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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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


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.


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.


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