What I’ve Been Watching

Well it’s been a long time (5 months) since I’ve done one of these, so for this post I think I’m going to share my thoughts on a selection of the movies and TV series I’ve been watching recently.

Studio Ghibli films: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Whisper of the Heart, When Marnie Was There


  • Studio Ghibli’s anime films really are something special. They’re all made in a particular style: at one level they’re films for children, but the narratives are so well-constructed and the themes are so intelligent that they very much appeal to adults as well, and unsurprisingly Studio Ghibli has a substantial following of grown-up fans as well as kids. They’re magical, emotional, heartwarming films that bring out the inner child even in adults.
  • These four — Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Whisper of the Heart and When Marnie Was There — are the only Studio Ghibli films I’ve seen so far, but I want to watch more of them. I liked Spirited Away (the studio’s most popular film) the most, but they’re all wonderful.
  • One thing Studio Ghibli does really well is creating wonderful, complex, relatable, well-written characters with whom it is easy to empathise and become invested in. Chihiro from Spirited Away seems like an obnoxious brat at first, but you come to love her as you go on a journey with her over the course of the movie. Shizuku from Whisper of the Heart is a romantic, exuberant, free-spirited young schoolgirl and an aspiring writer with a brilliant imagination. Anna from When Marnie Was There is a troubled, introverted, anxiety-ridden young girl whose friendship with a mysterious girl called Marnie one summer turn her into a happier, healthier version of herself. All fantastic characters, with fantastic stories to go with them.



  • As of writing this, I’ve finished the first season and am two episodes into the second season. Season 1 was very good—I found the season arc involving the “Undertaking” really absorbing, with a well-executed climax in the season finale. There were also a couple of interesting side-plots, including that involving Helena Bartinelli, a character I’d love to see return at some point.
  • Although I’m only two episodes into season 2, I’m not sure how the show is going to follow on from season 1, though. The Undertaking is finished and there’s no obvious Big Bad left to fight for season 2. So far it’s just been Oliver cleaning up his mother’s mess and being a bit more angsty. And this kind of show really does need an intriguing season- or multi-season arc to keep it interesting, because “masked vigilante cleans up the streets” gets boring very quickly unless there’s something bigger going on. But don’t let’s pass judgment too soon…
  • Something the show needs to work on (again, keeping in mind I’m only 1.2 seasons in) is its character writing. The characters are good, but the writing is a bit lacklustre. These characters for the most part don’t feel like real people—their motivations and reactions and even the dialogue feels artificial, Felicity Smoak perhaps being a notable exception.

Rogue One


  • Excellent film. I was much more impressed by Rogue One than I was by The Force Awakens. The Force Awakens itself was a good movie in its own right and a tour de force in demonstrating what modern filmmaking can do for an established franchise like Star Wars, but I felt that as the latest instalment of an established franchise it failed to take up the opportunity to continue the story in a meaningful way, opting instead to rehash old tropes and indulge in nostalgia.
  • Rogue One on the other hand, although a prequel of sorts to A New Hope, really was a fantastic and worthwhile addition to the franchise. Although indulging in the obligatory fanservice, it didn’t feel like fanfiction as The Force Awakens did, it expanded the narrative universe of Star Wars meaningfully and, above all, was a wonderfully well-written and well-directed sci-fi movie. I think it’s easily one of the better Star Wars films of them all.
  • To say something in The Force Awakens‘ favour, though, it did introduce some really brilliant new characters in Rey, Finn and Poe (I’m not as much a fan of Kylo Ren). Rogue One continued this trend with an equally wonderful cast of new characters. Jyn is fantastic, and I think that sassy robot is my spirit animal.

Doctor Strange


  • The latest notch on Benedict Cumberbatch’s theatrical bedpost was a very enjoyable Marvel film, if not the most memorable of Marvel’s or Cumberbatch’s showings. As far as I was concerned it was typical of Hollywood’s superhero-themed output: enjoyable enough to watch, but I don’t think I’ll be bothering to buy the DVD (or download it).
  • I did enjoy the distinctiveness of this superhero story, though. Doctor Strange is a distinctive character, a prodigous surgeon who happened upon a society of magic-users in Nepal in the course of trying to find a way to fix his hands, broken in a motor accident. It makes for engaging viewing, and Strange’s training with the magical monks in Nepal is also very fun.
  • To be honest, while there’s a decent script there, for me it really was Cumberbatch who made the film. He’s a magnetic screen presence once again and really did turn what could have been a fairly ordinary movie into an enjoyable and engaging one. Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor also put in some worthwhile performances, as did Rachel McAdams as Doctor Strange’s love interest, but I wasn’t all that convinced by Tilda Swinton as the “Ancient One”, and I question the casting of a white, middle-class English woman as the master of an ancient secretive Himalayan spiritual sect.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


  • I really enjoyed this movie and I’m really looking forward to the next four films in the series. When I first heard that there were going to be three five Fantastic Beasts films, I was sceptical: “how and why are they going to milk this for five films?” But since seeing Fantastic Beasts and realising that the series is, in a way, a prequel to the Harry Potter stories, I came to see how this could work and how it could be a very valuable addition to the Harry Potter narrative. I won’t spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but it’s becoming clearer how the Fantastic Beasts films are going to tie into the backstory of the Harry Potter stories, especially with respect to certain events and characters…
  • Newt Scamander is a Hufflepuff and this is very very very good.
  • As a huge and longstanding Harry Potter fan, I’m generally very happy about the Harry Potter renaissance that 2016 has been, with the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stageplay and the release of the first instalment of the five-fold Fantastic Beasts film series. I’m just happy that the Harry Potter franchise is developing into something that isn’t just contained to the seven books and their movie adaptations, that J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros are willing to keep continuing the story and expanding the universe in meaningful ways and that both the fans and the creator(s) are coming to realise that Harry Potter doesn’t have to be something that ended with the film release of Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 2011—it can, if we all want it to, keep going, keep expanding in the way that Fantastic Beasts is showing it can. Why not a film or TV spinoff about the Marauders? Why not a spinoff about the next generation? If we all want it to, it can happen.



  • Ah, wasn’t it good? I usually don’t go in for historical dramas, because I usually don’t find them very good (Jenna Coleman was really the only reason I decided to watch this in the first place)—I feel it’s difficult to get historical drama right, and they usually either don’t do justice to actual history or are unfortunately constrained by historical events so that they can’t tell the stories the writers and directors really want to tell. But I think Victoria is one of the historical dramas I’ve genuinely enjoyed, and I think what it did right was using history as a foundation, a springboard for making what was really a period drama like Downton Abbey. In Victoria, the drama came first and history second, in that they weren’t trying to dramatise history, they were trying to historicise drama—if that makes sense… In any case, the formula worked and Victoria ended up being one of the few historical dramas that have won me over.
  • Jenna Coleman was the reason I decided to watch Victoria, and she was lovely to see on screen again and playing the queen that she is. However, I hate to say it but I actually think she was one of the weaker aspects of the show. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed watching her, but her acting still leaves something to be desired when it comes to playing a figure like Queen Victoria: I felt that her performances lacked, to an extent, the precision that such a role demanded. Still, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t a joy to watch and that I’m not looking forward to seeing her again in series 2.
  • There were plenty of standout performances in this show, most notably Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne and Tom Hughes as Prince Albert.

3 Days, 3 Quotes – Day 1

Yo, thanks to Blanca (finally learned your name lol) for tagging me for the 3 Days, 3 Quotes tag! I’ve always wanted to do this tag 😊

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
  3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

Spoken, of course, by the inimitable Albus Dumbledore.

As for nominees, uugghh I think I’m running out of people to nominate because I think I’ve nominated every blogger I’ve ever talked to several times and I don’t want to be annoying lol. Is it a cop-out if I just say I nominate anyone who wants to do the award? Can I be that guy? If anyone tags themselves from me, please hit me up and I’ll come onto your blog and read it! 😉

P.J. out.

Harry Potter Tag

I’m not a big reader of fiction. When I was an adolescent I did quite a bit of reading of young adult series, but less so in recent years. Somehow I can never find the time these days, alongside everything else that consumes my time, to commit myself to constantly reading new books. I think part of my problem is also the same problem my dad has with watching TV shows on Netflix: there’s a whole catalogue of titles there for him to peruse, but he doesn’t recognise any of them, so he isn’t motivated to watch anything. My reading problem is similar: I just don’t know what to read.

But one series of fiction that will always remain close to my heart is the Harry Potter series. Although, as I said, I don’t get much reading done these days, it was reading Harry Potter for the first time as a child that began my love of reading for leisure. My parents had bought me the first book for Christmas at some point as a child after the first film was released, but I think I only made it through a couple of chapters before giving up (perhaps I wasn’t old enough for it yet). But I returned to the series a couple of years later with zeal after seeing the film of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and absolutely loving it. I was nine at the time, and quickly devoured my way through all five of the available books in the series. My parents bought me the final two books when they came out on their release dates, and I got through both of them in a matter of days.

As a child and an adolescent, I was immersed in the world of Harry Potter. I’ve re-read the books more times than I care to admit, and they were a very big part of my life growing up. Without a doubt, they’ve made a huge impact on me, inculcating in me an enduring love of stories, and also instilling in me some of the most important moral lessons in my life. I owe Harry Potter more than I can say.

I was prompted to do the Harry Potter Tag from reading Richard’s post on re-reading the Harry Potter series at Richard’s Blog, where he completed the Harry Potter Tag. It looked fun. So here goes…

1. What is your favourite book?
Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite. I guess, because it was seeing the film of Prisoner of Azkaban that prompted me to go and read the books, I have a particular love for that episode in the series. It’s the book I always look forward to reading most when I re-read the series. I find it a really well-crafted story, full of intrigue and suspense, the constant, menacing presence of the Dementors, and it’s about the point where the series begins to become darker. What’s not to love?

2. What is your favourite film?
It’s got to be Prisoner of Azkaban again. It was the film that got me into the books after all, and I still consider it the best-made of all the films. There’s a distinctive tonal shift in Prisoner of Azkaban towards a darker, grittier atmosphere and away from the more fairytale mood of the first two films, which I love. (Not to disparage the first two films, though, which were both fantastic as well).

3. What is your least favourite book?
The Half-Blood Prince. I’m not saying I didn’t like it — it’s a very pleasurable and absorbing read — but I wasn’t as captivated by the plot as much as I was the others. Even the non-plot of Order of the Phoenix was more engaging, because it was easy to become immersed in Harry’s life in that book.

4. What is your least favourite film?
I haven’t seen some of the later films in a while, but I don’t think I was ever as enamoured with Order of the Phoenix as I was with the others. It seemed like the filmmakers had begun to get complacent to a degree by Order of the Phoenix, given the success of the first four films and the Harry Potter franchise as a whole, and I think it rather showed in that film.

5. Parts of the books/films that made you cry?
I don’t think I ever cried over anything in the books, but I do remember quite vividly tearing up and becoming very emotional when watching the montage of Snape’s memories in the pensieve in the final film, specifically the part where Snape broke down over Lily’s dead body, and wept cradling her in his arms. That was a really powerful moment.

6. If you could hook up with any character, who would it be?
Now what guy wouldn’t say Fleur? 😉 But seriously, of all the female characters, I think I’d be most compatible with Cho Chang. I was tempted to say Hermione, because we’d share intellectual interests in common, but Hermione’s very intense, whereas I’m actually a very silly and frivolous person at heart, and Cho seems like someone with whom I could just have fun and let my hair down and be myself 🙂

7. Who is your favourite character?
Ginny, I think, with Fred and George a close second. She’s just a very cool chick and it was wonderful to watch her character grow over the series from the shy little girl into such a strong, brave and extraordinary young woman. I’d love to be friends with Ginny in real life.

8. Who is your least favourite character?
Umbridge. I’ve never come across anyone as singularly unpleasant as Umbridge in real life, but I truly hated Umbridge. I suppose that was the reaction J.K. Rowling was going for. She reminds me strongly of Miss Trunchbull from Matilda, who was one of my most despised arch-villains of my childhood.

9. What is your least favourite line?
I really have no idea, to be honest. I can’t remember ever reading a line in any of the books and thinking “that’s rubbish”.

10. What would your Patronus be?
I have a feeling it would be a dog, because of… reasons.

11. If you could have the Resurrection Stone, Invisibility Cloak or Elder Wand, what would it be?
I’m not particularly drawn to any. I’m not interested in power, so I have no use for the Elder Wand, except maybe as a means of effective defence. I’m too young to have lost anyone I love, so I don’t (yet) have any attraction to the Resurrection Stone. That leaves me with the Invisibility Cloak, which I suppose could prove useful in certain situations.

12. Which house would you be in?
I was sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore. I would more naturally have sorted myself into Ravenclaw, but I do have many Hufflepuff traits as well, and I’m happy being a Hufflepuff.

13. If you could meet any member of the cast, who would it be?
Daniel Radcliffe, I think. Just because anyone who does this has got to be a sick lad.

14. If you were on the Quidditch team, which position would you play?
Hard question. My instinctive answer would have been Seeker, because I’m small and light and agile so I’d be a natural build for a Seeker, but I think I’d get frustrated very quickly in that position. I don’t have the patience or the attention span to be a Seeker. I’d want to be in the thick of the action, where I can feel the adrenaline rush. So I think I’d be a Chaser: I can be very competitive, which is definitely an advantage for a Chaser. I might be attracted to being a Beater, but I’m probably not physically powerful enough; and I wouldn’t be a Keeper because I’d get bored.

15. Were you happy with the ending?
I suppose so. I’ve never really seen anything to criticise about the ending.

16. How much does Harry Potter mean to me?
Harry Potter raised me. As a child and an adolescent, Harry Potter taught me so much. Harry Potter made me into a reader, and shaped, in more ways than I can probably define, who I am today. I will never not be a Harry Potter fan, and I’m sure that, at the end of my life, I will return, as though upon a pilgrimage to my childhood home, to Harry Potter for repose.