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) 🙂

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Starter For 10 (2006) Review

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Starter For 10 (2006)

Directed by Tom Vaughan

Produced by Tom Hanks, Pippa Harris & Sam Mendes

Written by David Nicholls

Starring:
James McAvoy
Alice Eve
Benedict Cumberbatch
Rebecca Hall
Dominic Cooper
Catherine Tate
James Corden

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Starter for 10 is a 2006 British comedy-drama film directed by Tom Vaughan from a screenplay by David Nicholls, adapted from his own novel Starter for Ten. The film stars James McAvoy as a university student who wins a place on a University Challenge quiz team.

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My Opinion:

I decided to watch this the other day after reading a review from the lovely Emma on MovieRob’s blog (HERE). I’d known about it but hadn’t known that it was set in my beloved 1980s until I read her review so that was all I needed to convince me to watch it.

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Starter For Ten is a book by David Nicholls. I’ve not read it (but Emma has & says it’s of course better than the movie). I did read One Day by David Nicholls and, although it’s very flawed, I still liked the book & the movie (despite the fact that Anne Hathaway was in it – staring at Jim Sturgess & his big brown eyes helped a little). Plus, as I said, Starter For 10 is set in the EIGHTIES! Woohoo! Well, unfortunately, the movie is a bit bland. And as for the 1980s, this is one of those movies where it doesn’t actually look or feel all that much like that decade even though they throw in as much music as possible from that era. Don’t get me wrong – I love 80’s music. At one point I looked at the hubby & said “are they actually playing my playlist?” as it’s filled with things like New Order, The Smiths, Tears For Fears and LOADS of songs from The Cure. It’s nice hearing a bunch of my favorite songs but, at the same time, it also feels very lazy on the part of the filmmakers. It’s like “See? Our movie is set in the eighties because we’re playing The Cure! Ignore Alice Eve with her big boobs & her very un-eighties clothes & blonde highlights – just listen to Motörhead!”

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I will say this movie is only really worth a watch if you’re a fan of any of its stars or if you enjoy similar British films. There are some very big names in Starter For 10 so it was fun seeing them just before most of them made it really big in blockbusters like the X-Men, Star Trek & Iron Man series of films. The storyline was extremely predictable to the point of almost being annoying (I’m talking especially about the romance!) but, when the group finally appear on the game show they’ve been preparing for, the film does get a little more fun. The movie is very “British” and I couldn’t help but compare it to Nick Hornby’s books & movies. I have to say I far prefer Hornby & would recommend his stuff over this (especially the book High Fidelity). Overall, Starter For 10 just didn’t really work for me. It’s not a bad movie but the predictable plot and one-dimensional characters just left me feeling “Meh. So what?”. Watch it if you like the actors but first check out some Nick Hornby. And The Cure’s greatest hits!

My Rating: 5.5/10

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Iron Man 3 (2013) Review

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IRON MAN 3

Directed by Shane Black

Starring:
Robert Downey, Jr.
Gwyneth Paltrow
Don Cheadle
Guy Pearce
Rebecca Hall
Stephanie Szostak
James Badge Dale
Jon Favreau
Ben Kingsley

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDB):

When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

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My Opinion on superhero movies:

I like superhero movies a lot but overall I’m not the absolute biggest fan of them. So this review comes from someone who has never touched a comic book (well, I did read Watchmen – does that count?) and who knows ONLY what has been shown of all the superheroes in their Hollywood movies.

The X-Men movies were probably the first superhero movies to make me geek-out a little. Actually… To be honest, I remember loving Tim Burton’s Batman and thinking Jack Nicholson was cool as hell as the Joker & I think I even bought some Joker earrings at the time (give me a break – I was in my early teens). Then things like (the Tobey Maguire) Spider-Mans came along (entertaining enough – not brilliant) and Fantastic Four (meh) and I was starting to get a little bored with the superhero thing. Then Batman Begins & The Dark Knight came along, re-inventing the genre & making truly stunning “films” instead of mere “comic book” movies. You had Iron Man the same year as The Dark Knight and I was loving the superhero thing again. And although Batman Begins is a better “film”, I probably enjoyed the first Iron Man movie more. I was so pleasantly surprised by the first Iron Man. I loved that it was somewhere between the superhero movies that were a little too cheesy (Fantastic Four) and the very dark & serious Nolan Batman films. I loved Tony Stark’s charming arrogance & internal struggle (Ha! Well, yeah – all superheroes have that internal struggle thing I guess). My point is, I loved the first Iron Man & he’s definitely one of my favorite comic book characters as portrayed by Hollywood in the last ten years or so. So I’m a little disappointed to have to say that Iron Man 3 is a bit weak compared to the first two.

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My Opinion on Iron Man 3:

I think a big part of the problem is that this follows on from The Avengers. So, really, how can you actually expect to top THAT? You’re going from having superheroes galore fighting bad-ass aliens with over the top, non-stop action back to one guy going it alone against a bad guy who isn’t going to seem much of a threat when compared with the threat to all of humanity that we saw in The Avengers. And could none of the Avengers give Tony Stark a hand in this one? After all he did to help out at the end of The Avengers?! Ingrates. 😉

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The Good:

Ben Kingsley. Loved him. Can’t go into it much but he’s great in this role.

Harley. Probably one of those things that will divide people but I liked this little sub-plot.

The focus on one superhero again. Yes, I know I’ve just contradicted what I said above. Having all the superheroes in The Avengers was exciting, so it’s hard to top that excitement. But I also found that to be slight overkill in The Avengers so it was kind of nice just having one superhero to focus on again. Which is why it’s a shame that this script was so weak on character development when they had the chance to fully focus on Tony Stark again (more on that below).

The Iron Man suits. And gadgets. Still cool.

It’s Iron Man and it’s still fun, even if it’s not as good of a film as the other two (especially the first one, which is by far the best).

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The Not-So-Good:

Robert Downey Jr. Wait! Keep reading! I’m not saying he’s bad. Maybe I mean Tony Stark… Aside from a few panic attacks he’s suffering from due to the stress of what happened to him at the end of The Avengers, he doesn’t seem as “internally conflicted” as in the first two. That internal conflict thing is important in these superhero movies! I think this is the fault of the script for this one – he’s just not as well-developed as in the other two. But I suppose it’s perhaps hard to keep that up for three films (four including The Avengers). We all know Tony Stark by now. And, unfortunately, Robert Downey Jr seems a little bored in this one. The performance feels a bit “phoned in”. Sorry. He’s still better than….

Guy Pearce. He didn’t really work for me in this role. Weak character overall, I think.

Maya. Not that the character was bad – the character was wasted. They could have done more with her.

Tony Stark/Pepper Potts relationship. Not feeling it so much in this one. Again, though, I think that’s the fault of a script that doesn’t give you very fully-realized characters this time around.

The plot. It’s a bit “so what”. Especially after The Avengers. Just not as “exciting” as a lot of other superhero movie plots.

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End Credits Scene: Yes, there is one. Should you stay for it? Yes, if you’re a “completist” who MUST stay for all end credits scenes. But it’s not totally necessary to see it… So I guess it depends on how badly you have to pee. 🙂

Summary:

A popcorn-worthy addition to the Iron Man set of films but the script and plot feel a bit weak overall and the characters feel under-developed. It’s okay but not as strong as the first Iron Man & certainly not as fun or exciting as The Avengers.

My Iron Man Rating: 8/10

My Iron Man 2 Rating: 6.5/10

My Iron Man 3 Rating: 6.5/10

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My 2013 Movies Seen

**I’ve been too harsh! Upped my Iron Man 2 & 3 ratings a bit. I still enjoy the Iron Man series – they’ve just been weak compared with the first one.