Tuesday’s Reviews – The Hateful Eight (2015)

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Hateful Eight (2015)

I’ve had a complicated relationship with Quentin Tarantino. I spent years too afraid to admit that I didn’t think Pulp Fiction was the greatest film ever made or that Kill Bill was only okay. It’s not the violence that I have a problem with but rather that people sensationalise the films because of the violence. They’re so over-the-top and cartoonish that it’s kind of refreshing, I guess, but it’s not big nor is it clever. The one thing I will give him continued credit for is his excellent use of the English language. That man knows how to create a sentence and knows the best people to cast. In the hands of someone like Christoph Waltz a Tarantino script becomes something spectacular. In fact it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started to relax about Tarantino. Inglorious Basterds is by no means his best but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Django Unchained is probably my favourite to date so I was really looking forward to the film that started out as it’s sequel.
The Hateful Eight had a stressful journey to its release but, finally, it made it to almost every cinema. It builds itself up to be something quite spectacular what with its all-star cast, incredible score from Ennio Morricone, and the Ultra Panavision 70 landscapes from the first section all set up a film of epic proportions. What follows is something that both does and doesn’t deserve this kind of build-up. Tarantino trick’s his audience by taking the action from the snowy mountains of Wyoming into a secluded Haberdashery: moving from the great outdoors to inside by the fireplace.  Tarantino uses the 70mm format, most commonly associated with epics like Ben-Hur, to really examine the players on his stage.

Opening during a dangerous blizzard, we find Marquis Warren (Samuel L.Jackson), a bounty hunter, stranded in the middle of nowhere with the dead bodies of men he was bringing in. Thankfully, he is discovered by the carriage carrying fellow bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and the prisoner (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) he is transporting to Red Rock to be hanged. Along the way, the trio pick up fellow traveller Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) an ex-Confederate who just so happens to be the new Sheriff of Red Rock and the man who is needed to give these men their bounties.

Unfortunately, the four are driven off the road and into the shelter of Minnie’s Haberdashery where they discover the owner missing and a strange Mexican called Bob (Demián Bichir) in her place. The rest of the titular group is made up of Michael Madsen’s gruff Joe Gage, Tim Roth as the plummy hangman Oswald Mobray, and the Confederate General Sandford Smithers (Bruce Dern). What ensues is less like the Western the opening may have promised and more like the result of a Tarantino script being blended with an Agatha Christie novel.

Despite the very dialogue heavy narrative, there is an obvious amount of tension seeping through the entire film. The action may be constrained to one, incredibly large, room but there is enough intrigue and mistrust there to keep things interesting. This is classic Tarantino and you know people aren’t what they say they are and eventually he’s going to turn everything on its head to surprise you. With no way of knowing anyone’s true motives, Hateful Eight more than slightly brings to mind John Carpenter’s The Thing. The sense of paranoia and betrayal hangs in the air beautifully until Tarantino finally reveals the truth to his audience.

Of course, this tension is only heightened thanks to a well written screenplay. The atmosphere alone wouldn’t enough to sustain our attention but add Tarantino’s traditional wordmanship and it’s a highly riveting affair. Nothing more so than Samuel L. Jackson’s lengthy monologue that ends Act 1. It’s a hilarious but horrific affair that plays on an audiences attitude to race. Bound to make some rolling in the aisles and others incredibly uncomfortable. This is, when it comes down to it, Jackson’s film. It’s his greatest Tarantino role to date and he excels even in a breadth of talent this huge.

Kurt Russell is delightful as the gruff John Ruth but never quite overtakes the brilliance of his facial hair. It is Jennifer Jason Leigh who has received the majority of the award attention and it can’t denied that her portrayal of Daisy Domergue is incredible. In fact, all of the cast of players make a pretty decent impression save perhaps for Michael Madsen who offers little beyond his gravelly tone of voice. Bruce Dern working off his Nebraska success in a less intense role ad Tim Roth fills the Christoph Waltz dandy role perfectly. It’s an absolutely flawless ensemble and all work with Tarantino’s words with great talent.

Yes, The Hateful Eight isn’t going to be the best film you’ll see this year but that doesn’t matter. It’s not the best Taratino film you’ll ever see but it is, most definitely, a Tarantino film. What I’m finally coming to understand about the director isn’t that he’s a flawless director but that he’s a consistent one. In a world of underwhelming sequels, remakes and paint-by-numbers film making, he is consistently refreshing, exciting and funny. As a writer he makes me feel things that very few other people could and as a director he reminds me what’s really important: making enjoyable, fun and interesting films for like-minded people to enjoy. And enjoy it I did.

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

Oh what a difference a week makes. Having finished my first book of the year half-way through January (and nearly a month after I picked it up) I was feeling a bit cocky about my reading habits. I’ve since started not one, not two but three different books. It’s been a while since I’ve had the brain power to concentrate on more than one narrative at once but I’m confident that these three are the types I can dip into every now and then without getting too confused. Not like when I put down Crime and Punishment for a few days/weeks and couldn’t work out which weird Russian name was referring to which character. I have a mixed background when it comes to multi-reading. At university I was at the top of my game but since then there have been a few too many distractions for me to be able to keep up. As I’ve decided 2016 is going to be the year I sort my shit out, I’m hoping this will mark the time my ability to switch between novels returns with a vengeance.  

To Be Read
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
I had a lot of travelling to do on Friday this week but didn’t have enough room in my bag for everything I needed and the book I was currently reading. So, I picked up my Kindle for the first time in ages to save space. I wanted something light-hearted and silly to read so this seemed perfect. I’m not sure what I think so far. It’s cute certainly but a little bit obvious. I also can’t help but feel slightly cynical about the autistic narrator. It’s interesting, certainly, but it does feel a little bit romanticised and stereotyped. I’ve not reached the end so I could be wrong but I think it’s painfully obvious who Rosie’s mystery father is. I don’t know whether books are actually getting easier or I’m just getting more intelligent. Still, I’m always disappointed when I’m not left as clueless as the main characters. 
  • A Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Only read the introduction but I’m looking forward to this. Dating has always been a bit of a mind-fuck as far as I’m concerned and with all sorts of new apps and rituals I feel even more like the heroine of a Jane Austen novel who’s accidentally been transported to 2016. You know what, not even the heroine. If I was in a Jane Austen novel I’d be the annoying younger sister that either never gets married or ends up with the boring and impoverished young brother. Still Aziz Ansari is super funny and I imagine this book will be like the pre-cursor to his fantastic Netflix series. I’ll dip in and out when I’m feeling awake enough.
  • The Widower by Fiona Barton
Sort of embarrassed to be reading this super trashy thriller but it was on offer and it’s exactly the kind of mindless nonsense I needed after Bad Character. It tells the story of a newly widowed woman and the secrets she’s been keeping about her husband. Years earlier he was accused of kidnapping a 3 year old and the press are obviously falling over themselves to find out the wife’s version of events. I think it’s fairly obvious how this one is going to end but, like all of these hyped thrillers, it’s an easy read. Describing itself as the new The Girl on the Train, which I hated, isn’t doing it any favours but it has the potential to shock me. Doubtful but possible. 




Recently Purchased

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I knew the minute I bought the rest of the current paperback versions of Harry Potter that my Pokemon trainer mentality would kick in and I’d want to “have ’em all”. It didn’t take much for me to decide that I needed to order this book and, really, it was all Amazon’s fault. Telling me I could only add on those Command Strips to my order if it was over £20 was a shrewd move. Still, I find it hard to regret my actions when I look at how fucking pretty it is. 
  • The Widower by Fiona Barton
My place of work is just down the road from a few bookshops. It’s really difficult, when I’m on an early, not to pop in and see what’s new. This hardback was super cheap and I just couldn’t resist. I knew I’d hate it but I always love having something to rant about. It’s the perfect situation.



Recently Watched

  • Die Hard
You’ll hopefully have read about this on Thursday but I revisited this classic movie this week. It’s so fucking good. Alan Rickman is majestic as Hans Gruber and it has only resulted in my mourning his death even more. 

  • Looper
Fun fact, thanks to an autocorrect error when this film first came out, Looper will always be called Pooper to me. It happened to be on last night and I decided to watch it again. Looper is actually a fucking amazing film. No matter how creepy Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks with his Bruce Willis prosthetics. It’s a crazy but super enjoyable time travel narrative. Plus, Emily Blunt has to be one of the flexible actresses of all time. I swear there’s nothing she can’t do. Even play a disgusting and ugly alcoholic in the film adaptation of The Girl on the Train apparently. Who you trying to kid, Hollywood?
  • Hateful Eight
You’ll hear more about this on Tuesday you luck, lucky people.
TBT – Die Hard (1988)

TBT – Die Hard (1988)

One week ago, whilst the world was only just getting used to the idea that David Bowie had died, it was announced that Alan Rickman had died at the age of 69. I was at work when I read the news and I was, once again, legitimately devastated. Despite what I may have said about his character in Love Actually, I loved Alan Rickman. He was one of Britain’s best actors and had such a superb presence whenever he was on screen. The first time I remember him was, really bizarrely, from Truly, Madly, Deeply; a film I’m sure I’ve never watched again nor do I remember why I would have seen it then. Still, until the release of The Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 Alan Rickman was always the cellist from TMD to me. Of course, since his death people have been paying their respects online and mostly referencing his two most well-known performances. The first being his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series and the second his first ever film appearance. The role that cemented him as one of the greatest villains of all times in the minds of many cinema fans.

Die Hard has become the action movie against which other action films are judged. It set the precedent for every renegade cop who finds himself single-handedly bringing down the bad guy and getting the girl. John McClane became the guy all other action heroes had to prove themselves. The guy who paved the way for every wisecracking, foul-mouthed badass that came after. It’s no wonder both the film and the character are constantly being named in the top 10 movies/characters of all time lists. Die Hard is the fucking bomb.

Obviously, the many attempts to build off Die Hard‘s winning formula haven’t worked out as well as the original. The film boasts great casting in both Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman and enough excitement and action to keep everyone on the edge of their seat. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it by now but it never gets any less exciting. My heart still pounds as I worry about McClane’s ability to get out of the situation he’s landed in. It’s a film experience that is as full of joy on the first watch to the last.

Still, there are parts of it that are slightly dodgy. The plot tends to get caught up in a few subplots and spends too long on terrible supporting characters. The film isn’t just all one-note and, between the chaotic explosions and gunfire, there is plenty of breathing space for the main characters to get to the fore. However, in order to have more of this downtime, there are plenty of minor characters that get more time on screen than they really deserve. The underdeveloped and tiresome limo driver, the coked-up businessman and the fucking stupid police chief are all given more screen time than they needed.

Thankfully though director John McTiernan knows what the audience wants and keeps the main plot a fairly standard affair. John McClane (Bruce Willis) has made his way from New York to LA for Christmas in the hopes of reconciling with his ex-wife. He meets her at her office party only for it to be taken over by a group calling themselves terrorists, headed up by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). John manages to keep hidden from the guys with machine guns and starts to fuck up their plans as best he can. A frantic game of cat and mouse ensues.

The intricacies of the plot are neither here nor there really. It doesn’t matter why Gruber and co have taken control of Nakatomi Plaza or what’s happening between John and his wife. All that matters is McClane finding himself having to defend innocent people from a group of ruthless thieves. It does the job. Nothing else is needed but a few blond Germans with a desire to kill and some explosives. Yes, there could have been more but there is enough of the good stuff to ensure the bad doesn’t taint it too much.

Die Hard is the film that made Bruce Willis a star and he certainly flourished in the role. John McClane is a tough guy that always knows the right thing to say. He’s sassy and brilliant. Although, what is a great hero without a great villain. This is McClane’s time to shine but Hans Gruber is the one who comes out as most memorable here. His witty asides and most quotable lines lack the sweary passion of McClane but are still just as wonderful. “Mr Takagi won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.” Fucking classic. Alan Rickman is fucking sensational here and plays the character so simply. Yes, a lot of the dialogue is fucking awful but Gruber is enough of a professional to make it work.

Alan Rickman will be remembered for this role and it is quite right too. He is a great actor that was dropped into a fucking crazy narrative. It works on so many levels and Rickman has been left with a legacy as a villain that he himself didn’t appreciate. The actor had so many facets to him but, because he was so good, he managed to create lasting characters that will never leave people. It was a truly sad day when his death was announced and watching this film every Christmas will always be fairly bittersweet now. Happy trails, Han.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Joy (2015)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Joy (2015)

I still can’t work out what I feel about Jennifer Lawrence. On the one hand, she seems super cool and down-to-earth and I want to be her friend. On the other, she seems really irritating in a “trying to seem to cool and down-to-earth” kind of way. Of course that’s probably just down to how cynical and bitchy I am. Lawrence is a formidable talent and has brought great things to even the shittest productions. I’d probably be willing to watch anything if she had a key role and, it just so happens that I just have. If nothing else, Joy has been a gift to film critics. The title gives plenty of potential for witty quips about being or not being filled with joy as the credits roll. Very fucking clever guys. It means reading reviews gets kind of repetitive so I’ll try not to fall into the same old trap.

When it comes down to it, I still don’t think I’m a fan of David O. Russell’s films. There’s something about his style that I just can’t quite get on board with. I can’t say I had a great deal of praise for either American Hustle or Silver Linings Playbook. As far as I could see if it hadn’t been for J Law then neither would have had an awful lot going for them. O. Russell is the kind of director who likes to make real life a bit quirkier and comic but without risking stepping into Wes Anderson territory.

Joy is based on the true story of businesswoman Joy Mangano (J Law), a single mother who found success selling her uniquely designed mop. I say based on because O. Russell has played with Annie Mumolo’s original script to make the story more interesting. The simple examination of the realities of the American Dream told from the perspective of a desperate young woman wasn’t enough for the director. He changed aspects of Mangano’s story and added the unnecessary and undeveloped framing narrative of a trashy soap opera. The soap opera is watched by Joy’s mother (Virginia Madsen) who, following her divorce, has shut herself in her room and spends her days in bed watching television. The characters on screen are supposed to mirror the people in Joy’s life but it’s a device that never really gets off the ground. It’s picked up when O. Russell an be bothered and then dropped when there’s other shit to talk about. It’s just another step too quirky.

That’s not to say that Joy fails on all counts. O. Russell’s decision to compare Joy’s position as matriarch to that of a mob boss is an interesting concept and the parallels work well on screen. However, this, as with a lot of O. Russell’s directorial decisions, adds very little to the narrative and are clumsily linked together. There are a number of subplots that just sort of happen whilst the main narrative is going on: adding nothing more than what feels like days to the running time. The main story should have been enough for O. Russell to work with: Joy, a young mother, is left fighting to keep her family afloat. Growing up as a creative child, she had to put her desires on hold to care for her divorced parents and the ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez) who is living in her basement. After a fairly ordinary accident Joy comes up with her idea for a self-wringing mop and immediately starts drawing up crude plans in crayon. Thanks to a contact of her ex, Joy in introduced to QVC executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) and is able to sell her product on the growing network.

Of course, things are never straight forward and Joy has to deal with several bumps in the road before she finally manages to find the success she so desires. Still, it gives Jennifer Lawrence a lot to work with and it’s easy to see why she’s making a name for herself this awards season. Lawrence is a fucking great actress and is by far and away the best thing about the film. It’s also the greatest of Lawrence’s O. Russell performances to date. She plays worn-down Joy with an overall dignity, sense of hope and determination that fights against the chaos that is ensuing around her.

Those surrounding her are a hit-and-miss bunch of supporting characters. Robert DeNiro is back with O. Russell and co to play another intense father though DeNiro is happily more nuanced here than he was in Silver Linings Playbook. The actor proves he still has a great deal to offer if he were offered something worth his talents. Bradley Cooper likewise returns and, whilst I’m still not convince he’s much more than a pretty face, shows that he can do calm and business like as Walker. Although, given that he isn’t actually given a lot to do, it’s not the kind of evidence that would hold up to much scrutiny. The rest of the cast all add something to the narrative but have fuck all chances to develop. Any attempt to flesh these characters out is forgotten once the story starts to pick up pace. This might be in-keeping with O. Russell’s plan to mirror the people of the fictional soap opera but it never quite lands. Instead we have a bunch of random people who just flounder on screen whilst J Law is kicking ass.

Joy is by no means a terrible film. I probably disliked it less than Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. However, it could have been a great deal better than it was. It’s certainly elevated by Jennifer Lawrence’s performance but more work was needed to really give do this story justice. O. Russell once again gets distracted playing with genre and manufacturing moments of dark comedy to really give a shit about the American Dream. It’s not a streamlined affair and there were moments when I was willing the inevitable ending to arrive. So I guess you could say I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy… oh fuck.

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

It is so fucking cold right now that I’m pretty sure my brain has completely frozen. I can’t go anywhere without wearing at least three layers and I have to walk through the snow like a bloody 80 year old for fear of slipping. January isn’t the time for snow. Christmas week I can cope with but after that is just becomes a pain. Although, I can’t it provides the perfect opportunity to sit inside and read. Instead of being outside I’ve been snuggled up under my faux fur throw, in as many layers of knitwear as I can mange, reading a book with a cup of tea in my hand. I’m so fucking Instagram right now. Oh, that reminds me, follow me on Instagram.


Just Finished
  • A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor
Great news guys, I’ve finally finished this book. None of us thought this day was going to come but, thank fuck, it’s finally here. This book was delightful from start to finish but I feel it would have benefited from a quicker read. The narrative jumps between the past and the present and, at the rate I was reading, I found it a little confusing at times. There are a few issues with the representation of India in the novel, with many sections being seemingly written for an outsider’s perspective. Delhi is certainly exoticised but there are some lovely moments full of reality. The writing is mostly pretty gorgeous and the story is pretty engaging but it could have been more. Still, I’d recommend this novel to anyone who loves deep writing and great characters. 


To Be Read

  • Who fucking knows
For the first time since starting my Sunday rundown, I don’t have a book on the go and I’m loving the freedom. As you’ll see from my book hauls in the last few weeks I have plenty to choose from but I’m looking for something easier to get into than A Bad Character. I need something lighter this time around. Maybe I’ll even get my Kindle out again. It’s been a while.


Recently Purchased

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 
I’ve loved these editions of Harry Potter since they were released in 2014. The cover art is beautiful and much more in keeping with the novels than I felt the original artwork was. I bought The Half Blood Prince on a whim because, after Alan Rickman’s death last week, I’ve had the urge to reread it. I think it’s one of my favourite books in the series but I feel it gets a little bit overlooked. It’s quite forgettable as it’s basically just a filler story. Fuck all happens in it. It’s just a way to answer the questions needed to get us from Order of the Phoenix to The Deathly Hallows. I love it though. There’s so many great little moments in the narrative that don’t stand out as much as they should. Plus, I’ve always been a Snape fan… until he turned out to be a creep, of course. 
  • Harry Potter: Books 1,2 and 3
Well, since I’ve gone and bought the latest edition of book 6 it was only natural that I go ahead and collect the entire series. 3 books at a time seems okay and, luckily, these 3 fit into Amazon’s 3 for £10 deal. Prisoner of Azkaban has always been my favourite; mostly because I always loved Lupin the most. I can’t help but find Books 1 and 2 a bit childish now and can’t finish them. Although, now I’ve got these editions I’ll give them another go.

  • The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
I read about this a while ago and have, once again, been drawn to a hyped book. Despite the fact that it;s being compared to The Girl on the Train which is a book beloved by all except me apparently. I’m not sure about this. It sounds like another vague, clichéd thriller about a troubled woman that will probably be very uninspiring. However, I’m always looking to be proved wrong. We’ll see how this compares.

Recently Watched

  • Joy
I’ll see you Tuesday everybody.
TBT: Labyrinth (1986)

TBT: Labyrinth (1986)

On Monday the world received some devastating news. It was announced that David Bowie, the legend, had died of cancer. I genuinely felt numb when I found out. Now I try not to get too crazy when it comes to showing grief about the death of a famous person. However, David Bowie was one of those people that actually did have a profound effect on people’s lives. He was a true artist who constantly evolved and always feels relevant. There can never be another person like him and he will never be forgotten. His death has prompted me, like everyone else who was similarly aggrieved by the news, to repeatedly listen to his entire music collection. But David Bowie was so much more than a singer. The man was an artist. He made so many great things for mankind to enjoy.

A couple of years ago, an ex-colleague of mine told me he had discovered the greatest movie he’d ever seen. It was a strange 80s film called Labyrinth. I had to laugh at his naivety. Imagine thinking I, a massive lover of all things weird and Bowie, had never seen it. I fucking love it. It’s a film that has to be seen to be believed and will never leave you looking at the world in the same way again. And I’m not just talking in relation to David’s crotch.

Labyrinth wasn’t exactly a success when it was first released in the 80s. Still, like most batshit crazy things from that era, the film gained a huge cult following and it still beloved by fans to this day. It’s easy to see why. Directed by Jim Henson, the Muppet marvel, Labyrinth’s cast is mostly made up of a ragtag bunch of puppets. Henson teamed up with Brian Froud, who had provided the concept art for his earlier film The Dark Crystal. Henson created a world that is weird, creepy and totally amazing.

Unfortunately, the story is less inspiring, It follows Sarah, a fifteen year old girl who is sick of her stepmother and annoying half-brother, Toby. Thankfully, her despair is noticed by Jareth, the Goblin King, who takes the baby back to his castle to turn it into a goblin. In order to rescue her family, Sarah must find her way through the Labyrinth to reach the castle and say the magic words to defeat him.

Boasting a script from Monthy Python’s own Terry Jones and original music from Bowie and composer Trevor Jones, Labyrinth more than makes up for the lacklustre story by creating a world that is completely engaging. The puppetry continues to be impressive even in 2016 and the creatures themselves are grotesque but fantastic beasts. The film is exciting and has something to offer people of all ages. Terry Jones’ script manages to make all of the familiar elements seem fresh and brings his own brand of wit and originality to the proceedings. I genuinely cannot praise the making of this film enough.

Then you get to the casting. Obviously humans are a bit of a luxury here so they do stand out a bit more than usual. However, I don’t think anyone can deny that the casting of David Bowie as the Goblin King has to be the best fucking decision ever made. Bowie wasn’t the only person in the running for the job with singers like Sting, Prince, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson all being considered for the part. It’s easy to say this now but I just can’t imagine the film working as well as it did with someone else in this vital role. Bowie encapsulates Jareth and manages to bring a dangerous and seductive aspect to him whilst still being child friendly. Unlike the content of his trousers which is very un-child friendly.

Bowie was drawn to the film because of its humour and its heart. It can’t be denied that, despite its creepy visuals, Labyrinth has a great message at its centre. It has a lot to show about love, family and friendship. It ended up being Jim Henson’s last feature film before his death in 1990. Unfortunately, it was a commercial failure and was a difficult thing for Henson to take. Although now it’s easy to see that the film has had such a huge impact on so many people. Something that, according to Brian Henson, Jim was able to see before he died. It has brought so much joy to so many people in a way that only Jim Henson films only can.

I don’t know why but every now and again in my life, for no reason at all, I need this film. It’s a joy that always makes me feel like a kid. Although, nowadays I’m way more uncomfortable with the Sarah/Jareth romance. Especially when you consider how in her face Bowie’s package really was. Still, Labyrinth is never going to be on anyone’s list of Greatest Films Ever made in terms of overall quality and originality. Favourite film ever made? Well that’s a completely different story. It’s an honest to goodness classic children’s film in the 80s tradition of kidnapping and paedophilia. It’s the perfect entertainment.

So, if you’re feeling depressed at the thought of a Bowie-less world then there is one place you can always go to find a friend… should you need them.

Tuesday’s Reviews: The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Tuesday’s Reviews: The Good Dinosaur (2015)

For no reason other than bragging, I’d just like to point out that, thanks to a timely package arrival, I’m typing this wearing my new Boba Fett Varsity Jacket. I’ve never felt like such a badass before. I’m in love with it. I will never take it off. Anyway, back to the review. I think I missed most of the deal about The Good Dinosaur. I mean I saw enough references around the internet but not enough to actually watch it. Until I had nothing better to do and a review to plan for. To be fair, I couldn’t see many problems with it. We all know I love a good animated film and I bloody love dinosaurs. Why wouldn’t I like this one? I really want a future employee to ask me the “which dinosaur would you be” in an interview one day. I genuinely think that I’d have the best answer to that question ever. I’d tell you what it is but I wouldn’t want to give you a helping hand if we’re ever competing for the same position one day. Although, after watching this movie I may have to change it anyway. Who wouldn’t want to be a gruff, T-Rex rancher?
The Good Dinosaur asks the question “what would life have been like if the dinosaurs hadn’t died out?” It makes for a pretty amazing opening sequence and sets up an interesting premise. What if dinosaurs and man had existed at the same time? In Pixar’s world, dinosaurs have evolved over millions of years to be able to build simple structures, farm the land and raise livestock. Obviously they can talk but what animals can’t in the Pixar universe?

So, we are first introduced to the new dino way of life thanks to a pair of Apatosauruses who run their farm with surprising efficiency considering they don’t have hands. Of course, their small family is quickly expanded as the couple welcome three children to their brood. The two eldest are boisterous and helpful for the family business whilst the third, Arlo, is small and scared of everything. Arlo is encouraged by his father to ignore his fear and help destroy the critter that is threatening to eat them out of house and home. Unfortunately, the chase leads to a sequence of events that leaves Arlo alone and a long way from home.

Thankfully, he is not alone and is helped on his journey back by the dreaded critter, Spot, who turns out to be the orphaned child of a couple of cavemen. Whilst dinosaurs have taken on human traits, Spot perfectly fits into the role of loyal dog. He brings Arlo food, protects him and wants nothing more than to love his new companion. Arlo quickly warms to Spot and their friendship blossoms whilst they encounter new creatures and dangerous situations.

The Good Dinosaur is no way near being the most inspired Pixar plot of all time. It had a few script problems and a last minute change, which can be seen in the final product. I know we’re talking about a kids film so I don’t want to bring logic into it so deeply. However, there can be no doubt that the whole concept raises a few questions that it never answers. Plus, the actual journey is very simplistic and is almost literally just Arlo’s walk back to his home. There are a few sub-plots along the way but any breaks in the path are few and far between.

However, of those few there are a couple of stand out moments. The brief break Arlo and Spot get helping a family of Tyrannosaurs track down their herd of buffalo from a group of raptor rustlers. The characters are a fantastic addition and give a clearer view of the world that Pixar has created. With the patriarch expertly voiced by Sam Elliott, it is a great dinosaur parody of Western films and deserves a spin-off of its own.

The tale isn’t really as creative as a lot of their most loved work but it still remains a Pixar film in spirit. The visuals are as fucking beautiful as anyone would expect and the realistic backdrop becomes a character in its own right. It’s so wonderfully realised that it makes sense that the main characters are a little bit more childish and cartooony. It works. It’s stunning. It’s Pixar.

As well as breathtaking visual images, Pixar is becoming known for devastating their audience with an overload of emotions. I was left a blubbering mess at the end of Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur was no different. The reason behind its simplistic plot is to allow the filmmakers to focus on the central relationship that is so important to both characters. The friendship that develops between Arlo and Spot is beautiful and realistic. This is the true heart of the film and you can’t help but get drawn into the pair’s blossoming connection.

The journey itself may be uninspiring but there can be no denying that the consequences for both main characters are utterly fulfilling. The emotional ending is a fucking emotional rollercoaster and it is totally earned. It’s nowhere near being Pixar’s most creative film but Spot and Arlo are one of the studios best double acts.

Bonus post – my most anticipated fiction releases of 2016

Bonus post – my most anticipated fiction releases of 2016

As you can see from my previous post today, I’m not doing too well at reading at the moment. Unfortunately, there are a shitload of great books coming out this year that I can’t wait to read. In order to get through them I know I need to make loads of changes to how I live my life but I’m also very set in my ways. Maybe 2016 is the year I finally get my shit together and, at least pretend, I’m a modern woman who can have it all. The good thing about this blog, as well as giving me a place to rant, is that it shames me into doing things. I’ve already started buying less books and being more careful about spur of the moment spending. So you guys can hopefully force me to become a better reader. If I set out the books I want to read this year then I’ll have to get through at least some of them for fear of being ostracised by the bookish community. I’ve tried to arrange them in order of most anticipated but we all know I am equally desperate to own them all.


2016 fiction releases I’m excited about
  • The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
    • Barnes’ first novel since the 2011 Man Booker Prize winning The Sense of an Ending tackles the life of composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Opening during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, it follows his life. I’m excited.
  • What is not yours is not yours by Helen Oyeyemi
    • Writing her first novel The Icarus Girl when she was just 18, Helen Oyeymi was quickly recognised as a great young writer. 2014’s Boy, Snow, Bird was a fantastic read and I’m really looking forward to her first short story collection.
  • Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marias
    • Spain’s leading novelist offers us a story of desire and betrayal in this noirish novel. A young man gets involved with a famous film director and gets entangled into the mysterious circumstances involving his wife.
  • Nicotine by Nell Zink
    • Zink is one of America’s leading novelists at the moments thanks to Mislaind & The Wallcreeper. This new novel narrative deals with smokers’ rights activists, dodgy real estate deals and love triangles. Sounds good. 
  • Blood Riders by Gary Oldman and Douglas Urbanski
    • Yes, that’s right, Dracula himself is helping to write a set of vampire novels that is set in the Wild West. It’s a concept so fucking awesome I couldn’t even have dreamt it up.
  • Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
    • Anne Tyler was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker for A Spool of Blue Thread, which she said would be her last novel. However, she’s back with a modernisation of The Taming of the Shrew. I’m excited to see how this turns out.
  • Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson
    • Another Shakespeare update for his anniversary year, Man Booker prize winner Jacobson deals with tackles The Merchant of Venice and explores Jewish culture, fatherhood and morality in the modern world. Fucking dreamy.
  • The Heart by Maylis deKerangal
    • The Heart tells the story of a human heart making the journey from a dead body to a seriously ill one. This is an exploration of so many ideas and it’s a fucking amazing concept.
  • Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
    • A tale concerning religious fanatics, two orphans, and speaking to the dead. This gothic novel tracks the journey of two women as they head towards a mysterious revelation. I do love a gothic novel.
  • You Should Pity Us by Amy Gustine
    • A short story collection about people in various states of extremis. The stories display real life situations of differing severity but each is given equal weight.
  • The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajon
    • The narrative deals with fallout from a terrorist attack on a Delhi marketplace and the way family, politics and pain weave together. It sounds fucking wonderful and devastating.
  • The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot
    • A graphic novel biography of the French revolutionary feminist Louise Michel who is closley associated with the Paris Commune. Coming from this critically acclaimed duo I’m expecting great things. 
  • The Girls by Emma Cline
    • One of 2016’s most high-profile debuts, The Girls fouses on a young girl in the Summer of 1969. She manages to get drawn into a mysterious commune that shares a great deal with the Manson family. 
  • A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
    • A veteran comic falls apart in front of an audience in a small Israeli comedy club. The comic must chose between his commitment to his audience and to himself. I haven’t seen a lot about this but what I have sounds fucking unbelievable.
  • Letters to Kevin by Stephen Dixon
    • Coming out just after my birthday, this farce sounds absurd, wild and weird. Rudy thought it would be easy to call his friend Kevin but it turns into a crazy adventure. Right up my street.
  • The Fat Artist and Other Stories by Benjamin Hale
    • A fantastic sounding short story collection revolving around dominatrices and performance artists. 
  • Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens
    • A pregnant young woman enters a maternity ward determined to give birth without any equipment or epidural. It follows her 11 hour labour and the work of the pregnant nurse who is helping her.
  • Zero K by Don DeLillo
    • “We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner?” Zero K tells the story of a billionaire with a terminally ill wife who tries to cheat death using science. Raising questions about fate and morality, I can’t wait.
  • The Good Liar by Nichola Searle
    • Searle’s debut novel concerns an eldery conman working the his last scam, The story is written in reverse to reveal the mysteries surrounding the conman and his seemingly willing victim. 
  • Losing It by Emma Rathbone
    • 26 year old Julia visits her spinster aunt to confront her fears surrounding her own virginity. A interested and unusual concept that I’m excited to read.
  • I Am No One by Patrick Flanery
    • A professor returns to New York City after 10 years and finds himself the object of obsession for a man who is supposedly a part of his past. It explores the link between fear and paranoia in our modern world of surveillance and censorship. It sounds intense and fucking brilliant.
  • How to set a fire and why by Jesse Ball
    • The story of a teenager living an impoverished life in the absence of her parents. She is expelled from school and looking for a purpose when she discovers a secret Arson Club she is desperate to be a part of. Sounds explosive. 
  • Our Young Man by Edmund White
    • French Guy is a beautiful man who finds fame as a model in New York City in the 1980s. Weirdly though, Guy doesn’t seem to age. Set against a backdrop of the disco era and moving into the era of Aids, White explores the power of beauty.
  • The Storyteller: Tales Out of Loneliness by Walter Benjamin
    • This is critic and philosopher Benjamin’s first major collection of short stories and with it he experiments with fiction. It includes various forms such as novellas, fables, histories, aphorisms, parables and riddles. 
  • Not Working by Lisa Owens
    • A thirty something woman quits her job in order to discover her vocation. It’s only then that she realises she has no idea what to do with herself. As someone desperate to find professional happiness, there is something familiar about this concept and I’m looking forward to reading it.
  • Ten Days by Gillian Slovo
    • Based on the London riots of 2011, Ten Days shows the ten days of violence that wrupt during an intense heatewave. It’s about the consequences of politics, policing and the harsh realities of life collide. 
  • Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff
    • Jonathan finds modern life and relationships baffling. He struggles along being nostalgic for the simpler times of the past. Thankfully, his two dogs are determined to help him fix his life… possibly. 
  • Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
    • This debut novel from Okparata is the story of a young woman separated from her family at the height of the Biafran civil war. After meeting another young girl, Ijeoma must confront her sexuality and deal with her religious beliefs. 
THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

Ten days into the new year and I’m still falling into old habits. I’m very motivated to keep up with my new blogging plan and have even bought a diary to keep my schedule in. I feel so fucking grown-up right now. However, I still find that I read way less than I should. I got through a Literature degree so I know I’m a quick reader who should be able to get through at least one book a week. I shouldn’t be struggling this much. However, being a grown-up with responsibilities and a tiring job is too much. I’m so far behind with everything I want to watch and read that it’s taking too much energy to start tackling it. Plus, after putting it off forever, I’ve finally discovered Skyrim and that is taking up a hell of a lot of my spare time. I mean where else can I learn how to pickpocket without risking my steadfast moral code?


Currently Reading
  • A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor
I feel like this section isn’t really necessary any more. I’m still reading and still loving it but just not quickly enough. I think the problem is my co-workers. When I was happy to head out to some nearby solitude or just sit silently in the corner reading I could get through books in no time. Now I actually want to spend my breaks talking to my colleagues. Liking people is such a pain in the arse.


Recently Purchased

  • The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato
I very nearly got away without buying any new books this week but relented and bought a book that had been in my Amazon cart for a while. This is the story of the disappearance of a Lady Gaga esque pop star and the two women who set out to find her. The deeper they go the more they realise how dangerous their quest will be. It sounds outrageous, it sounds trashy, it sounds ideal to get me out of my January slump.
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Aziz Ansari is the kind of guy you can’t help but love. He’s a funny, adorable chap who also happens to say a lot of intelligent and good things. This book has been a major hit since it was released and I have been lusting after it for a while. It was only after a conversation with an old friend of mine about her dating life that I was finally compelled to go for it. A someone who should probably have been boon pre-1960, I’ve always found modern dating to be a huge mystery. I’m really bad at it and have stumbled blindly through every romantic encounter I’ve ever had. Maybe Aziz can push me in the right direction?

  • The Bazaar if Bad Dreams by Stephen King
To be honest I think I should have included this one in last weeks but, as it was such an unplanned decision to buy it, completely forgot about it. As I seem to be forever pointing out in this blog, I have a strange relationship with Stephen King. I want to give in to the hype but he seems to be losing his edge these days. I’ve been disappointed by the endings to most of his recent novels. However, I love a good short story collection and this one has a fucking beautiful cover. Could be everything I need to convince me King is still worth my time.


Recently Watched

  • The Good Dinosaur
Won’t say too much as you’ll just have to wait until my dedicated review day. However, I will say, there were so many feels. Tears everywhere.
TBT: She’s the Man (2006)

TBT: She’s the Man (2006)

I got the idea to review this modern Shakespeare film after I shamefully clicked on an article about actors hooking up on set. Two revelations came from this simple act: Firstly, when I’m bored enough I’ll click on any old shit and, secondly, Channing Tatum must be super glad the Amanda Bynes things didn’t work out. So this Twelfth Night update has been in my head for a while and, as someone who loves to talk about shitty updated Shakespeare films, I sort of wanted the chance to revisit it. However, it was only once I’d started writing that I realised it might be a bit misjudged when taken alongside my Tuesday review. Talking about real-life trans woman Lili Elbe alongside a film called She’s the Man might seem at best stupid and at worst offensive. Still, it’s too late to go back so I’ll have to hope I’m just being a little too neurotic.

She’s the Man updates Shakespeare’s tale of cross-dressing twins. However, instead of a court in Illyria the action centres around the soccer team of an elite boarding school. When he high school girl’s team is disbanded due to lack of funds, Viola makes the unusual and fucking drastic decision to pretend to be her twin brother, Sebastian, so she can play for a male team instead. Even though it’s bizarrely easy for Viola to convince everyone she’s actually a teenage boy, she does run into some issues along the way.

In keeping with the original she unwittingly enters into a weird love triangle. Turns out Sebastian’s roommate is the incredibly hot and often shirtless Duke (Channing Tatum) and Viola struggles to keep her attraction a secret. Duke is in turn after Olivia (Laura Ramsey) who actually has a thing for her science partner, Sebastian. There’s a lot of misunderstandings, hijinks and cosume changes in there keep the film going for that little bit longer than it needed to. It’s safe to say there is a lot of unnecessary game playing and twists in the narrative before we arrive at the inevitable happy ending.

She’s the Man isn’t just a bad adaptation of a Shakespeare play; it’s a bad film. There is very little to rave about here and during most of my time watching I was just fucking aghast that we were expected to believe Amanda Bynes can pass for a boy. We’re meant to accept that when her actual brother shows up nobody seems concerned that Sebastian starts to look and act completely different.

Everything about this narrative is horrible. There is no real thought process going on here. It’s literally just dumped Shakespeare’s narrative in an American high school and let things go whichever way they please. The narrative just runs away with itself and there was clearly nobody able to control it. It got to the point where the writer’s felt they were doing their job properly as long as everyone interacts with each other at some point.

The main performance by Bynes, in both roles, is just over-the-top and a massive assault on your senses. The comedy is driven through completely misguided attempts at slapstick and an obnoxious use of gender stereotypes. Bynes’ presence on screen is just very big and very bad. You can see that she’s trying to play it for laughs but nothing ever pans out. She’s not a natural comedian and her physical comedy is just a little too on the side of awkward to really land.

Of all the plays to adapt, Twelfth Night is one of the stupidest. It’s always been a bit of stretch even compared to his most ridiculous cross-dressing plots. At least the original has enough wit within its script to obscure the daft premise. She’s the Man has nothing to fall back on. It isn’t winning with its narrative or screenplay. It also fails to draw you in on an emotional level. It’s obvious that the two main characters are destined to end up together but there’s nothing about them that makes you give a damn. It’s all just vacuous, high school movie nonsense… and I say that as someone who’s standards are pretty fucking low when it comes to teen movies.