As I suggested in my review of How to Build a Girl, there was an obvious choice for a companion TBT film. Almost Famous is a clear bedfellow for Caitlin Moran’s coming-of-age tale. The only problem is, I never want to watch Almost Famous again. I know that I’m in a tiny minority of people but I really don’t get what the fuss was about. It just seemed a bit too overindulgent and facile. It was pure Hollywood and didn’t really speak much to me or my experiences. I don’t understand why people adore it so much. So I needed to find an alternative. I went for another Kate Hudson film. Not one I was any more excited to watch but one that I could at least sit through. Handily, she plays a journalist who tries to get ahead by being unnecessarily mean. Oh, and it has “how to” in the title. Not a bad companion film after all.
This weekend I, like so many other Netflix users around the world, sat down and binge-watched the second season of The Umbrella Academy. When the first series came out, I didn’t know much about it. All I knew was that it was based on a comic book series written by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. Now, I admit that Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is one of my guilty pleasure albums but I’ve long outgrown MCR. I didn’t expect to enjoy the show but Netflix is clever. It kept playing the trailer over and over until I couldn’t help but watch. I was quickly obsessed. It was a great show and the soundtrack was phenomenal. It felt new and nostalgic at the same time. I couldn’t wait for the follow-up season and, though the narrative wasn’t quite as slick, it was still bloody entertaining. So, when I realised I wouldn’t finish a book in time for today’s review, I knew I had to do something drastic. I bought the Kindle edition of the first volume of the comics. I had to see for myself.
I have a copy of Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Girl somewhere on my bookshelves. Obviously, I haven’t read it yet but I haven’t read a lot of the books on my bookshelves. A friend gave me a copy of How To Be A Woman for Christmas one year but I haven’t read that either. It’s not that I didn’t want to. It’s just that there are so many other books in the world. Being a reader is like having the worst case of FOMO imaginable. There are so many books that have already been published and plenty still to be published. Of course, you’re always going to be wondering if the book you’re currently reading is the best one that you can get. It’s understandable that certain books and authors are going to miss out and, unfortunately, Caitlin Moran was one of them. I had thought about waiting until I’d read the book but if I did that I’d never have watched the film. It probably goes against the bookish code but it had to be done.
I know we have the same conversation every time some new contemporary author is compared to Agatha Christie but it’s the kind of thing that bears repeating. Modern readers really underestimate her skills. It seems as though all you need to do these days to be compared to her is either mention her/her books or write a small scale crime thriller. By small scale, I mean not one of these overly dark, psychological thrillers but more of a slow burner that revolves around a domestic or small setting. Here’s the thing: Agatha Christie knew what she was doing. She understood people, she understood motivation, and she understood murder. She had the ability to shock and she knew exactly what her readers wanted. Her books are light on detail and character study because they don’t need it. They do what they set out to do. She wasn’t an indulgent writer because she understood how to craft the perfect whodunnit. She didn’t need gimmicks or excess plot to distract her readers. She hid everything in plain sight. Something writers these days tend to struggle with.
Jumanji: The Next Level film might be the third film to include Jumanji in the title but it is actually the fourth film in the whole franchise. It’s easy to forget that Zathura: A Space Adventure is part of the same universe. Mostly because both the writer of the original books, Chris Van Allsburg, and director, Jon Favreau, wanted to distance it from the Robin Williams film. Favreau, in particular, didn’t like the film at all and wanted to make sure that people knew it. Yet, the studio was keen to show that both films were connected and Zathura is officially the second film in the Jumanji franchise. I’d never actually seen it, though, as I was 17 when it came out. It definitely wasn’t the kind of film the 17-year-old me would have been comfortable admitting to wanting to watch. So, I decided it was finally time. After all, it got a much better critical reaction than the first Jumanji film even if it didn’t do incredibly well at the box office. The opposite of Robin Williams’ film. Was the space adventure actually better or was this another time when the critics were way off in their assessment?
When I started my holiday this week, I had all sorts of grand plans to read loads of my unread books and get ahead with the blog. We’re only halfway through but it’s becoming clear that I’m not going to achieve a great deal with this week. I spent Sunday and Monday playing with my niece, which was admittedly a fantastic use of my time. It just meant that the closest I got to reading was the first page of That’s Not My Kitten and I’m not entirely sure that would count towards my yearly reading count. It didn’t help that my desperation to finish Those People in time for my Monday review had left me not wanting to read anything else on Sunday night. So, in order to get something finished for my Wednesday review, I needed to play strategically. I wanted a small book from my TBR pile. Thankfully, this James Baldwin book has been near the top for a few weeks now and it seemed perfect. Much heavier going than my previous book but that was a welcome change.
Nobody really expected Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle to be any good. At least, nobody who remembered the original 1995 film fondly. Of course, it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable experience. Certainly more enjoyable than the first pictures suggested. Thanks to Karen Gillan’s unnecessarily revealing costume, it seemed as though it was suffering from the same sexist approach as other Hollywood films. It turned out there wasn’t quite so much to worry about and the film made just under $1 billion worldwide. With figures like that, it was inevitable that a sequel would be on its way and, two years later, Jumanji: The Next Level was released. I had mixed feelings about the film. Part of me was really excited to see if they could match or, perhaps, better the 2017 film. The other part was worried that it would go the way of most Hollywood sequels. Wanting something fun and carefree to watch on my holiday, I decided it was finally time to find out.
I must have bought a copy of this book when it was super cheap on the Kindle store because it definitely isn’t the kind of thing that I normally have much hope in. I’ve also never read anything by Louise Candlish before. Still, there was obviously a time when it appealed to me and I ended up buying the ebook and audiobook version. After finishing Animal Farm last week, I decided that I wanted to read something silly and an audiobook sounded like a great idea. I’ve been so tired that even reading exhausts me. I had reached a point when I couldn’t get my way through a chapter before I started falling asleep and I hate stopping halfway. It just makes me feel uneasy. As if I’ll have no idea where I am when I start reading again.
Do you know what we don’t talk about enough? Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for an Oscar for using blackface. Now I don’t necessarily want to criticise Robert Downey Jr or the film itself. I also don’t necessarily want to give it a pass either. I just think the fact that the academy thought it was Oscar-worthy is a bit weird, right? I mean, how often do they nominate a comic performance for anything? Then they pick the one where a white dude is acting like a Black dude? I find it weird. In terms of the film, I get what RDJ and Ben Stiller were getting at. It’s the lengths that actors go to fully immerse themselves into a role. Officially, RDJ is in blackface but it’s more complicated than that. The character isn’t a Black man but a white actor playing a Black character. I guess you can argue that it raises questions and adds to the conversation. At least more than something like Little Britain did. But, at the same time, you have to ask if nominating the actor for an Oscar legitimises the practice more. Instead of just being a humorous footnote in history. Read more
I’ve had the Simon Callow reading of Animal Farm in my Audible library for a while now but it’s never felt like the right time to listen. Until this weekend. I just had a desire to revisit George Orwell’s animal allegory. I’ve always loved Animal Farm. I think it’s a really great book and is so readable. I love a book that you can digest in one sitting and I love one that does exactly what it needs to. Plus, the idea of it being read by Simon Callow was wonderful. I love his voice and the thought of him playing an angry pig made me very happy.