The Lego Batman Movie

MV5BMTcyNTEyOTY0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTAyNzU3MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_It’s Batman, Jim, but not as we know it. Or as IMDB would have it:

A cooler-than-ever Bruce Wayne must deal with the usual suspects as they plan to rule Gotham City, while discovering that he has accidentally adopted a teenage orphan who wishes to become his sidekick.

Batman learns an important lesson about teamwork.  That is all, but more than enough 🙂

It’s an interesting fact (to me at least, YMMV) that I have always preferred DC comics to Marvel but of course prefer the Marvel movies to those from DC. Apart from Wonder Woman which was and will forever remain awesome.

You will not be surprised to know that The Lego Batman Movie is the exception to this rule. It is a huge amount of fun, with one of the best iterations of Batman ever. It is full of amazing set-pieces all rendered in overwhelmingly bright colours with a catchy theme song over the end credits (though not as catchy as Everything is Awesome – I only have to hear (or type) the title to have that song stuck in my head) and so much detail that you don’t really know exactly where to look in case you miss something.

The voice cast is astonishingly strong but of course Will Arnett is the standout as the Bat, with Ralph Fiennes a very close second as Alfred. We missed this in the cinema but were able to watch it at home over the Christmas break and could not stop giggling.

Favourite quotes (the ones I remember, after all there are SO MANY every second):

I like to fight around

Okay, Robin. Together, we’re gonna punch these guys so hard, words describing the impact are gonna spontaneously materialize out of thin air.

The creators of the recent incarnations of the DC universe could learn a lot from this film, especially in relation to dialogue. You may not want this many jokes but the script is clever and entertaining without getting in the way of the action.

Very funny and highly recommended.

Dazzling details: The Lego Batman Movie was directed by Chris McKay, is 104 minutes long and is certified U – suitable for everyone unless you are offended by mild comic violence, rude humour and/or very mild bad language

My Reading Year – 2018

IMG_0794A good year for me in reading terms, which is no real surprise as I completed my first full year of retirement and was able to build reading into my regular routine.

My goal for 2018 was to read 52 books and I actually managed 62 with the possibility of hitting 63 if I finish my current read in the next 24 hours 😀

In terms of challenges, I took part in two (#ReadingMuriel2018 and Twenty Books of Summer), not completing either of them sadly but having a lot of fun along the way.

And here are my favourite 6 reads of the year – no reflection on anything else I read but these were the ones to stick with me for various reasons.

Here’s to an equally successful 2019!

On the Box – 2018

I don’t normally write about TV here but I thought it would be fun to capture the stuff I enjoyed this past year.

The stuff I knew I would enjoy and did

The stuff I came to a million years after everyone else

The stuff I’ve given up on because I just can’t any more

The stuff I enjoyed thoroughly despite possibly not actually being very good; though I will fight anyone who doesn’t like Instinct.

The stuff I rediscovered after thinking I would never watch it again

Do you have thoughts on any of these?

November Movie Round-up

The last round-up of the year – everything finished will have been accounted for and posts from now on will be in real time. Which is nice. I may also do a couple of favourites posts but will see – depends on how full I am after eating all of the Christmas food.

Anyway – to the movies!

Locke

Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his carefully cultivated existence

Tom Hardy is a compelling presence and I have enjoyed most of the films in which he has starred, but I was a bit wary of watching something in which he is the only physical presence; the remainder of the admittedly excellent cast is voice only. But I needn’t have been concerned – Hardy delivers an excellent performance as a man who is used to having all aspects of his life under tight control finding himself having to watch it all unravel as he tries to do the right thing.

It’s an odd but well made little film that turned out to be very different from what I expected. It’s a sad and compelling but not hopeless story, which could have done without the subplot of Locke’s Dad but otherwise delivers a very human situation. And of course, as someone who spent the bulk of their civil service career in procurement, I was most fascinated by the bits focussing on the concrete pour and project management with a side order of where was their contingency plan. I also had to check that Tom Hardy wasn’t Welsh as I thought his accent was pretty spot on.

Worth watching.

Deets: Directed by Steven Knight, Locke is 85 minutes long and rated 15 for very strong language

Hotel Artemis

Mr B spotted this one early on and who am I to deny him the opportunity to see it? I admit I was also intrigued.

Set in riot-torn near-future Los Angeles, follows the Nurse who runs a secret members-only emergency room for criminals

So as I said above this sounded very promising, but it didn’t really deliver on that promise. It’s probably deeply unfair to compare it to the John Wick franchise but given the subject matter, it couldn’t be helped.

In terms of casting, Jodie Foster and Sterling K Brown were both very good indeed, and Dave Bautista continues to delight. A star-turn cameo by Jeff Goldblum at his most Goldblmiest was also very entertaining, as was Zachary Quinto as his very shouty son.

A couple of the sub-plots didn’t really add anything to the storyline, and one was clearly just a convenient plot device. Having said all that, I really wouldn’t mind watching it again.

Deets: Directed by Drew Pearce, Hotel Artemis is 94 minutes long and rated 15 for (takes deep breath) strong language, bloody violence, injury detail and drug misuse. 

October Movie Round-up

Thoughts on the films I watched way way back in October…..

Venom

IMDb is distinctly unhelpful on the plot, thusly

When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life

So many questions. Who is Eddie Brock? How did he get all symbiotic? Why is his life in danger? Who is the bad guy in this situation?

So I thought this was not as bad as most reviews have made it out to be, but it is fair to say that it’s a film with an identity crisis – it really doesn’t know what tone to take. Parts of it are really funny, and if they’d stuck with that it would have been so much better; there are some laugh out loud  bits when Venom him/itself finally appears. There’s a mismatch between the hero and the villain – Riz Ahmed is too subtle so he needed to ramp it up or Tom Hardy needed to rein it in. The final fight is messy and difficult to follow, there are lots of “but how?” moments and for a high security site, Riz’s megavillain lair seems pretty easy to get into when required by the plot. So fine, but Elon Musk may sue.

Coco

Miguel is a young boy who loves music and wants a performing career, but the problem is that his family has banned music because of the actions of his great-grandfather, who abandoned the family to go off and be a star. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel enters the Land of the Dead to find him and try to change the minds of his relatives. Things of course do not go according to plan.

This superficially is very similar to The Book of Life (you can find my thoughts on that here on the old Screen God), but to me it is far superior in both plot and structure. Coco is beautifully animated and incredibly charming. A lot of fun and I may have cried a tiny little bit because, you know, happy endings. Worth watching if you love animation and the music is very cool indeed.

Just lovely.

Blair Witch

After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his vanished sister, James & a group of friends head to the forest believed to be inhabited by the Blair Witch

The whole purpose fo this film seems to be to try to capture the mystery from the first film and cash in on its success, but that was a loooong time ago and we have all moved on since then. But it was Halloween and I wanted to watch a horror film and there it was.

It’s put together really were and is much less ambiguous than the original. It’s also more jump-scary and less creepy and intense than the first film. But its fine, no more than that.

The Last of My Autumn Reading

So here we are, hurtling towards the end of 2018 and it’s the time of year when I scramble to catch up with reviews of those books and movies that I didn’t get around to talking about at the time I read/watched them.

In this post I’m covering three books I read in the autumn, which brings me up to date as I haven’t finished anything else since then.

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

I have a tendency to veer towards Scandi noir fiction but only in a very patchy way, which is why I think I hadn’t heard of this husband and wife team writing as Lars Kepler even though they are huge best-sellers and there are already a number of volumes in this series. I started with the first  and it is an odd book.

I read the title and thought “ooh, serial killer hypnotist” but * SPOILER ALERT * – though not really giving anything away – the hypnotist of the title is involved in assisting the police in investigating a family murder. Of course things go horribly wrong, and a chunk of the book is focussed on said hypnotist’s back story. For that reason I don’t think the book is entirely successful – I wanted more of a police procedural rather than a sort of psychological study, but having said that a lot of the writing was very good and I had no problem finishing the thing. I have, of course, already bought the second…..

The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel

Whom I kept on thinking of as Oscar de la Renta; which is very sloppy thinking on my part, possibly offensive to the gentleman concerned and shows that clearly I’m reading too much Vogue.

Anyway, this was recommended in a blog post by (I think – apologies if not) Christopher Fowler, so I thought I’d give it a try only to discover that I had already purchased a copy a few years ago and had just forgotten. The novel is set in Edinburgh around the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, and our hero, Inspector Ian Frey, is sent to Scotland when a violinist is murdered in a way reminiscent of the Ripper’s crimes. Frey is partnered with “Nine-Nails McGray”, a notorious local inspector with Tragedy in his past and an interest in the supernatural and related things. They insult each other constantly and at a wonderfully extreme level which I found very funny. What starts off as a locked room mystery followed, of course, by other deaths is very cleverly done and I enjoyed this thoroughly. Recommended if you like a mixture of horror, historical crime and comedy.

And finally….

Bestial by Harold Schechter

A fascinating, deeply gruesome and upsetting non-fiction examination of the crime spree carried out in the 1920s by Earle Leonard Nelson, starting in San Francisco and ending in Canada. To give you an idea of what’s covered here the blurb on the book screams:

From social outcast to necrophile & murderer, his appalling crimes stunned an era.

So, obviously reader beware – this is only for experienced aficionados of true crime. It’s clearly been throughly researched and is written in a breezy journalistic style but, as a woman in my late 50s, I became increasingly grumpy at the descriptions of Nelson’s older wife by (presumably) the author. Is 58 elderly? Is a woman in her 60s really a crone? I know things were different back in the 1920s and a woman of that age would have had a harder life than the one I have experienced, but who calls anyone a crone? Honestly, says Disgusted of New Malden. But Ann Rule rated Schechter so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

All caught up on the book front – yay me!

Autumn Fiction Round-up #1

 

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

This was a planned read for a book club that I follow but don’t actually attend, using mostly for reading ideas (as if I needed any more help in finding books….). The Cabin is the most recent of Tremblay’s horror novels and the first one (but not the last) that I have picked up.

Wen, who is seven, is on holiday in a remote cabin with her dads, Eric & Andrew, when a huge young man turns up asking to be let in with Wen’s help. He is soon joined by three others, two women and a man, and they have a mission – they need Wen’s family to make a sacrifice to avoid the end of the world.

It’s a home invasion story with a twist, and it’s never made clear through all of the terrible events whether the incomers genuinely believe they have a mission to head off the apocalypse or whether they are just horrible people doing nasty things. There are clearly events happening in the outside world which are informing their actions, but we never really find out what’s going on.

It’s all very vague & ambiguous, especially the ending which doesn’t provide any closure at all, but I was hooked and thought it was very well done.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

One night in a warehouse in New York, the body of Ashley Cordova, daughter of a famously reclusive film director, is found dead. Most people, including the police, believe that she has taken her own life, but this doesn’t convince Scott McGrath. He’s a journalist who ruined his career by pursuing Cordova the father, making rash allegations that he couldn’t prove. And he’s still obsessed.

This is a literary thriller and a huge one at that. I was given this as a Christmas present a few years ago and hurried it up the TBR pile when I saw it mentioned in a list of recommended horror novels earlier this year. I had to cave in and buy the Kindle version because I found it physically difficult to read in hard copy, so be warned.

It seems to be a real love-it-or-hate-it book; if we’re keeping score, the Guardian hated it and the Telegraph loved it. I fell somewhere in between – it was worth reading and I did gallop through the second half when I was on holiday, but I didn’t really warm to any of the characters (except for Scott’s wee girl, who was adorable and hopefully grows up undamaged by the way her parents behave) so it became more about the puzzle than the people. The structure is interesting and the idea of a filmmaker so reclusive, and whose work is so horrific that it is only viewed in bootlegs by ardent fans, was intriguing. Some reviewers likened it to The House of Leaves (which I loved and need to re-read), and although I can see how they came to that conclusion I don’t think Night Film has the same impact; certainly not on me.

So an interesting novel, frustrating at times, and if you pick it up be prepared to make a significant investment of time.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

Longlisted for the Man Booker prize and winner of the Arthur C Clarke award, Jessie Lamb is yet another post apocalyptic novel, or more of a rushing headlong towards extinction novel if I’m honest. I cannot resist these at all.

Jessie is 16 and living in a world where an act of biological terror (presumed not explicit) has set loose a virus which is activated in a woman when she becomes pregnant, resulting in an extreme form of CJD and the death of the mother and baby. Science is looking at solutions and settles on the concept of Sleeping Beauties – women who will be put into an artificial coma and given drugs to stop the disease progressing while their baby comes to term. Once the child is delivered, immune to the disease, the woman will die.

Jessie has made a choice to become on of the Beauties, and the novel is about how she reaches that choice and the consequences. This is particularly an issue for her parents, who see the need for the solution but don’t want it to be their daughter. Jessie’s story is told against a background of civil unrest and protest, and her decision is he attempt to make the world better.

I like Jessie very much, though she clearly sees the world very much in black and white as most teenagers do. Some scenes, especially when she is imprisoned by her desperate father, are very upsetting but not gratuitously so. I’ve seen a couple of commenters mention the heavy religious symbolism of her name (Jessie = Jesus, lamb = sacrifice) but I have to say if that was the author’s intent it went completely over my head.

I thought this was very well done, and not as bleak as many of the novels I read in this genre; it makes clear that sometimes there are no easy choices. Well worth reading.