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.

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.

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

Read but not Reviewed | April Edition

Sometimes you just have to accept that you are not going to get around to clearing that backlog of book reviews even if you are sufficiently motivated to give it a try. What to do?

That’s what round-up posts are for.

So here are the books that I read in April which may have been mentioned in passing but didn’t get a review. Anything from the Before Times may be lost to those who will follow but you never know, one or two titles may pop up elsewhere.

But onwards backwards to April!

Pet Sounds by Quinn Cummings

Quinn is a former actor, writer and all-round funny person who is consistent in her ability to make me laugh to the extent that I follow her on Twitter and support her on Patreon. This is the last of her three books that I have read and it’s so good. If you have ever had a pet of any kind you will recognise much of what’s in here. I may now be scared of testosterone-fuelled bunny rabbits.

Mists of the Miskatonic V1 & 2 by AL Halsey

“It wasn’t personal” she coughed. Blood dripped from her teeth stained crimson”

But why not her crimson-stained teeth? Just one example of what irritated me as I was reading these two collections of short stories. I’m possibly being unfair as the premise – using individual stories by HP Lovecraft as a starting point – is not bad but it’s all undermined by annoying repetition and far too much research being shoved onto the page. Yes, we understand that you know what the Latin for that piece of Roman military kit is but you only needed to say it once (if at all…) All of that took me out of the stories. A shame. I believe volume 3 may be on the way. Will I read it? Who knows…

The Adventures of Roderick Langham by Rafe McGregor

A collection of short stories about the titular Mr Langham, described as a retired soldier, a disgraced police detective and someone who becomes involved in investigating the occult. The stories are set in the same world that contains Holmes, Watson and Moriarty. There are nine stories and, as a collection, really enjoyable with a nice sense of place and atmosphere. Can definitely see myself dipping into these again. Great fun.

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

What if you survived something horrible, in the horror movie sense of horrible, like being partially eaten by cannibals or defeating monsters or having messages carved on your bones which (of course) you can’t read. How do you cope? Well, if invited, you might join a therapy group along with a potential mass-murdering arsonist and someone who never takes his sunglasses off. That’s the thrust of this novella which is so compelling and well-written I just couldn’t put it down. I liked the characters, I thought the premise was excellent and very well executed. I highly recommend this if you like good genre fiction.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

So, there’s this family, the Barretts living in New England where the older of their two daughters stars to exhibit signs of mental illness. Or does she? Her behaviour, which looks to many to be similar to possession, causes immense stress on the family but somehow they find themselves taking part in a reality TV show which seems to think its the Exorcist. Things do not go well – surprise, surprise! It reminded me of Amityville and an episode of Hammer House of Horror from 1980 (The House that Bled to Death) but is very much its own thing. This is my second Tremblay novel and I think I prefer it slightly to The Cabin at the End of the World, though it is equally dark.

True Crime Addict by James Renner

As a young boy, the author became obsessed with a local girl who had gone missing, developing over time into an overwhelming interest in true crime, which he turned into a journalism career, a couple of successful books, and which left him with PTSD. In 2011 he started to look into the case of Maura Murray who disappeared after a car crash, and once again his interest became obsessive as he delves into the details of the case, not looking after himself, and allowing it to intrude into his personal relationships. The book focuses almost equally on both aspects of the story, for me more successfully in Renner’s personal story as it isn’t even definite that Maura has been the victim of any crime. She is still missing.

And with May’s reading so far covered in my recent post (which you can read here) I am up to date!

Sunday Salon | Books read in May so far

So here we are after a break of 3 weeks and I thought it might be fun to look at the books I’ve finished so far this month.

It’s been a fairly good month for reading but not a great one for blogging; what can I say? More mini-reviews are likely to follow, but let’s stick with these six for now, along with an update on what I’m currently reading and some other stuff that might be of interest.

Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette – a collection of short stories missing fantasy & science fiction which I really enjoyed, especially as it includes a Kyle Murchison Booth story (see my review of her collected Booth stories here)

Follow Me by Angela Clarke – an enjoyably fast read, a police procedural with social media right at the forefront. I read it in one sitting and have bought the sequels

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky – a very creepy sci-fi novel which was almost psychedelic in its language and imagery. Very unsettling. So good.

The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel – as I’m getting older I’m finding that my interest is shifting from WWI to WWII, especially social history and the home front. This is a joint biography of several authors (namely Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macaulay, Henry Green, Graham Greene and Hilde Spiel) who were all based in London in the Blitz. It was fascinating to find out about their complicated personal lives.

The Last Book on the Left – from the guys who write & present the Last Podcast on the Left, this is a quick trot through the lives and crimes of several very well-known serial killers. Now, if you’ve been here for any length of time you will know that I cannot resist true crime and I follow many podcasts (I’m a proud Murderino for example) but I’ve never found this one particularly engaging. The book is fine but the comic interjections just didn’t work for me.

The Killing Streets by Tanya Bretherton – another true crime read, this covers the story of what appears to be the first known serial killer in Australia. Set in the 1930s in Sydney, the main interest for me is the social history elements – the expectations on women, the behaviour of the police and so on – but I wasn’t totally convinced that these murders of young women were connected.


In terms of what I’m currently reading, I seem to be stuck in the middle of several books and not making much progress.

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – the seventh in the Rivers of London series, I started this in January and have been making very slow progress for reasons I don’t understand, but I do want to finish it because I have three more to read 🙂

The Outsider by Stephen King – enjoyed what I’ve read so far and really want to know how it turns out so this will get finished

True Detective by Max Allan Collins – the first Nathan Heller novel, I picked this up because the Book God has read many (if not all) of the series and thought I would enjoy it and so far he has been spot on.

As none of these titles is on my list for this year’s Twenty Books of Summer challenge, I need to make an effort to finish them by June 1.

As if that wasn’t enough, my need for non-fiction has led me to start a book about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, which ticks so many boxes for me it isn’t true.

And I have finally succumbed and signed up to Audible so that if nothing else I can listen to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman when it launches in July.


Being indoors apart from forays for groceries and exercise, we’ve been watching more films – I miss going to the cinema more than anything else – and some great TV. Killing Eve hasn’t finished yet so I’m reserving judgement, but last night, so much later than everyone else, of course, we finished watching DEVS. I loved it so much. I think Alex Garland is an amazing writer/director and the series was thought-provoking and beautiful. A highlight of this year so far.

How are you guys holding up in these unusual times?

Movie Round-Up | Phase One

I had to go way back to find when I had last reviewed a movie (it was HERE if you’re interested), and thought it was high time that I caught up though to be fair its been a fairly slow start on the movie watching front.

So here we go!

1917

April 6th, 1917. As a regiment assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory, two soldiers are assigned to race against time and deliver a message that will stop 1,600 men from walking straight into a deadly trap.

I have been fascinated by WWI for as long as I can remember, mostly because of family stories of my Papa (my Dad’s Dad) lying about his age in 1916 and running off to join the Seaforth Highlanders, and my Great-Uncle John being killed in August 1918 when he was only 20 years old. I have read a great deal about the subject and will always look favourably on related movies, so going to see 1917 was always going to happen.

We saw it at IMAX which was quite an experience – beautifully put together and very moving while not shying away from the horrors of war and full of well known British actors in small but important roles. If any members of my family experienced even a quarter of the stuff we saw on screen then no wonder they never wanted to talk about it.

Directed by Sam Mendes, 1917 is almost 2 hrs long and rated 15 for strong injury detail, language

Weathering With You

A high-school boy who has run away to Tokyo befriends a girl who appears to be able to manipulate the weather.

Another beautiful Japanese animation with magical realism, star-crossed lovers and astonishing art. It’s just a lovely film and strongly recommended.

Directed by Makoto Shinkai, it’s 1h 52 long, rated 12A for moderate violence, threat, sex references. We saw the version dubbed into English

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Henceforth to be known as BoP etc.

After splitting with the Joker, HQ joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress & Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord.

This was an absolute hoot. Bright and loud with very strong female leads. Margo Robbie is an absolute delight and as I said here previously sleazy Ewan McGregor is the best Ewan McGregor. Everyone looked like they were having a ball but not to the detriment of the film. Harley Quinn is one of my favourite DC characters and was the best thing in Suicide Squad by several orders of magnitude. I hope there will be more appearances by her on the big screen.

Directed by Cathy Yan, BoP etc. is a lively 1h 49m long and of course rated 15 for strong violence, injury detail, language, sexual threat

Onward

Set in a suburban fantasy world two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there

I try not to miss a Pixar movie and this looked like fun so off we went on our last outing before Coronavirus struck and I’m so glad we did this was such a lovely film. I knew very little about it beforehand so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s about family and love and loss, brothers and sons and dads and very cool Mums. I liked the relationship between the two brothers – it was cool without being super sickly sweet and avoided the standard hating each other until the point that they don’t. All of the quest stuff was great fun.

This is an early but strong contender for this year’s New Year’s Eve feel-good movie.

Directed by Dan Scanlon, it’s 1h 42 long and rated U for mild fantasy threat, very mild bad language

Sunday Salon | 16 February

I’m currently writing this on Sunday afternoon as Storm Dennis has whipped its way across the UK. It is wet.

I’ve not been reading quite as much this week as I’ve been a tad under the weather (pun not intended). I met up with my friend Silvery Dude for the first time this year and we exchanged book and TV show titles to look out for and uncharacteristically did not have any alcohol.

I finished the second Charlie Parker novel and am now officially obsessed and I now have all the titles up to and including volume eight which isn’t even halfway through the series. I sense a project here.

At home, we dipped our toes into The October Faction and Locke & Key and will probably continue watching them as they were very promising.

And we went to see the Birds of Prey movie which I will review soon but the highlights are that this is an absolute hoot, Margot Robbie is fabulous and sleazy Ewan McGregor is the best Ewan McGregor.

That latter statement is not up for debate 😀

New Books

  • What We Did in the Dark by Ajay Close – a fictionalised account of author Catherine Carswell’s first marriage
  • The Decent Inn of Death by Rennie Airth – Snowed in at a country manor, former Scotland Yard inspectors John Madden and Angus Sinclair find themselves trapped in the company of a murderer.
  • The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep – The ultimate book-lover’s fantasy, featuring a young scholar with the power to bring literary characters into the world

I finished Dark Hollow by John Connolly – Charlie Parker #2

I am currently reading The Killing Kind by John Connolly – Charlie Parker 3

There is a pattern here, I think :-), can you tell?

Hope you all have a great reading week!