Review: Oldboy (2013)

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oldboy 2013 movie poster

“I’ve been thinking about it for the last twenty years.”
– Joe Doucett

SYNOPSIS: Obsessed with vengeance, a man sets out to find out why he was kidnapped and locked into solitary confinement for twenty years without reason. – via IMDB

Okay, so, unpopular opinion time! I liked this rendition of Oldboy. I have seen the original, but I was not enamoured. True story. I thought this one was pretty entertaining, so I thought that one had to be better (it’s all you ever hear when this comes up), and I did not think this was the case.

Oldboy was relatively well constructed. I thought that Josh Brolin did a good job playing Joe. His transformation was touching. He was such a damned twat in the beginning, I could not stand him. He had nothing good or positive going for him, and I had no pity for him. I just thought him a world class loser. His imprisonment was also quite intense. Initially I was just like oh whatever, but later it became terribly sad.

Joe’s spiral into some insanity was heartbreaking, how the loneliness got to him, brought him to his knees, and how he had to cope. The rat scene (and if you have seen this you will know what I am talking about) was just rough. Sure, there were holes in this film, too (a big one for me – planning his escape for the very day he was going to be let out, anyhow), but if you don’t focus on the issues too much and just watch the movie, the story it tells is quite good.

Anyway, Oldboy definitely has some issues, but it is not the worst thing you will ever watch. I thought it came together well as was a decent watch. Far better than the original, if you ask me :/

Review: Sully: Miracle on the Hudson (2016)

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“Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time.”
– Chesley “Sully” Sullengerger

SYNOPSIS: The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew. – via IMDB

So chilling around the other day, I decided it was time to watch this. Obviously I know the story, but not in too much depth or anything like that, so figured this would be a good yardstick. Plus, Tom Hanks. I think he’s fantastic and would watch him in anything.

I didn’t think Sully was the greatest movie ever, but I did think that what Captain Sullenberger did that day was truly amazing. As the movie points out, you only ever see bad news nowadays, so to see a success story is always nice. Tom Hanks was excellent, as always, and was well worth watching. Aaron Eckhart, too, was solid and played well alongside Hanks. Comparing the actual photos at the end of the movie to what Eastwood delivered, too, is good, because it looked exactly like what had happened.

Sully is a quick watch, and so never overstays its welcome. It tells the story and gets you involved with the investigation into that fateful flight, and it is interesting to see how the investigation was going, and how it ultimately turned around. I don’t necessarily know if I will ever go back to watch Sully, but it was a decent watch with a strong cast and was done well.

Review: The Chalk Man – C.J. Tudor

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SYNOPSIS: None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.

Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?

Was it the terrible accident?

Or when they found the first body? – via Goodreads

So my extreme book hangover following The Infernal Device trilogy left me confused and lost. I was floundering when Luke recommended I check out The Chalk Man. As I am one who takes suggestion seriously, I rooted around my Kindle until I found it again and set out to see what it was all about, as I remember rave reviews for it and a lot of advertising for it when it was originally released.

The Chalk Man reads very easily. It is slow paced and uses this to set up a pretty damn creepy vibe; it’s hopeless and damning and draws you in. It is not necessarily a scary book, and not the most fascinating, yet it keeps you going the whole way through. The story juggles two timelines, and this is one of those times were both timelines were handled well. There was not too much of the one or too little of the other. They trundled along neatly and it all worked out.

I don’t feel that the book featured an awful lot of likeable characters though. Okay, so maybe none. They all sucked, and reading about the constant alcoholism was also a little much at times. The story gives its secrets up bit by bit, and it works. The book was insanely bigged up here from the marketing and all, so I was a little wary that it might fall flat, but this was not the case. Okay, so maybe not the most amazing book ever as it was proclaimed to be or anything, but I had no regrets checking it out. I had a good time reading it. I liked how easy it was to read and how engaging the story was, even though at times it was a little predictable.

I think that The Chalk Man is also really well written, especially when you find out after the fact that this is a debut novel. I will certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for more of Tudor’s work, and I can recommend this for a read. While I might not be as hyped for this as some were, it is definitely worth a read. Thanks for the recommendation Luke!

Review: Pieces of Her – Karin Slaughter

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . . – via Goodreads

You know, I was beyond stoked when I got my hands on this book. You all know how deep a love I have for Karin Slaughter’s work, and there are few authors I get as excited about when they have a new book coming, so I was over the moon when I got my paws on this. My joy, however, was short lived.

It is not that I hated Pieces of Her, not at all, but I did not find it nearly as thrilling or as well crafted as Slaughter’s other work. I didn’t like any of the characters, which in and of itself is not something that would ruin a book for me, it’s just that I wasn’t keen on the story. Usually I am fascinated with cults, I really am, and I was interested to see where this would go, and in parts it is really good, and others it is just… bland.

I was so interested to read about the relationship between Andy and Laura, but it never really felt real for me. I did like Gordon. I seriously thought we had some espionage thriller on our hands, and then it went another way. I am seriously struggling to write a review for this. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I just found it to be a bit of a chore to read in the sense that it did not hook me and take me captive, where I just had to know what was going on every second of the way. It is, without a doubt, the most disappointing Slaughter read I have ever read. That is all I can really say on it.

September Blind Spot Review: Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

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“The only way to find out what story you’re in is to determine what stories you’re not in.”
– Professor Jules Hilbert

SYNOPSIS: An I.R.S. auditor suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death. – via IMDB

I have always heard that Stranger Than Fiction is a solid movie and that Ferrell is excellent in it (this reason is always cited when I say I am not a huge Ferrell fan) and I have always said I will get to it at some stage and then I never do, which is how it ended up on y 2018 Blind Spot list. I needed to cross it off my list.

Right off, I didn’t know what to expect from this movie when I started it. Was it going to be one of Ferrell’s ridiculous movies, would it be different, what was going to come from it? Well, let me tell you, Ferrell rocked this one. Completely. It was a more contained performance than I am used to seeing from him, and the humour landed for me from him now more than ever. I feel he is sometimes just too OTT and not my cup of tea. I think the cast all worked well together in this to deliver a pretty good comedy drama, and I enjoyed it.

The pacing was good, and I was sold on seeing what, exactly, Harold’s life was all about, because it was super bland, doing the same thing day in and day out. Emma Thompson as writer and narrator fit the role perfectly, and it was entertaining to watch her whenever she was on screen. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s insistence on being a kind anarchist is sweet, too, and Ferrell’s lonely Harold is quite sad. Dustin Hoffman, too, as the weird and quirky writing expert is quite fun, and just to see how all the characters interact and pull together to change the initially drab story is a satisfying experience.

The humour is rather sharp and low key in this, not forceful or over the top or anything like that, and it just worked completely for the story being told. I liked how the story paced itself, never too slow to be boring, never too fast to be confusing. I found myself delighted with Stranger Than Fiction coming to life, as a reader and a moviegoer, there was plenty that worked so well.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Stranger Than Fiction, and I might very well check it out again someday. Ferrell did not irritate, and it had enough quirk to keep it fun and sweet but not grating or excessively cheesy and with a cast that worked well together, and I can highly recommend it.

Review: City of Bones – Cassandra Clare

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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 Secret History – Donna Tartt

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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: Bitter – Francesca Jakobi

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out?

It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son. – via Goodreads

Bitter is a really strange book. When I read it, I initially disliked Gilda intensely. She is nasty and cruel and reminded me of someone, and I didn’t like how obsessed she was with her son. Like really, it is unhealthy. She is not a likeable character at all. And yet she is the main character of the book and we need to follow her story, and as we do, we slowly learn more about her.

Gilda has a fantastic friend she treats like dirt but who loves her enough to stick around, though why anyone would put up with that for as long is beyond me. Then there is her obsession with her son and jealousy of his wife. It is pretty intense when a mother cannot see her son (child) as an individual, something more than just a title, a person who has hopes and dreams, but instead has a concept for them that they must adhere to, but still insists that they know their child better than anyone.

Anyway, let me not get caught up in that. It really seems that Gilda needs some serious mental health help, and the book goes on to show you the disturbing things she does, and as it does so, you learn more about her, that ultimately you can understand how Gilda got to the place she is in life, and you really hope that she will be able to overcome it. Bitter is not an easy read, though it reads fast. It is a decent one, one I am glad that I read. I could definitely recommend Bitter to anyone interested in darker books that are more of a character study.

Review: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
– Andy Dufresne

SYNOPSIS: Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. – via IMDB

Seriously. Truly. Wow. I definitely know there are more eloquent reviews on this movie, and it has been discussed endlessly, and it is that great and all, but I am going to try and share my two cents about this movie. I decided to rewatch The Shawshank Redemption recently after watching Gone With The Wind. Not because they are remotely the same or anything like that, but because I was in the mood for serious(ly) fantastic movies.

Well, this certainly ticked those boxes.

The Shawshank Redemption has a great story to tell, sure, but it is the characters and the performances from the actors that played them that are really the stars here. Everyone lives their role, gets right into it, and because of that you are swept up into the narrative as delivered by Red. Red tells you Andy’s story, we see Andy’s story, and it is told with such spirit that you can laugh like crazy in some places and just love all that is going on, and then be driven to sadness and heavy contemplative silence within five minutes of one another. It’s an amazing thing when a film can so successfully balance the opposites like that.

Andy suffered some extreme situations while in Shawshank, but there were also some amazing things that he achieved, even while imprisoned. Naturally there are the men who went on to become Andy’s friends, headed up by Red. The band of men have great camaraderie between one another, and they really all respect each other and get along. They are quite tight-knit, and it is sweet. The Shawshank Redemption is a story told from within a prison, but there are large sections of time where you forget this fact when watching the men together, and then the point is run home when you realise that they have to barter to have a few beers while working, or that they have to report to someone the whole time.

The movie doesn’t really dwell on the crimes these men committed to land them in Shawshank. It focuses a lot more on Andy’s story, sure, but also how these men have adjusted to life, and how they have worked through the acts that landed them there. Some for the better, some not so much. It’s also something to say about the storytelling that the free, law-abiding men are all twisted and crooked, and the men on the inside, the convicted criminals, are often portrayed as the more trusty, honest lot. Interesting times.

The score for this is absolutely fantastic, and truly lends itself to the experience. The performances are all great, and the pacing for the story drags you in and makes you forget all about the clock, and I love it when a movie is able to do that. You feel genuine hope, happiness, anger and sadness when watching The Shawshank Redemption, and it is great when a movie can make you feel all these emotions, not just some of them. I would highly recommend The Shawshank Redemption, and if you have seen it, I think it is high time for a rewatch.

Review: Annihilation (2018)

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“It’s destroying everything.”
– Dr Ventress

SYNOPSIS: A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply. – via IMDB

Alright, so this movie seems to have a lot of people either super loving it, or totally hating it. I guess when I think back on it I can totally understand how one could end up in either camp, if I am being honest. There is a lot to like about Annihilation, but there is also a lot that is going to be annoying and can’t be overlooked.

I liked it quite a bit. It was ambiguous, but not in that unsatisfying way that It Comes At Night was. It raised a lot of questions and answered very few, and the few answers it did answer, I could have done without, and some that I wanted, I went without. Visually Annihilation is a beautiful film, and that cannot be denied. Strange shimmer, exotic everything going on behind the shimmer, this new world, all of it, and it works really well.

Then there is the cast. I think this is where the movie got hurt a bit. The characters are all really flat and lifeless, after all is said and done. Jennifer Jason Leigh is just angry and resentful and there. I could have done with more Oscar Isaac, too. Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman are the only two that will remotely stay with you. The logic is also a little bizarre – for years soldiers have been going in and nobody has been coming back. Let’s send a group of all-female scientists. Like, I got the sending scientists in and all that, but… the definition of insanity? Nothing is changing, evidently. With this there were inconsistencies (lost time only happening and addressed once the whole time??).

There were moments of delicious creepiness (you all know what I am talking about), and the explanation took away some of that beautiful horror shine for both my husband and myself, but the conclusion for this makes up for some of the weaker parts, all while leaving us with another ton of questions, which I liked. I definitely think that this movie is worth a rewatch to pick up on more things.

I think that Annihilation is ambitious and visually stunning, with decent performances of flat characters, and has a score that works really well. I don’t necessarily need a movie spoon fed to me, but Annihilation took it’s ambiguity throughout a little too seriously, leaving a slightly unsatisfied feeling towards the end, though the ambiguity of that is not what left me unsatisfied. Yes, I know that all sounds crazy. Worth a watch, and a rewatch for sure. Not Ex-Machina, but not terrible, either. I look forward to more of Garland’s work.

I went into this blind. I read a lot of good reviews on it, but didn’t read too in depth or anything. Don’t even watch the trailer, just go watch the movie.