Catching Up | Friday Night Movies Part 2

EXTRACTION

Tyler Rake, a fearless black market mercenary embarks on the most deadly extraction of his career when he’s enlisted to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord

The Greater Hemsworth – and let’s face it, he’s the main reason I watched this – and the kid playing the kidnapped boy carry what is otherwise a Big Dumb Movie. Character development is limited to exactly what you would expect (cynical guy rediscovers his humanity through interaction with a young person who comes to worship him) but it gets extra points for a villain with exotic dress sense and unfeasibly good hair, and then loses them again with an irritatingly ambiguous ending.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good ambiguous ending – I refer you of course to the masterpiece that is Inception – but this one felt gratuitous and undermined whatever closure had been provided to the audience.But it was fine as a means of passing the evening and is by all accounts extremely popular.

Dazzling details: directed by Sam Hargrave, Extraction is 1h 56m long and is rated 18 for strong bloody violence, injury detail and language.


21 BRIDGES

An embattled NYPD detective is thrust into a citywide manhunt for a pair of cop killers after uncovering a massive and unexpected conspiracy

But but but that’s not how it went down! Unless the person who wrote this quote was watching a totally different movie (or was under the influence because, let’s face it, that is always a possibility) then this should read embattled etc. uncovers a massive and unexpected conspiracy during a citywide manhunt for a pair of cop killers. That’s the film I saw.

This is a really solid police procedural with strong performance all round, especially Chadwick Boseman in the lead, and a very cool cameo from the former Dr Bashir (a shout out to all DS9 fans). I spotted the bad guy at a hundred paces but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This was a neat thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed and would watch again.

Dazzling details: directed by Brian Kirk, 21 Bridges is 1h 39m long and is rated 15 for strong violence and language


CREEP

A young videographer answers an online ad for a one day job in a remote town to record the last messages of a dying man. When he notices the man’s odd behaviour, he starts to question his intentions

Creep has been on my radar for a while, but an interesting article (by Edward Tew in the Guardian in early June; apologies, I’ve lost the link) about why this is a film we should be watching during lockdown really caught my interest. So I watched it. By myself. I’m brave, me.

It’s sort of a found footage movie but given that our protagonist films videos for a living it’s plausibly much better quality than you might expect. Anyhow, the guy who has hired him is vaguely unsettling but not in an obvious way. He’s not threatening so much as he is someone who oversteps boundaries, and rather than shouting at the hero not to do the thing he’s about to do, you can understand how easily he gets drawn into this creepy situation by degrees simply by wanting to be polite.

The film is all about atmosphere and mind games and goes off in an unexpected direction (to me at least) about halfway through. I loved it – especially the ending which wasn’t strictly necessary (there is an earlier point where it could have finished and been just as complete) but it is undoubtedly satisfying.

The guys who made this brought out a second movie called, astonishingly, Creep 2 and I’m definitely going to give that a shot.

Dazzling details: directed by Patrick Brice Creep is 1h 17m long and is rated 15 for strong violence and references to sexual violence.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I personally would have given it an 18 for the disturbing portrayal of practical jokes as an acceptable means of human interaction.

Sunday Salon | 5 July

[Take Two – I wrote this post earlier and somehow managed to completely lose it, so here we go again!]


This has been a really good reading week, I mean, really good. I managed to finish four, count them, FOUR novels; two were complete cover to cover reads, and the rest were left over from June (if not earlier).

I feel this is a great achievement for me after several lacklustre weeks.

So, I finished:

The I-5 Killer by Ann Rule – not one of her best books in my opinion; it could have been shorter and still got all of the information across, but I was in the mood for some true crime and this caught my eye first.

Reviews of the last three will follow soon which is why I haven’t said very much about them here.

Currently reading…….

I haven’t picked my next book yet, but it will definitely be from my 20 Books of Summer reading list (which you can find here if you’re interested)

New books this week:

The Son and Heir by Alexander Munninghoff – full disclosure, this was a free ebook as I’m an Amazon Prime customer. What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize not only his father’s tragically misguided allegiance but also a shattered marriage and ultimately the unconscionable separation of a mother and son.

The Truants by Kate Weinberger – this has been likened to one of my all time favourites The Secret History, so it was inevitable that I would succumb sooner rather than later. Starting out under the flat grey skies of an east Anglian university campus and ending up on an idyllic Mediterranean island, The Truants is about a group of clever and eccentric misfits who yearn to break the rules.

Relic by Preston and Child – I saw the movie version of this donkey’s years ago and though it would be fun to try out the series of novels featuring Agent Prendergast. As I am that person, I will of course start at volume 1 🙂 – Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human… 

Let’s hope this coming week will be just as productive! Stay safe everyone!

Catching Up | Friday Night Movies

During these strange times we’ve started trying to watch a film together once a week to make up for how much we miss visiting our local cinema and I thought I’d pull together a post I was originally going to call Big Dumb Movies but as (a) not all of them are the same scale of bigness and (b) not all of them are particularly dumb, that idea was quickly set aside 🙂

Hobbs & Shaw

(or as we must call it Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw – I felt there should be a “presents” in there instead of a colon, and lo I find that was the original title!)

Lawman Luke Hobbs and outcast Deckard Shaw form an unlikely alliance when a cyber genetically enhanced villain threatens the future of humanity

I have to admit to only having seen the first Fast & Furious film though I understand each sequel has only raised the stakes in stunts, loudness and presumably silliness in the many years since, but I really wanted to watch this one because of Jason Statham. I think he’s great.

Don’t get me wrong, I also love Dwayne Johnson but this was all about The Stath for me!

The plot is just on the right side of utter ridiculousness, the stunts are totally over the top and there is insufficient Ryan Reynolds (but when is there ever sufficient Ryan, I ask you) but it was an absolute hoot and gets bonus points for villainous Idris Elba. Enjoyed it very much.

Dazzling details: directed by David Leitch, F&F: H&S is 2h 17m long and rated 12A for moderate violence and infrequent strong language


2036: Origin Unknown

After a failed mission to Mars, AI/ARTI is now used for the 2036 mission with a few human supervisors. A monolith of unknown origin is found there. It will have a big effect on Earth.

So we misread the Netflix description and thought that this was going to be a series and by the time we realised it was a feature we were committed and decided to see it through.

This was fairly disappointing to be honest. It started off well before getting a bit bogged down and then morphed into a wannabe 2001: A Space Odyssey for the final act., complete with philosophical gibberish and all the psychedelia you might require. A shame. Katee Sackhoff deserves better.

Dazzling details: directed by Hasraf Dulull, 2036:OU is 1h 54m long and rated 12 for moderate injury detail, threat


The Wandering Earth [liu lang di qui]

As the sun is dying out people all around the world build giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and sail to a new star system. Yet the 2500 year journey comes with unexpected dangers and in order to save humanity a group of young people in this age of a wandering earth fight hard for the survival of humankind

Based on a series of (I believe) linked short stories by the author Liu Cixin which apparently I have had on my Kindle app for ages but totally forgot about, this is the biggest and most expensive sci-fi film to come out of China.

The special effects are great and I was pleased to spot some standard elements that I recognise from other Chines films I have seen (exaggerated comic relief being one of them).

It was a tad too long for my taste but the references to 2001 in this film were much more successful and on the whole, it was very impressive.

Dazzling details: directed by Frant Gwo, The Wandering Earth is 2h 15m long and rated 15 for strong language, threat, injury detail, intense action scenes.

June Reading Round-up

Halfway through the year already. Time is moving quickly despite being at home 99% of the time and the pace of life feeling slower, but that’s physics for you.

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

The Stats:

  • Books read = 5
  • Number of pages = 2267
  • Progress against Goodreads = 60% of my target, still 7 books ahead of schedule

20 Books of Summer – 3 out of 20 (not good, need to get my act together )

June PBB book club – we read Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, a 5* read if ever there was one, and I saw this morning that it received the Locus Award for best fantasy novel of 2019, which is very cool and well-deserved.

June purchases – not going there; I’m seriously looking at a no extra spend for the rest of the summer, but will settle for cutting back.

July pre-orders:

  • Malorie by Josh Malerman – this is the sequel to Bird Box, which I really liked, so I’ll be very interested to see how the story develops
  • Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings – In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes her question memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure.
  • Bryant & May: Oranges & Lemons by Christopher Fowler – I think this is the 18th B&M novel and I have them all. Still one of the very best series around
  • A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer – Jonathan Lambshead stands to inherit his deceased grandfather’s overstuffed mansion—a veritable cabinet of curiosities—once he and two schoolmates catalog its contents. But the three soon discover that the house is filled with far more than just oddities. The first in The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead series.
  • Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay – New England is locked down, a strict curfew the only way to stem the wildfire spread of a rabies-like virus. The hospitals cannot cope with the infected, as the pathogen’s ferociously quick incubation period overwhelms the state. The veneer of civilisation is breaking down as people live in fear of everyone around them. Staying inside is the only way to keep safe. This might sound familiar, and I might not read it for a while 🙂
  • Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell – a rock novel! This is the story of Utopia Avenue’s brief, blazing journey from Soho clubs and draughty ballrooms to the promised land of America, just when the Summer of Love was receding into something much darker
  • Stranger in the Shogun’s City by Amy Stanley – a history/biography of a woman named Tsuneno, born in 1804 and her life in Edo (now Tokyo). Looks fascinating
  • Hell in the Heartland by Jax Miller – On December 30th, 1999, in rural Oklahoma, 16-year-old Ashley Freeman and her best friend, Lauria Bible, were having a sleepover. The next morning, the Freeman family trailer was in flames and both girls were missing. Yes it’s true crime, don’t @ me
  • The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson – Amazon says this is The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Village, so read into that what you will.

The PBB Book Club selection for July is Augustown by Kei Miller, a good choice as I’m trying to read more BIPOC authors.


So that’s it! I’m very behind on reviews but hoping to crack through them all and be up to date by this time next month. Wish me luck!

Catching Up | Rocketman

A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years

I have absolutely no idea why I waited so long to see this movie given that I’ve been a fan since Crocodile Rock back in the day, but I’m very glad that I eventually got to it because Rocketman is so much fun. Of course, it deals with some difficult subjects but it does so in a very imaginative way and is just glorious.

The casting is excellent. Taron Egerton does a great job of portraying Elton without slipping into impersonation or caricature. Jamie Bell is just lovely and what can I say about my fellow Scot Richard Madden? It is so nice to see him in a role where he gets to smile instead of being dour and driven (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones & Bodyguard).

It’s inevitable I suppose that comparisons were made between Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody (which I also loved – my review is here) but it seems to me that the difference in approach is down to an acknowledgment that the fates of Elton and Freddie were so different. Freddie had such a sad end, and that is better served by a more traditional biopic, whereas Elton made it through and continues to be happy and successful (as fas as we can tell anyway). Both approaches are valid and the comparison seems unfair to me for that reason.

As Empire said in its review, Rocketman is:

a sequin encrusted delight

I approve this message!

Dazzling details: directed by Dexter Fletcher, Rocketman is 2h 1m long and rated 15 for drug misuse, sex and very strong language.

Sunday Salon | 21 June

Happy Father’s Day to those celebrating with their Dads, or (like me) remembering Dads no longer with us.

It’s been a quiet week chez Bride, so let’s just get into the book stuff.


Currently reading – exactly the same books as last week, but I’ve made progress on most of them

Finished – nothing. So very dull.

New books this week:

  • The I-5 Killer by Ann Rule – another for my ever-growing collection of true crime books
  • Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine & Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J Mann – a fresh look at the unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor in the 1920s
  • Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis – I’ve been reading about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, and a reference to Elmer Gantry led to me looking into Lewis’s work and this caught my eye
  • The Deadly Touch of the Tigress (Anna Lee #1) by Ian Hamilton – learned about this series by Musings from the Sofa and thought it sounded great
  • Forgetting Zoe by Ray Robinson – mentioned by Girl with her Head in a Book, I think this will be an intriguing companion to My Dark Vanessa, which is on my TBR.

We have watched all four series of Cardinal, and was sad to see that there will be no more series; a real shame. But series 3 of The Sinner has just appeared on UK Netflix, and along with Russian Doll is keeping me occupied. Also excited to start watching the new Perry Mason series.

Hoping this week will be more productive. Stay safe everyone!

Catching Up | Scary Movie Round-up

I’ve been dipping into scary movies lately, intending to have an afternoon set aside each week to work my way through my horror film collection. Of course, in these times, I find sticking to intentions of any sort really difficult, so you can work out how well that went.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on what I’ve been watching.

Ghost Stories

Sceptical professor Philip Goodman embarks on a trip to the terrifying after being given a file with details of three unexplained cases of apparitions

Not sure what to make of this. It was pretty creepy and there were some nice jump scares and if it was about being unsettled and confused then it definitely worked. But I’m not sure I understood why all of this stuff was happening even if I understood the WHAT; for example, what did all of Philip’s family stuff have to do with it all? Would having seen the theatrical version made a difference. Performances were all strong though. Vaguely disappointing.

Dazzling details: Directed by Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman, Ghost Stories is 1h 38 long and is rated 15 for strong horror, language

The Cabin in the Woods

This was a re-watch for me, and it still holds up IMHO. If you want to know what I thought about this the first time around you can find my original review here. My love for Bradley Whitford is still strong 😀

Unfriended

A group of online chat room friends find themselves haunted by a mysterious supernatural force using the account of their dead friend

This was very, very silly but really entertaining for a Saturday afternoon watch during quarantine. Not remotely frightening and not even any really good jump scares. Good to see a bunch of entitled youngsters getting their comeuppance if you like that sort of thing I suppose. All very hysterical, in all senses of the word.

Dazzling details: Directed by Levan Gabriadze, Unfriended is 1h 23 long and rated 15 for very strong language, strong violence, threat, sex, suicide themes

[Not the] Sunday Salon

When is a Sunday Salon post not a Sunday Salon post? When it’s on a Tuesday, that’s when.

You know I had to check what day it is, right?

So here we are already in another week and I thought I’d round up what’s been going on since I last wrote here, not in the whole world because, let’s face it, there isn’t enough space in my wee blog to even begin to tackle what’s going on everywhere else. I’m just going to tackle my little bit of it.

image via Canva

This is not a summery illustration but it has been very oppressive and we have had quite a few thunderstorms around here over the past few days so this feels about right!


I haven’t finished any books in the past week, but I am still reading (almost) every day.

I’m happily making progress on my reading challenges, and so far:

  • PBB Book Club – I’m 64% of the way through Middlegame
  • 20 Books of Summer – I’m 15% through Gideon the Ninth

They are both really excellent and I would recommend.

New books this week (excluding any pre-orders which I mentioned in my May 31st post) – all links are to Goodreads:

  • Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri – I meant to buy this when it first came out as I have always enjoyed watching Emma on Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, but somehow forgot. But I have it now.
  • Where Are the Women by Sara Sheridan – a guide to an imagined Scotland, where women are commemorated in public spaces. Couldn’t resist.
  • Judas the Hero by Martin Davey – a recommendation by the Book God, which doesn’t happen often and is to be respected when it does, this is all about Judas Iscariot “cursed with immortality by a vengeful and angry God, [he] finds himself in present day London and head of the secret occult crime division known as the Black Museum at Scotland Yard.”
  • The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem – we watched Motherless Brooklyn this weekend and when I realised that it was based on a novel I went looking for the author, and this caught my eye, especially as one of the main characters has his pet opossum in his desk drawer
  • Devolution by Max Brooks – I adored World War Z so wasn’t going to miss this, an oral history of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. Bigfoot is real, people!

Hopefully I’ll have some finished reads to report on next time. Take care and stay safe.

Sunday Salon | 7 June

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to post today given everything that’s going on in the world and that I’m a Scottish white woman pushing 60, but keeping quiet is how the status quo is maintained even if what you say sounds trite.


We Are the Flowers of One Garden (c) Shayda Campbell

Black lives matter and anyone who has a problem with that needs to stop and take a look at themselves. Access to equal treatment for other doesn’t mean that you somehow lose out, and for too long people of colour have been disproportionately suffering at the hands of authority and a system that was stacked against them from the outset.

I developed a love of history when I was at school and went on to get my degree in that subject (early modern history in particular which explains my obsession with the sixteenth century) but as I got older it became abundantly clear that the history we are taught doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality experienced by many, many people. The racism inherent in the British colonial/imperial rule is rarely addressed in those terms. We talked about our role in ending the slave trade without acknowledging our heavy involvement in starting it. As a Scot, I learned about the wealth brought to our cities, especially Glasgow, by those trading tobacco and cotton but with only oblique references to the slaves and that even after abolition Glasgow shipyards were still building the ships that would end up carrying slaves. In the UK we have huge swathes of people who don’t realise that there have been people of colour in our country for centuries.

And we don’t talk about issues surrounding police behaviour. It isn’t a crime to be black. We don’t have the same tendency to militarise our police force here in the UK (though some politicians would very much like to) but that doesn’t mean we are free from police brutality, deaths in custody and racial profiling.

This needs to stop. I want to continue learning about this issue, speaking out where I can while knowing that I may get it wrong sometimes. Better to make the occasional mistake in trying to be an ally than to stay silent. I also know that I need to read more widely than I do now; my TBR pile doesn’t have as many works by people of colour as it should, and I’m going to try to improve.


And don’t get me started on JK Rowling and her latest anti-trans stuff. Just don’t.


But let’s talk about books.

It’s been a good reading week. I finished two books – The Deep by Nick Cutter and Transcription by Kate Atkinson – and reviews will follow. Honest.

I made good progress on the two reading challenges/programmes in which I’m taking part, namely:

  • PBB Book Club – Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (I’m 30% in); and
  • Twenty Books of Summer – the two books I read this week were for that challenge, and I have just started the third, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.

My full currently reading list is on the sidebar.

Three new books arrived chez Bride this week:

  • Closure Limited (and other zombie tales) by Max Brooks of World War Z fame (I loved that book so much);
  • Putney by Sofka Zinovie; and
  • Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough, which was a pre-order that I thought wasn’t arriving until later in the summer but the Kindle edition was released and just appeared in my app the way ebooks just do.

And that’s it for this week. Please stay safe everyone.