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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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Tuesday’s Reviews – The Darkest Hour (2017)

darkest-hour5_star_rating_system_4_stars1 With less than a week until the Oscars, my quest to watch all of the Best Picture nominations is getting quite tense. I’ve got three more to go and I’m not really super keen to watch either of them. I managed to watch two in quick succession last week so, if I’m clever with my time, I should be okay. It’s just a shame that the film I’m talking about today marks the end of the list of films I really wanted to see. The Darkest Hour is something I’ve been excited about for months. Combining my love of history and Gary Oldman; what could be better? When the first pictures of Oldman in his full Winston Churchill costume came out months ago, everyone was apparently amazed by the transformation. The picture was placed on the front of newspapers along with the tantalising caption of “we bet you’ll never guess who this really is” or something. I didn’t get the uproar. I mean anyone that looked at the photo should instantly be able to see Gary Oldman’s eyes staring back at them. Don’t get me wrong, the transformation was incredibly but it’s quite clearly the actor underneath all of that makeup. I admit, I have a bit of a soft spot for Oldman so I might be more familiar with his face than many people. It meant that whenever I saw photos from the set of The Darkest Hour I only ever saw Oldman and not one of the greatest Prime Minster’s the UK has ever seen.

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Throwback Thirty – Bull Durham (1988)

51u8fxjcqal5_star_rating_system_4_stars1 Another week down and another 30 year-old film to discuss. I’d not seen Bull Durham before because, quite frankly, when something is described as a mixture of romantic-comedy and sports film then I’ll just assume it’s not for me. I don’t have the best history with sports film because I really can’t give a shit about sports. Sure when the Summer Olympics is on I might watch a few of the more exciting events but I can honestly think of better things to do with my time. I’m of the opinion that if you like a sport that much then you’d be better off playing it than sitting in front of a TV watching it. But I’m also the kind of person who finds board games to be edge of your seat excitement. So, I don’t exactly go out of my way to watch a sports film unless there’s another reason to enjoy it. Sure, when I was younger, I was obsessed with the film Little Giants but that was only because it came in a 3 film VHS set along with Richie Rich and Dennis. Still, just like my beloved Mighty Ducks trilogy, it’s an incredibly silly film that happens to be about sport. Not exactly up there. The closest I’ve come is The Damned United; a film that I only watched because I’m completely in love with Michael Sheen and his face. Ask me anything about football and I’d draw a blank. So, I couldn’t exactly say I was looking forward to Bull Durham but I also figured that it was about time that I watched it.

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Tuesday’s Review – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

3d932a1d00cc057ddd9e7210ea7a29085_star_rating_system_4_stars1 Sunday night was the annual BAFTA film awards and it was the usual mixture of glitz, glamour, and massively unnecessary shade. Now, obviously, as a sane young woman I am a massive fan of the whole Times Up and #metoo movement. However, there was a lot of over-the-top bitchiness that appears to have come out of the ceremony. The first, regarding the Kate Middleton’s dress is insane. Surely, as a royal, she wouldn’t have been allowed to make any outright statement by wearing a black dress. She did, however, get pretty damn close to the colour women were wearing in solidarity to the movement, so I think we know where she stands. Number 2, Salma Hayek. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I read about her introduction to the Best Actor category and I’m still dumbfounded by it. I don’t really see what her point was. She went in knowing she was going to present an award to a man yet decided to make a pointless and ineffective protest about men whilst doing it. It wasn’t a powerful message and, if anything, damaged the movement by making it seem like women are standing up against men in general. It adds to all the talk of “witch hunts” and, quite frankly, was a dick move in relation to the winner. Gary Oldman deserved his moment to win an award that was and always has been gender specific. Natalie Portman had a great point at the Golden Globes when she bitched about the all male Best Director category; Salma Hayek looked like a fucking idiot to be protesting a man winning a male only award.

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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 – Lady Bird (2017)

lady_bird_poster5_star_rating_system_5_starsIn my attempt to watch all of the films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscar I think I’m going to run into a slight problem. Every new film I watch is going to become my new favourite. I thought Dunkirk would always be at the top because it was, almost, flawless. Then I watched The Shape of Water and instantly fell in love with it. I couldn’t imagine wanting any other film to win in March. Until I watched my third. You know that thing where you think you’re emotionally stable until you watch a film and start having a slight breakdown? That was my experience with Lady Bird. Then I made the mistake of Googling Saoirse Ronan’s age and became even more of a wreck. How can people so young be so talented and successful? It’s just not fair! I’ll admit that 3 weeks before my 30th birthday probably wasn’t the best time to be watching a film about an adolescent with their whole life before them. Nobody needs to be looking back on their achievements (or lack of) at a time like this. Luckily for me the supremely wonderful Greta Gerwig is slightly older than me so I was spared another break-down post-Googling her. I genuinely don’t know what I’d have done.

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Throwback Thirty – Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

killer_klowns_from_outer_space_28198829_poster

5_star_rating_system_4_and_a_half_stars When I first came up with my Throwback Thirty idea there were a handful of movies that I was super excited about. This week’s film is one of the most exciting. I have always loved a good B movie and, despite my avoidance of traditional horror stuff, will always have time for a worthy comedy horror film… especially one starring aliens that look like clowns. I know a lot of people who are freaked out by clowns but I’ve never seen it. Maybe it helped that I never accidentally watched IT when I was a kid but I’ve never really been fussed either way about clowns. I did work with a guy who was absolutely terrified by them. I admit, we all kind of abused the situation and I was, at times, guilty of humming circus music whenever he was around. It genuinely used to freak him out because he was that scared. Yes, it was a dick move but, in my defence, it was really funny too. So I’d imagine that he’d never seen the 1988 classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space because that would be mental. Like the girl who was in the year below me at uni who was afraid of balloons and, during out college’s end of year party, freaked out during the balloon drop. I’d grabbed a balloon and she forced me to pop it. I was fucking livid! Mate, if you get so freaked out by balloons then why turn up to a place where you know there’ll be shit loads of them???? Not that I’m still bitter 10 years on or anything… Continue reading

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Tuesday’s Reviews – The Shape of Water (2017)

shapewater5_star_rating_system_4_and_a_half_starsThere was a time when I used to watch most if not all of the Oscar nominated films well before the awards. This year, the 90th Academy Awards is being held the night before my 30th birthday (aka the reason I’m watching so many films from 1988 this year), which, thanks to my colleagues, I am reliably informed is a mere 27 days away. The only film I’d watched up until this point was Dunkirk, which you may remember I reviewed back in August out of spite. I figured it was about time I do something about this so set about watching as many of the movies nominated for ‘Best Film’ this year. 9 films in 27 days? Along with everything else I have to do? I’m going to be honest, I probably won’t manage it but I’ll give it a damn good try. Who needs sleep anyway? I know that everyone has been jizzing all over Call Me by Your Name recently but, as good as I think it might be, I find it hard to believe it genuinely was the best film of last year. So, instead, I decided to start with the film that I was most excited about. Also, the weirdest looking film in the whole bunch but what do you expect from someone like Guillermo del Toro?

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Tuesday’s Reviews – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)


Thanks to my impromptu holiday over Christmas I didn’t get to upload my review of Star Wars Episode 8 on time. It’s been about 10 days since I saw the film and I’ve loads of time to acquaint myself with the general reactions to the film. The critical stuff has, mostly, been very positive with people praising Rian Johnson for taking some risks whilst also remaining faithful to the original trilogy. However, as you’d expect from the Star Wars franchise, the fanboys be pissed. Even before I’d seen the film I’d glanced at an article claiming fans were starting a petition to get the film removed from the canon. I mean, for fuck’s sake guys. This is why we can’t have nice things. Fans were up in arms about the film because it was too different from the previous films. First they complain that The Force Awakens is too similar to A New Hope and now The Last Jedi is too different. Well, how the fuck is anyone supposed to make a film within those parameters? Before I went to see the film, a girl I work with complained that it was underwhelming. She’s also the person who described Rogue One as the worst Star Wars film of all time. She typifies the view of the old fanboys who can’t see a Star Wars film that is centred around the Skywalker family. There’s more to the force and this universe than Luke Skywalker and, I for one, am ready to find out more. I can’t promise that my hatred of the reactions out there won’t have an influence on my review but it’s not like it’s going to be a problem. I’m not influencing anyone to change their mind about this film. It’s far too divisive.

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Tuesday’s Reviews – Atomic Blonde (2017)


Okay, let’s get the awkwardness out of the way as soon possible, shall we? Charlize Theron is fucking perfect. It’s entirely possible that the only reason I had any interest in this film in the first place was because of this perfection. However, I grew to really want to see the film for itself. It looked liked everything great about the Bourne and Bond franchises but with a female lead and 80s soundtrack. I mean if anything’s guaranteed to get me excited then it’s that. Despite appearances, I’m a huge fan of great action films. Anyone shooting their way out of a situation or beating people close to death gets me super excited. Not in anyway that anyone needs to worry about. I mean I’m not repressing my secret urges to start my own fight club or anything. I just like watching actors fight other actors in screen. Before I saw the film, I watched a behind the scenes video concerning one of the films major action sequences. I’ll be honest, it made me feel things that previously only the sight of Tom Hiddleston’s face had been capable of. Watching Charlize Theron performing her own stunts is now the greatest thing I’ll ever see. If I ever have a near-death experience I want to see that video flash before my eyes instead of my life. She’s a fucking badass. In my mental list of top female badasses, Theron is now competing with my beloved Gwendoline Christie for top spot. Now that’s a fight I’d love to see.

Getting into the spirit of things, I’m listening to ‘Blue Monday’ as I write this review. After all, Atomic Blonde is so wonderfully 80s that you could genuinly believe that you were watching a classic music video. Well, if it wasn’t for all of the super realistic violence. Director David Leitch has gone with a seedy and dark neon aesthetic that really shouldn’t work as well as it does. It’s a sign that this film is, when all is said and done, more about style over substance. Don’t get me wrong, this is a super cool and great looking film but I can’t say that I was overly blown away by the plot. Leitch, after all, is a former stunt coordinator so it is the action sequences that really stand out here. Everything in between just feels like filler. I found myself dozing off a bit every time Charlize Theron and co. got all talky and less punchy.

The narrative isn’t exactly anything new or exciting. Set just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Theron plays MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, who is sent to Germany following the mysterious death of a fellow agent. His murder also resulted in the loss of a crucial list revealing details about a whole bunch of spies, which may or may not be in the hands of a double agent. You know, that all too familiar maguffin we’ve seen causing problems for governments countless times before. Broughton’s contact in Berlin is David Percival (James McAvoy). He’s a super shady and completely unreliable person who always looks like he’s up to no good. It gets a bit of energy thanks to inevitable tension surrounding Berlin at the time and the fact that the KGB always turn up to spoil our heroes fun. 
However, there is little about this plot that makes it worthy of being placed alongside such brilliant action sequences. I mean if you really stop to think about the various motivations at play here, things will start to fall apart quite quickly. Then there’s the annoying way the plot is presented. Lorraine tells the story of her time in Berlin in a flashback as she is being interviewed by her superiors. It’s a feature that really doesn’t work. It adds very little to overall storyline except to add on an unnecessary additional layer of intrigue. If anything, it only highlights how convoluted and complicated the main story is. It also takes away time that could have been spent creating more character and depth. Throught the film it always feels like the plot isn’t really a key player in the proceedings. It’s more like the thing that is needed to break the fight sequences up.
Which is probably a good thing because if you had constant action on this scale it would, probably, blow your mind. You may not be able to remember about the a Stasi officer played by Eddie Marsan and you may be a bit hazy about the final identity revelations at the end. However, the action sequences are presented with an amount of realism and care that the rest of the film is kind of lacking. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that they are the best action sequences I’ve seen for ages. Take the sequence that is presented as a single-shot take, which sees Charlize Theron fighting her way in and out of a Berlin building using anything she can grab as a weapon. The action moves up and down stairs and ends in a thrilling car chase. It has been created thanks to much editing trickery but that doesn’t mean it is anything other than breathtaking. It is moments like that that make it okay that the narrative is so forgettable.
Although, it is the realism of the sequences that I found most exciting. Theron performed her own stunts and everything you see her do on screen is wonderfully realised. It’s not necessarily unusual to see women kicking ass in films but it is rare to see it done at this level. Lorraine gives some great punches but she takes just as many, if not more. Her opponents are all beefy Germans and there are moments where he pain is obvious. Atomic Blonde may be referred to as the female James Bond/ Jason Bourne but she is so much more. Charlize Theron is, perhaps, the only woman who would be able to pull off such a mammoth task as this film. Despite the pummelling she receives, the audience is never in any doubt about Lorraine’s skills. Everything Theron does on screen, including just walking into a room, oozes badassery on a monumental scale. I say, fuck Tom Hiddleston, we have our next James Bond here. And she’ll do it all wearing uber stylish high heels.
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