5 Modern Sci-Fi Films You Should Probably Watch

Just do it.

The Machine (2013)

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A prime example of a film with an unoriginal concept (military trying to create super-soldier cyborg types to defeat a pesky Cold War enemy) but with great execution. Like most of the films on this list, the budget for The Machine was low (around the £1million mark) but they still managed to bag a decent cast (Toby Stephens, Denis Lawson, Caity Lotz) and make fantastic use of the low key location. Lotz steals the show, her transformation from enthusiastic young graduate to kick-ass cyborg is sublime, though Stephens puts in a decent performance as the scientist driven to obsession. There are some delightfully well choreographed fight sequences and while it is a little naval gazing and slow in parts, it does pose some interesting questions, and the ending stays with you.

 

The Final Cut (2004)

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Before Black Mirror plunged in there with its weird dystopian visions (that seem to be coming fruition scarily enough), Omar Naim produced this little known nugget of sci-fi weirdness. Released during the period where Robin Williams was throwing out some curveball performances (One Hour Photo, Insomnia), The Final Cut sees him playing it a little more straight and restrained as Alan Hakman, a cutter who is drawn into a dangerous game of intrigue and blackmail. The Final Cut is not going to win, and didn’t win, any Oscars, it’s structure and plot are pretty standard. However, the world building and concepts are where the film really comes into its own, and you sort of wish they had kept the focus on that instead of heading down the action thriller route. Either way, The Final Cut is a strong and interesting entry into Robin Williams’ filmography.

 

Grabbers (2012)

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Lots of jokes about being drunk. Check. An alcoholic lead character. Check. Excessive use of the word ‘feck’. Check. All the hallmarks of a decent Irish film, and Grabbers is no different. It’s a proper no frills, sci-fi/horror/comedy monster film, with some amusingly gory deaths, daft plot twists, and amiable character stereotypes. The monsters are fantastically realized and the one key aspect of their biology leads to residents of the island retreating to pub and getting pissed. Grabbers does nothing new, it owes a lot to Tremors, however the film has such heart and wit, and some gorgeous cinematography, that it is more than enough to make watching this film well worth your time. And have a few drinks while you’re at it.

 

Coherence (2013) 

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Coherence is an absolute mind-fuck (excuse my French). It starts as a seemingly straight forward relationship drama with a lot of smug people sitting round a dinner table, however after an astronomical anomaly passes by, things begin going south. Coherence sets out a truly fascinating ‘what if’ scenario. What if we existed on parallel realities but co-existed on the same plane? What if we saw those ‘other’ versions of ourselves but they weren’t quite ‘us’? What if we interacted with those ‘others’? The major thrill in Coherence is that you don’t know which characters or which ‘others’ you are watching at any one time, you don’t know whose reactions are legitimate. Where you watching the ‘others’ in the first place? Are the ‘others’ just as baffled as confused as the first set of characters we meet or are they already aware of the situation? Coherence is a film that deserves multiple re-watches and almost requires it, and it also deserves a first watch so get going onto Netflix and seek it out.

 

Primer (2004) 

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When I first watched Primer I didn’t quite understand what was happening. When I watched Primer for the second time I still didn’t quite understand what was happening. Primer is an obtuse, borderline impenetrable piece of work, but therein lies its charm. Shane Carruth (director/writer/producer/actor) refuses to dumb down the science or give people massive doses of exposition to help them understand exactly what is going on. The plot of Primer is a simple one to start with; two friends invent a device in a garage which they discover can send objects back in time, however, their relationship begins to fracture as does their grip on what they have created. Primer is a staggering bit of cinema when you consider the size of its budget ($7000), the fact that no one in the film had acted before, and that Carruths had never written or directed before. Like Coherence, Primer is on Netflix and it is worth keeping on your ‘to watch’ list even after you’ve watched it for the third or fourth time.

My Five Favourite Things About Harry Potter

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I’m fully aware that I’m obsessed with Harry Potter, it’s an addiction that I never plan to get over. I find that there are very few people who have never read Harry Potter or who have not seen the films but if you are one of these people then you may want to not read this because there may be some spoilers.

Now, let’s talk my top five favourite things about Harry Potter;

1 – There is a character for everyoneOotp076

Now this may seem obvious but recently I’ve realised that not everyone loves the same characters, I’ve just re-read the series and once again I fell in love with Snape and cried my eyes out when I once again read about his undying love for Lily, I laughed when Fred and George left Hogwarts and my heart broke when Fred died. I’ve always been a big fan of the twins and Snape and I’ve always felt a strong connection to the strong female characters that are Ginny, Hermione and Luna. I did recently find out however, a lot of my friends disagree. I have a friend who hates Snape and a friend who will always tell me how annoying she finds Ginny, to counteract this, I never really warmed to Dobby (please don’t hate me) and felt no emotions when he died. I love that the characters are so real and have such depth that the reader can get to know them and essentially form an opinion of them.

2 – The pensieve

FSHQDAYGUQ4FS36.SMALLMy favourite parts of HP will always be the scenes with the pensieve, I love going back in time and rooting through peoples memories. I thought that J.K. Rowling’s invention of the pensieve was a perfect way to show us exactly what happened and explain the story a little more. The Half Blood Prince is my favourite book and a lot of this is based on how we can go back in time and understand Riddle a little more. I loved seeing his upbringing and how he came to be Voldemort, knowing that he hated life at the orphanage and how his magic powers made him feel special, made it a little bit more understandable why he wanted to become powerful.

3 – Strong womendownload (4)

I read a lot of books and I have a love for young adult and contemporary fiction but often with these genres I find a lot of female characters who I hate because they seem to live their lives around finding a boyfriend and nothing is more important to them. Harry Potter literally has the opposite type of women, Hermione being the lead example. Yes Hermione falls in love with Ron early and it seems pretty obvious from Goblet of Fire onwards that providing both them survive, they will eventually be together but this is never what Hermione was about. We loved her because she was strong and was always the rational one, she valued her friendships with Harry and Ron more than anything else in the world and she was the one who stuck by Harry through thick and thin. She was clever and funny and beautiful all at the same time. Let’s be honest, if Harry hadn’t made friends with Hermione, he would have been dead before he even found the philosopher’s stone. On top of this we have the likes of Luna who is eccentric and weird but she’s comfortable in her own skin and never tries to change who she is just to fit in, finally she finds her best friends by just being herself and we have Ginny who starts off as a giggly schoolgirl who swoons over Harry but it’s not until she’s over him that she actually grows a personality. Ginny is strong willed and feisty and she refuses to go home in the battle of Hogwarts, she knows she is at risk but she can’t sit back and do nothing. I love how J.K. writes all her main female characters as strong women who girls can admire and look up to.

4 – Quidditch

quidditchWe’ve all wanted to fly on a broom and hit balls through a goal, right? Quidditch is on my list because I simply love the fact that it has become a real sport. There’s nothing more entertaining than going to a university quidditch game and seeing a group of 20 year olds running around on brooms pretending they’re flying. Before you accuse me of mocking the sport, I’m really not. I genuinely love that Harry Potter is so important to people that they’re trying to bring the fictional sport to life. I’ve always wanted to play seeker so maybe one day my dream will come true.

5 – The magicDiagonAlley_homepage_hero

This one sounds obvious but for me the magic is so much more than just the spells they perform in the books. Earlier this year I visited Warner Bro studios where you can walk around and look at the sets they used in the actual movies and to me it honestly felt magical. Within five minutes of me being on the tour, I was close to tears because it was all so overwhelming to me. The magic in the books is brought to life, you can perform spells and drink butterbeer, you can take the train to Hogwarts and you can fly on a broom. This is only one part of the Harry Potter world, there is a huge theme park in Orlando and all over the world there are places to go for Harry Potter lovers to make the magic come to life.

Ultimately, I love that Harry Potter is so big that it’s more than just a book, it’s a community. I love that if I meet someone new and find out that that love HP, I know I’ll be able to talk to them for hours.  Basically, I really, really love Harry Potter.

Why I love Working Girl

Working Girl was a pretty big hit when it was first released, and even garnered itself six Oscar Nominations, including one win for Best Original Song. More recently though it seems to have been forgotten about a little. It rarely turns up in people’s top ten of all time ever favourite movies, and most younger people have never heard of it let alone seen it.

tess beforeWorking Girl is one of my very favourite films. It makes me sad that it seems to get little love these days. Maybe it’s because it’s a little cheesy in parts. Maybe the giant hair is a little too much and the shoulder pads too broad and pointy. Maybe it’s because it can be a little sentimental in places. Or maybe it’s because the title makes it sound like the dodgy bargain bin version of Pretty Woman.

For me these are all positive points, I love the 80sness of it all. I love the hokey ending, and the questionable fashion choices. It has some of the best lessons in feminism and women in the workplace whilst all being wrapped in a candy coated rom-com coating.

The film follows the story of Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a go getting 30 year old woman. She worked hard a night school to get her degree, and probably knows more about the markets then the men she works for. She is desperate to make her way in the world of Wall Street, and will take any opportunity given to her, though these are few and far between and often a ‘business meeting’ organised by her boss turns out to be a hook up for his friend. After one such run in with Bob (Kevin Spacey) she humiliates her boss showing them she is not a forced to be reckoned with. She wants to get ahead, but she wants to do it on her own terms, not just because she slept with someone.

tess and kathAfter returning back to the office and humiliating the boss who set her up with Bob she gets re-assigned to work for Katherine Parker, who is delightfully over played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is able to play the supportive, yet underhanded boss very well, even if she occasionally veers off into Disney Villain territory.

Katherine appears to be the perfect boss, she listens to Tess and encourages her to come to her with ideas for their clients,with the promise of reward for hard work.

One day Tess comes to Katherine with an idea for a client to buy a radio station. Katherine appears to listen and take and interest. Though just before her departure to Europe on a skiing trip she informs Tess the idea was a no goer. The inevitable happens and Katherine breaks her leg whilst away, leaving Tess to look after her apartment until she can return.

Katherine represents everything Tess wants to be, elegant, poised, sophisticated, and, above all in power. So of course in an attempt to mimic her Tess goes through all of Katherine’s things, including her Dictaphone, which just so happens to contain a memo about Tess’ idea that Katherine has kept for herself.

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So it turns out Katherine was a massive lying dirt bag all along. Tess decides not to take this lying down, ‘cause she actually kicks ass. She sets up a meeting with Jack Trainer (the ever sexy Harrison Ford). The night before the big meeting Tess gets dolled up in Katherine’s finest clothes to attend a party where the famous Mr Trainer will also be in attendance.

He espies her across the room and tells her Jack Trainer just left before she got there, but she should totally have a tequila with him to make up for it. She ends up getting hammered, thanks in part to the Valium she had taken earlier to calm her nerves.

 

I love this scene, it’s all about how you can be an empowered woman who can handle business without having to give up your femininity and dress, as Jack Trainer himself puts it ‘ how a woman would think a man would dress if he was a woman’

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Together Tess and Jack pull together the deal with the client, and on the big meeting between the client and the radio station they are buying Katherine returns from Europe, and discovered Tess’ double-cross when she finds her diary that was left behind in her haste to leave and get to the meeting.

sigourney weaverKatherine manages to get dressed and down to the office where the negotiations are taking place and burst through the door like the wonderfully campy villain she is and kicks Tess out for lying and stealing her idea, all whilst flailing her crutches about. Though at the final meeting the truth prevails. Katherine gets her comeuppance and Tess gets her reward in a new job in a junior position with a new firm, as well as falling in love with Jack. 

On Tess’ first day in her new job she automatically places her things on the secretary’s desk, only to be told by the woman appearing from the fancy office that she is in fact the secretary and the office now belongs to Tess. As she does her introductions to her new employee she decides not to be like Katherine, and be a better boss and a better support.

alec baldwinThere are so many lessons to be learnt from Working Girl, you don’t need to pretend to be a man in order to fit in in places of business. You don’t need to sleep with someone to get ahead. It’s OK to get rid of unsupportive people in your life (At one point Tess finds her unsupportive boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman, so she kicks him to the curb). It’s OK to be supportive to your friends with aspirations, Tess’ best friend, Cynthia (Joan Cusack, who also has the best ever New York accent and some of the highest hair I’ve ever seen) is always there for her, no matter what. Even joan cusackwhen she might not agree with Tess’s actions, she supports them and doesn’t judge her for wanting a career over her cheating boyfriend. Above all, it’s about how everyone should come together and supportive of each other in the workplace in order to achieve equality. We are a little closer to this goal nearly thirty years on, but with men still in the vast majority of positions of power we still have a way to go.

Yes, the production values are little dated. Yes, the fashion choices are questionable. Yes, it’s a little fluffy and things happen at the convenience of the plot. But this is a wonderful film, it’s hard not to get swept up with Tess’ ambitions and fight to be taken seriously in a world dominated by men. She refuses to give up her morals for the sake of getting ahead. She is truly a feminist hero and a great inspiration for any young woman wanting to enter big business.

 

Top 5 Remakes That Were Better Than The Original

As we groan in abject disdain as Hollywood pumps out more and more seemingly pointless remakes (hello Robocop and the-stuck-in-development-hell Highlander) we are in danger of losing sight of the fact that sometimes the remake can actually improve on the original. Yes, the percentages are low, for every Coen Brothers True Grit there is a bargain basement Get Carter, but remakes can sometimes surprise us, adding a new dimension to an old story, and in some cases (which there are two of on this list) new technology and visual effects can provide a more visceral experience.

I admit, I am a little bit of snob when it comes to remakes, especially those that don’t seem have a point to it; doing a remake for the sake of ego boosting or raising the profile of a particular actor/director makes absolutely no sense to me, there has to be an advance or something fresh whether it be political, technological, sociological, whatever… that the original either was lacking or fudged in the first place.

So here we are, my own personal top 5 remakes that were better than the originals.

1. Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1978)

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The 70s remake of ‘Invasion…’ is on every single one of these remake lists and usually at the top. The reason being because it is absolutely bloody marvellous. The original ‘Invasion…’ was released in 1956 and dismissed without fanfare by the critics but as time as passed it has been widely re-assessed as an allegoric masterpiece tapping into the paranoia and fear of the US populace during the rise of communism and the Soviet Union. The remake keeps the main themes intact, the dangers of conformity, or not asking questions of those around, of just blending into the crowd, of someone exerting complete control over your mind and body, but ramps up the visuals with some deeply disturbing and Cronenberg-esque body horror (see the scene in the garden with Donald Sutherland and bunch of replicated bodies writhing on the grass). And that final scene, oh that final scene, hopeful at first and then horrific afterwards, I dare you to find a closing scene that gives you such a conflicting shock of emotions. Also you get a very, very youthful Jeff Goldblum and Donald Sutherland with a moustache and perm. I don’t know what much more you would need.

2. The Thing (1982)

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A remake of an adaptation of book that has its own prequel, The Thing has its origins and tentacles all over modern cinema, but John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror is unparalleled in both technical achievement and as a perfect example of how to execute a simple plot in one location with small band of actors. We all know from a previous post how much i admire Kurt Russell and his glorious beard, but credit also has to go to the supporting cast, specifically Keith David as Childs and Donald Moffat as Garry (who has a cracking one liner during the tense blood test stand off). Like ‘Invasion…’ above, the main progression from the original is the special effects. Rob Bottin and his team create some effects and pieces so disgusting and strange that it’s both mildly stomach churning yet extremely difficult to look away. The Thing is not a complex watch but is a compelling one, and again like ‘Invasion…’ and all good sci-fi horror films, the ending is bleak but open for endless theorising, and I am not ashamed to say that I have watched the videos and read the message boards about whether or not Childs or MacReady or either of them is The Thing at the end (and it’s a heck of a rabbit hole).

 

3. The Departed (2006)

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A remake of the Hong Kong crime drama Infernal Affairs, The Departed is absolutely rammed to the gills of all the actors the Scorsese had on speed dial, apart from De Niro who was probably off making a shit comedy because he is De Niro. You’d think with all that talent, and egos probably, that The Departed would possibly sink under the weight but this is Scorsese and he is the king of keeping an ensemble cast in check (I’m guessing by boomeranging his eyebrows if one of them gets a bit feisty). This is one of those remakes that sort of doesn’t have a point to it apart from it being adapted from the Far East in order to suit the American market and usually that just doesn’t work (I’m looking at you Oldboy and Dark Water), but The Departed is one of those rare occasions  where everything just works. Damon and DiCaprio are the two sides of the same coin with Jack Nicholson, as unpredictable as ever, flipping between the two of them. The supporting cast is sublime (the scenes with Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg out-yelling and out-swearing each other is worth the price of a dvd alone), the script has some wonderfully ornate foul language and strong twists and turns, and while it does run on a little long, The Departed just pips Infernal Affairs in high crime drama stakes.

4. The Fly (1986)

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Of all the body horror films The Fly is the one that stays with me the most, probably because it’s the most…. juicy. A remake of the 1958 film, it sticks to the core plot of mad scientist mixes atoms with a fly after a cross-contamination incident but takes the gore and excess to new heights. There’s acid vomit, a maggot baby, Jeff Goldblum (who obviously has good taste in sci-fi because this is his second appearance on this list) falling apart in the most grotesque manner possible, and some phenomenally vile set pieces. The 1958 version was shocking at its time, the visual effects disturbed and appalled in equal measure, but watching it now it’s almost amateurish, so Cronenberg’s remake is a prime example of how advancing technology aids and gives reason to a great remake.

 
5. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

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I’m being bold here and letting you all know that I am not a fan of musicals. Most musicals bring me out in a serious case of hives. Just give me drama, give me comedy, don’t sing it at me. Ya dig? However, I will let Little Shop of Horrors through my musical defences. A remake of a Broadway musical which in turn was based on Roger Corman’s 1960 film, Little Shop of Horrors is an absolute blast. With its tongue firmly in cheek, it presents the story of sad old Seymour and Audrey, desperate to escape the NYC slum and end up in the possession of a strange plant that feeds on human blood. What follows is a bizarre, amusing and pleasingly camp 90 minutes with some wonderful musical song and dance routines, and some glorious cameos from Bill Murray and Steve Martin. The original 60s film wasn’t a musical at all, just a very low budget black comedy and it did work, but when presented with the 80s form with musical additions then you realise that this remake is exactly what Little Shop of Horrors needed.

My Top 5 Books Set In Paris

I’m addicted to Paris. There, I said it.

Around six year ago, my best friend and I decided to travel to Paris, this was my first ever real visit to the city (I’d previously stopped off for a ten minute break while en route to Spain) and the beginning of my obsession. Once I was home I missed Paris more than I can explain so I decided to pretend I was still there by living through books, soon I realised I’d read quite a few books set in Paris and I thought I’d share my favourites.

 

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barberyimages

I wasn’t sure about this book when I first picked it up. It ticked a box by being set in Paris but I’d seen a number of mixed reviews, it seemed some people loved it and some people hated it. The book is translated from French and follows Renée, a concierge for an elite Paris apartment block, who is seen to be fat, lazy and addicted to TV by the residents of the block. In reality Renée is well cultured and actually loves philosophy and art. Paloma is a resident, a twelve year old genius who plans to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday. The two form an unlikely friendship, they both hide their true selves from the world and this forms a strong bond between the pair.

When I first went in to read this, I was worried that the book would be pretentious and boring. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I fell in love with Paloma instantly and cared about her more than I’d cared about a fictional character in a long time. The story was charming and the bond between the two characters was heart-warming.

 

A Week in Paris – Rachel Hore22845483

A romance novel set in Paris during the war? Sounds like everything I’ve ever needed from a book.

It was. Hore’s A Week in Paris was everything I look for in a book.

Fay was born on the day WWII started but she can’t remember the first five years of her life, she has a photograph of her dad but again she cannot recall him, she only knows what people have told her, that he died in an air raid. On a trip to Paris with her orchestra, Fay feels a bond with the city and a feeling she has been there before. She sets out on a quest to learn more about her mother’s past and her own childhood.

I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. The story was beautiful and seeing a young mother struggle to keep her child safe during WWII was endearing. Before I started the read I assumed it was your typical chic lit read but after a few chapters I realised it was much more than that. It was an enjoyable read and I would tell any of my friends to read it. I laughed and cried all the way through.

 

An Officer and a Spy – Robert Harris18007532

This was the first book I read by Harris and instantly I knew I loved his writing. An Officer and a Spy follows Georges Picquart, an ambitious officer who has just been promoted to head of counterespionage. Picquart has been pivitol in the case against Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer, convicted of treason. At first Picquart is sure of Dreyfus’ guilt but as things progress he realises it may not be as black and white as he thought.

This is based on a true story and after reading I was surprised by how easy I found it to read. At times I cried and at times I rejoiced but in the end I came out feeling like I’d read about an important part of history and was better off for it.

 

Sleeping with Paris – Juliette Sobanetparis

Charlotte has everything she’s dreamed of. She’s a French teacher with her dream of moving to Paris to study at the Sorbonne University with the love of her life, merely  days away. Then she finds her finacee’s secret online dating profile along with the messages he’s been sending to a beautiful redhead and her life is thrown into turmoil. Charlotte confronts the situation and decides to move to Paris alone where she can forget her past and embark on a new adventure.

Now I loved this story, this was the first book that really made me want to move to Paris. I loved seeing Paris through Charlotte’s eyes and you could tell that the author loved Paris just as much as I did, if not more. The story and the characters felt real from the beginning, I felt Charlotte’s struggles and I felt her love for the city and the new friends.

And can we just take a second to appreciate Luc… Perfect fictional man alert!

 

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris – Jenny Colgan17618928

Now this is the biggest chic lit novel on the list. Anna works in a chocolate factory in England and she loves her job but after an accident at work she finds herself jobless and very upset. While recovering in hospital Anna meets Claire who helps to teach Anna French during their time in hospital. To help Anna recover, emotionally and physically, Claire offers to help Anna out, she puts her in touch with an old friend from Paris who offers Anna a job in their chocolate factory. Anna soon finds out that Parisian chocolate factories are a lot different than English and she realises that Paris might be everything she needs.

This story was beautifully written, I’d previously read a Colgan book before but struggled to get into it. This time however I was hooked within a few pages. The description of Paris was beautiful and after reading, all I wanted to do was run around those cobbled streets with an attractive Frenchman on my arm.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (Book Review)

All the Light We Cannot See was recommended to me by a friend, now said friend has always given me great book recommendations and up until this book, the books he’s told me to read have been 5/5 stars. This was the first book that didn’t follow that trend.download (3)

When I was told about All the Light We Cannot See, I was told it’s set during WWII and follows a blind girl who lives in Paris and whose father works at the Museum of Natural History. So fat it had all the makings of my perfect book so I checked out Goodreads. On there I found constant five star reviews, in fact I struggled to find anything less so I downloaded it to my Kindle and started to read.

Now I’ll say that I didn’t hate the book, in fact it was enjoyable but I just didn’t love it. The story follows two main characters, Marie-Laure, a blind girl who is brought up in Paris by her father. She spends most of her days curled up behind his desk, in the Museum of Natural History, reading a book or asking questions about the displays. Our second protagonist is Werner, a blonde haired, blue eyed orphan brought up in a mining town in Germany. When the war starts both Marie-Laure and Werner’s lives change forever.

The story itself was clever, I loved the fact that small things in the beginning of the book became big connections by the end and I loved how everything intertwined. My main issue is that I sometimes found it boring. The story focused on our two main protagonists and with that we found out a lot about their childhoods and how what they loved developed who they became. I liked this in theory but in practise I found the constant references to radios and snails, a little boring.

I did love some of the characters; in the beginning I loved Marie-Laure. Losing her sight didn’t make her wallow; instead it made her determined and strong. I loved her when she was a child and how she learned to live with her loss of sight and remain happy. As the book progressed I learned that Werner was my favourite. I was amazed by how he grew as a character and slowly learned how to become a better person.

The supporting characters were also well written, Marie-Laure’s uncle Etienne was by far my favourite, his fear to leave the house since the war and his love for Marie-Laure was heart-warming to me. On top of this, Von Rumple was a great villain while Frau Elena and Jutta gave the book a realistic a homely feel.

This all sounds great, right? So why didn’t I love it? Well in the end I didn’t care about any of the characters outcomes except for perhaps Etienne. While reading I loved each character and wanted the best for them but by the end I felt like I’d learned all there was to learn and if everyone had of died, I don’t think I would have cared.

I also found the writing style hard to follow at times, I had previously read A Court of Mist and Fury with a really easy to follow writing style then I went on to this. I found the style pretentious at times and for the first ten chapters I hated the book. In the beginning I felt like the book was written for the sole purpose of winning an award (which it did – the Pulitzer Prize) without any thought towards having an enjoyable story. As I continued this feeling did subside and I realised the story was well written and was enjoyable but I never quite got over the pretentious style of writing.

For anyone thinking of reading this, I would certainly say to go ahead and try it. After all as I said, I didn’t hate the book, I simply found it hard at times and thought it nothing more than an OK book but the end but I do know a number of people who have rated it five stars and loved every second of reading. So definitely try it – you never know, you may end up loving it way more than I did.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Why You Should Be Watching Supergirl

When I first heard there was a Supergirl TV show in the works I was skeptical. Supergirl has never really held her own as a solo comic book character. Her comic series tend to get cancelled quite a lot but she’s a popular character when she shows up in ensemble books so it’s surprising they took a risk on a high budget solo series for her. I’m really glad they did though because it’s one of my favourite TV shows on right now and here are some reasons you should be watching too.


They’ve Started Their Own Continuity

In the show Kara Zor-El is the cousin of Superman who was sent to watch over him on earth when he was a baby. However, something went wrong and she was lost in time for a while meaning when she arrived Clark had been there for 20+ years and he didn’t need her protection anymore. Her comic origin is a much more ridiculous and complicated story involving a shrunken city in a bottle (Yes really) so I can understand why they went with their own version. This leaves them free to develop their own universe without all the baggage Superman brings with him. He still exists in their world but they keep National City pretty separate from Metropolis. They have also inserted Supergirl into some classic Superman storylines and situations. Surprisingly they’ve picked a lot of the more “out there” stories and characters to deal with in their first season. The greater DC universe is filled with aliens but this is the first live action thing to even mention them outside of Kryptonians. 

It Respects The Source Material 

Now this is not to be confused with being overly serious about your story like Batman Begins or Man of Steel. In my opinion trying to make everything gritty and down to earth loses the very thing that makes comics so great. They’re fantastical, you routinely see things that could never happen in the real world. For some reason TV and movie execs used to think people weren’t ready to accept the wonderfully stupid world of comics. Thanks to shows like Supergirl, Flash, Arrow and the Marvel movies they’re starting to realise that there are literally decades of amazing storylines just waiting to be adapted. 

Supergirl embraces it’s silly history, it’s not afraid to put bad guys and heroes in their actual costumes with their original origins. They’ve done what many people have tried and failed to do (looking at you Zack Snyder) over the years and made Superman’s villains interesting in live action form. It’s been a complete breath of fresh air not having them rehash the same old Lex Luthor crap every other Superman movie and show seems obsessed with. Supergirl has been working her way through an interesting mix of costumed aliens, robots and meta-humans. She’s teamed up with the Martian Manhunter, had her DNA stolen to create a Bizarro Supergirl and even wrestled with a mind controlling alien plant in an awesome re imagining of the “For The Man Who Has Everything” comic storyline. These are all the types of things comic fans have wanted to see Superman do for years but no one’s had the guts to do it outside of cartoons.

It’s Full of Positive Characters


One thing that immediately stands out about DC’s TV shows is that the main character is always surrounded by an incredibly supportive group. They really emphasize the value of friendship and working together. I think it’s important for younger fans to have these kind of positive heroes as role models. Too many young DC fans are going to grow up having only watched the misguided movies from Zack Snyder and thinking that these worst versions of DC Superheroes are the norm.

Supergirl is also one of the few powered female superheroes we have on film right now. She flies around going toe to toe with super powered aliens, regularly saves her male friends from danger and they don’t make a big deal out of it. James Olsen doesn’t sulk because he’s been emasculated or make a joke about being saved by a girl, he thanks her for her help and they go on being friends. She also has a much less overtly sexualised costume compared to her comic counterpart, her friend Winn makes her a less practical outfit in the first episode but Kara promptly rejects it.

It’s About To Become Part of a Bigger Universe 

They recently aired an episode where The Flash made a cameo appearance on Supergirl because the parent company CBS owns them both. The set up for the episode was that Flash accidently creates an interdimensional portal and ends up stranded on Supergirl’s Earth. This was such a good reward for long term fans of both series. Seeing Flash and Supergirl excitedly geeking out about each other’s universe had me grinning ear to ear the whole time and it’s actually the thing that inspired me to write this post. That’s what fans want to see when superheroes meet up, we want them to be friends and to help each other. Not try to murder each other (Looking at you again Snyder). 

We didn’t know at the time this episode was announced but it was actually the start of something bigger. Season 2 of Supergirl is moving channels in the US and will be joining The Flash and Arrow on The CW channel. This will mean that they’re free to cross them over whenever they want. If there’s anything comic fans love it’s a good crossover and I’m so excited to see what happens when the three tv shows are finally allowed to meet up. 

Why Inside Out Should Have Been Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar

Every year the best of the best and glitteriest of the glittery follow their natural homing instincts and gather for the annual Academy Awards ceremony.

oscarThe Academy has long been considered the most prestigious award one can get for making a great movie. Some chase after Oscars for years, desperately starring in anything that they think will get them the coveted gold covered statuette of a naked man.

Some will chase to boost ticket and DVD sales. Some like the respect winning can get you. Others probably enjoy the higher wages one can demand when you’re a big star.

 

One of the most sought after awards is that of the Best Picture, just a nomination can boost sales by up to 60%.

Despite this, The Best Picture Oscar has been very hit and miss over the years, and has often overlooked some amazing films in favour of something that might be a little more mainstream.

carl upAnimation in particular has had to fight to be recognised in it’s own right. The Best Animated Feature award was only introduced in  2001, and animated films have only been nominated for Best Picture three times (Beauty and the Beast in 1992, Up! In 2009 and Toy Story in 2010).

At one point Inside Out was tipped to join the other three and get a nomination for Best Picture. Unfortunately it missed out.

I have only seen two and a half of the Best Picture nominated films, so I’m not going to tell you why they shouldn’t have been nominated, but instead this is an argument as to why Inside Out should have received a nomination.

I’m pretty sure it’s been mentioned before that I love Disney Pixar. Their beloved characters, involving stories and innovative animation techniques make them some of the very best kids movies around.

inside-out-1024x640I think it is this mind set that has often made it difficult for animated films to be taken seriously by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (we’ll call it The Academy for short), they’re often seen as ‘for kids’. For some reason entertainment that is aimed at children is seen a being of a lesser quality, a lesser art form as that for adults.

It’s this perception that really needs to go. Yes it is true that a lot of drivel is pumped out at an exponential rate aimed at capturing children’s attention, and (more importantly, to the makers) their parent’s money. This does not mean that every TV show, book, or movie that is aimed at children is somehow inferior to adult entertainment. This is even before I start on the argument that not all animation is for children and is an art form in it’s own right. 

Inside Out is an exploration of emotions, what they truly mean and how they interact with each other. Emotions are not something that only children experience, they are a universal human experience. So I find it somewhat unfair that The Academy could have perhaps snubbed it for being animated and aimed at children, as it is a very solid piece of cinema that has a lesson we can all learn from.

rileyThe story is about an 11 year old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who, along with her family, moves from Minnesota to San Francisco in California. Though initially she seems excited about the new house and a new start. When the new house is a bit of a let down, still no moving truck and her father keeps having heated telephone discussions about his business the dream turns sour.

As she struggles to keep herself together she tries not to let her parents know that she is finding it difficult to adjust and keeps on smiling and not talking about her feelings.

Inside her head we can see those emotions as they all tussle to be in charge on the console. As Joy (a wonderfully chirpy Amy Poehler) struggles to keep Sadness (a wonderfully morose Phyllis smith) at bay. When Sadness keeps making all of Riley’s happy memories sad Joy tries to prise them away from her, in the tussle they both end up getting sucked through a memory recall tube and get lost in the Long Term Memory. Leaving Anger (Lewis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Fear (Bill Hader) in charge of keeping Riley happy and Joy and Sadness desperately trying to find their way back to help Riley.

 

INSIDE OUT

On the journey home Joy constantly tries to keep everything light and jovial, even when getting back to head quarters seems hopeless, she tries to remain upbeat in the face of adversity. With the help of her companion she has to learn that it’s OK to feel sad when you need to, and to talk to the people you love and trust about being sad, and it is these simple actions that can get you the help you need to bring back the feeling of happiness.

There are also themes of moving on and being able to let go from the past as we can see from the imagination land area of Riley’s brain, which is going over a dramatic makeover from Riley the child to Riley the adult. As well with the character Bing Bong, Rileys’s imaginary friend from when she was little who no longer gets played with but still lingers in her long term memory in the hope that one day he will be remembered.

bing bongThe script is just lovely, for a film about the importance of sadness it’s a pretty funny film, as well as being deeply touching at times. Like the very best Pixar films it makes you cry at more than one point and makes you feel all of the emotions all at once. It manages this all whilst being accessible to everyone, from a young child to an elderly person.

Amy Poehler does a great job of bringing Joy to life, she’s like an animated version of Leslie Knope, her character from Park and Recreation. Though when Joy realises that Sadness was right all along Poehler is able to bring a humility to the performance.

With a solid script (It did get nominated for Best Script at the Oscars) stellar performances and a moving storyline Inside Out should have been in the running for Best Picture, but it missed out.

riley familyWe can’t say for certain why, the nominations are voted for by the members of The Academy, maybe it’s because most of the Academy members are old men, and they are perhaps less inclined to vote for a film about an 11 year old girl over a film about a newspaper investigating paedophilia within the church.

 

Maybe they just didn’t think it was worth it was because it was aimed at children.

Maybe it was simply because it was animated. Who knows?

What I do know, is that this a moving and delightful film for anyone of any age. It helps us all to look at our own emotions and how they can all play a part in making us who we are and contribute to making us happy (even sadness) and that it was deserving of at least a nomination of Best Picture.

 

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Rating 12A, 144 minutes

X-Men: Apocalypse is like one of those birds within a bird within a bird that you can get reasonably cheap from Iceland (and most other decent supermarkets of your choice). It’s overstuffed to the hilt, crammed together with little regard for form or presentation that it is hard really get a grip on all the new stuff while simultaneously trying to enjoy the old stuff. Bryan Singer has a habit of throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, into his films and Apocalypse is no different.

We open with some Mummy-esque Egyptian tomfoolery as poor old Oscar Isaac is plucked from the masses to be the new vessel for the ‘world’s first mutant’ Apocalypse. For reasons I will not spoil because it is actually a pretty nifty opening sequence, he ends up buried for a 1000 years or so under a heap of rubble deep beneath the city of Cairo. Cut to 1983 and the X-Men aren’t really the X-Men. Charles and Hank are still helping the weird and wonderful mutant children of the world in that ridiculous house, Mystique is hopping around Europe helping random mutants where she sees them (and we get a nice sequence in East Berlin where we are introduced to Nightcrawler (whom i love) and Angel (whom i can live without)), and Magneto is living incognito in Poland with a family. We also get a decent introduction to dear old Scott Summers who, thank god, is infinitely less annoying than his previous guise (sorry James Marsden), and Jean Grey is re-introduced as a sassy loner who the rest of the school is mildly terrified of.

In Cairo, some nosy CIA agent (hi Moira!) lets the old immortal cat out of the bag and our dear Oscar emerges from his cocoon looking like a cross between Ivan Ooze and Imhotep, and he is not a happy bunny. He spouts some hokum about false gods, the world needing to be cleansed, systems needing to be torn down and all that usual megalomaniacal stuff after putting his hand on a television. He then starts in earnest to locate his four horsemen (Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto), with each getting their own scene of transformation and change. Magneto’s thread in particular has decent emotional heft which is also aided by the fact Fassbender is an absolutely cracking actor, but some of that heft is dulled by a strangely bizarre scene in a certain famous concentration camp that left me feeling more uncomfortable than anything.

xmen-apocalypse-final-trailer-still-2

From here X-Men: Apocalypse heads down that now familiar superhero film route of wanton destruction, bloodless deaths of millions and oodles and oodles of CGI. The whole charm of the first two X-Men films and, to an extent, First Class was the sparing use of full bloodied action sequences. They were there but they weren’t bombastic honking blares of noises and things loudly crumbling and disintegrating. They were neatly positioned and neatly executed, but in the post-Avengers/Marvel throng, it now seems that every superhero film must have these increasingly lengthy and pointless blitzes and the more I see them, the more wistful I become for the good old days.

Apocalypse himself suffers from having a very vague and underdeveloped motivation for wanting to cleanse the world. He’s basically just a power hungry, greedy bastard clown man. Isaac does well with what he gets, some of his lines are undoubtedly cheesy but he delivers them with enough gravitas to get away with it. Fassbender is the stand out of the rest of the cast, though it does help that Magneto has the most emotionally intense character arc of the lot. He and McAvoy, as always, bounce off each other with great aplomb, although there is only so many times in so many different locations i can watch Charles tell Erik that there is good in him. McAvoy himself doesn’t get that much to work with on the whole, but he delivers some nice comic touches in his scenes with Hank and Moira which makes a nice change from the intense Charles that we are so used to seeing. Jennifer Lawrence is a little bit flat here, and there is a distinct whiff of ‘contractual obligation’ in her delivery. Evan Peters as Quicksilver steals every scene he is in. His holler of ‘WE DON’T KNOW BRO!’ got one of the biggest laughs in the screening. The newbies, on the whole, hold their own. Kodi Smit-Mcphee (whose name annoys me for no discernable reason) adds a wonderful amount of levity to proceedings as Nightcrawler. As mentioned before, Cyclops is far less slappable and credit must go to Tye Sheridan for that, and Sophie Turner is pretty decent as Jean Grey even if she does spend a lot of her time gawping (judging by the ending of the film and what the producers/writers/directors have said in various interviews she is going by playing a far bigger part in the future).

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In the grand scheme of things, X-Men Apocalypse is not a bad film but it’s certainly not a great one. Tonally, it’s a mess. Pacing wise it works. Through its reasonably lengthy 144 minute run-time i never found myself bored or disinterested, and in this day and age that’s quite an achievement. The CGI is rather cartoonish when placed in comparison to Marvel’s output, however, even if it wasn’t a deliberate move by Singer et al, I found some of it rather charming. To see a superhero film actually embrace the non-realism instead of going all Nolan and gritty (hello BvS) was a refreshing change.

There is a little too much scraping over old ground in terms of character exchanges (Charles and Erik in particular have the same argument that they had in First Class and Days of Future Past – they should just get married and have it over with) and some dialogue is eye-roll inducing but on the whole Apocalypse is a pretty solid, entertaining entry into X-Men film history if a little devoid of originality.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Maas (Book Review)

This contains spoilers for both A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist And Fury.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was forgettable for me.download (2)

Going into A Court of Mist and Fury was hard, I honestly couldn’t remember a lot of what happened in the previous book and struggled to get into the new novel. As I started reading, small things came back to me… Feyre killed what she thought was a wolf but what turned out to be a faerie, so is taken captive to the other side of the wall where faeries live and humans don’t. This is where my mind became very blurry; I remembered her slowly falling in love with Tamlin and something to do with a curse that only she could break…  I remembered that A Court of Thorns and Roses was a loose retelling of Beauty and The Beast and I remember the plot to Beauty and The Beast so I figured reading A Court of Mist and Fury would be like following on from my favourite Disney film.

I do not remember Feyre dying… No do I remember much about any of the trials she went through Under the Mountain.

This was a slight problem at the beginning of A Court of Mist and Fury but I soon realised that this book was so much better than the first. If you struggled with A Court of Thorns and Roses and are unsure about continuing onto the next book?  Honestly, you will not regret continuing.

Where do I even start with this book? The story was great, I found that it was really easy to follow and unlike a lot of 500+ page books, I never once wondered where it was going with the plot or when it would end. I often read big books and after 100 pages, I feel like everything has already happened and the rest of the book is just filling pages. This was different, after 100 pages I was hooked.

In this follow up novel we see Feyre unhappy and struggling to find peace with previous events which happened Under the Mountain. (I still can’t really remember those events.) Feyre is living with Tamlin who is trying hard to protect her so won’t let her leave the house or grounds fesring for her safety, much to Feyre’s annoyance. After making a bargain with the enemy Rhysand, she is swept off to his court (Night Court) for one week a month. This soon becomes a blessing as she feels trapped at home feels more like a prison since she can’t leave. After a day when Tamlin leaves Feyre locked in the house she is saved by Rhysand and goes to live with him in Night Court deciding that Spring Court (Tamlin’s home) is no longer her home.  Once in Night Court she realises Rhysand isn’t all that bad and she soon begins to find herself with him and his close friends.

Now let’s talk about Rhysand, or Rhys for short… I’ve always classed Luke Brandon, from the Shopaholic series, as my ideal book boyfriend but since reading this book that has all changed. Rhys is perfect. He’s your typical bad boy who everyone hates but when you get to know him you realise he isn’t all that bad and in fact he’s actually a really nice guy. I fell in love with Rhys so bad, throughout the whole thing I was just waiting for Feyre to realise that he is perfect and he’s everything she wants in a man and when it eventually happened (and things got VERY explicit) I was overjoyed.

As I mention, the book is very explicit, especially considering it’s written for a young adult audience but Sarah J. Maas writes it just so perfectly. The sex scenes never once made me laugh or cringe and I felt it was written in a good way for young adults who are perhaps reading about sex for the first time. It didn’t say that you have to be married before you have sex but it did bring out the message that sex is better with someone that you care about and love. Considering the age of the target audience, I found this aspect very important.

The characters were all so well written throughout the entire book. I loved Mor and found Amren sassy and strong. Cassian and Azriel were very macho but they cared about their friends more than anything else and I found myself wanting to be part of their friend group and I wanted to live in Velaris with them all.

Throughout A Court of Mist and Fury we find out that when Feyre was brought back from the dead by the leaders of each court, she was given power from each of them and I loved finding out what Feyre was able to do. Her struggle with understanding her power and the slow realisation that she was actually able to master them was brilliant. I specifically loved the wolves that she made out of water and the way she was able to control them.

The ending got a little bit muddled for me. This was the only thing I wasn’t 100% with in the book. After spending most of her time writing about Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship, the end felt somewhat rushed. Feyre had successfully collected both parts of a book which they needed to use in order to destroy The Cauldron (which was going to be used as a key feature to the oncoming war where mortals would all die or become slaves to faerie) and  so they went to do so however Feyre gets distracted and fails in her goal before Tamlin and Lucien (Tamlin’s right hand man) turn up and explain that they had agreed with the king that if he brought Feyre to Tamlin, Tamlin would allow faerie to pass through his court and enter the mortal realms thus starting the war. This bit all happened within a couple of chapters and I honestly felt like too much was happening all at once. The book was already 600+ pages so why not add 100 more to tell the story properly?

All told, the book was amazing; it had everything I look for in a good novel. It has great romance and a great friendship groups.  I loved the plot and I even loved the rushed plot twist. My only issue is that I have to wait for the next book to be released and I don’t think I’ll find something that I loved this much before the next book in the series.

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