What have I been up to? February

Welcome, all! I’m ahead of the game this month and have a lot to talk about. I watched quite a few movies last month and went through A LOT of books/manga/webtoons.

Alas, I didn’t see any new anime besides Yu Yu Hakusho so I have nothing to talk about I haven’t said before.

As before, here is how I rate anything I discuss. Each entry will be on a grade scale from 1-10.

  1. No redeeming qualities whatsoever visually, aesthetically, or as a story. 
  2. So boring I could barely pay attention. 
  3. I had a headache but somehow made it through. 
  4. I could make fun of it. . . because of how bad it is. 
  5. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It’s just blah. 
  6. There were various interesting aspects but nothing to really gush about.
  7. A solid movie. Good characters, plot, and visuals. However, not amazing. 
  8. I genuinely enjoyed watching/reading it. I could see it again with friends.
  9. A great experience! AS a film it is visually stunning and has an incredible story I could go back to multiple times. As a book, I could do the same. 
  10. Near Perfect (nothing is perfect. 🙂 ) It has become one of my favorites. I could also write entire articles on it.

Movies

Death on the Nile (2022), 5/10

Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s Egyptian vacation aboard a glamorous river steamer turns into a terrifying search for a murderer when a picture-perfect couple’s idyllic honeymoon is tragically cut short. Set against an epic landscape of sweeping desert vistas and the majestic Giza pyramids, this tale of unbridled passion and incapacitating jealousy features a cosmopolitan group of impeccably dressed travelers, and enough wicked twists and turns to leave audiences guessing until the final, shocking denouement.

Synopsis via Rotten Tomatoes

This movie was a HUGE disappointment for me, my friends, and my family. I’ve said this before, but I’m an avid Agatha Christie fan and have read almost all her books. I’m picky and not ashamed to admit it.

Death on the Nile is actually one of my favorites. Not because I couldn’t figure it out but because the characters and their motivations were so engaging. For me, it’s worth knowing WHY people commit murder and how flawed their logic can be.

Now, the movie did not do the book justice. I mean that, and not just from a snobby book lover perspective. Kenneth Branaugh is a great actor, but he, like so many directors before him, needs to learn they CAN’T tell the story better than Agatha Christie.

I don’t know why directors and authors think they can…. it never goes well for them when they try.

This movie changed most of the characters. Some of the genders were swapped and their backstories and motivations were shaped to fit modern molds. In fact, only four of the characters were from the original book.

Also, it was OVERLY sexualized. Uncomfortably so. I didn’t appreciate how the movie flaunted the idea of LOVE being the problem behind its characters’ toxic behavior. Lust and obsession were the problem. Not love.

I will say the film is visually beautiful. Whoever was in charge of backgrounds and stage direction did a superb job.

A Goofy Movie (1995) 7/10

Though Goofy always means well, his amiable cluelessness and klutzy pratfalls regularly embarrass his awkward adolescent son, Max. When Max’s lighthearted prank on his high-school principal finally gets his longtime crush, Roxanne, to notice him, he asks her on a date. Max’s trouble at school convinces Goofy that he and the boy need to bond over a cross-country fishing trip like the one he took with his dad when he was Max’s age, which throws a kink in his son’s plans to impress Roxanne.

Synopsis via Rotten Tomatoes

This was a nostalgic watch for me. I probably last saw this when I was 12 or 13. As far as walking in my younger self’s shoes, I’d say this was an OKAY watch. I had a lot of questions I never thought about when I was younger.

Like, why was this made into a musical? It was kind of weird to have random songs scattered throughout the movie. Honestly, it wasn’t needed. But that’s my logical self who doesn’t like musical numbers sung just for the sake of it.

The animation was actually pretty impressive, considering it was a lower-budget film.

And Then There Were None (1945), 6/10

In this suspenseful drama, based on Agatha Christie’s mystery tale, 10 strangers are summoned to a remote island. While they are waiting for the mysterious host to appear, a recording levels serious accusations at each of the guests, including Judge Francis J. Quinncannon (Barry Fitzgerald) and Dr. Edward G. Armstrong (Walter Huston), and soon they start being murdered, one by one. As the survivors try to keep their wits, they reach a disturbing conclusion: one of them must be the killer.

Synopsis via Rotten Tomatoes

And Then There Were None became a smallish obsession of mine this month. I read the book to wipe out disappointment for Death on the Nile and wondered if there was a film version of the book/play worth going back to in the future. And. . . here we are.

This particular version is the “happier” one Agatha Christie wrote during WWII times. Personally, I like this ending just as much as the book.

However, this film doesn’t seem to fit the masterful vibe present in Christie’s original novel or play. The music felt too. . . happy? And the ending was off for me. I mean, who walks off joyfully with googly eyes after 8 other people just died?

All in all, it’s okay. Just not the best film I’ve ever seen.

And Then There Were None Russian-Desyat negrityat (1987), 7/10

In this suspenseful drama, based on Agatha Christie’s mystery tale, 10 strangers are summoned to a remote island. While they are waiting for the mysterious host to appear, a recording levels serious accusations at each of the guests, including Judge Francis J. Quinncannon and Dr. Edward G. Armstrong, and soon they start being murdered, one by one. As the survivors try to keep their wits, they reach a disturbing conclusion: one of them must be the killer.

Synopsis via Rotten Tomatoes

Compared to the 1945 version, this 1987 film enacted the original story SOO much better. It had the right atmosphere and the a-moral characters played their parts quite well.

I especially appreciated the subtle facial expressions and gestures. The film didn’t rely on dialogue to show the true nature of its characters.

The one critique I had for this film, which ruined it for me, was the abusive sexual assault on Vera from Mr. Lombard. The film tried to pass it off as a matter of course between two attractive people caught in a hostile situation. To me, it was simply a sexual assault.

Beyond that, the music created such a great atmosphere, and the screenplay was wonderfully done.

The King and the Mockingbird (1980), 9/10

This animated fantasy tale follows the romance between a lovely shepherdess (Agnès Viala) and a handsome chimney sweep (Renaud Marx). The land’s imperious king (Pascal Mazzotti) falls for the beautiful woman and tries to thwart her relationship, but a kind mockingbird (Jean Martin) assists the lovers in evading the ruler. On the king’s command, the chimney sweep and his bird friend are imprisoned, and they must escape in order to rescue the young man’s true love.

Synopsis via Rotten Tomatoes

Once upon a time, I watched the botched version of this film, released without the consent of its original creators. It was one of those 1 dollar DVDs you could buy at the store. As I child, I thought it was rather funny and didn’t appreciate anything about it beyond that.

Paul Grimault was a pioneering animated filmmaker in France who got too ambitious during this film’s original production. Thankfully, he bought back the rights to his film and released the version he had intended to audiences in 1980.

If you are a fan of Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata films, The King and the Mockingbird inspired these two directors before they started making groundbreaking animated films throughout the last few decades.

Grimault was a surrealist filmmaker whose backgrounds feel larger than life, soft and luxurious. I could go on and on about why this is so, but I don’t have time.

I don’t think I need to explain how much I admire this film. If you are a fan of animation history, be sure to look this film up and watch Grimault’s finished work.

TV Shows

As I said before, besides Yu Yu Hakusho, I didn’t watch any other TV shows except for one. My attention drifted in other directions.

Kim Possible (2002-2007), 9/10

Kim Possible looks like an average high-school cheerleader, but in her spare time, she saves the world from supervillains. Her buddy, Ron Stoppable, his pet Rufus, and a resourceful webmaster named Wade collabotrate on secret missions and can do anything. When she’s not defeating the bad guys, Kim still has to cope with typical pressures of school, family and social life.

Synopsis via Rotten Tomatoes

I had a hard time the last two weeks of February because of the now and impending war in Ukraine. I have friends who live near the border of Ukraine and IN Ukraine itself. It took me a while to put a cap on the overwhelming sadness and anxiety I felt for Russians and Ukrainians alike.

Where did I turn? I realized it was about time I watched Kim Possible again to get my mind off things.

Sometimes when I rewatch shows from my childhood and teenage years, I realize I’ve grown out of them. That is NOT the case for this show if you couldn’t tell.

Even though the first season feels a little campy, I enjoy this show for its dry humor, witty characters, and sweet romance. It never really mattered to me if Ron and Kim got together as a child. But as an adult, I appreciated how subtly and sweetly the creators created their love story.

Ron is a bit of a dork, but he was comfortable as himself. Kim could “do anything” but didn’t let that get to her head. Once they got together, it felt right.

Anyway, romance aside my favorite characters to listen to are Dr. Drakkun and Ron. They pulled me out of the mires of my sad mind this past week and I’m grateful to them.

Books

Thich Nhat Hanh‘s How To Sit (2014) ?/10

The function of meditation practice is to heal and transform. Scientific studies indicate that meditation contributes tremendously to well-being, general health, and longevity. How to Sit is a unique gift for those who want a comprehensive yet simple guide to getting started with meditation practice, as well as meditators with training in any spiritual tradition who want to be reminded of the foundation of practice.

Synopsis via Goodreads

One of my goals these past few months has been to engage in meditational reading every night before I go to bed. I already read and finished Thich Nhat Hanh’s other book How to Eat and immediately bought this particular book when I learned it was available on Amazon.

For me, it works well because it gives readers bite-sized bits of wisdom they can follow every day. Which is great because it makes impactful change easier to digest. I definitely fall into the unruly category of human beings who try to change too much at once.

What I loved about How To Sit is it taught me how to take a few seconds, midst my stress and work, to breathe, and simply BE. I learned it’s okay to just sit and, well, breathe.

Joanna Ruth Meyer’s Into the Heartless Wood (2021), 10/10

The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.

When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.

Synopsis via Goodreads

Joanna Ruth Meyer has done it again! She’s written a folktale/fairytale-esque story whose characters’ stories were remarkably poignant. Love stories, fairytale ones included, come and go all the time. However, much like her book Echo North (2019)

It’s one thing to get me to fall in love with a story. It’s a whole other thing to have me become thoroughly and completely invested in the characters CAUGHT in said story. Owen and Seren earned every bit of happiness they had.

Honestly, this story reminded me the most of what traditional fairytales feel like. They are a bit dark, but there is light and love trapped within the sorrow their characters must face.

I love Owen for his valor and courage. He was such a gentle soul, possibly the only one who could love and understand someone like Seren, whose mother forced her to kill.

I loved how Seren did not make excuses for the harm she did. When she found Owen and grew to love him, she decided to do what she could to protect him and make right the wrongs she committed.

It’s rather hard to explain everything about this story that made it so remarkable. My advice is if you love these types of books DEFINITELY give it a look! I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook.

Agatha Christie‘s And Then There Were None (1939)

“Ten little boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine. Nine little boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight. Eight little boys traveling in Devon; One said he’d stay there then there were seven. Seven little boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in half and then there were six. Six little boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five. Five little boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four. Four little boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three. Three little boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two. Two little boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one. One little boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.”

When they realize that murders are occurring as described in the rhyme, terror mounts. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. Who has choreographed this dastardly scheme? And who will be left to tell the tale? Only the dead are above suspicion.

Synopsis via Goodreads

I still remember the fateful day I happened to pick out this novel while stuck in the library during teacher training. I had watched the 1945 film once upon a time in my childhood and thought “What the heck. I should probably read this book already.” Because it’s a classic.

Well, I DEVOURED it from beginning to end. Agatha Christie is truly one of the greatest authors I have had the privilege to read.

During this last reading, I decided to listen to the audiobook read by Dan Stevens (Yes, the guy who was in Downtown Abbey.) Woo Nelly, he did a fantastic job! Now I want to listen to all the Christie books he’s read.

By the by, if you haven’t read this book, stop what you’re doing and go forth! If you love mysteries, I know you will enjoy one of the greatest mystery novels ever written.

Norton Juster‘s The Phantom Tollbooth (1961)

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

Synopsis via Goodreads

I call this the one book in the English language that can honestly not be translated well into other languages. Literally, it is built on colloquialisms and wordplay. It’s witty, cleverly paced, and gave me a love for words.

Lucky me I never was “forced” to read it in school. (Not that my teachers ever had to force me to read anything.) When I was in my early twenties I just decided on a whim to give it a go! Now, I read it at night because it relaxes me.

During this last reading, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Rainn Wilson. It was a little too lovely. I almost fell asleep on my way from work while I listened to it! Good times!

Manga/Webtoons

I actually read a lot more webtoons than this, but I don’t have time to say over and over again they were too boring to really talk about. There are only so many times I can read about Isekais or “traveling into a romance novel” stories before I get sick of them!

Toshiaki Iwashiro‘s Psyren (2007-2010), 10/10

Ageha Yoshina is a self-confident high school student who helps others for a fee. On his way back from a job, he finds a strange calling card with the word “Psyren” imprinted left behind in a phone booth and decides to keep it, unaware of its purpose. The very next day, Ageha discovers that his classmate Sakurako Amamiya has the exact same calling card in her possession. When he questions her, Sakurako asks him to save her, signaling the day his troubles begin.

Confused by the circumstances of this encounter, Ageha realizes something is wrong when Sakurako goes missing. In an attempt to figure out what is happening, he decides to call the number provided on the calling card and is asked a series of questions by a mysterious voice, ending with a final, cryptic question: “Would you like to go to Psyren?” Thus begins two teenagers’ participation in a game of life or death within a strange world inhabited by monsters called “Taboo.” Granted the ability to use psychic powers known as “PSI,” the duo fight to return to the place they call home.

Synopsis via Myanimelist

It’s a tragedy no one really talks about this manga anymore. I’ve loved it since it came out ten or so years ago. The pacing is great, the characters likable, and the ARTWORK is so clean!

I have a thing for faces in manga and Iwashiro-San is a master at character design and paneling. I think I’ve said this before, but I love how he draws eyes and teeth.

My teeth fetish aside, what I’ve always liked about this particular manga is how it doesn’t feel like it’s a copy of something else. It uses similar concepts like being trapped in a game-like setting and gaining PSI powers, but it doesn’t rely on them to make the story engaging.

It’s the characters like Ageha who go out of their way not to become the strongest fighter so they can beat up a bad guy but to heal their world.

If you are a fan of fighting manga like Jujutsu Kaisen, Naruto, or even Bleach this recommendation is my gift to you! Because let’s be honest, we are all always looking for new things to love. Right?

I’m the Tyrant’s Secretary (2021), 5/10

To save my family from certain doom, I offered to become the Emperor’s secretary in place of my clumsy brother. I excelled at work in my previous life… to the point of overworking myself, but that’s beside the point! I know I got this. I served the tyrant emperor perfectly, down to a T, so now I can quit working and the plot can continue on. But when I asked to resign, he retorted, “Do you want to die?” Your Majesty, you’ve always been disinterested in people, why are you holding me back? Please let me live the rest of my life peacefully!

Synopsis via Tapas

I chose to highlight this particular webtoon because I was floored with how. . . clueless its characters are. Normally when two people who work well together and obviously think the other is rather good-looking understand what they are feeling is LOVE or attraction.

Both the heroine and the “tyrant” king are dolts. Yes, I said it and I’ll say it again! They’re dolts because it’s painfully obvious they love each other. For some weird reason, it has never occurred to them. . . ever. Sigh. . .

This is the time I point out this actually happens all the time in romances. It’s the “will they, won’t they” trope authors use to trick readers to keep reading. Once a couple gets together most readers start losing interest.

That is unless an author is good enough to not have the romance be the only redeeming quality in the story. Like, love evolves and people’s lives are more than just falling and being in love.

The one thing I’ll praise in this story is how the heroine speaks to the king as an equal. She is intelligent and hardworking.

The king is just. . . handsome. . . I guess.

I can’t think of anything else interesting to say about this story.

Little Rabbit and the Big Bad Leopard (2021), 5/10

Vivi is a… wererabbit?! As a creature that’s supposed to transform into a human, Vivi is a failure, demonized as cursed and sent off to her doom. Luckily, her demise is cut short as Ahin of the Black Leopard Clan saves her. But with every threat and command this temperamental heir tosses at Vivi, she’s questioning her safety (and sanity). Surrounded by carnivores and their strong pheromones, she’ll try to survive the chaos while stuck in her rabbit form. Will she figure out how to transform and tap into the power within her cute, furry self?

Synopsis via Tapas

Let’s talk about why women think it’s attractive to have a man DOMINATEover the women they “love”. This happens ALL THE TIME in teenage and adult romance novels. (I’m talking about YOU Twilight and Outlander).

Personally, I think it’s dumb. Why is it dumb? Because that kind of obsessive and predatory behavior only works in romances. If a man does this to a woman in real life it is frightening. What happens if the woman wants to break off the relationship? What if his obsession becomes completely toxic and all about sex?

See, in this story, a girl who is part of a species that turns from animals into humans can’t transform because of her special type of pheromones. (I’m not kidding). She’s picked up by a leopard who enjoys teasing her by saying he’ll eat her.

She can finally turn human because the said leopard man…. guy has really strong pheromones. Yeah, I still don’t get it.

Here is a woman physically too weak to really break free from the overbearing and domineering people in her life. Now she is caught in a situation where a male figure is obsessed with her to the point other males can’t touch her, and she is barely able to leave his side let alone walk around by herself.

See what I mean? Why do we as women think this is healthy? Whatever happened to meeting dark brooding men like Mr. Darcy?

Anyway, I’m not sure how this story will turn out but I’m not overly optimistic. She’ll probably learn to love him for some reason (Cough, his abs, and face) and he’ll call his obsession love. Yada yada. . .

Well, that is the basic gist of my February. I’ll have more to post later about my wonderous life in the following weeks! Until then.

What Have I Been Up To? January

7 Comments

  1. I’m a big Agatha Christie fan as well and have read all her books! I love And Then There Were None so much, but also wasn’t super fond of the 1945 film. I didn’t like the happier ending. Have you seen the 2015(ish) BBC miniseries?

    I didn’t wanna see Death on the Nile just because of how sexual it seemed from the trailers.

    The Phantom Tollbooth is a great read too! Love the wordplay!

    1. aubreym3 says:

      Glad we have so much in common! I haven’t seen the BBC version yet. It’s on my list. Currently, I’m reading Curtain by Agatha Christie

      1. Curtain is really good! I think it’s mostly because she wrote it decades earlier than when it was published.

      2. aubreym3 says:

        Didn’t she keep it in a vault because she wanted it published as the last mystery poirot solved?

      3. Not sure if she kept it in a vault, but she did intend for it to be the last one.

      4. aubreym3 says:

        That’s what I thought. If I am ever in need of a good brain twister I turn to one of her mysteries

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