Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli & Every Day by David Levithan (Book Reviews)

I recently posted mini-reviews of these books in my March Roundup of all that I watched & read last month. I’m posting these same reviews again as Love, Simon is now out in UK cinemas and Every Day has a release date of April 20th.

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

The movie adaptation of this (Love, Simon) came out in UK cinemas last Friday. This is a YA book (yeah, I do like YA books) and it’s one of the better ones I’ve read in this genre in the past few years. I’m not normally one for YA “romance” (give me the apocalyptic stuff!) but this one was done well and I really bought into this relationship. In the book, Simon is a gay high school student who connects with then starts an anonymous online relationship with another student at his school. I’ve never wanted a couple to get together so bad! The boy Simon talks to is extremely protective of his identity and Simon struggles with this as he wants to meet the boy he’s fallen in love with. I was like “Tell him who you are!!” (you, the reader, aren’t aware of his identity either). Beyond that, there’s not much to say about this book as it’s a fairly typical YA romance. But it’s a good one. I can’t wait to see the movie, which has had excellent reviews. I’ve even heard rumors of it having a John Hughes vibe?! Sounds good to me!

My Rating: 4/5

Every Day by David Levithan

This is a book that I read because, like Mortal Engines (mini-review HERE), I loved the original concept. It’s hard to find stories that feel unique. And, again, it’s a YA romance (Ugh. Sorry!). Here’s the synopsis from Amazon: “Each morning, A wakes up in a different body. There’s never any warning about who it will be, but A is used to that. Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. And that’s fine – until A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with – every day . . .” The story does feel truly original and I really appreciated that. However, I just didn’t quite connect with the characters. A, who switches bodies every single day, was very interesting as you get some insight into the mind of someone who doesn’t define themselves by their body, gender, family, friends, etc. since these things change every single day. As I said, it’s a great concept but the book is just okay. I didn’t find myself caring as much about these characters as I’d have liked. This also has a movie adaptation coming out this month, but the reviews are meh. I’ll still watch it to see how they handle the story, though.

My Rating: 3/5

Here are the trailers for the movies:

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Lights Out (2016) Review

Lights Out (2016)

Directed by David F. Sandberg

Based on Lights Out by David F. Sandberg

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, Maria Bello, Lotta Losten

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When her little brother, Martin, experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie.

My Opinion:

So, this was a great little short film on YouTube (link HERE). Watch it! It’s only a few minutes long. I was really surprised when I found out that this short film would be made into a long film (well, not really – it’s only 1 hour & 21 minutes!). I was expecting this to possibly be awful but then it got very positive reviews so I got excited since it’s difficult to find any decent horror movies these days. This film is okay. Not great, not awful, just average. I think people are just shocked when a horror film doesn’t 100% suck so they go a little overboard on praise. But it has some creepy moments & does show promise. Overall, it feels slightly more original than a lot of films in this genre nowadays.

I think the biggest problem with this longer film is that there’s now too much of an explanation of the “figure in the dark”. Why do so many horror films feel the need to spell everything out for us? I like a bit of a mystery! I’m more scared of the unknown & the unseen (or the barely glimpsed). Glimpsed is a very weird word, isn’t it? Say it ten times! Sounds bizarre. The mysterious “figure in the dark” in Lights Out is terrifying. THAT scares the shit out of me. Even now I’m not a fan of the dark & usually have a small light on somewhere when I go to bed. How many of us have been scared by strange human-shaped shadows in the dark?

So, for those of you who like a full backstory & explanation, I promise that you do get one. It’s not a bad story & I liked it fine but personally prefer the mystery of the short film. Everyone puts in a decent performance & I especially liked the characters of Teresa Palmer’s little brother & her hot metalhead boyfriend who is a total sweetheart. They all do some idiotic things, like the majority of horror movie characters, but I’ll forgive that this time since it’s a mega short film & goes straight into the action yet still manages an okay amount of character development considering its short running time. I found it kind of hilarious that Teresa Palmer was a metalhead chick because she had to grow up with a crazy mother who talked to strange figures in the dark. Because having a bad childhood naturally makes you listen to heavy metal! I must have had a bad childhood. Teresa Palmer looked really hot as a metalhead, though – I think the metal chick eyeliner suits her.

Oh, I hate being old. I didn’t read anything about this movie beforehand so, when it started, I thought Teresa Palmer & Maria Bello were going to be sisters instead of mother & daughter. Ugh. I suppose that makes sense since there’s a 19 year age difference (Yes, I looked up their ages). Both are older than I thought & I think Palmer is meant to be playing an early twentysomething when she’s actually 30 in real life. But, still – it’s depressing when you realize you’re at the age where you’re meant to be identifying with the parents or, even worse, the grandparents in movies. Not that I identify with the mother in THIS one – she’s completely bonkers! HA! Hahaha! HAHAHAHAHA!!!! I’m actually a hot twentysomething metal chick in my mind, at least. 😉

Lights Out isn’t perfect but it has some effective scary moments with creative use of lighting & sound. There were a few times in the cinema where the noises made by the dark figure sounded like they were coming from directly next to me so that was a bit unsettling (I know nothing about this sort of thing – maybe I was just in a good position in the theater). I also went to this alone and no one sat near me, which helps add to a movie’s creepiness. We end up knowing & seeing a bit too much to remain fully unsettled but, overall, this is a fairly good supernatural horror (my favorite type) and better than a lot of the current crap in this genre. But with films such as It Follows & especially the brilliant The Babadook finally proving that supernatural horror movies can be really damn good, other films in this genre are going to have to raise their game more than this one manages in order to keep me from being a little disappointed.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Just want to make a quick mention of Gene Wilder passing away yesterday. 2016 has been an awful year for celebrity deaths. The film & music industry have lost so many hugely talented people this year. R.I.P. Gene Wilder. Pure Imagination will always be my favorite moment of his…

Prisoners (2013) Review

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Prisoners (2013)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring:
Hugh Jackman
Jake Gyllenhaal
Viola Davis
Maria Bello
Terrence Howard
Melissa Leo
Paul Dano

Running time: 153 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
When two young girls go missing, the father of one of the girls (Hugh Jackman) feels he must take matters into his own hands while the police investigate but seem unable to find out what happened to his daughter & her friend.

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My Opinion:

This will be a quickie. I’ve been a terrible movie blogger lately! I’ve been busy so have done very few reviews & when looking at the list of films I’ve watched this year, I see I’ve not reviewed 24 of them. Pathetic! So I’ll try to crank out some short ones over the next few weeks. I’m too wordy anyway!

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The Story:

Prisoners is very highly rated & recommended but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by the end of the film as I left with far too many unanswered questions. The investigation didn’t feel at all like how one would go in real life (not that I exactly know). The cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) did far too much on his own. Don’t they have partners in real life? Especially for potentially dangerous situations? And there were a few things that seemed so obvious to anyone watching the film yet this cop, who has apparently solved every case he’s ever been on, completely misses these clues or figures them out too late. Like with a lot of movies in this genre, some of the characters do things that don’t make sense and you can’t help but get annoyed when they do something stupid. All in all, there were just far too many loose ends for me to be able to leave the cinema feeling satisfied by the story.

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The characters:

Luckily, the movie is helped by some believable characters & good performances. Hugh Jackman is by far the best thing about the film. He’s very good as the desperate father who will do whatever it takes to find his daughter. His wife (Maria Bello) didn’t have much to do but the parents of the other missing girl (Viola Davis & Terrence Howard) were also very good as two parents going through their worst nightmare.

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The thing that probably annoyed me most about this movie, aside from the problems I had with some plot holes, was the underdevelopment of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. His character felt like he had a very interesting backstory but this wasn’t explored at all and I left feeling like he must have more scenes that explained his character’s past but were left on the cutting room floor. Which is especially disappointing as, at a length of two and a half hours, you would think they could have devoted a little time to his past. Jackman’s character also suffered a bit from this lack of development. I don’t know. Seeing as the story just didn’t quite come together, getting to know a bit more about the characters & their motivations (what’s with the religion? being a survivalist? having nervous ticks & lots of tattoos?) would have been nice.

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Summary:

A tense thriller with some very good performances that’s unfortunately let down by an investigation that doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny & lack of character development. The film’s biggest strengths are the performances from its stars and some strong and (potentially) very interesting characters. However, these interesting characters deserved to have much more of the two and a half hour running time devoted to their development. I really felt like we were missing so much of whatever made Jackman’s and especially Gyllenhaal’s characters who they were. Had we learned more about these seemingly deep men with strong beliefs that aren’t explained, I’d have been able to overlook a few problems with the plot.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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That was still too wordy…