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.
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.
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
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 😀
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
Only 2 weeks later than planned (oops), here is a round-up of my reading adventures and new books that weren’t gifted; for my birthday book haul see here.
Now for the stats
Books started = 7
Books finished = 9
Pages read = 2356
Books bought – here’s the list!
Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire – The fifth installment in the award-winning, bestselling Wayward Children series
The Other People by CJ Tudor – Three years ago, Gabe saw his daughter taken. In the back of a rusty old car, covered in bumper stickers. He was driving behind the car. He watched her disappear. But no one believes him.
Motherwell by Deborah Orr – Just shy of 18, Deborah Orr left Motherwell – the town she both loved and hated – to go to university
Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman – Memory defines us–but what if you lost all memory of who you are? Or where you came from?
The Ones from my Christmas Wish List
(which somehow didn’t appear under the tree but were absolutely necessary to have)
The Wake by Linden MacIntyre – An incredible true story of destruction and survival in Newfoundland by one of Canada’s best-known writers
The Death of Mao by James Palmer – In the summer of 1976, Mao lay dying, and China was struck by a great natural disaster. This title recreates the tensions of that fateful summer, when the fate of China and the world were in the balance
The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper – On the scorching February day in 2009 that became known as Black Saturday, a man lit two fires in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, then sat on the roof of his house to watch the inferno.
The Ones Inspired by Watching TV
The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward by Anthony Summers – The Profumo Affair was the political scandal of the twentieth century. The Tory War Minister, John Profumo, had been sleeping with the teenage Christine Keeler, while at the same time she had been sleeping with a Russian spy. The ensuing investigation revealed a secret world where titled men and prostitutes mixed, of orgies and S&M parties.
Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson – In the middle of a rainy Swedish summer, a little girl is abducted from a crowded train.
The Shapeless Unease by Samantha Harvey – In 2016, Samantha Harvey began to lose sleep. She tried everything to appease her wakefulness: from medication to therapy, changes in her diet to changes in her living arrangements. Nothing seemed to help.
Working Stiff by Judy Melinek – The fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases—hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex—that shaped her as both a physician and a mother.
The Quest for Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy – When James Pope-Hennessy began his work on Queen Mary’s official biography, it opened the door to meetings with royalty, court members and retainers around Europe. The series of candid observations, secrets and indiscretions contained in his notes were to be kept private for 50 years.
The Ladies Loos by Kate Harrad – Drawn from the popular web community, The Ladies’ Loos, this new guide represents the collected knowledge of hundreds of ladies on numerous subjects.
Mem by Bethany C Morrow – MEM is a rare novel, a small book carrying very big ideas, the kind of story that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
The Other by Thomas Tryon – Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different.
Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone – Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes – meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man.
February has already started off well so watch this space!
It seems fitting that the book I’m talking about today is one I’ve had in the stacks for absolutely ages – Carpathia by Matt Forbeck.
When the survivors of the Titanic are picked up by the passenger steamship Carpathia, they thought their problems were over. But something’s sleeping in the darkest recesses of the ship. Something old. Something hungry.
Something that’s trying to get back to the Old Country. Yes, you’ve guessed it – vampires.
Vampires have always been my favourite supernatural monster-type thing, going way back to reading Dracula of course, but mostly I blame Stephen King and Salems Lot, both the TV version starring David Soul and the amazing book it’s based on, still my favourite of King’s vast output. However, I had drifted away from them due to a combination of the increasing daftness of Anne Rice’s novels and the twinkly dark romance of the Twilight saga.
Then, over the New Year, we watched the BBC Dracula which was awesome, and as I was looking for my next read I decided Carpathia would be just the ticket.
And I was right – it’s great fun as long as your idea of fun is out of the frying pan (the freezing Atlantic post-iceberg) into the fire (a band of vampires travelling back to Europe because they were becoming too visible in America – spoiler – not all of the vampires are happy about that) with a love triangle and early feminism thrown into the mix.
Our main protagonists all have names derived from the original Dracula and in a nice touch it becomes clear that their parents (a) knew Bram Stoker, (b) were referenced in the novel and, (c) had a lot of garlic and crosses around their homes when the kids were growing up, from which you can draw your own conclusions.
The descriptions of the sinking of the Titanic and the ordeal survivors went through are well done, and the willingness to believe in actual vampires by a (small) number of the characters arrives quickly given the evidence of their own eyes. I’m often exasperated by the tendency of figures in horror blithely banging on about how there must be a rational explanation for the handsome man in a cloak chewing on someone’s neck.
I also really liked the idea that “modern” vampires might be reckless compared to the older ones who are more reserved (and have therefore survived) and will not listen to their advice.
It gets a bit breathless towards the end and there is a lingering suspicion that a sequel may have been on the cards, but overall I liked it.
Meet a new kind of action hero. Six untraceable agents, totally off the grid. They’ve buried their pasts so that they can change the future.
I was going to say that I have a love/hate relationship with Michael Bay but that wouldn’t be true. I just don’t like his stuff very much. I went on IMDb to have a look at his directing credits and found out that the last one I willingly watched was the first Transformers movie and the last one I can say that I enjoyed (with reservations) is Armageddon.
Armageddon was released in 1998.
So given all this, you may be wondering why I was willing to put myself through watching 6 Underground. I have two words for you.
Now some of you have been here a while and will know that I do not really do romantic comedies, and by not really I mean not at all. For this reason, quite a lot of Mr Reynolds’ performances have passed me by. Until Green Lantern, which was universally panned (including by the star himself) but which I enjoyed quite a bit.
Therefore, I am always willing to give his movies a shot and this looked like it might be fun, plus it was on Netflix, so could be watched in the comfort of my own home. This is a big advantage when you are looking at a film that you are totally unsure about
So what did I think?
Put it this way – I gave it 2 stars on Letterboxd (see here) simply because of the lovely Ryan. One of those points was purely for the excellent product placement of Aviation Gin, a company which he owns.
It’s loud and stupid with lots of car chases and explosions and a disjointed plot which doesn’t really make sense. You will also note from the poster that there are actually seven people in Ryan’s gang. Though not necessarily all at the same time.
In short, to quote my legendary compatriot, Macbeth, it is a story
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.
(Still love Ryan though)
Dazzling details: directed by Michael Bay, this is 2h 8m long and rated 15 for (takes a deep breath) strong bloody violence, gore, sex, sex references, very strong language.
Seriously, what do you need to do to get an 18 these days – like I have said more times than I can remember?
It has been very grey and murky in SW London for the past wee while which is ideal weather for reading and not actually that bad for going on a walk. This week has been a bit of both for me.
January so far has been a good reading month; I’m ahead of my Goodreads target (not something I bother about too much but it’s nice to know). Reviews will follow for some of these but I thought I’d capture here one that I enjoyed very much.
Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the ‘legendary vampire’ tower in another explosive episode of Six Stories
I love the Six Stories series; I enjoy the mix of podcast transcript and background notes with a nice bit of foreshadowing (as often happens in real-life podcasts). At the end of the third volume, I really thought that there weren’t going to be any more – it felt like the revelation at the end of that story provided an element of closure. So I was thrilled to see Beast pop up when I was looking for something else, and of course I had to buy it.
And it’s a really good story. Elizabeth Barton is a vlogger who has built up a large following in her small town in Northumberland (and further afield). She was found dead at a local landmark after taking part in a challenge and three young men were convicted of causing her death.
But someone is trying to throw a spotlight on the case by asking “who locked Elizabeth in the tower”? In looking into the story Scott finds that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
The manipulation of followers and participants along with the curated nature of (some) vloggers’ output is brought to the fore here, and as well as Elizabeth’s individual story there’s a lot for us to think about in terms of how far we should believe what we see.
It’s a really good story and I hope there will be more.
This last week we have also been on an outing to Osterley House and gardens, part of the National Trust but once owned by a large banking family. The house is closed at the moment but there is an exhibition of treasures including a famous work portraying Saint Agatha by Dolci. It’s a luminous work but Agatha’s story is beyond grim and possibly should have a content warning.
It was this blog’s birthday this past week, and this coming week is my actual real-life birthday at the end of the month, actually on Brexit Day (boo hiss). My way of coping with this is to assume that anyone daft enough to celebrate our exit from the European Union is actually commemorating my special day.
Hope you all have a wonderful reading week, with apologies for the rambles. I’ll see you in my next post!