My Top Ten Natalie Portman Movies

Happy 37th Birthday (tomorrow!) to Natalie Portman.

I’ve always liked Portman but probably wouldn’t think to include her in a list of favorite actresses. And after doing this list, I see she’s really not been in any favorite films of mine. I mean, even number one on my list isn’t exactly one that I love. That’s a shame. She’s a very good actress – she just seems to not be in many movies that are my type of thing.

As always, I’ve ranked these according to how much I like the movie instead of by Portman’s performance. Here are My Top Ten Natalie Portman Movies (counting down & including all I’ve seen):

The Rest I’ve Seen:

17. No Strings Attached
16. Jackie
15. Cold Mountain
14. Where The Heart Is
13. Anywhere But Here
12. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
11. Garden State

Top Ten:

10. Closer

9. Beautiful Girls

8. Annihilation

7. Mars Attacks!

6. Black Swan

5. The Thor Movies

4. V For Vendetta

3. The Star Wars Prequels (Well, they kind of suck but I’m being nice since it’s Star Wars)

2. Heat

1. Leon

Some I’ve Not Seen:

Zoolander, The Darjeeling Limited, My Blueberry Nights, The Other Boelyn Girl, Brothers, I’m Still Here, Your Highness, Knight Of Cups, Jane Got A Gun, Song To Song

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Watched, Read, Reviewed: March 2018

I didn’t manage to see many movies in the cinema in March and most that I watched at home were meh. But I did love I, Tonya! And Ready Player One was fun. I’ll do mini-reviews below for the ones I haven’t reviewed yet…

MOVIES THIS MONTH

MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

I, Tonya – 8/10
Ready Player One – 8/10
Game Night – 7.5/10
Annihilation6.5/10
Atonement – 6/10


MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

I, Tonya – 8/10

Ready Player One – 8/10

Game Night – 7.5/10

Personal Shopper – I liked this although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I’m not a fan of Kristen Stewart so wasn’t planning on watching this until reading that it had a supernatural twist. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A personal shopper in Paris refuses to leave the city until she makes contact with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person contacts her via text message.” It’s an odd mix of mystery, supernatural, indie, and Kristen Stewart nudity. Not as supernatural as I was hoping but a decent story that kept me interested. – 7/10

Hidden Figures – Finally catching up on more of last year’s Oscar nominees! This is a fantastic story that I fully admit to knowing nothing about before the movie was made. It’s the type of movie I wish there was more of now that my kid is the right sort of age for these things: inspirational people & true stories in a family-friendly format. However, it still comes across as a little bit too much of a phony feelgood Hollywood movie. The story is important & I’m glad that more is now known about these women. Even though the whole “running miles to the segregated bathroom each day” was mostly bullshit. The three main performances were strong (I especially liked Janelle Monáe – I’d like to see her in more films). It’s worth watching, especially with your kids. But be sure to look into the real women as well since, to be expected, Hollywood changed things and amalgamated characters to make more drama than actually existed within the NASA environment. – 7/10

Annihilation6.5/10

The Seven Year Itch – I decided to check out more of Billy Wilder & Marilyn Monroe after thoroughly enjoying Some Like It Hot (my mini-review is HERE). The Seven Year Itch hasn’t aged nearly as well. I know it was a different time & I always keep this in mind when watching older films but this one really feels out of place now with the “all men are simple idiots who can’t help themselves around beautiful women” trope. But I do think Monroe was truly iconic and, although her naïve sexy blonde thing also feels out of place today, there’s no denying a certain likability there despite what I suspect was an ability to only play one type of character (but I know I need to watch more than just two of her movies to see if that was the case). Monroe is the true star of this film while the “tempted male” (Tom Ewell), who talks outloud to himself through the whole film, is quite annoying. I do wonder if I’d feel this way if he’d been played by someone like Jack Lemmon, who may have made the character much more likable & funny. Thanks to Wilder there’s still some sharp writing, though, and it’s worth watching for some very iconic Monroe scenes (including the one with the famous white dress being blown up by the subway grate). What’s interesting is that the scene is nothing like the pictures you’ve seen where you see all of her: you only see shots of her legs & her face separately. Sadly, I read this bit of trivia at IMDb, which adds a terrible twist to that scene: “Not without a distinct ring of irony, the nine-month Marilyn Monroe-Joe DiMaggio marriage officially ended during this shoot. DiMaggio was furious about the filming of the scene where his wife’s dress blows up, and the next day, Monroe reportedly required make-up to cover up bruises from the ensuing domestic fight. Three weeks later, she filed for divorce.” Horrible. But I think it’s well known that, despite being one of the most famous sex symbols of all time, it didn’t bring Monroe much happiness. – 7/10

Tickled – This is a documentary investigating a bizarre practice called “Competitive Endurance Tickling”. The filmmaker, David Farrier, discovered videos online of late teen/twentysomething males tickling tied-up males. It seemed strange but fairly innocent until he decided to look into things further for his documentary. The story takes a very sinister turn when he discovers that these young men were blackmailed and threatened over the videos. He then starts receiving very disturbing threats as he gets deeper into the story and the true indentity of the person behind the videos & harassment. This is certainly one of the more odd & intriguing documentaries I’ve seen & I do recommend it if you like a weird story. It reminded me a bit of Catfish (2010) in that both are so unbelievable that they almost feel staged. But I don’t think this was – it just needs to be seen to be believed. (This probably deserves a higher rating but I’m not a huge fan of documentaries & tend to rate them lower). – 6.5/10

Teen Witch – Hahaha! Oh. Wow. This is BAD. I’m not sure how I managed to miss out on a teen movie back in 1989 but, for some reason, this one passed me by. I’m giving it a decent rating, however, as it’s so bad that it almost achieves that “so bad it’s good” status. Not in a Road House kind of way (which is so bad it’s AWESOME) but the many silly bits are quite entertaining. It’s hard to pick a favorite part but the “I Like Boys” dance routine in the locker room was pretty fucking hilarious – I’ve put that video at the end of this post if you want a laugh. And if you like 80’s cheese, you should definitely watch Teen Witch. To be fair, I think it knows it’s cheesy… – 6/10

Table 19 – I didn’t know beforehand who’d written this story (Mark & Jay Duplass). Ugh, those mumblecore guys. I’m not really a fan of that subgenre. But Table 19 isn’t a mumblecore film, FYI (though I’m not sure why since it mostly fits the definition – maybe it’s excluded since some stuff actually happens in this movie). Here’s the Wikipedia definition if you don’t know what I’m talking about & link to list of films: “Mumblecore is a subgenre of independent film characterized by naturalistic acting and dialogue (often improvised), low-budget film production, an emphasis on dialogue over plot, and a focus on the personal relationships of people in their 20s and 30s.” Looking at that, though, I see that I do like some of the mumblegore movies (mumblecore in the horror genre). Mostly the Ti West films such as The House Of The Devil but I can definitely see how those got the mumblegore label. Who wants to watch millennials sitting around & whining about their lives for two hours while never actually doing anything?! I just realized what mumblecore is… It’s all those whiny bitches I try to avoid on social media! No thanks. Oops – I’m meant to be talking about Table 19. It’s borderline mumblecore and it did take me a while to get into it but I liked that it went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. It gets more serious than it first seems it’s going to be and I ended up not hating Anna Kendrick like you may at first because of her behavior at the beginning. It’s an okay film but just be aware of the writers beforehand and know that you’re not going to be getting too much of a plot. Wow – I really doubt I’ve talked anyone into watching this. It’s not bad. It’s an interesting assortment of characters and I ended up liking those played by Kendrick, Stephen Merchant & especially June Squibb. – 6/10

Free Fire – This was my first Ben Wheatley film and… Meh. It looks like some of his other films are considered mumblegore so I guess that tells me that I may not be a fan. I thought the story and characters were okay but it’s really just Tarantino-light. It’s a boring version of Reservoir Dogs without the witty banter. The hubby hated it & fell asleep after moaning about the terrible editing or something (I don’t notice that sort of thing) but I kept watching as it kept me slightly interested. But only slightly. Maybe Wheatley’s other (non-mumble) movies are better? – 6/10

The Levelling – I saw a review really praising this when it came out last year & liked the sound of if. IMDb synopsis: “Somerset, October 2014. When Clover Catto (Ellie Kendrick) receives a call telling her that her younger brother Harry (Joe Blakemore) is dead, she must return to her family farm and face the man she hasn’t spoken to in years: her father Aubrey (David Troughton).” Boring indie drama. Complete waste of my time although I suppose there were some okay performances. Sorry – this just isn’t my type of thing at all but it may work for others who enjoy dark & dreary dramas in which very little happens. And it’s so grey & wet & rainy & muddy – I get enough of that in real-life England. Screw that. – 5/10

It Comes At Night – Another 2017 movie that I was wanting to see ASAP due to its rave reviews at the time. WTF?! I was bored out of my damn mind! I’m starting to truly believe that IMDb is being filled with fake reviews written by the studios. This has a 78 out of 100 metascore?! Fuck off! Nothing happens in this but, to be fair, there’s more of a plot than the mumblegore stuff. The performances are good, especially from Joel Edgerton’s son in the movie (Kelvin Harrison Jr). But. But. Ugh. I don’t know. If someone here did like this, I’d genuinely be interested to hear why. Because maybe I’m missing something since, for a horror, it has a decent IMDb user rating as well (6.2). I’m really annoyed with the shitty movies I wasted time on in March. I have too many other things to do. – 4.5/10

Demolition Man – Wow. This movie is absolutely dreadful. Like Teen Witch, this one passed me by for some reason even though I was just out of high school & watching this kind of crap. I’m actually shocked at how bad it is. Not “so bad it’s good”. Just plain BAD. I thought I’d finally be watching some kick ass 90’s action flick like Speed or something (a good Sandra Bullock movie!). I had no idea this was a cheesy “comedy”. Not gonna lie, though – I fell asleep. I saw maybe 40 minutes. In five years of blogging, I’ve forced myself to finish every movie I watch no matter how shitty. No more! I don’t have the time. This movie broke me. I can’t continue. I just can’t. – Not Rated As I Refuse To Finish It

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ (ranked best to worst)

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – This book was pretty great! I’d never ever heard of this series until seeing the movie adaptation listed on IMDb, currently scheduled for a December 2018 release. Here’s the synopsis: “Many years after the “Sixty Minute War,” cities survive a now desolate Earth by moving around on giant wheels attacking and devouring smaller towns to replenish their resources.” Cities on wheels “eating” smaller cities. That’s nuts! I love the concept. And in this first book, the focus is on the city of London. The movie appears to have Peter Jackson involvement and will be directed by someone who did the visual effects for a lot of his films (Christian Rivers). I’m really looking forward to the movie. If done right, it could be great. As for the book, I’ll try to do a separate full review of it before the movie. It’s a “kids book” but aimed at the same sort of age range as Harry Potter. It’s one of the more entertaining books I’ve read in a while. – 4/5

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – The movie adaptation of this (Love, Simon) comes out in UK cinemas this Friday. This is a YA book (yeah, I do like YA books) and it’s one of the better ones I’ve read in this genre in the past few years. I’m not normally one for YA “romance” (give me the apocalyptic stuff!) but this one was done well and I really bought into this relationship. In the book, Simon is a gay high school student who connects with then starts an anonymous online relationship with another student at his school. I’ve never wanted a couple to get together so bad! The boy Simon talks to is extremely protective of his identity and Simon struggles with this as he wants to meet the boy he’s fallen in love with. I was like “Tell him who you are!!” (you, the reader, aren’t aware of his identity either). Beyond that, there’s not much to say about this book as it’s a fairly typical YA romance. But it’s a good one. I can’t wait to see the movie, which has had excellent reviews. I’ve even heard rumors of it having a John Hughes vibe?! Sounds good to me! – 4/5

Every Day by David Levithan – Again, this is a book that I read because, like Mortal Engines, I loved the original concept. It’s hard to find stories that feel unique. And, again, it’s a YA romance (Ugh. Sorry!). Here’s the synopsis from Amazon: “Each morning, A wakes up in a different body. There’s never any warning about who it will be, but A is used to that. Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. And that’s fine – until A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with – every day . . .” The story does feel truly original and I really appreciated that. However, I just didn’t quite connect with the characters. A, who switches bodies every single day, was very interesting as you get some insight into the mind of someone who doesn’t define themselves by their body, gender, family, friends, etc. since these things change every single day. As I said, it’s a great concept but the book is just okay. I didn’t find myself caring as much about these characters as I’d have liked. This also has a movie adaptation coming out this month, but the reviews are meh. I’ll still watch it to see how they handle the story, though. – 3/5

Annnnnd…. I’m still in the middle of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King. I’ll finish it someday!

TV SHOWS WATCHED (ranked best to worst)

Grey’s Anatomy – It’s shit.

The Walking Dead – It’s even more shit than Grey’s Anatomy.

I seriously need to get back onto the Black Mirrors. Or find some reruns of The Golden Girls or something! TV sucks now.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

Again, not much! I just plan to review my monthly Blind Spot movie (Citizen Kane or Enter The Dragon) & any films I see in the cinema.

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

A Quiet Place – Ohhh – a horror movie with excellent reviews?! I’m super excited for this & will try to go to it this weekend. However, It Comes At Night also had great reviews & it was shit. So who knows! Horror is very subjective.

Love, Simon – Definitely going to this as well as I really enjoyed the book.

Thoroughbreds – This looks interesting. Kind of Heathers-like maybe?? (But of course nothing can top that). May try to catch this one and try to not be upset at yet again seeing Anton Yelchin in a movie (RIP – I really liked him).

I Kill Giants – Liked the sound of this but some are saying it’s too similar to and not nearly as good as A Monster Calls.

Ghost Stories – Supernatural short stories?? SO my type of thing! But since reviews are now meh, I may wait for Netflix.

Wonderstruck – Based on a book by the same guy who wrote Hugo, which I loved as a movie. Wondering if it’s a good family movie to take the kid to…

Tully – Diablo Cody & Jason Reitman? I’m, like, the exact target audience for this. I’m very likely to check this out. I loved Juno.

Every Day – As I said above, the book is okay but the movie has meh reviews so far. I’ll watch it but may wait for Netflix.

Wildling – What IS this?! Another horror movie with fantastic reviews?!?! Liv Tyler & Brad Dourif????? I’m extremely curious about this one!

Avengers: Infinity War – Yeah. I’ll go to it. Of course. But I’m bored with superheroes. I’ll mainly be watching it for sexy Thor and all the Guardians Of The Galaxy characters! THOSE I love.

Will Wait To Watch On Netflix If I Can Be Arsed With These:
The Hurricane Heist, Rampage, Truth Or Dare, The Titan, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

Now, here’s a small taste of what you’ll experience if you ever watch Teen Witch: 😉

Annihilation (2018) Review

Annihilation (2018)

Directed by Alex Garland

Based on Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Annihilation follows a group of military scientists who enter “The Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures.

My Opinion:

I’m really glad this got rave reviews. I love a good sci-fi film. It’s great that there seems to have been a resurgence of hard sci-fi in the past few years with things such as Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, and Alex Garland’s directorial debut Ex Machina. However, I seem to be one of the very few who found Annihilation a bit of a disappointment.

I’m definitely a Garland fan. Besides Ex Machina, which I thought was absolutely brilliant, he wrote the screenplays for 28 Days Later…., Sunshine, and Dredd. I love all those, so maybe that’s why Annihilation was disappointing? That may be part of it but I think the biggest problem was that I read the book first (by Jeff VanderMeer) and I liked it a lot.

The movie follows the book quite closely to begin with but then goes off the rails. I do wonder how I’d feel if I’d not read the book? I’d probably have loved how utterly bizarre the film becomes at the end (I love weird shit). But you know what? The book is even more crazy. I really wanted to review the book as I enjoyed it so much but never did as I had no clue how to describe it. The novel perfectly conveyed this overall eerie feeling that stayed with me long after reading it. Unfortunately, my favorite parts (and the creepiest) were completely left out of the film. I can kind of understand why as it would’ve been hard to translate to film without it looking cheesy, but… Shit. I was so looking forward to seeing how those parts would be handled. In the book, there was a mysterious underground structure that seemed somehow linked to the lighthouse but was far more disturbing. The film kind of combined the two places a little bit but I still feel cheated.

Okay, I’ll try to focus on the positive now because I do still think this is a good sci-fi movie even though it doesn’t quite live up to the novel. I loved the look of this film and the gorgeous “Shimmer” they enter. The world inside The Shimmer looked as strange & beautful as how I’d imagined it. The ending involving the lighthouse was enjoyable even though it was completely different to what I was expecting. And, yes, I liked it being a group of women but this is the same as in the book anyway. To be honest, I’m giving less and less of a shit about who stars in a film as long as the story is good and the acting doesn’t totally suck.


The characters aren’t that well developed but I can’t complain as that’s the same in the book as well. We actually get far more backstory involving Portman’s hubby, played by Oscar Isaac, and the rest of the women than we did in the book. The book is truly only about its story, which was fine since it’s a strong one. Adding more to the characters for the film was a smart move as I think connecting with the characters is more necessary when it comes to film. I didn’t think any of the acting really stood out, though. Tessa Thompson was possibly the strongest but it’s not a huge role. I love Jennifer Jason Leigh but she’s not much different from usual in this. Sadly, I’d probably say the same of Portman. This was another thing a little disappointing as I thought the acting was so strong in Ex Machina (especially Vikander). I’m not saying anyone did a bad job, though. They’re all good actors but are just a bit MEH in this. And I found the final predictable scene in this a little too cheesy and “Hollywood” after watching this great bizarre story that can’t be easily explained.

So. I dunno. Maybe I should stop trying to read every single book before its film adaptation! My true love is film and I know this is a case where I definitely liked the film less than I would’ve if I hadn’t read the novel. However, it’s a damn good book so I’m still glad I read it and I highly recommend it to hard sci-fi fans. I guess I better read the rest of the Southern Reach Trilogy now (Annihilation is Book 1). I was waiting to see the film before continuing but now I wish I’d finished all three first. I can say I’m still an Alex Garland fan, though. I eagerly await his next project and hope he continues in this genre.

My Rating: 6.5/10

My Top Ten Books Read In 2017

I read quite a few books in 2017. Well, I read 27. Which is a lot for me as my focus is obviously on movies. A lot of what I read were books that I knew had movie adaptations coming out soon and I’ll probably try to do the same in 2018. I wasn’t great about reviewing all that I read but I’ll catch up on reviewing some of these before their movies come out.

So, counting down to my Top Ten, here are all the books that I read in 2017 ranked from my least favorite to my favorite:

27-21

27. Tape by Steven Camden
26. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
25. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
24. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
23. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
22. The Circle by Dave Eggers
21. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Top Twenty

20. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
19. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
18. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
17. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
16. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
15. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
14. The Dinner by Herman Koch
13. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
12. Blaze by Stephen King
11. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Top Ten

10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

7. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

6. End Of Watch by Stephen King

5. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

4. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

3. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

2. The Fireman by Joe Hill

1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King.

See you tomorrow with my list of My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2017 (movies released prior to 2017 in the UK). Then I’ll finish on Friday with My Top Ten 2017 Movies (based on UK release date).