Watched, Read, Reviewed: February 2018

Well, it’s now March and the Oscars were last night. I hope they announced the correct winners this year! (I have no idea since I’m writing this before the Oscars… I hope Blade Runner 2049 won some stuff). I hope something got fucked up, though. That wrong Best Picture announcement was hilarious.

**Update to say I watched I, Tonya just before the Oscars. Loved it. Would love to see wins for the actresses! I’ll review it later this week.**

Let’s see how I wasted February…. I watched more movies than I realized.


MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

The Shape Of Water – 8/10
Lady Bird – 7.5/10
The Greatest Showman – 7.5/10
Darkest Hour – 7.5/10
Good Time – 7/10
Gleaming The Cube – 6.5/10
Black Panther – 6.5/10
Kong: Skull Island – 6/10
The Cloverfield Paradox – 5/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

The Shape Of Water – 8/10
Lady Bird – 7.5/10
The Greatest Showman – 7.5/10
Darkest Hour – 7.5/10
• The King’s Speech – 7.5/10 (This is in the IMDB Top 250 so I’ll do a full review at some point. I watched it after liking Darkest Hour.)
Good Time – 7/10
Black Panther – 6.5/10
Kong: Skull Island – 6/10
The Cloverfield Paradox – 5/10



• You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames: This is an extremely short novel (under 100 pages and the book is quite tiny). So it’s worth a read as it won’t take you long! The story is very straightforward but you get a small glimpse of the main character’s unhinged mind (played by Joaquin Phoenix in the film adaptation). I have to say this will probably be a case of the movie improving on the book and I can see Phoenix truly being able to delve into the depths of a damaged mind in a way the short story was unable to. I’ll wait for Netflix, though, as the hammer rampages will be a bit too much for me to witness on film.

I’m still in the middle of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King. It’s very very long, so I’m taking a break. I’m currently reading Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli before the movie (Love, Simon) comes out next month.

TV SHOWS WATCHED (ranked best to worst)

Well, Grey’s Anatomy has started up again so I half watch that shit while playing on my phone. And, of course, The Walking Dead has started up again too. Why do I still watch that?! This mid-season premiere had the most pointless death yet. I don’t know if they can ever turn things around again. I’m bored with this show.


Nothing. Too busy! But I plan to keep watching movies…

Upcoming Movies I Want To See (by UK release date):

Game Night – This looks fun & fairly original. Will try to make it to see this one.

Gringo – Not really my type of genre but some big names in this & the trailer looks okay. One I’ll probably watch on Netflix, though.

You Were Never Really Here – Will watch this as I read the book but it will be a Netflix watch for me since I’m a wuss with violence. I can hide my face behind a pillow whenever Joaquin grabs his hammer.

Annihilation – Really liked this book & cannot WAIT for the film after the rave reviews. Wish I could see it on the big screen but, since society sucks & only watches shit like Fifty Shades, this is going straight to Netflix in the UK in a couple of weeks. Screw you, society!

A Wrinkle In Time – Was really hoping to read this book with my kid before the movie but she doesn’t seem bothered. Maybe I’ll quickly read it by myself. I have to say that the movie looks a little cheesy in the trailer (the costumes more than anything). But maybe that’s what they look like in the book. Dunno!

Pacific Rim Uprising – Braindead popcorn movie. I did enjoy the first one. If this gets really horrible reviews, though, I’ll wait & watch it at home.

Unsane – Don’t know much about this but am intrigued by a Steven Soderbergh horror/thriller….

Ready Player One – This was my most anticipated movie of 2018 as I love Spielberg & love the 80s & thoroughly enjoyed the book. I have to say that I don’t like the look of this one so much after the newest trailer & posters. I think too much has been changed, especially things that were a secret until the end of the book now clearly being known from the start. I’m now worried about liking this film. Damn.

The “Meh, maybe on Netflix if I can be bothered” movies:

Red Sparrow, A Fantastic Woman, Monster Family, Mum & Dad, Wonder Wheel, Tomb Raider, The Square, Mary Magdalene, Peter Rabbit, Proud Mary, Isle Of Dogs, Blockers


Watched, Read, Reviewed: January 2018

Happy February! YES, January is over!!! (I hate January). And since movies cheer me up, I watched quite a few during the darkest & dreariest month of the year. Here’s what I watched…


MOVIES REVIEWED THIS MONTH (ranked best to worst):

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriMy Rating: 8/10
The French ConnectionMy Rating: 7.5/10
CocoMy Rating: 7.5/10

MOVIES WATCHED THIS MONTH (ranked best to worst):

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – I really liked this movie & it’s easily my favorite of Martin McDonagh’s films. It’s also my favorite of the three Best Picture nominees I’ve seen (this, Darkest Hour & Get Out) but I’m hoping to see a few more before the Oscars. My Rating: 8/10

Colossal – I actually kind of loved this movie. No, not kind of. I did love it. Not what I was expecting as Anne Hathaway annoys me! I’ve already posted My Top Ten Movies Of 2017 list so won’t amend it but Colossal would be in the Top Ten (I’d put it at 8 after Gerald’s Game & before Thor: Ragnarok). THIS is the type of movie that I want to see. Something truly original. I’m sooo sick of all the remakes & reboots & superheroes. I highly recommend this one to fellow bloggers who are sick of seeing the same old predictable shit all the time. My Rating: 8/10

Coco – I’ve already reviewed this so I’ll say it’s another lovely film by Pixar but sadly not my favorite from the brilliant studio. My Rating: 7.5/10

Citizen Kane – This is a 2018 Blind Spot choice so I’ll review it in full at some point. Hoped to love it more. My Rating: 7.5/10

Mudbound – Yikes. A hard watch. This is a Netflix original that I admit to only watching because it got some Oscar nominations. I’m not good with heavy dramas as I often find them too upsetting, especially if they’re true stories or something that could realistically have happened. The movie itself is just okay – I was very bored for the first half. But the characters and acting are very strong and I immediately loved the characters played by Garrett Hedlund & Jason Mitchell, two soldiers who become friends after returning home from WWII and have to deal with the extreme racism of the time. I knew it would all go to shit and I got very emotional & couldn’t watch the screen at one point (Sorry – trying to avoid spoilers but you’ll know when watching it that it’s all leading up to something bad). This is why I don’t watch many realistic dramas. I like to use movies as escapism from all the shit in the world. But I can say this movie certainly does its job in making you feel for these characters (as well as feeling an extreme hatred toward others – I was fucking angry). It’s worth watching for the performances as long as you know it’s a heavy drama but it’s slow going at first and is overlong. I was only really interested in the friendship forming between the two soldiers – the movie dragged when spending time on Jason Clarke’s & Carey Mulligan’s boring characters. My Rating: 7/10

Ghost In The Shell (2017) – I watched the original anime film last year as a Blind Spot movie (review HERE) and thought it was pretty damn fantastic. Of COURSE this doesn’t even come close to the original but, as far as dumbed-down Hollywood versions of classics go, I’ve seen far worse than this one. It had some great visuals (taken directly from the original) and was well-paced and entertaining in that braindead blockbuster type of way. It was disappointing that they dumbed it down, especially at the end as it started off fairly promising. But, hey – that’s Hollywood for you. Just please watch the original before watching this! My Rating: 6.5/10

The Big Sick – A solid film about a real couple with funny moments but far more drama than I was expecting. I was intrigued by the story (it’s quite an interesting relationship story!) but it was very slow to start and felt a little long. Well-written and worth a one-time watch. My Rating: 6.5/10

The Red Turtle – I’m a huge Studio Ghibli fan so was really looking forward to this co-Ghibli production. It’s a sweet & lovely film but, unlike my beloved Ghibli movies that I could watch over and over and over again (and have), The Red Turtle is a one-off watch for me. Kind of disapponting & a little bit slow. Sorry. I’m glad I finally saw it, though. My Rating: 6.5/10

Gleaming The Cube – Another Blind Spot choice (weird one, I know), I’ll review this in full at some point. My Rating: 6.5/10

Atonement – And another Blind Spot movie! I’m trying to get ahead. I’ll review this at some point too but I can tell you it was a massive disappointment. I kind of sort of hated it. My Rating: 6/10

Nymphomaniac: Vol I & Vol II – I have a slight fascination with Lars von Trier’s films although I don’t know if I can exactly they say that I’ve actually “liked” any of them. Maybe Melancholia. Nymphomaniac: Vol I & Vol II are by far my least favorites of his work that I’ve seen. I just didn’t see the point of these movies. To shock? I certainly didn’t give the slightest shit about any of the characters. If you want to see a film that’s a better exploration of sex addiction, watch Shame instead. And I’ve now seen waaaaaay more penises than I ever wanted to see. So, uh, thanks for that, von Trier. I guess. My Rating: 5/10

The Boss Baby – I watched this since it’s an Oscar nominee. Yes, this is the world we live in. Humanity deserves The Boss Baby. Because humanity sucks. Okay, The Boss Baby sucks but I’ve seen worse animated kids’ movies, which is a fucking scary statement. The Boss Baby is weird as shit but at least it’s, um, an original idea? I said something nice! My Rating: 4.5/10

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe – Why do I bother to watch modern horror movies when 90% of them suck? Like this one. I don’t know if I have the energy to again do horror movie reviews for all of October this year. If I do, I’ll review this piece of shit. For now, I’ll be nice again and say that at least this one also had a fairly original concept and going through the stages of the autopsy was kind of interesting. My Rating: 4.5/10


BOOKS READ (ranked best to worst)

This month has been mega hectic so I’m still in the middle of the book I started in December: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & son Owen King. Enjoying it so far! It’s a thick book… I think my next one needs to be more lightweight. I’ll probably read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle with my kid next in anticipation of the film adaptation in March.

TV SHOWS WATCHED (ranked best to worst)

Black Mirror – Season 2, Episodes 2-4 (White Bear, The Waldo Moment, White Christmas. Season 3, Episodes 1-5 (Nosedive, Playtest, Shut Up And Dance, San Junipero, Men Against Fire) – Clearly, I’m working my way through the Black Mirrors so I’ve watched no other TV shows. One left to go then I can finally start season 4!

As I’ve watched so many and would like to discuss each episode, I’ll do a full Black Mirror post once I’ve seen them all. For now, San Junipero is my favorite episode. I’ll also say that I’m really enjoying the show as it’s right up my alley. However, I find it somewhat overrated. Being a big fan of the original Twilight Zone, I think that was a far more groundbreaking show. Black Mirror just adds a more modern twist to the exact same morality tales as were in The Twilight Zone. Anyway! As I love to rank stuff, here’s my ranking so far (from favorite to least favorite):

San Junipero
White Bear
Be Right Back
Fifteen Million Merits
White Christmas
Men Against Fire
The National Anthem
The Waldo Moment
The Entire History Of You
Shut Up And Dance


Oscars Shit!!!

It’s that time of year! It’s like the Super Bowl for movie nerds! I love/hate the Academy Awards. They’re absolute bullshit and the wrong things win all the time but, fuck it, I’ll probably always watch the stupid show. At least there was some excitement last year with the wrong winner being announced. Best thing to happen to the show in years!

I don’t have any huge blog plans for the Oscars as I’m taking it easy on blogging. I’ll probably just do a post choosing what I want to win & what I think will win for each category. However, I do plan to try to watch as many nominees as possible since most are coming out in the UK over this next month. I’ll review any more Oscar nominees that I watch. These are the nominees I’ve seen so far (not ranked! I’m slacking):

(Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Darkest Hour, Get Out, Mudbound, Logan, Coco, The Big Sick, Blade Runner: 2049, Baby Driver, Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Boss Baby, Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Lou, Garden Party)

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

Loads that I want to see this month! I can’t wait! In order of release date…

Winchester – Er. Damn. Bad reviews so far! I’d really liked the sound of this. May wait for Netflix now.

Black Panther – I’ll watch it but, as I’ve said many times on this blog, I’m superheroed-out. I’m bored. But this looks promising.

The Shape Of Water – The one I’m most excited about. Finally! Out on Valentine’s Day here. This is one I won’t be missing.

Lady Bird – Another big nominee so will do my best to see this as well.

I, Tonya – I’ve always been fascinated by this fucked-up true story. Really looking forward to finally getting to see this.

Annihilation – I read this book last year and really liked it so can’t wait to see how they manage to make a movie out of it (it’s weird). But I don’t know what’s up with this. Apparently it’s “too intelligent” for the general public so they’re planning to now not release it in UK cinemas? WTF?!? Give the public some damn credit! Oh. Wait. This is the world in which The Boss Baby is an Oscar nominee. Never mind. 😉 Supposedly Annihilation will be released in the UK straight to Netflix instead….

I saw Darkest Hour over the weekend so will try to review that this week. Gary Oldman is freaking fantastic. Give him the Oscar!

Have a great February, everyone!

**Oh, holy shit! The new Cloverfield movie is on Netflix! I am SO watching that ASAFP!!!!!** 🙂

My 2018 Blind Spot Choices & Blog Resolutions

Well, it’s Year 6 of my blog & Year 3 of me doing this Blind Spot Project where we make ourselves watch 12 movies in a year that we’ve been meaning to watch for ages. Most people choose classics but I like to mix it up with some random shit as well since watching 12 “worthy classics” sounds like a drag. Besides, I have my IMDB Top 250 Challenge for the boring stuff!

Having said that, though, I’ve chosen far too many worthy films this year (some of which will also double up with the IMDB Top 250 thing). Other than the below Christian Slater movie… Sorry – there’s no longer any excuse for me having never seen a movie starring one of my teenage crushes in my favorite movie decade (I’m sure it’s not great). I have to admit that I’m not overly excited about a lot that are on this list, though. Hopefully I’ll feel differently at the end of 2018 since they’re obviously critically acclaimed for a reason. And, again, I have several “alternate” choices due to possible lack of availability and/or time and/or depending on what the hubby will let me watch without him.

So here are My 2018 Blind Spot Choices:

The French Connection

Citizen Kane

Midnight Express

Enter The Dragon



Fiddler On The Roof



The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Gleaming The Cube

The Gold Rush


El Topo
Solaris (1972)
Once Upon A Time In America
The Right Stuff
Lawrence Of Arabia
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

2018 Blog Resolutions:

I already covered this on my big five-year blogiversary post but my “blog resolutions” are simple this year: To reduce the time I spend on this blog.

As much as I enjoy this online movie diary, I really need to focus on other stuff going on in my life. I’ll still log everything I watch in 2018 & do “month-in-review” posts where I’ll briefly discuss what I saw & read each month.

Here’s what I’ll still be posting:

Blind Spot Movie Reviews: One each month, probably toward the end of the month.

Reviews of 2018 UK cinema releases: I’ll still try to review all the current films that I watch since this is what people are most interested in discussing.

Monthly Recap Posts At The End Of Each Month: To briefly discuss everything that I watched & read each month.

Other than that, I’ll sometimes post reviews of movies I watch at home if I can be bothered or if they’re in the IMDb Top 250 or if one is so fantastic that I absolutely MUST tell you all about it! 😉 And, maybe once in a blue moon, I’ll
post a Top Ten list. People seem to enjoy them but I’m burnt out & need a break from them.

That’s it! I won’t completely abandon this place and I’ll still be on Twitter (it’s far less time-consuming but also full of angry people who stress me out). I wish you all a wonderful 2018!

Last week I posted all my 2017 Year-End Lists:

IMDB Top 250 Challenge Update: Only 50 Left To Go

My 2017 Blind Spot Movies: Ranked

My Top Ten Books Read In 2017

My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2017

My Top Ten Movies Of 2017

My Top Ten Books Read In 2017

I read quite a few books in 2017. Well, I read 27. Which is a lot for me as my focus is obviously on movies. A lot of what I read were books that I knew had movie adaptations coming out soon and I’ll probably try to do the same in 2018. I wasn’t great about reviewing all that I read but I’ll catch up on reviewing some of these before their movies come out.

So, counting down to my Top Ten, here are all the books that I read in 2017 ranked from my least favorite to my favorite:


27. Tape by Steven Camden
26. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
25. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
24. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
23. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
22. The Circle by Dave Eggers
21. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Top Twenty

20. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
19. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
18. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
17. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
16. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
15. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
14. The Dinner by Herman Koch
13. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
12. Blaze by Stephen King
11. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Top Ten

10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

7. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

6. End Of Watch by Stephen King

5. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

4. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

3. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

2. The Fireman by Joe Hill

1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King.

See you tomorrow with my list of My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2017 (movies released prior to 2017 in the UK). Then I’ll finish on Friday with My Top Ten 2017 Movies (based on UK release date).

Watched, Read, Reviewed: December 2017

I hope you all had a great Christmas/time-off-of-work holiday! Can you believe it’s almost 2018? Can you believe the world even survived 2017?!? Well, here’s the shit I watched & read in December. Yeah, I know the month isn’t quite over. I’ll probably be watching Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle today or tomorrow… (I did! I’ve edited the post to add it)


MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

Star Wars: The Last JediMy Rating: 8/10
Wolf ChildrenMy Rating: 8/10
Jumanji: Welcome To The JungleMy Rating: 7.5/10
Ace In The Hole – My Rating: 6.5/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – I wasn’t sure how I felt about this after seeing it. Mainly, I was disappointed. I’ve now just seen it a second time, worried I’d end up hating it. I actually liked it more. Maybe it will grow on me… My Rating: 8/10

Some Like It Hot – I thoroughly enjoyed this Billy Wilder classic, which I watched as well as Roman Holiday to get more IMDB Top 250 films ticked off my list. I’m not a huge comedy fan so they’re never my first choice of films to watch. But this is good comedy. Maybe I should stick to old stuff? The writing is so much better than the shit we get today. I do love Jack Lemmon & he was easily my favorite thing about this. This is also the first Marilyn Monroe movie I’ve ever seen and I can now understand her sex appeal, although I can’t picture her playing any other sort of role. The character of Sugar Kane was perfect for her, though, and these three made for a fantastic trio (Tony Curtis being the other one). This was certainly one of the more enjoyable Top 250 films that I’ve watched in quite a while. My Rating: 7.5/10

Jumanji: Welcome To The JungleNot gonna lie – this film is a lot of fun & I really enjoyed it. I’ll review it in full on Sunday. My Rating: 7.5/10 (reviewed HERE)

Lion – I’m desperately trying to watch some of the many 2017 UK cinema releases that I missed out on before posting my end-of-year lists next week but I don’t think I’ll manage to see many more. I’ve started with all the “Oscar” movies, which we got here in January. They’ve been disappointing (Moonlight, Manchester By The Sea, Super Boring Jackie). All good but not “all-time great Oscar classics”. Lion is the same but I enjoyed it the most (although Moonlight & Manchester By The Sea are better films). I’m just not a heavy drama person & I’m a sucker for uplifting, happy endings. And Lion has an amazing true story which gave me warm fuzzies. I admit to not knowing the true story, however, and don’t know how much was added for dramatic effect. The ending felt a little too… Perfect? I wonder if that’s exactly how that went down. As a film, Lion is flawed. The pacing isn’t great and it felt far longer than it was. I had no idea that Dev Patel was only in half the film (he shows up halfway through) but that was okay as the young boy playing him in the first half (Sunny Pawar) was great. Where’s HIS nomination?! I liked how they spent a good amount of time showing his bond with his brother in the beginning. I expected to prefer the second half of the film but that’s where it dragged plus Rooney Mara felt a bit pointless. Nicole Kidman was very good (I used to hate her but I’m starting to like her). I’m rambling. Lion is a feel-good true story with good performances but the movie could’ve been a bit better. My Rating: 7/10

Roman Holiday Another one to tick off my Top 250 list. I was a little disappointed with this one. I think I had images from another Audrey Hepburn film confused with this one (not Breakfast At Tiffany’s or My Fair Lady – I’ve seen those). Anyway – it turned out that I knew nothing about this plot whatsoever or that she was a princess in it. I think it hasn’t aged as well as some of her more iconic films but I think that’s mainly because this same story has now been done in a lot of films since, although I recognize that it was probably a very original idea at the time. So the story itself is just okay but Hepburn & Gregory Peck are great together, which will be what makes this a beloved classic. Hepburn won an Oscar for Roman Holiday and I did enjoy seeing this fashion icon in an early role as I’ve not seen many of her films. Hubby pointed out that, along with Some Like It Hot, I watched two very different female icons of their time and it’s interesting to compare the two. I can see why both had their fans but I can’t identify with Hepburn in any way whatsoever. I guess I have no class. Plus, I like some curves and Monroe had some va-va-VOOM. But I also can’t identify with that! Conclusion: I like what I’ve seen of both of them. I need to watch more of their films. My Rating: 7/10

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure – This was cute. Why the hell did people have such a problem with it?? People need to chill the f*%k out sometimes! It’s not as good as Frozen Fever but still enjoyable and I once again loved Anna’s & Elsa’s dresses. My Rating: 6.5/10

Life – Another 2017 film that I’ve just caught up on. Meh. It’s a highly flawed film but I did get some enjoyment out of it and I thought the alien was fairly well done. And the deaths were super gross in kind of a cool way. The characters were poorly developed but, if you’re simply wanting a death-by-evil-alien film, this will do. It’s interesting that it came out the same year as Alien: Covenant & I know some people preferred Life. As much as Covenant pissed me the hell off, I still have to say it’s the better film. Slightly. But both suck and Alien & Aliens kick the living SHIT out of them. My Rating: 6/10

StorksThis was fine. The babies were adorable. It’s not like this is a Disney or Pixar film, which are in a league of their own. But it was far better & more enjoyable than that stupid Sing movie that I watched last month. My Rating: 5.5/10


BOOKS READ (ranked best to worst)

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt – This strange Western is the only novel I managed to read this month, plus half of a book of short horror stories (called Alfred Hitchcock’s Book Of Horror Stories: No. 6. This is soooo my type of thing). The Sisters Brothers was interesting. I have to admit that I picked it up (for 50p in a charity shop) based 100% on that cool ass cover up there. I didn’t love it but it’s not exactly my sort of thing. I did like it, though, and found the story refreshingly original. The characters were also really well developed and I especially liked brother Eli (who will be played by John C. Reilly in the movie next year and who I think is perfect for the role). The movie will also star Joaquin Phoenix & Jake Gyllenhaal and I think it has the potential to be made into a thoroughly entertaining film. I recommend reading the book first if you like the sound of the movie. It’s probably quite different from anything you’ve read before.

Currently Reading: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King– I was so happy to get this for Christmas! Love the concept. I’m about ten pages in… Hopefully I’ll be finished by the time I do my end-of-January post.

TV SHOWS WATCHED (ranked best to worst)

Black Mirror – Season 1, Episode 3: The Entire History Of You & Season 2, Episode 1: Be Right Back‬. I’m loving this show & glad I’m finally watching it. I have to say, though, that The Entire History Of You was a very weak episode (starring the new Doctor Who Doctor Jodie Whittaker, I should add). But I expect there to be brilliant ones & bad ones and this one was a poor rip-off of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind but with hateful characters. Luckily, Be Right Back got the show back on track & is my favorite episode so far. Starring Domhnall Gleeson & Hayley Atwell, it was a thoughtful look at dealing with grief in a strange new way as well as questioning whether our social media personalities are a true reflection of who we really are.

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 14 so far. Why do I watch this stupid show? I think it’s because the hubby won’t let me watch anything without him that he might have the tiniest bit of interest in watching. So I get stuck watching shit like Grey’s Anatomy when alone. Thanks, hubby! ;-P

• The Walking Dead: Season 8 so far. The Walking Dead sucks SO much now that I’ve ranked it below Grey’s F*^king Anatomy. Someone bring Frank Darabont back! I don’t care how mean he is! He wouldn’t have written this season’s dumbest & most pointless death EVER. But, like Grey’s Anatomy, I’ve stuck with it this long that I feel I have to watch to the end. Watching the TV screen like a damn zombie…


YEAR-END BEST OF 2017 LISTS!!!!! Yeah, I love lists. I have a different list ready to post every day next week starting on Monday. You’ll be sick of me by next Friday (if you aren’t already). 😉 Here are the lists I’ll be posting next week:

– My IMDB Top 250 Challenge Update
– My 2017 Blind Spot Movies: Ranked
– My Top Ten Books Read In 2017
– My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2017 (Release dates prior to 2017)
– My Top Ten Movies Of 2017 (Released in the UK in 2017)

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

I have to admit that I lose the will to live a little bit when looking at the list of upcoming 2018 films. Can anything other than superhero movies be made? Please?!?!? There are a few I’m looking forward to, though. It’ll be great to finally get to see The Shape Of Water in February after hearing about it for so long. But let’s see what’s out in January that I want to see…

Coco. Finally! I hate how the UK has to wait so long for Pixar films. Yet we get the Marvel stuff before America… I’d rather get the Pixar stuff first!

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Guess I gotta watch this with all the high ratings. Looks good. But I’m looking forward to February more. There are loads of movies I want to see in February! But I’ll talk about those in my January month-end recap.

See you all in 2018. Hope you have a Happy New Year! 🙂

I’m sorry. This pops into my head anytime I hear the Coco movie mentioned. Baking soda! Make it stop!!!

Watched, Read, Reviewed: November 2017

I’m again starting up a month-in-review post as I can’t find the time lately to do full movie reviews but would still like to at least briefly discuss the things I’ve seen & read each month. Here’s a quick look at the month of November…


MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

Only one movie reviewed this month due to lack of time:

The Untouchables, which was my November 2017 Blind Spot choice. Great film! Glad I finally watched it. My Rating: 8/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

• The French Connection – This is a Blind Spot 2018 choice of mine & I decided to get a head start by watching it now. It’s good but not as good as I was expecting. I definitely preferred The Untouchables. I’ll review this film in depth in January after posting my full list of 2018 Blind Spot films… My Rating: 7.5/10

• Moonlight – This was good. Was it “All-time classic, Oscar-worthy” good? Not really. It’s probably the best of the nominees, though, as it was weak year (La La Land is overrated). Mahershala Ali was very good & had a “presence” that not all actors have. I’m glad he won the Supporting Actor Oscar but was disappointed to find it was quite a small role. I’m also glad that Naomie Harris didn’t win as I feel that exact same sort of role has been played far better in countless other films. I really liked the character of Kevin (especially adult Kevin), who is the one & only friend of the main protagonist, Chiron. But it was very hard to feel a connection to Chiron, played by three actors in three stages of life, due to his traumatic childhood making him extremely shy and reserved. I felt sympathy for him but couldn’t feel much more than that as we never really got to “know” him. Moonlight is a good film but it wasn’t as emotionally powerful as I was hoping. It did pick up in the final half hour or so and I really liked the ending. I think it’s a better film and that the emotions felt much more genuine than in Manchester By The Sea, which I watched as a double feature with this (what a fun time that was!). But this is also one of those “heavy Oscar dramas” that I’ll probably only watch once then never again. My Rating: 7/10

• Manchester By The Sea – Hmm. This was okay but it felt a little contrived. I don’t do well with heavy dramas but I especially struggle with ones that don’t come across as fully genuine. I was surprised to find there was a bit of a dark humor throughout the film, especially with how Casey Affleck & his nephew (Lucas Hedges) interacted, which was a welcome relief from all the depressing drama! Hedges was fun to watch as a pretty typical & well-liked teenage boy. Affleck did well as a seemingly emotionless man whose tragic past has forever completely changed who he is as a person. When you find out why, f*^k…. No one should have to go through that and your heart breaks for him while, at the same time, you kind of hate him. And then, of course, it sounds like he may not be the nicest guy in real life. And then you get really annoyed and try to just think of this as the fictional movie that it is. Holy shit it’s depressing. At least Moonlight felt a little more hopeful, I guess. My Rating: 7/10

• Jackie – Erm. I’m sorry but I was thoroughly bored while watching this, which I certainly hadn’t been expecting. I’m terrible when it comes to anything to do with history (it was always my least favorite subject in school) and I truly knew nothing about Jackie O. And, after watching this movie, I still feel like I know absolutely nothing. I know that Portman was supposedly very good only because that’s what people said. Did Jackie really sound like that??? Bizarre. I just found it very difficult to care, which is quite a feat as you’d think such a traumatic true story would create a very sympathetic character. I don’t know. Sorry! I just thought this was a truly weak film considering its powerful potential. My Rating: 6/10

• Sing – Ugh. Sing was shit. I know it’s not Disney or Pixar so I had pretty low expectations anyway. But… Sheesh. I wish they’d stop pumping out crap like this. Kids are smart. They want better than this! My Rating: 4.5/10


BOOKS READ (ranked best to worst):

• Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – I read this as it’s being made into a television series by HBO & starring my girl crush Amy Adams. Gillian Flynn also wrote Gone Girl, which I reviewed HERE and which I liked okay despite thinking it was a bit f*^ked-up. Holy hell… Gone Girl ain’t got nothing on Sharp Objects!!! These may be the most f*^ked-up characters EVER. And I kind of enjoyed the book. It’s so seriously f*^ked-up and over-the-top that I ended up quite entertained. I guess. I’m not sure if you can take that as a recommendation or not… 😉 My Rating: 3.5/5

• Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – I read this as it’s supposedly going to be made into a film by one of my favorite directors, Richard Linklater. It’s an odd book, told mostly through e-mails and letters between characters. It’s about a teenage girl whose eccentric mother, Bernadette, goes missing. Bernadette is indeed an intriguing character and I can see why Linklater would be interested in putting her on the big screen. I found it very hard to get into this book & its storytelling style, though. The characters are fun but you’d probably either love this book or hate it depending on if you buy into the characters or not. My Rating: 3/5

• The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson – This is a Young Adult novel about a teenage girl whose older sister dies unexpectedly. Again, I read this as it looks like they’re planning on making it into a movie but there are no specific details yet. I thought the story handled grief quite well and that the characters were strong but it’s very much a “YA” novel so won’t be for everyone. My Rating: 3/5

Currently Reading: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt – This will be a 2018 Western film starring John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix & Jake Gyllenhaal. I’m struggling to get into this one…

TV SHOWS WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

Black Mirror: Season 1, Episode 2: Fifteen Million Merits – I’ve finally convinced the hubby to start watching these with me after I recovered from episode 1 (that was seriously f*^ked-up). My all-time favorite TV show is the original The Twilight Zone so I knew Black Mirror would probably be my sort of thing. I liked episode two a hell of a lot more than the first one and now can’t wait to continue. I loved the dystopian future displayed in episode 2 and, of course, the usual morality lessons that were done in the same way in the 1950s with The Twilight Zone (that show was SO ahead of its time!). Daniel Kaluuya, from Get Out, did a very good job in this (I wonder if this role is what got him noticed for that film). I really hope the rest of the episodes are as good…

Stranger Things: Season 2 – As with all things with as much hype as this show, season 2 didn’t manage to quite live up to season 1. I just sincerely hope they know when to quit with this one instead of dragging it out for years (like The Walking Dead!!! Ugh). What I did love was seeing these thoroughly likable characters again and getting to know them even better. I still like this show a lot and think that, if they make just one more season and concentrate on making it a damn good final season, it’ll be seen as a bit of a classic years from now. The story isn’t perfect but the characters and the style make it lots of fun.

• The Walking Dead: Season 8 so far – I’ve fallen behind & not watched the last two episodes that aired. Because I’M BORED!! This show started out strong but has gotten worse & worse every season. I’ve had enough. At this point I’m continuing just because I’ve watched it so long now that I feel like I have to see it through to the end. Meh.


As December is the month from hell, I have no blog plans. Damn you, Christmas! I sound like Scrooge. All I want to make sure to do is review my December Blind Spot film (Wolf Children). But it’s unlikely that I’ll make it to the cinema to see any films. Other than THE ONLY film that MATTERS…

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Yeah, baby! I’m not missing this one. My ticket has been booked for ages. Can’t wait!!!

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle – Okay, I admit that I want to see this one. I love Jack Black. Since the kid wants to see it too, it’s likely that we’ll make this one a Family Movie Night.

Beyond these two, I don’t even have a clue what’s coming out this month. I’ve fallen so behind on new releases this year. So feel free to make any recommendations on movies I shouldn’t miss! 🙂

Happy 5th Blogiversary To Me

Yikes. Five years?! I honestly didn’t think I’d be doing this movie blogging thing for five years.

I want to say a huge thank you to the fellow bloggers who’ve dropped by in these last five years & had little chats with me on my silly movie & book reviews. I’m sorry I’ve been around a lot less this year and hate that it’s becoming almost impossible to spend any time on my blog or on the blogs that I follow. The whole reason for starting this blog was so that I could discuss movies with fellow film lovers since, in the real world, it’s hard to find obsessive movie nerds. You think I talk about movies all day long with people at work? Hell no! (That would be fun, though – where can I get a job like that?). So, thank you again to the special few who were here from the start and are still around and to all the lovely newer bloggers who’ve come along since. I feel like an “old blogger” now!

I always say I need to cut back on the time I spend here and I’ve done that this year but I’ll be doing it even more in 2018. I’d always kind of planned on quitting on my 5th anniversary but I’d miss the occasional movie chats as well as the one other reason I keep this thing going: to use it as a “movie diary” and keep a log of all I’ve seen & read. Because, as well as being a movie nerd, I’m also massive LIST NERD! I now have a record of every movie I’ve watched since 2012. Which is totally not important when the world is f*^%ing falling apart, right?! To psychoanalyze myself, I think it helps keeps me calm in the face of all the bullshit in the world. Or something. Nicely ordered lists! Nicely ordered lists could create world peace!!

So, I do have a plan to keep this blog going with a bare minimum of posts in 2018. I’ll focus only on reviewing 12 more Blind Spot movies (as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that project) and the 2018 UK cinema releases I manage to see. The main other thing I’ll do is bring back an end-of-month post so I can at least very briefly discuss all I’ve watched in that month. At the moment, the movies I watch at home are getting no attention as I don’t have time for full-length reviews. I’ve watched a lot of really good movies this year and am annoyed to have not even mentioned some of them (For example, I really liked an obscure movie called The Frame. Here’s the IMDb link. I believe it’s still showing on Amazon Video.)

With these blogiversary posts, I tend to do a “Year In Review” post since it’s close to the end of the year anyway. This time, I’m going to do a “Five-Year Review“(!!). One thing I can really thank this blog for is that I’ve seen some TRULY brilliant movies since starting it because of things like my IMDB Top 250 Challenge and the Blind Spot project. Knowing you’ll be writing for a blog kind of helps “force” you to finally watch the more highly acclaimed classics you’d been avoiding for no good reason. Plus there’ve been some damn good new movies released since 2012. SO GET READY FOR SOME LISTS!!!! Let’s see if these can create universal harmony.

Here are some ranked lists of my favorite movies I’ve seen & the best books I’ve read for the very first time since starting this blog in November 2012….

My Top 20 Books Read Since 2012 (No one gives a shit about books so let’s get this list out of the way first.): 😉

Top Twenty:

20. End Of Watch by Stephen King
19. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
18. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
17. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
16. The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker
15. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
14. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
13. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
12. Horns by Joe Hill
11. The Fireman by Joe Hill

Top Ten:

10. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
9. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
8. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
7. Joyland by Stephen King
6. The Martian by Andy Weir
5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
3. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett
2. Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin
1. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

My Top 30 Older Movies Seen For The First Time Since Starting This Blog (Movies Released Before November 2012):

Top Thirty:

30. Daft Punk’s Electroma
29. The Return Of The Living Dead
28. Million Dollar Baby
27. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
26. Escape From Alcatraz
25. Howl’s Moving Castle
24. The Last Unicorn
23. Ghost In The Shell (1995)
22. Ikiru
21. Natural Born Killers

Top Twenty:

20. The Untouchables
19. The Secret In Their Eyes
18. The Kid
17. Watership Down
16. Grave Of The Fireflies
15. Escape From New York
14. Battle Royale
13. Kiki’s Delivery Service
12. The Great Escape
11. Laputa: Castle In The Sky

Top Ten:

10. Road House (Seriously. How had I never seen this huge slice of AWESOMEBAD?!)
9. Rocky
8. Modern Times
7. Princess Mononoke
6. Akira
5. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
4. The Bridge On The River Kwai
3. City Lights
2. The Warriors
1. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind 

(If you only knew how many times I flipped numbers 1 & 2 around…)

My Top 30 New Releases Seen For The First Time Since Starting This Blog (Movies Released After November 2012):

Top Thirty:

30. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
29. Your Name
28. Rush
27. Circle
26. Gravity
25. Robot & Frank
24. The Way Way Back
23. Baby Driver
22. Wreck-It Ralph
21. Edge Of Tomorrow

Top Twenty:

20. Train To Busan
19. The Wolf Of Wall Street
18. The Lego Movie
17. Ex Machina
16. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
15. It Follows
14. The Babadook
13. Predestination
12. Space Station 76
11. Sing Street

Top Ten:

10. In Your Eyes
9. Frozen
8. Blade Runner 2049
7. Mad Max: Fury Road
6. It
5. Inside Out
4. Guardians Of The Galaxy
3. Arrival
2. Room
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Yep – I can’t NOT have a Star Wars film as my number one movie released since 2012. I can’t wait for The Last Jedi in a couple of weeks!

As you can see from these lists, I really do have this blog to thank for my newfound love of Studio Ghibli & Charlie Chaplin. I’d seen & loved My Neighbor Totoro & Spirited Away before blogging but decided to watch all the rest of the Miyazaki films for a month of Ghibli reviews. I’d seen no Chaplin at all before 2012. I highly recommend his stuff to all true film lovers, especially City Lights & Modern Times.

Oh yeah! I also discovered a love of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, it seems. I loved The Dollars Trilogy (especially the music in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) and Once Upon A Time In The West. Brilliant! Thank you, blog! 

The other two directors I’ve been trying to further explore are John Carpenter (I’d already seen the majority of his best films, though) and Akira Kurosawa. That’s why they have the only two films in the lists above which I haven’t yet reviewed as I want to devote an entire week (or month) to their work someday in the future.

Okay – it’s time for me to shut up. You all probably stopped reading halfway through my lists anyway. Ha! I don’t know how many movies I’ve seen in these last five years (I’m too lazy to count, although I do have them all listed year by year on my blog pages). But I’d say I average about 100 per year. So… Narrowing it down to 60 favorites out of 500 isn’t too bad! Thank you again, everyone! Especially those who made it to the very end of this post… 😉

Now, as I feel really bad about putting The Warriors in second place after originally having it at number one, I’ll end this post with the ending of the movie. Seems appropriate. All our lives deserve appropriate songs that play over our end credits. Hmm. That sounded a little morbid. Sing it, Joe!

Actually, I want Morricone to score my real life end credits…

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016) & The Girl On The Train (2016) Reviews

Two quick reviews of two film adaptations of two books I read. My reviews of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs can be found HERE & The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins HERE. Okay, one is a thriller but the other is close enough to being a “horror” so I’m doing these for October Horror Month. Let’s see what I thought of the movies…

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

Directed by Tim Burton

Screenplay by Jane Goldman

Based on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

My Opinion:

When I was in the middle of reading this book years ago, I said to the hubby “Tim Burton needs to make this into a movie”. Imagine my surprise when Hollywood did something right for a change! He was the absolute perfect choice to adapt this book & he did a very good job with it. The problem is that 1) I didn’t exactly love the book, although I loved the “gimmick” of the old photographs that were used throughout it and 2) Tim Burton hasn’t made anything truly fantastic in years, which still breaks my heart as I absolutely adored his oldest films. I’d say this was somewhat a return to form for Burton but, as I said, I didn’t love the source material so was unlikely to love the movie.

From what I remember of the book, it seems a faithful adaptation until the end. But I didn’t care enough to continue reading the books so it’s possible the movie continues a bit into the next book for all I know? I wouldn’t say it renewed my interest enough to read the remaining books but I’d certainly watch a sequel if Burton makes one. The performances were pretty strong and, like Burton being the perfect choice for director, I think Eva Green was a perfect choice for playing Miss Peregrine. The child actors also all did a good job (I think Burton always does well in casting his films), with the lead young roles (played by Asa Butterfield & Ella Purnell) as the standouts. Terence Stamp & especially Judi Dench weren’t given much to do, which was a shame. And I enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson as always (who doesn’t love Sam Jackson?!) but he’s phoning it in a bit with this baddie role. Sorry, Mr. Jackson! I apologize a trillion times!

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a good adaptation of a bizarre book thanks to its also bizarre director. And I liked the look & vibe of it, as I always do with Burton’s style. I wish I liked both the book and the film more than I do, though. I like “weird” so can’t really put my finger on why the story didn’t quite work for me. With the book, I think I just couldn’t connect with the characters. To be fair, I think Burton improved on this with the film and I’d say this is one of those cases where the movie might be slightly better than the book. It also helped that it got a proper ending, as opposed to the open-ended cliffhanger that just left me frustrated with the book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Girl On The Train (2016)

Directed by Tate Taylor

Based on The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez, Lisa Kudrow

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

My Opinion:

I thought this book, although fun in a pulp-y sort of way, was pretty horrible. This was mainly because the characters were all truly hateful. The story itself was okay and I found it a very quick read as I wanted to get to the resolution of its mystery but, wow, I didn’t give the slightest crap what would happen to any of the characters. Not even ONE likable person? Really?? I’ll never understand stories that choose to make us despise everyone in them. And the thing with the baby upset me too much (and kind of pissed me off).

Well, the movie is a faithful adaptation, so… What can I say? I didn’t like the book so I wasn’t going to like a faithful adaptation anyway. The fact that is stars Emily Blunt, who is kind of a girl crush of mine, is what made me even bother to stick this on one evening & half pay attention to it. Meh. I don’t know. I just didn’t care. The actors did what they could with the material but the material was weak. Hold on a second – in this double review, Danny Elfman did the music for this movie but not the Tim Burton movie?! Now that’s bizarre.

My Rating: 5/10

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (Book Review)

The film adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s novel The Snowman is out today in the UK & out October 20th in the US. It was directed by Tomas Alfredson and stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer and J. K. Simmons. Here’s my review of the book…

**Quick edit to say I wrote this review before the reviews came out for The Snowman movie. Ohhhh.. Reviews are NOT good!**

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
Norwegian: Snømannen

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
On a cold winter night, a young boy wakes to find his mother missing. The house is empty but in the garden outside he finds his mother’s favourite scarf – wrapped around the neck of the snowman that appeared in their garden that day.

As Harry Hole and his team begin their investigation they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years. Is there a link between the disappearances and a menacing letter Harry was sent months earlier?

When a second woman disappears it seems his suspicions are confirmed. For the first time in his career Harry finds himself confronted with a serial killer operating on his home turf; a killer who will drive him to the brink of insanity…

My Thoughts:

Murder & crime stories are really not at all my sort of thing but I’ve been spending 2017 reading books that are being made into films so I decided to give this one a try. I probably won’t go to the film but I’ll Netflix it at the very least, mainly because Michael Fassbender is a hottie. Netflix & chill with Fassbender! Oh yeah, there’s one other reason I decided to read this: I quite liked the film Headhunters, also from a Jo Nesbo book. Good movie – I recommend it.

As for this book, I’d have to say it’s a good crime thriller and had some inventive murders (if you’re the kind of psycho who’s into that sort of stuff). 😉 I didn’t realize it was part of a series: the “Harry Hole” series, following the life & cases of detective Harry Hole. I don’t know how necessary it is to read the other books first (it looks like The Snowman is the seventh). I didn’t feel like I was missing anything as far as the murder mystery went. I’m assuming it’s a case unconnected to others, although there were some references to previous cases. The only thing I felt I was missing was knowing anything about Harry Hole & his relationships with the other characters prior to this book, such as his ex-girlfriend & her son who were clearly a big part of previous book(s). I still enjoyed the story but suppose I had less of a connection to the characters than readers of the entire series would have.

If you like the look of the below trailer and prefer to read a book before seeing the movie, I do recommend this one. I’m not an expert on this genre but it’s a got a good murder mystery that keeps you guessing and I got to know the characters just well enough to start to care about what would happen to them. I’ve not rated it more highly since it’s not my type of thing but I’d think any fans of this genre should definitely like it.

My Rating: 3/5

The Snowman movie trailer (Fassbender is so hot…):

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– Blaze by Stephen King
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
End Of Watch by Stephen King
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Fireman by Joe Hill
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

**Currently reading I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Cell (2016) Review

Welcome to my final day of Stephen King Week. King turned 70 yesterday so I posted something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews (including 2017’s It), and two Top Ten lists (My Top Ten Stephen King Movies & My Top Ten Stephen King Books). Today I’m reviewing the film adaptation of his novel Cell.

Cell (2016)

Directed by Tod Williams

Based on Cell by Stephen King

Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, Clark Sarullo, Anthony Reynolds, Erin Elizabeth Burns, Stacy Keach

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When a mysterious cell phone signal causes apocalyptic chaos, an artist is determined to reunite with his young son in New England.

My Opinion:

Okay, what I’d heard about Cell is true: the movie isn’t good. However, I don’t think it’s quite as bad as its rating on things like IMDb (4.3 out of 10. Yikes). I’ll say that I quite liked the Stephen King book (it just makes it into My Top Ten Stephen King Books list) although it certainly doesn’t seem to be a favorite for most people. And it’s likely to drop out of my Top Ten over time as it’s admittedly not one of his best pieces of work. I’ve just always had a thing for anything at all post-apocalyptic and this story of a “zombie-like” plague of sorts is so my type of thing that I’m probably more forgiving of its flaws than I should be. Story: Good. Execution: Not so good.

The movie starts out okay. As always, things were changed from what I remember of the novel now but the overall story stays close enough. The problem with both the film and book, however, is that the story falls apart at the end. I like King when he’s at his most bizarre & supernatural but not everyone is going to buy into that sort of thing and this novel’s ending was one that was never going to translate well to film. On the written page, it’s easier to suspend disbelief & King has a way of writing which makes you accept some weird ass shit. On screen, it rarely works well. And it unfortunately didn’t work well for this movie.

I spent a long time reviewing It (the 2017 version) the other day as I liked that one a lot & I get all excited and chatty when I see a movie that I truly enjoy. Boring, predictable, poorly made movies just kind of suck my will to live and forcing myself to “review” them is a struggle. I’m sad to say that’s the way I feel about Cell. I can’t be bothered. It was only about three weeks ago that I watched this and I can barely remember the damn thing. I believe I got bored & started f*^king around on my (cell!) phone, meaning I certainly wasn’t giving this my full attention. At least I didn’t turn into a cell phone “zombie”. But aren’t we all cell phone zombies already anyway?!?! Hmmmmmm. Is that the moral of this story? You’d like to think so! But what could’ve been a thoughtful social commentary is nothing more than yet another zombie story.

I like both John Cusack & Samuel L. Jackson but I can’t say they were trying to win any acting Oscars for this one. 1408 is a better movie if you’re specifically wanting a King movie starring Cusack & Jackson. I remember liking the girl & young boy in the book (I’m too lazy to look up their names) but the movie manages to make us not give the slightest shit about the fate of any of these characters. Heck, the most enjoyment I got from this was seeing Stacy Keach as it reminded me of the last thing I saw him in: Class Of 1999a movie probably even worse than Cell, in which he looked like THIS…

What’s up with the banana? I don’t know. And I’m not sure what exactly made this movie so bad. I suppose it’s mainly due to the lack of decent character development. As I said in my It review on Wednesday, it’s the characters that really made that film so enjoyable. Horror movies are the worst for giving us underdeveloped characters. It IS possible to have a good story and good characters within the horror genre. Why are there so few??

Meh. Cell isn’t the worst horror movie I’ve seen but it’s just another forgettable one to add to the huge pile of bland films in this genre. Both the book & film are guilty of missing the opportunity to really say something about our smartphones destroying society & all that. But, to be fair, the book is over ten years old now so it’s already starting to feel a bit dated. If I remember correctly, you have to actually be talking on a phone to get the virus in this movie. I mean, who the hell actually uses their smartphone as a phone?!?! I’ve typed this entire review on my phone but I can’t remember the last time I talked into it other than to say “Hey Siri, I see a little silhouetto of a man!“. People don’t talk to each other. Social media is the opposite of social. That’s the problem. Oh well – not every movie has to have deeper meaning, I guess. I found the book a fun read. It’s too bad the movie isn’t a bit better. Oh, and I still f*^king love my cell phone. I just wish they’d changed the title to Mobile in the UK because it’s such a horrible title that it would’ve been kind of amusing.

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Top Ten Stephen King Books

Happy Birthday to Stephen King, who turns 70 today!

Welcome to Day Four of Stephen King Week. I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews (including 2017’s It), and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m posting my list of My Top Ten Stephen King Books.

I love Stephen King’s books, which I’ve been reading ever since the age of about 12 when a friend let me borrow his Night Shift short story collection during study hall. I was immediately hooked. That version had the hand with the eyeballs on the cover (from the creepy short story I Am the Doorway):

It’s funny how the brain works: I remember the short stories in Night Shift as if I read them yesterday while I have trouble remembering some of King’s stuff that I read in later years. I suppose it’s a combination of it being a damn good book & the fact that we often seem to have a good memory for the things we loved in our formative years.

Anyway, I’ve always loved King’s short stories & novellas just as much as his full length novels so I don’t want to ignore the collections in this post. As they’d be too difficult to “rank” alongside one-story novels, my below list is a ranking of only King’s full-length fictional novels. But I’m going to talk a little about each of his short story collections at the end of this post too (Well, hell – there are ten so I suppose I can “rank” the collections as well. Oh I do love making lists!). 😉

First, here are My Top Ten Stephen King Full-Length Novels. As always, though, I’m doing a full ranking from least favorite to favorite book and I’ve read 37 in total. Here we go!

The Rest That I’ve Read

37. Dreamcatcher
36. The Regulators
35. Desperation (I honestly can’t remember which is which of The Regulators & Desperation – I barely remember either of them)
34. The Tommyknockers
33. Bag Of Bones
32. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
31. Dolores Claiborne (Could do with re-reading)

Top Thirty:

30. Finders Keepers
29. From A Buick 8
28. The Dark Half
27. Under The Dome
26. Blaze
25. Gerald’s Game
24. Thinner
23. Revival
22. Lisey’s Story
21. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

Top Twenty:

20. Duma Key
19. Doctor Sleep
18. Cujo
17. Insomnia
16. End Of Watch
15. Rose Madder
14. Misery
13. Pet Sematary
12. Needful Things
11. The Running Man

Top Ten:

10. 11/22/63

9. Cell (I know I have this too high & will probably change my mind over time. I’ll be reviewing the movie tomorrow so will talk a little about the book too.)

8. Joyland

7. Mr. Mercedes

6. The Long Walk

5. The Shining

4. It

3. The Green Mile

2. ‘Salem’s Lot

1. The Dead Zone

Need To Re-Read:

Rage & Roadwork (I don’t remember them at all) & The Stand. I must have read three quarters of The Stand in my twenties then got too busy in life & took so long to get back to it that I’d have to start from the beginning again. It’s… long! It was great so I still regret not finishing.

Not Read:

Carrie, Firestarter, Christine, Cycle Of The Werewolf, The Talisman, The Eyes Of The Dragon, The Dark Tower Series (other than Book 1), The Plant, Black House, The Colorado Kid, Sleeping Beauties (book coming soon)

Now here are My Top Ten Stephen King Short Story & Novella Collections (ranked from least favorite to favorite). I’ve included my favorite stories from each collection as well:

10. Full Dark, No Stars: Big Driver & A Good Marriage. It’s weird that I don’t remember this collection that well when it’s not that old. I liked A Good Marriage but somehow didn’t even remember I’d read it until I was halfway through watching the film

9. Everything’s Eventual: 1408 is the only story I really remember from this collection. It’s a good one (and decent movie adaptation, as well).

8. Hearts In Atlantis: The story Hearts In Atlantis was very good but I somehow don’t remember the slightest thing about the other stories in this book…

7. Just After Sunset: Willa, The Gingerbread Girl, Stationary Bike, The Things They Left Behind, Graduation Afternoon. Looks like I remember quite a few, so obviously a pretty strong collection.

6. Skeleton Crew: The Mist (could do with re-reading), The Monkey, The Raft & The Jaunt (this last one haunts me to this day).

5. Four Past Midnight: The Langoliers, Secret Window Secret Garden & The Sun Dog (this creeped me the hell out). These stories were great but perhaps my absolute least favorite story of King’s is also in this book: The Library Policeman. Urgh.

4. Different Seasons: The book where only The Breathing Method didn’t become a movie because, seriously, that would NOT work as a film…! The Body became the brilliant Stand By Me, Apt Pupil was turned into an okay film, and it’s obvious what movie came from Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption. I worship that film. Is it time to confess that it’s the only story in this collection that I can’t bring myself to read as I love the film so much? There. I’ve admitted it.

3. Nightmares & Dreamscapes: The End Of The Whole Mess, Chattery Teeth, You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band, Sorry Right Number, Crouch End. Another really strong collection I remember well despite it being fairly old now. It might help that several of these were made into shorts for the TV series.

2. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams: The Dune, Ur, Under The Weather, Drunken Fireworks, Summer Thunder. A really recent book I was very happy with after King’s collections from more recent years have been a bit weak compared to his oldest stuff. And I reviewed every single story in full (I’m a nerd).

1. Night Shift: Jerusalem’s Lot, The Ledge, Children Of The Corn, The Last Rung On The Ladder. I love this book so much. My introduction to King & still possibly my favorite book overall. I think he writes fantastic short stories (as does his son Joe Hill, FYI – I highly recommend 20th Century Ghosts). Children Of The Corn is really good (I think it was a hard one to translate to film without it ending up as cheesy as it did). The Last Rung On The Ladder is heartbreaking and possibly the one that most got me hooked on his work (odd, considering it’s a non-horror). Actually, it was Last Rung as well as Jerusalem’s Lot that got me hooked. Jerusalem’s Lot is a story set in the same town as in Salem’s Lot, which I have very high on my novel list. I remember actually almost enjoying the shorter story even more. Sometimes less is more.

People skip these short stories & novellas sometimes but they really shouldn’t be ignored. I think there’s almost more skill to making a short story really good (which is why my posts are always too long. I’m no writer! Blah blah blah. I need to get to the point).

Phew. I think I’ve covered everything? I’ve read none of King’s Nonfiction but Danse Macabre does sound interesting.

It (2017) Review

Welcome to Day Three of Stephen King Week! King turns 70 tomorrow so I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews, and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m reviewing the recent It film.

It (2017)

Directed by Andy Muschietti

Based on It by Stephen King

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of seven children in Derry, Maine, who are terrorized by the eponymous being, only to face their own personal demons in the process.

My Opinion:

Is it weird that I’m so happy that this film is kicking ass at the box office?? I just love it when one of King’s books actually gets a good film adaptation and, even better, when it gets a lot of really positive reviews. I did a list yesterday of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (this film was at number five if you don’t feel like clicking that link). I admitted in that list that, while I always watch & enjoy all adaptations of King’s work, some of the movies have been pretty damn awful. But then we occasionally get masterpieces like The Shawshank Redemption & Stand By Me to make up for the bad ones. It (the film – such a confusing title!) isn’t quite up there with the likes of those two but I’m very happy to say that it’s easily one of the better Stephen King movies of the many that have been made. Yes! I love when the movies do his novels justice.

You’ve all probably seen reviews by now that compare this to Stand By Me and that’s a very accurate description. Stand By Me with added horror, of course. Like that, this is a coming of age tale first and foremost and I’ve always loved a good coming of age tale. That’s why I’m actually a bit surprised that this film has done as well as it has as I can’t see it being loved by full-on “horror” fans. Pennywise the clown is a great creation but I have to say that I don’t find either this or the 1990 version scary. The book is a bit unsettling but I wouldn’t say that feeling fully translated to the films. I’ve never been one to get too scared by movies, though. As far as “creepy” goes, Kubrick’s The Shining certainly has this film (and pretty much every other horror film) beat. It’s a shame that King hates that adaptation – I think it’s one of the greatest horror films of all time.

I think the main difference between the 1990 It and the 2017 It is that Tim Curry’s Pennywise is the true star of the 1990 film while the kids are what make the 2017 version so good. I think this version has done things right in focusing more on the kids & their relationships with one another. I will always be fond of the 1990 film & prefer Curry’s Pennywise to Bill Skarsgård’s somewhat dull (and a little too funny-looking) Pennywise. It felt like Curry was truly having fun in the role & his Pennywise had far more personality. But… This story is about the kids. It’s about all kids who felt like “losers” when growing up. Pennywise shouldn’t really be stealing the show and I’m glad this version gets the balance right in making the kids the stars while also giving us just enough of the monster to keep the story interesting.

The kids all did a great job in this film. As has been said, It has a very Stranger Things feel to it. But of course it would since The Duffer Brothers wanted to make It but went on to instead make Stranger Things, which is meant to feel like King meets Spielberg. Plus It used one of the same actors from that show (Finn Wolfhard, who bizarrely looks like The Shining’s Shelley Duvall). I have to say that the girl playing Beverly (Sophia Lillis) was especially good. She’s like a young Amy Adams (which is a compliment as I love Adams). I’d be surprised if Lillis, as well as most of the rest of this young cast, doesn’t go on to become a big star. However, I’m so glad they AREN’T big stars yet as having a cast of relatively unknown actors was a huge plus for this movie (in my opinion, anyway). I loved not having the distraction of having seen them in a million other things.

I do have to admit that the time period this is set in (1989 into 1990) was another huge plus for me in a way that may not work as well for the current younger generation. Or maybe that doesn’t matter? I loved Stand By Me & 1990’s It even though those kids were living in the late 1950s. I suppose the coming of age dramas tend to transcend their time period as kids that age still go through all the same sort of emotions. Although I found it kind of hilarious/scary reading this article about how the film’s director had to start a “bicycle camp” to teach these pre/early teen actors how to ride bikes for the film(!!).

But oh how I loved seeing kids the same age as me in this movie’s ’89/’90 time period. Well, sort of… I was the age of the slightly older bullies back then. And, like the bullies, I was also a huge fan of Anthrax. Anthrax! There’s an Anthrax song in this movie!!! But I’ll come back to that at the end of this review – I just want to point out that I was more like the kids being bullied than the ones doing the bullying, even though I was a metalhead. 😉 And I had way too much fun seeing the movie marquees in the film’s background accurately portraying the movie releases of that time (god I’m a nerd). And I enjoyed the fact that I could almost hear a massive WHOOSH in the cinema as the New Kids On The Block jokes went right over the heads of those in the audience. Not that I liked NKOTB… Anthrax!!! Oh, and there are lots of fun Easter Eggs in this film so, if you’re a King fan, be on the lookout for them. And read the IMDb trivia for the movie afterwards – there’s loads of fascinating info there.

I think I should try to wrap this up now or I’ll just continue to ramble on for ages. I’m clearly very happy with this adaptation of a favorite book by my absolute favorite author. The kids are fantastic, their characters are likeable (so rare in horror movies), there’s some Anthrax (and a few other soundtrack gems I won’t mention to keep some surprises), there’s a creepy clown who isn’t quite as cool as Tim Curry but still does the job, there are Stephen King and 1989/1990 pop culture references, poor little brother Georgie is still a cutie pie, “that” controversial scene from the book is thankfully again left out of the film, Sophia Lillis has true star power, the kids are the stars instead of the clown, this sentence is really long, and last but not least: this movie doesn’t rely on cheap horror movie “jump scares”. That’s not to say there aren’t some jumpy moments but I was impressed with how well the horror was handled. I especially loved the slideshow scene, which references a fantastic King novella in Four Past Midnight that really gave me the creeps. It focuses on telling its story and on its characters then it focuses on the horror. That’s what makes this a good film instead of yet another bland & predictable horror movie with expendable characters. I can’t wait to see the next film now, which will feature the kids as adults. However, as with the scenes involving the grown-ups in the 1990 film, I think the second film won’t have the same kind of magic as this one. There’s a special sort of innocence in these coming of age films and the ones that really capture that feeling end up being all-time favorites for some people. I know Stand By Me was that way for me when I was growing up & I can see It being that way for a new generation.

My Rating: 8.5/10

**Back to Anthrax, as promised**

As I said, I was a big Anthrax fan in my high school days and the fact that they had an Anthrax song & t-shirt in this movie filled me with such boring old-fart joy. I’ll assume they were used on purpose as they were always big fans of Stephen King and their songs so often referenced his work (such as The Stand in Among The Living & Misery in Misery Loves Company). I bet Anthrax are happy as f*%k that their song Antisocial is in a Stephen King film. And this was possibly my favorite song of theirs at the time, being the socially awkward misfit that I was (am). Anthrax!!! \m/ 🙂

My Top Ten Stephen King Movies

Welcome to Day Two of Stephen King Week! King turns 70 on Thursday so I’m going to post something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch, yesterday), two movie reviews (including the new It film tomorrow), and two Top Ten lists. Here’s my list of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies.

I love when Stephen King’s novels are made into movies, even though some of the films have been atrociously bad. But I do my best to watch every adaptation that I can, and… Holy shit – I’ve watched a lot. I think this is the longest list I’ve ever done since I now choose to rank everything that I’ve seen instead of just the top ten. Wait – I lie! My list of My Top “Ten” Best Picture Oscar Winners is slightly longer. But not much.

For this list, I’ve excluded TV shows & most straight-to-TV mini-series(es?!). I cheated & included It (1990) & Salem’s Lot (1979), however. They’re so good we’ll pretend they were theatrical releases (which they actually were in the UK, I think). Some others may have been TV – hard to remember. Enough faffing! Let’s start this countdown.

Here are My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (from least favorite to favorite & not judging on if they’re “loyal” to the book). I could do with re-watching a lot outside the top twenty so don’t take the order of those too seriously… 😉

**Edited October 22nd 2017 to add Gerald’s Game & 1922**

The Rest That I’ve Seen:

43. The Mangler
42. Sleepwalkers
41. The Lawnmower Man (WTF? Shares only the title.)
40. Dolan’s Cadillac
39. Rose Red
38. The Night Flier (Don’t really remember this)
37. Sometimes They Come Back
36. Dreamcatcher (Why, Morgan?!)
35. Quicksilver Highway
34. Desperation (Also don’t really remember)
33. 1922
32. Cell
31. Storm Of The Century
30. A Good Marriage
29. Carrie (2013)
28. The Dark Half
27. Apt Pupil
26. Dolores Claiborne (Could do with re-watching)
25. Thinner
24. Secret Window
23. Needful Things
22. The Langoliers
21. Hearts In Atlantis (I need to re-watch this – it probably deserves to be higher)

Top Twenty:

20. Christine (Again, I could do with re-watching this)
19. 1408
18. Firestarter
17. Cujo (Although the complete change of ending was odd)
16. Maximum Overdrive (I like this more than I should. The soundtrack helps.)
15. Children Of The Corn (I like this. Not ashamed. Malachai!)
14. Creepshow 1 & 2 (I could do with re-watching. To be honest, I’m not sure which is which so stuck them together)
13. Misery (I know this should be higher)
12. Silver Bullet (I know this should be lower but, you know, it has one of the Two Coreys…)
11. Cat’s Eye

Top Ten:

10. TIE: The Running Man & Gerald’s Game

9. ‘Salem’s Lot

8. The Dead Zone

7. Pet Sematary

6. The Mist

5. TIE: It (1990) & It (2017) (In all honesty, the 2017 adaptation is the superior film but I’ll always have affection for the 1990 version and, of course, Tim Curry)

4. The Green Mile

3. Carrie

2. The Shining

1. TIE: Stand By Me & The Shawshank Redemption (Sorry. Don’t make me choose between them!)

Movies Not Seen:
Graveyard Shift, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, Children Of The Corn II through VIII & TV Movie, Sometimes They Come Back…Again & …For More, Trucks, The Rage: Carrie 2, Firestarter 2, Carrie (2002), The Diary Of Ellen Rimbauer, Riding The Bullet, ‘Salem’s Lot (2004), Big Driver, The Dark Tower

TV Series/TV Movies:

Golden Years, The Tommyknockers, The Stand, The Shining (1997), Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Haven (Saw most of. Stopped watching when it stopped being pretty damn good.)

Didn’t finish:
Under The Dome (Started. Stopped. Not bothered. Hated the book’s characters.), The Dead Zone (2002) (Saw most of this. Pretty good show. Need to finish.), 11.22.63 (Started. Just don’t have the time to devote to TV shows nowadays.)

Not Seen:
Bag Of Bones, Kingdom Hospital, Mr. Mercedes, The Mist (2017), Various short stories…

**I cannot WAIT for Castle Rock to start up as I adore King’s short stories & want to see more of them made! But it’s gonna air on this Hulu thingymabob so who the hell knows how/when/if I’ll ever see that in the UK… 😦

End Of Watch by Stephen King (Book Review)

Welcome to Stephen King Week! King turns 70 on Thursday so I’m going to post something King-related these next five days. One book review, two movie reviews, and two Top Ten lists. Here’s my review of his novel End Of Watch.

End Of Watch by Stephen King (Part III of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Retired Detective Bill Hodges now runs a two-person firm called Finders Keepers with his partner Holly Gibney. They met in the wake of the ‘Mercedes Massacre’ when a queue of people was run down by the diabolical killer Brady Hartsfield.

Brady is now confined to Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, in an unresponsive state. But all is not what it seems: the evidence suggests that Brady is somehow awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

The clock is ticking in unexpected ways …

My Thoughts:

I previously reviewed the first two books in this trilogy: Mr. Mercedes (HERE) & Finders Keepers (HERE). The first book is still the best but I enjoyed this final book much more than the one in the middle, which didn’t feature enough of our main Mr. Mercedes characters. It was good to again have Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney & Jerome Robinson as the stars of this one. Oh, and Brady Hartsfield, of course. The wanker.

I love King most when he’s doing his “supernatural thing”. Give me the weird stuff! So Mr. Mercedes being a straightforward crime novel wasn’t really my type of thing. However, he developed these really enjoyable characters who work so well together and it was such a good story that Mr. Mercedes is fairly high up on my list of my favorite King books (But does it make it into the top ten? You’ll find out on Thursday when I rank all 47 King books that I’ve read 😉 ).

I’d heard that this final book was a supernatural one so I was very much looking forward to reading it. I have to say that, yes, it was a little strange to go from crime drama to supernatural horror but I suppose King decided to end on what he does best. The story itself is fine. King has certainly had better stories within this genre so End Of Watch isn’t going to be one that really stands out compared to his very best books. I also felt that the story ended too easily & abruptly. We needed a bigger “end” (I won’t spoil what happens) to the story of Brady Hartsfield. He’s such a bastard, we needed a little something more than what we got at the end.

But the thing that has made this such a good trilogy, the characters & their relationships with each other, is done pretty well in this final book and I’m happy with the “end” we had for Bill, Holly & Jerome’s friendship. I’m especially fond of Holly, although she’s probably a love her or hate her character for some. What can I say? I can relate to her socially awkward weirdness! And she’s a movie geek – I gotta love that.

King doesn’t exactly do anything too unusual or original with these characters but you can’t help but like them. I know it may seem unrealistic or “contrived” sometimes but I want to like the characters in a story. If I don’t give a shit about the characters, I’m unlikely to care about the story. For example: I recently watched The Lobster & The Wave (the 2015 Norwegian disaster flick). The Lobster is extremely original and well regarded by critics while The Wave is a predictable disaster film. I far preferred The Wave, which spent far more time on its characters than you usually get within the disaster genre. I quickly grew bored of The Lobster’s quirk and didn’t care what would happen to anyone. I suppose that makes me mainstream. But so does liking Stephen King. I don’t care – I want to be entertained & King has managed to keep this fan happy for a good 30 years now. End Of Watch isn’t going to change the world or win any awards. It probably ranks somewhere in the middle of all his books if ranked on “quality” but, overall, this was a fun & memorable trilogy thanks to the characters King created.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– Blaze by Stephen King
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– End Of Watch by Stephen King
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

**Currently reading some more of King’s son’s work: The Fireman by Joe Hill

Stephen King Week At CPD

Hi all! Starting on Monday, I’ve decided to do a Stephen King Week on my blog. King turns 70 next week so I’m going to post something King-related Monday through Friday. One book review, two movie reviews (including the new It film), and two Top Ten lists. Unlike certain political leaders, I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. I hope to chat with some fellow fans next week. 🙂

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Book Review)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.

My Thoughts:

I read this as, which you may notice by my list at the end of this review, I’m reading books before their movie adaptations are released this year. The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson & Naomi Watts, is out today in the U.S. and October 6th in the U.K. I’m a fan of Larson, especially after the fantastic Room as well as Short Term 12 (which was also from the director of The Glass Castle, Destin Daniel Cretton). So, even though “true story dramas” don’t normally appeal to me, I decided to give this a read since I’ll happily watch a movie with this film’s cast. I didn’t expect the book to quite possibly be my very favorite that I’ve read so far this year. But, I think it probably is. What a pleasant surprise.

I liked the way in which Walls wrote her story. It’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t seem to be passing judgement on her parents & the way in which they chose to raise their children. Like a lot of people raised in small-town American Midwest, my childhood was pretty straightforward (and pretty damn boring). Not rich, not poor, working parents, regularly attended school, followed all the rules & the “societal norms”, etc. The Walls family are unlike any I’ve ever personally known and I found their story fascinating. I suppose there are other nomadic families in America but it’s a world I’ve never experienced & can’t even begin to imagine. The Walls family moved from place to place all across America, sometimes homeless & living out in the open, rarely holding down regular jobs despite having the ability to work (including the mother having the qualifications for teaching) and despite the fact that their children had to dig their classmates’ uneaten lunches out of the trash at school in order to have anything to eat. I was often shocked by the horrendous neglect endured by Jeannette, her two sisters, and her brother (and amazed that these children were never taken away from their parents). However, as I said, Jeannette never really speaks poorly of her parents – she just tells her story in a straightforward manner without the need to embellish things. Their story is so outrageous that I don’t think you could make up half of the odd things their parents did. Yet Jeannette does still give us glimpses of the love their parents had for them, especially from her father through his many broken promises that I think he himself may have genuinely believed he’d keep even though his children knew he never would.

This is a hard book to describe without making it sound horribly depressing but it’s not really that way at all. It’s truly amusing and at times had me smiling at some of the bizarre things this family went through (like when they try to move a piano into their house). Jeannette’s parents, though they will sometimes make you very angry if you read this, are truly a couple of unique characters & free spirits. It’s highly unusual for me to enjoy (or even bother to read) a true story but, as they say, sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Do they say that? Hmm. Well, someone said that. Sounds like something Jeannette’s father would say. I don’t know if I’ve talked anyone into reading this but I do highly recommend it. It’s frustrating. It’s uplifting. It’ll make you angry. It’ll make you smile. It’ll make you shake your head in disbelief. You won’t know whether you want to hug or punch the parents (most likely the latter). But it’s also not soppy or trying to be some big tearjerker, which is the kind of thing that gets on my nerves. It’s just a well-written story of a girl who somehow managed to survive & to thrive after living a truly unusual childhood with two very eccentric parents. The movie has “meh” reviews so far & the below trailer doesn’t really blow me away (although I’ll still watch it). So, if you can, READ THE BOOK FIRST.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing after his adversary, “the man in black”, for many years. The novel fuses Western fiction with fantasy, science fiction and horror, following Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.

My Thoughts:

Another quickie book review! I figured I better “review” The Gunslinger since The Dark Tower movie is out now in the US (and out August 18th in the UK). Not many positive reviews so far, though! Damn.

Stephen King is easily my favorite author. I’ve read almost all of his books other than The Dark Tower series, which never really appealed to me for some reason. I got into King in my early teens (maaaaaaany years ago now) and I did read The Gunslinger early on but didn’t remember a thing about it other than that I didn’t really enjoy it at the time. Therefore, I guess that’s why I never continued. I hate re-reading books. Don’t know why. But I obviously had to re-read this one before I could continue with the series & the movie coming out has finally forced me to read it again.

I lie – I do remember one thing from reading it many years ago. Desert! Lots of desert. I remember the book dragging in the first half (in the desert). Reading the book again now, I wonder if I didn’t actually finish it as I remembered nothing at all from the second half of the book, which I found much more enjoyable. The story really picked up once Roland met up with Jake (toward the end of the long desert journey). I mean, I love King but a guy walking alone through a desert gets a bit boring after a while. Maybe I just don’t like stories set in the desert? Nah, that can’t be – I love post-apocalyptic desert landscapes (like in Mad Max: Fury Road or the book Wool). And I don’t mind long journeys (like in The End Of The World Running Club or King’s own The Long Walk or, you know, The Lord Of The F*^king Rings…). So. I dunno. Wow, I suck at reviews lately.

I think the main problem may have been that I didn’t really buy into the character of Roland Deschain. I didn’t like him (not that you’re meant to). He’s so stoic. Having to walk through the desert with that guy would be a total drag. I made him super hot in my head, though, so that helped. Oh! I did like the flashbacks to when he was young & being trained to one day fight to declare his manhood. The flashbacks & the time spent with Jake were the best bits (for me) and made up for the bits that dragged on a bit too long (like the time spent in Tull, although I liked his relationship with the woman while there). The “man in black” was a disappointment but I’m assuming we get a lot more of that story in the remaining books…

Well, I did like this book more than it probably sounds from this so-called review. I’m probably rating it half a point more than I otherwise would since a) it’s Stephen King & b) I can see a lot of potential for the remaining books. I’m assuming this first book barely even scratches the surface of this story. You really learn nothing whatsoever about Roland & the “man in black” and I found it entertaining enough to want to continue & learn more, especially about Roland’s past. I’ll read the rest. Eventually…

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

Oh, and it looks like the Mr. Mercedes TV series is starting today on the Audience (?!) network in the US. So I don’t know how I’ll see that in the UK but I’d like to as I enjoyed the book (more than The Gunslinger). Here’s the trailer for the show, starring Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Mary-Louise Parker, Kelly Lynch & Ann Cusack:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Book Review)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian, Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government, the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but didn’t love this book. I’ll be honest and say I knew nothing about it until the TV series started and, when hearing that the novel was “feminist dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi”, I was all “WHAT? That’s so my type of thing!!”. It’s a very good book. I can see why it’s a modern classic but I can’t say it’s one I’ll ever call a favorite of mine.

This is a novel that’s worthy of thorough analysis & discussion. You’re SO not gonna get that on my silly little movie blog! 😉 I’m happy to discuss it with any of you in the comments if you want but I think there are far better places online to find good write-ups of it. I would imagine that The Handmaid’s Tale is now studied in high schools (or perhaps colleges – Americans can be extremely uptight, so the sexual content would probably keep it out of high schools). Or… Is it? It should be studied & discussed, especially as it’s worryingly feeling more & more like a future that’s entirely possible in our lifetimes. I do remember when the TV series started & some people online were all “This show is obviously  anti-Trump!”. Ha! Hilarious. This show based on the book from 1985. Do these people not realize that seeing so many similarities between this book’s “fictional” dystopian future & modern day politics is scary as f*%k?!?!

I think it’s unfortunate, in a way, that this book has been labelled “feminist” as this term bizarrely has negative connotations to some people and would probably keep them from reading it. It’s a very well-written & important piece of work that deserves recognition alongside old literary classics (although I suppose that 1985 is now “old” – it just seems like yesterday to me since I’m so damn old myself). At what point is a modern classic no longer a modern classic? Okay – I’m old & depressed now. Where were we?

Oh yeah – Feminist dystopia. Don’t let labels keep you from reading this book if it interests you. Even Margaret Atwood doesn’t approve of this being labelled sci-fi & prefers to call it “speculative fiction” (I read that HERE at Wikipedia, where there’s an interesting bit about the book’s genre classification). Sci-fi does bring futuristic technology to mind whereas this book, although set in the future, feels like it’s set hundreds of years ago due to society’s regression. Once again, it’s scary as hell as it’s starting to feel like we may be headed in that direction.

As for this book’s overall “readability” (as in, is it at all enjoyable as opposed to just worthy), I’d say it has a tiny bit of that “They’ve forced me to read this book in school” thing going on. I don’t really mean that as an insult & I personally found the story itself entirely engrossing. The story kept me very interested and turning the pages but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. Also, I’m not one of these annoying people who require an explanation for EVERYTHING but you really don’t find much out in this book. Whatever happened to cause this apocalyptic(?) future is never fully explained and things from the past are only hinted at through the vague thoughts of Offred, our main character. I felt like we didn’t really get to know her, which made it hard to connect with her. Although I know that’s kind of the point as any kind of emotion must be hidden & she’s living her life in constant fear. Atwood also has an odd sort of writing style, which I think further made it slightly difficult to fully connect with the book. Fantastic concept & great story but a book I can’t say I loved since I didn’t have much of a connection with the characters.

As for the current TV series, I did watch the first episode after finishing the book. Rubbish. I won’t be continuing. Sorry to anyone who’s a fan of the show but, if you’ve not read the book, I definitely recommend it over what I’ve seen of the show. Long, drawn out scenes for zero reason other than to appear “deep & brooding”.  Added violence that was not in the book (what was done to Janine didn’t happen in the book). And the episode ends with, I think, a final line that is, very importantly, never said in the book. Why?!?! After that, I knew I couldn’t continue. They’re clearly going to change too much & piss me off. And now, hearing there’s a SECOND season?!? Piss off. Don’t milk it. End it where it’s meant to end. Pffft. Adaptations annoy the hell out of me sometimes. Skip the show & go straight to the book with this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Now currently reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Book Review)

The film adaptation of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon comes out today in the United States. It was directed by Stella Meghie and stars Amandla Stenberg & Nick Robinson. I must admit that I really enjoyed this book and am annoyed about the three month wait to see the film in the United Kingdom (the release date is set for the 18th of August here). Here’s my review of the novel…

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The novel centers on 18-year-old Madeline Whittier, who has severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), also known as “bubble baby disease”. Due to her condition, Madeline is stuck inside her house in Los Angeles, where she lives with her mother, a physician who takes care of her.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. But I must admit that it’s a full-on “Young Adult” teen book. I know plenty of grown-ups like myself who still read YA stuff and there have been some fantastic novels in this genre. Unfortunately, though, the Young Adult label has a somewhat negative connotation to it nowadays. This is probably partly due to the fact that there seems to be so much of it now. There wasn’t half as much of it around when I was a young adult myself. Man, I’d have especially loved the post-apocalyptic dystopian thing that is so overused in this genre now. 

What’s my point? I’m getting off topic! I think my point is this: don’t automatically assume a book isn’t good just because it has the YA label. Some feel very teenage while others are just really good stories that transcend any sort of recommended age range (is Harry Potter considered YA? I would assume so). And like them or not, The Hunger Games books don’t immediately make me think “ugh, teenagers!!!”. 

Some YA, however, is very teen and Everything, Everything is clearly written with its teenage audience in mind. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming to please your target audience. This would’ve probably been a favorite book of mine if it had been around in my early to mid-teens (although it would’ve been a very rare favorite in the romance genre as it’s not often that I go for a love story of any sort). As an adult, I can’t say this could now ever be a favorite book of mine but I did find it a very enjoyable read (easily one of the most enjoyable I’ve read so far this year). It has a fairly unique story, an unconventional romance, and a really likable main character. 

I think a lot of YA novels don’t always write convincing teenage characters, probably because the authors are usually adults. The characters either seem too grown-up or too childish and are often hard to like. I think Yoon got the right balance with the character of Madeline as she felt like a real 18-year-old with the hopes & dreams you’d expect from a girl who has been stuck in her home for 18 years due to having severe combined immunodeficiency. She was intelligent but not mature beyond her years and, most importantly (to me), she was very likable in a convincing sort of way. I do think that not enough attention was given to the other characters: the neighbor boy she falls in love with, her mother, and the nurse who cares for her during the day. We don’t get to know any of them as well as I’d have liked but I can forgive this as it’s not a very long book. Madeline is very much the novel’s main focus and I was happy with her character. 

I’m having a hard time explaining why I liked this one… I doubt I’ve talked anyone into reading it! But if you do really like YA novels (probably aimed more at a female audience in this case), this is one I’d definitely recommend as a lightweight but entertaining read. Madeline has had to find ways to keep herself entertained while being a “prisoner” in her own home so we get to see some fun drawings & doodles of hers throughout the book plus we get to read e-mails & instant messages between her and the neighbor boy she falls for. These gimmicks may not be for everyone but I like books that have this sort of thing as it makes it a bit more personal & fun to read. It also shows how Madeline has managed to maintain a sense of humor through her illness. Plus, as I said, I just liked the story/setup. It’s a topic I’ve found interesting ever since seeing John Travolta in The Boy In The Plastic Bubble (Ha! The 1976 TV movie… I totally just aged myself). Well, that movie was far from “good” and Everything, Everything has done a much better job of telling the story of a teenager with the “bubble baby” disease. Plus I really wanted to see what/if/how things would be resolved in this book. I will of course stay spoiler-free but the ending probably left people divided (and that’s all I’ll say). I liked it. I hope they’ve done a good film adaptation. 

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the trailer for the movie (but I think it gives away too much of the story so skip the trailer if you want to know as little as possible…):

The books I’ve read so far in 2017, from least favorite to favorite:

15. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
14. Tape by Steven Camden
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

And I’m currently in the middle of reading Blaze by Stephen King (so far, so good). 🙂

The Dinner by Herman Koch (Book Review)

I’m reviewing the book The Dinner by Herman Koch as the movie is released today in the U.S. There’s currently no U.K. release date scheduled. The movie was directed by Oren Moverman & stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Adepero Oduye & Chloë Sevigny.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but it’s probably not for everyone. I’ll avoid plot spoilers but I’ll tell you that none of the characters are very likable, which puts a lot of readers off (including me, usually). The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading, however, and it’s not a long book so it’s a pretty quick read. It might be worth your time if the plot synopsis interests you. However, it’s also the type of story that should work well as a movie so, if it’s a decent adaptation, you might want to skip the book. I’ll let you know if the movie does the book justice (if the movie ever gets a U.K. release date)! It’s a film I’m definitely wanting to check out as it’s one I feel could possibly improve on the book if handled well. The cast seems promising.

I liked the way the story was presented as courses instead of “Chapters”: Appetiser, Main, Dessert, etc etc (I can’t remember all the posh terms for all the different courses. Never knew there were so many courses to a fancy meal!). We slowly learn more & more about the four adults having this meal together while the story of the horrible act commited by their teenage sons comes to light.

I’m not going to say much more as the story is pretty straightforward and there’s not much more I could say anyway without spoiling it. I’ll say it’s a decent character study but doesn’t explore all the moral implications as much as it could have. By the end, it felt more shallow than I was hoping for. That’s why I’m hopeful for the possibility of a really good film adaptation as there’s some meaty material here for a really good set of screenwriters & actors to sink their teeth into. We’ll see. The Dinner isn’t as deep & meaningful as it could’ve been but it’s still an intriguing story told in a fairly original way and I’d say I enjoyed it more than several of the other 13 books I’ve read so far this year.

My Rating: 3/5

**Yes, I’m keeping a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year. At the moment, this is probably how I’d rank them (from least favorite to favorite). If you really want to know… 😉 I hope to review them all by the end of the year:

14. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

(And, yes, I’m focusing on reading books that have been movies/TV shows recently or will be very soon) 🙂

The Circle by Dave Eggers (Book Review)

The film adaptation of The Circle by Dave Eggers is out today in the US (there’s no current UK release date that I can find. Hmm…). It was directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly & Bill Paxton (R.I.P.). I’ll probably try to go to the film at some point, so will of course review that if I do. For now, here’s my review of the novel…

The Circle by Dave Eggers

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Fast, thrilling and compulsively addictive, The Circle is Dave Eggers’ bestselling novel about our obsession with the internet and where it may lead. When Mae Holland lands her dream job at the world’s most powerful internet company, she has no idea what awaits behind the doors of The Circle…

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books where I loved the concept & agreed with its stance that, basically, the Internet & big corporations (such as the one that Fincher’s The Social Network is about) are evil. Okay, yes – I’m a blogger and I admit that I love to tweet but I’d happily hop into a time machine to go back to the Eighties and live without this sort of technology as I think we were better off without it. The world is a dreadful place & we’re living in an Orwellian dystopia. But we actually brought this all on ourselves, which I think even Orwell didn’t fully foresee. Hell, even Orwell couldn’t predict something as absurd as the rise of the Kardashi-thingies & wannabes! 😉 I blame them for society’s devolution (enabled by the Internet, of course). But back to this book…

I bring up Orwell as The Circle is indeed in a similar vein to 1984. But dystopian novels are more popular than ever and this is yet another of many that come nowhere near that masterpiece. I was pretty disappointed with The Circle overall. I absolutely love this genre and, as I said, I fully agree with this novel’s beliefs so I did expect to thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, I’ve read 14 books so far this year (that’s a lot for me!) and this is possibly my least favorite. Damn. I didn’t expect that.

I found The Circle a bit too long & meandering. It started out okay but, by halfway through, it was becoming a bit of a chore to read as its lead character (Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson in the film) was becoming more and more and MORE unlikable. I think her character is the main problem I had with the novel as I always struggle to enjoy a book when I hate its main character. This can only very occasionally be made up for if the story is exceptionally good but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case with The Circle. I know the book’s whole point is that The Circle (the evil corporation in the story) is almost cult-like and that its believers follow blindly while the reader can see what’s really going on but, ugh, you just want to slap the shit out of Mae and knock some damn sense into her! I suppose Emma Watson is a good choice for the role in the film, though, as she’s seriously starting to get on my tits lately. But I’m hoping that the film will write her character slightly differently and give her some sense.

Well, I plan to check out the movie anyway since I always like to see how novels get adapted. Maybe they can actually improve on the book (it does happen sometimes). I still really like the overall idea behind the novel & its very obvious message even though I don’t think the story and its unlikable lead character do well to convey that message & the seriousness with which we should be taking it. I think I was just hoping for something a little more insightful and less obvious. The Circle doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know and I’m not sure if it was trying to be satirical or not but, if it was, it gave the novel an odd tone that didn’t really work. I prefer my dystopian literature to either be proper satire or full-on bleak, depressing dreariness! The Circle can’t quite decide what it wants to be but I do appreciate its effort to bring further attention to a very important topic we should be taking far more seriously. I think, unfortunately, the satire maybe doesn’t work simply because this book isn’t as exaggerated as Eggers may have originally intended. This story doesn’t feel like a distant future – it feels like it has already happened.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Here’s a trailer for the movie (as is often the case lately, I think it gives too much away):

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Book Review)

13 Reasons Why is a new young adult TV series being released on Netflix this Friday (March 31st). There will be 13 episodes (all available on Friday) and the show is based on the novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, in which a teenage boy receives a package containing audiotapes recorded by a classmate who has recently committed suicide. The show was directed by Spotlight’s Tom McCarthy & produced by Selena Gomez. I read the book recently so figured I should review it before the show airs. Here’s my review…

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

What It’s About: (via Goodreads)
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.”

My Thoughts:

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this book. I’ll say it was very “readable”. I usually take a good few weeks to read a book (due to lack of free time) but this was a quick & easy read plus I found that I really didn’t want to put it down as I was truly curious to see how it would end (I read it over a weekend). It’s an uncomfortable subject matter, however, and I still don’t know if I feel right about how it was handled. Plus, the below trailer for the TV show makes it look almost like an “exciting mystery”, which I don’t think is necessarily a responsible way to market the story. I guess we’ll see how the show unfolds. This IS a book about suicide. The only “mystery” is why the girl did it, which she explains in her audiotapes. The trailer’s mood just feels a bit off to me.

I’ll say this is very much a teen book but it didn’t feel immature or like the author had dumbed it down for its target audience. My teenage years are far far (far!) behind me but this book feels like it was written in a way that would seem genuine & relevant to a modern teen. I know nothing of the book’s success but I would imagine that current teens can relate to it whereas I feel that certain other young adult books are too obviously written by authors whose teen years are far far (far!) behind them. Okay, yeah – I’ve just looked up the author (Jay Asher) and he’s my sort of age. I also think that he did a good job with the character of Hannah Baker, the girl who commits suicide. It can’t be easy for a middle-aged man to capture the feelings of a teenage girl but I think he did well with her character (probably even better than with the main male character, Clay Jensen).

I’ll of course avoid major spoilers but the main moral of this story is to treat people with kindness and to be aware of the signs to watch for that may indicate that someone is suicidal. I of course agree with this message and would love to think that this book could save some lives but, well, I don’t think the world works that way. If anything, it worries me that this story could play into the rather typical teenage thoughts about suicide: that whole “this will make people notice me & understand what I was going through” thing. No. The bullies, etc? They didn’t care beforehand & they wouldn’t care afterwards. I hope no one thinks that because of this book. However, from the other point of view, who knows? Maybe it would help some teens to notice the warning signs & perhaps offer someone some help. Maybe. The nice ones. (Is it obvious that I thought a lot of the people in my high school were uncaring assholes?!)

I admit that Thirteen Reasons Why was a bit of a page-turner, even if the subject matter left me feeling uncomfortable. Clay listens to several cassette tapes from Hannah, each focusing on a different classmate & the role each person played in her final decision. This meant we were told several stories as Clay listened to each tape, which was an interesting way to set up this novel. Hannah Baker was a well fleshed-out character though, interestingly, kind of hard to like. Maybe that was partly the point… Due to various incidents, she turned inward so I suppose she was kind of ignored. Clay Jensen comes across as a little less genuine but I think this is due to his seeming so simple in comparison to Hannah’s complexity. Overall I’d probably recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult fiction and who is emotionally stable. But I wouldn’t necessarily want anyone who is anything like Hannah Baker’s character to read it…

My Rating: 3/5

Here’s the trailer for the Netflix series, starring Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen & Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker:

Watership Down (1978) Blind Spot Review

Watership Down (1978)

Directed by Martin Rosen & John Hubley

Based on Watership Down by Richard Adams

Starring: John Hurt, Richard Briers, Michael Graham Cox, Roy Kinnear, Simon Cadell, Harry Andrews, Zero Mostel

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A group of rabbits flee their doomed warren and face many dangers to find and protect their new home.

My Opinion:

This is my second Blind Spot movie of 2017 after watching & reviewing The Hustler in January. I’ve never read the Watership Down book by Richard Adams and have managed to avoid spoilers for years. I’d only ever heard that the movie is “sad” so I will of course avoid giving any major spoilers in this review.

I’m still not quite sure what to think of this film. I watched it over a month ago & it goes up in my estimation the more I think about it. It was very good & I liked it but know it’s one that would grow on me after multiple watches. I have to say that I wish I’d grown up with it as that would make me appreciate it in a different sort of way. I also very much want to read the book now as I think it would make more sense of the story (I was extremely tired the night I watched this. As usual). I want the kid to read more classics so I have a feeling she’ll be getting this book as a gift from mommy so we can read it together when she’s older. It’ll prepare her for the movie, which I wouldn’t allow her to watch yet. Yes, this film is indeed extremely violent for an animated “family” film. I’ll come back to that topic in a bit…

Watership Down is very different from modern-day animated films. I mean that in a good way, though. It has the soul & bravery that a lot of classic kids’ stories had in the 1970s but which have been sucked out of the sanitized & meaningless “Happy Meal toy seller” movies pumped out by Hollywood nowadays. To quote two bits of trivia at IMDB, Watership Down is “considered to be the most violent animated PG-rated film ever made.” Also, “The British Board of Film Classification is still receiving complaints about this film after it was made almost 40 years ago.

It’s funny to think that, although I didn’t see this as a kid, I’d have probably seen it by the age of six or seven and my parents would’ve thought nothing of it whereas no one would let a kid that age watch this film now. I just find it amusing what people protect their kids from nowadays. They’ll shield them from an allegorical classic such as this but will think nothing of letting them have unmonitored Internet & social media access. They’ll think nothing of letting them do so many things that are far more psychologically damaging than watching Watership Down. Don’t worry – I’m not getting on my soapbox since, even though I know I’d have seen this by the time I was my kid’s age if I’d had the opportunity, there’s no WAY I’d let her watch this! Lol. 😉 Not yet. I’ll check out the book first as that seems like the better introduction but, to give a slight spoiler warning, this movie goes full-on “Bunny Road House at the end! I expected a polar bear to fall on someone. I expected Sam Elliott (stud) to show up & help guide the bunnies to safety. Be nice until it’s time to not be nice, little bunnies!

I often say “I’m now interested in reading the book” after watching a movie that I liked but I rarely do it as I don’t like doing it that way around (I try to always read the book before the movie adaptation if it’s something that interests me). I mean it this time, however. It strikes me as one that will go far deeper in the book as the rabbits have their entirely own culture, belief system, language, etc. The movie touches on this very well and I loved the look and animation style used at the start of the film to help explain their culture but would assume, as is usually the case, that the book will explain even more. The story being an allegory of many things, but mainly humanity in general, I’d like to read the book to more easily draw the parallels.

Finally, for those interested in the book or movie, I’ll say that it follows the classic Joseph Campbell “hero’s journey” sort of theme, which always makes for a great story. The epic journey and mythological themes also reminded me of just how much I loved The Warriors. Yes, that’s right! I did indeed just compare Watership Down to The Warriors & Road House. That’s a massive compliment because those movies are awesome. Okay – I’ve talked myself into it now: I really really liked Watership Down. It’s a fantastically epic allegorical journey worthy of its “classic” status. And Road House Bunny Warriors kick ass.

To end this review, I thought I better make mention of the book’s author (Richard Adams) and the voice our main character Hazel (brilliantly done by John Hurt). Both sadly passed away very recently and it’s just a coincidence that I chose this as a Blind Spot movie as I’d been wanting to see it for years. So, in their honor, I’m happy to say that Watership Down is a wonderful story and I’m very glad to have added another John Hurt classic to my recent list of My Top Ten John Hurt Movies (a list which is still sadly missing a few big films I have yet to see). I’ve now updated that list & Watership Down is very high (ain’t nothing gonna beat Alien, though! EVER). I hadn’t realized just how many voices Hurt had done for animated films and, based on how great he was in this, I’m now moving Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord Of The Rings (in which he voices Aragorn) much further up my “To Watch” list. So far, I’m very happy with my 2017 Blind Spot choices.

My Rating: 8/10

Here’s Art Garfunkel doing the Bright Eyes song from Watership Down. The song is actually only very briefly featured in the film – I expected to hear the whole thing…

**FYI: Netflix & the BBC are making a new Watership Down mini-series with a pretty impressive cast (James McAvoy, John Boyega, Nicholas Hoult, Ben Kingsley, and Gemma Arterton to name a few). This will apparently air sometime this year. I can’t find more current information on it but you can read an old article about it HERE at Will be interesting to see but I’ll read the book first. I’m sure this version will be a watered-down Watership Down… 

Oh, I actually managed to go to a movie over the weekend! And it was almost as violent as Watership Down. See you tomorrow with my review of John Wick: Chapter 2. 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Book Review)

Big Little Lies is a seven-episode series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman & Shailene Woodley. It’s airing on HBO in America this Sunday (19th of February) and looks like it will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK sometime in March.

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, the show was created by David E Kelley & directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (director of films such as Wild & Dallas Buyers Club). Having just read the book, I figured it was time I do a quick book review for anyone who may be interested in either the novel or the TV show…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Perfect family, perfect house, perfect life; Jane, Madeline and Celeste have it all . . . or do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.

My Thoughts:

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as it’s certainly not my usual sort of genre (give me Stephen King, fantasy, dystopian, or post-apocalyptic!). Is it chick lit? I hate that term – It’s so condescending. And I hate the so-called chick lit genre as it tends to be the “silly” books that are given this label. I suppose it’s certainly aimed at female readers, though.

I haven’t read reviews at all but I would assume the main comparison being used to describe this book’s story & overall feel is Desperate Housewives, which would be extremely accurate. I have a confession: I’m not a girly girl & watch very few girly things but I watched all of Desperate Housewives (despite its AWFUL title, which almost made me not watch it in the first place). But then the opening DH scene started with a tragic death and a woman who then happily realized that it meant she wouldn’t have to return (some kitchen appliance she’d borrowed – can’t remember) to the now-dead woman. And I was hooked! Well-written dark humor with rich characters is something I can get behind. Who cares what label you give it? I don’t think Big Little Lies is quite as good as that first season of Desperate Housewives (as with all shows, DH went badly downhill in later years) and it doesn’t have as much of that darkly humorous streak but it’s a fun satire on parents, particularly mothers, and the crazy world of school politics.

Big Little Lies starts with a tragic & unexplained death on the night of the adult-only trivia fundraiser taking place at the novel’s school. Our three main characters, Jane, Madeline & Celeste, each have five-year-olds attending their first year of school. This is a fairly long book that I found a very quick read thanks to the way it was broken up into so many chapters & the way most chapters ended with statements from witnesses who were there on the trivia night. After the opening chapter in which someone has died, the novel then goes back to the beginning of the school year to introduce us to all our main potential victims and murderers. I loved not even knowing who ends up the victim, which kept me reading as I was anxious to find out. The witness statements at the end of the chapters give us little clues along the way as to what may have happened.

Big Little Lies isn’t exactly some piece of “worthy literature” but it was a light & entertaining read and should make for an enjoyable TV series. I’d actually like to see them up the dark humor for the show if they can. The book sounds more shallow than it actually is – It tackles some heavy issues, especially at the end, but it could’ve done with sticking more to its sassy satire we mainly glimpse in the witness statements and through the character of Madeline. Speaking of Madeline, the casting of Reese Witherspoon for this role is absolute perfection – I can totally see her as this outwardly superficial character with the deep down heart of gold. I can also see Woodley & Kidman as Jane & Celeste now even though Celeste won’t be how I pictured looks-wise but Kidman definitely has the right sort of personality & manner to suit the role well. With a lot of big names involved, including Jean-Marc Vallée as the director, I think the show is in good hands & I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the UK trailer for the TV show. I think they’ve upped the drama! Hope the show doesn’t take itself too seriously…

Finders Keepers by Stephen King (Book Review)

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
Finders Keepers is the second volume in a trilogy focusing on Detective Bill Hodges, following Mr. Mercedes. The book is about the murder of reclusive writer John Rothstein (an amalgamation of John Updike, Philip Roth, and J. D. Salinger), his missing notebooks and the release of his killer from prison after 35 years.

My Thoughts:

I found the first book in this trilogy, Mr Mercedes, very enjoyable (I reviewed it HERE). Stephen King managed to create some of his most likable characters in that book so I can see why it became a trilogy as I was, and I’m sure a lot of people were, happy to continue reading about retired detective Bill Hodges and his odd assortment of friends & now colleagues. I’ve heard good things about the final book and someone hinted that it goes a bit more supernatural, which is much more my kind of thing than a straightforward crime novel, so I’m really looking forward to reading it this year. However, I found this second book quite weak compared to the first one and slightly disappointing overall for a King novel.

I’m not going to do an in-depth review since one of my blog goals this year is to keep my book reviews short. King is easily my favorite author so, when I find a book of his slightly disappointing, it’s still likely that I enjoyed it more than a lot of books that I’ve read from other authors. That’s the case this time – I enjoyed the book but it’s certainly not as good as Mr Mercedes and is one of the more forgettable King novels compared to his other work.

I found I didn’t care about the characters in this one (a young boy, who finds the notebooks & money stolen from a murdered author, and that boy’s family). The boy’s family is struggling with money thanks to the dad being hurt by the Mercedes Killer in the first book. The Finders Keepers murderer himself is uninteresting and it takes quite a long time for Bill Hodges & his friends from the first book to even make an appearance. I kept reading & thinking “When do we get to see the Mr Mercedes characters?!”. I did like the idea of a famous author having so much material hidden away from the world and it may have been nice to actually learn a little more about this author before he was murdered at the very beginning of this novel. He seemed more interesting than the other new characters in this book.

Oh well – it’s a decent story, we get to see Bill Hodges & his friends again, and we get to now move on to the final book (which I’m hoping will be as good as the first one and doesn’t make the mistake of straying from our favorite characters too much).

My Rating: 3/5