Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J. Maas

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A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

SYNOPSIS: Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.  – via Goodreads

Okay. Alright. Here we are. So I read the first and it wasn’t awful, and then I read the second and I outright hated that (I am so sorry bestie, I tried so hard to like these, but that last one was just… rough), and dreaded the concept of moving on to the third, but decided I best give it a shot. So. Here we go.

I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it, but it didn’t cause me as much upset as the last one, though it is still not great. I think the biggest issue with this series is that the books are excessively long for what they deal with. Like, I think the story would be tighter if we just had less pages to deal with. So in this one we get more of all the couples (cause Maas seems to buy into the concept of nobody being capable of being alone). We get more of Nesta and Cassian, some answers about Mor, Azriel, and Cassian, and Lucien is holding out for Elain and all that, and she is stumbling around like a mute. Rhys and Feyre don’t spend much time together in this, and when they do it is not nearly as bad as before.

Tamlin remains uber-dweeb of the century, and it really annoys me that Maas wrote one whole set of characters and introduces them to us, and in the second book changed everyone. Annoying but alright. I am still a fan of Lucien. He was the one of the things I liked the most about book one, and probably the only semi-redeeming thing in the second book, and he gets some time here, and I like that. A Court of Wings and Ruin also decides to deliver us some battle, some war, and I liked that. It might not be a ton of it, but it was enough to keep me breathing a bit more, not dealing with all sorts of wonky sex and reading about “my mate, my life, my love” the whole time.

I did enjoy reading about Amren, especially what with her covert little thing she has going on with Varian. Rhys is also a character I feel that Maas wants to make too perfect. I know, unpopular opinion, but it is just how I feel about it.

Anyway, I won’t be rushing to read the little filler books between this and (much to my horror to learn) the upcoming book. Natasha said I could skip it and be fine, anyway. There is also the question of whether or not I will return to the next one. A Court of Wings and Ruin is not nearly as offensive as A Court of Mist and Fury, but it is still far longer than strictly necessary.

Review: Dunkirk (2017)

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“Men my age dictate this war. Why should we be allowed to send our children to fight it?”
– Mr Dawson

SYNOPSIS: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. – via IMDB

So I went to see this in IMAX when it came out (I know, taking my sweet time to churn out reviews, but we are only just starting to settle in). First IMAX in years, and the first experience ever for my husband, and it was well worth it. I have been waiting for this for quite some time, because Nolan in a cinematic master who can do no wrong in my eyes. I was so excited to see his take o a war movie, and I was rewarded, greatly so.

Dunkirk is visually stunning. Every scene is masterfully crafted, and looks amazing. The fact that more practical effects were used over CGI again shows that practical is the way to go. It gives a sense of realism. I also appreciated how young the soldiers were, because it accurately depicts that they were essentially kids, trapped on a beach waiting for help, a doomed hope by all accounts. The movie does not mess around in terms of making you feel the plight of these men, and it is a heavy ordeal, one you are wholly and totally sucked into visually and with some phenomenal scoring. The performances all round were impressive, and even Styles brought the goods to the table, something I was so suspect about after his casting was announced.

The movie has three divisions, beach, sea, air, and they all take place at different times, ultimately coming together to tie the story up, and I think that was crafted and handled very well. Tom Hardy again demonstrates that he can out-act the best of them with just his eyes, and Jack Lowden was excellent as Collins, his scene of being stuck in a sinking jet something that is haunting and gets under the skin, something that lingers. Cillian Murphy has one extremely damaged character, and your heart just breaks for him, no matter what happens. Branagh is stoic and crushed, and you feel for them.

I felt that the movie was a little distant though, and the coldness worked for it in places, and worked against it in others. The only real characters that brought some form of heart, something for you to attach to, was Mr Dawson, Peter, and George. Like really, that was sad. Not that the plight of the soldiers, trapped like helpless rats, was not bad. That gets to you, and is hopeless and claustrophobic. It is heavy, and it is scary, and the minimal dialogue runs home the bleak situation, and Hans Zimmer again delivers a most perfect score. It really takes the movie experience to a whole new level. It’s all painful, and it sticks, but all these stories don’t have any real backing. Now this works to show you that these guys could be anyone, absolutely anyone, but because you don’t ever really attach to them, invest in them, they are just desperate men trying to get home, and that is where there is also a drawback.

While Dunkirk was masterfully crafted, visually stunning, contained solid performances and had an absolutely brilliant score, I do feel that it was just a bit flat in the sense that you don’t connect with it like you would hope. It is well worth a watch, and as I said, masterfully crafted and definitely something worth tripping out to the cinema for.

Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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“I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself if I don’t stay true to what I believe.”
– Desmond Doss

SYNOPSIS: WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. – via IMDB

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GRADE 8Man oh man, I have been looking forward to this one for a variety of reasons, the two biggest being Andrew Garfield and Mel Gibson. Yeah sure, Gibson has done some cuckoo things, but he makes really good movies, and I enjoyed him a hell of a lot as an actor. As for Garfield? I just adore the guy. He is a talented actor and cute as a button. So how did the pairing come

Hacksaw Ridge impressed me. It really did. It isn’t so much a war movie as a drama – but do not take that to mean that you will not get a super vivid, clear depiction of the war, because you will. More than an hour is spent setting up Doss’s character and experiences, and driving home what his morals are, and how he sticks by them. The second half shows what happened on Hacksaw Ridge, but never really more of the war. It is the story of one man, and it is an amazing story. I was truly awestruck by how insane the story was, but also how inspiring. I liked, too, that the movie was very detailed about Desmond Doss’s faith. It handled this in depth, but it never felt preachy. It never felt like the viewer was being lectured on faith. It simply told his story, and I really appreciated that. Nobody wants some holier than thou message being shoved down their throats.

hacksaw-ridge-war

I thought that Garfield was absolutely fantastic here. Really. He owned that role and I totally believed in his plight, and I was beyond impressed here. Garfield and Palmer also shared some great chemistry, and I must admit that I really liked watching them together. The score worked wonders, never overpowering, never being absent. The cast did a pretty good job, and visually the film was really nice to look at, and the camera was never overly shaky cam or too steady, making it impossible to watch, or too structured, and I think that worked in favour here.

Hacksaw Ridge managed to balance the nastiness and brutality of war, while still give us an inspiring story of a man, his faith, and what he wanted to do. Gibson did another good job here, proving to us once again that he is not afraid of getting to the nitty gritty of a film. I would say this movie is well worth a watch.

My recommendation? Skip the trailer and go straight into the movie.

February Blind Spot Review: Atonement (2007)

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atonement-poster

“I don’t know how I could’ve been so ignorant about myself… so… so stupid. And you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You knew before I did.”
– Cecilia Tallis

SYNOPSIS: Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a thirteen-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit. – via IMDB

atonement-the-library

GRADE 8.5I have been meaning to watch Atonement for years, and for all sorts of reasons, I never got to it, hence I thought it would be a great addition to my 2017 Blind Spot list. Man, oh man, this movie. My heart! Goodness, there is so much to talk about it, so I suppose I best order my thoughts and try to convey what I felt about this in some form of coherent review. That, and a gif overload. I can’t help it, the movie was beautiful to look at.

James McAvoy is an actor I would watch in anything, and not just for science. The man is ridiculously talented, and this was just another example of how phenomenal he is when he sets his mind to something. I was so taken with his character Robbie. I adored him. I mean wow. Then, opposite him, is Keira Knightley. She is one of those actresses that irrationally annoy the crap out of me (again, thanks for that one Abbi). I don’t know – she’s not a bad actress, but she grates on my last nerve every single time, without fail. Not in Atonement. In fact, I thought she was very well suited to the role.  Knightley and McAvoy have great chemistry and fit together really well, and you are drawn in from the off to see if class was going to be set aside for them to be together. Just watching them was an experience on its own!

atonement-hands

The rest of the cast was incredibly good, too. Saoirse Ronan was excellent as the young Briony Tallis, and demonstrated that even as a young actress, she is a gifted, capable performer. I thought her subsequent counterparts to depict her while ageing were great, as both Ramola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave convincingly looked like her. Benedict Cumberbatch, another actor I adore, made my stomach turn completely here. I mean ick, ick, ick. I knew he was up to no good, but holy crapsticks, you nasty, despicable man! I found it pretty creepy that Juno Temple again played a character that got some nasties done to her by an older man (hem hem Killer Joe).

Anyway, Atonement was truly a heartbreaking story. I felt like the entire world was dark and doomed by the end of it, but I liked it. It was a bit predictable – I wasn’t ever actually shocked, but I was so invested in the outcome, even when I knew how it was supposed to go. That being said, it still had moments to shock you endlessly. The pacing is great because it gets you, and it gets you quickly. Then this story unfolds, flicking between the observations of a child who does not understand what she is seeing, to the actual events taking place. The difference between the two is amazing, and was used perfectly to point out that you don’t always know what you are looking at, and shouldn’t  jump to conclusions.

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I thought that visually, the movie was simply stunning. My word, it was shot well, and was a feast for the eyes, pretty much from the opening scene. So many things came together, and besides the performances and score, you could not overlook the specific shots that came together throughout the movie. There were so many scenes that captured such beauty, but I will just show a few here.

Let’s start with Robbie in the flower fields, it was so peaceful and serene.

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There was the scene with the water bursting into the tunnels, with everything breaking and the newspaper flying out.

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I was particularly fond of the ferris wheel. Everything about this scene just worked, especially with the sun shining through, the bandstand with the soldiers singing, and the smoke rising in the background. So much just came together to give us this.

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Another aspect that just worked was the score. The music set the tone, it did, and I particularly enjoyed the sound of the typewriter keys thwacking away being used to create a score, too. It was original, and so suited for the movie. It was great.

Anyway, as I am sure you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Atonement, and did not feel that the predictability of it hurt it at all. A visual feast to behold, with a love story that will make your heart ache and amazing chemistry between Robbie and Cecilia, I would wholeheartedly recommend this movie. Just know that it is a heavy watch, but worth every moment of your time, even if it feels like the world is never really going to be okay again.

Downton Abbey: Season 2 (2011)

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*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

What I liked:

  • The stark differences shown between wartime battlefronts and then the jarring peace that is experienced in other places (such as at Downton).
  • The relationship between Lady Mary and Carson.
  • Sybil and Branson – I have always liked this pairing, because it does not fit in with the times, so it gives it a dangerous edge. Plus they just look gorgeous together. Granted, the show takes forever while dancing around this thing, but Findlay and Leech have fantastic chemistry, and I was rooting for them from the off.
  • How much Edith has improved. Goodness, what a piece of work she was in the beginning! She has definitely gotten better, though I am still no fan of hers.
  • Cousin Violet does have a heart, though she never, ever wants that part of her to be seen. A big scene this was evident was when Daisy and William were getting married, and she was crying, but passed that off as a bad cold. Silly woman.
  • Lavinia Swire. I know we were (technically) supposed to hate the girl, but she was so pure, so good, so sweet, that you could not help but like her, and feel for her when Matthew was so obviously still in love with Mary.
  • That Christmas episode was absolutely fantastic.
  • Daisy and Mr Mason – so sweet.

downton abbey season 2 dance far

What I didn’t like: 

  • Cousin Isobel just peeved me this season. Last season she was some annoying comic relief – this season she was a control freak, nasty, pushy, and just plain down rude. No love for that.
  • How Lady Mary can really just be a spoiled brat (this is specifically looking at how she handled the whole Carson not joining her and Sir Richard at their new home).
  • This whole Robert Crawley scenario with the housemaid, Jane. I was not a fan of that at all, and felt it was most uncalled for.
  • Thomas being back. The man is so evil, cowardly and underhanded and annoys me endlessly!
  • Ethel and her whole pregnant, baby, can’t work thing. I know it sounds cold, but she made a stupid decision, and is holding everyone else accountable for it. She’s also pushy to boot.

downton abbey season 2 defeatist

Rating:
GRADE 8.5Seriously addictive show! We start up with the war in full swing, and it seems that everything is changed. Downton is still functioning, but with minor changes. Bates is still gone, and Anna’s heart is still broken, and it sucks. Times were certainly different, as this season showcases how desperate all the men seemed to be to serve in the war to show their loyalty to the country, no matter what. Robert Crawley was especially offended on being a “mascot” and that he was not going to be sent to the front, while William was prepared to leave his father just to join the effort.

I was highly unimpressed to see Thomas back so soon, and evidently that slippery snake has not changed his ways. Maggie Smith, as always, entertained me endlessly with her aversion to technology, and the way she dealt with both the telephone and the gramophone was, naturally, hilarious. Only Carson is her equal when it comes to technology!

downton-abbey-season-2-carson-and-phone

Sybil made me so happy this season, as she was really in her element, having studied to be a nurse and caring for people. She was respected. Branson hanging around was awesome, and I was thrilled to finally see their relationship progress to something. I was not a fan, however, of the subplots that came in and ended without really giving much closure. For instance, Robert being a total twat and having that affair with the maid was something that horrified me, I always thought he was made of sterner stuff, and they dance around it and then the maid leaves. Done. Poof. Gone. No more. Really?! After the entire fuss that was kicked up about it, I would have assumed more. Also, for instance, Patrick returning. That was a thing and then bang, all gone. Oh well.

downton abbey season 2 tom branson chaffeur hot

Mary’s new beau was definitely a smarmy and nasty character, and I was not impressed. Matthew, of course, is still just pure perfection for me, and I was so sad when he was so terribly wounded at war, I could not bear to think of him wallowing in such a depression, thinking himself less a man because of his wounds. But holy joy for us, things changed! Yay! I am really starting to get worried about Carson’s health… his heart just doesn’t seem able to bear things anymore. Mrs O’Brien, still sly as a fox, has definitely changed her tune quite a bit at times. She is still cold and cruel, but she is no longer as bad as she previously was when she was with Thomas, and her loyalty to Cora is astounding.

I must say that Cousin Isobel really just worked on my nerves this season, it was not as amusing as last to watch her. The way that Downton was totally changed was interesting and frustrating in equal measure, because there was some extreme amusement to be found there, but there was also things that were irritating. Again, the divide between the rich and the poor was highlighted fully here, with the rich being more concerned about some of the space being used up as opposed to the assistance that was generated.

As much as Mary peeves me, I actually really just want her and Matthew to be together, because he does love her. Too much. It was sad to see the way the whole thing with Lavinia Swire went, but it did clear the path for them to be together. Edith has changed a lot, and with all her flaws and all she is no longer deadly nasty and cruel as she was before. I was terribly sad, then happy, then worried, then depressed watching the whole Bates/Anna story. Finally he gets shot of his wife, everything is smoothed over at Downton and he returns, but then his wife dies and Bates is in trouble, and he marries Anna and is then arrested… good gracious me, not happy times. Oh my goodness, again there is just far too much to talk about here and just not enough space! Go watch this, immediately, maybe then we will all be on the same page about it!

downton abbey season 2 dance

Review: Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

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Slaughterhouse-Five cover

SYNOPSIS: Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don’t let the ease of reading fool you – Vonnegut’s isn’t a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.” – via Goodreads

GRADE 7I have been meaning to read this book for forever. Not only this book, I guess, but anything from Vonnegut, and I can finally say that I have ticked something off of my list. It was good, too. Weird, strange, quirky, but entertaining. The novel was a really quick read that I breezed through when recovering from that last horrendous read, and it was pretty much exactly what I needed. You get into the rhythm of the bizarre writing style, and you take in the story, and the time jumps are not annoying or disconcerting, they just simply are. The novel flips effortlessly between humour and a more heavy, dramatic style, though I can tell you now that Vonnegut’s writing is not going to appeal to everyone. The story itself is really strange, and it is a whirlwind ride all the way. It is also cold and blunt, and due to the subject matter, I think that is going to grate on some people, too. I honestly thought that I would like this book more, especially because of how it is praised and all, but I didn’t find it to be groundbreaking and superbly amazing at all. Not that it is bad, but because it is just not the best book on war, or sci-fi, and the two don’t always mix too well all the time. There are also some disconcerting scenes – think of those involving sex and excrement – and there was not too much time at all to develop the characters very much. It is a book that clearly runs with the license to write what it wants, and at times that causes the book to suffer, and at other times it elevates the novel. Personally, I think it is worth reading at least once, at least for the trippiness and to have read Vonnegut’s most popular work, but I don’t think it is worthy of the extreme love it has. Or I missed something, who knows?

Rapid Review: Fury (2014)

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“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”
– Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier

SYNOPSIS: April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and his five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany. – via IMDB

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GRADE 9Wow. Wow. I know that I was looking forward to this, I was very excited and all that, but wow. I love a good war movie, always have, always will I think. I love them like I love a good mob film, so either way, I knew that this should be good, I’ve been anticipating, and you all know I will watch anything with Brad Pitt in it. Fury didn’t fail to blow my mind, and I was reeled in and engrossed for every second of this film. What a goodie. There is so much that I want to say about it, but I am not quite sure if I can articulate it all. Let me see what I can do. Fury had everything going for it, I must admit. It has a great cast to carry the film, and let me tell you, not a single one of them disappoint. Brad Pitt embodies a soldier, a man who loves his men, but who has hardened due to the horrors witnessed. Jon Bernthal is reprehensible yet excels at it, Logan Lerman is definitely a young actor to keep your eyes on, Shia LaBeouf delivers another solid performance (he really isn’t a terrible actor people, even if he is weird), and Michael Peña also brought the goods to the table. The movie had some phenomenal sets, and not once did Fury hold back on depicting the horrors of war. Not once, and there were some really rough things that happened. It is a slow paced film, but never once gets boring. There are scenes that play out for a while, but instead of feeling like a filler or a waste of film, they drive home certain points that are being made. I enjoyed the character development of these men living together in a tank, though the most development certainly went to Pitt’s Collier and Lerman’s Norman – both characters who impressed me. The score worked so well with everything that was going on, and there were plenty times that I was at the edge of my seat and tensed up. The camera work was simply stunning, and things were so realistic at times it was frightening. I was horrified at the best of times at what I was seeing, and I thought Ayer was wonderful in the way he maintained all the emotion and injected it into all the scenes. I thought the pacing was good – like I said, slow and deliberate, and that was so great for me. Fury is such an intense film to go into, it was simply breathtaking, amazing, wonderful, gritty, dirty and nasty and truly heart-breaking. It conveyed all these emotions, and is definitely one of the best films of 2014 (struggling to find another 2014 to compete with it on the same level, actually). It is not like Fury will revolutionise the way we look at war movies or anything like that, but it was solid, consistent and knew what it wanted to do from the off. Also, one cannot neglect to mention the credits rolling at the end, they were done well you just sit there, watching, still turning over what you watched as well as seeing the work put into that. The music complements it, and the red and black and violence? Perfect summation of a great film. Obviously I cannot recommend this film enough. Go, go now. Go see it. 

Digital Shortbread Sporadic Scene: Jacob’s Ladder (1990) – Movement In The Tree Line

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WHOOP! Tom of Digital Shortbread rocks my socks, being such a frequent contributor of my Sporadic Scene segment! Absolutely always a pleasure to host you, Tom, and thank you once again!


I hope this scene isn’t too intense or heavy or depressing or whatever else it probably realistically is to suggest for another entry to Sporadic Scenes.

What I have in my hands is a pretty f**ked up introductory sequence to the movie Jacob’s Ladder. The scene is titled ‘Movement in the Tree Line’ and it seriously one of the trippiest scenes I’ve ever watched, without the movie having anything to do overtly with drug use. Plain and simple, this scene is pretty disturbing.

I figured there could maybe be a crazy scene or two every now and then. 😉

I’ll just add a little line in here from the review I did on it awhile back:

“My friend was absolutely spot-on about this film’s opening moments. If you’re not hooked within the first five to ten minutes, there’s no real need to watch any further. One of the more disturbing, yet attention-grabbing openings I’ve been presented with so far in my young movie-watching career.”

*CONTAINS VIOLENT CONTENT*

If you have a scene that you would like featured, drop me a mail at sporadiczoe@hotmail.com with a picture/gif/video of the scene and an explanation as to why (should you want to include it).