The Frankenstein Theory (2013) Review

I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m the modern Horror genre’s biggest fan but every so often I find myself scrolling through Netflix or NowTV’s selection to see if anything piques my interest. On my latest trip I came across The Frankenstein Theory and at first glance it ticked some of the boxes for me. I mentioned in my review of The Visit that I like the found footage genre but I also like a good monster movie and this touted both in the description. It also said on the poster it showed on NowTV that it was from the creators of The Last Exorcism which is actually one of my favourite horror movies of all time. However since watching it I’ve looked up both these movies and I can’t find any crossover members of the directing, producing, music or writing teams on the Wikipedia pages so I don’t know where that claim came from.

 

This review will contain full spoilers

 

frank-theory

Thinking About Neck Bolts

Our story opens up in the office of Professor Jonathan Venkenheim who has hired a documentary crew lead by our main character Vicky for a secret adventure. The audience and the film crew both get the big reveal at the same time, Venkenheim is in search of a Frankenstein monster! He believes that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was actually a loose retelling of actual events and that his ancestor is the real Dr. Frankenstein. Unfortunately all the evidence of this was burned in a lab fire but he still holds out hope that the monster is still alive. Understandably the crew don’t believe a word of this but he’s paying good money so they go along with it. I really liked the comradery between the film crew, they are the grounded characters that act as the audience surrogate and mostly remark on how stupid and hopeless their situations are.

 

So apparently ol’ Frank is somewhere in the wilds of Canada at the moment so they pack up and set out on the road. Their first stop is with an eye witness they want to interview but it turns out this witness is a little bit of a meth head who holds them up at gunpoint when they mention he may have met Dr. F’s monster. So as you can expect from a horror movie it all goes downhill from here. Next they meet up with their guide Karl who can take them further into the wilderness, he’s your classic salty old hard-ass. They play him off to be a bit creepy at first as he tells them that out there you either listen to his orders or face an icy death. I really enjoyed this character though, his inclusion alleviates some of the tension once the gang gets to know him a bit over some drinks while they’re huddled in a yurt.

karl frank theory

Fright Night

Once nightfall comes is where things start to get a bit more weird. At first they all hear the baying of wolves which is unsettling but then they hear an almighty roar and some thrashing that freaks everyone out and silences the wolves. Come morning they find that their snowmobile is trashed leaving them a stranded. They also find some comically big footprints which Karl decides to follow so he can teach whoever did it a lesson. This starts off that good old horror movie cliche of everyone being picked off one by one. This is where the film lost me, you don’t see nearly enough of the monster and he seems to be able to appear out of nowhere considering he’s so huge. You’d also think he’d be more noticeable seeing as they’re surrounded by untouched white snow so anything approaching should stick out like a big green sore thumb.

The-Frankenstein-Theory-02-1

So even after all of this murdering Prof. Venkenheim still thinks he can reason with Big F using their shared family ties but he seems reluctant to go out there and put this to the test. He is eventually forced to once Frankie has Vicky and him trapped in the yurt. At this point we’re watching through a locked camera pointed at the door. We see him walk out then hear him try to reason with him and at first it seems to be working but then we hear what sounds like Venkenheim getting snapped in half.

 

I'm sad now

 

So it’s not until the very last scene that we get a decent look at the monster and he just looks like the giants from Game of Thrones but a bit more zombie like I guess. He comes into the room, bashes Vicky on the head and carries her off. We get to watch him stroll away into the distance through the open door as the credits roll and that’s it! I felt like this movie ended just as it was getting going. They could have at least let us see what life was like for Francesco and his new lady friend through handheld camera footage or something. It was seriously the most jarring and unsatisfying ending I’ve experienced in a long time. I would have really liked to see more hunting of the monster, he just shows up the first night they set up camp without any mystery at all. The main reason I watched this was because of the (now tenuous) links to The Last Exorcism but this was nowhere near as good so I would just recommend you watch that instead.

 

★★☆☆☆

The Little Prince Review

One morning, whilst still in my pyjamas I plonked myself on the sofa and had a scroll through Netflix. I came across The Little Prince, and thought an early morning cartoon was just what I needed. Having never read the book it’s based on, I had no idea what to expect.

I was expecting a quaint little film about a prince going about his princely duties. What I got was a film about something every person has in common, childhood and growing up.

Straight away you’re drawn in with the beautiful animation and the perfectly gravelled voice of Jeff Bridges talking about how he was forced to abandon childish pursuits and grow up when only a young boy.

life plan.pngThe beginning of the film is about a little girl (Riley Osborne), being really encouraged by her mother (Rachel McAdams) to succeed academically, there is even a life plan for the Little Girl, planning her every second through the weeks, months and years to make sure she achieves, though exactly what she is to achieve is never really clear.

little girlOne day, at the start of the school holidays, the Little Girl is left to carry out her life plan alone, the next door neighbour (Jeff Bridges) starts his plane, causing the propeller to crash into her house, leaving a great big hole. After receiving a letter in the form of a paper plane later that night with the beginning of a story on it, she is compelled to ditch her studies and visit the old man next door. From there they strike up a friendship that’s a little like About a Boy meets Pixar.

planeThrough all the time that the little girl and the old aviator spend together he keeps telling her the story of when he met The Little Prince (Paul Rudd) and his adventures, and this the best thing about The Little Prince. It’s a story within a story. The story of the novella is neatly bookmarked between the sections about the little girl, who is trapped in her mother’s dream for her. It is through her time spent with the Aviator and hearing the story of The Little Prince that she is able to enjoy being a child and learns to play and have fun. She learns that books and learning are not the only ways to learn and grow.

prince and foxThe film separates the two different stories with different animation styles. The sections with the Little Girl are all in Pixar level CGI, with all the world around the two protagonists very square and uniform. The sections with The Little Prince use the most amazing stop motion, though it is obviously very modern it really harks back to those old 70s and 80s animated short films, and filled me with nostalgia. I’m a big animation fan, stop motion being my favourite and this was just beautiful to look at.

The story keeps you fully engrossed, though I felt it lost it’s way a little towards the end. I thought it just needed a little tightening, and it manages to flit between the two different sections throughout with ease and precision. I also found at times that it seemed to try a little too hard to be like a Pixar film, especially with it’s soundtrack contains little quaint jazzy numbers, and when it really wants to tug at your heartstrings. I would say that I prefered The Little Prince, partly or my love of stop motion and partly for the sense of wonder and magic held within them.

airplan

All the performances work well, which is a good job considering the great cast list. Jeff Bridges is probably my favourite as The Old Aviator, he manages to be just the right balance of childishly wise and childishly silly, it’s like sitting listening to your favourite grandpa tell you tall tales.

Overall this is a beautiful film. It really explores the themes of childhood and how important it is to run and play and be silly, that books aren’t everything, with a little bit of loss, moving on and learning to be yourself in a world that wants you to conform to boot. I’m not sure if young children would sit through it, as it can be a little slow going compared to a lot of recent movies, but it is certainly a treat for adults who love animation, and great stories about childhood.

★★★★☆

 

No Man’s Sky – Review PS4

If you’ve tried to follow any of the news about this game over the 3 years since it was announced you’re probably pretty confused as to what this game is. The release of No Man’s Sky has been irreversibly marred by controversy due to one of the creators Shaun Murray being a bit vague about whether or not there is multiplayer. People have been unfairly slamming the game with low user review scores, trying to claim refunds on grounds of false advertising and most disturbingly sending death threats to the development team. I can say up front with 100% certainty that there is no multiplayer at all in No Man’s Sky and honestly I don’t think that would have made people happy anyway.

 

logo

 

So what is this game? At its most basic level NMS is a survival game, you explore an environment looking for resources to repair your ship, power your suit and upgrade your items. There have been plenty of similar games like this (e.g. Minecraft, Don’t Starve, The Long Dark) released on PC but NMS’s gimmick that set’s it apart is its huge universe that you can freely explore.

 

Lost in Space

 

You start the game by taking control of a faceless spaceman/woman/robot who wakes up next to a crashed ship on a random planet. This serves as the game’s tutorial mission, you need to repair your ship so you can leave the planet. The interesting thing about this task is that the planet is random so you can have a pretty different experience to another person. I started out on a horrible lifeless planet with acid rain that was constantly ticking away at my suit’s life support. You have to collect various elements like iron and plutonium by mining rocks and crystals then combine them into the missing ship parts. This can take a couple of hours depending on how lucky you get with resources in the area, it becomes a sort of balancing act though because some of these same resources are also used to recharge your life support. The start of this game is very confusing, it doesn’t really make a good first impression. I think it leaves you to figure out way too much on your own which just frustrated me especially because I had to keep running back to my ship to avoid the acid rain.

 

Once you fix your ship you’re finally free to start exploring SPAAAACE! I got the hell off my planet first second I could, once you get past the atmosphere you should start to see some planets around the current start system you’re in. You can fly to any of these planets which is a video game dream people have had for years. Your overall goal is to journey to the center of the universe but other than that you’re just supposed to explore the endless planets.

 

No Man's Sky_20160808210333

 

Throughout the marketing cycle they have been boasting that the game contains over 18 quintillion planets which is an almost unfathomable number if you’re not an astrophysicist. Most people playing the game will probably only see around 50-100 before they’re done so the game never really feels that big while you’re playing. I am in no way discounting the amazing technological achievement this game is however, the developer Hello Games have done some amazing things here. In the way Minecraft can randomly generate a landmass for you to play on NMS’s universe has been built in a similar way. Hello Games figured out a formula that creates planets all with random weather, animals, plants, alien buildings and oceans which is how such a small team has created something this huge. Once this had all been generated it was locked in place so everyone playing the game right now is in the same starting universe.

 

Fear of a Meme Planet

 

One of the only interactions you can have with other players is naming things you discover. If you’re the first person to discover something whether it be a star system, planet, creature, plant or rock you will have the opportunity to name it yourself. If by chance someone else were to land on your planet they would be see what you had named it. In my hours of playtime I didn’t come across anything other people had discovered, it seems as these kinds of interactions are extremely rare. How disappointing that barely anyone will get to explore the majesty of my planet Harambe IV in the Dark Naruto 420 star system but I guess that will make it a really special moment if you do find some evidence of another player.

 

On paper this really does sound like one of the greatest games of all time but unfortunately it’s just not that much fun. I ended up getting stuck in a rut just doing the same things over and over again. I would enter a star system, land on the nearest planet, look for a inventory upgrade, sell all my extra items then do it all again. There are definitely others things I could have been doing but none of it felt worth it.

 

NMS dog thing

 

They give you a very vague path to follow which I guess you could call a story but unfortunately it all amounts to nothing. After a while I found myself skipping planets which is not something I wanted to do but they don’t give you enough incentive to explore. A lot of the planets have the same buildings and alien ruins on them and there are no quests or missions to found on the planets. If you meet another alien they usually just give you a random item recipe or teach you a bit of their language so you can eventually understand what they’re saying. The aliens have actually been my favourite part of the game. They found a way to make them really charming even though for most of the game you can’t understand what they’re saying to you.

 

NoMansSky_Monolith

 

This game works much better as a passive activity, if you’ve got some music or a podcast to listen to while you play you’ll probably see less of NMS’s downsides. This game was just a bit of a disappointment for me. I didn’t have any ridiculous expectations like some other people on the internet but I did expect it to be more of a rewarding experience. I’ll definitely come back to it from time to time because it can be a beautiful game and it is a pretty amazing technical feat.

 
★★★☆☆

G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge Review

G.L.O.S.S. aka Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit, are a hardcore punk band from Olympia, Washington (State). They specialise in writing songs in support of the LGBTQ+ community with their own very personal brand of unflinching musical protest.

 

Trans Day of Revenge is a follow up to their incredible 2015 debut demo and this release is equally incredible in it’s own right. It’s an album calling for an end to the pacifism people have regarding violence against the LGBTQ+ community and People of Colour. The singer Sadie’s lyrics burn with rage and a cynicism that you rarely hear when people talk about these topics in mainstream media.

 

gloss album art

 

While the lyrics are poignant and modern, their actual musical style is kind of a throwback. It reminds me of Minor Threat and other American Hardcore bands of that era. G.L.O.S.S. skate the musical line between control and a frenzy so well. Every song will immediately get you fired up and you can almost feel the band’s passion flowing through you.

 

The first song “Give Violence a Chance” starts out with Sadie screaming out a battle cry “When peace is just another word for death/It’s our turn to give violence a chance.”. This song deals with the many deaths of black people there have been at the hands of the law. The release of this album on June 13th 2016 also tragically coincided with Orlando Pulse shooting giving this song extra impact and importance. It’s a great opener to the album and sets a hard and fast pace that the rest of the songs follow.

 

The song “Fight” is a powerful call to arms encouraging trans people to fight for their lives. The song starts off with an awesome scream and runs from there, never stopping for anything. The lyrics “Don’t give them a chance/Sleep with a hammer/Fill a clip with nine rounds/Plus one in the chamber/When the front door comes down” are really effective at conveying the struggle trans people are forced to deal with. At the time of writing the last 3 reported murders of trans people of colour were all in their own homes. It’s an uncomfortable message to hear but it’s something that needs to be heard.

 

gloss

 

Their singer Sadie is a trans woman herself and the song “We Live” is an introspective chronicle of her own experiences growing up trans and finding solace in the punk scene. It’s also an inspirational song for anyone else going through similar issues with the lyrics like “We live and die/Against the grain/For ourselves we live” encouraging solidarity.

 

The final song “Trans Day of Revenge” is my favourite track of the album. This song opens with an awesome groovy riff. It just makes me want to dive into the mosh pit immediately. The punching chorus repeats the title of the song and every time I hear it I want to shout along with them. The song ends on a perfect line to sum up this whole album “Not as weak as we seem”.

 

 

I believe that this will go down as one of the most important punk albums of all time. If I achieve anything by writing this it’s that a few more people will know about this band. They’re a band for all the outcasts, a voice for the voiceless.

 

This release may only be 5 tracks and clocks in at 6 minutes and 58 seconds but that in no way diminishes any of it’s impact. I’ve just been playing it on a loop, I just can’t get enough. Right now it’s only available on their Bandcamp page for pay-what-you-want.

 

We need bands like this to exist in the world. Trans Day of Revenge feels like closest my generation will have to a Sex Pistols moment, an album and band that deserve to set the world on fire. It’s a really exciting start to what’s hopefully a long music career. Wherever G.L.O.S.S. go in the future they have my full support. Get used to it or get out of their way.

 

★★★★★

Clicktastic Special: Cookie Clicker and AdVenture Capitalist

Grab your finger sized wrist bands and cue the 80s montage set to You’re the best Around by Joe Esposito ’cause you’re gonna need them to train up those clicking fingers for this clicking bonanza! 

There has been a recent trend for this most basic of games, and today I’m going to be looking at two of those, Cookie Clicker, which is browser based and AdVenture Capitalist, which you can download from Steam. Both are free to play.

Cookie Clicker

0 cookiesWhen you first open up the webpage you’ll see a giant floating cookie. It looks pretty tasty. Clearly, the thing you want to do most is to click it. When you do, because you just can’t resist the draw of the cookie, you’ll be rewarded with one cookie, click it again and you’ll get another cookie. You get the picture. Once you’ve clicked it enough times you’ll notice a little button light up at the side, allowing you to exchange some of your hard earned cookies for a Cursor, which will mean you get 0.1 cookie per second (CPS). The more cursors you buy the higher your CPS, meaning you will get more cookies at a speedier pace. It doesn’t just stop at cursors, there are all kinds of buildings, like Wizard Towers, and Grandmas and Prisms you can buy to boost that CPS, and reach the dizzyingly high numbers and buy more buildings. The price of the building increases with each one you buy, but then you’re also getting more cookies the more you have 

To make things a little more interesting there are upgrades up for sale as well, they can upgrade one type of building or the CPS as a whole, but there’s loads of them and they all have funny titles which give you a little smirk when you buy them. Some of them are much more valuable than buying more buildings, so it can sometimes be a toss up as to which one you want to go for. Every once in a while you might see an extra special golden cookie pop on the screen, you’re gonna want to click on that too, because when you do you’ll get a super duper bonus, which can boost all production for a few seconds or it might be a lump sum of cookies, who knows. Only the click will tell!

heavenly upgrades
Heavenly upgrades

After a while you’ll have a few different buildings under your belt and you’re doing pretty well, but you think that you could have done better and want to try again. No problem, wait for the little blue line at the top fill up, click it and BOOM! You just got yourself a prestige level. This is called ascending and it gives you a permanent 1% increase in your CPS and you get one heavenly cookie to spend in the heavenly upgrades shop, which has all kinds of nifty and very special upgrades that always stick with you, even through and Ascension. You can build up your prestige levels before ascending to get a nice big boost afterwards.

My two favourite things, and the most addictive thing about the game, though are the achievements. Like the upgrades they all have funny names that have been well thought out, but most importantly they are achievable, most are centred around getting x amount of this type of building, so it was easy to just concentrate on one type of building for a while, ascend and go on to the next one. The other is the humour in the game, as I said before, all the achievements and the upgrades have witty titles, there are also fake newspaper headlines rotating at the top which give you a chuckle every now and then.

AdVenture Capitalist

advent earth.png

Adventure Capitalist works in much the same way as Cookie Clicker, apart from having one big cookie to click, each individual building needs clicking, after so many seconds (or minutes or hours as you go up) you get the monetary reward, which can be quite laborious after a while, but you can buy managers for each building which auto clicks it for you, so you can concentrate on buying more of them and more upgrades.

mars
Welcome to Mars!

Another major difference is the planets. In AC you can travel to the Moon! And Mars! Which is pretty exciting, they come with their own set of challenges and one planet does not affect the other. The Earth base goes at pretty much the same rate as Cookie Clicker, but the other two have some more strange levels, which can make for a more interesting game as you have to come up with very different strategies for each planet. I found the Moon level the most fun as I found it escalated up to the high numbers quickly, and I find it very, very fun to be able to buy many buildings all at once. 

AC has it’s own version of ascension, as you go along you’ll attract angels, which you can claim at any point to get their +2% on production value, you get the choice to reset or not, though not resetting will set you back you twenty gold a rare currency in the game, which can be bought for real money. I don’t really like this ‘freemium’ aspect, but it’s not too essential to the game and you can still play without having to shell out for the gold as you do get rewarded with it every so often, though this is very sparingly.

Clicker games are the ultimate in casual gaming, they’re great for having a little click here and there, set things up, then you can leave them for a while and when you get back you have a decent pile of cookies or money to buy more things with. If you get bored with it, you can reset and try buying buildings or upgrades at different times, see if that gets you more things quicker. A bit of a drawback of Cookie Clicker is the fact that when you close down your browser it doesn’t keep building up the cookies for you (unless you get the heavenly upgrades, which give you a percentage of your cookies per second whilst the game is closed), so you need to keep your browser open and your computer on. Adventure Capitalist, however, does keep ticking over when it’s closed so you can turn off your computer for the night and wake up a nice windfall.

They both have their positives and negatives, though over all I preferred Cookie Clicker, it managed to bring a lot of humour to something so simple, and the achievements are way better and I found it to have it’s own little cookiverse. There’s a Wikia and a community out there sharing hints and tips on the best strategies, and the best ways to hack the game (cheating is not only tolerated but encouraged). The graphics and animations were far better as well. Though it could be a little annoying that I needed to leave the browser open to get the full CPS Cookie Clicker is the game for me. AdVenture Capitalist has the different worlds to explore and makes things a little more interesting with making you come up with different strategies, but ultimately it wasn’t quite a fun as Cookie Clicker.

If you’re looking for something to fill the time and go achievement hunting, if you like tycoon games, but want something bit more streamlined then these games are for you. You’re just limited to these two, there are loads out there. Most of them are free to play and have small differences so you can have a try of a few and find one that fits right for you.

★★★★☆

Gojira – Magma Review

In a departure from their usual style, Gojira’s 6th studio release ‘Magma’ is a very personal album dealing with concepts of grief and despair over the loss of a loved one. During the recording of this album vocalist and guitarist Joe Duplantier and drummer Mario Duplantier lost their mother and this had a profound effect on the mood and theme of the songs.

gojira-magma

Not only is the tone of their songs quite different from the previous work their sound has also changed quite a bit. Everything sounds stripped down, the guitars aren’t as harsh, the bass has a distorted muddy sound, the drum compositions are simpler and there are more instances of clean vocals. If you’re already a metal fan this may sound a bit off putting but all of the changes together really help with the concept of the album. The quality of the songs in no way suffer from the simpler instrumentation. No track feels out of place on the album and they all sound like they’ve had a lot of thought put into them.

 

The opening tracks of the album ‘Shooting Star’ and ‘Silvera’ really set the tone up front with heavy droning guitar riffs. The way the songs meander creates an otherworldly dreamlike feeling that really helps you get into the band’s head space. The main riff in ‘The Cell’ demonstrates this perfectly, the punching guitar and bass build an impressively oppressive sense of dread throughout the track.

 

The standout song for me is ‘Stranded’. The vocal performance during the chorus is amazing. You can really feel the emotion and the pain, Joe sounds like he’s singing for his life. Pouring every bit of his passion into it, especially when they change the key the last time around.

 

 

Some of Gojira’s more classic sound does come back for the later songs ‘Pray’ and ‘Only Pain’. Mario’s trademark double bass pedal drumming is back in full force here. It feels as if this is the band finding themselves a little amongst all the darkness as the album progresses. The lyrics in the song ‘Low Lands’ reads like a message to their mother and it’s heartbreaking. There’s a hopeful theme to this song and it has a strong ending riff that feels like the band is waking from a dream state, ready to tackle the future.

I will admit that it took me a few listens to really get into this album. It is a bit of a change in style from their previous albums which was a shock at first but it’s actually became one of my favourite metal albums of all time. You can tell it’s a deeply personal work of art right from the start, Gojira have expertly translated all the pain and emotion of grief into some of the greatest music of 2016.

 

★★★★★

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (Script Review)

So I’ll start by saying this will contain spoilers, I honestly don’t know how to talk about this book without spoiling pretty much everything. You’ve been warned!download (6).jpg

If you’ve read any of my blogs before or if you’ve ever met me in real life, you’ll be aware that I’m Harry Potter mad and knowing I was counting down the days until the new book was released, won’t surprise you. If you’ve never read a blog and don’t know me then all I can tell you is that I love the Harry Potter series so much that I got a pair of glasses and a lightning bolt tattooed on me.

As soon as I found out Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would be released in book form, I jumped on Amazon and pre-ordered it. As soon as the book was posted through my door, I read it and I did so within a 24 hour time frame – something I haven’t done in a long time… Probably not since The Deathly Hallows was released.

So where do I start with my review other than gushing about how much I loved it? Well in case you didn’t know, The Cursed Child follows Harry’s middle son, Albus, as he embarks on his own adventures in Hogwarts. Albus soon realises that Hogwarts isn’t all that fun when you have Harry Potter, the greatest wizard of all time, as your father and living in his shadow is pretty hard.

Now, once again, if you haven’t read the books, you might want to stop reading. Some major spoilers are coming up.

I started crying at the very beginning, as the script picks up where the last book left off, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with memories of how it felt to be reading the final Harry Potter book and that bit where Harry says ‘Albus Severus, you were named after two of Hogwart’s greatest headmasters’ (this may not be the actual quote, my copy of the book is currently packed up in a box somewhere) will forever make me cry.

Now I loved everything about this book, to start with the jobs that the adults have… Hermione as Minister of Magic? Yes please! If there’s a role Hermione was made for, it’s minister. She’s perfect for the role, she has seen how previous Ministers have coped with some of the worst events in history and she seems to have learned from their mistakes. I love that Ron is working for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, I’d previously read that he was an auror after Hogwarts and for me the job just never suited him. Although Ron is a great wizard, I love him being the slightly silly fun one of the group and a minsirty job just didn’t seem right to me. And of course Harry becomes head of magical law enforcement, he was always destined to be great and a mediocre job just wouldn’t have worked for him.

The star of the show (or script) has to be given to Scorpius Malfoy, after Albus is sorted into Slytherin, he becomes best friends with Scorpius who is just adorable. Scorpius has heard rumours that he is actually Voldemort’s son after a time turner has been used in order to ensure Voldemort produces an heir, now Scorpius isn’t sure what to think of these rumours and constantly worries they’re true. Along with this Scorpius is just a really lovely kid, he’s bullied for potentially being Voldemort’s child but he never seems angry at the other kids in school and he’s nothing but lovely to others around him.

Albus on the other hand, is sometimes pretty annoying. He resents his father for being so perfect and constantly seems angry. At first I didn’t like this and I got annoyed at Albus for not realising that his father was forced into being a hero but as I began to read, I began to understand Albus and I started to sympathise. I realised that he just wanted to live the same life that his father had, he wanted to show people that he could be just as great as his father but unfortunately he doesn’t seem to be very good at most magical things so he finds it harder than he hoped.

After overhearing a conversation between his father and Amos Diggory, Albus decides he will go back in time with the help of a time turner and he will try to save Cedric Diggory’s life. With the help of Scorpius, he goes back to the Triwizard Tournament and changes two things in the hope that Cedric will win and therefore will never touch the portkey that eventually leads to his death. I LOVED this aspect of the book, the two changes bring about two alternative realities, one where Ron and Hermione never quite get together and one where Voldemort wins the battle of Hogwarts. These brought up ideas that I had previously thought about. The idea of a reality where Voldemort had eventually won was really intriguing to me and I thought it was done incredibly well.

The book was pretty light and it felt very easy to read, after about forty pages I knew that I wouldn’t be putting the book down until I was finished and I was so glad that I took the time to read until the end. Overall, the book was pretty much just one big fan fic but who doesn’t love fan fic?

Five out of five stars without even a shadow of a doubt.

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Though there have been rumours of a new ‘Busters movie for years I never really thought it would happen.  When it was announced that a new movie was not actually happening, like really happening, but that the cast would be all women, I was really looking forward to it. Despite the poor first trailer I stuck by it and stuck up for it, largely on the basis that it was another Melissa McCartney/Kristen Wiig/Paul Feig vehicle. I’ve been a big fan of McCartney and Wiig since Bridesmaids and a fan of Feig ever since he helped Sabrina with science in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

paul eig

As I’m sure you can imagine I was pretty excited when I finally got to see it at the cinema. We paid our money and purchased overprice yet oddly plastic tasting snacks and made our way into the cinema.

It’s at this point that I want to tell you that I had the single greatest cinema experience of my entire life. Sadly, as a purveyor of truth, I cannot.

I had heard from reliable sources that the opening sequence was awe inspiring and simply perfect, maybe it was these high expectations I felt like I was waiting for the life changing moment to begin. It revolves around a tour guide at a ‘haunted house’ that turns out to be really haunted. I’m not trying to say that it was bad, it was pretty good  actually and kinda creepy. I just wanted more from it, it didn’t blow me away.

Next we get introduced to Kristen Wiig’s character, Dr Erin Gilbert. A rather straight laced professor of physics who gets fired from here job at Columbia University. Consequently she has to visit her old schoolyard chum, Dr Abby Yates, an eccentric person who loves Chinese food, played by Melissa McCarthy. Unlike Erin, Abby did not give up on her search for ghosts and proof of life after death. In her search she recruited Dr Jillian Holtzman, (Kate McKinnen) who is pure eccentricity and my favourite of all the characters. The last ‘buster to be recruited is  Patty Tolan, a sassy black lady played by Leslie Jones.

ghostbusters-1.jpg

I must admit that my inner feminist loved seeing a group of four women doing some pretty kick ass moves, and investigating the various strange going on in New York without having a man to lead them in some way (it should come as no surprise that it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours) . The only man to really be a part of the gang is Chris Emsworth as Kevin Beckman, the well meaning, but somewhat simple and misguided secretary. I loved the role reversal of that character, and I must admit that Emsworth plays it brilliantly, often stealing the scene. I hope that this film helps to inspire young women and know that they too can be doctors of science and fight the bad guy without needing a man, and most importantly that she can be a complicated character that is worth so much more than window dressing for the men to stare at (Michael Bay, take note!)

That being said, the main plot involving a loner trying to bring about the end of New York with some kind of strange machines that bring ghosts out of… Ghost… world? failed to draw me in the way I would have liked. It works, I was interested as to what this strange chap was up to, and it kept my attention throughout, I never got bored. I just felt that the plot could sometimes be thrown out of the window in  favour of a neato set piece, and overall could have done with a bit of tightening. I felt at times as I was watching it that it needed more of a world building mythology, as we had with the original.

holtzmanThough the acting standard was good throughout, I felt that Wiig didn’t really give her all, she could have really sunk her teeth into the character and gone all out, and it fell just short of that, with McCartney occasionally joining her. Perhaps it was the requirement of a 12A (PG13 in America) certificate that meant their performances were toned down a little. Though it must be said, again, that it was really refreshing to have strong female characters with a complicated past and feelings. Holtzman was my favourite character, she was just the right amount of weird with a slight tinge of creepiness dashed in for good measure, she is the archetypal mad scientist and I loved her.

pattyThere are laughs to be had here, and I did titter throughout. for me though there were just not enough belly laughs, not enough smart insightful jokes peppered through to make me really think, it at times could be a little silly and puerile. Patty brings most of the good laughs and has some of the best lines. I did find Patty a little problematic at times, for a film full of individual women kicking ass, I felt that she could sometimes slip into a little of a black stereotype, luckily Jones brings lot of intelligence and brilliant humour to the character so they just about get away with it. If there were to be a sequel, I would like there to be a little more development of Patty.

One thing that was no lacking are the effects, they are perfect and manage to bring about a creepy and grossness without going too overboard. I also really liked how they seemed to invoke the style of the original, but they have taken it and improved upon it to make some truly stunning scenes. The end scenes where all hell breaks loose are so well done and the proton beams really look amazing.

ghost

 

There are many references to the original, some that work well, like the effects, and others not so well. I’m sure others may disagree, but I felt that some certain cameos did not work for me. In a film about kick ass women these moments almost felt like they were getting permission from the men to make this movie, permission they do not need. The film works best when it stands on it’s own two feet and travels down it’s own path, to create something new and original, not just raking over old ground they desperately need to get away from.

This reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise has courted controversy from the moment it was announced, there has been a tirade of abuse from online trolls and misogynists who are under the misguided impression that women are incapable of being Ghostbusters. Whilst I do not believe this to  be a perfect film, I am pleased to say that it at least manages to put those notions to bed.

together

The plot needed to be a little tighter, the comedy needed to be funnier and there needs to be less references to the 1984 classic.There are still great things here, the characters are kick ass, intelligent, individual and not dressed up in ridiculous, impracticable outfits, the effects are brilliant and you’ll have a rip roaring good time. It might not have blown me away the way I would have liked, but I still had a good time and you will too.

★★★☆☆

Since You’e Been Gone – Morgan Matson (Book Review)

I may be a little late to the party but I’ve turned up eventually.

Now for a while, I’ve heard a tonne of people rave about Morgan Matson and Since You’ve Been Gone seems to be THE book of the summer so I finally decided to pick it up and give it a go.18189606

Since You’ve Been Gone follows Emily, known in school for being Sloane’s best friends. Most people know Sloane and they’ve seen Emily at her side but they couldn’t tell you Emily’s name. One summer Sloane and her family gone missing, this isn’t uncommon but this time they’re gone longer than normal. Whenever Sloane and Emily have been apart, Sloane always makes a list for Emily to complete, knowing she won’t actually complete it. This year is different; Emily feels that somehow by finishing the list she will fine Sloane so off she sets on her crazy summer enjoying a list of things she would never have done before such as skinny dipping and stealing.

I didn’t think I would love this book but I was wrong. I originally thought that I would find it to be yet another young adult book (which it is) that focuses around romance but in the end I realised the focus was primarily around friendship and how important that is in life.

While trying to work her way through the list, Emily teams up with the good guy around school, Frank, his best friend and school joker Collins and a girl from the pizzeria she works next door to, Dawn. Although it becomes evident pretty early on that Frank will be a love interest, the story doesn’t focus solely on this. I loved Emily’s relationship with Collins, someone she never normally would have struck up a friendship with yet someone who was willing to accept her into their group without any questions asked.

Collins was a character that I generally loved and quite honestly I would have loved to see a little more of him. He’s that person we all know at school who acts silly and makes fun of everything around him because it’s his only way to feel confident. When he meets Dawn, he acts differently because it’s someone he genuinely likes and he’s terrified she’ll reject him. Collins felt so real to me because at that age, I knew a lot of boys like that and Matson paints a perfect picture of a teenage boy.

The romantic aspect of the book was done well in my opinion, I liked the fact that it was a little more serious than your typical YA love triangle and instead the issue with the romance was the fact that the love interest is in a committed relationship throughout the story. I liked that this posed a question as to if it’s ok to be attracted to someone who you know is off limits and I found it interesting to read how Emily dealt with the situation and how she struggled with her feelings.

Family life played a huge role in the book as it does with a lot of young adult; it was nice to see that there was more than one role portrayed within the book. We had Emily’s family who may be a little strange but there’s no doubt they love each other and although her parents can sometimes be in their own world, it’s clear that they will focus on their children if needed. Next we have Sloane’s family, her parents generally neglect her and leave her to do her own thing. Her parents obviously love her but they don’t seem to be around a lot and they’re not very responsible so Sloane becomes extremely independent. Last we get to see Frank’s parents, a couple who are very successful but who hate each other and are in the middle of a divorce. They’re often seen in public with smiles on their faces playing the happy family but anyone who sees them at home will know the truth. I thought this was interesting to show three very different relationships and to show how all them can be normal and how with good friends who you can confide in, it’s easier to deal with parents who are not always there.

Overall I really enjoyed the book, I read it pretty quickly, I enjoyed the writing style and story and it’s certainly a book I would recommend as a light summer read.

 

Stranger Things (2016) Review

I have done my best to give you an idea of what this is about without giving away the plot and the ending, as Stranger Things is best enjoyed spoiler free.

I just want to get this out of the way. Netflix is bringing about a new golden age of television on the internet. As it doesn’t rely on selling advertising space in order to make money, Netflix allows its shows more freedom to express themselves and they can afford to take more chances of smaller projects that might have been missed by short sighted executives who need to make a quota.

One of these projects was Stranger Things. It has become somewhat of a hit amongst Netflix subscribers. With it’s powerful and evocative story line, characters and 80s charm.

dungeonsThe story begins with a group of four boys playing Dungeons and Dragons when it’s home-time for the friends of twelve year old Mike who have come round to play. When he arrives home and there is no one around one of the group, Will appears to be attacked and consequently goes missing. The day afterwards a mysterious girl with a shaven head and telekinetic powers appears, kick starting a slow descent into the mysterious goings on surrounding the town of Hawkins, Indiana.

bikeWith it’s depiction of a great adventure on bikes, the resourcefulness of youth and having to hide a mysterious new friend from both The Authorities and parents, you can see how Stranger Things is clearly heavily influenced by those great 80s adventure films like The Goonies and E.T. All this comes together to give the whole thing an amazing charm and a sense of nostalgia for that period. It takes the adventure genre and manages to mix in a massive dollop of Stephen King mystery and thrill riding. The set pieces, the clothes, the movie posters, the music. Even the camera and direction style are all period accurate, and they all come together to create one of the best 80s series not made in the 80s.

winonaI must doff my hat to all the actors involved. Winona Ryder makes a triumphant return to form as Joyce, the beleaguered mother of missing child, Will. Her apparent descent into madness after the disappearance of her son was done well, and though to the outside world it may appear that she is simply going mad with grief, we as the audience are given snippets throughout to give her a method to her madness. The young children all give great performances, Finn Wolfhard as Mike and Millie Bobby Brown (who really shaved her head for the role) as Eleven, or ‘El’ for short are especially great managing to keep a sense of innocence despite some of the horrors they have witnessed. David Harbour as the police Chief Jim Hopper also deserves a mention for his performance as a man battling his own demons as he helps to search for Will and unravel the mystery surrounding his disappearance. It is important to note that they have used age appropriate actors of the roles of the pre-teen and teenager characters which is always nice to see. There’s something quite jarring about seeing people who are almost hitting thirty playing an 18 year old.  

Each episode is a chapter of a story, and though it never leaves you in the middle of the action, like Lost it does, it does have a cliffhanger at the end so you’re always begging for more. I watched it over two days, and I really regret starting it when I didn’t have a spare eight hours to watch it all at once. It manages to drip feed you the information perfectly throughout giving you answers or part answers to questions you’ve been gathering in your mind from the start. It always manages to give you just the right amount to get just enough to satisfy your hunger for more but never too much that you feel like you know what’s going to happen before it does. I would say that around episode seven (there are eight all together) there are one or two moments I felt it was running out of steam a little, but then it pulled it right back for the finale, which was 55 minutes of suspense and excellent payoff.

the gangAll the way through there is a sense of foreboding and terror that gives it an edge that makes it hard to tear yourself away from the screen, though it always makes sure to take a break from the tense energy every now then to show kids just being kids and having fun. Which can be a nerve settling release when you’ve just spent the last twenty minutes on the edge of your seat shouting at the screen for the characters to be safe. Which is probably my biggest criticism, it was so tense and nerve wracking at times I found myself getting a little exhausted.

All of this terror giving way to relative calm is beautifully tied together by the music, which is quite possibly my favourite thing about Stranger Things. The synth wave based soundtrack has been lovingly constructed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. It serves to really draw you in, and perfectly balancing the soft, gentle moments and the more intense scenes perfectly, it really gets under your skin and is another mark of how Stranger Things is able to effortlessly evoke that 80s feeling.

stranger things together

80s movies.  Stephen King. Really good kids adventure movies. Really good mystery thriller films. Great acting. Well played out story. Great Directing. Great Writing. Amazing Soundtrack. If you love at least one of these things then you will enjoy Stranger Things and I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it at the first available opportunity.

★★★★★