Book Review – The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

Book Review – The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

dscn69175_star_rating_system_4_stars1 Continuing in my recent spate of reading children’s books, I’ve just finished the book that was awarded the Costa Children’s Book Award last year. I bought it on the same Amazon spree that finally saw me grab a copy of Tin and, after it was recommended to me, I couldn’t resist. It sounded like a much less violent version of Lord of the Flies and, despite the fact that the violence is the whole point of William Golding’s book, that did sound quite interesting. I would have finished the book much quicker than I actually did had it not been for a particularly difficult week at work that saw me falling asleep mid-chapter a few nights in a row. Still, it didn’t exactly take months so I can feel okay about it I guess.

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Book Review – Tin by Pádraig Kenny

Book Review – Tin by Pádraig Kenny

IMG_42355_star_rating_system_4_stars1 My Instagram is mostly made up of me following the prompts of certain photo challenges so I am encouraged to post a wrap-up at the end of every month. This is a chance to show people the great pile of books that you’ve managed to consume throughout the previous four weeks. The only problem is, my piles never end up being that impressive. I have every intention to read loads each month but, depending on how dejected work leaves me, I don’t always manage it. I love being a part of the Bookstagram community and, despite how little my friends understand the appeal, I enjoy taking photos each day. The only problem I find with the whole endeavour is the underlying competitive spirit. No matter how ridiculous, I always feel guilty when I see how much other people are achieving in their spare time. It’s a feeling that makes me want to give up on complicated books and just read easier/shorter things. Which is perhaps one of the reasons that I became so obsessed with my last read after I first heard about it. It came to my attention through an email from Waterstone’s where it had been named children’s book of the year. It looked and sounded so good that I stopped reading the wonderful Amiable With Big Teeth in order to get through it. Considering I’ve had Claude McKay’s newly discovered novel on my TBR for about a year now, it kind of feels wrong to be reading a book written for kids but, to be honest, I’ve not been this desperate to read anything for ages.

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Tuesday’s Reviews – Paddington 2 (2017)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Paddington 2 (2017)


71JUP-kqx8L._SL1081_5_star_rating_system_5_stars I have been desperate to see Paddington 2 for a while now even though, until this week, I hadn’t seen the first film. When it first came out in 2014 I wasn’t sure it was ever going to be able to capture the brilliance that I remembered from childhood. I was a cynical 26 year old who wouldn’t admit to wanting to see a children’s film. So I never did. I guess it begs the question, why, then, was I so desperate to see its sequel? Well, for one thing, my friend doesn’t bloody stop going on about how great it is recently. For another, it’s got a 100% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been nominated for a fair few BAFTAs. Now I realise that it’s never wise to read too much into the ratings on 
Rotten Tomatoes but there aren’t many films who have ever managed it. So I guess there was more to this than met my sceptical eye. It was time to finally catch-up on what I’d missed so I watched the first film. It wasn’t completely perfect but I absolutely loved it. It was funny, sweet, and wonderfully British. Everything that is so great about the Paddington stories by Michael Bond was brought to life thanks to Paul King’s film. And Benjamin Wishaw? He was clearly born to play a talking bear who loves marmalade and looks great in hats. How could I not, after that, make it my mission to see the second?

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TBT – Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

TBT – Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)


You may have gathered from my review of Thor Ragnarok on Tuesday that I fucking loved the film. It was the funniest Marvel movie that I’ve ever seen and was the most enjoyable cinema experience I’ve had all year. I know that, as a massive fan of the Thunder God, it was inevitable that I was going to adore this film but my love of the most recent film in his series of solo films comes from mostly from the work of director Taika Waititi. Waititi has a habit of making films that are as much fun as saying his name over and over. I remember adoring the delightfully weird Shark vs Eagle way back when and his mockumentary What We Do In the Shadows managed to breathe new life into the genre that Christopher Guest has almost single-handedly wore down to the bones. Waititi, as I suggested on Tuesday, was an incredibly unusual choice to make Marvel’s latest big blockbuster. The New Zealand director has preferred to stay away from big productions and has specialised in smaller, quirky comedies. One of which keeps appearing in my Netflix recommendations and catching my eye. I’ve wanted to watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople for ages but, like everything else I see on Netflix, I kept passing over it in favour of watching Stranger Things or Rick and Morty for the umpteenth time. So, I decided, to fit in with my last review, it was a good opportunity to finally watch it. To me 2016 doesn’t really qualify for a TBT post but I think there are times when I can make exceptions. Certain films deserve a loophole or two.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the kind of film that grabs you from the start and you are never able to escape from. It introduces us to a Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a juvenile delinquent who has ben rejected from all his previous foster families and is now a burden on the Child Welfare system. Welfare services officer Paula (Rachel House) drops him off at his final chance to find a family. Living in a remote farm, Bella (Rima Te Wiata) shows the boy genuine affection and he starts to feel comfortable. Until her untimely death anyway. After than, Ricky is left in the charge of Bella’s cantankerous husband, Hector (Sam Neill). When Pauline warns that she is returning to take the boy away from the farm, Ricky runs into the bush and gets lost. Whilst Hector easily tracks him down, the pair, now being hunted by the law, decide to take their chances in the wilderness so they can remain together. They quickly learn to rely no each other and form an uneasy relationship.

The best way I can think of to describe Hunt for the Wilderpeople is Up meets Wes Anderson and Edgar Wright. It is a film that is incredibly funny, heartwarming and very well made. Everything just works despite it’s quirky and kind of absurd nature. It boasts fantastic performances from its two lead stars and their relationship is what keeps this whole thing together. Sam Neill is phenomenally strong as the man who is quietly grieving whilst also trying to come to terms with this strange teenager he’s been lumbered with. The ups and downs of the pair’s time together is genuinely wonderful to watch and their eventual relationship is so sweet your teeth will hurt for days. It is, however, Julian Dennison) who gets the best lines and offers the most memorable performance. Ricky is a child who dreams of being a gangster rapper so is about unsuited to rural life as it gets. But there is depth to the character as he is, beneath the bravado, just a lost little boy looking for someone to love him.

Although Hunt for the Wilderpeople never strays too far into sentimentality and schmaltz. It contains hard hitting drama and emotional punches when it needs to but, before you have a chance to shed a tear, it will suddenly have you screaming with laughter. Waititi’s characters all inhabit a strange world in which reality is slightly off but so phenomenally funny that it doesn’t matter. Hunt for the Wilderpeople may not have the budget or action as Thor Ragnarok but it certainly matches in terms of entertainment. It deftly works everything together and creates characters that, though flawed, you really care about. It has humanity, humour and heart. It has larger than life characters that feel anything but real. It seems to me that this film alone was the perfect precursor to any Marvel film. Maybe I’ll have to revise my statement’s on Waititi’s hiring?

Tuesday’s Reviews – Gifted (2017)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Gifted (2017)


When I reviewed Snowpiercer in my post last week, I mentioned my new love of Chris Evans. It hasn’t always been this way, of course. For years, I didn’t really rate Evans as an actor. Having now seen the first Fantastic Four film about 3 times recently, I realise that it wasn’t necessarily his fault. Yes, he agreed to do some shit films but he probably had to take whatever he could get. Fantastic Four isn’t a bad film because of Chris Evans; it’s a terrible film because it’s so badly written. The character of Johnny Storm wasn’t an awful and annoying version of the comic book character but that isn’t Evans’ fault. I’m not trying to suggest that he’s the next Daniel Day Lewis or some shit but he’s proved he can be really good. Look at Snowpiercer for an example of how good he can be. He just needs to start taking more serious roles and not people who run around in Lycra for a living. Which I’m guessing was the appeal of Gifted. It’s probably as far away from Captain America as he can get.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the idea of Gifted. On paper, it sounded like the kind of bullshit that Nicholas Sparks would write. And, to be fair, it is. But… I found that I couldn’t help but like this film. There is something about the performances from the main cast that make it so compelling. Chris Evans is lovely as Frank Adler, the man who ends up raising his child-prodigy niece, Mary. It helps that his co-star Mckenna Grace is superb as the brilliant 7 year old that he is trying to give a normal life. The chemistry between the pair is beautiful and I swear my biological clock started getting louder every time Chris Evans performed another fatherly task.

The problems arise from the narrative itself which is as obvious as they come. Frank takes guardianship of Mary following the suicide of her mother. Frank’s sister, Diane, was a mathematical genius who dedicated her life to solving one of the Millennium Prize Problems set by the Clay Mathematics Institute. She had been pushed by her over-bearing mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) for most of her life so Frank decides to ensure that Mary will have a more social upbringing. He moves the child to Florida away from his mother. He wants her to lead a normal school life and refuses to send her to an institute for gifted children. It is at that point that Evenly comes back into their lives and demands custody of Mary.

This isn’t the kind of film that will surprise you in any way. You know where the film is going from the outset and every cliche in the book is utilised. It is sheer melodrama that just keeps upping the emotional and dramatic ante. What started as a lovable tale of a man and his genius niece quickly descends into a typical courtroom drama where barbs are slung every possible way and things don’t go well for anyone. It also limits the time that we get to see Frank and Mary together and, after all, it is there chemistry that really drives this film. Watching Frank go head-to-head with his icy mother just isn’t the same. Evelyn is never given the chance to really become anything more than the villain. She has one or two moments of human behaviour but never really gets beyond Disney villain status.

Still, as I already mentioned, I liked this film more than I expected. I cried when it wanted me to cry and I was happy with the outcome. It’s a heartwarming tale of familial love and it has a one-eye cat as an added bonus. It’s difficult not to get carried away. There is an awful lot of greatness coming from the connection between Chris Evans his young co-star and the scenes where the two interact alone are just adorable. Cheesy, obviously, but delightful non-the-less. This is the kind of film that falls into every trap that this narrative could have. It never really pushes itself to be anything other than it’s basic self. It could, and should, have been so much more. In (500) Days of Summer, director Marc Webb gave us a great and realistic insight into adult relationships. Here, he just gives us mindless drivel that tugs on the heartstrings but offers very little to excite. If it weren’t for the main cast putting so much in, Gifted would have been a forgettable mess. In fact, with a totally different cast, this wouldn’t even have been on anyone’s radar.