to follow Clark into that gaping hole in the mountain with no special equipment or skills? I’m sorry, what? How come she was the only one to figure out who he was?

Henry Cavill … aaah. I “discovered” him in the British TV series The Tudors, so when I found out he would be the next Clark Kent, I must admit I squealed a little. He tackled the role well, stayed restrained most of the time, letting his stolid demeanour rip where needed. A bit of it admittedly felt stiff, but by the end, I would imagine most audiences would accept him as the new Superman.

One of the gripes I had with the movie was its ending – oddly enough there was far too much action. At the end, it felt long and drawn out. I unfortunately reached a stage where I just wanted the movie to end. And that’s not a good thing. I’m no movie editor, and I’m sure the filmmakers had their reasons, but I do wish they had found a way to make the last few action scenes more concise.

Random mini-spoiler: the line at the end of the movie where someone asks Superman whether they can trust him not go against the “interests of America” made me laugh a little. What about making sure he doesn’t go against the world? Politicisation much?

Definitely a better Superman movie than the last reboot, Man of Steel packs a mighty punch. Expect no cheesy one-liners or red underpants outside the tight outfit. Expect a fast-paced tale to start off a potentially absorbing super-hero series.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures in Middle Earth. I read the book after I read, and saw, the Lord of the Rings series. I remember when I read the books thinking that The Hobbit was an easier and quicker read than LOTR. So when the news broke that it would be broken up into three movies, I was fairly confused. The movie did diminish that confusion somewhat, for which I am glad.

Peter Jackson, who did a marvellous job on LOTR, is back at the helm. This helps as it keeps the Middle Earth universe looking consistent. That said, I did not get the whole argument between 24fps and 48fps – perhaps I’m far too ignorant of film-making to understand what kind of difference this is meant to create.

I was a little surprised though – there were one or two points in the movie where…I can’t believe I’m saying this…it was painfully obvious some things on screen were CGI. One was when you see Smaug’s tail disappearing into Erebor, and another when the Eagles were flying over the mountains. I was not expecting that. Was this a result of the fps issue? Anyone more well-versed in these matters, please clue me in!

Anyway, the book, if you’ve read it, is meant for a younger audience but I’m not sure I was necessarily take children to this movie. Some action sequences, especially with the Wargs and Orcs might scare the young ones.

The acting is fantastic. Ian McKellen makes a fitting return as Gandalf, even though he inexplicably seems older than the LOTR movies (well yes, he’s obviously older, but bear in mind, the events of this movie are meant to take place well over half-a-century before LOTR). Martin Freeman does well as Bilbo Baggins, bringing a charming sense of humour and reality to the character – you forget he is Watson. He IS the hobbit. Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarf company, is magnificent. His kingly behaviour makes me think of Aragorn a lot. Excellent stuff right there.

The other dwarves are cast well, although it’s hard to say more since they don’t have, obviously, as much screentime as Thorin and Bilbo. I did get to see Aidan Turner’s Kili quite a bit, which is awesome (for me) since I’ve been a fan since watching BBC’s Being Human.

The villains…what have we got here? A fire-breathing dragon Smaug, whom we don’t really see (imagine my surprise when I found out Sherlock‘s and Star Trek‘s Benedict Cumberbatch is voicing the deadly dragon – AND another villain…coming up). A necromancer (Cumberbatch too apparently!) who is causing havoc in the forests of Mirkwood. Azog, the pale-skinned Orc, who has sworn revenge on Thorin for chopping off his hand (this isn’t in the book either). There’s even Saruman who makes a quick appearance, potentially to tie in this movie with LOTR – although those who will not have seen LOTR or read the books will not know the importance of his character, or the consequences/import of his appearance.

Gollum, however, is a star. Andy Serkis returns to his inspiring motion-capture performance as the schizophrenic creature, and it is his scene with Freeman/Baggins that makes The Hobbit worth the watch. Highly commendable part of the movie.

Purists might object, and they have. Why? LOTR, while making changes in the story with cinematic license, largely stuck to the books. The Hobbit definitely has the basic premise down pat: the dwarves wanting to reclaim their home and wealth along with the help of an unlikely ally, a hobbit. But what it doesn’t have is utter loyalty to the book.

Many changes have been brought on the script, including licenses taken with timelines as well as what was in the book. Who is Azog? Why is the necromancer in the movie at all? A Morgul blade? Where did Galadriel come from? I’ve read a lot of articles and listened to podcasts, and what I’ve taken away is this: using additional texts, appendices and unfinished works of Tolkien, the screenplay has encompassed parts of Middle Earth lore that relate to the tale in this book/movie, and which the makers thought would add to the entire storytelling. It does.

So my advice to the purists: buzz off. The movie is done well. Yes, cinematic license has been taken. Get over it. Or make the movie yourself and see if you can do it better.

Anyway, it may, at some times, seem slow. There were certain points where I did think: COME ON, MOVE ON! Some additions may seem stilted – for example, when the movie suddenly moved to Radagast the Brown (again, not there in the book AT ALL) in Mirkwood, it was beyond, beyond confusing for a few minutes. Who is he? Why is he there? Why are porcupines important, and … WHAT’S GOING ON?! I’m hoping all three movies will help put it all together, more neatly than this one felt.

Quick nod to the musical score…absolutely brilliant. Loved, loved, loved it.

While I do like the backstory and emphasis on motives and cause-and-effect that has been created in this movie, I’m wondering whether three movies were necessary. I’m hoping the next two installments will resoundingly tell me: Yes, we were.

My final verdict is that the movie was good – not as brilliant as I’d hoped, but I’ve a feeling the next two movies will more than make up for it. I’d say 3.75/5.

Note: This first installment of the trilogy spans the first six chapters of the book, along with more additions than I’d care to count.

The Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour, Leavesden

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Around 10 days before I was due to fly out to the UK, I saw a tweet from @DaddyBird about a Hogwarts castle being built as part of a Harry Potter studio tour in the UK. Quickly looking it up, I was excited to find the attraction was opening up on March 31, 2012. And I’d be in the UK till April 6. Perfect.

Hey, not so fast missy. Things are rarely perfect.

To my utter dismay, when I looked at the official website, tickets were sold out till the end of April. What? I fired off an email to the customer service contact asking how I could overcome this obstacle, and they replied rather promptly (I think all their CS reps have been trained in the art of dealing with rabid Harry Potter fans). I was told I could either keep trying on the official website because sometimes slots do open up, or he pointed me to third-party operators that have a certain number of tickets for each day allocated to them already.

I decided to wait for the official website for a variety of reasons, and for 5-6 days I kept clicking, refreshing and shaking my fist at my laptop until…tickets were available on April 2!

I bought myself tickets faster than a motorist in Dubai can honk after a traffic light turns green.

On that day, I was so excited you’d think I was going to study at Hogwarts myself. Watford Junction is only 20 minutes away from Euston (and I think it’s £6 return with a 16-25 railcard), and there’s a bus that stops outside Watford Junction that takes people to the tour site (it’s a £2 return for that).

I won’t say much though, other than I’d advise you to buy the tickets for the earlier time slot during the day. I had the 3:30pm ones, and because I was listening to the audio guide narrated by Tom Felton (highly recommended btw) and taking so many photographs, I had to rush through the end bits, which I was very disappointed about.

But it was an absolutely amazing experience, and I ended up spending nearly £100 in the souvenir shop at the end of the tour. Absolutely amazeballs.

View all the photographs I took at the tour here!

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Movie review: Avengers Assemble

When Loki decides to attack Earth, it’s up to the superheroes, Captain American, Iron Man, Thor, and Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, along with the Black Widow, to step in and fight alongside Nick Fury.

That’s quite a few massive egos in one team. How does that work out?

Quite well actually, and one of the main reasons for this is that Joss Whedon, who was at the director’s helm, is a genius. 

It’s not easy to bring together four big guns into one ensemble, and then mix them with equally important supporting characters, and make it a success. But that’s exactly what Whedon does. Creator of the hit TV show Buffy along with Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, Whedon has spun together a believable and strong tale of action, adventure, and lots of humour thrown in generously. And to no one’s surprise, every character has their own part to play, with no one cutting in to another’s role.

Robert Downey Jr.’s deprecating charm and wit is out there as always, and he’s managed to deliver his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark with an ease many would envy. Not just a comic element, his role portrays emotional power as well. Chris Evans does well as Captain America, although his perfection can seem annoying at some times. Chris Hemsworth is still rocking the Asgardian armour as Thor, delivering a strong and stable performance. Mark Ruffalo is perhaps the surprise as Bruce Banner. In his Banner role, he seems vulnerable, yet sweet, making a great contrast with his angry green half. And their chemistry together is amazing, which makes it all the more exciting to watch.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is evil to the core, making it great fun to watch them try to defeat him. His complicated, twisted mind has been shown well. 

Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. is suitably dangerous. Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Black Widow perhaps echoes more to those familiar with the Whedonverse of strong, intelligent women who have an emotional side. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye had a smaller role but did it well, although a backstory there would’ve been more interesting. 

There are many scenes that lend themselves to a laughing audience, or one gripping their seats. I shall not, however, spoil it for you. There are alien races apart from the Asgardians, there are some absolutely hilarious comic moments – even during the climax action scenes – and there are some losses.

I saw the movie in 3D, and after the initial discomfort that sets in, I actually forgot I was watching it in 3D. I think though, that that’s what one needs: watching 3D and forgetting it’s in that format and immersing in the movie and how good it looks, without worrying whether the alien is going to fly straight towards your nose or not.

The movie may be slightly longer than most, at just over two hours, but is a fine amount of time to develop the story well and leave the audience waiting for more. And it’s not the CGI that dictates the flow of the movie, and for that I’m extremely thankful.

It’s a dysfunctional motley of heroes we’ve got, but they put on a show. And what a show it is, conducted by the ring leader, Joss Whedon, who must really take a bow for his accomplishment.

A super-hero film that relies on great acting, fine direction and a whole lot of gritty pizzazz. Watch this movie, because it’s one of those rare gems that really does live up to your expectations.