Watched, Read, Reviewed: February 2021

Happy March, everyone! I watched way too many movies in February. To be fair, though, I did have a week off of work so what else was I going to do?! 🙂

Here are my quickie reviews of every movie & TV show I watched (and two books I read)…

MOVIES WATCHED IN FEBRUARY (ranked best to worst):

Les Diaboliques – I unfortunately saw the terrible 1996 remake of this starring Sharon Stone years ago. Rubbish! I thought I’d managed to completely put it out of my mind until halfway through this original French film, when I suddenly remembered the whole story. Damn. Well, it’s still a fantastic murder-plot-mystery thriller and I’d highly recommend the original film, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, to anyone who likes this sort of genre. (Seriously, do NOT watch the 1996 remake. Ugh.) The wife & the mistress of the same abusive asshole plot to murder him & make it look like an accident. But many weird & inexplicable things happen as the story unfolds. The actresses in this (Simone Signoret & Véra Clouzot) are fantastic and you are rooting for them (especially the poor wife) through the whole film. And do you know what happened when the credits came up at the end of this 1955 movie?! A warning to not spoil the ending of the film for others so that they could enjoy it too! Funny. So people were dicks about spoiling movies in 1955 just like they are in 2021. At least they could avoid Twitter in 1955. – 7.5/10

Willy’s Wonderland – I was never a huge fan of Nicolas Cage but he’s finally growing on me since Mandy. Mandy grew on me a lot too – I wasn’t sure how I felt right away but now I love that film & its look and its amazing score. I now want every Nicolas Cage movie to live up to Mandy but I don’t think any ever will. I did enjoy Color Out Of Space & it certainly gave Mandy a run for its money on “weirdness”. I love weird. It was no Mandy but I’m loving that Cage chooses such bizarre films with cult movie potential. He’s done similar again with Willy’s Wonderland but in the horror comedy genre this time (a favorite subgenre of mine). I was so damn excited to see the trailer for a film starring Cage battling demonic animatronic characters. Love this idea! The film sadly didn’t quite live up to its amazing potential but I still had a lot of fun with it. And Cage was as bonkers as always, even while remaining silent through the whole film. It has a good ’80s slasher sort of vibe to it as well, so I appreciated that. The ’80s had some of the best “bad” horror movies & I’ll always happily watch this kind of thing. – 7/10

The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things – Not gonna lie: YA books & movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. Think this one was just a short story instead of a full novel and I’ve not read it but I thought the movie was quite enjoyable. It’s a good story with likeable characters & that’s all I ask for from this genre. It’s also yet anotherGroundhog Day” setup. How many times can this same thing be done?! I think it doesn’t matter as long as the story still manages to feel like it has a unique twist on having to live the same day over & over and this movie does achieve that. Let’s see… Edge Of Tomorrow is still obviously the best film since Groundhog Day with this theme but I’d have to say I preferred The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things to the Happy Death Day movies & Before I Fall. Recommended if you do like the YA genre & a good story. – 7/10

Palmer – I really enjoyed this movie, even though I don’t always go for dramas. It depends on the characters & I liked the characters in this. Justin Timberlake was good as a guy just out of prison who has to try to make a new start & I liked Alisha Wainwright as the teacher of the young boy Timberlake’s character finds himself stuck with when the boy’s troubled mother disappears. The true star is the boy, however, played by Ryder Allen. He’s adorable & super likeable. I think movies often don’t get kids’ characters quite right. They’re sometimes just so obviously saying lines written by an adult screenwriter so it feels awkward (see review below for an example). They don’t act like real kids that age would act. Or, more often, they’re made to be far too “bratty”, which isn’t very realistic either. Not saying kids are never bratty (because they certainly are!!) but I hate how it’s so exaggerated in movies. The boy in this seems real & you just want him to have the best possible life. Yes, the film may be quite predictable & it’s nothing we haven’t seen before but a predictable feelgood film doesn’t exactly do anyone any harm. I liked it. – 7/10

All The President’s Men – I have a confession: This is NOT my type of film. At all. I just very rarely enjoy “historical dramas”. Same goes for true crime. Man, I hate true crime! I have no interest in all the true crime stuff on Netflix that people always go on about. I don’t know why. But I especially hate politics & crime & most of the crappy stuff that goes on in real life. I mainly watch movies for escapism so often go for sci-fi or fantasy or horror. Or, well, any genre really as long as it’s fiction. If I want a genuinely true story, I’ll watch a documentary.

I thought I’d give this one a chance, though, as it’s a respected classic and I really like Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman. Yeah. It’s good. I guess it’s what you’d call a slow burn as you watch the story gradually unfold through the eyes of the reporters. It felt very “real” but, me being the person-least-interested-in-history-in-the-history-of-history, I haven’t got the slightest clue as to how accurate this movie is on the whole Watergate Richard Nixon thingy. Redford & Hoffman are great (as always). Everyone looks very ’70s which is also great (as always). I ended up playing on my phone through most of this, though, and only kind of paid attention when I realised they were talking to the Deep Throat guy (only porn movie I own!).

I’m sorry. I’m a terrible, terrible movie blogger. This is a classic & I lost interest & I played on my phone & I still have no knowledge of Watergate. But, hey – it’s super tame anyway compared to all the political bullshit these days! Watergate seems like child’s play now. I’ll give this movie a decent score but know it deserves an even higher rating. And speaking of child’s play, it certainly deserves a higher rating than what I gave the Child’s Play 2019 reboot! But I also gave that a 7/10 (it was fun)… – 7/10

Level 16 – No, this movie isn’t exactly the best or most original thing ever made but it IS very much my type of story so I quite enjoyed it. It’s on Netflix & this is the plot synopsis from Wikipedia: “Level 16 is a 2018 sci-fi thriller by filmmaker Danishka Esterhazy. It follows a group of girls who live at a “school” which educates them about how to be perfect young women for families that they are told will eventually adopt them. Two girls work together to uncover the truth about their captivity.” By the way, do NOT look this up on IMDb if you want to see it. The images they show ruin the whole story! WTF? So I knew what was going to happen. But I still enjoyed it. Being someone who grew up loving The Twilight Zone from a very young age, I’d have guessed the ending of this movie anyway as it’s pretty predictable if you watch as much of this sort of thing as I do. I suppose you younger people may also know what to expect if you like Black Mirror. But this is still worth a watch if you like mysterious sci-fi thrillers. – 6.5/10

I Care A Lot – I hadn’t planned on watching this until it ended up being so divisive on Twitter. Man, some people really hate this movie! But others seemed to really enjoy it. Well, movies with such a strong reaction always get me curious so I checked it out expecting to absolutely hate it as I usually despise hateful characters. I want characters to like & to root for!

I enjoyed this film. It’s not one I’ll ever watch again but I enjoyed the ride & thought the performances were good. It goes a bit overboard at the end but, whatever, it’s just a movie so that never really bothers me. And, with everyone going on about how evil these characters are, I thought they’d be far worse. Seriously?! Yeah, Rosamund Pike & Peter Dinklage are assholes. But that’s the whole point? We’re not meant to like them. And there have been many characters in movies just as bad & also much worse. Why such a strong reaction to these characters? Seems strange. I’d also point out that they both have one other person who they clearly love & do truly care about. That’s more than can be said for a lot of “evil” movie characters.

Anyway. I liked this far more than I was expecting so it was a nice surprise. I especially liked Dianne Wiest (always makes me think of The Lost Boys & Edward Scissorhands – she has a great filmography!) & Eiza González was very good as well. So there are two characters who are a little less evil if you really can’t handle Pike & Dinklage. I’d almost give this a higher rating but it’s not a “rewatcher” for me. I’d say just don’t necessarily avoid it based on people being all weird about it. – 6.5/10

Greenland – This was a perfectly fine disaster movie. Not the best but certainly not the worst of this genre. The characters were more likeable than in some of them (I especially liked Scott Glenn as the grandfather). I think we’re all just desperate for blockbuster action movies during lockdown??? So everyone seems to be giving it slightly more praise than it may actually deserve. We’d probably be more harsh on it if we weren’t all stuck indoors with nothing but mediocre Netflix stuff to watch. Compared to most of the straight-to-streaming films we’ve had in the past year, this is one of the better ones. Still far prefer Deep Impact but this was at least less cheesy than Armageddon. – 6.5/10

9 – Somehow missed out on this when released even though its style is the type of thing I like plus I love anything post-apocalyptic. It’s a bit Tim Burton-esque. Which makes sense, as he produced it (he saw & liked the original 9 short film, so produced this feature length film). I wanted to like this one more, as I loved the look and it had so many great names involved. Here’s the synopsis & its stars from Wikipedia: “The film stars the voice of Elijah Wood as a small ragdoll-like robot who awakens shortly after the end of mankind, and must find eight other robots to figure out the mystery behind humanity’s destruction while tangling with the vicious creations of a massive soul-stealing machine, alongside other voices of John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover with Martin Landau and Fred Tatasciore.” I think the story just kind of fell apart plus I wasn’t crazy about the ending. Still a great looking film, though, and am glad to have finally seen it. – 6.5/10

Malcolm & Marie – This was fine. Not sure how to go about reviewing it. It certainly had some issues & some of it came across a bit too “I’m a brilliant filmmaker and my movies are masterpieces and everyone else is an idiot”. Malcolm was hateful as hell as the pretentious filmmaker and complete asshole of a boyfriend. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else that Sam Levinson has done but, looking at his filmography, it doesn’t look all that impressive (does he see himself as Malcolm??). Movies that come across too condescending do annoy the hell out of me. I had the same issues with Marriage Story (I hated that). I didn’t hate this one but I can’t see myself ever wanting to watch it again. Zendaya is definitely the best thing about the film & she does a great job. It’s worth watching just for her performance. John David Washington is good as well, I guess, as he certainly manages to make you hate his character. And people moaned about the characters being too hateful in I Care A Lot?!? Honestly, the guy was a prick. I kind of wanted her to stab him. That would have been a fun turn of events! It would be cool for a movie to go from being all arthouse pretentious to some f*^ked up horror movie like From Dusk Till Dawn at the end. I want to see that version of Malcolm & Marie! I’ll be nice & give it an extra half a point for the good performances. It also made me want some good ‘ol American Mac & Cheese. – 6.5/10

It’s Kind Of A Funny Story – This was… Fine? Man, I’ve seen so many “fine” movies in the past year. I’m bored!! Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A clinically depressed teenager gets a new start after he checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward.” Emma Roberts is in this. And that guy in the photo who I know from nothing else (Keir Gilchrist. Oops – looks like he was in It Follows, which I loved). And Zach Galifianakis, the dude everyone thought was the guy in the Robert Redford meme on Twitter. It’s a predictable but harmless film. Meh. – 6/10

Finding ‘Ohana – This was fine too. Kind of Goonies-light. Very much aimed at kids, so it wasn’t really for me, but I could see why a kid might really like this one. The characters are fun and they mention “nips” a lot. And one of the girls loves Keanu Reeves, which is totally understandable. Cute movie but watch it with a kid of 11 or younger. – 6/10

News Of The World – This movie probably deserves a higher rating. To be fair, I watched it knowing it’s not really at all my type of thing. I think I just feel like I should watch any big new releases that other bloggers are talking about but I’ve been underwhelmed with 90% of the newer films released on streaming services in the past year. Hanks was his usual Hanks-self & the girl was pretty good (Helena Zengel). And I was pretty bored. It ended well, though. So that’s nice. – 6/10

Over The Moon – This started out strong but I lost interest halfway through (and may have fallen asleep for a while). It’s a cute movie with a likeable girl and fun younger boy and adorable pet rabbit. It’s also a musical but the songs aren’t very good. It may have actually been better without the songs. It’s also another movie very much aimed at kids (mine is a bit too old for it & seemed bored by the end). Am sure young kids would like it and the super cute pet bunny, though. – 5.5/10

In Fabric – This was bizarre. I was very excited to see this on BBC iPlayer as it looked like just my type of thing. I like to watch these “Giallo-inspired” movies. But then they end up being really shit & I think I’d have been better off just watching an actual Italian horror from the ’70s instead of a very poor imitation. Hated that Suspiria remake too! What was the point of that?? Well, at least this was an original story instead of a remake, I guess.

I did like director Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio okay but this one didn’t really work. I’d say there were certain things I liked about it, though. The score & the look were fine (even though it’s ripping off the Giallo style – Again, I should have just checked out another Dario Argento film even though I know none are as good as Deep Red or Suspiria). There are also two stories in this weird “killer dress” movie & the second one sucks. The first one, starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste & Gwendoline Christie, actually wasn’t too bad & I’d be giving the film a higher rating if it had ended there. Why did they feel the need to add the second? Also, the movie is veeeeery slow & the first story dragged on for far longer than it needed to. I think this may have actually been a decent horror anthology instead with four or five movies involving the killer dress. I’d watch several really good stories about a killer dress! Why do one okay story & one completely rubbish one?? Well, I don’t recommend this unless you like slightly boring modern movies that poorly rip off ’70s horror classics (if you liked The Love Witch, which I thought was terrible, you’d probably like In Fabric). – 5/10

Saint Frances – Didn’t like this one. This is just one of those movies where you don’t really care about anyone. The main character is boring & self-absorbed. The only decent characters are the cute young girl & her mother who has a new baby so needs to hire the main character as a nanny to help take of her. Where I mentioned in the review for Palmer above that a lot of writers don’t seem to know how to write child characters? This is one of those. The girl is super cute and I think 5 or 6 years old but talks like an adult sometimes. It doesn’t work. And I know I did a list of My Top Ten Period Dramas but there was waaaaay too much of that in this movie. No thanks. – 5/10

Shorts & Miscellaneous

Wayne & Garth for Uber Eats – I’m a huge Wayne’s World fan. I (kind of) reviewed it HERE. I love Wayne and adore Garth and they’re the two movie characters I’d probably most like to hang out with. I couldn’t believe it when I found out there was a two and a half hour Wayne & Garth Uber Eats “ad”. There is! It’s HERE! And I watched all of it. It was the perfect thing to just stick on in the background – it really feels like you’re just hanging out with Wayne & Garth in Wayne’s basement. There are a couple of guest stars too (one of them is super cool but not a surprise to fans). Highly recommend leaving this on one day if you’re a fan of these guys & just want to hang out with them for a couple of hours.

Rewatched

The Breakfast Club – It would have been the 71st birthday of John Hughes in February & we felt like rewatching a couple of his films. I also again shared all the links to all the guest reviews from the John Hughes Blogathon I had here. Well, I already reviewed The Breakfast Club at the above link so won’t do that here. I’ll just say that I still love it now as much as I did in the ’80s. It’s still my favorite Hughes movie. – 9/10

The Matrix – Thought it was time to introduce this one to the kid. She loved it! She does love a really interesting concept. I have to admit I’d not rewatched it in years, especially after the horrible sequels. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this again & think it has aged very well. I’m now maybe a bit more excited about The Matrix 4 (even though the last two were huge disappointments). We’ll see. It won’t live up to the first film, though. It really is a modern classic. – 8.5/10

Sixteen Candles – Watched this one too in honor of John Hughes. It’s another favorite (reviewed in full in my link). – 8.5/10

Ponyo – Rewatching a lot of my Studio Ghibli favorites. Again, I won’t go into this as I reviewed it in full at the link but I love Ghibli & Ponyo is great. Am also very happy to have introduced another blogger to Studio Ghibli via this film, which she chose as the first one to check out. You can read Claire’s review of Ponyo HERE at Cinematic Delights. Think we may have a new Ghibli fan! 🙂 – 8/10

Catch Me If You Can – Still love this Steven Spielberg movie. Think it doesn’t get quite as much attention as his other films but it’s such a fascinating true story plus Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio & Christopher Walken are all fantastic. Highly recommend it if you’ve never seen it. – 8/10

Tremors – Hadn’t watched this one in years after watching it many times in my teens. I remember this being on TV all the time in America. It’s unfortunately one that ended up being not quite as good as I remembered but it’s still a really fun monster movie slash horror comedy. – 7/10

The Devil Wears Prada – I do enjoy this movie, despite finding Anne Hathaway annoying & not being a big “chick flick” girl and not being into fashion whatsoever (what a stupid waste of money). But the story is fun, Emily Blunt is entertaining, and Meryl Streep is great as a complete & total bitch. She’d get along with Malcolm! Hey, this character is super hateful but people don’t moan about this movie like they moaned about I Care A Lot… Oh, I also admit that I like any movie that has a makeover scene. Why?!? No idea. Oh, and I also like Stanley Tucci. This is one of the better “chick flicks”. I shouldn’t call it that, though. I hate that term. This is a good film. What do we call the equivalent male films starring the likes of Steven Seagal, etc? Those don’t get condescending names, do they?! And there are some terrible “bro movies”. – 7.5/10

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – Another rewatch that wasn’t as good as I’d remembered. Still think it’s a fun film, though, and there’s nothing else quite like it so I like that as I watch too many movies that all feel the same. It’s very of its time, though, so can see its fans mainly being of the right age when this came out who have a thing for all the fairly big name actors in it. They’ll be nostalgic for it the same way that I am for ’80s movies that don’t necessarily translate to a new, younger audience. – 7/10

The Maze Runner – I remember quite liking this when it came out. It even made me buy the books after so I could read them (even though I prefer to read the book before seeing the movie). Wow, those books were disappointing!! Maybe that’s partly why I didn’t enjoy this film as much on the rewatch, as I know how terrible the sequels were and how strange the books were. Too bad, as this first movie is still a decent film in the YA dystopian genre. – 6.5/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ

Moon by James Herbert – Supernatural horror is my favorite genre to read. This book had been lying around the house for years so I finally read it since libraries have been closed for the past year. Also, I really liked Herbert’s freaky deaky book The Rats so decided I might as well try a second book of his. The Rats was more fun (but super gross). Moon is about a guy with a psychic connection to some psycho murderer & it’s exactly what you’d expect from this type of story. I’ve read loads of stories like this, so… I don’t have a lot to say. It passed the time & I’ll completely forget it years from now. Kind of like how all the Dean Koontz books I read all meld together in my mind & I honestly never know if I read one years ago or not but I still love to read his stuff… – 2.5/5

Iggie’s House by Judy Blume – As I said, libraries have been closed for a year so I’m grabbing whatever books are around the house. I stocked up on Judy Blume books from charity shops for my kid years ago as I grew up on Blume’s books. I’d actually not read this one as a kid and I’m obviously not the target audience now (the kid is too old for it now too – Damn, I don’t think she read all the Judy Blumes I got her!). It’s about racism & obviously seems dated now plus it’s overly simplistic. But it’s also clearly aimed at very young kids so I suppose it’s a good introduction to this sort of topic for them. The kids in it are good characters & they don’t fully understand the adults & their behaviour. It’s written from the point of view of an 11-year-old girl & I think Blume does well to get inside the head of a kid this age. Like I said above, many adults don’t seem to know how to write kids but Blume does, which is why kids liked her books at the time (don’t think they’re as popular now, unfortunately, due to many probably seeming dated). – 3/5

TV SHOWS WATCHED

The Muppet Show – Watched four or five of these when they showed up on Disney Plus. Loved how excited everyone was on Twitter! Everyone seemed to be watching them at the same time. This show is a classic & it’s amazing how much I giggled while watching these again despite being an adult (well, not sure I’m an adult but I’m old). I absolutely adore the genuinely funny family comedy in this show. It’s brilliant. The two best we’ve rewatched so far are the Rita Moreno & Mark Hamill episodes (obviously seen the Hamill one many times, though). Wish we had access to ALL of them but think certain episodes, such as the Johnny Cash one, have been pulled? Well, at least that 12 second message they’ve slapped onto the start of each episode of this amazing show gives you time to go grab a snack. Guess we just have to be thankful that they let us watch some stuff from the past still? It won’t last. Grab this stuff on DVD before they go fully Fahrenheit 451 on our asses.

WandaVision: Season 1 Episodes 5-8 – Really been enjoying this even though I’m not a huge Marvel fan (seen all the MCU films, though). I do like how original this show feels as I was getting bored with all the superhero stories, which all end up being exactly the same in all the films. Although, the same thing is obviously happening on this show now as more is being revealed & they’re no longer on the “classic TV sitcom” thing, which was fun. Also, I’ve never seen an episode of Modern Family – it was more fun when I understood the references. The penultimate episode was a bit of a letdown but it needed to lead into the finale at the end of this week, so it did well in getting us all excited for the final episode. Really looking forward to it & will be sure to avoid Twitter on Friday until I’ve seen it.

21 Jump Street: Season 1 Episodes 1 (double Episode) & 2 – This is on Amazon Prime U.K., FYI. Being Gen X, I loved this show at the time & was of course in love with Johnny Depp. Forced my kid to watch the first few episodes. She likes it so far. Yay! I was surprised as it’s admittedly a bit dated. There was also a guest star in the first one whose acting was truly abysmal & we both had a good laugh over that. Hoping to watch some more, as I know it got better & also a bit more serious later on.

Raising Hope: Season 1 Episodes 1-11 – This is on Disney Star. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone! Am pretty sure we’re the only family watching it as clearly no one has complained about it yet to force a 12 second warning message onto it. I’d seen some of these at the time (off & on – I had a young baby). I’d kind of forgotten about it & how funny it was. We’re loving watching these (especially the kid as it’s borderline inappropriate). What can I say? I love sitcoms about dysfunctional American families. They’re the only types of sitcoms I’ve ever really gone for. I hate “perfect” families. Give me the f*#ked up ones! Can see why I like this, as it’s created by the same guy (Greg Garcia) who did My Name Is Earl. Loved that too.

The Crown: Season 3 Episode 3 – Still seriously not feeling the new cast in The Crown, which is probably why we’ve slowed way down on watching these. Man, Claire Foy & Co were so much better!! Episode 3 of Season 3 (Aberfan) was really good. A very tragic story I knew of but didn’t know much about. Heartbreaking. Will try to watch more as want to get to the Diana years but am not loving the show currently.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

I’m going to try to get back onto watching films for my 2013 IMDb Top 250 Challenge as I only have 34 of those 250 left to watch. I’ll post about that sometime soon & rank the 65 that I’ve watched for the project so far.

I’m also going to start a Best Picture Oscar Project & try to watch all the Best Picture Oscar Winners. Will post about that closer to Oscar-time. I just realised after watching It Happened One Night in January that I’ve seen a lot of the winners anyway (there are only 31 I have yet to see).

I’d also planned to stick a list of my favorite old movies recently added to Disney Star U.K. at the end of this post but it’s ended up long enough already so I won’t bore you with my weird taste in movies. I’ll just say that I’m super excited that Ladyhawke & Can’t Buy Me love are on there, so that gives you an idea of my Gen X tastes. Maybe I’ll bore you all with a separate post about it.

Let’s end with a classic clip from The Muppet Show

The Death Cure by James Dashner (Book Review)

I’ve finished reading the Maze Runner trilogy so I’ll do a short review of the final book: The Death Cure. I did a full-length double review of the first two books, The Maze Runner & The Scorch Trials, HERE. To be honest, I’ll only really be saying the exact same things again so I’ll keep this post brief. Let’s talk about The Death Cure

The Death Cure by James Dashner

What It’s About: (via The Maze Runner Wiki)
It’s the end of the line. WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test. Will anyone survive? What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say. The truth will be terrifying. Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all. The time for lies is over.

My Thoughts:

I love apocalyptic and/or dystopian books and I’ll happily read any YA books as long as they’re halfway decent. I’m very “must read the book before seeing the film!” but did it the other way around this time after seeing & really liking the first The Maze Runner movie. I then ended up quite disappointed with the first book. Yep – this is one time where I’ll say the movie was much better than the book! It managed to flesh out the characters & make them far more likable. Then I read The Scorch Trials & liked it a fraction more than the first book (until it totally went to shit at the end). Then I read The Death Cure. Then I watched The Scorch Trials movie (I’m all ass-backwards!). Oh. My. God. What in the HELL was up with The Scorch Trials film “adaptation”??? Did they read the book at all?!? (I’ll review/bitch about that movie tomorrow).

What am I even talking about? I’m so confused. Oh! The Death Cure. The final book. Well, except for a prequel, I think? Which I won’t be bothering to read. All I can say is that the third book is like the others in the trilogy, written in the same weird style and feeling like it’s being made up as it goes along. Looking at my reviews of the others, I see I threatened to throw this book out the window if it didn’t give answers & come to a satisfying conclusion. I’m happy to say that this book does come to a proper conclusion. There’s no cliffhanger or teasers of more to be added to the story. Hallelujah! I was worried that I was being strung along this whole time.

Am I happy with the ending? Meh – it was okay. I think I’m mainly annoyed that YA books of this genre all feel the need to be an entire series of books. I suppose it’s to milk as much money as possible out of its young audience but it’s getting old & tired now (like me!). Weird writing style aside, this was an enjoyable enough story overall that I think I’d have appreciated far more if it had been edited down into one book. I stand by my opinion that the first film is quite good and the story was intriguing enough to make me seek out the books but the second film is so awful that I have zero desire to see the final one(s?). As for the books, The Death Cure was my least favorite of the three but that’s not saying much – they’re all really the same thing. I feel bad saying this as I do respect anyone who is able to write a successful book and I believe in always reading the book before watching the film but, if you’re interested in this setup, I actually recommend going straight to the movies with these. It’s even possible I’d have liked the second film more if I hadn’t known that it doesn’t. follow. the. book. in. any. way. what. so. ever. What the hell…..?!

My Rating: 2.5/5 (same rating I gave the other two books)

My Top Ten Books Read In 2015 (and mini-reviews!)

Happy New Year, everyone! Wow – I’ve read a record 14 books in 2015! (That’s a lot for me. Hey, I’m a movie blogger – not a book blogger). 🙂

I’m really bad about getting around to doing book reviews so I’ve only reviewed a few of these (I’ve included links to the full reviews I have done). For the remainder, I figured I’d just do some very short mini-reviews right here right now. And, as my regulars know, my Top Ten lists rarely contain ten things so it seemed stupid to ignore four books when I’ve only read 14.

So here are My Top Ten (14…) Books Read In 2015, counting down to my favorite:

14. The Gospel According To Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright

I believe this is what they call “chick lit”? Which isn’t very “me” but my hubby picked this up for me based on the title since he knows I’m a fan of Drew Barrymore. I thought that was very sweet & thoughful of him! 🙂 Anyway, I really liked the concept. Through flashbacks, we watch the relationship develop between two (40ish?) best friends. They’re very different from one another but we see how they bonded over Drew Barrymore movies at various points in their lives (such as E.T. & Poison Ivy). Unfortunately, the book just isn’t very good. I didn’t like one of the women and the Drew Barrymore gimmick really did feel like nothing more than a gimmick – the references to her felt awkward & forced. It was a good idea but without that gimmick, you’re left with two characters I really didn’t give a crap about. My Rating: 2/5

13. Florence & Giles by John Harding

I grabbed this from the library as I’d been wanting to read it for a while based on The Times quote on the front cover: “Imagine The Turn Of The Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe”. It sounded like it would be all gothic & atmospheric but it was pretty disappointing. A young girl in the late 1800s must protect her younger brother from a sinister & otherworldly new governess after the mysterious death of the previous woman who cared for them. The girl (and narrator if I remember correctly??) isn’t allowed to read but teaches herself & reads loads of books in secret. It’s caused her to develop a strange sort of language of her own and having to read the book with all her odd words took some getting used to (and was slightly annoying). The girl also isn’t that easy to like and the book is extremely slow until finally picking up in the final half. It was a good story but not a very fun read. I actually think it could make for a great film if the right people were involved. My Rating: 2.5/5

12. The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer

My favorite books to read are always horror, sci-fi or fantasy (which will be obvious when we get to the top of my list) but I do try to sometimes read bestsellers or ones that have awards slapped on their covers (like this one) which are probably bullshit half the time anyway. This is an example of a book that was pretty good and plenty of people probably liked it but, like the previous book, it just didn’t really work for me. Oh! I also judge books by their covers and this has a good one. And I was intrigued by the back cover (which I’ve grabbed here from Goodreads): “I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.” See? Sounds interesting. This is a book where you’ll easily find out what it’s about if you read anything whatsoever about it but if you like knowing nothing other than what’s on the back cover, skip over this next part. SPOILER: This book is about mental illness (schizophrenia) and told from the viewpoint of the young adult (Matt) who is suffering from it. It’s a fairly unique book & I’d recommend it if it sounds to you like one you’d like. I have to say it’s actually a better book than my next two choices but, as always, I rank mainly by my level of enjoyment & I found myself not really wanting to pick this one up much so it took me quite a long time to finish. My Rating: 3/5

11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I admit to enjoying Young Adult books, especially as the current trend seems to be YA books that are dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic. I love dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic! I don’t normally do it this way around but I saw The Maze Runner movie first and I liked it so decided to read the books. Well, I’ve read the first two so far and will continue in order to see how they end but I’ve certainly read far better YA books. I also get the feeling that the story is going nowhere plus the author has a strange writing style that many people don’t seem to like. I’ve reviewed this & The Scorch Trials in full if you want to click on the links. My Rating: 2.5/5

10. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

This & The Maze Runner are pretty interchangeable but I suppose I’ve put this higher as reading it was a bit more enjoyable since I didn’t see the movie first so didn’t know what would happen. Meh. Yeah. Again, not the greatest book… I just like the overall concept, which is why I’m continuing with the series. My Rating: 2.5/5

9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Not to be all snobby as I certainly don’t read many “worthy” classics or anything but this looked like one of those supermarket books you see old ladies reading on the bus. Well, I suppose it kind of is but, screw it, I AM an old lady on a bus! The basic story is simple: Retired Harold Fry decides to make a pilgrimage by foot across most of England to visit an old work colleague & friend named Queenie, who has written him to say that she is dying. It was a slow read to start but I was fairly hooked as Harold got closer & closer to reaching his destination. As you may expect, Harold goes on a “journey of self-discovery” during his long walk and this was the best thing about the book and was handled quite well. Something becomes obvious pretty early on but it made me want to keep reading to find out exactly what happened & how. My Rating: 3/5

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve just finished this book and I can see why some people have told me that they really loved it. I wanted to like it a little more than I did. I’ll say that Zusak did a great job developing some rich characters that I very much cared about. Liesel, a young girl in WWII Germany, is the central character and I liked her strong will. Even better, though, were the characters Liesel loved most (her foster parents and best friend plus two other important characters I won’t mention to avoid any spoilers). Unfortunately, despite some great characters, I felt something that I can’t quite put my finger on was “missing” from this book. I think the problem was that it was narrated by Death (as in, The Grim Reaper). It’s a better “gimmick” than the Drew Barrymore thing above and I didn’t mind it at first but, in the end, I think it actually got in the way of what was a good enough story without any gimmicks. Also, the ending felt rather abrupt & rushed after this long journey that we’ve just gone on with all these characters (it’s a pretty thick book). It was a good book & I’m interested in seeing the movie now but I wish it was higher on this list. My Rating: 3.5/5

7. Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin

This is the second (of two!) graphic novels that I’ve read (the other being Watchmen). Wait – is this a graphic novel? It’s more of a collection of several comics… I think?? Is there a difference? This sort of thing is something I have NO knowledge in but I have to say that I did enjoy Tank Girl. She’s a cool character and I really appreciated the (inappropriate) humor (it took me a while to read it all as I had to keep putting it away someplace where my young daughter wouldn’t grab it). I mean, Tank Girl has sex with a kangaroo. Whaaaat? It’s pretty damn bizarre but it’s fun and I was entertained. I suppose I should watch the horrible-looking movie that doesn’t appear to resemble the comic much now? Or… Should I not?? My Rating: 3.5/5

6. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I read my first two Joe Hill books this year & I have to say that, so far, I may end up almost liking his work as much as his dad’s. This one seems to be a favorite but I enjoyed the other book more and found that I didn’t really care that much about the characters in this. But it’s a good & very original story. You can read my full review at the above link. My Rating: 4/5

5. Revival by Stephen King

Stephen King is and always will be my favorite author so I’m going to put a book of his fairly high on any list. I’ve not yet reviewed this one but I will try to do a full review soon as it’s a King book so I’ll keep this short. For now I’ll say that this isn’t one of his best (it probably ranks somewhere in the lower middle for me if I were to do a list of all the King books I’ve read). I find that I’m quite often a little  disappointed with how King’s books end and this one has the same problem of starting out great but then kind of fizzling out at the end. I’ll say that King once again draws a very detailed picture of small town American life which I can always relate to in his books and what makes me love his work so much. I was very much drawn into this small town where a young boy and tragic preacher reside. I just wish these two main characters had remained as interesting in the second half of the book as they grew older (the book spans many years). Well, I enjoyed it anyway – read it if you love King. I enjoyed it more than his son’s NOS4A2 but will admit that Hill’s book was probably a little better than this one. My Rating: 3.5/5

4. Horns by Joe Hill

I suppose Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a slightly better book than Revival and also Horns but I read this one first & actually enjoyed it the most of this father/son trio that I read this year. It’s weird, especially as it gets to the end, and not everyone would like it but it was quite refreshing to read something so totally unique & unpredictable. You can read my full double review of this and NOS4A2 at the above link. My Rating: 4/5

3. Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin

This is the first and only George R.R. Martin book I’ve ever read and I loved it! I got the Game Of Thrones book last Christmas but haven’t yet had the energy to embark on that massive journey so when a woman I work with brought in a bunch of books that she was getting rid of, I was excited to see this standalone Martin book so I could see what his work was like. I can only compare this to the Game Of Thrones TV show but I’d have to say it’s quite different from that. This is sci-fi comedy! I’ve read very few books in this genre but one happens to be my all-time favorite book (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) so this one was perfect for me and I enjoyed it immensely. I suppose I also owe this one a full-length review at some point… I’ll just say that, although Martin’s books are clearly popular, I had no idea of what a great writer this guy really is and it has me definitely wanting to read more of his stuff. I’ll also admit this: I’m a casual reader & clearly like light & easy entertainment. My vocabulary is limited (as evidenced by my so-called “reviews” 😉 ) and I’ve never had to look up so many words for their definitions while reading a book as I did while reading this. (Not tons, maybe six or seven words). But that’s awesome – I don’t have to do that with my YA books! This guy truly has a great way with words and his characters (especially Tuf) felt so alive. And it was actually funny! After watching Game Of Thrones, full of so much tragic death, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a sci-fi comedy from the same author. Plus the story itself had me hooked. Loved it. Can anyone recommend any of his other work? My Rating: 4.5/5

2. The Martian by Andy Weir

I can’t believe I never had a chance to watch this film considering how much I loved the book! Oh well – I’ll catch it at some point. I did at least review this book in full so I can keep this short. I guess I really do love my sci-fi comedies (although this is more sci-fi than comedy but I loved the central character’s amazing sense of humor). I find very few books to be perfect (I’m almost always disappointed with the endings) but I really can’t fault this one in any way other than it ending too abruptly. But I suppose that’s because I was enjoying it so much. The Martian is easily now an all-time favorite of mine and I highly recommend it. My Rating: 5/5

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’m so disappointed in myself for not getting around to reviewing this yet even though it’s the very first book I read after receiving it for Christmas last year. Thanks to anyone who has actually read this (really long & rambling) post! I’m sorry to do this to you now at my number one but I’m not going to say much about this one. Yet. It deserves a full-length review from me as it’s my favorite book in a very long time & nothing could be more “ME“! This was written for Eighties-loving geeks like me by an Eighties-loving geek and I absolutely adored it. I had so much fun reading this one. I hope the movie does it justice! My Rating: 5/5

The Maze Runner & The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (Book Reviews)

Well, these books weren’t very good at all. So let’s get my crappy reviews out of the way while the Americans are off work & won’t be reading this! Plus, The Scorch Trials movie is due out in the UK this Thursday so, yeah – let’s just do this…

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Book 1)

What It’s About: (from the book’s back cover)
When the lift cranks open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone – an army of boys welcomes him to the Glade, an encampment at the center of a terrible maze. The Gladers have no idea why they’re there, or what’s happened to the world outside. And following the arrival of a girl with a message, they must find a way out – or die.

My Thoughts:

First of all, I’ll say that I try to always read the book before seeing its movie (if it’s a book I’m interested in, at least). But I saw The Maze Runner last year (my review is HERE) and liked it enough that I decided it would be the next Young Adult series that I would tackle. Dammit! Well, I remember it was partly because I thought the book would explain what happened in the movie a bit more and that it would flesh out the characters (especially the girl, who seemed a bit pointless). Oh, hell no! It does none of those things! The movie is actually much better in this case (I still quite like it & do plan to see The Scorch Trials). Honestly, the story itself is decent enough that, if it interests you, just skip the books & go straight to the movies.

James Dashner has… I don’t know – an odd writing style?? It’s hard to explain. It’s like he says the same unimportant things over & over & over (it’s like one of my reviews!). The books would be a quarter of the length if he didn’t treat the readers like idiots. We’re paying attention – stop repeating everything! And, especially in this first book, it got super annoying how no one would tell Thomas a thing about the Glade & what was going on. It was always “We’ll tell you later” and this went on for the whole damn book and just got so freaking boring after a while. I mean, I’ve never written a book – I wish I had the talent to be a writer! I give the guy credit for an original story, which I did like, and he came up with some great “killer robots”, the eerie maze, etc etc. The story itself is okay but the only way I can describe it is that it feels like you’re reading something written by an 11-year-old instead of reading what an adult wrote FOR an 11-year-old…

I didn’t care about any of the characters, other than  Thomas a tiny bit. Two books in & I still don’t really care about their fate – they’re all so poorly developed. At least Thomas is the only somewhat likeable one – I was surprised at the difference in how the characters are treated in the book & in the movie (don’t expect to like Alby – he’s nothing like in the movie). I do actually want to like the characters in a story – luckily they realized this when making the film adaptation & did a far better job on character development.

Sorry – it’s impossible to not compare this to the movie! As I wanted to get through The Scorch Trials before this next movie, I read the first book really quickly. The movie is actually quite faithful to the book other than it changing some of the characters a bit to make us care about them. I feel bad trashing a book that someone put their heart into – I suppose, as it’s YA, it’s written in a style meant more for that 11-year-old age group but, considering it’s just as violent as The Hunger Games & that series is very well-written, it just feels a little odd & unsure of its target market. I still like the story and thought the mystery of the maze was really cool. Considering that I’ve picked up the final book (The Death Cure), I obviously like it enough to keep going.

My Rating: 2.5/5

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (Book 2)

What It’s About: (from the book’s back cover)
Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escaping meant he would get his life back. But no one knew what sort of life they were going back to…

Burned and baked, the earth is a wasteland, its people driven mad by an infection known as the Flare.

Instead of freedom, Thomas must face another trial. He must cross the Scorch to once again save himself and his friends…

My Thoughts:

I guess I’ll have to talk about the actual book this time! This book has the same writing style issues as the first book but they’re so similar, just in a different setting, that you should like it fine if you liked the first one.

I thought The Scorch Trials started out pretty good & I was kind of enjoying it more than the first book. This could partly be due to the fact that the story was new to me as I hadn’t seen the movie first but I preferred the diseased, post-apocalyptic desert setting to the Glade in the first book. I’m a sucker for all things post-apocalyptic and the desert setting is how I expect my post-apocalyptic stories to look (Mad Max: Fury Road! Hardware!). What it reminded me of, really, was the first book in the Wool trilogy by Hugh Howey. I reviewed that (HERE) and enjoyed it but for some reason never continued. I should be reading that series instead of this one! (I know why I went with this one – they’re short & quick to read while the Wool books are thick. Long books are exhausting).

So, things look good for our surving Gladers. At first. Then it all goes to shit! Of course. These kids never get a damn break, do they?! I did enjoy the book at first but hated whatever the hell it is Dashner is doing with Teresa (the girl from the first book). Speaking of girls, there are more of them in this story! But they don’t really show up until a little over halfway through & only one new female addition really has anything to do.

What started out okay & slightly more promising than the first book totally fell apart by the end. The situations got more & more ridiculous & one character’s unexplained behavior just got on my nerves. But I’m sure it’ll be explained in the next book. Of course! So if you’re looking for answers to what’s happening in this world, don’t expect any in The Scorch Trials! Seriously – if The Death Cure doesn’t come to a saisfying conclusion, I’m gonna throw the book out of the damn window. I feel that a lot of the dystopian YA books that are around these days kind of feel like the author is making it all up as he/she goes along but The Maze Runner series is the WORST for this (so far)!

Like with the first book, the story in The Scorch Trials is decent & I really liked the creepy instruments of death used toward the beginning (trying to avoid spoilers) but, overall, it’s becoming a bit of a convoluted mess & the “mystery” is starting to just piss me off. I’m off to read the final book now – wish me luck! I’ll try to not hit anyone if I end up chucking it out of the window.

My Rating: 2.5/5

The Maze Runner (2014) Review

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The Maze Runner (2014)

Directed by Wes Ball

Based on The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Starring:
Dylan O’Brien
Kaya Scodelario
Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Will Poulter
Ki Hong Lee

Running time: 113 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Maze Runner is a science fiction dystopian action thriller film. The story follows sixteen-year-old Thomas, portrayed by O’Brien, who awakens in a rusty elevator with no memory of who he is, only to learn he’s been delivered to the middle of an intricate maze, along with a slew of other boys, who have been trying to find their way out of the ever-changing labyrinth — all while establishing a functioning society in what they call the Glade.

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My Opinion:

I actually quite liked this movie. As I said in my review for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I, I do love my “YA post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi books” but I’ve not read The Maze Runner or Divergent. Of those two movies, I definitely enjoyed The Maze Runner more than Divergent and will possibly read the books now. So, obviously, this review won’t be comparing the movie to the book (which will be a relief as I can get pretty picky if I’ve read the book first, as you can see in my review of The Giver. Not too happy with that adaptation!).

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I liked that this was some sort of sci-fi Lord Of The Flies. I liked the mystery of the maze & not knowing who had put these kids there and why. If I had any complaints, they’d probably be that I’d liked to have seen even more of the maze and its mysteries (I’m assuming it’s even more complex in the book?) and that I’d have liked more character development of the girl, who doesn’t seem to have much to do in this film. Other than that, I liked the relationships that formed between the characters and that they each had very distinct personalities. There’s a pretty generic “bad guy” but that’s to be expected as you need two different groups wanting to deal with their predicament in different ways. It just seemed to work as a movie much more than Divergent but I’m not sure why.

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Summary:

I actually enjoyed The Maze Runner a bit more than Mockingjay even though I think Mockingjay is the superior film. I assume the following books & films will suffer from the same problems as The Hunger Games in that the first book has a great and original idea that you can’t exactly repeat in book 2 (well, except for The Hunger Games having yet another Hunger Games in book 2…). 😉 I mean, I’d assume there’s not a second maze, which is the cool thing about this first movie. But instead it’ll turn into this big fight against the evil powers in control and blah blah blah. Right?? Well, it’s the only direction these sort of stories can ever really take so I’m not really complaining – I’m just hoping it’s a more satisfying conclusion than in Mockingjay. I’m at least intrigued enough to probably read this series.

My Rating: 7/10

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