August Blind Spot Review: This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

7

“We’re very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel, they’re like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They’re two distinct types of visionaries, it’s like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water.”
– Derek Smalls

SYNOPSIS: Spinal Tap, one of England’s loudest bands, is chronicled by film director Marty DiBergi on what proves to be a fateful tour. – via IMDB

Yes, I know I am so far behind on this Blind Spot challenge and that is just awful. I know, but time has run off away from me lately and I owe all my fair bloggers an apology for a) not being consistent and b) not dropping by. I blame a large part of that on this godforsaken laptop. It gives me the heebie jeebies just to take it out and beg it to work. Ugh. I am going to do my best to rectify that sticky situation of being so inconsistent. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get back to the review, even though it is extremely late to the party.

We all know that I adored What We Do In The Shadows, so I was interested to hear that this was a mockumentary. This Is Spinal Tap is iconic and has been quoted everywhere, but I had no real concept of what it was, and when I started watching it, I knew that it was going to be entertaining. I love old school metal/rock. I mean we have The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Motörhead, AC/DC (and this is just if you are naming the really popular ones) that dominated the era, and this mockumentary rolls with it, and does so well. Form the outfits to the performances, This Is Spinal Tap taps into it all (har har har).

The music is truly fantastic and truly captures the times, though the lyrical content surely leaves a lot to be desired. The movie is fun and hilarious, because so many of the stupid things that happen to the band are not that completely out there. At all. Then then there are the characters peppered throughout the film. Some you will like (such as Derek Smalls), and some will just irritate you for numerous reasons (I’m looking at you, Jeanine, even though I know you were deliberately written like that). There is also a ton of quotable content here, which has been demonstrated throughout the decades.

This Is Spinal Tap is filled with plenty awkward moments and some ridiculous but entertaining dialogue, and it is plain down fun. It is very aware of what it is, and plays up to all the crazy that it can. The movie has a ton of fans and I get it. I had a few good laughs, and think it came together really well. And as a mockumentary, Reiner did fantastic work. If you aren’t totally aware that it is a piece of fiction, you can understand why a lot of people were taken in thinking they were watching a real documentary. Well worth a watch.

Review: City of Bones – Cassandra Clare

4

The Mortal Instruments #1

SYNOPSIS: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…  – via Goodreads

You know, for years I have wondered about these books, figured I would one day get to them, kept forgetting about them, seeing them and remembering them again, and then forgetting about them. You can see the cycle, right? Anyway, recently Natasha started these and I was in a dark place, looking for something to read that would spark excitement in me again, as it had been too long. Naturally, she pushed these on me and I was like yeah alright, let’s do it. No. Regrets.

I thoroughly enjoyed the world that Cassandra Clare wove for us with the Shadowhunters. I must confess, early on in the start of the book, I was wondering how it would go. It was weird for me that there were sixteen year old kids out clubbing at midnight on a Sunday, but I figured this is some dystopian/futuristic YA (by the way, totally not, it seems the story exists in the same world we are in now, which makes me question parenting skills here). It started in a club and it didn’t really get any better, and the dialogue was a little cringy, but next thing I know? BOOM! Gotcha! I got dragged down this rabbit hole of fantasy that didn’t let up and I didn’t want it to.

We are introduced to a lot of characters, but not an excessive amount. A lot of them don’t really grow much or feature too much (though I would love to see more of Alec, for example). There are things I didn’t like about some of them – like the immediate and total dislike between Clary and Isabelle. It just felt weird. Then there was also that stupid love triangle (what is it about YA that insists there must be some form of a love triangle? Be Tris and Four, people!). It was stupid not only because it was a love triangle, but because the one player in it (Simon) felt like he was always just being dragged in and brought up so that there would be a love triangle, not because there was actual shared interest. Then there is Jace, who is a jackass but you gotta enjoy the guy, and I really like how he and Clary are with one another. Yep, Jace all the way. WOW.

Anyway. The book gets rolling and I really liked how easy it was to read (even though it may have been a tad long), and this read more like mature YA then really young YA, and I liked that. The world doesn’t ever feel too ridiculous (demons, warlocks, werewolves, vampires) it all just flows with the book, and that is cool. Clary also didn’t chap my ass like a lot of the heroines in these types of books do, though her name did grate on me. It feels uncomfortable to read it and to say it. I don’t know, I didn’t like it, though her full name is Clarissa and that is just fine. The book also brings in an interesting villain, and I would really like to see what Clare does with Valentine.

Anyway, City of Bones is a pretty solid introduction to what could potentially be a fantastic story, and I will certainly continue with it. It reads easily, has an interesting, dark world it has woven, and has a lot of characters that are well worth reading. I would definitely recommend this. I won’t lie, there was a development in the book that had me throwing my toys out of the cot in the extreme. Anger. Frustration. Denial. These were all strong feelings to be had. So we will see where it goes.

Review: The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

7

“Why are you doing this?”
– Kinsey

SYNOPSIS: A family of four staying at a secluded mobile home park for the night are stalked and then hunted by three masked psychopaths. – via IMDB

So after sitting through that disaster that was The Strangers, I completely forgot that there was a sequel to it. I disliked the first enough that I wrote off the second and forgot about it, but dear Eric the Chop asked me whether I had watched the second, and offered that it wasn’t too bad. So, that is all I needed to sell it to me, the recommendation from the Chop, and I hit it up and let me tell you, I did not expect to enjoy it o.O But I did!

There are still some heavy issues with this movie, but it fixed some of the major flaws of the first movie, namely the totally hateful characters and the worst logic of all time. The characters this time around actually fought, and the three masked strangers certainly took them for a ride, terrorizing and hunting, but it was just better to watch than its predecessor. Also, it didn’t feel like it was a million years long. Also, I was a big fan of the soundtrack.

So while the characters are still not the best and the dialogue is silly and naturally questionable horror movie logic prevails constantly, the movie is not bad. In fact, I went into this expecting to hate it, and then eventually I ended up enjoying it. It isn’t great, but it was a fun horror movie watch for a movie night. It’s a quick watch, and doesn’t grate on you like its predecessor. Not bad!

Review: The Stone Monkey – Jeffery Deaver

0

Lincoln Rhyme #4

SYNOPSIS: Famed criminologist Lincoln Rhyme and his beautiful protege Amelia Sachs have been recruited by the FBI and the INS to help perform the nearly impossible: track down a cargo ship carrying two dozen illegal Chinese immigrants and the notorious human smuggler and killer known as the Ghost. – via Goodreads

Meh. This one just wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t expect it to be, really, but it just didn’t work out. Guess I should have seen that coming, but still disappointing seeing how much I have been enjoying this Lincoln Rhyme run I’ve been on.

The story just had so many twists and turns, and this time the finale twist was super predictable, which was disappointing for me because I like how Deaver always keeps you guessing. This book had good intentions, sure, but just didn’t deliver the goods. The characters brought into this story were a solid mix of interesting and frustrating, so there is that.

Deaver returns a litany of characters to us that we enjoy – dear Fred Dellray, Lon Sellitto, Thom and Mel Cooper all take up space here again, and as always, the entertain. Some of the new characters, such as Sam Chang and Sonny are also pretty cool. Rhyme and Amelia continue to deal with the struggles in their relationship, pertaining to everything from children to operations to help Rhyme’s quadriplegia.

The Stone Monkey isn’t a bad read, it just felt a little lacklustre to me, especially compared to some of the earlier books. I wanted more Rhyme as we have come to know him. I am looking forward to reading more in the series, but I truly hope this doesn’t mark a crazy downturn in the quality of the work I have come to expect.

Review: The Secret History – Donna Tartt

6

SYNOPSIS: Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil. – via Goodreads

I absolutely adored The Goldfinch. I was so complete hooked on that when I read it a few years ago. I should give it another read, I would love to. I saw The Secret History recently and decided to give it a go because, years ago, I ended up reading The Goldfinch because a fellow blogger, Joseph, loved this book and we decided to read her latest together, and I said I would get to this someday. Well, that was years ago, but I can finally cross this one off my plate. And honestly, I didn’t love this one, and I had high hopes for it.

That is not to say that The Secret History is a bad read, per se, but I felt that it was way longer than necessary and filled with hateful characters. Also, the first half of the book is filled up wonderfully and keeps you reading, keeps you hooked, but after that fateful fall of Bunny, the story sort of starts falling apart, and the writing doesn’t come across as as genuine as before. Wow, so much”as” in that sentence.

Anyway, Bunny is a truly horrific character, so I almost struggled to feel bad about how it ended. It’s like Tartt tries to bring you around to him a few times, and I just couldn’t. He was cruel and insufferable. Not that the rest of that twisted friends group was really any better, but for real. Ugh. Henry is an odd character, and so is Francis, and eventually you are reading about these people in a confused kind of way, because where, exactly, is this story going? Well, nowhere, really. It is just a story about a crappy thing that happened which led to another crappy thing happening, and the whole affair is cold and calculated but still completely devoid of reeling you in completely.

There is also the issue of “under the influence of their charasmatic professor” – I expected a totally different type of story. I thought Julian would be involved up to his neck in the goings on of this group, and instead he hardly appears in the book at all. Anyway, while The Secret History is not a terrible read, it certainly isn’t The Goldfinch. It’s just a really long read for an okay book, though the first half is really good.

Review: The Strangers (2008)

8

“Well they want something. People don’t just stand out there, staring at us like that. They want something.”
– James Hoyt

SYNOPSIS: A young couple staying in an isolated vacation home are terrorized by three unknown assailants. – via IMDB

After always hearing how good a horror The Strangers is, I decided to finally give it a shot with my husband. While he hated it to the core, I can’t say that I liked it an awful lot more. Where do I even begin?

I know! The logic of the characters! These two are just hands down the stupidest two I have seen together in a horror in a really long time. For one, he returns and finds her hysterical and he’s like “it’s nothing”. Then he’s all macho and leaves her alone and realises there are a bunch of crazy people out there stalking, and he’s just like “oh whatever”. Together these two progress to make some of the most idiotic decisions I have seen in horror/thriller in a while, and let’s face it, this is not really a genre of smart moves.

The two characters we are following are also not really nice people, so you aren’t really invested in their survival, either. The movie starts with promise, it really did, but it went downhill so fast my head is still spinning if I think about it. You just say The Strangers around my husband now and he will start a bitchfest about this movie.

The Strangers is overly vague, which would have been fine, had it just been a better watch. With better writing, the potential would not have been lost, and there was quite a bit. A nonsensical home invasion, masks, psychologically torturing people, initially a great atmosphere, the whole lot. But instead it is bogged down by flawed logic, unlikable characters, a score I didn’t like (too loud for action/music ,speech nonexistent), faulty pacing, therefore letting itself down before it even got started. The tension that was built in the beginning, the scares it put forth, dwindle in the face of the infuriating decisions made by the characters. Overall, it is nothing but a bland and frustrating experience.

Review: End of Watch – Stephen King

2

Bill Hodges Trilogy #3

SYNOPSIS: In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city. – via Goodreads

And so ends the Bill Hodges trilogy, and that’s sad, too, because I enjoyed the trilogy. This one definitely had me drawn in because I wanted to see Hartsfield and Hodges have their showdown again, for them to go toe to toe and all that, and I was not let down, though I honestly was hoping that Hartsfield was more Carrie than an electronic handheld device, but no matter.

End of Watch is, of course, well written, and brings Hodges, Holly, and Jerome back together, and I always like it when the trio teams up and gets to it. This is definitely the first of the three books that goes back to a typical strange, supernatural King story as opposed to the simple, clean investigative mysteries so far, which I like, as it marries this current series with a style of his we are more familiar with, and he does it successfully.

This is a fast, easy read, and I must say that the story was engaging. A little more predictable than some of the other work we are more used to from King, but well worth it. I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this, other than I enjoyed it.

End of Watch is a solid end to a good trilogy, and I enjoyed it. Well written, good pacing, characters we have come to love, I would recommend this trilogy for anyone wanting to check out King, especially if they are looking for his work that is not firmly rooted in the supernatural horror.

Review: The Bat – Jo Nesbø

5

Harry Hole #1

SYNOPSIS: Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case. – via Goodreads

You know, I have been interested in reading these books for years as you always see Nesbø books around the bookstore and all that, then there was the movie that came last year that people got excited about and it apparently let them down. Well, I saw this one at the library the other day and figured I would give it a shot, even though I have it on my Kindle because there is nothing like reading a physical book.

I believe that the first two books in this series were translated long after the subsequent novels, which is interesting. I also understand that the original two offerings are the weakest of the lot, so let me get into it. The translation is really good, you don’t get hung up on the fact that the book is translated. Maybe it is because Harry is a Norwegian man in Australia, so you are constantly in Australia as is, and not in his native hometown, so there is no constant reminder that English is not the first language of the book. Now, that being said, there are some issues.

For one, there aren’t a lot of likeable characters, and this includes our main peanut. I was also not super impressed with Harry’s relapse, and how he somehow managed to solve a case he had no business being in anymore. Also, the villain is a total let down. A complete and utter let down. There were times where I felt that the book was trying to be too smart, and ultimately ended up too confused for its own good, but it is what it is. The direction and pacing also felt a little strange to me, but yeah.

The story itself moves quickly, though the characters are quite meh, and it feels like its running in circles. The mystery had more potential than it ultimately delivered. I do think that the book takes more heat than it deserves, and that may very well be because people started later in the series and got a more complete man to follow as opposed to this one. Anyway. I did like the scattered premise, and I did like that it was a quick and easy read, and I did like reading about Aboriginal history in pieces here and there as well as some of the cultural stories, I thought they were some of the strongest and most fascinating pieces of the book.

I liked that Harry as such a flawed protagonist, so while The Bat might not be the most solid book I have ever read, I am willing to get through the first two to see what Nesbø does with Harry Hole. He is interesting and has loads of potential, and even though people say that the first two are weak and can be skipped, I cannot start a series a few books in in good conscience.

July Blind Spot Review: Before Sunrise (1995)

8

“Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?”
– Celine

SYNOPSIS: A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together. – via IMDB

I know I am in the extreme minority with this one (apparently), but I found it really hard to get excited about this one while watching it, and after. In fact, I have no real excitement to write this review, either. I watched this weeks ago and haven’t even been able to muster the oomph to write about it. I really don’t want to write a half-assed review, so let’s see how it goes.

I totally don’t mind a dialogue based movie at all. I really don’t, if I feel that the dialogue is worth following. For me, that wasn’t the case here. It came off as pretentious and meh, like it was trying too hard. Truly. For two, I do like Ethan Hawke, a lot, I think he gets a lot of flak and he really isn’t the terrible actor that people say he is. I just thought that there was like no chemistry between him and Delpy. The runtime, too, felt like the movie was forever and two days long and it was actually (technically) a really short movie.

Okay, you know what, I am just going to leave it there. I didn’t like this, and I really wanted to. There was this romantic angle that could have been more than it was. Not because I wanted some Disney-style something, but because I really thought that this could have been more genuine. For some it probably is, for me it fell flat. I know there are two more movies in this trilogy that is so well loved, but I don’t know if I will be taking the time to check them out.

Review: Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett

0

SYNOPSIS: We all know someone like Thomas.

The grumpy next-door-neighbour who complains to the Residents’ Committee about the state of your front lawn. The man who tuts when you don’t have the correct change at the checkout. The colleague who sends an all-company email when you accidentally use the last drop of milk.

Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems.

But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world. – via Goodreads

So, it did take this book a while to actually become something to me, but it finally did ramp up from the slog it was initially. While it did not hit the heights of the claim of being “the feel good novel of 2017”, it certainly was a decent read, and it was a quick one, too.

The plot is absurd, and it is good. A lot of time is spent in the beginning of the book telling us a little bit about Thomas and then the Ormerod family, and it isn’t happy, pleasant stuff. Not super dramatic either, it just feels like filler, even though it is important to set up the remainder of the novel. Necessary, though. Then the novel just dives in. The whole story is built on a wrong number call made by Thomas Major, and from there, things snowball.

I really like Gladys. She is sweet and endearing and it is really sad to know that she has knowledge of the fact that dementia is taking her. Ellie is a character that did not grow on me, not at all, no matter what was happening. James is a cute and confused little boy, and Delil is the comic relief we need in this whole thing. I really enjoyed the interactions between Major Tom and James, super sweet.

The book is a bit predictable though, not going against anything in the heartwarming formula, and that is okay. Once you accept the premise, it gets rolling, and when you start wondering when the humour is going to start kicking, you get some particularly juicy Taxi Driver, ninja granny moments, and it is great. Calling Major Tom also plays heavily on Thomas Major’s name and mission in connection to David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and it works for this. It is just enough to not be too much. It also has a pretty decent message it presents, never too heavy handed about it, either.

While not my favourite book, Calling Major Tom is a decent read and is very sweet. Characters you don’t expect to grown on you do (like Craig), and the story is fun to follow. I liked it, even though I didn’t love it. Others will likely enjoy it more than I did if this is their genre – let’s not forget mine is mind games, gore, and twisted killers.