Friday, November 30, 2012

I was fortunate enough to watch this last night. A couple of awesome friends came over, we ordered a pizza and settled down for this Scandinavian treat from 2008.
I didn't really know what to expect. I knew the general premise of the film but generally went in quite blind... and I loved it.
It was great.

The story pretty much goes like this. 
Oskar, a bullied, friendless boy, meets and becomes friends with the new girl next door, Eli. A mysterious, dark haired girl who doesn't get cold in the snow and vomits if she tries to eat sweets. The audience finds out before Oskar that Eli is a vampire and has been twelve years old for a long time. They fall in love, a sweet, childlike romance that gives each other what they're lacking.

So, all in all, it's what Twilight should have been, haha! It's how a romance may go between a vampire (a real vampire mind you, a vampire that can only go out at night, cannot enter a house without being invited, can climb things with scary speed, is always cold, cannot reproduce like humans do... and most certainly do not sparkle) and a human. Although I'm a big fan of Anne Rice's vampires, what I appreciated most about this film was the return to the mythological vampire that we grew up with. 

The film is slow but I enjoyed that there was no rush to divulge all the secrets at once. The camera work is beautiful and truly, I would watch it again just so I could watch the work again. Snow covered Sweden looks fragile and beautiful, and the story telling is as cold as the weather filmed. And though it is cold, it is the frigidity of the story telling that makes the film so stark and difficult to watch.

The boy who plays Oskar is pretty freaky though, if I'm honest. In fact, I found him more scary than Eli. Oskar is not a happy child, and the bullying has made him withdrawn and cold. He spends a few scenes in the movie pretending to face his bullies with a dagger. Lets just say, I watched this film imagining that Oskar was going to become A) a serial killer B) one of those high-school shooting people. Oskar finally gets the strength from Eli to finally stand up to the bullies who have been harassing him, this leads to a penultimate scene (the pool scene) that is beautiful and haunting at the same time.

Let The Right One In is a movie for those who don't mind reading subtitles, who like purposefully slow storylines, romance, those who love awesome camera-work, haunting landscapes and a REAL vampire. 

Once I watch the American version Let me In [2010] I'll let you all know what I think.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

In a Nutshell
A criminal has escaped from the notorious wizard prison Azkaban and has set his sights on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 
Under the watchful eyes of Professor Lupin, McGonagall and Dumbledore, Harry potter must negotiate his way through threats such as Dementors, bullies, exams and of course the criminal Sirius Black who cannot wait to have his revenge. Harry Potter knows that his past and future are linked with Sirius Black - he just doesn't know how. 

As you know, Jim Dale is narrating the series and he does a stunning job! His Sirius and Lupin are great.... especially Lupin.

The Story
I think that so far, this book in the series has to be one of my favourites (although, having completed The Goblet of Fire that is my favourite at present). Quite honestly, it is only now that I feel that I have fallen in love with J K Rowling's imagination, and really appreciate the world that she's created. 

I quite simply loved the idea of the Dementors, the inclusion of werewolves and of course the magical creature the Hippogriff. Everything just seemed as it should be. There wasn't a part of this book that I felt that Rowling just threw in for good measure. 

The idea of Azkaban was what I enjoyed the most about the story as it highlighted that even in the world of magic, there was still room for responsibility and punishment for offenders. 
I also quite enjoyed the film too!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

In a Nutshell:
Harry Potter and his friends unite again in the second year of school to fight against an unseen monster who is Petrifying students at Hogwarts. With a magical soul-possessed diary as their initial guide, they do their best to uncover the what the Chamber of Secrets is, and how to prevent students coming to harm. 

The Audiobook:
Jim Dale is narrating the whole of my Harry Potter audiobook set. He's awesome as I've said in  previous reviews. He reads at a pretty reasonable pace and so if you're wanting a quick read I recommend actually reading the books. I'm sure that I will end up rereading these novels in paperback, just to get a feel of them without (the pretty epic) Dale's voice.

The Story:
Funnily enough, The Chamber of Secrets and The Goblet of Fire were my least favourite Harry Potter movies. I just found the stories a little half-baked and rushed, but, in all honesty the books were great, and totally redeemed the novels. 

I loved the pace of Rowling's narrative of The Chamber of Secrets, and the suspense and mystery she unfolds was not unlike reading a crime novel. Unlike in later books it was very nice to see her writing at her best in this book... she wrote like she knew all the details, rather than creating details as she goes along. I've noticed that there are many people who did not enjoy this book because of the plot, but I enjoyed the plot too, not just her writing.

Hermione is a lot less annoying in this novel... so, ten points for Rowling.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

When I peruse some of the many thousands of book and movie blogs out there I'm always struck by something in particular. 

Most bloggers (that I've come across) will read and write about one genre of book. This makes good blogging sense. A website, dedicated to one particular genre makes it a go-to place for other readers of that particular genre, it can create blogging-fandom and infamy! 

Romance, supernatural fiction, fantasy, YA fiction, contemporary fiction are the more common ones, but the problem is, is that as I read through these excellent blogs, it highlights to me just how lacking in a favourite genre I am. My reading taste is so painfully eclectic it used to take me so long to select my next read (GoodReads, ended up being a blessing because when I found a book that I was interested in, I could put it on my 'to-read' list and now I can just move on to the next speedily).

The great part of eclecticism is that I frequently get to read a whole host of different books, from different genres, and writers from opposite ends of the spectrum. The bad part is that because I have a larger net I cannot become 'expert' in any one genre, also, I have to filter through more than double the rubbish to find the good books from each genre. I believe that with a more centralised selection, I'd have a smaller net of books and it'd be easier to separate the chaff from the wheat. 

I remember (before I finally admitted to myself that I just have eclectic tastes) finishing a book, let's say it was a fantasy novel, and say 'well, I obviously love fantasy, so let me get the next one' I would go to the library, and search and search and search, finally pick a book, take it home and hate it, or just find the whole premise of the book too fantastical.  I've done the same with crime fiction, horror, sci-fi and contemporary fiction.

I came to the conclusion that I am not a fan of a certain genre, but I am quite simply a fan of good-writing, regardless of which genre it comes from.

So, although my eclecticism is both a blessing and a curse, I feel fortunate that I have the capacity to enjoy works from all genres and scopes (but I do kinda wish that I had a favourite, I'd still read widely, but would have a go-to genre for creature-comforts).

Do you have a favourite genre, or are you suffering from the same eclecticism as me?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

In all honesty I have a slight weakness for 'inspirational teacher' movies. I watched this a few weeks ago and haven't really been able to put it out of my mind. I've ruminated on the reasons why this movie is haunting me and I think I've highlighted a few points but even then they do not seem to encapsulate how I feel about this film.

Dead Poets Society (1989) has a simple premise. Robbin Williams plays the new English teacher at a very traditional boys-only boarding school, John Keating. Keating attended the school as a boy, and wants to breathe in not only new life but to try and bring hope in to a system that demands conformity. As a young man, Keating and his friends had created an underground club called the Dead Poets Society where they would 'suck the marrow out of life'. Inadvertently he inspires members of his class to set up their own Dead Poets Society society - which leads to devastating consequences.

Movies like Dangerous Minds (1995), Freedom Writers (2007), and Coach Carter (2005) all seem as if they should fall in to the same genre as Dead Poets Society, but they don't. Although I enjoyed the others in varying degrees, but there is something more refined about the repression and oppression that we see in Dead Poets Society.

Part of the refinement, in my opinion, is the dignity that Robbin Williams gives to his character. I am a big fan of Williams in more dramatic roles rather than comedic roles, and I loved the range of emotion and depth he was afforded to really emote his character. 

The movie is slow, and at times can be cumbersome, it can even give the impression that it doesn't really know which direction it is going in, but it does, and I guess that is what is most trying and shocking to the audience.

It's the crushing of hope and freedom by conformity and traditions that creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia; this coupled with the scarcity of colour (most of the film features lots of browns, black, whites, and muted natural colours), it's no wonder that the boys and the audience just want to break free. 

The film is haunting because of the hopelessness of the conclusion. Although there is a ray of light in the famous last scene (with the boys standing on the tables), there really is nothing after that, and I honestly felt left out cold, furious at the injustice of it all.

As haunting as this film is (after all, even after a few week I still think of it) I do really love it - and it does what a film is supposed to do and make you remember it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

As mentioned in a previous post, this is my first time through the legendary Harry Potter series. I'll be writing up mini, speed-reviews until I complete the whole bunch - and then I'll offer up a mega-review of them all. 

In a nutshell:
Rowling spends this book introducing us to her boy wonder, Harry Potter (a.k.a 'The Boy who Lived') and his quirky chums Hermione Granger and Ron Weasely as they battle trolls and the semi-resurrected Lord Voldemort. 

The Audiobook:
The audiobook set I have is read by the very awesome Jim Dale. Dale is a master of many voices and his Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore and Hagrid are brilliant. Unfortunately though, his other female voices have much to be desired.

The Story:
I really enjoyed the story although I did find it quite painful to start off with. I just found the vocabulary, similes and metaphors to all be pretty standard and repetitive, which became quite difficult to listen to. But, regardless of all that, I was surprised that I enjoyed the plot and characters as much as I did, as I really did not enjoy the movie as much. Ah well, never judge a book by its movie.

So that's it for now. 'Stay tuned' for more Harry Potter speed reviews!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I think we all have these. They're movies that are not that great. They can be B-movies, or just movies that were made for TV. They're full of bad-acting, plot holes, or just don't really make much sense!

Guilty-pleasure movies are also those films that you will not readily admit to loving. You may admit it to some of your friends, but you won't admit to just any Tom, Dick or Harry. The shame of it may be too much, or you may lose any authority to recommend a movie to anybody again.

I have a few of these. And I hope you'll forgive me my trespasses as I admit, to you strangers, the movies I should hate.... but love!

The Negotiator (1998)

Oh my goodness me. I just absolutely love this film. I can't help it. It's an action film that tastes like a drama. It has the awesome Samuel L. Jackson, and the excellent Kevin Spacey, and they come together in this pedal to the metal conspiracy movie. Jackson's character, an accomplished cop is suddenly implicated in the murder of his best friend... well, I won't go on, but really... it is great!

Roll Bounce (2005)

See, at least with The Negotiator I had a leg to stand on. With Roll Bounce I am shocked with myself and the love I have for this movie. It features five black boys, living in the 70s who love to roller-skate. The skating-disco place they used to practice at has closed down and so they have to start going to another part of town to skate there. Well, to cut a long story short, it all culminates in a massive group skating-competition where the boys compete. And yes, I'm not ashamed to say that it stars Bow Wow, Nick Cannon, Chi Mcbride and even has a couple of scenes with Charles Q. Murphy. 
It. Is. Awesome.

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993)

What a CLASSIC movie. I love it. I know I shouldn't, but I do. Do I give this movie too much credit? Yes, I do. But it is cheesy to the max but also so awesome. It stars the brilliant Whoopi Goldberg, Lauryn Hill and who can forget Kathy Najimy? It had Goldberg playing Deloris once again, being asked to take a break from being a Las Vegas show girl, and don the habit as Sister Mary Clarence to save an underfunded Catholic school.

I grew up with this film playing on ITV at least once every month year long, and around Christmas it'd suddenly be on all the time. I would watch it engrossed at every opportunity. And now, as an adult, and although I've not watched it for many years - I still know the songs, the characters and the plot line.

Point Break (1991)

I almost feel like I should not even call this a guilty pleasure, because really, it's an epic film (that may be a little exaggerated but it's still good!). Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze spend most of the movie having whimsical and philosophical conversations whilst surfing, oh, and Swayze and his crew like robbing banks. Oh, and Reeve's character is the cop trying to catch them. It would be a travesty to not have put this on the list.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Remember this? I remember watching this in the cinema and just thinking this was the best thing since sliced bread. I'm now older and wiser, but I still love this film and still love the nostalgia that overwhelms me. This is a classic Shakespeare turned modern movie, taken from the play Taming of the Shrew. It's great. You should love it too.

Dance Flick (2009)

This is the movie that I have to say I am most, most embarrassed to like. I haven't loved or even liked anything from the Wayans Brothers since Scary Movie 1 and 2 (I hated and didn't give time to any after that). But I watched this last month, and as I'd seen all the movies they were referencing, I just got it... and found it funny. Some parts are repulsive - true, and have some super crude moments that you probably will want to fast forward through, but you know, I giggled, and that's why I like it. 

Mean Girls (2004)

This film is one of those movies that I watch and feel guilty watching it. Well, only guilty until I remind myself that the whole point of the movie was not to encourage bitching, back-stabbing and bullying but actually it was (apparently) supposed to be ironic. Even without the philosophy though, the movie is just brilliant. There are moments that are ingenious (scenes where teens enact how situations would be solved in the wild) and moments that just remind you of how it was at school (it wasn't quite as vicious and hyper-sexual at our school, but you still had the little cliques, all wanting to have the last word).

A Cinderella Story (2004)

Kill. Me. Now.
I've realise that I have pretty much lost any credibility. But, yes, this movie is basically Cinderella - but a modern day one of course, with email and text messages and the ultimate goal of university lingering at the end. I know. It's mad - but it's great!

The Little Rascals (1994)

To prove just how much I love for this movie, I admit that I actually own it, on DVD and can see it sat nicely on my shelf. It is full of bad acting, craziness and follow the exploits of a bunch of boys who have a 'no girls' policy in their club. It's all very serious to them, and oh so silly for us grown-ups. Suspend belief, let the humour wash over you - and enjoy.

Tremors (1990)

This is a B-grade movie that is just so awesome. I know, I shouldn't love it as much as I do. It doesn't make much sense, but Kevin Bacon and friends are just so funny! Everything is drab and boring, and then it all becomes so brilliant and exciting. It's a monster movie that I managed to get my young teenage brother to appreciate. It's the same old story... lazy, small American village is attacked by freaky 'Graboids' - worm like mega-beasts that enjoy a feast!

So, here they are. All ten of them. In reality there is probably about 50 but I thought that these ten were enough to have me lose all credibility! 
Give them a try, if you dare! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I am not really a dedicated fan of the horror genre any more (although I was pestered by many an English teacher for never branching out of my little box of horror as a teenager), and it is particularly rare to see me reading things from that genre. I have a penchant for Gothic fiction - especially good ol' 19thC Gothic - but that's for another post! 

But you know, no matter how hard I try to fight it, I do love to read horror... but only if it is written by Stephen King. 

What I appreciate most about his writing is that King exhibits a freakishly absurd understanding of the human condition, and with perfect command, deciphers and reveals both the psychologies and motives of his characters. To put it in the most cheesy way possible - King is master of his pen, the pen is not master over him.

I'll give you a perfect example. King is the only author, ever, in my reading history who has ever physically compelled me to close a book and stop reading because I was so freaked out. That may sounds nuts, but I remember a particular moment in Salem's Lot [1975] that took place in a prison cell that had my hair standing on end! I closed the book and took a twenty minute break before I went back to it. I was overwhelmed, not just by the creepiness, but also by the very fact that no book had actually made me look away before. Under the Dome [2009] (though I would consider that more of a sci-fi novel rather than a horror) also had moments that chilled my bones, and characters so repulsive and uncomfortable that I would pause the audiobook to give myself a break.

King is quite simply a prolific writer, and can churn out a book or two a year. Needless to say, some of those books are just not as good as others, but his good books are just so, so good - I can ignore the bad ones. 

One of the greatest things about King are his unashamedly philosophical undertones that are present within his writings. King is a political-animal and this shows both in and out of his writing. Carrie [1974], Misery [1987], Under the Dome, Firestarter [1980] and his Dark Tower series [1982-2012] (please forgive my adding the Dark Tower books as they're sci-fi, but there are some truly horrifying scenes within it) all carry philosophical or recurring political themes.

From where I've been standing, and it is probably because I am biased and not a great consumer of horror as I once was, but the horror genre has pretty much stagnated. I've not seen any great morphing, either within literature or even on the big screen. Horror has had paranormal-romance grow out of it and leave the nest, it's had gore which is now a genre all on its own, but horror, horror is sat waiting for somebody to notice it. 

Stephen King, who is arguably one of the most well known horror writers of our day is not really considered high-literature. His books are not being clutched in the hands of housewives at books clubs, or had Oprah Winfrey jumping on her couch about them, but I believe a lot more credit should be thrown King's way. After all, some of the best and most horrific characters within our collective memories were his own gruesome creations (Annie Wilkes, It (Pennywise), Carrie, Big Jim Rennie, Jack Torrance and of course Cujo).

Books Mentioned

Sunday, November 4, 2012

As it is November, and I'm worried that I won't be able to add a little something about this next week, I'm writing early. 

A Canadian man wearing a poppy
by Hobvias  Sudoneighm
The second Sunday of November is what we call Remembrance Sunday in the United Kingdom. It's quite a special event really, and is marked with ceremonies, thankfulness, documentaries and reminders of how short life is, and how we really should be more aware of just how precious life is. We remember those who have died in service to our country.

It's quite sad that even with Remembrance Day we still forget the human condition and join wars and send our servicemen and women.

Anyway, I'm adding a cynical but beautifully written poem by Jaques Prevert (1900-1977), a fantastic poet from the 20th Century to mark the occasion. 

The Speech About Peace (Le discours sur la paix)
Near the end of a very important speech
The great statesman stumbling
Over a beautiful hollow phrase
Falls silent
And bewildered, with gaping mouth, 
Shows his teeth
And the dental decay of his peaceful discourse
Lays bare the nerve of war
The delicate question of money

Saturday, November 3, 2012

There are some goodies that have come out this year, and continue to come out. Here is a list of a few that I just cannot wait to get my hands on and watch!

This Is Not a Film

The brilliant Jafar Panahi smuggled this film out of Iran on a flash drive, hidden in a cake - and had it delivered to Cannes. I know - this sounds too crazy to be true, but it is. Panahi has been awaiting the result of his appeal, after having been under house arrest for the last six years after making a film that was critical of the Iranian regime. The film records him working within his home and trying, quite desperately, to not only continue with his life as an artist but privately battle the lack of creative freedoms within his country.

Welcome to the Punch

Calling all James McAvoy fans, here's something you need to know about. This movie is currently in post-production and is basically a crime/conspiracy drama with lots of action. McAvoy is a detective (Lewinsky) with one dream... to catch the criminal 'who got away'. When he goes after the Icelandic criminal who has had to pop back to London (because of family issues) Lewinsky suddenly finds himself having to unravel a conspiracy which leads to all sorts of hoo-har! 

The Imposter

This is just one of those stories that are stranger than fiction. Do you remember the French con-man Frederic BourdinThis is a documentary film about the astonishing Bourdin who managed to convince a grief-stricken family that he was their teenage son (even though he had darker skin, different colour eyes etc etc). It has had some amazing reviews and so I've just got to see this for myself!

Oslo, August 31st

This is a heavy plotted film that seemed to be pushed under the rug this summer. The story chronicles the feelings of redemption, loneliness and shame when Anders (a drug-addict) takes a break from his drug-treatment centre to return home to see family and friends. It has been described by Philip French as being 'a cold, detached, very Scandinavian film' - which sounds right up my street!

I shall most certainly let you all know when I finally get around to seeing these!

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