Pet Sematary

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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.

The Perfect Date

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The Good

Well Noah scores a Netflix hat-trick with this installment. He truly is the teen rom-com king that we really have been missing in the wake of super-hero saturation.

Just like Seirra Burges and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, he plays a lovable guy who loves without discrimination. What’s not to like about a guy who sees the beauty inside as well as out.

It follows similar tropes that 10 Things, She’s All That and even Pretty Woman that had us in our comfort zones back in the nineties and noughties. It’s your baggy tee and boy does it make you feel good.

Brooks’ ’girl friday’ is equally as recognisable; all the sassy of Kat Stratford, the snark and independence of Janis Ian and the vulnerability of Josie Gellar. Laura Marano plays Cecilia with charm and with, which makes you wonder why we don’t meet any of her friends.

The Bad

I LOVE Riverdale’s Camila Mendes, but she is wasted in this film. Her character is flat and it almost feels as if Shelby is so similar to Veronica Lodge in persona, background and aspirations that those watching will merge the two and assume she was something more than a cardboard cutout.

While on the topic of things wasted; I would have loved to have seen the Deuce Bigalow element expanded upon and see the dates he goes on. The few we do see are endearing to Brooks and it would round out his character a little more. Plus, it would open up the humour a little too.

The Ugly

The Yale plot was too easily discarded and didn’t mesh as well with Brooks’ character. Someone that driven wouldn’t give up so quickly really?! Nor would they be half assing their application. I needed to feel his motivation for him to be redeemable. As it stands, he’s a dick who treated people like dicks for no valid reason.

Final Thoughts

It’s the weakest of Noah’s three Netflix movies to date, but it’s an alright watch if you’re bored of watching 10 Things About You again.

Hellboy

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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.

Why the Exam Process is Fundamentally Flawed in England!

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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

Wonder Park Review 2019

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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.

Shazam

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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

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

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Details

Bowman’s writing has such an ease and flow that her books are easily on sitting reads; Summer Blue Bird is no exception. I started reading it because I forgot to take my current read out with me; I couldn’t put it down. I fell in love with the characters, the situations and how much I related.
The plot develops around a core thread of grief. It’s not simple, it’s’ not clean but rest assured Bowman is there to guide you through Rumi’s turbulent summer of anger. The story deals with grief, loss and abandonment in such a way that the book is a cathartic read. It’s a must read for anyone who has experienced loss and for those who haven’t and wants to empathise.

March Wrap Up

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What I Got

  • The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Reilly
  • After She’s Gone by Camilla Grebe
  • State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
  • The Graces by Laure Eve
  • My Secret Lies With You by Faye Bird
  • The Holiday by T.M. Logan
  • The Woman Who Wanted More by Vicky Zimmerman
  • Bloom by Nicola Skinner
  • Bible Infographics for Kids Volume 2 by Harvest House Publishers
  • Guardians of the Wild Unicorns by Lindsay Littleson
  • Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Sages of Chelm and the Moon by Shlomo Abas
  • The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi
  • Literary Places by Sarah Baxter
  • My Special Brother Bo by Britt Collins
  • A Colorful Tail by Joan Waites
  • The Vanishing Baseball Cap by Misti Kenison
  • The Golden Acorn by Katy Hudson
  • Just Like You by Sarah J. Dodd
  • Anne Frank by Isabel Thomas, illustrations by Paola Escobar
  • Smash Poetry Journal by Robert Lee Brewer
  • Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Arctic Zoo by Robert Muchamore
  • King Of Fools by Amanda Foody
  • Tigeropolis by R D Dikstra
  • Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath
  • All We Could Have Been by T.E. Carter
  • Ask Me Anything by Molly E. Lee
  • Blink of an Eye by John H.K. Fisher
  • The Boxer by Nikesh Shukla
  • Viper by Bex Hogan
  • The Woods by Rob Hodgson
  • Tales From Nature: Bee by Magali Attiogbe
  • Tales From Nature: Ladybug by Magali Attiogbe
  • The Great Big Book of Life by Mary Hoffman
  • We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines
  • Baby Bird by Andrew Gibbs

What I read

  • Wildcard by Marie Lu
  • My Special Brother Bo by Britt Collins
  • A Colorful Tail by Joan Waites
  • The Vanishing Baseball Cap by Misti Kenison
  • Just Like You by Sarah J Dodd
  • The Great Big Book of Life by Mary Hoffman
  • We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines
  • Baby Bird by Andrew Gibbs
  • Emily Eternal by M. G. Wheaton
  • The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Riley
  • My Secret Lies With You by Faye Bird
  • The Woods by Rob Hodgson
  • Tales From Nature: Bee by Magali Attiogbe
  • Tales From Nature: Ladybug by Magali Attiogbe
  • The Graces by Laure Eve

Goodreads

April TBR

Love Han x

Star Trek Discovery Series 2 Ep10: The Red Angel

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Air Date: 21.3.2019
About:
Burnham is stunned when she learns her ties to Section 31 run deeper than she ever fathomed. Armed with the identity of the Red Angel, the U.S.S. Discovery goes to work on its most critical mission to date.

  • What just happened? Hugh, Giegou and Paul
  • Hugh and Cornwell
  • The Red Angel is Michael
  • Spock and Michael
  • Ash and Michael
  • The bait and the trap!
  • That reveal!

Book Review: Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

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Publisher: Orion
Pages: 352
Release Date: 4.4.2019
About: FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THIRTEEN

‘This guy is the real deal. Trust me.’ Lee Child


BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:

  1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
  2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
  3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.

After you’ve read this book, you’ll know: the truth is far more twisted…

Twisted is such an apt title. This well-written roller coaster of a thriller has so many shocks, reveals and corkscrew twists that its the Nemesis of books.
It took me longer than I thought it would to read this, and that’s a testament to the plot and writing; I didn’t want to rush. It enabled me to pin point clues that i’ll happily admit perplexed me right up until the penny was dropped.


The movement between the perspectives of a number of characters was interesting to me. Especially considering I trusted very few of them and it added to the mystery, rather than detract.
As the body count racked up, my nail length was almost down to the quick; through a cleverly written, almost-meta, narrative a tense atmosphere is created that will mean so many readers will find this an addictive read.

Read it now so you can say you read it before it became the best seller of 2019.

Love Han x

Star Trek Discovery Series 2 Ep9: Project Daedalus

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Air Date: 14.3.2019
About: The Discovery crew infiltrates Section 31’s headquarters and suspicions arise that the crew may have a traitor in their midst. Meanwhile, Burnham tries to help Spock, but her efforts don’t go as planned.

This was an incredible, heartbreaking episode. Not only do we get to learn more about Airiam, fall in love with the character and brutally have to say goodbye.

This series is feeling more and more like a game of chess each week, and this episode is no exception. We get the payoff from Airiam’s connection to the futuristic leech and a feeling that the Red Angel story line is coming to a head.

Airiam has always been a fringe character, and while I wish we’d had more contact with her throughout the show I’m quite happy with how this episode showed her character, relationships and background. Not seeing more of her doesn’t make me feel her loss any more than I do. In fact, it makes me feel it more.

It is her relationship with Tilly that ensured I spent the last 20 minutes or so watching the episode play out with tears in my eyes. God, Tilly is just adorable and her attempt to make Airiam fight the virus that sends her on a mission to Section 31 is bittersweet. Knowing as much as we know about Tilly means we get a deeper understanding of who Airiam is. This is such a subtle and clever show.

The secondary story lines bring Spock and Burnhams relationship into focus and we say hello to Admiral Cornwall who I’m hoping will stay on board for the remaining episodes of the series.

Love Han x

Book Review: The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Reilly

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https://amzn.to/2UXKXbg

Wow! I was hooked in the first page and it took me on a heart-in-mouth adventure with an amazing ‘Stranger Things’ quality. Which is exactly what I need to keep me going while I inch towards 4th July’s 3rd series.


I missed my lunch because I couldn’t stop reading; I was as obsessed as the well developed and mysterious characters I met and this is the first book of 2019 that I read in one sitting. I zoned out the tv completely and fell into this world completely.


Red and Blue are the perfect twin characters to take us along on the journey. Blue’s narrative is epic; she’s speaking from a point of hindsight and that makes for an interesting read and adds a chilling tension. From the very start we know something is going to go wrong, but we’re never sure what it is. Until it’s too late of course.


I can imagine this becoming a film and being well received by anyone who is missing Pretty Little Liars being on their screens. This book screams beautiful, unhinged people. Some of whom you will love to hate.
The descriptions are detailed and perfect for anyone who hasn’t visited New York before, but for those that have, there’s a hidden layer to keep you engaged too.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Love Han x