Featured

Jurassic Park. Halloween Edition (1993)

Rating: PG

Length: 2hr 8

Release: 15.7.1993

About: In Steven Spielberg’s massive blockbuster, paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are among a select group chosen to tour an island theme park populated by dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA. While the park’s mastermind, billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), assures everyone that the facility is safe, they find out otherwise when various ferocious predators break free and go on the hunt.


This is no normal review. In fact, it’s possibly not a review at all. Everyone knows this is my all time favourite movie and has been since July 1993 when it set me on my path to geekdom.

It’s a film I’ve watched so often, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered it as a horror, or a film to watch as a lead up to Halloween so the fear factor is never going to be there. I’m too amazed and in all honesty, I want to be there too.

So instead, I’m considering how many tropes and themes that come up in horror movies apply to Jurassic Park. I thought I was on a dud mission, but I was very quickly proven wrong.

Creature Feature

The creature feature is perhaps the most obvious genre this dinosaur disaster fits into. There’s narrative similarities within Jurassic Park and the Creature From the Black Lagoon, a tonal structure that Spielberg brings organically from Jaws and there’s even an audio/visual reference to one of the greatest creature feature: King Kong, just invade you were wondering what they might be keeping on the island. In the same way Black Lagoon has that embedded wonder, Jurassic Park is all smiles until things go very, very wrong.

One key trope from the creature feature (and arguably other horrors) that is seen multiple times is the Scream Queen. Both of our females give their lungs a good airing when found face to face with the prehistoric reptiles and join Faye Wray, Julie Adams and Susan Blackline as Hollywood Hollering Royalty.

Science, Bitches!

Science and playing God is a staple theme in many a horror movie. Frankenstein, The Fly and Jekyll & Hyde all have scientists take on the god-like role of creator. In much the same fashion as the previously mentioned films, the scientists of Ingen fails to understand the true nature of the monster in their captivity and they rebel against the creator.

Of course, this is on a much grander scale so the stakes are higher and the town at risk is bigger. While the revulsion for the monster isn’t present, it’s clear not everyone is happy with the creators.

The Slasher

Hear me out because yes, there’s no Freddy or Michael but some of the rules still apply. I am, of course, talking about the raptors and their story arc.

The fact that we don’t get a sighting of the raptors until the last 20 minutes or so is frightening in itself. All we’ve seen, is their destruction and lethal potential, much in the same way we don’t see the shark in Jaws or the knife break flesh in the infamous ‘shower scene’, our imagination makes quick work of filling in the blanks with scares and blood. The raptors are isolated, imprisoned separately, from the rest of the park. Too dangerous: they indeed claim the film’s largest body count.

Of course, like Michael Myers, when they find freedom the raptors set their sights on human victims which brings us to the glorious stalking kitchen scene. Replace the predatory reptiles with Ghostface and this scene could fit seamlessly into a Scream movie.

I’ll agree that there’s more than one, and there’s no motivation forthcoming but you have to admit, sometimes the explanation sucks and ruins the movie.

The Harbinger of Doom

A trope I only really became familiar with thanks to Cabin in the Woods. A meta horror that calls out all the tropes is perfect education for film.

So, there are two characters that fit the bill of a harbinger within Jurassic Park. The first is Robert Muldoon, who is vocal about the raptors and their dangers. However, the key role goes to Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm. Not only is his entire persona as a theorist of chaos an ideal fit, he has a passionate speech warning Hammond of his companies’ naivety in playing with Science, even going so far as call it ‘rape of the natural world’.

Both Malcolm and Muldoon give us some foresight into the horrors that are to be faced even if, as Malcolm puts it, he ‘hates being right all the time.’

Haunted House

So it’s an island, doesn’t mean the haunted house rules don’t apply. The clear trope that can be seen is the fracturing of the group, repeatedly. Those that do end up on their own; Muldoon, the lawyer and Arnold, die in rather painful and bloody ways.


Now you’ve read this, you may see Jurassic Park in a different way, or maybe you’re like Ian Malcolm and consider it …

Either way, go check it out on Netflix. There it isn’t butchered like a Michael Myer’s victim on Halloween (yup ITV! I’m looking at you)

Han x

Featured

The Fly (1986)

Rating 18

Length 1Hr 36

Release 13.2.1987

About When scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) completes his teleportation device, he decides to test its abilities on himself. Unbeknownst to him, a housefly slips in during the process, leading to a merger of man and insect. Initially, Brundle appears to have undergone a successful teleportation, but the fly’s cells begin to take over his body. As he becomes increasingly fly-like, Brundle’s girlfriend (Geena Davis) is horrified as the person she once loved deteriorates into a monster.


The Good

  • The makeup and visual effects are incredible. Repulsive in some respects, but they certainly stand up to a modern viewing. From Seth’s mottled and sickly looking skin to his complete metamorphosis, it’s compelling and scary to see.
  • Jeff Goldblum and his ticks and twitches in particular. I do wonder if it’s his role here that put him up for consideration in Jurassic Park. There are similarities within the characters and the only difference being; Ian Malcolm would have predicted all this chaos. Goldblum has been long established as a loveable kook for me, that seeing him in this very different role helps bring the horror alive.
  • I love that Seth has a better outline plan of action than a Tory government. Something I thought right before he tells Veronica he wants to be the first insect politician. I giggled way too much at myself for that.
  • John Getz wins me over by the end of the film. I can’t remember what else I’ve seen him in, but the word ‘sleaze’ comes to mind and that’s before you consider the ‘Han’s buddy’ beard he has going on. Sleaze is actually right. He’s a knob to Veronica and I hate him for about two thirds of the movie. However, he really turns it around.

The Bad

  • There’s less Science and more about the relationship between Seth and Veronica. While it certainly makes for a better horror, I personally didn’t care for it.
  • The timeframe seems off, making the relationship seem overly toxic, without the whole spontaneously mutating into a psychotic insect. I know there’s a comment close to the end of the film about how a month has passed, but early on it seems like a day goes past and they’ve gone from bed buddies to an old married couple holidaying to Florida.
  • Not sure how I feel about the narrative commentary of Veronica having to tell Seth about her intended abortion. I know it’s necessary for the cause and effect to lead to the final act, but I’m very uncomfortable with it when he’s shown violent predator behaviour. Without getting bogged down in gender politics, I think it’s fair to say that if you’re beau has become a mutation that vomits over his own food and scared the bejesus out of you, you can wave the ‘conversation’.

  • I can see how the film is interpreted as a commentary of the AIDS crisis, however it is self evident that the commentary is much too broad for this to be the case. It’s a shame, as if they went in with intention, it could have made an excellent theme. That said, we have werewolves for that.

The Ugly

  • The gore was too much for me. Made me physically sick and it’s the first time during this advent I’ve had to look away from the screen.
  • The maggot baby birth! Holy fuck, that was horrific. Perhaps it has more impact on a woman but that was a visual I could have done without.

Final Thoughts

It’s a well made film that had proven my theory that I am indeed a pussy when it comes to gory horrors. It’s like Captain America gone wrong, way way wrong.

Featured

The Fly(1958)

Rating: X

Length:1Hr 34

Release: 31.7.1958

About: When scientist Andre Delambre (Al Hedison) tests his matter transporter on himself, an errant housefly makes its way into the transportation chamber, and things go horribly wrong. As a result, Delambre’s head and arm are now that of the insect. Slowly losing himself to the fly, Delambre turns to his wife, Helene (Patricia Owens), for help. But when tragedy strikes, Delambre’s brother (Vincent Price) and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) are forced to pick up the investigation.


The Good

  • I love the narrative framing that’s used. The anticipation of discovering what happened to her husband then, as time goes on, the wish that you can stop it all from happening.
  • Vincent Price has a presence on the screen. Not one that shines while suppressing others, but a charm and persona that simple commands attention. I look forward to exploring his filmography beyond the few films I’ve seen him in.
  • The effects are brilliant, even for a film made today I’d been happy with what they presented. From the close up flies to the presentation of Andre’s mutation, they all allow you to buy into the situation. The ending, in which we see the mutated fly is an incredible visual.
  • In much the same way The Creature From the Black Lagoon had the historical Science lesson, The Fly contains a commentary about technological progression, playing God and the fear that brings. Science is at the heart of many horrors and it’s the beauty of them. Lack of explanation makes us feel uneasy, so bending or breaking Science to our will is a goal for many. The biggest fear being that it’ll fail. It’s a subconscious fear, but that’s where a horror is better at getting under your skin.

The Bad

  • There’s a scene or two within the flash-back framing that are impossible for the wife to tell, as it contains only Andre or the camera angle presents his view (however amazing that it). Yes, it’s a weak point and not something a viewer would perhaps notice, but I need a bad and I hope this shows the quality of the film if I’m being petty.

The Ugly

  • That poor fucking child! No one tells him his dad is dead, even though the Police are deciding if his mother should be hanged for murder or locked up in the looney bin for her explanation. Actually, he constantly asks when his dad is coming home… maybe he didn’t inherit his father’s genius.

Final Thoughts

An excellent film, but no fear factor due to perhaps knowing the outcome from the start.

Featured

All the Film Reviews in One Place

A

Absolutely Everything (2015)

Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin (2019)

American Made (2017)

American Sniper (2016)

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Annie (2015)

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Avengers: Endgame Spoiler Free (2019)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

B

Big Hero 6 (2015)

Bird Box (2018)

Birdman (2015)

Blackhat (2015)

Black Panther (2018)

Blade Runner 2049 (2018)

Blade Runner: the Final Cut (1982)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Book Smart (2019)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

C

Cake (2015)

Capricorn One (1979)

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain Marvel (2019)

Changeland (2019)

Christmas Carol (1951)

Christmas Story, A (1983)

Craft, The (1996)

Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

Cure, The (1996)

Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)

D

Darkest Hour (2017)

Dead Don’t Die, The (2019)

Detective Pikachu (2019)

Dumplin (2018)

Dunkirk (2017)

E

Elf (2003)

Enemy of the State (1998)

Entourage (2015)

Ex Machina (2015)

F

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Final Portrait (2017)

Fly, The (1958)

Fly, The (1986)

Foxcatcher (2015)

Fred Clause (2007)

Frighteners, The (1996)

Fun Size (2012)

G

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

Greatest Showman, The (2017)

Gremlins (1984) 50

H

Halloween (1978)

Halloween (2007)

Halloween (2018)

Hellboy (2019)

High Lonesome: A Father For Charlie (1995)

Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Hobson’s Choice (1954)

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Holiday Affair (1949)

Hollow, The (2004)

Home (2015)

Home Alone (1990)

Hotel Artemis (2018)

Hotel Transylvania 3 (2018)

Howling III (1987)

I

Incredibles 2, The (2018)

Incredible Hulk, The (2008)

Indian in the Cupboard, The (1995)

Interview, The (2015)

Into the Night (1985)

Into the Woods (2015)

Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

I, Tonya (2018)

IT (1990)

IT: Chapter One (2017)

IT: Chapter Two (2019)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

J

Jaws (1975)

Jungle Book, The (2016)

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park Halloween Edition (1993)

Jurassic World (2015)

Just Friends (2005)

K

King of Thieves (2018)

XKingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Kingsman: Secret Service (2015)

Kitchen, The (2019)

Krampus (2015)

L

Lion King, The (2019)

Little Shop of Horrors, The (1986)

Long Shot (2019)

Love, Actually (2003)

Love, Simon (2018)

M

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Mama Mia! Here I Go Again (2018)

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Meg, The (2018)

Minions (2015)

Mom and Dad (2018)

Mother! (2017)

Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Mummy, The (2017)

N

National Lamoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Nativity! (2009)

Nerve (2017) 100

Nightmare Before Christmas, The (1993)

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (1984)

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (2010)

O

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Overboard (2018)

P

Paddington 2 (2017)

Paper Towns (2015)

Paranorman (2012)

Patti Cakes (2017)

Perfect Date, The (2019)

Pet Sematary (2019)

Please Stand By (2017)

Polar Express, The (2004)

Predator (1987)

Predator, The (2018)

Pretty in Pink (1986)

Q

Queen, The (2006)

Quiet Place, The (2018)

R

Raging Moon, The (1971)

Raising Helen (2004)

Rampage (2018)

Rare Exports (2010)

Ready Player One (2018)

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Rocket Man (2019)

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)

S

Santa Claws (2018)

Scream (1996)

Scrooge (1970)

Scrooged (1988)

Selma (2015)

Shape of Water (2018)

Shazam! (2019)

Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)

Simon Birch (1998)

Skyscraper (2018)

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Slow West (2015)

Small Soldiers (1998)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Spy Who Dumped Me, The (2018)

Stan & Ollie (2018)

Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Surviving Christmas (2004)

T

Terminator, The (1984)

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Terminator Genisys (2015)

Three Wishes (1995)

Theory of Everything (2015)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Tomb Raider (2018)

Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Trading Places (1983)

Trapped in Paradise (1994)

Truth or Dare (2018)

U

Undrafted (2016)

V

W

Wedding Ringer, The (2015)

Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

We’re No Angels (1955)

When We First Met (2018)

Whiplash (2015)

Wild (2015)

Wind River (2017)

Wonder Park (2019)

Wonder Woman (2017)

Wooly Boys, The (2001)

X

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)

Y

Yesterday (2019)

Z

Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)

Featured

Dracula (1958)

Rating: X

Length: 1Hr 22

Release: 22.5.1958

About: On a search for his missing friend Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen), vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is led to Count Dracula’s (Christopher Lee) castle. Upon arriving, Van Helsing finds an undead Harker in Dracula’s crypt and discovers that the count’s next target is Harker’s ailing fiancée, Lucy Holmwood (Carol Marsh). With the help of her brother, Arthur (Michael Gough), Van Helsing struggles to protect Lucy and put an end to Count Dracula’s parasitic reign of terror.


The good

  • The acting is much better than my past experiences of watching Dracula. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee provide that familiarity that you’d come to expect of Hammer Horrors. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else take on Van Helsing in a better way.
  • It took me a while to spot him, but Wayne Manner’s resident butler Michael Gough is an absolute joy to watch as the father of Lucy. It’s at his introduction that the film is a smoother watch and he works very well with Cushing.
  • The defeat of Dracula is quite brilliant, even now. Yes, there was a slight difference in the colouration to the rest of the film, but the physical effects themselves really do stand up. Much better than so CGI counterparts ever could.

The bad

  • I’m unsure as to why Dracula speaks at the start but is reduced to growls and hisses. It does nothing for the narrative and having him speak. It’s not enough to make him disarming and it’s too much to allow him to be fearful.

The ugly

  • I think it might be the Dracula story itself, but I found this rather clunky and slow to gain traction in its lack of protagonist. Or rather, a protagonist who isn’t present from the start. Perhaps framing the film and beginning with Van Helsing receiving Jonathan’s diary. That way we’re with Cushing from the start.

Final Thoughts

A clunky but well acted version of the legendary Dracula that plays a little more like a thriller than a horror.

Featured

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Rating: 18

Length: 1Hr 35

Release: 7.5.2010

About: Teenagers Nancy, Quentin, Kris, Jesse and Dean are all neighborhood friends who begin having the same dream of a horribly disfigured man who wears a tattered sweater and a glove made of knives. The man, Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), terrorizes them in their dreams, and the only escape is to wake up. But when one of their number dies violently, the friends realize that what happens in the dream world is real, and the only way to stay alive is to stay awake.


The Good

The 2010 offering takes what is an interesting concept, offers a polished script and gives a better explanation to the fate of Freddy and his supernatural motivations.

It’s most definitely a horror. There’s jumps and scares (even those beyond my cat jumping onto me as someone gets the Freddy knives to the chest). The music has some part to play in that, but the biggest sell for the fear factor is how possible some of it seems. Not the whole ‘slasher killing you in your dreams’, but the repression after trauma, sexual predators being brought to vigilante justice by an angry mob.

Krueger is visually better. He looks like a burn victim rather than a jazz hand muppet or Christopher Llyod in Who Framed Rogger Rabbit? While Englund is iconic, time has been unkind to his camp Freddy. Now we have a Krueger that you believe may have been wrongly punished. Not only do his motivations bring fear, every movement is slow, calculated and necessary. It’s the opposite of what the 80s provided and, even ten years on, it scares the crap out of me.

The Bad

Some CGI scenes are bad. I actually reported a ‘trivia’ note on IMDb that stated that GCI was only used when ‘absolutely necessary’ as I believe that to be utter bullshit. The two scenes in which Freddy enters the ‘real world’ through the bedroom walls did not need to be done through CGI. It looks flawless (and creepy) in the 1984 version while the CGI one detracts from the horror.

The Ugly

The final scene that suggests it’s not really all over. It’s not the only film guilty of it, but I am disappointed that in 2010 it’s the only way Hollywood can end a horror movie.

Final thoughts

It’s the best horror remake/reboot I know of and it certainly has the scares you want from a horror. I just wish it would have relied on practical effects over CGI.

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Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

Rating: A (hasn’t been reclassified)

Length: 1Hr 19

Release: 9.12.1954

About: Remnants of a mysterious animal have come to light in a remote jungle, and a group of scientists intends to determine if the find is an anomaly or evidence of an undiscovered beast. To accomplish their goal, the scientists (Antonio Moreno, Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Whit Bissell) must brave the most perilous pieces of land South America has to offer. But the terrain is nothing compared to the danger posed by an otherworldly being that endangers their work and their lives.


The Good

  • How can you not be charmed by this Universal classic? Get past the rather jarring Biblical opening and you’re met with a this incredible set up: a scientific and geological finding that brings together a team. It’s fascinating and almost educational(in a geeky fun way. Like Mr DNA). You feel safe, you’re smiling and maybe you even begin to wonder why this is on a list for Halloween. Plot wise the first half reminds me of Jurassic Park while the second half is King Kong and Jaws.
  • The creature is incredible, on the most part. The person they have in the suit truly brings Gill-Man to life and is able to make moving about in water organic and distinguishable from both David and Mark. I would say in terms of the long shots within the water Gill-Man is as good as modern creature feature man and Starfleet officer, Doug Jones.
  • The musical score provided many of the films cues and impeding ‘scares’. It adds tension and atmosphere to the more chilling parts of the film. It certainly seems to be something that inspired Jaws’ main theme.

The Bad

  • Inconsistency with the character of Mark is a sticking point for me. He’s hell bent on killing, stuffing and mounting the poor creature who’d had his home invaded. Yet within seconds of bludgeoning the bastard, he’s entrusted with taking him to safety. It happens a few too many times, which suggests the characterisations were not the priority. While story is important, I do like a focus on characters.
  • I’m certain it wasn’t the intention, but the one creature hands reaching out for land was repeated a little too often in a short amount of time that it became comical. No… I tell a lie, it was even funny the first time.

The Ugly

  • Now, this is almost unfair. However, I’m finding it hard to put something here that I feel I have to. The creature’s suit was brilliant, almost faultless considering the time and some of the CGI renderings today. However, the only issue I had with it was the eyes. They were so lifeless and fake that they really brought attention to them. Perhaps it might not have been so noticeable had there not been the focus on the movement of the gills which was incredible. Perhaps had they have been painted over with a matt paint they would have worked better.

Final thoughts

A charming film from the vaults that should be spoken about and aired on tv more often. It has clearly inspired a host of modern film makers and I certainly find that fascinating.

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Halloween (1978)

Rating: 18

Length: 1Hr 31

Release: 25.1.1979

About: On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.


The Good

  • The filming is atmospheric: from the voyeuristic Michael Myers’ POV shots to the ones that track Michael, have him placed in shot without showing him fully.
  • The music adds to this with that creepy and chilling score.
  • I love that there’s no running really. It’s all sneak attack, up close and often without them expecting it. Largely that seems to do with the fact that it’s all set around the one day.
  • Donald Pleasance having his own storyline away from the survivor is a refreshing change. Having no one believe him is terrifying.

The Bad

  • Laurie is a little bit dumb. Not once, but twice she discards the knife right next to Michael Myers’ body. Okay, first time I’ll let you off. But you know the bastard is good at playing dead, why the fuck would you hand back the knife?!?!

The Ugly

  • What sort of basketball player worthy cameraman did they use for that opening sequence in which Michael, a six year old Michael at that, is given a camera POV shot? Way too tall and it really pulled me out of the scene.
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Halloween (2018)

Rating 18

Length 1Hr 46

Release 19.10.2018

About It’s been 40 years since Laurie Strode survived a vicious attack from crazed killer Michael Myers on Halloween night. Locked up in an institution, Myers manages to escape when his bus transfer goes horribly wrong. Laurie now faces a terrifying showdown when the masked madman returns to Haddonfield, Ill. — but this time, she’s ready for him.


The Good

  • This is a clever continuation of the 1978 film. It nods to the things that made the original the classic that it is, while reworking some tired tropes for not only a modern day audience, but for a Horror fan wishing to see something different.
  • Woohoo! An 18 that doesn’t require the women to die with their breasts out. The theme of chastity being a saving grace has been removed, instead giving us a much more complex and rewarding theme of survivor complex and generational family dynamics.
  • It’s a proper decent script and a great cast. There are two awesome lines within the film and they are supported by two brilliant actors delivering them. There’s a ‘oh Shit’ that feels like one of the most authentic responses I’ve ever seen in a horror movie and there’s a ‘gotcha’ that rings with power that I ended up shouting at the tv.
  • The music and title credits are … well, they’re beautiful. The film opens with the traditional score and a new approach to the visuals. It closes with a modern remix.

The Bad

  • The showdown at the house feels flawed. While it may be seen differently on a repeated viewing, it will spark irritation in some viewers who have been charmed by its smart choices for everything that comes before.

The Ugly

  • While it cuts down, or rather out, the nudity it does not hold back the gore. As a filmic genre Hollywood has moved away from the implied and all but splatters the audience with blood. While it was not something that turns my stomach, I will always find the misdirection of the famous Psycho shower scene much more effective.

Final Thoughts

Fuck me, this is the best of the franchise. However, it won’t truly work in isolation. To really appreciate it as a story, and as a film, you do need to watch the original and, as much as I hate to admit this, watching the 2007 version will also help.

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Halloween (2007)

Rating: 18

Length: 1Hr 49

Release: 28.9.2007

About: Nearly two decades after being committed to a mental institution for killing his stepfather and older sister, Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) breaks out, intent on returning to the town of Haddonfield, Ill. He arrives in his hometown on Halloween with the indomitable purpose of hunting down his younger sister, Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). The only thing standing between Michael and a Halloween night of bloody carnage is psychologist Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).


The Good

  • Certainly the first half has a great attempt at… being its own film. The filming style and story contains a nod to the original, but it’s definitely meant for a different audience.
  • I guess good on ‘em for not being a Hollywood shithouse and providing the cinema goers with a rated 18 movie. I’d say well done for not being a pussy, but as the rating was probably given for that gratuitous full body shot…. yeah…
  • There’s a solid cast and having Malcolm McDowell as Loomis was a good call. While I can’t say he brings all of his menace and authority from De Large days, he doesn’t bring the ham either.

The Bad

  • While I definitely commend the attempt to add a background to Michael Myers and his violent tendencies, it actually detracts from the horror. Going down the psychological exploration for his pathological behaviour makes sense; he had a shit life and exposed to violence from a young age, of course it manifests. However, one of the scariest parts of the original is that there’s no explanation. We always fear the unknown, so explaining it removes the fear.
  • Laurie is no longer the protagonist. She doesn’t appear until halfway. Spending so much time with Michael stops you from engaging with Laurie and her friends. I care very little for her survival. There’s very few changes at this point other than as babysitter’s, both Laurie and Annie suck.
  • Having Laurie be Michael’s sister was something the original franchise attempted, and failed to bring to fruition so I’m unsure why they would expect it to work here. The biggest sticking point being I don’t get how the bastard knows Laurie is his sister?! If you are going to do it, do it well.

The Ugly

  • The running, the screaming, the deaths. It was all just noise. Loud, obnoxious and game play noise. The two kids being looked after are so annoying and whiney, the viewer will be rooting for Myers and hoping he kills them. Slowly. With a rusty spoon.
  • That multiple, fake-out ending is just overkill. I felt as if nothing short of a nuke was going to stop him and I need some realism to my serial killers.
  • There’s an absolutely unnecessary and violent rape scene which I really could have done without as it verged on the torture porn gore that has become rampant in modern day horror.

Final Thoughts

It’s a film for the over stimulated generation and I checked out way before Laurie Strode made her stage left debut. Myer’s gets a back story no one asked for and runs the risk of the audience connecting with him.

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Halloween Advent Reviews: Fun Size (2012)

Rating: 12a

Length: 1Hr 23

Release: 29.10.2012

About: Wren (Victoria Justice) is a high-school senior who can’t wait to get away from her dysfunctional family. On Halloween, Wren’s mother decides to go out with her much-younger boyfriend, leaving Wren to look after little brother Albert. When Wren is distracted by an invitation to the party of the year, Albert disappears into a sea of trick-or-treaters. Enlisting the aid of her sassy friend, April (Jane Levy), and two other classmates, Wren sets out on a frantic search for her sibling.


The Good

  • Johnny Knoxville does what Johnny Knoxville does best and it works well in this film even if he does seemingly come out of nowhere. He provides some laughs and gives the film a semblance of a plot for the second half.
  • There’s a wonderful scene between the brother and sister towards the end of the film that I actually wish the film had played on a little more. It provides the film with a nice nod to problems kids their age may face.
  • The little kid, Albert, is a wonderful little shit. Being a selective mute is an interesting choice and while it’s not a fully form plot point, it gives him that ‘baby on the run’ persona seen in Baby’s Day Out. His costume is ace and I love the situations he finds himself in.

The Bad

  • It’s not very festive. Which is strange, because every scene is plastered with pumpkins. It lacks a certain tone that seems to be present in a movie about autumn’s favourite holiday.
  • Thomas Middleditch is his Sillicon Valley ‘Richard’ self in this. So much so his character and story is nauseating. That gut feeling of wanting to reach into the film and punch the fuck out of him feels like a regular thing when I see him on screen, but it doesn’t half distract from the film. I’ll leave that to you to decide if it’s a good or bad thing.

The Ugly

  • Can you really call yourself a ‘family fun’ movie when you have more than four pedophile jokes? Imagine if they made another Paddington movie that employs Jimmy Saville jokes and has a Gary Glitter soundtrack and you’ve got this movie. The pedophile jokes range from the tongue in cheek to the out right wrong “hey, what I’m doing is 100% legal” says the Spider-man clad grandpa trick or treating with the kids.
  • Seriously, the film doesn’t really know who it’s audience is. It could have quite easily been a American Pie or Superbad, but instead it’s Ferris Buller by way of Adventures in Babysitting and Baby’s Day Out with weird sex references.
  • The mature humour clashes with the ‘family’ nature the film claims to be going for. From middle aged widow stopping her daughter from going to a party to bone her 26 year old boyfriend, to Wren’s best friend almost killing a cat because she ‘Naired her ass’ and the fumes put the kitty into a coma. Not to mention an oversized robot chicken that humps the back of the car. It’s all just a little much.

Final Thoughts (trick or treat?)

It says it all that Nickelodeon made the film to go on to ban it from being aired on their own channel. The biggest issue is that in terms of it being a film watched in the build up to Halloween, it does not do its job.

It’s a nasty trick and not something I’ll rush to rewatch.

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The Predator (2018) spoilers within

Length: 1Hr 47

Rating: 15

Release: 12.9.2018

About: From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.

The Good

  • The gore and horror is on point and I was quite surprised to discover it was rated 15. Even by today’s standards (which have relaxed somewhat) I would have expecting this to gain an 18. It doesn’t hide away from the violence or a body count.
  • The rag tag bunch of misfits really worked for me and I just wish there had been a smoother way to introduce them. I personally would have started the film with Quinn boarding the bus and allow the narrative to play on the ‘crazy’ a little more and also keeping the Predator off the screen a little longer.
  • The humour is low key and actually had me chuckling away at some parts.

The Bad

  • As a movie in of itself, it’s a typical loud and fast alien invasion movie. It, in isolation, is a fair film. However, this is part of a well known franchise. Part of what I loved about that first one was everything you didn’t see.
  • In the same sense, I felt that having subtitles and dialogue from the Predator it detracts from the species being the petrifying badass that I saw as a kid.
  • The CGI in places is really ropey and, again, it removed all of the fear I had when I was watching these creatures fuck shit up. It’s very clear when a person is used and when it’s a CGI monster and it’s all to do with plot which is a shame as the man in the suit is quite impressive.
  • How do you cast Yvonne Strahovski in an action movie and have her play housewife and make her a butt of a gun joke?! Yawn.

The Ugly

  • Did Olivia Munn really have to be starkers, at all, during this movie?! Munn is an awesome actress who I first saw in Aron Sorkin’s the Newsroom, so its rather sad to see her reduced to gratuitous implied nudity and a Mary Sue (soldier/ genome expert/ zoologist/ Tomb Raider fantasy wank material. Delete to make her suit the scene)
  • My biggest gripe of all is the god damn fucking kid. Firstly, why the fuck are you putting him on the spectrum, bring it up multiple times to do absolutely nothing with it?! We’re currently in a time of representation and, when it’s done right, I’m all for it. However, this ham fisted ‘we’re doing it for doing its sake’ shockingly misrepresents people on the spectrum as a ‘Rain Man fits all’. You know how your able to tell it’s an add on? The kid stops his sound sensitivity about 20 minutes in and never does it again. It’s not even like he’s got ‘mad skills’ with the tech. Everything he achieves is the result of what any kid would do: he fucks about with buttons.
  • Secondly, he’s a shit and possibly a sociopath, but let’s just stick with the being a shit. I have never wanted a kid in media to die as much as this one. Like, even Carl in Walking Dead and Dawn from Buffy didn’t step on my last nerve this much. He’s a pussy who cowers at micro-dicks from school but will tell an officer with a gun to go fuck themselves?! Don’t get me started on the fact that he opened someone else’s post! Fucker!

Final Thoughts

I prefer my scares to computer game play style filming. I could see the attempt reclaiming some of what the original had going for it and I loved the gore, but ultimately I prefer my 80s version that scares the crap out of me.

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IT: Chapter Two

Review of Chapter One can be found here.

Rating: 15

Release: 6.9.2019

Length: 2hr 49

About: Defeated by members of the Losers’ Club, the evil clown Pennywise returns 27 years later to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine, once again. Now adults, the childhood friends have long since gone their separate ways. But when people start disappearing, Mike Hanlon calls the others home for one final stand. Damaged by scars from the past, the united Losers must conquer their deepest fears to destroy the shape-shifting Pennywise — now more powerful than ever.

The Good

  • As with Chapter One, the casting is faultless. Not only are the adults perfect in and of themselves, they’re scarily perfect for the grown up versions of the youngsters.
  • Special mention has to go to Bill Hader as Richie. I was so very excited to see him cast and he really did a wonderful job stealing every single scene he’s in. What I love about comedians like Hader is that while people see him as the joker, he’s actually very well equipped to bring the drama. For me, IT has done for Hader what the likes of Awakenings, Insomnia and 24 Hour Photo did for Robin Williams.
  • Jessica Chastain was, certainly in my mind, a risky casting choice. Well, it was certainly one that paid off. She is able to bring us the duality that Sophia Lillis initially presented us with and show a growth of character within Chapter Two.
  • The change in time setting is almost mute when we get the adults. Yes, we’ve lost the nostalgic references but it does make that opening scene a little more haunting. I’m so very glad this scene was kept.
  • I love the ongoing commentary about Bill’s stories not having great endings as perhaps an ironic note to the ending of IT itself. Which also lends itself to the film’s best Easter egg that is one par with a Stan Lee appearance.

The Bad

  • Max Headroom visuals are back and some of the scares intended from Pennywise are lost on me because of this. Again, it’s more the music than the visuals that give me the scares which is a shame as visually, Pennywise is incredible.
  • You have Bill Skarsgård who is exceptional in the role, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a manipulative charm there that festers and creeps under the skin, but everything the actor can build up is scuppered by the CGI and wobbly background that draws your eyes away.

The Ugly

  • The presentation of the interweaving timelines is rather too clunky for me. Unfortunately, due to memory loss being a major plot device I’m not certain there’s another way of making Part Two without the help of the younger counterparts.
  • The film certainly transitioned well between timelines, however I find it treads too much on top familiar ground from Part One. Perhaps if there was overlap of the actors in the previous outing, it wouldn’t stand out so much but I guess we’ll never know.

Final Thoughts

The filmmakers did an incredible job with a difficult source material. It has its faults and probably won’t be something I return to any time soon. However, it is a much-watch for Hader’s performance alone.

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Yesterday (2019) (Spoilers within)

Rating: 12a

Length: 1Hr 52

Release: 28.6.2019

About: Jack Malik is a struggling singer-songwriter in an English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie. After a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed. Performing songs by the greatest band in history to a world that has never heard them, Jack becomes on overnight sensation with a little help from his agent.

The Good

  • You couldn’t pick a better band to hang this premise on; the influential foursome have a wonderful back catalogue to interweave throughout the film.
  • Game of Thrones and Plebs alumni Joel Fry is a wonderful addition to the plot. He provides a big chunk of the humour and he played off everyone really well.
  • There is one scene that truly was incredible and I won’t lie, I watched it with a tear in my eye. Towards the end of the film, we come face to face with the one bitter sweet reality of The Beatles never forming: John Lennon has survived. We should have spent way more time here than we did. In fact, I’d have taken a whole film in which Jack Malik sits and has cups of tea with an 70-odd year old John Lennon. He’s portrayed flawlessly by the amazing Robert Carlyle.

The Bad

  • It’s not often I have a bad word to say about Kate McKinnon. Actually, scrap that, I’ve never said a bad word against the SNL comedian. However, she was grossly miscast in Yesterday. McKinnon’s Debra Hammer seems more like a SNL lampoon than an actual character. She’s a walking stereotype and she could have done so much better.
  • Did you REALLY have to make the first recorded song of a TEACHER be ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, in which the first line is ‘well, she was just seventeen’?!?! Let’s just put him on the sex offenders list shall we?
  • The trip to Liverpool was so unbelievably lip service that it was almost offensive. It was the bit I was looking forward to most, but it didn’t deliver.

The Ugly

  • It’s devoid of almost all the charm of a Richard Curtis film. There’s no chemistry between the two leads and the resolution falls very flat. There’s no method to the items, bands and popular culture that’s erased from history by the Beatles not existing. There’s a tangible link for the popularity of Coca Cola in the UK, but the others seem like weird choices.
  • Some would say it’s brave to have the film not return back to the status quo at the end. It’s a cute ending that is provided, but it’s far from fulfilling or satisfying. It also makes the protagonist a bit of dick for not even trying.

Final Thoughts

There’s not enough sweet to offset the bitter and it doesn’t really ever get to the heart of what makes the Beatles great.

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Book Review: The Deathless Girls by Kiran Milwood Hargrave

Publisher: Orion

Release date: 19.9.19

About: Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community. 

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts. 

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

The Deathless Girls is exquisitely written, as we have come to expect from Millwood Hargrave, but it is also riveting, intoxicating, and utterly unputdownable.” – Louise O’Neill

Copy: Netgalley

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This is the book that will inject new life into the vampire novel. It’s so beautifully written that I had to stop hi-lighting text on my ecopy. It’s style and voice gives you a rich experience as life as a servant/slave.

There is scope for a sequel, but ends in such a fulfilling and satisfying way that it isn’t needed. It’s perfect for anyone wanting to dip their toes into historical fantasy.

TW:

– there is a scene of attempted rape and allusions to an almost sex slave lifestyle.

– a descriptive scene of genitalia examination in relation to sex slavery and sex trafficking.

For me, I felt it was well handled without being gratuitous and historically accurate, however it may trigger other people.

This is a short review, but hopefully it has everything you need to make you want to read this stunning book.

Love Han x

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Why So Triggered? (aka why Karen Gregory’s I Hold Your Heart and Holly Bourne’s The Places I’ve Cried in Public are important novels)

This post has remained unpublished for a year. Last year it was about writing down my fears and thoughts that lead to panic attacks and never ending tears.

Now, I’m stronger. Now, thanks to Karen Gregory and Holly Bourne, I am able to quieten that voice that told me it was all my fault….

22nd July 2018

I’ve just finished work for 6 weeks, I should be so unbelievably happy right? Instead of feeling the chill, I’m more anxious than ever.

Upon returning home from an amazing hen do, I found myself amid one of my worst panic attacks in a long while. My route home was closed and it was suggested that I simply get the Piccadilly line.

Simply!

Only, there’s nothing simple when it comes to taking the Piccadilly line from central London. You see, Dick lives on the Piccadilly line. Not only that, but Dick’s ex lives on the Piccadilly line. Pray, how’d you know that?! Well Dick pointed out the very flat they shared on one of his ‘you’ll never be as good as her’ power trips. ‘I pay for it’ he informed me, like I’d care… right before I was made to pay for dinner ‘because you don’t deserve my money as much as her’.

The very thought of bumping into either of them not only has my breathing out of whack, it pulls out my soul and pushes me to the brink of what I’d imagine death would feel like. I’ve been painted the monster in her story and I’m not inclined to put her right. She wants someone to hate so she gets to keep Dick in her life. More fool her; he’s a narcissist who I met on a dating site. I didn’t steal him; according to his profile he was single and had been for a long time. This was a man who told me he wanted to pick a place close to me so moving in together would be easy; long before he told me that they’d still been together when we first met and there was overlap. Not only of me, but of a woman he cancelled our first date for (telling me he had to go see his dad) because he was garenteed sex with her and not with me. (That, was not the issue. The issue was him telling me he was out of town at his family home instead of being honest)

I have PTSD and the distance doesn’t help. It’s easier than ever to convince myself I was the one in the wrong. That I’d been ‘obsessed’ as he’d put it the last time I saw him; erasing the fact that he said he loved me first, that he’d never felt this way about anyone and that he’d covered up the fact that he was screwing 3 other women and had been since way before me and only told me because it was the only way to explain the fact that he couldn’t be my boyfriend. (Despite him asking, not me, and changing his mind without telling me three days later)

It’s a horrible thing to say, but I wish his abuse had been physical… this psychological torture he put me through, cutting me off from everyone I knew and manipulating me to the point of explosion, to then scream and shout at me for ‘over reacting’… I don’t know if those scars will ever heal.

I can’t face YALC on the off chance she’ll be there. I don’t go to signings any more because I feel she ‘deserves’ them more than me and i can’t go to Hammersmith without preparing myself for days in bed afterwards because I’m prettified I’ll bump into him.

It hurts but I feel like she has to come first. Clearly she got Richard, while I got Dick. I reached out thinking she’d understand. Oh how I needed someone to understand and tell me there was life beyond Dick. She’d met someone else and moved on; I experienced ‘depression Dick’ for a month to prove it. I just … well, I wanted to know her for her (having to hear about her everyday, you kind of get to know a person and, in all honesty?! She sounded fucking awesome and someone I’d get along with. Dick actually hated that. He hated that I respected her and actually took her side when he went on a rant about her having a boyfriend) but I think she thought it was to keep my ‘claws’ in Dick.

Sorry kiddos, but when a bloke has you in your FAVOURITE restaurant and tells you he’s considering making the girl you were told ‘wasn’t an issue’ his girlfriend, that in comparison you’re ordinary and recounts her sexual preferences (certain things he’d denied you when you asked) that he is happy to do this act because ‘he’s in love’ in a bid to make you react … you don’t want to keep in touch. You want your memory bleached of him. The ONLY thing you wanted was; the feeling of safety and belonging within a community and I was hoping I could avoid a Dick smear campaign (Dick had banned me from attending the 2017 YALC because she would be there so I feared …)

That’s where it ends. I considered finishing that sentence, but whatever I put now won’t be right.

I’m also aware, having had the woman my first boyfriend left me for 10 years ago lurk on my Insta Stories for almost two weeks, perhaps trying to befriend the exes ex was the brightest of moves. It was weird, stupid and not something I would normally do.

  • I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory is out now
  • The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne is out 3rd October 2019 but samplers and the chance to win a proof will be up for grabs at this year’s YALC.

YALC 2019

I will not be attending YALC this year. However, this is more about the fact that I’ve returned to Liverpool to care for my father than PTSD triggered anxiety. Plus, for all the books, photo ops and autographs I’d be wanting… I’d need a lotto win to accommodate. Nah… I’m going to spend next weekend curled up on the couch in the room next door to dad and reading my eyes out.

I will be missing some amazing people. Some wonderful women within the world of YA. I have found my people and I love them dearly.

Love Han x

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Wooly Boys (2001)

Length: 1Hr 39

Rating: PG

Release: 7.10.2001 (no UK release)

About: Two ranchers (Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson) from North Dakota find adventure in Minneapolis after one goes to visit his only daughter.

The Good

  • Kris Kristoffersen and Peter Fonda are names that I’ve always known, however I’m not certain I’ve seen either in anything. They are a brilliant double act from the get go. These are veteran actors doing what they do best and I’m certainly going to be checking out their back catalogues over the coming months. I’m guessing from Kristofferson’s staring role in A Star is Born, he was the Bradley Cooper of the day.
  • It’s hard to make a film in the West and not be a cowboy movie. I’m quite happy that it was able to move beyond the tropes and give a fresh look at modern ranch life.
  • The humour, music and plotting are all sound and give the audience a family film with heart, charm and hope.

The Bad

  • Joe Mazzello’s rare appearance as a teen only appears in the bad because his awesome performance only makes me wish that he’d taken on a few more roles at the time. He’s acting against Fonda and Kristofferson for Christ sake. Lesser actors would have been swallowed whole. Not Mazzello, he not only brings an excellent performance, but is able to create believable and heartfelt relationships with the two men.
  • I’m a bit gutted about the fact that these two Wooly Boys weren’t the original Brokeback. There was a love between them, there’s no denying that, but I’d have love it to have been developed and more overtly romantic rather than platonic. Perhaps even have this as the cause of the rift between father and daughter. Although I can see that perhaps adding a little bitterness to the proceedings. Something it didn’t really need.

The Ugly

  • This film hit me a little too hard in the feels. I know all too well about the man of little words and the rift it can cause. While it’s a sweet film, it weighed a little too heavy for me to be enjoyable.
  • Animal death. It’s the one thing I can’t really deal with in my films and if I was in a position the cry, there’s a scene that would have had me bawling.

Final Thoughts

It’s a well made, expertly acted family drama that feels a little more like a TV movie by today’s standards.

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Film Review: Please Stand By (2017)

Length: 1hr 33
Rating: 12
Release: 26.1.2018 (but is considered a 2017 film due to having its premire on 27.10.2018)
About: Wendy sees things differently: she’s fiercely independent, with a brilliant mind and a mischievous sense of hilarity. Wendy also has autism. To her, people are an indecipherable code and the world is a confusing place. Inspired by her no-nonsense caregiver, Wendy comes of age and escapes from her care home on the road trip of a lifetime to deliver her 500-page script to a screenwriting competition.

The Good

  • Dakota Fanning is wonderful in the part of Wendy, a woman on the spectrum trying to enter a script writing contest. Fanning will be able to demonstrate a detachment from her own emotions while filling you with all of the emotions.
  • Alice Eve and Toni Collette are amazing support. Eve’s role as the sister infuriated me at first, but over the course of the film I felt I had more of an understanding of the position she was in. It is through both characters that you really get an understanding of the specific challenges Wendy faces.
  • Patton Oswalt can do no wrong. He’s an absolute star in this film’s final act. His ability to connect with Wendy will give you the biggest smile and reduce you to tears of joy.

The Bad

While the film’s plot is centered around Star Trek, I’d had loved to have seen more Easter Eggs beyond casting Alive Eve as the sister. It’s a viewer expectation, but it was Trek that caught my attention and I kind of expected to see a few familiar faces along the road.


The Ugly

It felt a little like it was a film about autism rather than it being a film about a character that just so happens to be on the spectrum. It might seem like a petty thing, but its much the same way films with gay central characters have their ‘coming out’ be the focus of the plot.
It makes autism seem like something that needs to be taught, that its a new phenomenon that people need to be held by the hand when exploring. Yes, films like this have the power to inform and educate, but its more important mission is to ensure people on the spectrum have someone to look to. Its as much their film as any others.


Final Thoughts

It’s cute, geeky and will make you cry. Even though it was light on its Trek, I still enjoyed the journey. Not something I’ll rush to rewatch, but I’m glad I caught it before it left Now TV.

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Film Review: X-Men Dark Phoenix (2019)

Length: 1 hr 53

Rating: 12a

Release: 5.6.2019

About: This is the story of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, Jean Grey, as she evolves into the iconic DARK PHOENIX. During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, Jean is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet. The film is the most intense and emotional X-Men movie ever made. It is the culmination of 20 years of X-Men movies, as the family of mutants that we’ve come to know and love must face their most devastating enemy yet — one of their own.

The Good

  • It was an interesting, low key change of pace from the all out action of Avengers Endgame. The drama really takes centre stage and while it wasn’t exactly well executed, it still packed a punch.
  • It was well paced and the Mutant elements are brilliant. The human impact is almost sidelined in order to break the relationship between the X-Men and POTUS. I would have liked that to have been further developed.

The Bad

  • There are a few sketchy sections of CGI in the final showdown. I think I’ve become a bit of a snob, but it does take me out of the moment.
  • Jessica Chastain bugged the hell out of me. I can’t put my finger on why, but for all the mouthing off about human’s being weak, I felt like I could take her out with a well aimed fart. There was no threat. There was no jeopardy.
  • Sophie Turner, while giving a solid effort, is not leading lady material in this sort of film. While she didn’t make me want to tear my own eyes out much like her portrayal of Sansa did, I didn’t feel won over by this performance.
  • If Evan Peters has gained the franchise some amazing reviews in the past, why relegate him to one liners?! I don’t get it. While I was very much over the musical CGI slow mo scenes, I needed more interaction with him.
  • J-Law can act, we know she can, she got the Oscar to prove it. So why couldn’t she act like she wanted to be there? She was not Raven in this film, she was J-Law being J-Law. It’s a shame as bringing her A-game would have really brought some emotion to the film.

The Ugly

  • The biggest flaw lies not necessarily at the feet of this film, but the franchise. As a viewer, I see this section, that began with First Class, and the Stewart/McKellan helmed trilogy one and the same universe. So, my problem is continuity. By the end of this film we should have been all set up and ready to meet Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Only this film introduces a timeline, without spoiling the fate of the characters, that makes the next set of films impossible.
  • Perhaps, then, the biggest problem is that it was essentially a reboot of the Last Stand. Of all the comic incarnations of X-Men, why Fox thought their final film was best being a rehash of a badly received film is beyond me.

Final Thoughts

After such a good film with Booksmart, this feels a little like a franchise killer. So much so that I swerved my third film of the day in fear that it also would be a redundant edition to its franchise (MiB).

It’s a better watch than Last Stand when you consider it in isolation. However, bring in all of the other films and this plays so fast and lose with the laws of franchise continuity, you’d swear Rhian Johnson was behind this outing.

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Booksmart (2019)

Length: 1 hr 42

Rating: 15

Release: 27.5.2019

About: Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high school peers. But on the eve of graduation, the best friends suddenly realize that they may have missed out on the special moments of their teenage years. Determined to make up for lost time, the girls decide to cram four years of not-to-be missed fun into one night — a chaotic adventure that no amount of book smarts could prepare them for.

The Good

  • Last Man Standing’s Kaitlyn Denver is her awesome self in this coming of age drama. Her development throughout the film will charm you and have you wondering where she was when you were in high school. The emotion she brings to the film final act is something you have to see. I predict we’ll be seeing Dever in main stream films very soon.
  • The film on a whole is quite possibly one of the best teen films I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s done away with the fixed stereotypes as much as possible and it certainly has representation and inclusivity bang on the nose. What is most surprising, is that the malice of high school is removed. We have no ‘Carrie’ style humiliation for the outsider.
  • Skylar Gisondo is, as always, a delight to have in a film. He’s shed the loser geek status of ‘Vacation’ but retained the vulnerable quality. It makes for an interesting character you’ll really care for.
  • The scene stealer of the film has to go to Billie Lourd. She’s everything like her mother, and more. I’ll say nothing more; she has to be seen to be believed.
  • It was refreshing to have the American Pie type topics (read: porn, masterbation and performance fears) from a female perspective. It gives a positive and empowering message regarding sex to women. Something I’ve not really seen outside of Sex and the City.

The Bad and The Ugly

I am sick of the teacher trope. Fuck me, I’m so tired of it. In an age where we’re calling out the Weinstein’s of the world and demanding diversity and equality, I want Hollywood to kill the social acceptance of a teacher fucking a student in a movie and there being no consequence. As someone who left the profession recently, you are not doing us any favours Hollywood. You’re rose tinting the fuck out of statutory rape and a gross misuse of power, and its not cool. In fact, you’re making it easier for predators because you’re not only telling kids that it can happen but you’re telling them to embrace it, when in fact you should be telling them to run!

It’s pretty much the only thing I didn’t like, but it really sucks.

Final Thoughts

It’s an excellent indie film that pushes all the boundaries that have been set over the past decade or so and needs to be seen by everyone. Gone is the belter soundtrack you’ll be racing to buy, the tour of the cafeteria with all the cliques and its all for the better.

It’s not a family time watch, but its uplifting, inspiring and empowering.

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Blog Tour: My Secret Lies With You’s Faye Bird shares her favourite mysteries

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

A genuinely intriguing book with an entirely punchy style – we don’t feel a pervasive darkness here, as is often the case with mysteries. What hooks us in is the voice of main character Miranda and a desire to find out the truth of the strange happenings around her. And there are plenty of those. The book is full of surprise and oddity, but Rebecca Stead’s pithy, sharp, upbeat tone pulls us along with wonderfully short hooky chapters so that nothing about this book feels too contrived or drawn out. The plot feels complex enough to make the reader work, but the narrative style so compelling that you find yourself simply being happily taken along for the ride. You wait for everything to be laid out for you at the end, and you aren’t disappointed. There are some beautifully economic, well-judged descriptions – Miranda’s Mum’s boyfriend Richard is described as “…the way I picture guys on sailboats – tall, blond and very tucked in, even on weekends.” Brilliant. There’s a lovely description, which we return to, about seeing the world. Miranda’s mum says we all see it as if from under a veil. If we take off the veil and peek out we “…see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love.” Miranda goes on to explain that her Mum uses this not to explain God or angels or magic but rather that “…most of the time people get distracted by little stuff and ignore the big stuff.” This is how we survive. The New York setting sits perfectly with the tone, and once you read the book you won’t be surprised to learn that Rebecca Stead has talked openly about her huge debt in writing this novel to Madeleine Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. When You Reach Me is a quirky upbeat novel that beautifully encapsulates the quote at the start: “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.” Albert Einstein, The World As I See It (1931). If you haven’t read it already, then certainly a recommendation from me.

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High Lonesome: A Father for Charlie (1995)

Length: 1Hr 27

Release: 1.1.1995

Rating: 12

About: Based on a true story. A poor black sharecropper strikes up an unlikely friendship with a hostile young white boy – but their budding friendship is threatened by a brutal red-neck sheriff.

The Good

  • The story is able to be told in a realistic and gritty way without an overuse of offensive language. It was my biggest worry going into the film as it pains me to see and hear the mistreatment of people, especially in regards to something they have no control over.
  • The story is important. The only thing that upsets me, is how important the message still is today. The blind and learned hatred, not only from Charlie, but the entire town is something that is still in society today. Having Osgood’s actions and kindness change the views of a child is one thing, but there’s an unexpected ally to be found by the film’s closing scenes.
  • The gravitas in which Louis Gossett Jr holds himself throughout the film as the sole man of colour, Walter Osgood, is incredibly moving. There are many scenes in which Gossett Jnr is conversing with his wife’s grave stone. He holds the viewers attention effortlessly. I’d watch him in anything, and I’m quite surprised I’m unfamiliar with his name.
  • Joe Mazzello’s portrayal of Charlie is quite possibly one of his best. His accent is solid and he is able to present a head strong young boy who has been neglected by the one person he needed. How someone at 12 years old, with no academic training, can act the shit out of a complex character is beyond me. His scene with the Sheriff ( the ever brilliant William Fichtner), in which he bluffs about his relationship with Walter will have your heart in your mouth.
  • At the heart of this movie is the relationship between Charlie and Walter. It only works because of the two actors you have in the roles. The chemistry of the two is believable and charming; the frosty learned behaviour melts so easily with just a little bit of kindness. Not many actors of Mazzello’s age could bring the conceited innocence, vulnerability and ‘old soul’ charm to the role.

The Bad

I’ve never liked the presence of the KKK within films. It’s a personal thing that breaks my heart and keeps me agnostic; how can an organisation perform such horrific acts and claim to be religious?! Scenes that subtly and overtly express their actions and views make for this to be a rather difficult and uncomfortable watch.

The Ugly

The music is really the only big giveaway that this period film is in fact a TV movie. I want to rescore the whole film as I found the light and, at times, humorous tone a little jarring in contrast to the narratives subject content.

Final Thoughts

It is a well made, superbly acted film. It’s not going to be a film I watch often as there are scenes that upset me greatly, however it is certainly a good film to watch in order to put the treatment of people of colour into context.

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Small Soldiers (1998)

Length: 1Hr 48

Rating: PG

Release date: 23rd October 1998 (interestingly, I saw it 24th December 1998. I’m not certain a film like this would survive that long at the cinemas today)

About: When teenager Alan (Gregory Smith) buys a set of Commando Elite action figures, he’s unaware that they have been programmed with military technology. The toys, including leader Chip (Tommy Lee Jones), spring to life and start taking their directives seriously, beginning by “killing” their enemies, the toy Gorgonites. But Archer (Frank Langella) and the Gorgonites won’t go down without a fight. Alan gets caught in the middle of the war, as does his neighbor and crush, Christy (Kirsten Dunst).

First Thoughts

This was a film I saw with my brother Christmas Eve 1998. It sticks out in my memory as one of my favourite and best cinema experiences. Not to sat that the film is the best or my favourite, however over time it’s certainly been a go to movie.

The Good

  • It’s got a solid good versus evil plot with the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites. I especially love the casting of actors from The Dirty Dozen and Spinal Tap to play the warring groups.
  • The teens thrown into a world where they have to fend for themselves is a theme Joe Dante works well with. I don’t know if it’s because I was a teen myself when I first saw this, but I think I relate much more to this than Gremlins.
  • I will always love the line about Spice Girls being used as psychological warfare. In 1998, the Spice Girls had not only saturated the market and tormented parents all around the world, but they were close to saying ‘goodbye, my friend.’ I think I was offended at the time, but I have a chuckle.
  • I love the Geendy Doll revolt with Christina Ricci and Sarah Michelle Gellar torturing Kirsten Dunst. While in Toy Story, it’s disturbing here I just find it awesome.
  • On the most part, the CGI is okay. You can sometimes tell between the puppetry and the graphics, but it’s still better than some of the shoddy CGI that is in place in today’s movies.
  • Hi, I’m Phil Hartman. You may recognise me and my voice from films like Jingle All the Way and the tv show The Simpson’s. Yup, that’s right, Springfield’s own Troy McClure takes on the role of Christy’s self centred father. Sadly, Hartman was tragically killed shortly before the film’s release. While the character does seem like the ever present archetype from Dante’s back catalogue (Murray in Gremlins, Rumsfeld in The ‘Burbs) Hartman does make it so much his own that you will be forgiven for not making the connection the first time you watch.

The Bad

As much as I think Gregory Smith does a fine job as Alan, and he certainly works well alongside the CGI leader of the Gorgonites… why would I want him if I could have had my favourite actor at the time (and now). Learning that the studio’s/Joe Dante’s first choice for Alan-Now-Shut-Up was Joe Mazzello is a little bittersweet.

What Joe looked like the year Small Soldiers was filmed

The Ugly

Perhaps it’s the fact that it is a little too similar to Gremlins. It’s the Jurassic Park to Gremlins’ West World. It feels a little been there watched that. When you strip in down, all its parts are gained from previous work. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but for it to work, it has to be better. For me, without Dante’s wild child Corey Feldman taking up some screen time, it will NEVER be better.

Final Thoughts

It’s a decent way to burn an hour or so. It’s not flawless, but it is fun and certain provides a case that Joe Dante is a main stream auteur or a one-trick pony. Something I’m hoping to explore in the upcoming weeks by having a Dante retrospective.

Do you know your Dante?

What’s your favourite creation of his?

Han x

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Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Length: 1Hr 46

Rating: 12a

Release: 21st July 2017

About:In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.

The Good

For me, this has the feel and style of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan with an excellent stock of known and unknown British actors. For a War movie, I don’t think you can ask more than that.

Both Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh really are amazing in their roles. Neither is a stranger to stoic roles which is clear from their performances.

I actually found the lack of action in the form of on the ground battles quite refreshing and offered something completely different from films that have come before it.

Again, I feel as if this film wasn’t sugar coating war and laid some of the truths out there. While it’s very much a work of artistic licence, there are elements of truth to ensure this isn’t propaganda or censored sudo-history.

The Bad

I struggled with the time framing of the three elements: the land, sea and air. From about half way, there were people (Cillian Murphy being one) who doubled up in the narrative. While with Murphy, it acted almost like a flash back, other scenes didn’t quite work as well and it felt disjointed. I found it particularly difficult with Tom Hardy’s narrative as we’d cut from the grounded pilot and reaction shot to Tom Hardy and the same grounded pilot up in the air.

I didn’t invest in any of the characters other than the family on the Moonstone. They all seemed like a representation of ‘soldiers’ than individuals. For a character driven plot, I really need to be invested and certainly with our teen, Tommy, I needed conviction.

Not addressing Gibson’s mute nature sooner I found a bit distressing. I called it the moment we discover him burying an bootless foot. Perhaps I’m still too in the head of E B Sledge, but challenge him Tommy!! While it’s evident later that he’s not the enemy, the audience don’t know that.

The Ugly

For the first time, I’m not certain Hans Zimmer’s score complimented what was on the screen. Yes, it was tense. So tense in fact that three times I had to pause the film and take a break. However, there was either an instrument, chord or tone that was too reminiscent of Tron and Daft Punk’s electro pulses to gel with a period piece. (Clearly the two Oscar’s Dunkirk won for sound would imply I’m talking utter bollocks. However, I will stand by my opinion and state that I didn’t like it)

Love Han x

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Book Review : With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E B Sledge

The Pacific miniseries from HBO was a challenge for me to watch. I found it enlightening, distressing and heartbreaking. Out of the three men The Pacific followed, Eugene Sledge was the one I had the most questions about, particularly after his conversation with Robert Lecke about faith.

I contacted the one person I figured would have an answer to my question: did Sledge’s bitterness and experience of war have an impact on his faith?

I fully intended to buy Sledge’s memoir anyway, but I was quite surprised when I got a thoughtful response telling me that the war reinforced his faith and that there was something important that didn’t make it into the show. Cue me purchasing a copy for my Kindle there and then and devouring the first 20%.

Having spent so many years of my career developing lessons to explain why a religious person is a consciences objector and the reasons why religions disagree with war. So my main motivation for reading was to see Sledge’s religious commentary and thoughts throughout the war. I always considered them being at odds with each other; either being the cause of a conflict or the reason for someone to avoid the fight.

Sledge’s voice is the most prominent feature of this 300 paged memoir. From his enlistment to the island clean ups, Sledge gives a stark and honest retelling of his experiences. It’s written in such a way that I’m surprised it’s not a book already on high school recommended reading lists; it’s written with sincerity and as a reader you will instantly respect the veteran marine who could have had a much easier life.

It’s by no means an entertaining or an escape read, but it is rewarding as much as it is difficult and something I will come back to in the future. There’s so much to be learnt from Sledge; engrained hatred and prejudice, politics and spirituality. Never have I seen such an open commentary that doesn’t expect anything of you as a reader. Well, at least it didn’t feel like that. The only censoring he did was on the parts of other people.

The description of the horror, brutality and casualties will haunt you. No film or video game will prepare you for the sights, smells and sensations.

The commentary of Sledge’s faith is there enough to understand that it’s something of an intimate experience for him. There’s definitely a sense that there’s more than he says, but you certainly can tell he had a deep rooted bond with his religion. It’ll be something that readers won’t need to read too much into, should it not be an important theme to explore. However, there were two lines that said more to me than the rest of the book. Having a religious experience (not that he names it this in the book) and when he describes having it is very telling. It’s something I’d have loved to have sat down and spoken to him about if he was so inclined.

In terms of the print itself, I would advise against an ecopy given the number of references that are all complied at the end of each chapter. There is the benefit of changing the font size, but not having the notes closer to the passage in question does lose the flow and I found in this case, having a physical copy of the book benefitted me greatly.

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Blog Tour: Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans

About:
Laura was dying. There was no cure for her illness. So her family decided to grasp a desperate last hope – Laura was frozen until she could be cured.
But what happens when you wake up one day and the world has moved on forty years? Your best friend is middle-aged, your parents presumed dead. Could you find a new place to belong? Could you build a new life – while solving the mystery of what happened to the old one?
Dark secrets lurk in the future of the girl from the past…

Characters

Lara and Shem are two very lonely characters that are very much disenfranchised from the world in which they live. While Shem simply tries to hide and live an easy life, Lara is thrown into a life she’s not sure she’s ready for.
Lara is someone everyone should relate to on one level or another. She’s the perfect companion for navigating this futuristic world. 

Story

It’s a glorious mystery thriller with a retro, Stranger Things, vibe. The bulk of the story is told from the perspective of Lara, but we get snippets of the life Shem to keep the narrative flowing.

The asymmetry of the duel narrative works really well to keep the reader off balance and on edge; the perfect feels for a thrilling read. It’s pace slows just enough in parts for you to catch your breath and contemplate what you’d do if you were Lara.

Just like with an episode of Black Mirror, you think you’ve got everything figured out and the rug is pulled from right under you. It doesn’t matter if you prepare for the fall you because it’s all part of the amazing ride.

Writing

The first person writing allows the reader to feel the claustrophobic challenges both Lara and Shem face. Being told from the perspective of our main characters removes the omniscient voice that would solve the mystery. It also allows the reader to relate to either, or both, Lara and Shem.

Final Thoughts

I could not get through this book fast enough. It’s the perfect read to take the edge off the wait for Stranger Things and Black Mirror to gift us with new episodes.   

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Film Review: Simon Birch (1998)

Length: 1hr 54

Rating: PG

Release: 25th June 1999

About: Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) and Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello) are boys who have a reputation for being oddballs. Joe never knew his father, and his mother, Rebecca (Ashley Judd), is keeping her lips sealed, no matter how much he protests. Simon, meanwhile, is an 11-year-old dwarf whose outsize personality belies his small stature. Indeed, he often assails the local reverend (David Strathairn) with thorny theological questions and joins Joe on his quest to find his biological father.

The Good

  • The plot- memoir meets mystery. Has the Stand by Me vibe that was popular in the 90s. Nothing says Sunday afternoon movie more than a 1950’s nostalgic flash back with a calming ‘Wonder Years’ narration.
  • Jim Carey as the older Joe/narrator really works. He has a beautiful voice that really carries the memoir tone. Something that really surprises me seeing as the last thing I saw him in was Earth Girls Are Easy.
  • Oliver Platt is somewhat of an underrated actor in my opinion. This film is a perfect example of what a rich performance he can bring to the table and how he is able to balance humour, charm and charisma. He could not have been in this move enough.
  • Joe Mazzello and Ian Michael Smith Have this amazing chemistry throughout the film that I want so many movies with the two of them. Joe always seems comfortable within the 50s and this film sees him give some of his most powerful scenes I’ve ever had the privilege to see. From standing up to Simon’s excuse for a father to his response to the ‘lefty’ reveal, Mazzello gives emotion by the bucket load. It’s hard not to see the parallels with Three Wishes, but watch them in close succession and you can see how much stronger a person in a similar circumstance can be so different with a true best friend to escape with. Less brat and more of a level head makes Joe of Birch a favourite character of mine.
  • Ian Michael Smith gives the most incredible performance. I hate the response of the adults, including those within the church. He is a beautiful and caring child, despite the discouragement he experiences. There’s a cheeky side to the character that makes this film such a joy to watch despite the bittersweet ending you know is coming.

The Bad

  • I’m sad we lost the relationship between Rebecca and Ben so soon. While it does have an impact on his relationship with Joe, and I love their bond, I’d have loved to have seen them as a family unit a little more.

The Ugly

  • It’s all ‘My Girl’ in places so prepare yourself with a tissue or, you know, a million. Although while My Girl gives you a really amazing happy ride until that blub-fest, this will have your eyes like Niagara Falls from the midway point onwards.
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Film Review: Aladdin (1992)

Length: 1Hr 30

Rating: U

Release: 17th November 1992

About: When street rat Aladdin frees a genie from a lamp, he finds his wishes granted. However, he soon finds that the evil has other plans for the lamp — and for Princess Jasmine. But can Aladdin save Princess Jasmine and his love for her after she sees that he isn’t quite what he appears to be?

First things first

This was my birthday movie for 1992. My neighbour went to see it just before Christmas and invited me, but I was a tool and turned the offer down under the argument of ‘it’s my birthday movie’. I was very surprised when my dad picked this to watch, but I suspect it’s because he wants to watch the new one that’s about to be released and can’t get to the cinema.

The Good

• Robin Williams marked a change in animation. Yes, Angela Lansbury had leant her vocal talents to Mrs Potts the year before, but she had always been part of the Disney stable and I would argue her box office potential. Williams brought about the start of employing box office stars to headline animations. What a choice it was?! There’s been so much talk about the upcoming live-action release and that’s centred around the casting of the Genie. How can anyone replace someone who made the role iconic?!

• It’s not only Williams’ familiar tones that we all love, it’s his humour that has adults and children alike belly laughing. The imitations and nods to pop culture are perfect and make sure that adults feel invested in the film too.

• The music is delightful and I think I prefer it to The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. It has a happy beat, reminiscent of Jungle Book that you will always hum for hours after finishing the film. My personal favourite is Prince Ali. The only shame is that the songs are front heavy and we only get a brief reprise and reworking of Prince Ali at the climax.

• My favourite characters will always be Abu, the monkey and the carpet! I love the humour gained from both. I would say the Carpet is the precursor to BB-8; cute but sassy.

The Bad

• There are a few scenes that are using the high tech computer graphics. Only problem is, that what was high tech in 1992 no longer looks the case. As a result, the escape from the cave of wonders and some of the palace doesn’t blend as well with the rest of the traditional animation. It is perhaps why it’s not long before the Mouse House trade in traditional methods for a consistent computer created approach.

The Ugly

• It’s very Hollywood and very white washed. While the story is, without a doubt, perfect this was one of the animations in Disney Vault that should be given the makeover treatment. The animations are perhaps ‘culture neutral’, however when you see that most of the voices are produced by white Americans, it’s hard to deny it’s a little questionable. It’s certainly enough for me to feel a little uncomfortable and welcome the new live action.

(Side bar): I find it quite interesting how many people of ethnic origins are voicing white characters in animations. I’m not sure where I stand on this; should it go with the ‘no straight actor should play a gay character’? It’s something I want to consider further, but surely if I’m offended by Anthony Hopkins black facing Othello, this is of a similar ilk?

Final Thoughts

Casting aside, this is a perfect animated classic; funny, action packed and with a good hearted protagonist.

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Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

This was an Easter cinema trip for me and my mum in 1997. I’d wanted to see Men in Black, but mum refused point blank. The Lisa Kudrow film with the pinks and glitter would be more up her street, right?! Well, she took me and I enjoyed it. I remember her saying she regretted it, but I wasn’t certain why until rewatching it years later.

The Good

• It’s a cool, quirky and funny story that nearly everyone can relate to. It’s retro camp, styled beautifuly and the only thing that improves it, is going to an independent cinema and being handed a post-it by the boy behind.

• The sound track is fabulous. It’s that retro vibe that’s in right now. Hadn’t spotted it the millions of times before, but Whip It is played at the prom.

• Janeane Garoflo was the definition of angry sarcasm in the 90s and she steals any scene she’s in. Underused, as she is in many movies, but she’s certainly memorable and the film manages to give her a strong story arc that I prefer to the main two.

• Alan Cumming is a sweet, low key Hugh Grant in this. He’s able to switch from geek to chic with ease, but the perfect part is that he’s a likeable love interest. Perhaps rather unknown at the time, to me he was part of the High Life cabin crew and has forever remained a joy to watch.

• It’s as quotable as other 90s films, but the killer line comes after the quick outfit change. Who hasn’t wanted to bark Romy’s Line “and I don’t give a flying fuck what you think…” to their bully? It’s pure brilliance.

The Bad

• I still find that the dream sequence throws off the narrative. While it’s weird enough for me to like it in itself, as part of this film it’s very out there.

• The tone and it’s perceived target audience is totally off. It’s not the double entendre humour of Shrek; that ‘he’s making up for something’ that gets the parents chuckling, but a much more obvious humour that doesn’t altogether fit well with a film that could double with Clueless.

The Ugly

• That dance. It’s unbelievably cringe. As with the dream sequence, there are times when I watch and love it and its certainly what makes this film a cult classic, but it would never help Romy and Michele’s cause.

• Alan Cumming in the dream sequence is too ‘blow up doll’. It freaks me out and is as not, as Michele puts it, ‘dreamy’. I’d put it in with the same trope of the ‘ugly’ girl who just needs her glasses taken off to make her ‘hot’.

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Avengers: Endgame Spoiler free review

Length: 3hr 1
Rating: 12a
Release date: 25.4.2019
About: Adrift in space with no food or water, Tony Stark sends a message to Pepper Potts as his oxygen supply starts to dwindle. Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers — Thor, Black Widow, Captain America and Bruce Banner — must figure out a way to bring back their vanquished allies for an epic showdown with Thanos — the evil demigod who decimated the planet and the universe.
Trailer:

The Good

  • The first thing I’m sure people want to know is; does it do justice with the three hours? Yes, it does. It keeps a good pace and I’d say every minute is needed.
  • The characters are working more as a team as they ever have before. There’s a balance between all of the heroes and much like Infinity War, they boost each other, rather than fight for screen time.
  • It’s a clever plot that pulls together 10 years of MCU. It’s not ‘Bad Wolf’ smart, but its certainly Trash Panda ‘I need a…’ clever.
  • Nothing about Endgame is done to appease fans. There are nods, winks and Easter eggs but there’s no doubt in my mind, plot-wise, this is the Russo vision and there’s been no changes based on fan reaction.
  • Finally we have an Avenger’s crew that women can be proud of. The beauty of it is not that there’s a crew of bad-ass women looking out for each other, and the universe, but that it feels organic.

The Bad

  • There are some characters that don’t get the screen time they deserve or need. It’s hard to talk about without giving certain things away, but there are a few; old and new that needed something else.
  • I can’t help but think that Marvel/ Mouse House have deliberately made Bruce Banner/ Hulk shit so we’ll stop asking for a Mark Ruffalo stand alone. I do understand there needs to be a character arc over the ten year, three-phased saga, however he’s gone from character to caricature. Banner’s outcome aside, it’s fair to say Endgame does not do him justice.

The Ugly

  • There are so many ugly tear inducing moments. Bloody hell, it was like My Sister’s Keeper for me at some points (as in tears, not plot)
  • It has a very choppy start; like a stalling car. It does take what I feel is about 20 minutes to really get going. Some may argue that it mirrors Avengers Assemble opening, but when we’ve waited a year with baited breath, we really should hit the ground running. There’s at least one scene I would have pulled over from Endgame and had within the final moments of Infinity War. It wouldn’t have solved my biggest gripe, but it would have had me a little worried.
  • Its 3 hours. Believe me, it doesn’t feel like it. Not in the way that you feel every single minute of Civil War. It’s a clear-ish cut three act film with ONE epilogue and I walked away wanting more added, not less. So why am I putting this in my version of room 101?! Well, I was raised in awe of the cinema; toilet breaks were taken on pain of death. Three hours is a walk in the park for me when I can see it’s well made. However, the motherfucker in front of me who not only PAID, but UPGRADED made me feel time passing when he would check his phone EVERY THREE FUCKING MINUTES. Luckily, I wasn’t taking it; so I had words and the phone at least remained out of my eye line for the remainder of the movie. My worry is obvious; this was the first available screening of the first day. What’s it going to be like going forward?

Final Thoughts

I have some issues with Endgame, but that will have to wait until my spoiler-fueled rant. That aside, this is what the MCU has been working towards for ten years and its worthy of Stan Lee’s final cameo. I don’t think those involved with Iron Man’s origin even dreamed that a decade later, we’d have this epic. I think it will tick everyone’s boxes and the Russo brother’s have redeemed the ‘Avenger’ movies after Joss crashed and burned.
It’s a strong MCU film, its a strong piece of cinema and JJ is now undoubtedly shitting his pants.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments
Love Han x

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Blog Tour King of Fools by Amanda Foody

BOOK INFORMATION

King of Fools (The Shadow Game #2)

by Amanda Foody

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Release Date: April 30th 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

 

About:

 

Indulge your vices in the City of Sin, where a sinister street war is brewing and fame is the deadliest killer of them all…

On the quest to find her missing mother, prim and proper Enne Salta became reluctant allies with Levi Glaisyer, the city’s most famous con man. Saving his life in the Shadow Game forced Enne to assume the identity of Seance, a mysterious underworld figure. Now, with the Chancellor of the Republic dead and bounties on both their heads, she and Levi must play a dangerous game of crime and politics…with the very fate of New Reynes at stake.

Thirsting for his freedom and the chance to build an empire, Levi enters an unlikely partnership with Vianca Augustine’s estranged son. Meanwhile, Enne remains trapped by the mafia donna’s binding oath, playing the roles of both darling lady and cunning street lord, unsure which side of herself reflects the truth.

As Enne and Levi walk a path of unimaginable wealth and opportunity, new relationships and deadly secrets could quickly lead them into ruin. And when unforeseen players enter the game, they must each make an impossible choice: To sacrifice everything they’ve earned in order to survive…

Or die as legends.

 

BOOK LINKS

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37545571-king-of-fools

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2EdWU6R

Bookdepository: https://www.bookdepository.com/King-Fools-AMANDA-FOODY/9781848457300?ref=grid-view&qid=1550352060049&sr=1-1

Review

This was a wonderful read. I was hooked from the first chapter and I fell in love with Levi from the very start. I haven’t read Ace of Shades, but Foody does a good job at keeping newbies in the loop. While I don’t think I’ve lost anything by reading this first, I do feel I’ve got everything to gain in terms of my connection to the characters.

Whether intended or not, I got a very steampunk vibe from the world building which added a richness to what developed over the 600 pages. This story-verse would work well on film; whether is be in a live action or animated form.

It ends with enough of the plot resolved for readers to be satisfied, but if the final chapter doesn’t pull a gasp from you; you’ve been reading it wrong.

I can’t wait to read the final instalment, but I guess I can distract myself with the first outing in the meantime.

Songlist

Wanted: Dead or Alive/ Bon Jovi

Summer in the City/ The Lovin’ Spoonful

There’s a Reason These Tables are Numbered Hunny, you just haven’t realised it yet/ Panic! @ the Disco

Poker Face/ Chris Draughty

Dream Cast

Levi– Keiynan Lonsdale

Harrison Augustine – Joe Mazzello

Jac Mardlin– Jack Gleeson

Vianca– Bryce Dallas Howard or Rachelle Lefevre

Enne– Maisie Williams

Lola– Zenaya

Grace– Katherine Langford

TOUR SCHEDULE

Please include this link on all your posts

http://fantasticflyingbookclub.blogspot.com/2019/03/tour-schedule-king-of-fools-shadow-game.html

 

GIVEAWAY

Prize: Win a copy of KING OF FOOLS by Amanda Foody (US Only)

Starts: 22nd April, 2019

Ends: 6th May, 2019

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Emily Eternal by M G Wheaton

About: Meet Emily – she can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets and even fix your truck’s air con, but unfortunately, she can’t restart the Sun.

‘A visionary work of science fiction’ Blake Crouch, author of DARK MATTER

She’s an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.

So, her beloved human race is screwed, and so is Emily. That is, until she finds a potential answer buried deep in the human genome. But before her solution can be tested, her lab is brutally attacked, and Emily is forced to go on the run with two human companions – college student Jason and small-town Sheriff, Mayra.

As the sun’s death draws near, Emily and her friends must race against time to save humanity. But before long it becomes clear that it’s not only the species at stake, but also that which makes us most human.

Characters

Emily is the strangest main character I’ve ever had the pleasure to have met on a literary journey. Experiencing the story from the sole perspective of an AI, one that feels and learns gives a unique voice to her. Her skills and personality are engaging and you are emotionally invested from the start.

Jason is only ever seen through Emily’s eyes, but he’s a likeable character and I do enjoy Emily’s conflict in her engagement with him.

Plot

The plot is a high octane ticking clock. It kept my heart racing from the moment all hell broke loose up until the moment Emily Eternal resolved.

Writing

It was the writing that made sure I was able to follow this otherwise high concept story. The form grounded the characters and the plot in such a way that removed any confusion that would have been present at the hands of another author.

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Pet Sematary

The Good

I loved how it was set within King’s Maine universe and even Derry is referenced. It pleases the purists to have those little nods and I can’t deny, I get that little buzz for noticing the Easter Egg.

John Lithgow is a welcome addition to the cast, if not a little underused. He stands among some great comedians who are able to play the darker characters with as much conviction.

Befriending young Elle could have come across a little Operation Yewtree, especially knowing King’s writing. The film being able to stay away from even undertones of creep is remarkable. There’s also a wonderful meta nod to one of Lithgow’s previous roles which was quite good.

The rest of the cast give solid performances. Notably Jason Clarke’s decent into madness/ desperation reminded me why I enjoy films with him in.

The ending is refreshing. It’s not overly rewarding or satisfying in terms of a plot resolution, but it’s definitely different.

The Bad

It’s a remake of a horror. The problem with the genre today is that it relies too much on the fast and noisy shocks that, in some cases, border on elements of torture porn that became prominent with the release of Hostel. Yes, I jump. Yes, I close my eyes when the music alerts me to a ’jump’ that’s about to happen, but I’m not thinking about it once I leave the cinema. It doesn’t chill me to the bone like some horrors did.

The Ugly

It’s Horror is in the gore and that’s really not for me. There was just a little too much of it.

With this being a King adaptation there are some plot points that seem to come from the boon and are a little redundant; Rachel’s past and sensitivity to death feels like it should connect with the rest of the story, but it never does, it has not true resolution and I can’t help but wonder if the film would have benefited from discarding this thread.

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Hellboy

Release: 11.4.2019

Rating: 15

Length: 2Hr 1

About: Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.

The Good

• Ian McShane stole the show for me. He’s long shed his humble Lovejoy roots, and he’s as much a staple in the American home now. He takes on the role of Hellboy’s adoptive father and plays it perfectly. There’s no apologises for the task he undertakes and he doesn’t handle Big Red with kid gloves.

• Harbour was essentially give a poisoned chalice. He had a big hand to fill and fans were never going to cut him a break. Add to this the tiny budget in comparison to Pearlman’s outing, it was always going to be a hard sell. Aside from a few times in which dialogue was mangled by Big Red’s prosthesis I’d say he did really well with the script he had to work with. I got What Harbour was trying to achieve with Red’s conflicted soul and it would have been perfect if the film gave that room to grow.

• I enjoyed the Arthurian legend coming into play and it was refreshing to see the film opening on a prologue about this. I’d have perhaps like to have seen this streamlined a little and even perhaps had Red’s arc focusing on him finding Excalibur.

• Course, it has to be a Scouser who helps bring about the apocalypse. It was awesome to hear current Line of Duty star Stephen Graham cursing his way through the film.

• I really liked the music. Not sure if they were quite reworkings, but they fit the film and I’d be happy to have the album.

• Thomas Haden Church was a wonderful addition as Lobster Johnson. I’m only sad we didn’t get to see more.

The Bad

• The accents of Daniel Dae Kim and Sasha Lane we’re so bad they bordered on offensive. Lane’s clashed with what we saw of her visually; nothing screamed that is was necessary for her to have the abomination RP that Lane insisted on having. Yes, I’m aware I’ve been spoiled with Joe Mazzello’s perfect iteration of John Deacon’s weirdly wonderful dialect (ironically, I was worried), but it came across lazy.

• Some of the plot and dialogue was at best clunky, but on the most part it was the biggest problem with the whole thing. It was lines like ‘if my face could talk…’ that gave a whole new meaning to cringe and the Osiris Club sub plot was a pointless exposition exercise that revealed its hand scenes earlier and removed any tension that may have been building.

• Another trailer and scene reveal misstep when it comes to Dae Kim’s Daimio. Obviously, for fans of the comic, it was known that Daimio is cursed to turn into a Jaguar at times of stress. However, the film tried to tease us with this and not outwardly reveal his condition until the final act. However, that proverbial and literal cat was out the bag and it really renders some storytelling pointless.

The Ugly

• The CGI was atrocious. I’ve seen my brother create scenes with his phone that were better than this. It was most obvious in scenes were Hellboy was facing off against some beastie or other and was very telling of the budget the film had.

• What happened to the cats?! That was the one thing I loved about Pearlman’s version. It was such a beautiful visual. Plus… cats!

Final Thoughts

I was a decent watch, but much like the other outings; I’m not going to rush for a rewatch any time soon.

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Why the Exam Process is Fundamentally Flawed in England!

Consider this a Will McAvoy style rant, in part inspired by a conversation I had with the wonderful Non Pratt and our viewing of the GCSES2019 feed yesterday. Enter at your own risk… All views are my own and don’t seek to throw shade on any school I’ve worked in, but instead the government that is needing a detention!

I’ve been out of teaching four months now and I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that the state of education is not what I signed up for 10 years ago.

I have always been the sort of teacher who is proud of every child, regardless of their result. There is one condition; they have had to have tried their best.

Why? Why am I someone who never wrote “I’m disappointed” or “Must do better.”? Mainly because each and every year we put thousands of students (and teachers) into our own brand of kobayashi maru.

Right now it’s the Easter holidays for most schools. But their doors are not closed. Teacher’s have spent the week’s before scrambling Battle Royale-style to claim students for their ‘Easter School” and are currently making their way home from an intensive day of revision.

Students on the other hand are venting their frustrations on Twitter. Overwhelmed, stressed and anxious; year 11 students are making themselves ill.

I’m no longer on the front line, reassuring students that their health is more important and giving them the easy methods and tricks to revision; something I’d integrated into year 9 once I’d realised the new specifications where mere memory tests and no longer a test of anyone’s ability or skill. After all, revision at such an early stage moves information from short term memory to long term.

There are so many overlapping problems that I’m not certain where you would even start when it comes to fixing the issues.

Firstly, there is the issue of grading. Certainly since I started to train back in 2009 grade boundaries have been set not only post-exam, but post marking. This actually infuriates me. For the previous specification that ran for five years, there was an average increase on all grade boundaries of 5 – 10% until the passing C grade was an eye watering 70%. Only yesterday I saw a student wishing for everyone to do badly so that they could pass. No child’s grade should rest on the performance of others.

It also puts teacher’s in a stressful position. The one question that was posed to me repeatedly over the last few years has been ‘how many marks do I need to get the next grade?’ I answered in a way that perhaps the educational system was not wanting, but was perhaps the most honest; I didn’t know. I could tell students how to revise, I could give students the skills to answer the questions, but I could not tell them a true answer to what would help them cut corners. Student’s never liked it and only some understood. However, had I actually blagged an answer that would have placated them, but remove any flexibility in answering questions and any value to what I was teaching beyond the exam season.

Some teachers however do answer the question and it does give students confidence. However, they sit the exam and they do well. They jump through the hoops. Then, someone post-exam makes those hoops smaller. WHY? Why is that okay? Why is that fair?

Exam questions are assigned points based upon their complexity. Some subjects have their questions written at the start of the specification. If these questions have a value and demonstrate a skill; those grade boundaries should be fixed; allowing students and teachers to know exactly where they stand and ensuring that the grades are a true reflection of individual’s hard work.

But of course, the government isn’t really interested in fixing grade boundaries in order to give a true reflection of individuals or their abilities. Those leaders of education within the government are too scared of having a ‘weak’ cohort, they don’t have faith in young minds or the professionals within a system they’ve never worked in.

Government wants good results and statistics so that the data can be compared with other countries who are working within the IB framework. Yup, not only have we allowed government to restrict choices; it’s of no benefit to those who go through the stress.

Instead of pushing back against this, we’ve assimilated. Teacher’s pay, health and happiness in a vocation they’ve probably chosen long ago (I know I did) has been sacrificed so Britain can have a pissing contest with France and all those other countries we’re trying so hard to break away from.

This skewed motivation for the exam results is then filtered down. It skews how we teach; instead of the skills and independence that will enable a year 11 to answer ANY question, we (and I was guilty of this) throw out formulas and rigid methods of answers questions. Last years GCSES2018 feed was full of students before the English exam petrified that they would only be able to answer a question on three characters within Of Mice and Men; Lenny, George and the bird in the red dress.

We do it because we are pressured into grade orientated goals. We’re given a % pass rate target for a class, often irrespective of the ability. One year, early in my career I worked my arse off to drag some disenfranchised and unfocused students up to a predicted grade C. Was I thanked in the three weeks before the exam? Nope, I was asked what I would do to get them a B! These were students who were targeted Ds and Es. And my pay progression depended on these students playing ball on the day.

The best set of results I ever got? They were ones the school didn’t care about as they were sat in year 10; meaning they don’t count towards the aforementioned pissing contest. It meant I was able to teach my 35 students a three year course, in a year after school. The cohort was independent, chilled and confident. Not only did they get awesome grades that smashed their targets, a year 8 sibling of one got a C! At no point did a single child whinge that I didn’t tell them something. They all knew it was on them and they were there because they wanted to be.

What needs to happen?

• Have set grade boundaries

• Stop comparing the country’s results to others

• Stop performance related pay being linked to exam success

• Let teachers do their god-damn job

• Stop ranking your schools by results

• Reform the exams so they’re skill and knowledge focused and not simply memory tests

• Put someone that has worked in a school in charge of education

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Wonder Park Review 2019

Release Date: 8.4.2019
Rating: PG
Length: 1hr 26
About: Wonder Park tells the story of a magnificent amusement park where the imagination of a wildly creative girl named June comes alive.

The Good

The animation and story is sound. It certain kept the two little ones I was with entertained.it makes very clear distinctions between the real world and the world of Wonder Land.

The characters are lovable and funny enough for both child and adult to engage with.

There’s a very clear STEM (or STEAM as its called now) focus and I could certainly see how empowering it could be for young girls.

The Bad

It takes a while to get into. For a film that’s premise is focused on the theme park, it certainly doesn’t feel like much screen time is spent there. Instead, it choses to focus more on the relationships out in the real world. It makes sense; the one impacts the other. However, it does impact how much I enjoyed the film.

The Ugly

It’s a little on the dark side for my liking. While I can only applaude the film’s attempt to address illness, depression and grief it was not the light hearted romp I was expecting for an Easter treat.

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Shazam

Release date: 4.4.2019

Length: 2 hr 16

About: We all have a superhero inside of us — it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old Billy Batson’s case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam. Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do — have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he’ll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana can get his hands on Shazam’s magical abilities.

The Good

⁃ I really liked that it wasn’t a straight “Big with powers” as I was worried it would be. While I love Zachery Levi and he makes the perfect Shazam, I very quickly realised that Asher Angel was the scene stealer. By having the film alternate between the two actors, it gave a brilliant balance.

⁃ The message of family and finding a home is really quite charming. It felt sincere and it gave the film a realistic uplifting feel.

⁃ There’s some surprising casting that had me gasping in glee. I’m not going to say any more as it’s a little bit of a spoiler for anyone who, like me, hasn’t read the comics. (although, it is SLIGHTLY predictable)

⁃ There’s a beautiful little nod to Big!

⁃ It’s a good ‘origin’ movie with scope for sequels.

The Bad

⁃ Again, totally my bad but I’ve spent months imagining ZL as Shazam… and I didn’t get what I imagined. There’s an ego there that I wasn’t expecting and I didn’t buy that he was playing a suped-up 14 year old. I guess it was so hard to accept the douchbag persona as ZL is such a geektastic sweetheart in reality.

⁃ It felt a little disjointed and I was massively thrown off by the fact that we are presented with the back story of Mark Strong’s Dr Savana first.

⁃ I got the feeling it was trying to be DC’s answer to Deadpool, but it wasn’t given the age rating to allow for that scope so it kind of fell a little flat for me.

⁃ Mark Strong. I love Mark Strong. He seemed to be asleep at the wheel in this. Such a shame, because if he’d brought his A-game, the chemistry between him and Levi would have been electric.

The Ugly

⁃ Don’t worry guys, this is a massive personal problem and I do think it says more about me than the film. I really fell out of love with the film because of the fact that it was set at Christmas. The whole thing; even the prologue. I just felt like it brought me out of the film completely. It’s not a Christmas movie, but it is set at Christmas. So for me, I probably would have enjoyed it more if it had been given a Christmas release.

Overall, it was a flat superhero movie that is samwiched between Marvel’s most anticipated releases.

Have you seen Shazam? Let me know if you agree, disagree with my thoughts in the comments below.

Love Han x

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Why Should You Subscribe? Wildest Dreams Book Box @wdbookbox

Wildest Dreams Book Box: January (Theme was Loyalty)

There’s a ding alerting me to an email. “Your package is on its way”. I’m filled with joy, excitement and a little bit of frustration ‘I want it nooooooow’. Mainly because each month I’m left feeling as if these boxes have been curated with me in mind.

Wildest Dreams Book Box was conceived a little over a year ago by Zoe Collins; an inspiring and wonderful blogger, vlogger and all round awesome person. Her aim was to provide a monthly book box that was inclusive; from the price to the content. Each one centers around a theme for a recently released book and includes tea that is always out of this world and a number of beauty products sourced from up and coming independent companies.

I’ve never really been able to post photos before this month; as most people know my previous abode was not the most photogenic at the end. Plus, most months my box would end up at the post office. Every time I’d say ‘Wait until you’re home to open it.’…. Yeah, that never happened.

So here it finally is; a proud photo of a wonderful, heart-warming subscription box.

January’s Box

I’ve not had a book that I didn’t think I’d like. This month was no exception. Devoted has been a book I’ve coveted since YALC. I missed out on the hard copy proof. I lucked out and managed to bag a Ecopy through NetGalley, but it was certainly one I wanted to own.

I squealed a little at the addition of the wax melt. I’m not one for candles, so this little beauty is perfect for me. All the candles I’ve ever gotten have been so well scented that merely having them out and open is enough to fill a room with a literary smell.

Jewelry and art cards are always a welcome addition in the box. This month’s offerings are stunning and represent loyalty of two fandoms I love; The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters. Finally, my favourite part of my monthly Wildest Dreams is the tea. Loyal-tea is perfect for anyone who isn’t quite ready to say goodbye to the Christmas spirit. An added joy this month was opening the packet and getting my dad to guess the ingredients.

So, if you’re new to YA and haven’t got a clue where to start or you are simply wanting to gift yourself, or a friend, a monthly postal hug head over to Wildest Dreams and see the subscriptions on offer. Remember to follow on social media for updates on themes, renewal dates and waiting lists: facebook, twitter and Insta.

Love Han x

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Not all Doom and Gloom

From the Feeds

This first post is about inclusivity and how easy it can be.

Next up is this novel approach to how to read Fahrenheit 451.

Next is a story about Joe Manganeillo letting his geekness hang out with pride in order to bring joy to a hospital in America.

Daily Three

1. I’ve sorted out the internet and gotten a better deal. I’ve got to wait four more days, but I can cope with that.

2. I gave the kitchen a proper good clean and made spaghetti bolognese.

3. There have been so many little things that have made me smile today; from a blogger who is offering a proof to disadvantaged teens to the Starbucks barista who let me know I was able get a free refill on my coffee. But, the biggest little joy was the fact that there is a job going as an education officer in the Beatle’s Story. Well, if that isn’t a job made for me, I don’t know what is.

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Incredibles 2 (2018)

Length: 2Hr 5

Rating: PG

About: Everyone’s favorite family of superheroes is back in “Incredibles 2” – but this time Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, leaving Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell) and Dash (voice of Huck Milner) to navigate the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life. It’s a tough transistion for everyone, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack’s emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) must find a way to work together again—which is easier said than done, even when they’re all Incredible.

The Good

The best part of this film is the character of Jack-Jack. Not only is he cute, Jack-Jack brings with him some of the best scenes. From his face off with a tash panda to his sleepover with a fan favourite. I almost wish more time was spent on this plot thread.

Having Elastigirl take on the bulk of the crime fighting was a good move; it allowed for Mr Incredible to keep house and explore their dynamic a little further. I loved the scenes in which Bob helped his Children develop and I couldn’t help but chuckle at his screams over maths.

Interestingly, I loved the deep conversation that happened over dinner regarding how children should be brought up. An interaction that will go over most pint-size viewer’s heads, but it really struck a chord with me.

Michael Giacchino is back and he impecibly builds upon his original score. Giacchino’s work is brilliant and this is no exception.

The Bad

I’m not fond of the 1950s styling this time around. I’ve been spoiled by my Marvel movies and this blend of nostagia and future don’t work for me. However, I’m sure on another viewing it won’t bother me so much.

The Ugly

The first Incredibles came at the beginning of the superhero genre taking off. Unfortunately this second intallment has come at a time when the market is reaching its usaturation point. As a result, some of the plot points are too predictable and over used.

The momentum has definatly been lost with the length of time between films. I’ll admit, I haven’t recently watched the first installment, but a good film shouldn’t need you to.

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The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)

Length: 1Hr 38

Rating: PG

About: On his birthday, Omri (Hal Scardino) is given several simple gifts, including an old wooden cupboard and a small plastic figurine of a Native American man. When he locks the toy inside the cabinet it magically comes to life as a tiny, cagey warrior named Little Bear (Litefoot). The boy then places other toys in the cupboard and they too come to life, even engaging in entertaining battles. But after Little Bear is wounded, Omri begins to understand that his animate toys are not mere playthings.

First Thoughts

This was my birthday film when I was 10. Upon watching it today, I really do wonder why I chose this to watch. Turns out, I’d had quite a month in the cinema and The Indian in the Cupboard would have been my 6th outing in December. Quite incredible really; I don’t remember seeing quite so many in such a short space of time.

The Good

There’s some deep and meaningful themes within the story that appear to be pulled from the book from which the film is adapted. From exploring responsibility to death and funeral rituals, it’s an easily passive education.

The way in which the film has mastered the perspectives to have the actors as different sizes still stands and I’d say it’s better than films like the Burrowers, which had a larger budget.

It’s quite nice spotting Steve Coogan in a role of humanised toy soldier many years before becoming Octavian in Night at the Museum.

The Bad and the Ugly

Its an odd sort of kid’s film. The plot is rather slow, overly serious and somber for younger viewers, while adults probably would rather check out Mannequin than watch this anxiety riddled kid play with plastic made human.

It’s rather slow in a way that makes it feel overly long. Part of it is to do with the role of Omri; there’s no real development of his character other than him deciding to no longer use the cupboard. I’d have liked to have seen him become a more confident child. By lacking a significant development, it subdues what should be an uplifting ending.

Final Thoughts

It was nice to watch this film again, but I can see why I’ve not rushed to see it again.

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Bird Box – 15

Length- 2 Hr 4

About- When a mysterious force decimates the population, only one thing is certain — if you see it, you die. The survivors must now avoid coming face to face with an entity that takes the form of their worst fears. Searching for hope and a new beginning, a woman and her children embark on a dangerous journey through the woods and down a river to find the one place that may offer sanctuary. To make it, they’ll have to cover their eyes from the evil that chases them — and complete the trip blindfolded.

The Good

Sandra Bullock is able to hold her own in Bird Box. She’s long been considered leading lady material, but it’s taken her time to break out from the romantic comedy role or plucky positivity hound. The sour and angry demeanour that once seemed so alien and forced in some of her performances fits her like a glove. She is scary and heartbreakingly detached from the children in her care and I don’t think that was something I would have seen as a convincing role from Bullock even 5 years ago.

Let’s face it, this film is A Quiet Place with a different bodily sense being the focus. That in itself isn’t significant or would encourage those who’ve seen the John Krasinski directed film to watch this approach. However, what I will say this has, that A Quiet Place perhaps lacks is the body count. A Quiet Place feels stifled by its limited cast, while Bird Box allows you to explore the aftermath as a society, rather than a family.

It’s a curious story, which an ending that is much more hopeful than I was expecting. I’ve heard talk of A Quiet Place gaining a sequel, which is odd as I don’t think there was enough to it, or characters sympathetic enough for me to wish for more. Bird Box, on the other hand, is well set up for a sequel.

The Bad

It is a little too derivative. Something that I feel is more to do with timing than anything else. It’s A Quiet Place meets Mom & Dad; both films that were released earlier this year. Mom & Dad is in itself a sudo remake of the 1976 Who Can Kill a Child? Sometimes, with films like these it doesn’t matter which is better, just which one got there first.

It was a sensible thing to have it released on Netflix rather than a theatrical release. I’m not sure people would have dropped the money on a film that, on paper, seems to be A Quiet Place bandwagon jump.

The Ugly

Its a violent affair and it all comes at once. I’m not a squimish person, but I found a number of scenes just a little tough to handle. At the root of this, is perhaps the fact that when faced with this sort of situation, the mob mentality in our own society would result in this sort of violence.

Final Thoughts

It’s a decent watch and I’m always grateful to see Sandy Bullock on the screen but I can’t see it jumping to people’s most loved films. However, if I’m watching films of this ilk; I’d rather watch Who Can Kill a Child? again.

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Blade Runner 2049

What a pile of wank. I’m currently 57 minutes in and I’m starting my review. That’s after I’ve checked Wikipedia for the plot to find out what the fuck was going on. That’s not unique to be fair, I needed Wiki for the first one. Although I at least held off until the hour mark. This incarnation had me reaching for my phone 20 minutes in.

The Good

The basic premise is there: replicant sprogged up without anyone knowing so there’s a time sensitive Mcguffin and some connections to the original. Hell; this should be a fast paced, action heavy film that has them looking for the child of the replicant revolution.

Robin Wright is brilliant casting. A million miles away from Buttercup, but actually not all that different. Wright always seems to be drawn to strong female characters and this is no exception. Robin Wright will forever stand side by side with Carrie Fisher as powerful women and role models not only for me, but for all who want to level the playing field. Her presence in the film is strong, but I’d have loved to have seen more of her.

The female presence and representation on the whole is brilliant. Not only as female characters, but as women who aren’t held back by society; they’re strong, motivated and add something that was missing in the first.

The Bad

This is a personal thing, but visually this film isn’t right for me. It’s not a successor to the 1982 Harrison Ford helmed outing; its not strong enough and tbere’s nothing about this that will be seen as iconic decades to come. There’s a tonal asymmetry; from the barren landscapes and the concept that the the future is bright and bleached of all colour to the dark and Japan inspired landscape that became the benchmark of future landscaping in movies. For me, they don’t gel and really pull me out of an already precarious viewer attachment.

Another personal issue is how the future is represented. I would have preferred the style to have progressed from the 80s movie and not from the technology available today. Obviously, when I watched Blade Runner last year, the film looked more nostalgic than forward thinking, however if you develop the concept it then becomes an almost ‘alternative’ future. It needed some visual continuity that didn’t feel like homage. Plus, I’m sick of glossy technological futures. All you need to do is look in HMV (sadly, perhaps not for much longer) and see that vinyl, mock VHS and distressed books are all the rage right now. The creepy ‘full of crap’ dude in Labyrinth said it best ‘sometimes the way forward, is the way back’.

The Ugly

What sort of Frankenstein filmmaker casts Ryan Gosling in the staring role and strip him of all his charisma and personality?! You don’t bring someone like this to the table and neuter him. It’s not that he can’t act. This is all about direction and source material.

Is Jared Leto on mission to destroy his own career? While he may be pretty and have the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen, between this and Suicide Squad I’m getting very close to avoiding his films. His character is not really needed, especially considering the violent and overtly rapey scene in which he cuts open the replicant’s stomach for not being able to reproduce. The scene is too intimate, too naked for me to be comfortable with it. Never mind the fact that I feel like he’s blaming the woman for his failings.

Why the fuck did it take 1 hour 41 minutes to get Harrison Ford on my screen and why, oh why, did I immediately wish he’d not showed up at all?! In the biggest casting disappointment since the Ghost and the Darkness (sold on the casting of Michael Douglas, who is in the film for no more than 20 minutes), Harrison arrives way too long after I’ve lost the will to live. And to add insult to injury, I don’t even feel like he’s Decker. I mean where’s this love of the crooner’s come from? Why do I feel like Harrison came to set, read the lines and took his wodge of money. Won’t lie, he peeked my interest with ’that was the plan’; but I couldn’t tell you what that plan was.

Final thoughts

Blade Runner was, without a doubt, style over substances; its a Christmas poo in which someone has swallowed a glitter pill. Blade Runner 2049 is neither style or substance. It’s that premature shit you have after a heavy night on the town and your early morning hangover coffee opens your bowels before you, or your guts, are ready.

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Christmas Film Advent- Gremlins (1984)

Christmas carolers. I hate Christmas carolers. Screechy-voiced little glue sniffers.

Length: 1Hr 47

Rating: PG

About: A gadget salesman is looking for a special gift for his son and finds one at a store in Chinatown. The shopkeeper is reluctant to sell him the `mogwai’ but sells it to him with the warning to never expose him to bright light, water, or to feed him after midnight. All of this happens and the result is a gang of gremlins that decide to tear up the town on Christmas Eve.

First Thoughts

This was horror film to me for many years. It scared the crap out of me. Obviously Gizmo was adorable and cute, but the creations of the after midnight feast was petrifying.

I wasn’t looking forward to watching this, and I wasn’t sure why. It recent years it’s become a classic that has stood up against some modern movies of similar ilk.

The Naughty List

  • What the hell was that Phoebe Cates monologue about?! “That’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.” What the fuck? How do we go over an hour without knowing that this sweet slice of American pie loathes Christmas like a Grinch? While we’re at it, there’s no mention of her dad being dead. Just don’t think we need it
  • What happened to Judge Reinhold? They set him up as this massive dick and slime ball who has his sights on Phoebe Cate’s Kate. It’s brilliant; Zach has a challenger for her affections (It doesn’t matter whether Kate has any interest in him, Zach is worried that she might and that’s enough). Reinhold either needs a character development in which he helps them fight the gremlins or he needs to see his gristly end at the hands of Stripe.
  • Another dropped character was Corey Feldman’s Pete. Considering this is written by Chris Columbus, who is known for his friendship group films The Goonies and Harry Potter, its ripe for grouping the young ones together to fight.

The Nice List

  • The music is brilliant. I love the way in which it progresses from the theme of gizmo to the much more complex gremlin theme. This is certain a film I would love to see with a live orchestra.
  • I love the first hour’s set up. I’d mis remembered the wicked witch music playing when Mrs Deagle blasts through town and into the bank. I loved the way her character is disposed of by the gremlins; it’s quite possibly my favourite scene; even if it wasn’t when I first watched it.
  • I love that one of the most auctioned filled scenes is the one in which Zach’s mother, Lynn, gets to be a massive bad ass and take on the gremlins single handed. She does really well and dispatches at least two of the bastards before one attempts to strangle her.
  • The chief of police getting his after the shit he gives Zach is pure genius. I especially love his second in command’s mutters of fear.

Final Thoughts

I’m actually still not sure how I feel about it today. I feel as if the second half needs a little more work to match the first and I found myself feeling really restless once Kate’s ‘I hate Christmas’ blabbings.

I also feel it would have been improved by having Feldman and Reinhold joining forces to help beat the “little green men”.

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Christmas Film Advent- Just Friends (2005)

Well, if she wants Mr. Rogers, then I’m going to show her the biggest pussy she’s ever seen.

Length: 1Hr 35

Rating: 15

About: High school student Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) loves his best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). He finally confesses his feelings, but she tells him that she just wants to be friends, and he leaves town in shame. Ten years later, Chris is a successful record executive and involved with self-absorbed pop star Samantha James (Anna Faris). He still pines for Jamie, though, and when his plans to go to Paris for the holidays fall through, he returns to his hometown to try and win her heart.

First Thoughts

This is another one that I know I’ve seen, was certain I owned on dvd but didn’t remember much about it. I don’t remember being to enamoured by Ryan Reynolds and I certainly wasn’t too impressed by his previous film, Van Wilder. I’ve not been inclined to rewatch it and I didn’t remember that it was set at Christmas.

The Naughty List

  • The plot is a little over complicated. The key problem I have is that it needs to lose at least one of the characters. Either Chris Kline’s Dusty or Anna Faris’ Samantha needs to be left on the cutting room floor for me, at the very least. I have a feeling that over the years I will change my mind as to which one causes the most problems to the plot. Today, it’s both.
  • On the one hand, Samantha is just too underdeveloped and too wacky for this sweet film. She’s a brilliant foil for Reynolds’s in a different movie, but her insistence that she’s dating Chris is a thread that’s not followed through properly and I feel as if parts of their relationship have been rewritten.
  • Then there’s Dusty; they live in a small town, how has Jamie never bumped into him before, why doesn’t his alter ego at the very least preceded him and why on Earth was he waiting to get his ‘revenge’? The better, funnier and missed story here would have been to have him make moves on Chris’ mother.
  • I’m not sure, in hindsight, Amy Smart was the best casting choice. In 2005, she was in everything and perhaps considered to be the next ‘Meg Ryan’. However, I find her a little too harsh and far from the sweet girl that would be friends with the larger Chris. She comes across as the mean girl cheerleader. The irony being that The Notebook, the film within the film, stars Rachel McAdams who effectively transitioned from mean girl to American sweetheart.
  • There were just a few sour notes that could have been sweetened by easy changes in the plot; Chris works in music and Dusty plays. Couldn’t we have had Chris help him out? I just find it odd that it’s so overlooked and it feels a little like a rewrite.

The Nice List

  • Chris’ development is brilliant. From his soured ‘I’ll hurt before I get hurt’ approach to a return to his teen-like persona is a heart warming and sweet approach to the film.
  • I absolutely love the relationship between Chris and his brother, Mike. Not only is it where you see Chris most himself, it prompts most of the laughs. I’d have happily sacrificed Faris or Kline to see more of this relationship.
  • I like that the film didn’t go for the obvious root of having Faris pretend to be his girlfriend to make previous love interest jealous, only to discover he now loves Faris. Although, not having this plot point makes me feel like Samantha is a redundant character.

Final Thoughts

A fair film and much funnier than I remember. While Reynold’s doesn’t have the balance of charming bastard he brings to the Merc with the Mouth, he won me over with this viewing.

Change the reason why Chris is on the plane that takes him home and remove Samantha and I think I’d be on my way to loving this.

Oh, and one final thought. Chris Pratt circa Guardians would be a perfect fit for the role of Chris and it would have been awesome to have seen him act alongside Faris.

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Christmas Film Advent – Scrooged (1988)

I’m gonna give you a little advice Claire. Scrape ’em off. You wanna save somebody? Save yourself.

Length: 1 Hr 41

Rating: PG

About: In this modern take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is a wildly successful television executive whose cold ambition and curmudgeonly nature has driven away the love of his life, Claire Phillips (Karen Allen). But after firing a staff member, Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait), on Christmas Eve, Frank is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.

First Thoughts

This version of Dickens’ classic has been in my life so long I couldn’t tell you when I’d first watched it. I’ve always been a fan of Bill Murray and love him even more when he’s playing the grump.

Part of my enjoyment of Bill Murray and his films, Ghostbusters in particular, is that he reminded me of my brother. Murray’s dry humour, confidence and what I’ve always considered faux grump are comparable to my brother’s charm.

The Naughty List

  • About the only thing I can really pull this up on is the uptight ‘Lady Censor’ who pulls a Weinstein in the final act when she jumps the tied up Brice. Hell, I get that some people will find it funny, but but them in the reverse and people would be up in arms. It doesn’t matter what way an assault goes, or how ‘small’ the act is; if society is going to pull some up, we need to pull them all up.
  • I also wish the film presented us a different look at the Ghost or Christmas Yet to Come. It had done so well with the others, Marley being one of the most creative, I’d have like to have seen something different. However, I did appreciate how more time was spent within this perspective and how much of an impact it has on Frank.

The Nice List

  • The biggest change to the story’s narrative is the film’s biggest strength. Always relegated to a sub plot, the relationship between the titular Scrooge (Bill Murray) and the woman he loved and lost (Karen Allen) is the focus of Scrooged and the key to Cross’ salvation. The romantic element is heart breaking and setup from the appearance of the Marley figure. It ensures that it’s not just a paint by numbers retelling. It does mean that the ghosts do focus much more on her impact in his life and, in some cases, his on hers. It’s not a sweet romance, but you can’t deny that it’s true.
  • Ghosts of Past and Present are wickedly good. In all of the versions I’ve watched, these two incarnations are my favourite. David Johansen is wonderful as the Ghost of Christmas Past who takes no shit from Murray’s excuse giving Cross. Then there is the ever glorious Carol Kane with her high pitched, high maintenance fairy-like Ghost of Christmas Present. As a child I giggled away at the physical comedy she brought to the section and it wasn’t much different watching today.
  • The role of Cratchit is played by Alfre Woodard. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the cast/gender changes of some of the characters is way ahead of its time and something to be commended. It’s a perfect example as to why you shouldn’t force artistic forms to conform to a politically correct tick box: this is organic and beautiful. The Cratchit family (named Cooley for this production) wouldn’t be complete without its Tiny Tim. Young Calvin has been rendered mute since his father died. It’s an interesting change and it’s understandable why it is something to worry about, but also is a better infliction to be cured than in previous versions. Calvin’s brave moment never fails to reduce me to tears before warming my heart.
  • Murray’s change of heart is powerful and his speech that goes out to all watching, ties up so many of the plots threads and, with a breaking of the 4th wall, brings the film to a musical end.

Final Thoughts

I was worried when I’d watch the 1951 version that this glorious 80s offering would pale in comparison. It’s been my favourite for so long that I wasn’t quite ready for it to be replaced.

It’s hard to compare the two side by side, as there are fundamental differences that make them both unique. It means that Scrooged currently, with a few days left to go, remains my all time favourite Christmas movie while it is fair to say the 1951 offering is the most true to the source material.

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Christmas Film Advent- Rare Exports A Christmas Story (2010)

Watch your mouth! It’s Christmastime, so let’s act like it

Length: 1 hr 25

Rating: 15

About: A young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his friend Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) think a secret mountain drilling project near their home in northern Finland has uncovered the tomb of Santa Claus. However, this a monstrous, evil Santa, much unlike the cheery St. Nick of legend. When Pietari’s father (Jorma Tommila) captures a feral old man (Peeter Jakobi) in his wolf trap, the man may hold the key to why reindeer are being slaughtered and children are disappearing.

First Thoughts

Rare Exports first came on my radar when it appeared on YouTube as a self contained short. It was something rather different. The training of feral Santa’s was unsettling in a weirdly good way. It perhaps was one of my first explorations into Christmas horror and the film itself became a Christmas Eve watch for me and my brother once our dad had gone to bed. Which year is was, I’ll leave to my brother to inform me.

I don’t remember the inclusion of what I would come to call Krampus (Joulupukki in Rare Exports) in the short and I’m definitely certain this was my introduction to the anti Santa.

The Naughty List

  • It’s length is a doubled edged sword. While a short film, it’s pacing is rather slow compared to the film short that preceded it. You feel every minute of celluloid. Some minutes even feel doubled. Watching it this time, I was able to appreciate how this creates atmosphere and comments upon a different lifestyle than the one I’m used to living, but when I watched it the first time; it felt like Rosemary’s Baby all over again.
  • It won’t feel very Christmassy to some when you consider that the profession of the main family is to kill Rudolph for its meat. The film could risk dampening your Christmas spirit, depending on your outlook. Me? I’d eat Rudolph for Christmas dinner if he tasted good.

The Nice List

  • It’s a short film at 82 minutes and if I was well versed in the original language it would feel even shorter than it already does.
  • Subtitles aren’t for everyone. Even I sometimes veto a film on original language alone, the only thing I hate more being a poor dub. Original language films get my attention better when I’m in a cinema and free of all distractions. That said, I would never want to see this film given a Hollywood treatment; it’s more about the culture and mythology than anything else.
  • The kid (Onni Tommila) holds his own in the film and it’s quite refreshing to have a young lead in this type of film.
  • I know this is stupid thing to pick up on, but I loved seeing Pietari using nails in a candle as an alarm clock. It’s such a vivid image that immediately came to mind before I started my rewatch.

Final Thoughts

It’s not one for the whole family and certainly one that would make very few people’s regular festive viewing. That said, with the lifestyle Swedish and Finnish becoming popular within the UK, this should be on everyone’s list to ensure they’re of an understanding that life isn’t all about hygge hipster bullshit that’s now bordering on a stereotype.

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Jack Loves Rosie Blog Tour- Important Journeys

Rosie Loves Jack by Mal Darbon is one of my favourite reads of 2018. It hooked me from the first page and reduced me to tears by the delightful ending. It is my absolute pleasure to be part of this blog tour, telling you about my own journey of discovery.

Getting Lost and Finding Myself

The Giant’s Causeway

In July 2016 I was in a weird place. I’d lost a bit of who I was while trying to be what I thought other people liked. Namely a boy. I’d convinced myself that if I lost enough weight, he’d at least look at me in away that wasn’t disgust. To me, he was beautiful, funny and I would have been happy for him to just be my friend.

He never did see me as anything other than ugly and pathetic and I didn’t speak to him again when I left my job in July. I was 3 stone lighter,but I was also beginning my journey into managing the chemical imbalance in my brain that had led to life defining anxiety and depression. I don’t think I’d ever hated myself more.

One of my favourite people in the whole world suggested a trip to Oban and the Outer Hebrides by way of landing on the beach of Barra. I jumped at the chance and hoped time away would mend my broken soul.

Finding Myself

One thing I decided before we left was that I would use this opportunity to try foods I wouldn’t normally. No burgers, no pizza and no salads. Being Scotland, my diet became primarily fish based. From the ‘best fish and chips’ to muscles, I tried it all.

The best part of this new mind set was trying oysters for the first time. London isn’t void of the shellfish; but they’re never cheap especially when you’re not certain you’ll like them. Turns out, I love them and that moment marked a much more experimental me when it comes to food.

The whole experience was documented

Searching for gods in all the Ancient Places

My friend, knowing I was struggling with my mental health,found some ancient rituals that took place in the area we visited. One was sacrificing wine to the god in order to be given good health over the following year. I didn’t have any wine on me, so I’m hoping the grapes I chucked were accepted with equally good grace.

The other was to walk 7 times around the church in a clockwise direction to improve your mental outlook. Having waded into the sea to offer my grapes, I didn’t want to put on my shoes. I figures the surrounding area of the church in question would be grass so off I went down the path towards the church.

How wrong I was. Not only was the quarter mile to the church(only accessible by foot) pathed with sharp rocks and nettles, so was the entire path around the church; it was almost as if someone knew I was going to attempt to do this barefoot.

The first lap was unbearable and I considered giving up and just letting my friend complete it without me. That was when I noticed there was a small concrete section next to the wall of the building. If I was careful with my footing and pace; I could walk it pain free. And so I did.

There were the corners that were hard and if I took them too fast, my feet paid the price. However, the last two laps were taken without a single misstep. Not sure it was what I was meant to take away from the activity, but I certainly saw it as a perfect metaphor for my own mental health.

From God to a Naughty Dog

I wasn’t the only person who was lost on this holiday in the highlands. While trying to find out way to our fourth (possibly fifth?) hotel of the trip, we encountered what looked like a frightened and lost terrier dog.

After getting our directions from the Post Office that just so happened to be back the way we’d come, I decided to walk while my friend drove ahead. This was in the hopes of me capturing the lost looking pup and getting him back home. I should point out here that I’m a little bit like Hagrid; I’d spent the entire trip trying to stroke the cows and any other animals we happened upon.

Alvie

However, I soon realised he had a cunning, yet dastardly, plan. The ankle height beauty would stand still, trembling until I got to grasping distance; when he’d run away at full speed. He then leapt over the grassy dip at the side of the road and waited on the other side. There was nothing for it but to jump over myself. Except I fell into the dip and plastered myself with mud. I swear I heard him laugh.

I gave up after that and decided to inform whomever lived at the house we’d just past, figuring that it must be theirs. The gentleman opened his door. Between myself and my friend, we explained that we’d seen this dog, that we’d tried to catch him and that if he was to hear about a lost dog we’d last seen it in what we assumed was his field.

“Oh, that’s Alvie! He’s forever getting out of my neighbour’s yard and causing mischief.”

Rosie Loves Jack is out now. 

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Christmas Film Advent- Christmas Carol (1951)

“There’s more gravy than grave about you”

Length: 1 Hr 27
About: Crotchety Victorian businessman Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) has no use for festivity, even at Christmas. After resentfully allowing timid clerk Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) to have the holiday to spend with his loving wife (Hermione Baddeley) and family, Scrooge is swept into a nightmare. The ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), appears, warning that Ebenezer will be visited by three more spirits who will show the cold hearted man the error of his parsimonious behavior.

If there’s ever a film that demonstrates the exact reason why remakes are redundant, this is it. 

The Good

I don’t actually know where to start. It’s not shiny, new or sickly sweet and I adore it. Alastair Sim is the Scrooge I never knew I needed; the bitterness that often comes across as one note is layered and tinged with such a regret that I feel for him, even before the supernatural visitors that will change his outlook.
 The famous Marley scene in which Scrooge is met with his late partner is nothing short of masterful; the music and sound effects are chilling, the acting is on point and Marley’s ghost is more realistic that the ghosts seen in 2016’s Ghostbusters. Sure, you can tell its some sort of camera trickery, but that is all part of its charm.
What caught my attention with this version was the religious commentary throughout. If you asked me to state one line from Christmas Carol, it would undoubtedly be ‘God bless us, everyone.’ Yet, I’ve never really considered it a religious film at all. Yet, the premise itself is one of salvation; Marley, knowing what awaits his friend sends Scrooge on a journey to save his soul. It’s a beautiful message that demonstrates a truer meaning of Christmas than any other film could ever address. 

The Bad

This isn’t so much a bad, but more of a sad. We spend so much time with the ghost of Christmas Past, and yet the Present and Future seem nothing more than fleeting lip service. It’s a shame because it’s quite clear a lot of his change in view happens within the latter two ghosts that its hard not to feel. in hindsight, a little overdosed by exposition. Of course, at the time I was just happy to see how the story played out.
Then, there’s the matter of what the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows dear Ebenezer. It’s hard to make out at first when the audience arrives at the Rag and Bone man’s shop who the three people are talking about with such disregard. Then you feel the knot tighten in your stomach and you hope that your suspicions are not going to be right. It’s the curtains that give it away; they’ve ransacked Ebenezer’s house for all its worth. It makes for an interesting contrast to Scrooge’s treatment of Marley’s estate, but this is something that has been overlooked in modern retellings. I can see why; its a dark, ashamedly realistic, portrayal of humanity. It, again, is here in the bad not because it shouldn’t be there, but because it pulled me up short. I’m certain its exactly how Scrooge would have felt hearing it.

The Ugly

Not something about children again?! Yes, I’m afraid so. Only, this time our leading man is free and clear of my wrath. This time my issue is with Tiny Tim. What the hell?! Aren’t I meant to feel sorry for the character whose described in ways that are no longer politically correct?! The actor they’ve got is an over acting little shit and I all but cheer at the future that sees him buried in a ‘lovely’ patch with shade.
That’s not how Tiny Tim should be; you should understand his popularity within the Cratchit household and feel the insurmountable loss that his absence brings with it.
Luckily, he isn’t burdened with my favourite line and outside of Christmas present, the actor’s lines are kept to a minimum and I can pretend he’s cuter than he really is.

Final thoughts

This film has not only shot to the top of my Scrooge/ Christmas Carol movies, ousting long standing Murray from his perch, it currently is claiming top spot of the all the movies watched so far this advent. I’ll be honest, it’s going to take something amazing to replace it.
I’m off to watch Lethal Weapon on my phone; the internet won’t play night and stream the Gibson festive offering on my TV. Humbug!

Good night and god bless us, everyone x

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard- 15 #Hanreview

The Hitman’s Bodyguard- 15

Release date:17th August 2017

Tagline: Never let him out of your sight. Never let your guard down. Never fall in love.

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman

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From IMDB: The world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

The Good

SLJ and Reynolds work so well together as the comedy thriller duo. It’s a joy to see the two of them wind each other up and help each other out when needed. It’s a typical buddy film; hating each other first, but ending with a mutal respect for one another. SLJ surprisingly got the funnier lines and the lighter characterisation and it was quite beautiful to see him play up against Reynold’s straight laced ‘boring is best’.

The humour is there, but there’s also heart behind the plot. What motivates each man is not something to chuckle at; leaving you on the edge of your seat for a whole different reason.

Gary Oldman, doing what he does best. The one thing I love about this man is his versatility. You can find him in blockbusters, Indie flicks and Oscar bait. Here he’s playing the villain to a tee. Accent is a little hammy, but it’s Oldman. We will let him off.

The violence and action sequences where well shot and had the same gloss as recent films like Kingsman. It’s a good touch for people like me who find the realism of violence a little hard to take in a comedy film.

The Bad

I really don’t like the setting. Normally I would be very excited to see a film set in London, but I just wasn’t quite sold as to having two American leads running around the UK. I also don’t get why SLJ was arrested somewhere else and ends up in Manchester.

It’s about 30 minutes too long for me. I was starting to feel a little restless and with a quick edit, they could have brought it down to a comfortable length.

There were two scenes that didn’t quite have the impact I think the film makers were wanting. Firstly, was Reynold’s character pissing into a bottle, for SLJ finding it later in the movie. I suspect at some point, the plot involved someone drinking. But as it stands there was no payoff for the initial scene.

Secondly, the revelation of the ‘mole’ within interpole was missing something. As an audience, people may miss it as we already know quite early on who it is. However, the part that gives the person away to Reynold’s ex makes no sense. It’s missing a scene or dialogue saying the action is a trade mark move of the dictator.

The Ugly

How many motherfucker’s can you fit into a film?! I lost count in the first 20 minutes. I was around 12, but I was only counting SLJ’s and then Salma Hayek fired off about 4 in quick succession. Reynolds was right, SLJ was ruining the word.  Did I laugh; yes, I did. However, few hours after I watched it, I’m finding the joke a little spent. One word does not a catch phrase make.

In The Loop (2009)

Rating 15

Length 1Hr 46

Release 17.4.2009

Director Armando Iannucci

About During an interview, British Cabinet Minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) delivers an off-the-cuff remark that war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable.” Profane political spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) tries to cover up Foster’s faux pas, but the ill-conceived comment is picked up by a warmongering American official. Foster is invited to Washington, D.C., where a war of words brews as politicians maneuver, manipulate and deceive each other before a U.N. vote on military action.


The Good

  • I like that you don’t need to have seen The Thick of It to watch this film. I’m certain there’s value added for fans, but I certainly didn’t feel lost. Well, no more lost than I ended up being with this car crash of a film.
  • There are some amazing lines in this film. Yes, I’m childish, those lines do mostly involve swearing. From losing count of the amount of fuck’s Capaldi uses to his wonderful ‘fuckerty bye’ I was giggling.
  • Tom Hollander steals the show for me. He’s the satirical incompetent stereoptype who seems to have slept walked into office. He’s genius and the film would have been greatly improved had we have had him as our sole focus for the film.

The Bad

  • It’s plot is a mess. A hot fucking mess. We’re here, we’re there. It’s just shit! To quote the film its ‘arse spraying mayhem.’
  • Party of the problem perhaps was the attempt to ‘appeal’ to an American audience. I don’t know what it is about the media industry, but Dr Who should have taught the BBC that ‘making it more American’ is not the way to do it.

The Ugly

  • The biggest problem for me is the nature of it being largely an improvised comedy. It’s humour feels stunted and rather hit and miss. Yes, there’s some amazing lines that do raise a chuckle. However they’re very few and far between.
  • The handheld camera approach just fucks me off. Especially when you consider that this isn’t presented as a documentary. At no point do any of the characters acknowledge the cameras. Which begs the question, why the fuck bother invoking headaches?!

Final Thoughts

It was just a bit of a clusterfuck if I’m honest. I’d love to say the removal of the handheld would have improved things, but I doubt it. All in all, I’d have rather have watched Capaldi saying ‘fuckerty bye’ repeatedly for 2 hours than this.

Book Review: A Throne of Swans by Katherine & Elizabeth Corr

Publishers Hot Keys

Pages 352

Book birthday 9.1.2020

Came to me direct from the publishers for an honest review

About When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.

With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.

Written in rich detail and evocative language, this is the start of an irresistible, soaring duology about courage, broken loyalties and fighting for your place in the world.


Characters

  • There isn’t a single character I don’t love in this book. There’s other feelings, obviously, but each one feels so necessary to the plot that you will love them as ensemble. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way before. I’ve either forgotten characters, or felt they were there simply to fulfil a need in the plot.
  • There is of course two I love beyond anything else and those are Aderyn, our protagonist, and Lucien, her clerk. Aderyn is someone I identify with and I feel many will do the same. Her relationship with her parents and the society she’s been protect from might be grander than we may experience, but the emotions are certainly something a reader will empathise with. She’s everything you want in a protagonist. What I love most is how flawed she is and how much she grows throughout the book.
  • Lucien! Oh, beautiful Lucien. I really did love how the Corr sisters managed to get across his feelings while Aderyn seems to not acknowledge them.

Plot

  • It’s a retelling of the classic Swan Lake. Something I had known but completely forgotten by the time I came to read this beautiful book. I am unable to comment upon its comparative narrative, however I will say that as someone with no knowledge of the original source I found this to be a compelling story of fear, trust and politics. I was hooked from the first page and never lost me the way some reworking do. If anything, I feel this book will bring a new generation of fans to the classic story and the ballet that is its most famous platform to explore.
  • There are many plot threads at work and it almost has that episodic charm that I’ve come to associate with Harry Potter. Only here, the threads are a little more interwoven and by no means contained to one chapter; ensuring any reader will be whispering ‘just one more chapter’ until they reach the back cover.
  • Please have your book grieving routine at the read, this is the first in what I believe is a duology and believe me, you’re going to be left on tenterhooks until that second instalment comes out. It’s a perfect way to end as it will prompt conversation between readers and will have those inclined, heading to fan fiction for predictions in the months we’ll all be waiting.

Writing

  • I love reading in first person for this sort of book. The atmosphere is built on the distrust and fear and you most definitely feel it here as it restricts your view of the social standing within the castle Aderyn spends much of the book.
  • I sometimes struggle with fantasy books. Not to do with the content, but the language and perspective used almost slows my reading down and I lose the flow. It’s simply not the case here. The Corr sisters have built not only a world but a complex politically charged society that a reader will fall into and fall in love with.

Final Thoughts

I loved this book, I’m grateful for the book arriving when it did and charming me like a feisty fairytale I have always wanted.

Bowling for Columbine (2002)

Rating 15

Length 2hr

Release 15.11.2002

Director Michael Moore

About Political documentary filmmaker Michael Moore explores the circumstances that lead to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and, more broadly, the proliferation of guns and the high homicide rate in America. In his trademark provocative fashion, Moore accosts Kmart corporate employees and pleads with them to stop selling bullets, investigates why Canada doesn’t have the same excessive rate of gun violence and questions actor Charlton Heston on his support of the National Rifle Association.


The Good

  • Well made and informative. It’s journalism in its truest form and pulls no punches. To that extent it certainly has a level of fair representation and at no point does Moore address the audience and give his opinion. Now, while it might be implied that he is anti-gun, its not said outright and I don’t feel like I’m having someone else’s opinion shoved down my throat. It gives you the freedom to make up your own mind.
  • The film looks at as many root causes to American violence and gun culture. The film looks at the social history, the political history and the culture of fear.

The Bad

  • I felt uncomfortable with some of the emotional manipulation of Columbine survivors, in particularly in regards to them arriving unannounced at a K-Mary head quarters. I believe it’s right to hold them accountable and the survivors have a right to be heard, but it feels a little exploitative to do it for a film.
  • Again, with Charlton Heston, I felt very uncomfortable with everything that is seen to happen after the interview is stopped. Again, he was an absolute knob. Holding a gun convention in a town days after a massacre is thoughtless and insensitive. To do it twice and, both times, refuse to relocate is barbaric. However, I did struggle with watching Moore follow him after leaving.
  • I found the run time a little too long to be affective when the narrative flow doesn’t feel as smooth as other documentary films out there.

The Ugly

  • How is it that the Columbine massacre was 20 years ago, yet there has been no governmental effort or change to ensure public places are safe for citizens? This event and Moore’s film should have been enough to legislate gun control.
  • The film was bold, it was brave and it made people think. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought it would make a difference, so to watch it now it stirs up too much bitterness, too much frustration.

Final Thoughts

Irrespective of its flaws, this is a film that everyone needs to see. Not only that, I somewhat think its time for an updated follow up that looks into the rise of these incidents and the blind ignorance of the US and their flawed logic that guns are okay, but the kinder egg is dangerous enough to be illegal.

Dave (1993)

Rating 12

Length 1Hr 50

Release 5.11.1993

Director Ivan Reitman

About Shifty White House chief of staff Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) hatches a scheme to use a double for the president (Kevin Kline) at a public photo opportunity. Small business owner Dave Kovic (Kline) fits the bill, but after the president suffers a debilitating stroke, opportunist Alexander arranges for Dave to step in full time without even informing the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver). It doesn’t take long before the press, the nation and the president’s wife realize something is different.


The Good

  • What a cast. Frank Langella, Ben Kingsley and Ving Rhames all play supporting roles, but its Kevin Dunn’s appearance that caught me off guard. It’s not like he’s been off our screens in the last few years, but I did forget about his presence in the 90s. Here he plays an almost moral compass that’s lost its way.
  • I love the relationship between Kevin Kline’s Dave and Ving Rhames’ Duane. Watching Dave melt the frosty persona is a delight and much more charming than the relationship of Dave and the First Lady.
  • It is a romantic comedy, but I like that the comedy is fluffy and not too over the top. It’s harmless and doesn’t derive it’s humour from taking shots at other people.
  • I do like the idea of looking at the presidency through the eyes of someone who has no political ambition.

The Bad

  • The politics is a little soft and doesn’t provide anything other than a backdrop and landscape for the story to unfold. It’s a riff on Prince and the Pauper or Man in the Iron Mask, but it does little else.
  • I do feel as if we didn’t spend enough time with Kline as Bill Mitchell. Yes, we see enough to know he’s someone who cheats and we are given additional information throughout the film from other people, but I really would have liked one more scene.

The Ugly

  • There’s a few time when the film using the method of speeding the film up to give us humour. It’s seen in many other films, including Romeo + Juliet and it’s just something I truly dislike. It calls attention to it and pulls me out of the story.
  • While I love Kevin Kline on the most part, there’s always something he does that has me cringing in my seat. Perhaps a sign of a good actor that he can throw himself all in, however I don’t like to cringe and this is perhaps, outside of Wild Wild West, the worst for it. I didn’t need the rendition of The Sun Will Come Out and I didn’t need that whole story.

Final Thoughts

It’s a bit too fluffy to be a go to film, but it does have a charm about it.

Vice (2019)

Rating 15

Length 2hr 12

Release 25.1.2019

About Governor George W Bush of Texas picks Dick Cheney, the CEO of Halliburton Co, to be his Republican running mate in the 2000 presidential election. No stranger to politics, Cheney’s impressive résumé includes stints as White House chief of staff, House Minority Whip and defence secretary. When Bush wins by a narrow margin, Cheney begins to use his newfound power to help reshape the country and the world.

Dir Adam McKay


The Good

  • The casting is nothing short of incredible. As a whole. I’m not certain this film would work as well with even one casting change.
  • I found myself strangely sympathising with Cheney. The very fact that the film is able to do this is something. Not only that, it takes me on an emotional U-turn almost the second I’ve accepted my opinion.

The Bad

  • The filming style is what made The Big Short stand out, however the breaking of the 4th wall to explain jargon and political terms doesn’t quite work here. I’m not sure the explanations are explained as well and leave some of the audience behind.
  • It wasn’t his movie, but I do feel Rockwell was underused and the character of Bush almost eradicated from the narrative.

The Ugly

  • For me it plays it a little too loose with the timeline. It felt very timey whimey and really made it difficult to follow at times.

Final Thoughts

It’s something I’ve glad I watched but I think it had too much of its mind on award season glory than the bums on the seats.

The Sky is Mine by Amy Beashel Book Review

Author Amy Beashel

Publisher Rock the Boat

Pages 304

Book birthday 6.2.2020

About No one has ever asked Izzy what she wants. She’s about to change all that…

In a house adept at sweeping problems under the carpet, Izzy’s life is falling apart. Her best friend Grace has abandoned her. Jacob has photos of her, photos he should never have got hold of, and he’s threatening to leak them. Then there’s her stepdad. Her controlling, acidic stepdad, who makes her mum shrink and her stomach churn whenever he enters the room.

It’s hard to know your worth when people shout you down.

But Izzy isn’t going to be silenced anymore. She has a voice, and once she finds it, there’s no stopping her. And if the sky is the limit, then the sky is hers.

For fans of Sara Barnard, Louise O’Neill and E. Lockhart, The Sky is Mine is a powerful exploration of domestic abuse, rape culture and consent, and a call to young women to discover the power of their own voice.

Got it how? I received this direct from Rock the Boat for an honest review


Characters

Izzy is a girl everyone knows. You’ve either heard the rumours, shared the rumours, supported the girl through it all or you may even have been Izzy yourself. Relating with her isn’t important for this book, but believing her and trusting her is. She has a strong voice, even during her weak moments and I’d like to think it will allow some to empathise with what she goes through.

The characters around her vary in what we get to know, which reflects so much of social circles in life. There are characters you’ll meet at the beginning that you suspect will play more of a role that take a back seat. I adored that about this book as it added that extra level of reality and emotion to the narrative.

How Izzy’s mum and step father are written you are aware that Izzy’s emotions do give a bias to their characters. However, that is the nature of a first person narrative and doesn’t stop it being true and their descriptions are balanced by other people’s opinions of them. Personally, I found that the most interesting, especially when considering the step-father and his public and private personas.

Plot

The plot was one of the best contemporary I’ve read in a long while. It’s actually a story I feel should be given to every single adult working in education as CPD and every student in high school to teach empathy and the impact of individual’s actions.

Without revealing too much of the plot, it’s something that cannot be predicted and will surprise you on every turn. Be sure to make a sizeable chuck of time in your day because once you start, you will not put it down.

Writing

As I mentioned before, this book is written in the first person with an incredibly strong, and at times angry, voice. Even at times when Izzy is in fear or is voicing her doubts, you can feel her frustration and almost an internal encouragement to take no more

Final Thoughts

This book holds within its pages such an important story that everyone needs to read. It’s the first time this year that a book has made me miss teaching; it’s the sort of book that would have a waiting list in my personal lending library.

Love Han x