Monthly Archives: November 2017

Film Review – Murder on the Orient Express

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I really didn’t want to bother seeing this film, because the trailer put me off for a reason I will allude to in a moment, but my husband really wanted to, so I went. And ugh!

Note to modern day filmmakers, Hercule Poirot is not an action hero. He doesn’t chase down suspects. He manoeuvres other people to do that bit. He is all about ‘the little grey cells’.

Admittedly, I am coming from a very bias position. I adore David Suchet’s ‘Poirot’, and Joan Hickson’s ‘Miss Marple’, because they are adaptations of Agatha Christie’s book that are very respectful of the source material.

I can’t stand Alfred Molina’s film version of Murder on the Orient Express, because Poirot does not need to google the Armstrongs, he already knew about it all. I dislike Geraldine McEwan’s Miss Marple, because the producers felt it necessary to modernise the characters and stories in order to apparently appease modern viewers.

You don’t.

Agatha Christie’s creations are about brain power, using logic, using knowledge, using experience of human life. Their deductions aren’t as inaccessible as some of the leaps Sherlock Holmes makes to reach his conclusions. They don’t run – they sit and think, while they drink tisane or knit. They don’t run along a rickety bridge (which was the bit in the trailer that put me off), or stick a cane in the Wailing Wall (which made me actually physically shudder).

However, I come from a bias position, if it being slightly more action oriented doesn’t bother you, then in all fairness, Kenneth Brannagh has made a really good film, and apart from saying you should try the Suchet version, I would recommend it.

The all-star cast do a brilliant turn, the source material is respected, and the gathering at the end is certainly set very well in the mouth of a tunnel in the depths of winter. Very atmospheric, if a bit chilly, and it certainly set the tone of the raw emotions felt by certain characters. A few of the characters that are more prominent in the book get a bit lost along the way, especially the Count and Countess, but that is bound to happen with such a large ensemble.

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Book Review: Black Butterfly – by Mark Gatiss

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This is a long overdue review of this book. Re-reading what I wrote about ‘The Vesuvius Club’ and ‘The Devil in Amber’ it is obvious to me now that I discovered Mark Gatiss’ novels right at the beginning of when my mental health was bad and getting worse. They certainly helped me feel better when I needed anything that would help.

It was harder reading the last one, and one of the reasons for the delay in reviewing the book is because I had put off reading it; I didn’t want to be disappointed; I didn’t want the series to end; and I read it at about the same time that I just had to set aside superfluous tasks and try to get better.

I have been left with the lingering impression that when I read the book, I hadn’t enjoyed it, except I know that isn’t true, I know I enjoyed it, I just didn’t have a healthy mind set. Thinking about it more objectively, reading the book was a joy.

And I know this because I absolutely love the books. While ‘The Devil in Amber’ is my favourite of the three, it isn’t because the third doesn’t live up to expectations, the second one just happens to be my favourite story.

Black Butterfly is slower in pace than the first two, and like with the second book, Gatiss has masterfully toned the book to reflect that the protagonist is older. He’s created a plot that is more reflective on the past than the previous two, but he has lost none of the fun and while Lucifer Box’ body might not young any more his mind and delightful wit is still as sharp as a tack.

It is a fine ending to the trilogy, though if another one or two Box stories could be added, then I wouldn’t say no. I’d be screaming yes, please.

Film Review – Thor Ragnarok

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thor ragnarok

Marvel needs to wrap it up; I’ve thought this for a while, and unfortunately Thor Ragnarok hasn’t changed my mind. They need to end the franchise while it is still just about good enough for most people.

I wasn’t excited about this film, even with the edgy soundtrack and the promise of Tom Hiddleston (and I won’t lie the lovely Tom was the main reason I could be persuaded to go to the cinema without much argument – unlike Spiderman Homecoming which I just point blankly refused to go and see.)

I wasn’t that thrilled while I was watching it either. I was bored and annoyed that Benedict Cumberbatch’s cameo was annoyingly pointless. Was he just there for Marvel to prove they have him at their beck and call? I also felt a great deal of pity for Cate Blanchett who had so much potential to be a fabulous villain, and she wasn’t given a proper plot.

She is such a good actor, and Hela had so much potential for being as good a villain as Loki, and she was essentially left on Asgard where nothing was happening (apart from some heroics by Heimdall) and essentially just plodded around with Karl Urban, talking about how great she had been in the past and killing anyone who doesn’t want to immediately listen to her.

And what is really annoying is that the plot had a great deal of potential too. The unveiling of Asgard’s hidden past could have been a great matter of conflict for Thor and even Loki to have to deal with, and instead Thor moped about his hammer, and had some tension with a Valkyrie, though what sort of tension I haven’t managed to figure out yet.

And then there’s Loki, well I’m not sure what the point of his inclusion in the film was, apart from being there for continuity because he didn’t die at the end Thor-Dark World. He was certainly getting up to some mischief, but it mainly seemed to be in order to help the plot along a bit, rather than because he was really acting as an antagonist.

And that was the biggest problem with the film; there wasn’t an antagonist. The Grandmaster (and god I love Jeff Goldblum as much as Tom Hiddleston so I hate to say this) was mainly just annoying rather than really in the way. Hela’s potential wasn’t realised, and Loki’s inclusion in the film bordering on meaningless because I was left with the impression they didn’t really know what to do with him.

The Hulk/Bruce Banner was the only character that I could say had an arc, of sorts, because Bruce has to make an actual decision to act in order to help, that did cause internal conflict for the character, because he has to make a sacrifice. I guess Thor’s powers evolving a bit could be classed as an arc too, but only because for once Odin didn’t open his mouth and mention something important; your hammer was to help you channel your powers, it isn’t the source of your power.

Yep, Odin that might have been useful to mention. *eyeroll*

Apart from the occasional funny quip from Taika Waititi and I will admit ‘Get Help’ was amusing, there wasn’t much going for this film other than as a stepping stone for Marvel to position Thor, Loki and the Hulk for their part in Infinity War.

Book Review – Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

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Having fallen in love with the film adapted from Andre Aciman’s book, I just knew I had to give the book a go. I had some trepidation as sometimes when a book is adapted the film isn’t as good, or even vice versus if you happen to have seen the film first. I’ve found this before with Joanne Harris’ Chocolat. I liked the film better.

However, in Call Me By Your Name’s case, I love the book just as much as the film.

It isn’t often an adaption of a film translates so well, but for me the book and the film are almost one. The book gives insight into the mind of Elio and the agony he endures silently during the film. While the film gives you the silence of those moments when Elio is in agony, and the perspective of those without insight into Elio’s thoughts and what they perceive to be going on.

But I have already talked about the film (and I’ll try not to talk too much more about it). This is the book’s review, and I can happily say it is gorgeous.

I thought at first the long (sometimes very long) sentences were going to annoy me, but like with any writing style I adapted quickly enough because the style suited the tone.The agony of the sort of love Elio feels, full of doubt, pain, confusion, hope, passion and anticipation, and then sorrow suits the long trailing sentences.

The slightly distorted timeline reflects that this story is something being remembered and portrays how wonderfully love can sometimes make memory distorted. You can remember everything, but you don’t necessarily remember it in the right order.

Aciman has written Elio and Olivier’s relationship so that it feels like an endless love affair: a long, hot summer in Northern Italy shared by two men as they discover the happiness total intimacy can bring them, while Elio also grows and begins to figure out who he is as a person.

Having seen the film a couple of times and having now read the book, Aciman’s story is timeless. As Elio remembers Olivier, it is as if that summer lasted forever and I quite believe for Elio it did, because he became himself that summer.

And there is certainly quite a few things that the book does better than the film. There is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding their affair, and themes of shame come across better in the book. I’m not really in a position to comment on being ashamed of being in love as the attractions I predominately feel aren’t something that society judges.

For those out there though that do or ever have felt shamed by society, what I hope you can find in either the book or the film (or both) is a love story you can enjoy, because the only barriers to resisting their feelings, in either Elio or Olivier’s case, don’t come from external forces.

No-one judges them for what they feel between them, though there are certainly hints that for Olivier he would face judgement from others. The only barriers that makes them resist or hesitate are the ones they form themselves, and I think that is what I love the most about this story.

They are the only ones judging them, no-one else does, and honestly it is no-one else’s place to do so; their journey towards their intimacy was truly their own. The only antagonistic force against them was themselves.

‘Call me by your name’ by Andre Aciman will be a book I shall return again and again, because it is just as simple as two people falling in love, and sometimes a love story is all you want, even if the idea behind calling each other by their own name is a bittersweet touch.

 

Film Review – White House Down

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I will admit I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I missed both ‘White House Down’ and ‘Olympus has Fallen’ when they came out in the cinema. Also, because of the remarkable similarity of plot, I will admit, I had no idea which film was which from the trailers, nor which would be better to watch. I assumed that because ‘London has Fallen’ arrived later on that Olympus was the better of the initial two films of this trend.

Yes, I know, carry on reading after you’ve wiped away your tears of laughter at the thought that the quality of a film was a reason Hollywood decided to make a sequel. I was wrong on that one. ‘Has Fallen’ might be a franchise, but ‘White House Down’ is certainly the better of the two films.

Admittedly if what you want is a bit of action, some explosions and someone outside the White House assuming POTUS is dead and taking over, then either film will do. However, if you also want a bit of plausibility and plot, and to watch a brilliant turn by Joey King, then I would definitely recommend ‘White House Down’.

The writing is what has made ‘White House Down’ the more watchable of the two, because I had to pay attention to know what was going on. There were unexpected twists in the plot, and I found the motivations of the antagonists believable. What I also liked was that the drive of the protagonist, played by Channing Tatum wasn’t raw patriotism. He wanted to prove himself, and protect his daughter who looked up to him.

Definitely worth a watch if you’re after something that isn’t too demanding and you want to see some action.

Film Review – The Party

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the party

Some Spoilers

Most unfortunately for The Party, it is a film that is on the cusp of being brilliant, but because it doesn’t quite make it, I can’t even say it is good. There are certainly elements of it I did enjoy, but I’m in no rush to see the film again.

I’d been attracted to see it because I like Kirsten Scott Thomas and Cillian Murphy. Their performances didn’t disappoint, and all of the actors were great. The black and white filming, with some fantastic lighting and well-chosen camera angles can also be commended as a brilliant example of good direction.

However, I’d mostly been intrigued by the idea of a dinner party, with shock revelation after shock revelation, and it is most unfortunately because of the plot that the film fell flat with me.

The only thing I found shocking was the thought that this film could be described as such when the twists were so obvious. The opening scene, which is in fact also the last scene, ruined the entire film for me, because once a few details of the plot had been revealed, I could have written the end down, put it in a sealed envelope, and waited to be proved right. I won’t say what the plot is, in case you are still interested in going, but if you pay attention, you could easily make an educated guess.

The film is also just too short. At 71 minutes, it didn’t feel rushed, but I certainly feel as if they just had a couple of more minutes of screen time, to fit in a few more sentences of dialogue  the emotional transitions of some of the characters would have been less jarred and would have worked better.

But they didn’t, and some of the characters seemed to just go on journeys and had twists of feelings which didn’t make sense, and because it didn’t it just irritated me instead.

I came away from watching this film annoyed because of a cardinal sin; the filmmakers wanted me to assume this is how people really are and how people really interact with each other. They wanted me to make leaps and assume feelings without giving me the justification to play along.

The film also was full of so many cliched characters, I do recall rolling my eyes; the banker who does cocaine; the gender studies professor who is of course a lesbian; her wife who is more into misandry than feminism; the husband of the powerful politician who has people whispering behind his back about whether his masculinity can cope with his wife outdoing him. Ugh! Using one or two is fine, but everything about this film felt as if it had all been done before.

And it is such a shame that this is how I feel because like I say it is just on the cusp of being really good, it just doesn’t quite get there.

Film Review – Call me by Your Name

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There are two ways a film can make me cry; it is either an instant effect during the film, or there is a delayed effect when I find myself crying later on. The first happens every now and then. The second is a lot rarer, and the one I much prefer, despite the strange panicked looks you do get from members of the public who are uncertain and unprepared for having to deal with a lone woman sat on public transport crying silently for seemingly no reason what so ever.

I must have seemed composed enough though as no-one asked what was wrong, but I wish they had because I was absolutely bursting to express that I had been touched in the very depths of my heart by a masterpiece. Call Me By Your Name cannot be described by any lesser adjective.

It is not a work of instant emotional gratification but a piece with slow and diligent persistence that will carry on wrapping itself around your heart long after you have finished watching it. For me truly beautiful things don’t need to make their brilliance obvious from the very first glance. Time will either erode beauty or strengthen it, and in this case, time will only ever made this film better.

That is why I cried. It didn’t upset me, though I do suggest watching it with tissues. For me the emotion comes because a film about love has been finally been made. It isn’t some slightly hyped up romantic comedy, where it is painfully obvious at times you are watching two actors get paid to do a job, with a plot that leads to the end and the idea that they will indeed live happily ever after.

This film slowly unpicks the of barriers people set up around themselves when they feel that sort of love which wrenches your heart, makes places hurt you didn’t know you had, leaves you yearning, frustrated, frightened and utterly helpless. It’s more awful when you think it’s unrequited and even more awful when you find out it isn’t, but you get closer any way, even when you know the bittersweet truth.

Love cannot have a happy ending…but it is worth it all the same.

I haven’t read the book by Andre Aciman, so I can’t comment on whether it is an adaptation which has respected its source material, but I can say that the hot Italian summer perfectly sets the scene. Things that go unspoken tell the story just as well as the words that are said. The quick switches between languages is so natural, most of the time I didn’t notice, and I only really did in a scene that had my sides aching I laughed so much.

But it will always be the utterly tender performances by both Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer will draw me back to this film again and again to watch Elio and Olivier’s enduring yet fleeting love affair.

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