Tuesday’s Reviews – Now You See Me 2 (2016)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Now You See Me 2 (2016)

I saw Now You See Me with a couple of friends and vividly remember one of them despairing about how much we enjoyed it. She said it was nonsense and the plot didn’t make sense. She wasn’t wrong, of course, but, as we tried to explain to her, that didn’t make it any less exciting. Yes, finishing the film made you realise everything pretty much happened for no reason but it was still fun. I can’t even say that I am a massive fan of magic as I’m far too cynical to appreciate it. I’m always looking for the hidden aspects and the slight of hand because that’s what adults do. However, films concerning magic are always incredibly exciting. The Prestige is utterly insane when you think about it too much but that doesn’t stop it being fucking amazing. So, whilst I won’t be shouting it from the hill tops, I was a fan of the first film. Still, I can’t say I was exactly thrilled by the idea of a sequel. Especially as it starred Daniel Radcliffe, the least talented actor of the Harry Potter films. At least Mark Ruffalo would be there and I’m sure there’s a lot of things I could get through with the help of Mark Ruffalo.

Remember the fun but otherwise forgettable 2013 magic film Now You See Me? Do you remember how it ended? Well you better because the sequel nobody wanted or expected is here. Despite Now You See Me ending on a very final and satisfactory note, the powers that be obviously thought they could squeeze it for more so we’re picking up where we left of in Now You See Me 2. For those who haven’t spent the last 3 years thinking about this film I’ll sum up. The magicians, known as The Four Horsemen, are in hiding and undercover FBI agent/magician Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is pretending to hunt for them. Meanwhile, angry patsy Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) is languishing in prison intent of making the Horsemen pay for setting him up for a pretty flimsy reason. He’s posting internet videos calling for vengeance and, when the Horsemen are called out of retirement, it looks as though he’ll get his chance.

The four magicians, minus the ginger Isla Fisher but with the addition of the more edgy Lizzy Caplan, are called on to reveal the greed of a businessman who possesses software that can steal data from its users. When the plot goes wrong and Dylan is outed as a double agent the group find themselves kidnapped by the supposed dead partner of the businessman, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). He forces the magicians to steal the software for him or he’ll kill them or something. It doesn’t really matter because, as we know by now, the plot really isn’t as simple as all that. Everyone is playing games and nobody really knows what’s going on.

It basically becomes the same kind of showdown we saw in the original between the corrupt and dangerous Mabry and our Robin Hood-esque magic group. However, this time there’s more talking and more exposition to get us to the very obvious ending. Plus, just when you think this film couldn’t get more ridiculous than its predecessor, in a weird subplot Dylan works on his continued Daddy issues when he goes to Thaddeus for help in tracking down his magic interns. To any normal person this seems like a fucking stupid idea but Dylan sees no problem with helping his arch-enemy escape from prison.

This film does succeed in providing you with everything you expect, though. There’s magic, brooding Mark Ruffalo, zany Woody Harrelson and annoyed Jesse Eisenberg. Although, in Now You See Me 2 there was far too much of the latter two and not enough magic in any sense of the word. Still, I guess these movies aren’t really about magic but are more of an Ocean’s Eleven meets The Prestige kind of caper. Magi-crime thriller? I dunno. Still, it is fun enough but, you can’t help feeling, second time around it just doesn’t have the same effect. Mostly because it was a completely unnecessary sequel. The story line is stretched super thin because there was just no place to go at the end of the first one. Whatever you may think of the quality, it was pretty self-contained.

No matter how many quirky new characters, secret identical twins or Chinese magic shops you throw into the mix, this sequel still feels like it fails to lie up to the, not so great, heights of its predecessor. Everything feels desperate and there are so many failed attempts to ramp up the thrills. Take Michael Caine’s dramatic reveal, which, thanks to his very obvious appearance in all the marketing, is nowhere near as thrilling as the filmmakers would have liked. The mood is much more bleak and Mark Ruffalo spends most of his time moping around. The rest of the cast seem content to treat the film as the insane story that it is but Ruffalo refuses to take a break. It often feels at odds with the rest of the proceedings.

The first film had no real expectations of itself and was a fun, flashy affair that didn’t care how absurd it was. And I liked that about it. This film is a tepid and unimaginative affair that calls on every stupid trick in the book to try and convince its audience that it’s relevant. Unfortunately, it’s not. I mean there are a couple of stand-out moments but nothing major. The only thing that really got me excited was the moment the group try and hide the stolen chip by slyly chucking a playing card back-and-forth in front of angry security guards. Even that feels half-arsed in the grand scheme of things though. You won’t necessarily hate this film but there is no denying it’s lost the magic of the original.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Today is father’s day so I hope that you’re all treating your dad like a King. Me? I forced him to drive me to work at 6:45 am and left his present on the side for him to find when he got back. Who says daughterly love isn’t alive and well. Still, I guess I owe a lot to my father. He’s had a greater influence on my interests than I really appreciate. He’s a fan of J.R.R Tolkein and bought my my first copy of The Fellowship of the Ring when I was younger. He was the one who bought me a copy of The Philosopher’s Stone when it was released. His love of Arthur Conan Doyle pushed me into reading his novels as soon as I could. It was sitting with my dad and watching The Next Generation that really got me into Star Trek. No doubt there’s more that his tastes have influenced but it can’t be ignored that my father is responsible for some of the greatest loves that have followed me through my life. Without Toklein I wouldn’t have read George RR Martin. Without that first copy of Harry Potter I would have missed out on one of the most important series of books in my life. Without TNG I wouldn’t have grown up knowing what a badass Patrick Stewart is. So, despite my lack of celebration this morning, I am celebrating my father today. Who knows what kind of boring life I’d have had without his influence. 
Currently Reading
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
I’m getting through this but still pretty slowly. I’d forgotten how dense George RR’s writing can be. I’m absolutely loving it but it just feels like such an immense task to get through each section. As someone who doesn’t want to finish reading for the night until I’ve reached a suitable place it sometimes doesn’t feel worth starting when I’m in bed. I hope I get into this soon. I’ve spent a lot of my day off reading and I’m slowly falling in love with Dunk and Egg’s bromance. I just need to pray for inspiration.

Recently Purchased
  • The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters by Fergus Fleming
Saw this one in a bookshop and knew I had to have it. I love the James Bond films and have tried, unsuccessfully, to get into the books a few times. However, I love reading people’s letters because I’m so fucking nosy. Seriously, though, I always regretted not writing my postgraduate dissertation about the letters of Romantic poets because it’s always so fascinating to read their personal letters. I tracked down a copy of Jean-Paul Satre’s letters to Simone de Beauvoir because of the film The Truth About Cats and Dogs and have loved it. It’s so great getting a look into their personal loves and the difference in their voices and styles is fantastic. I have to say that the best thing about the Sex and the City movie is the moment Carrie is reading the love letters of great men. I have a similar book and adore it. So, I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ll love this book.
  • The House of Ulloa (Pocket Penguins) by Emilia Pardo Bazán
Another edition to my slowly increasing Pocket Penguins collection and it’s a lovely yellow colour. Yellow is fast becoming my favourite colour so I was, probably, sways towards this one more on the cover than the stroy. However, it is also a Gothic novel and we all know how I feel about them. The story of a young priest entering a morally questionable world sounds ideal. It’s like The Monk but, hopefully, with less “beauteous orbs” 
  • The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane
I saw this book and thought the cover was so good I bought it without knowing anything about the story. However, it sounds pretty great even though it wouldn’t make a difference now. Ruth is widowed and lives alone until an unexpected arrival turns up at her door. Frida appears great at first but Ruth starts to hear a tiger prowling around her house at night. Who is this stranger and what does she want with Ruth? See? Doesn’t that sound fucking awesome? Woman/tiger mystery. Looking forward to this. 

Recently Watched
  • X-Men: Apocalypse
I finally got round to seeing this after bloody ages. After spending months feeling absolutely shit about it, I was pleasantly surprised. Still, it wasn’t exactly good. Check out my review from last week. 
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
In order to really get my TBT review correct this week I went above and beyond and rewatched this fucking film. Wanna hear my thoughts? Check out my Thursday post
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (Rogue cut)
After watching Apocalypse this week I went on a bit of an X-Men marathon and finally watched the extended edition of Days of Future Past. Considering how much I loved this film and loved the sound of the Rogue scenes I was excited. Turns out, the extra 20 minutes or so didn’t really add a great deal. I can’t say Rogue made much of a difference and, aside from the super hot Beast/Mystique scene, there wasn’t much I wished had been in the final cinematic release. Still, it’s a fucking great film regardless. 
  • Now You See Me 2
I quite liked the first film despite how ridiculous it was. So I was sort of looking forward to the sequel. Did I like it? Find out on Tuesday.

  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
I love The Lonely Island and they have a permanent place on my Day to Day Spotify playlist. So I was loving the idea of this film. I’m hoping to do a full review in the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled. 
TBT – X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

TBT – X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

It’s been just over 10 years since Brett Ratner’s addition to the series of X-Men films that Bryan Singer started back in 2000 and, without meaning to be too dramatic, it’s still painful that this film exists. I know that Days of Future Past went and deleted it from the film canon but that doesn’t make it any easier. I vividly remember going to see this film with my friends: I was 18 years old, full of hope and excitement at what the next instalment would bring. I left feeling utterly depressed and glad the whole thing was over. A lot of my sadness at the time revolved around the casting of Kelsey Grammer as Beast. I’ve always loved the character of Beast and was glad that he was set to be involved in this film. As a firm lover of Frasier I even, initially, didn’t mind the casting of Grammer; I mean Hank is an intelligent and peaceful creature so I could see where they were coming from. Upon leaving I was bemoaning the fact that Beast had been so utterly wasted. As the years went by my hatred for this film only grew and, had it not been for the even more appalling X-Men Origins 3 years later, I could easily say this was worst film in the whole franchise. And, for once, I’m not just being melodramatic.

I’m so irrationally angry at this films existence that I imagine writing this review is going to be hard so I’m going to simplify it and break it down into the good and bad points.

First, the good:

  • The Cast

This film’s cast does have quite a few plus points as the rest of the films have. Ian McKellen is always a delight as the villainous Magneto and, no matter how much better J Law is at acting, I think Rebecca Romijn will always be the ultimate Mystique. She’s sexy, weird and dangerous instead of endless inspiring and preachy. In terms of the rest of the cast, most of the regulars are just phoning in what little they get to work with but, alongside newcomer Ellen Page as Kitty, the main highlight has to be Famke Janssen as Jean Grey/Phoenix. She gets short shrift in terms of the Dark Phoenix narrative but Janssen is fantastic in the moments she gets to unleash the Phoenix. We deserved more of her.

  • Action sequences

Whatever you may think about Ratner’s directorial style you cannot deny that his action sequences are memorable. Yes, this isn’t always a positive (see the floating house/Xavier shaky jowls moment) but the danger room sequence and final Phoenix showdown are both pretty spectacular.

  • Political Elements

The film’s narrative isn’t exactly strong but there are some aspects that work really well. The attempt to bring in the political elements with the cure provides an emotional struggle for the mutants. It follows the strong human vs mutant struggle we’ve seen in previous films and provides some decent moments. Angel’s storyline, though rushed, has some great moments and Beast’s internal struggle works great (particularly when added to the similar themes in the prequels).

Now the bad:

  • It’s just not very good

There is a lot of shitty parts of this film that stand out. The continuity is all over the shop and the editing is just awful in places. This film isn’t all about the detail it’s just about getting the story told in the most exciting way. Day quickly becomes night, cars have lights on to make shots better and things aren’t where they’re meant to be. It all just shows a lack of finesse and care that these films had under the watchful eye of Bryan Singer. Plus, who ever cast Vinnie fucking Jones needs to get sacked. Hearing his awful cockney accent shouting “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch” was something nobody needed or wanted.

  • Too many characters

There are just too many characters stuffed into this thing that nobody really gets the development they deserve. Even big players like Jean don’t get enough to do and she spends most of her time standing behind people looking bored. The new guys are introduced and ignored until they are needed for a cool shot or funny gag later one. We needed to get to know these characters and care about them instead of see one execution of their power near the end of the film. We needed more Hank for fuck’s sake.

  • Terrible treatment of existing characters

Ratner was brutal in this film when it came to killing off existing characters. Not brutal in terms of number, per se, but in the way he did it. There was no respect for the key characters here and they are completely turned around from the people we know already. Xavier’s characterisation here is completely different to the one we knew and he spends most of him time being a huge dick. It’s almost a relief when Jean kills him off. But then she does and in a really understated way. However, he gets more of a look in than Scott who, thanks to James Marsden’s desire to follow Singer to Superman Returns, gets killed off in the most pathetic way about 10 minutes into the film. Then there’s fucking Rogue who went through 2 films worth of struggling with her identity only to get rid of her powers so she can have sex with Bobby. What kind of fucking crazy message is that to give young girls? Get rid of your uniqueness in order to land a guy: fuck that! It’s a horrible use of these characters.

  • The rushed Dark Phoenix Saga

X2 remains the best film in the franchise in my opinion and it so expertly set up the Dark Phoenix Saga that fans eagerly awaited X3. Of course, The Last Stand managed to fuck that up by gluing this story onto the end of the main mutant cure narrative. This means we only get about 15 minutes of real Phoenix force before everything is resolved. Considering this is such a huge event in the comics, The Last Stand really doesn’t do it justice.

  • Too much Wolverine

By this point in the trilogy it had become clear that Wolverine was the most bankable member of the cast and, as such, Fox had made him the main character. Which is kind of crazy. It also meant that almost every emotional aspect of this plot fell back to him instead of the people it should have done. Xavier’s death: how does Logan feel? Jean’s descent into evil: how does Logan feel? Mutant cure: how does Logan feel? Who gives a fuck!? I want to know who thought it was a good idea to take the Dark Phoenix Saga out of Jean Grey’s completely and give the emotional resolution to fucking Wolverine? I love Hugh Jackman’s portrayal as much as the next guy but this shouldn’t have been his movie.

Conclusion:

By no means is The Last Stand the worst films ever made nor, thanks to fucking Origins, is it the worst X-Men film ever made. The problem remains that it was much worse than the two films is followed. Bryan Singer had made something great with his first two films. He not only set about placing X-Men firmly in Hollywood but also showed the great potential for superhero movies. Arguably, the focus of modern cinema could have been very different without them. So Ratner’s shitty attempt to follow in his footsteps is all the more painful because of the reputation he fucked with. Still, there are some positives. Mostly nothing to do with Ratner but, still, it’s good to know that we can find hope in anything.

Tuesday’s Reviews – X-Men: Apocalypse

Tuesday’s Reviews – X-Men: Apocalypse

Anyone who has been following this blog for long enough knows that I’ve had a long and tortured relationship with the X-Men film franchise. I’ve been a fan of your friendly neighbourhood mutants ever since the amazing 90s cartoon and X-Men Evolution back in early 2000. Then, of course, Bryan Singer brought the gang to the big screen in 2000 with X-Men and its superb sequel. Still, the films that followed never quite managed to achieve the original greatness so I wasn’t exactly loving the prospect of X-Men: Apocalypse. Especially when each of the trailers were such utter shit. Still, a guy at work saw the film when it first came out and insisted that it was worthwhile. He pretty much loves anything he watches so I wasn’t exactly convinced so it took a while to get round to it. So, will Apocalypse fall into the same traps that we saw The Last Stand did?

Before all of the action kicks off in X-Men: Apocalypse a group of teenage mutants sneak out of Professor Xavier’s mansion to watch Return of the Jedi. Upon exiting the film, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) utters the immortal phrase “everyone knows that the third movie is always the worst”. It’s a funny enough line considering the franchise’s history but the question remains about any potential self-awareness hidden underneath the humour. Were Bryan Singer and co. really calling out Brett Ratner for the disastrous The Last Stand (something they erased from the canon thanks the events of Days of Future Past) or were they preparing for the inevitable criticism of the end of their new trilogy?

I mean whatever your interpretation, it doesn’t bode well that the script is already preparing you for a shitty ending. Especially when the opening scene sets you up pretty well. The scene lifts off where the post credits scene of the last film left off. We are in Ancient Egypt and Apocalypse/En Sabah Nur is in the process of transferring his consciousness into the body of Oscar Issac. Unfortunately, before he can bring about the end of the world, the first ever mutant is betrayed by his people and ends up buried under the remains of his own pyramid.

Of course, we all know that’s not where he’ll stay and, thanks to some interference from Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrn), Apocalypse is risen from the dead and takes an instant dislike to the modern world. As the myths dictate he goes about rounding up his four horsemen to aid in his task. Storm (Alexandra Ship), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy) and, our old friend, Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Of course, Erik’s return to the world of evil causes concern for his ex-ally Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and he and his mutant students quickly find themselves embroiled in the disaster.

However, there is a lot more to the story than the above summary suggests. The action takes place 10 years after the climax of the last film so there are several old faces to reintroduce alongside all the newbies. The first hour basically consists of little vignettes detailing each character’s new storyline and it takes fucking ages. We see Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) acting as a vigilante in Berlin, Erik settling into a human life complete with wife and daughter in Poland, Alex Summers (Lucas Till) helping his younger brother Scott (Tye Sheridan) come to terms with his powers, and Jean Grey having nightmares about a coming evil. And, really, that’s not even scratching the surface. The film reintroduces us to Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult); reminds us, as if we could forget, that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) still exists; and introduces Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Pyslocke, Angel and Jubilee (Lana Condor).

There are a lot of players in this latest instalment and, because everyone has their own share of baggage, the whole things feels stuffed to bursting. It inevitably means that character plays a secondary role here and most people get little, if any, development. Scott and Jean get some chance to make a connection with the audience but they still don’t get what they deserve considering their history with the audience. Charles, Hank and Moira really get little to do and the rest of the new cast are pretty much just set dressing. I mean what is the point of introducing a villain like Apocalypse and making him so fucking undefined? Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to overload the film so much that there is no real sense of characterisation here?

Instead, the studio have focused on the characters that they believe are most bankable people. That’s why it is Eirk and Mystique who once again have to battle with their inner demons just as they have been doing for the past two films. The Last Stand failed because it was so wildly different to the preceeding films. Apocalypse fails because it’s so fucking similar. We’ve had two films of Erik killing people because his family are killed and Charles trying to convince him of his hidden goodness. We didn’t need another. He’s murdered so many people by this point you’d probably just give up. Then you have Mystique who has gone so far into Katniss territory that it’s embarrassing. I get that J Law can do no wrong but that doesn’t mean I need a 2.5 hour film of her making trite, inspirational speeches. It’s another Hollywood cliche at this point.

The film makers have got Apocalypse all wrong. X-Men hasn’t succeeded on spectacle or grandeur. It works well when there is depth and emotion. It works because we get to know the characters and appreciate their struggles. This film has more in common with Zack fucking Snyder that it does with its own franchise. At its climax the film just descends into the same wanton destruction that has become such a staple of the modern superhero film. Thanks to a kickstart to his powers, Magneto finds that he can manipulate the metal deep in the Earth and pretty much destroy everything in existence. He tears down buildings and ships thousands of miles away. Masses of unnamed people must be killed in this epic finale but its all so low-key. There are no consequences, no drama, It’s all just action.

I have to admit that I didn’t hate this film as much as I thought and I think there is great potential within the new cast for some future movies. However, I think this went too far. There was so much going on that there was no room to develop the main story. The film isn’t that long when compared to many recent releases but it felt neverending. It’s difficult having to compete with films like The Avengers where so many familiar faces are pushed together and make millions in the box office. Fox clearly just pushed things too far and the film-makers couldn’t handle it. The story isn’t all that interesting when you get down to it and the villains are just pathetic. We don’t even know anything about Apocalypse. What are his powers? What motivates him? Why does he pick the mutant he does? We don’t fucking know because there was no time.

Fans applauded Singer when he retrospectively altered the timeline and got rid of everything that happened in The Last Stand. He wiped the slate clean and did what fans have been doing ever since 2006: forgetting it ever existed. It’s just a shame, then, that he went and fucked it up by doing another shit third film. It’s by no means as bad as Ratner’s contribution but there is so much that needed to be defined and tweaked by this film. There are too many dinner party guests and not enough chairs or plates. Unfortunately, it’s also the audience that is going hungry.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Was going to write this earlier but was so tired when I got home from work that I had a quick nap. I’m so pathetically tired at the moment that I need to do something about it. Nothing much to report on the book front of late. I’m still buying more than I need and reading less than I should. It’s just that every time I sit down to read I fall asleep. Still, I’m at least getting back into Instagram after a brief pause for my feed. Sometimes I feel as though I’m turning a corner with my photos then I take an absolutely shocking selection that I just can’t make work. I guess I just don’t have a natural eye for composition. It’s all about wildly trying something until it works. Maybe one day it’ll all make sense.
Currently Reading
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
I’m going to be honest with you all, I’ve been shitty at reading this week. For some reason, I’ve been fucking exhausted since I got back from London. I blame the increase in carbs and a decrease in exercise. Still, I’m resolved to turn things around and I’m at least getting back on the fitness train. I’m sure the eating and reading thing will follow.  

Recently Purchased
  • Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
Saw this beauty in a charity shop one lunchtime and couldn’t resist. The Penguins Decades cover is lovely and I honestly couldn’t bear to leave it behind. I mainly know Ackroyd as a historian and have never looked into his fiction. So what better excuse than a gorgeous and cheap book? Also, a pretty dark and tense story. In the eighteenth century, Nicholas Dyer is hiding secrets in the Churches he has been commissioned to build. Hundreds of years later a series of gruesome murders take place at these Churches. Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor is investigating these crimes. We’ll see how this goes. 

  • Capital by John Lancaster

Another charity shop find that I instantly fell in love with. This beautiful hardback edition got me hooked without even looking at what the story was about. Although the story, revolving around the financial crisis and the residents of a road in London. It’s probably going to be a bit of fun.  
  • End of Watch by Stephen King
A late entry in the list of recently purchased as I bought it on a whim on my way home today. I’ve still not read Finder’s Keepers, the second in the Bill Hodges trilogy, but W H Smith’s were selling their gorgeous hardback at half price. I didn’t hate the first one that much but nor was I wowed by it. I find myself constantly disappointed with King of late but I always go back. I think I might start on these two if I ever manage to finish George RR. I’ll need something lighter at that point. 

Recently Watched
  • Dramaworld
Absent-mindedly browsing Netflix and I come across this series. There are only 10 episodes and they’re all really sort so I gave it a go. I’m not sure I enjoyed it per se but it was a good enough watch. Mindless fun. When Claire, a huge fan of Korean drama, gets sucked into the fake world of her favourite show she finds out she is the one needed to bring about a happy ending. It’s silly and not that complicated to follow. It’s nothing overly clever or surprising but I’d probably watch a second series. 


TBT – Jaws (1974)

TBT – Jaws (1974)

Jaws has a great legacy in Hollywood for still being one of the greatest films ever made. This is partly down to director Steven Spielberg’s deft handling but, perhaps mostly, down to the many issues that arose during production. It was a completely troubled shoot that overran its given 55 day schedule by more than 100 days. By the time it was finished the film had cost double it’s estimated $3.5 million budget and had cause Spielberg no end of stress. There were problems with props, and filming at sea proved incredibly tricky. There was great tension between the main cast and the watery setting constantly caused them to become seasick. Pretty much everything that could go wrong with filming did but it didn’t stop the film. Despite all the stress, Jaws became a tremendous success and was released to positive reviews. It has remained a on Best Film lists since its release and has one of the most iconic scores in film history. It’s a great achievement considering how difficult it was and given the fact that the book it’s based on hasn’t fared so well.

Peter Benchley, the author of the novel Jaws, had a hand in the screenplay and offered Spielberg several drafts to build on. When he agreed to do the film, the director had decided he wanted to stay faithful to the final part of the book but change the first two thirds, It was the shark attack that really interested him whilst the subplots surrounding Amity were less of a concern. The characters were changed to more sympathetic versions of their book counterparts and the unnecessary adultery, mafia and class tensions were deleted. Martin Brody remained the protagonist but the film feels much more the story of the hunt for a shark than Benchley’s book.

The film opens with the scene of a young girl skinny dipping at night before being dragged around the water by an unknown assailant. When he hand is washed up on the shore the Chief of Police (Roy Scheider) declares is a shark attack and begins proceedings to shut the beaches. Thanks to pressure from the town, Brody covers up the attack and the beaches remain open. Unfortunately, other deaths occur and panic sets in around the town. This kick starts desperate search for the killer whilst Brody must keep people out of the water.

Brody is joined by oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and together they try to track down the huge shark. When more people wind up dead and his children are put in danger, Brody has no other choice but to turn to gruff shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw). The trio set out on Quint’s boat, the Orca, and manage to come face-to-face with the foe that has been haunting their town. The group become locked into a battle with the beast where they find there is more to the shark than they first thought.

Jaws has succeeded as a film because of Spielberg’s vision and approach. This has not been despite the problems that arose during filming but partially because of them. One of the major production issues was that the mechanical sharks that were built kept failing when they were placed in water. This meant Spielberg couldn’t rely on visuals of the shark and had to create tension in other ways. Using the camera to give the perspective of the shark and adding in John Williams’ score meant Spielberg could create enough danger without ever having to show the killer.

It is something that worked so well and, when you finally see the shark, it’s pretty clear the film would have been less terrifying had everything gone to plan. Instead of a generic B movie about a shark, Jaws became a thriller that has more in common with Alfred Hitchcock than Sharknado. Like the book, it is the scenes concerning the shark attacks that are the most memorable and engrossing because of how well Spielberg overcame his difficulties. The attacks themselves, whilst not technically perfect, are exactly what they needed to be. Although, I have to say, it is not something that necessarily transfers to a modern audience who is used to much greater gore and bloodshed than a 70s audience were.

Again, like the book, the action on shore is less interesting and feels stilted in comparison to the film’s final, water-based section. The characters, whilst more sympathetic than their literary counterparts, are still not exactly people you care about. Of the main three, it is only really Quint who gets any real development meaning he is the stand-out performance. Brody, the main character, just flits through his scenes never really giving the audience much to go on. The opening scene in which Brody is at home with hi family is so laughably bad that it would feel out-of-place in a terrible soap opera.

Still, this film has shown the test of time which says a lot for it’s creation. It is not the best story ever told and it suffers from a certain amount of awkward bumbling before it gets to where it really wants to be. The film is always building towards its great finale which, in my opinion, isn’t as clever as the book’s but is certainly much more dramatic. Jaws has the feel and heart of a classic B movie but Spielberg’s deft touch manages to elevate it something much grander. It’s fun and terrifying but it is clever and calculating. It’s a classic piece of cinema that, no matter how outdated it may seem, will always have people afraid to go in the water.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Jaws by Peter Benchley

Tuesday’s Reviews – Jaws by Peter Benchley

Everyone knows the story of Jaws right? Well, I thought I did. Of course, not being too up-to-date with popular fiction of the 1970s, was only really aware of the story thanks to the film. I knew that Steven Spielberg changed much of Peter Benchley’s book but had never thought to read it. Until I found a copy with the most amazing cover I’d ever seen. No matter how many times I get burned by ignoring the well-known idiom, I always judge a book by its cover. Still, I at least knew that Benchley’s book was a much trashier affair than Spielberg’s film so it seemed like perfect reading during the recent run of good weather. Even ex-literature students love a bit of trash every now and then. Maybe one day I’ll tell you all about The Second Lady by Irving Wallace. Now that’s some fucking great trash. So it was with a piqued interest that I sat down to read the book that became a surprise best-seller after its release in 1974. 

Peter Benchley’s novel has the same basic premise of the Steven Spielberg adaptation that was released a year after the book first came out. A small seaside town is terrorised by an underwater beast and comes close to financial ruin when the tourists they rely on stay away. That’s kind of where the helpful comparisons come to an end. Benchley padded out his narrative with subplots of adultery, political corruption, mobsters and class divides. The characters that litter his novel are almost unrecognisable to those we are so used to seeing on screen. In stark contrast to the titular fish, they are all terrible and immoral people. It’s difficult to read the novel and not want the shark to win in the end. 
It’s difficult when discussing Benchley’s novel because, in so many ways, it can never compete with the superior work. The two recently celebrated their 40th anniversaries and, whilst the film was obviously lauded for its greatness, the books birthday passed in a much quieter manner. After reading it I can see why the novel hasn’t remained the huge success it was in the mid 70s. In fact, it is kind of shocking that it remained on the best-sellers list for as long as it did. It was Benchley’s first novel and it is hardly the greatest example of writing the world had ever seen. The story is massively cliched, the dialogue is stilted and the subplots are fairly bland and pointless. 
There are moments of greatness within the novel but Benchley just throws too much at it. It’s like the kind of Christmas trees you decorated as a child: there’s a solid base there but you’ve just chucked too many shiny things on top of it. The sections of the novel that really stand out are the ones with the shark. Taken from its point of view, we see the attacks on the human victims through the eyes of a predator and it’s weirdly captivating. Benchley’s writing is factual and solemn in these sections and they’re just brilliant. From these few sections you can see why people considered it an exciting thriller. The scenes with the shark have a level of intensity that the rest of the book just can’t match. The fault within the novel doesn’t lie with our fishy protagonists but with the human ones. 
One of the main criticisms of the novel, and one taken up by Spielberg himself, is that the human characters are just too unlikeable. I can see where they’re coming from but I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. In fact, Ellen Brody, despite being an offensively written and whiny housewife, has way more depth than she ever did on screen. I don’t necessarily find the awful nature of the human characters to be a problem but I do object to it being done for no real reason. Martin Brody, for example, has a massive chip on his shoulder but it never goes anywhere beyond his petty jealousy of Matt Hooper. The human sections within the shark tale are just about entertainment and adds nothing from a literary point. 
Although, you could argue, the real focus is and should be on the shark. This is a murder mystery set under the sea and the fish should be what you remember. However, Benchley also takes this a bit too far with his allusions to Moby Dick. Quint is much the same as you remember from the film but his relationship with the shark goes much deeper into Captain Ahab territory. The final battle sequence is. I guess, quite exhilarating but it pushes the whole plot to a new level of insanity and revenge. As soon as Quint enters the scene we leave reality and enter a much more fantastical world. A weird thing to say considering Benchley’s ending is much more sedate and sombre than the film. No massive explosion here just a beast that can’t stop fighting anymore. It may not be the Hollywood spectacle that Spielberg wanted but the timid ending of this novel is, in it’s own way, incredibly meaningful in regards to natural order. Maybe it does hold up to its visual brother after all. 
SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Posting this much later than usual because, as you’ll know if you follow my Instagram, I’ve been in London this week visiting my friend for her birthday. I got back super late and, because I hate writing too much on my phone, I left it until now to start this. The weekend has been great and I’ve indulged in a lot of book talk. My friend’s a fellow literature graduate so most of our conversations eventually come back round to books. Plus, she works in publishing so often has free treats for me to take away with me.  I also took way too many with me because I managed to overestimate just how much I can read on a train journey. Still, I hunkered down and got a fair bit done.
Just Finished
  • Jaws by Peter Benchley
As I’ve yet to watch anything new to review this week and because I think it’d be a good topic I’m going to talk about this on Tuesday. It also gives me the chance to watch Jaws for my TBT review, which is never a bad thing. I will just say that this book had one of the best designed covers I’ve seen in a while. With its mix of photograph and hand-drawn design it really is something of a relic these days. I love it though. A reason why it featured so heavily in my Instagram this weekend. 

Currently Reading
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
I contemplated taking this with my on my trip so I could read it after I finished Jaws but I decided it was too big and took a book I was in no mood to read. I decided to start this upon arriving home. It mainly comes down the intense jealousy I felt at sitting across from a guy reading A Dance with Dragons part 2 on the way down to London. It’s been ages since I’ve read good George RR so I’m using this to prepare for the coming of Book 6 (hopefully by the end of this year). 

Recently Purchased
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang
I’ve wanted to read this way since way before it won the Man Booker International Prize. When it did win it sort of put my off reading it because I feel like the pressure to finish and enjoy it has gone way up. I guess I just worry more that I won’t appreciate it enough and then I’ll feel like I was missing something. I’d rather start something with a blank slate and then get my own feel for it. However, when waiting for my train to arrive on Friday I found this too tempting to resist. 

Recently Watched
  • How to Get Away With Murder
Not sure why I never watched this show before but it has become my new obsession. It’s absolutely amazing. I love Viola Davis so much and am captivated by everything that happens. I can even forgive it for the stupid flashback/time lapses that it uses so much. I just want more. 

Recently Visited
One of the main reasons for the birthday visit this weekend was because my friend had tickets to the Rolling Stones exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery. It was an absolutely amazing experience and there were so many great things I never knew about the band. Of course, it means now all I want to listen to is their music but that’s really no bad thing. I’ve always liked the band but seeing this made me appreciate them in a completely different way. Astounding. 

TBT – Zombieland (2009)

TBT – Zombieland (2009)

On Sunday the new series of Top Gear started and, without getting into my feelings on the new format, I was glad to see Jesse Eisenberg as the star guest. Despite how awful his interviews inevitably are, I love Eisenberg and thought he was super funny when faced with Chris Evans and Gordon Ramsay. Eisenberg has made a career out of playing the awkward, geeky loner and it is something that filters out into his personal appearances. Something that has made him seem stand-offish and rude. Still, I count Eisenberg as one of my favourite actors and am convinced that, when I eventually see it, he’ll be my favourite thing about Batman vs Superman. Although, I’m still not ready to see just how bad that film is yet so I decided to revisit classic Eisenberg.

Zombieland picks up the thread laid down by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright with Shaun of the Dead: taking a comic approach to Zombie apocalypses. Hollywood had become so saturated with Zombie films that people needed to take a different approach. Zombieland is less of a Zombie-horror film than it is a romantic-comedy that happens to contain the walking dead. It doesn’t proclaim to be scary or chilling but it does have an unashamedly jolly good time. Something I think allows it to trump the earlier British work. I know I know. It’s unpatriotic or something but Shaun of the Dead gets so bogged down in parody that it never lets itself go quite as much as this film.

This is all about the four actors having fun with guns, zombies and theme parks. In fact, Zombieland has more in common with another Eisenberg film, Adventureland, than it does with Night of the Living Dead. Eisenberg plays an unnamed man who, by strictly adhering to his own set of rules, survives alone in a world riddled with zombies. After a chance encounter with a fellow unnamed survivor (Woody Harrelson), the pair join up and make their way across the country to find some sort of life.

The two men are set up by two sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) and lose their car, guns and supplies. Thankfully, there are plenty of abandoned cars around and the boys are quickly pursuing the sisters. After a few ups and downs, the group join together and make their way to Pacific Playland, an amusement park in Los Angeles. The four begin to bond with each other and find that being alone in an undead world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Zombieland doesn’t really make much of the whole zombie thing which, for someone who has grown so tired of the z-word, I’m thankful for. This isn’t about watching scared people running from weird looking dead people. This is about four people having fun whilst also fighting for their lives. There are way more jokes here than there are frights but it is something that it gets so right. The script is strong and the jokes are on point. It’s a wacky film that gets away with some absurd ideas but they all work. Much has been made of Billy fucking Murray’s cameo and it is certainly one of the films greatest moments featuring some great work by Murray and Woody Harrelson.

In fact, Harrelson’s role is the stand-out of the entire thing. His crazed zombie killer is deadly, skilled and, when he wants to be, emotional. His one-man assault against a mass of zombies during the films final act is just mesmerising. Compared to Harrelson’s brash character, the rest of the cast do, sort of, fade into the backgroud. Not that the cast don’t do a good job but they have more traditional roles than Harrelson. Eisenberg and Stone are once again cast in their traditional roles of geeky loner and the independent, strong woman respectively. They do it well but we’ve been here time and time again. Their frosty relationship will quickly thaw and the pair will be locking lips well before the credits roll.

Zombieland doesn’t succeed by being completely original or new. It works because everything it does is done with enough humour. It doesn’t take itself as seriously as Shaun of the Dead did and is even more willing than its predecessor to drop some pop culture knowledge whenever it can. Zombieland is fun and that’s what counts. It breaths life into a long dead genre and, thanks to a cast that gels really well, manages to feel fresh.

Top 10 Wen-sday – Top 10 most heartbreaking deaths on Game of Thrones

Top 10 Wen-sday – Top 10 most heartbreaking deaths on Game of Thrones

I had such plans for this post after seeing Civil War. I  had every intention to use this post to discuss my favourite Marvel movies. I mean it’s something we all need to think about at some time. I mean we all really hate Iron Man 2 but which comes next? There’s the tricky Incredible Hulk question to consider and it’s hard not to see Captain America in a new light after the trilogy ended so well. Plus, I realise I’m in a minority of people who really love Thor so I’m always slightly away from the trends. So, as you can see, I’d given the whole thing a lot of thought. I was ready. Until I saw Game of Thrones episode 5 and my whole life got turned upside down. We all knew George RR Martin had a tendency to kill the people we love but I had to believe Hodor was safe. He was the best of us. So I decided to pay my respects to the gentle giant and remember the 10 most heartbreaking deaths in Game of Thrones.


10. Jeor Mormont – Season 3 Episode 4
I know this death wouldn’t make it onto many people’s top 10 because it wasn’t exactly Earth shattering. Jeor had been the wise old mentor for Jon Snow up until his death and hadn’t really had a great deal of screen time. Also, the show didn’t make much of his family connection with Jorah meaning they have less reason to care. Still, as a self-proclaimed resident of Bear Island I felt awful when the Old Bear died. Watching as his men turned on him in Crastor’s Keep was just dreadful.
9. Syrio Forel – Season 1 Episode 8
Syrio was a great man who laid down his life to save Ayra Stark from Lannister men. Even in the short time we knew Syrio it was easy to love him. His attitude to life and his work with Arya was fantastic. The worst thing about this death though? He was a great swordsman. If he’d picked up a real fucking sword and not a wooden one he’d probably have done a decent job of defending himself.

8. Barristan Selmy – Season 5 Episode 4
Barristan Selmy had a lot of heartbreaking moments in the show and his death was an undeserved one. Selmy is still alive in the books so the decision to kill him in the TV show was clearly one of convenience or timing. This death was heartbreaking because of how it came about and how brave he was. It also didn’t help that, after the episode aired, an interview with actor revealed how shocked and upset he was to find out he was dying. Imagine feeling as though you safe because you knew the books and then finding out it was all a lie.
7. Shireen Baratheon – Season 5 Episode 9 
I have spent a lot of time defending Stannis Baratheon to people and explaining why I wanted him on the throne. It was easy because he was the best man for the job. Until he burnt his fucking daughter to death of course. Shireen was a lovely and quiet child whose friendship with Ser Davos was a beautiful thing to behold. Watching her teach him how to read was delightful and she was certainly another character who only possessed goodness. Her death was just a barbaric and senseless act that is made all the more pointless for how little good it did everyone. Whatever Stannis had done in the past, his love for his daughter always counted for him. She was the one thing that humanised him. He didn’t have to destroy her.

6. Khal Drogo – Season 1 Episode 10
It took a lot of time but I eventually grew to love this creepy little marriage between Dany and her Kahl. Drogo genuinely loved Dany and she loved him back. Yes, it started rapey but it ended with so much real affection. To have him die in such a horrible way was just devastating. When Drogo was injured in battle and started to succumb to infection we all feared the worse but Dany, the fucking idiot, had to go and make it a million times worse by turning to blood magic. Drogo essentially died twice here and, considering it was Dany who finally finished him off, it destroyed the happy memories of their relationship in my eyes. As if I needed any more reasons to hate her.
5. Robb Stark – Season 3 Episode 9
The Red Wedding could easily put a girl off marriage for life. Robb Stark, on is was to honour his late father and kill the Lannister scum, was waylaid at The Twins. Thinking with his dick and not his head, Robb had married a random girl instead of the Frey he was promised to. Clearly you’d expect some kind of retribution. Not Robb Stark though, the fucking idiot. Seeing the only real hope the Stark’s had of getting any kind of vengeance be killed by his own banner man was just the worst. He was King of the fucking North and the North remembers. We’ll always remember.
4. Catelyn Stark – Season 3 Episode 9
Following from her son Robb’s death, Catelyn’s murder is made more heartbreaking because she only died because her son was super randy. She made a deal with the Frey’s but he went and fucked it all up. Catelyn sensed a trap but let her son take the lead. She knew better and she sensed the danger before it arose. She found out about Roose Bolton’s double dealings but it was too late. Catelyn Stark was a strong woman and a loving mother. She didn’t deserve to die in that way and she certainly shouldn’t have had to watch her son die before her.
3. Oberyn Martell – Season 4 Episode 8
Not since Ned Stark had the Game of Thrones audience rallied around a character like Oberyn Martell. He was handsome, witty and easy going. He came to King’s Landing to fuck shit up and he did exactly that. The moment he announced he would represent Tyrion Lannister during his trial by combat actually gave us hope that everything would turn out okay. How wrong we were. Attempting to get justice for his sister, Oberyn taunted Gregor Clegane during the fight. Despite having the upper hand on multiple occasions Oberyn never finished the job and won the battle. This death wasn’t just heartbreaking because we loved Oberyn. It was upsetting because he needn’t have let it happen. I read this in the books and immediately threw the thing across the room. Why didn’t he just chop the Mountain’s fucking head off when he had the chance?

2. Ned Stark – Season 1 Episode 9
Ned Stark was one of the only really decent people in this show, which also made him the easiest target. He trusted everyone and underestimated the game he was trying to play. The game he didn’t even want to play. His death was so stupid because, had he followed his own instincts, he shouldn’t even have been in King’s Landing. Everything about this scene is just awful. Sansa makes a desperate plea for her father’s life whilst Arya watches in the crowd as her father confesses to a crime he didn’t commit. Then the deal Ned made with Joffrey to join the Night’s Watch is thrown back in his face and his own sword is used against him. This death was both shocking and despicable. It was our first real glimpse at how heartless George RR Martin really is.
1. Hodor – Season 6 Episode 5
Not only did this death finally explain the mystery of why Hodor was the way he was but it also showed us that Hodor’s whole life was leading up to helping Bran. It brings a whole new light to their relationship and also shows us how much of a dick Bran really is. Hodor’s death was heroic, heartbreaking and honourable. He didn’t deserve to die but we couldn’t have asked for a more fitting exit for him. If only it hadn’t been quite so senselessly brutal.