Monthly Archives: April 2016

Liebster Award – Take Three

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I’ve been nominated again for the Liebster Award, this time by the awesome The Silver Screen Savant. Thank you very much as I love doing these posts.

These are the questions I’ve been asked to answer.

  • If you would write a movie, what would it be about?

I normally write fantasy, but when I write scripts I write drama, usually a mixture of romance and crime.

  • If they would make a movie about you, what would the title be?

A World of My Own – I’m a bit of a daydreamer, and as an only child I played a lot of imaginary games. This influenced me as a writer and was part of my recovery from depression.

  • If they would make a movie about you, whom would you like to play you?

This is a really hard question because the movie about me would be about me being a child and a young adult. Jennifer Lawrence is the first name coming to mind, but Mara Wilson if she still did acting work would be a favourite as well.

  • What is your favourite video game?

This is a hard choice between Lego Star Wars, Lego Harry Potter 1-4 and Lego City. There’s a theme you can see – I don’t like all the Lego games, but I like the idea behind them.

I also quite like being in the room while any of the Ezio Assassin’s Creed games are being played. I really love that character, a lot more than any of the others characters from Assassin’s Creed.

  • Where is Waldo?

Not sure where he is, but I know I have one of his hats that I crocheted about ten years ago for a costume party in my sock drawer.

  • Who is your favourite superhero?

Captain America from the MCU. I just adore his principles and the fact he isn’t arrogant. Not everything special about him came from a bottle; his humility was the reason he was giving the opportunities he got.

  • Penguin or polar bear?

Polar Bear – bears are my favourite animals, though penguins are very cute too.

  • If you come home after a long and exhausting day, what cheers you up the most?

A comforting home cooked meal, good television and some crochet.

  • Use a metaphor to describe Donald Trump’s hair.

Donald Trump’s hair is something PETA should be worried about.

  • What is your favourite ice cream flavour?

Mint Chocolate Chip hands down.

  • And let’s finish with a classic; cats or dogs?

Dogs – I like cats but they make me sneeze.

Normally this tag works now by me now nominating others, except this is my third time doing a Liebster post, I’m going to have to break the chain I’m afraid and take a break from nominating others this time around.

Book Review – Girl Up by Laura Bates

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I really adore the work that Laura Bates has done to bring the problems of sexism to the forefront. I can’t say I love her book Everyday Sexism, because there some truly awful things in there, but I love the idea of her work. Her latest book Girl Up though I really love, from cover to cover.

The book is essentially a lot of advice for girls (and it can be applicable to anyone) of how to survive and thrive in the modern world. Really it is the book that I wish I had growing up to help me make sense of the confusing and fast changing world around me, that somehow was always holding me back for reasons I didn’t entirely understand.

I wasn’t aware of what feminism was as a teenager, I discovered it in my twenties. I understand now that a lot of the things that were holding me back came just from me being a girl. Laura Bates’ book is essentially a guide telling you that is alright to be a girl, that it is nothing to be ashamed of because you have been born as you are and how to defeat those detractors who belittle you.

I very much think this book is essential reading for everyone, not just teenage girls, because you are either a feminist or you are sexist.

If you don’t believe yourself to be either of those things, then this book is very informative, easy to read and concise in explaining why Feminism is not a dirty word and why being a Feminist is not something to shy away from being. It is not about hating men, or women trying to rule the world at the expense of men, Feminism is about ensuring that men and women are both seen as human beings.

Laura Bates’ work includes a lot of real life examples of why at the moment, no matter what you may think, Feminism is as relevant today as it has been since Feminists first starting campaigning for equal rights. Women might be more equal than we were before, but there is still a lot of work to do, and this book helps individuals guide themselves through the world and change it for the benefit of everyone, including men.

A lot of what is in there I will admit I did already know, but I would consider myself an well informed person when it comes to feminism, via other reading I’ve done, things I’ve found on Pinterest and Tumblr, and via talks I’ve attended. However, even I learnt things, and even with the things I already knew, the book boosted my confidence and self-esteem.

Highly, highly recommended.

Film Review – The Bourne Ultimatum

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I have to admit that for years I wasn’t as enthused with the final film of the Bourne Trilogy starring Matt Damon as I was with the first two films. I think the sudden jump back in time from where the second film had ended in New York, back in time to Moscow was jarring and there was just something about the plot that stopped adding up.

However having watched it again very recently in prep for the new film coming out, I will admit that for years I have been very, very wrong.

The action sequences and the performances are brilliant, but I don’t get the same buzz from the Ultimatum as I do from Identity or Supremacy when it comes to these scenes. I assume it is because that what had made Identity so fresh when it came out, has now become the industry standard.

I think for me for years the third film didn’t have a good place in my opinion because of the fresh take on action films that it’s predecessors had brought to the genre was now being wheeled out in other franchises. It wasn’t different anymore.

However, on my recent re-watch, I have discovered something about the film that I have never noticed before, and given that this is something that I normally notice above anything else, I’m a bit surprised. The plot in Bourne Ultimatum is utterly brilliant. I think for years that I had a problem because the plot gave off the impression it was wrapping up the trilogy.

I never had the impression that the Bourne films were going to have a definite end. There was always going to be loose ends because given the films were more realistic in certain ways, I thought the plot would go the same way. It didn’t, the filmmakers tied up the journey. And for some reason for years I had a massive problem with these.

However, I watched all three films together in succession (I am one of those geeks that do Star Wars and LOTR/Hobbit marathons; I did one with the Bourne Trilogy too), and when you see them together the plot, the action, the character developments, everything is just miles and miles better than if you watch them spaced apart. These films are good stand-alone films, but they are even better as a trilogy, and as a part of the trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum is just as good as Identity and Supremacy.

This film might not be as fresh as what Identity introduced to the genre, but the quality of what the Bourne franchise created is maintained in Ultimatum, and the trilogy as a whole is easily one of the very best action franchises out there.

Film Review – The Bourne Supremacy

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It wasn’t until very recently that I became skeptical of sequels and the set up of franchises. I’m getting a bit wary that Hollywood is losing its way when it comes to finding new and exciting ideas that aren’t part of an existing franchises or adapted from the latest YA trilogy taking teens and other YA fans by storm.

However, when The Bourne Supremacy was released in 2004 I was nothing but excited that they had made another adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s work. While the nitty-gritty action wasn’t fresh anymore, the powerful story was still fantastic to watch.

While I was a bit disappointed that the action scenes had obviously been ramped up to attract audiences who had enjoyed the realism of The Bourne Identity, I wasn’t let down by the plot being compromised for the action. If anything the story in The Bourne Supremacy is even better.

The first film was very much about Jason Bourne trying to figure out who he is and why he ended up in the ocean with some bullets in his back. In the second film though he’s been set up, his girlfriend has been assassinated, and he is in better command of his abilities, and decides to use them on purpose. The plot is gripping and full of great twists and is thoroughly entertaining to watch.

The other reason I keep coming back to the films is also because of the human side that they are not afraid of showing. Matt Damon portrays Jason Bourne as a vulnerable character. In the Bourne Identity it is because he’s woken up and doesn’t know who he is, which anyone would find frightening. In the Bourne Supremacy you get to see even more of that because you see that Bourne and Marie have build a life together, and that gets ripped away because of senseless selfish people protecting their own interests.

In the closing scenes when he is apologising for murdering a girl’s parents you see just how much more human this killing machine is than the senseless and selfish people who for years call him little more than an asset. Yes, Daniel Craig gets all moody and broody about Vesper, and while the influence of the Bourne films clearly impacted the iconic 007 franchise, Jason Bourne is just miles ahead of Bond in terms of being able to connect to an audience.

If you enjoyed The Bourne Identity then the The Bourne Supremacy is definitely for you; it draws on everything that was good about the first film and makes it even better.

Book (Re)Writing – Admitting the Truth

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I have a confession: I have written a book for myself.

Now generally the advice goes that you are supposed to write the book that you want to read, and that is exactly what I have done. I have been telling myself for years that because I want to read it then it is good enough.

That’s only a semi-truth – it is good enough for me as a reader. But I want to be a writer as well.

I will always have a private copy of my own personal book ‘From the Ashes’ to read. That will always exist. It has been in place for over a year now, and has been my writing baby for nearly a decade.

I have drafted and re-drafted, added and added to this book until it was the perfection that I wanted for myself. And all this time I have dreamed of being a writer.

I was kidding myself into thinking I was being a writer simply by just writing. Except when I say ‘writer’ I mean as a career, not just as a hobbyist.

Therefore I have finally come to admit the truth; I need to re-write my book into something other people will want to read as well. I’ve been getting beta-reader comments back recently, and I have been having to face some harsh truths.

The book that is perfect to me isn’t perfect to anybody else.

And this is one of the hardest truths I have ever had to bring myself to admit, and because it is so hard, I am going to have to make myself accountable, and hopefully ensure if anyone else out there is having the same issues, let them know that they are not alone.

It might not be as scheduled as I tend to make Young Writer’s Review, but my latest blog series is going to be Book (Re)Writing and we are going to learn together how to go through and re-write something that you love so that others will love it as well.

Film Review – The Bourne Identity

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Having grown up on Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, Bourne Identity was the first nitty-gritty action film I ever saw, and it completely changed the genre for me. It changed James Bond from being the slightly cheesy, ‘Bond doesn’t bleed’ franchise into the one we now know and love staring Daniel Craig as well. For my generation it was a game-changer.

What was so good about Bourne Identity, at least for me, was definitely the choreography of the fight scenes. This might be a strange thing for a girl to say she loved about the film, but honestly watching realistic fighting using whatever weapon you have to hand, even if it was little more than an ball point pen, was refreshing. At the time I was completely obsessed with Karate, and while the magical scenes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon thrilled me the realism of Bourne Identity made all my fighting training suddenly make sense.

But what I now really appreciate about the film is that the story is solid. The writing and the adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s book has stood the test of time. While I’ve had Ludlum’s books on my shelves for years ready to read, I haven’t yet got around to it, and part of it is because they daunt me. Considering I think the Silmarillion and the likes of Steven Erikson are light reading, for me to be daunted by a book is unusual.

And that feeling comes from having watched the films; the plot is complex and doesn’t not baby an audience by spoon-feeding them the storyline. The plot in the film is complex and usually when it comes to adaptations they have had to cut quite a bit of plot and detail out in order to make a film of a reasonable length. It just makes me wonder what could possibly be in the book on top of all that.

I know many people who like the Bourne films for the same reason I do, because Matt Damon gets himself into some great scraps, but then dislike watching them too often because the plot is too obtuse. In truth while I love the fights, it is the complexity of the plotting that brings me back each time, because the plot is what engages my brain. While I like escapism there are times when I don’t want to be bored and I’m never bored watching the Bourne Identity.

I also promised myself in my New Year’s Resolutions  – Book Tag that I would read some Ludlum or le Carre at some point this year. Given the success of the Night Manager recently I might even get over the daunting feeling I get when I glance at the Bourne books on my shelves.

The Effect of a Bad Experience with a Book.

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Sometimes it’s really weird, but every now and then I just don’t want to read.

I experienced this a lot when I was a student. I studied History, so the majority of my course was reading. When it came to my free time I didn’t want to read any more, so for those years my reading for pleasure was severely limited.

I also don’t like reading too much when I’m in the middle of a good writing spell. I can normally read a few books at once and keep track of what’s going on in the different stories, but when I’m writing my own story, it’s easier to keep my head straight if I don’t add other writing into the mix.

The effect of a bad experience with a book though is by far the very worst reason why I stop reading; not necessarily because the book is bad, but my experience of it is isn’t good. Every now and then I come across a book that literally stops me from reading anything. It happened to my father for twenty years because he studied Wuthering Heights at school, and every now and then it happens to me.

And I am in the middle of one of those phases at the moment, and I hate it.

For five months or more now I’ve been waiting with excited anticipation for Benedict Jacka’s latest book ‘Burned’ to be released. I was even travelling to Amsterdam on the day it was coming out, and catching a flight for the first time in eleven years. Needless to say I had a lot on my mind, but I was so excited about this book I made time on that day to get a hold of a copy.

And I haven’t read a word.

It isn’t Benedict Jacka’s fault either; it was the book I was attempting to read beforehand that has done me in. The book in question to some might be utterly brilliant, and they have made a movie adaptation, but I could not read ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ by Ransom Riggs.

I have a 100 page rule – I get to page 100 at least before I stop. I barely made it to pg 87 before I put the book down at the end of a commute one day and after two weeks of reading nothing at all, I finally realised that it was that book stopping me. I gave up and handed it back to my friend who I borrowed it from, and I’ve been trying to get over it since.

I’m not even sure what was wrong, because the concept of the book is unique, what I read of the story sounded interesting and the characters were well rounded, but I just could not connect to this book at all; it broke my liking of reading, to the point that I start feeling anxious when I think about ‘Burned’.

I especially don’t like it, because Jacka’s books hold a very dear place in my heart, because more than once when I have been at my very lowest with my depression and suffering from anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities) the Alex Verus books have given me back my love and pleasure of reading.

I have that problem now, but now with the added complication that I’m apprehensive of reading something from a series that has such meaning to me after such a bad experience with another book. I fear being disappointed by ‘Burned’; I know logically and emotionally that this is very unlikely, as Jacka’s books generally have just got better and better over time, but this is an overwhelming anxiety that I’m struggling to overcome.

I have finished and started crochet projects to avoid being bored and to avoid thinking about reading again; it’s been great for my other hobbies, especially ones I can’t do while I’m reading a book, but considering I’m in a really good mood at the moment, and in a  very good place with my mental well-being, I’m not comfortable with these feelings I’m having towards reading. But experiencing this does make me wonder how many others have the same problem, and why others don’t read as much as I normally do.

Are many of us so affected by books we have bad experiences with that we aren’t comfortable picking up the good ones?

 

Film Review – Ant-Man

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I have to admit I had no expectations for this film. I’m not a fan of the comic books so I knew very little about the character and his source material. All I really knew going into the cinema was that comic book fans had massive doubts about a film being able to work and that many people were beginning to feel that Marvel was starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel of their characters in order to make money.

Well firstly, making money is sort of the point, so I wasn’t all that bothered about Marvel doing that and I loved the trailer. So I went to see the film with an open mind and I absolutely loved the film from start to finish.

The only issue I have with the film is that the villain is a bit of a wet fish to be honest. I think the fact he’s been driven insane by working with the chemical that he’s been working on needed to be emphasised a lot more. It’s a bit of a running joke that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a habit of producing disposable villains, and in the case of Ant-Man that was quite unfortunate really, as the rest of the film is really good.

I like Paul Rudd’s character Scott Lang, because he is a decent guy who wants to do the best for his daughter, but because of his criminal background he gets unfairly judged because he’s done time. Quite honestly I can see why ex-cons end up turning back to crime, because no matter how well they are rehabilitated, society quite frankly needs to be re-educated as well. He is accused of taking the easy way out and going back to crime; well as far as I could see he had no other way because he’s still being punished for the crimes he committed.

That little quibble aside, I really liked the film. It’s not as complex as other Marvel films have been. Everything was black and white, and there were no nuances to try to figure out. It was also really funny; the story and the characters certainly relied more on humour than previous Marvel films and this was one of the things I found really refreshing about the movie. The film is very easy to watch and it’s great is you want to watch a high quality action film that doesn’t tax you too much.

The other thing I liked was the entire concept of Ant-Man; a tiny man sees the world in a completely different way and I think this was brilliantly executed in the film. It was a different perspective on how a superhero can be skilled. Seeing one tiny hero was great, and I’m looking forward to seeing The Wasp in action as well in the next film.

The final thing I loved about the film is that it was Scott Lang and not Evangeline Lilly’s character Hope, wearing the suit because Hank Pym was trying to keep his daughter safe because she isn’t indispensable. When combined with Scott’s desire to do right by his daughter, it makes Ant-Man a film about people trying to save the world in order to protect their families, and that it is love for family rather than fights for a throne or patriotism that drives Scott to become the Ant-Man.

It’s very relatable to lot of people, and it makes Ant-Man one of the most human of the Marvel heroes.

Film Review – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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I had very high expectations for this film, and I wasn’t disappointed. In all fairness this film isn’t as good as Avenger’s Assemble, but all the things that make that film great, introducing the characters to each other and making them a team, isn’t possible. They already know each other. What makes this film so good (and like the first Avenger’s) is very much the villain they are up against.

Ultron is definitely one of the best villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought to the screen so far (Loki in my opinion being the best). James Spader’s performance was sinister yet elegant. He was the perfect casting for Ultron. Having been a bit of a nerd, and having watched the special features about the motion capture performance he gave, it’s all the better for knowing that he wasn’t just in the motion capture studio doing all his work. He was there on set as well and he was creepier as himself with all the motion capture equipment stuck to him, than Ultron is when completed.

I also love that Paul Bettany was able to be more than just a voice. I mean I love his voice, but I also love him as an on screen actor as well. I adored the Vision; I like newly born adults character who have to learn their way in the world. He’s not as naïve as most, but he does have a moral conflict. He doesn’t want to have to kill Ultron, but he knows that allowing him to survive would result in more death. I also liked his interaction with the Scarlet Witch. She can see into people’s minds and all the horror that goes on in there. It’s nice for her to have a companion who is purer.

I had my doubts about the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver on seeing the trailers, mainly because I felt that the film was going to be too busy, with too many characters involved for adequate screen time for them all to develop. I shouldn’t have worried. Joss Whedon is very good at developing stories in a short space of time, and he did a great deal of justice to Wanda and Pietro. I fully understood their motives at every point in the film; they want to destroy Tony Stark (perfectly natural reaction in my opinion) but when they find their ally wants to destroy the world they shift their priorities. They wanted vengeance but not at such a costly price.

Saying that I wasn’t wholly happy about all of the story developments in the cinema cut of the film. Many of the Avenger’s stories come from the visions that Scarlet Witch induced in them, but I wasn’t happy that many of these stories were then curtailed. Naturally of course Tony became the centre of all the problems. Admittedly I think it was more Thanos than Tony that managed to get Ultron to work in the end (at least judging on the credits clip), but I deeply disliked him in this film. I had grown to tolerate him, and I don’t hate him as much as I do in the Iron Man films because he is a very good friend to Bruce, but he let the Scarlet Witch get to him and he convinced Bruce to go behind the backs of the other Avengers.

I also felt that Thor’s storyline in the pool of water was very badly cut out of the film. All of the explanation of what he was doing can be found in the deleted scenes, and the explanation that he was consulting The Norns was actually quite vital to know. I’m quite good at deducing storylines when the filmmakers make you think for yourself, but even I couldn’t guess what he was up to and quite frankly it was just a bit weird. As must as I loved Hawkeye’s family man storyline, some of that could have edited out in place of the two minute scene that explained what Thor was up to.

I loved the film, even though it wasn’t perfect and it is a brilliant sequel to Avenger’s Assemble. They could have gone with the definite money spinner and brought Loki back, which many fans of the films did want to see again, but they didn’t, they used Ultron and I think the film as all the better for it.

Film Review – Guardians of the Galaxy

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I absolutely love this film because it is hilarious from start to finish. I also love it for many of the same reasons I like Thor 2; because it is not set on Earth. Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s example of how it can flex its creative muscles and create something utterly spectacular.

I can remember that there was quite a lot of doubt about how good Guardians of the Galaxy could be when it is based on one of the lesser known comic books. It irritated me quite a lot at the time, because it showed the divide in the fandom; those that know the comics and think the films should be solely based on the original source material, and the rest of the fandom that are fans of the films, and don’t know the comics.

I very much fall into the latter of those two categories. The only Marvel comics I can remember reading as a kid was X-Men and even then it wasn’t all that often. I get that fans of the comic books want the films to be truer to the original source material that they already know and love. I do get that as an avid book lover who has seen more than one terrible film adaptation of a beloved book.

The thing that really irritated me though was that at the time Marvel was releasing Guardians of the Galaxy, it has already built up a large fan base that came from their successful film franchise. I didn’t see where the doubt was coming from; of course they were going to release a good film.

Why would you think otherwise just because the source material isn’t their best work? Why would anyone think that they were just using their credibility to milk their fanbase without actually delivering a good film? If they delivered a bad one then their credibility would be damaged and their profits would decline and rightly so.

As it turns out Marvel has every reason in the world to want to look at their back catalogue to see what would make a great film, and with Guardians of the Galaxy they produced an excellent film. The story, the characters and the fantastically creative story-world as a backdrop of the plot is just incredible.

They brought to life the highly original concepts that had been created in the comics and made it into a film that drew fans back time and time again to the cinema to see it. It drew in people who weren’t fans of the Marvel Universe because of the rave reviews the film was getting; everyone wanted to check out what all the fuss was about. It had a different twist on the superhero genre that refreshed the brand by being more of a sci-fi thriller than just another superhero film where the world needed saving.

It wasn’t the idealistic or super rich that were the heroes either; it was a bunch of misfits, which includes a tree with a limited syntax, but a heartbreakingly well-timed development in his lexicon; a talking racoon with a taste for building bombs; a murderer with anger management issues, a thirst for vengeance and no concept of humour or figurative speech; a kick-ass daughter of the enemy who has been tortured and manipulated all her life; and Peter Quill, aka Starlord, who was kidnapped from earth moments after his mother’s death and raised with questionable morals but a great taste in tunes. What can you not love about that combo?

And then there is Lee Pace. Ronan is a full-on diva with more than a little bit of crazy added in. Fine his demise might be a bit corny, but he is a full on villain who doesn’t take Thanos’ insults lightly. Lee Pace owes the screen every time he is on it.

Guardians of the Galaxy is amazing, and even if you’re not interested in Marvel or comic book movies, I highly recommend this one. You don’t need to know anything about the rest of the Marvel Universe. It is the perfect stand-alone film to watch in order to dip your toes in to see what Marvel are all about.