Godzilla: King of the Monsters

The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.

I enjoyed both the original Godzilla (as in the 2014 version, not the original original Godzilla from the 1950s) and Kong: Skull Island and was very keen to see the next stage in this universe (as we have to call these things now). Main takeaway for me is that if you are looking for a big dumb movie with the emphasis on dumb (at least where the humans are concerned) then you have come to the right place.

Things have moved on and the impact of the events from the previous two films has been felt around the world, so much so that the US government, as is its wont, is keen to seize control of the research into the Titans from Monarch. It’s clear that there are many more of these creatures than was originally thought, and nefarious plans are afoot to deploy them to rid the world of humans, courtesy of Charles Dance’s eco-terrorist. Cue the action.

Without going into spoiler territory there are several things that stuck with me after the film ended. Apologies for the brain dump to follow 🙂

  • I still like the chunky Godzilla design, don’t care what anyone says
  • why did that character have to die?
  • why did that other character have to die?
  • how come Bradley Whitford (for it is he) got all the best lines – not that I’m complaining, I love Mr Whitford and believe in fact that there was not enough of him in the the movie, but still
  • I like the design of Mothra even though I loathe moths, to an extent that is just short of a phobia
  • there was SO MUCH destruction, I kept on wondering just how many people in this film died, and think there should be a John Wick scale to measure such things
  • talking about dying, that character simply had to die because of what they had done; can you imagine family gatherings if they had survived?

However, the thing I found most silly was the recurring tendency for characters to yell the at/for other characters who could not possibly hear them due to a combination of at least two of the following taking place at any one time – (1) hurricane-level storms, (2) exploding volcanoes, (3) roaring monsters in general and (4) bashing each other vigorously. How did they think anyone was going to hear them?

Having said all of the above I actually enjoyed Godzilla: King of the Monsters, even though most of the people were annoying and the plot was also a bit silly, and (heresy I know) I think there may have been too many monsters. But it was a Tuesday evening and it made for a fun date night. A film not to be taken too seriously I think.

Dazzling details: G:KotM was direeted by Michael Dougherty, was 2h 11m long and rated 12A for moderate threat, violence and infrequent strong language.

Annihilation

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.

I loved Annihilation when it was published back in 2014 and devoured it and its sequels as soon as they were released, so I was really interested when I saw that a film version was on the cards. It’s taken me this long to watch it because although I have Netflix we didn’t (until very recently) have a smart TV, and I had heard that it was best to watch this on the biggest screen possible. So when our new TV was installed this was the first movie I watched by myself.

So as the description above explains, Natalie Portman is a biologist who takes part in an expedition into an area of the country known as the Southern Reach where something, possibly extraterrestrial, has led to something called the Shimmer, where nature and time are corrupted. Natalie’s character has become involved because her husband (Oscar Isaac), missing for a year, suddenly returns and she finds out that his secret mission was one in a line of expeditions which have all failed – no-one has come back before him.

The new team is made up of Natalie and four other women – in the books they have no names and are just described by their roles – and one of the strengths of the film is watching a team of intelligent and brave women working together to solve a problem. When things fall apart they do so in the same way that all of the other missions were affected, mostly due to paranoia.

What makes this special for me is that the film doesn’t shy away from the horrors of a place where things are so out of whack. There are deformed animals including the most frightening bear you will ever see on screen and evidence that the teams before them did some terrible things – a gruesome and shocking piece of footage from her husband’s expedition in particular. The film also doesn’t skimp on beautiful visuals showing just how strange the world inside the Shimmer can be – plants growing in the shape of humans, strange colours and so on.

It is such a shame that Annihilation wasn’t given a theatrical release, especially as it seems to have been due to the studio freaking out that the film was too intellectually challenging, which makes me sad. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve been reading here for a while you will know that I love science fiction in all its forms, however “dumb”, but sometimes it’s nice to have a film that gets you thinking long afterwards (and not because you’re trying to fill in major plot holes).

Also pleased to say my Tessa Thompson girl-crush is firmly in place.

It’s bloody and creepy and beautiful. I loved it and will be watching it again I’m sure.

Dazzling details – Alex Garland directed, the film is 1h 55m long and rated 15 for strong language, gore, sex

Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel  was one of the films I was most looking forward to in 2019. But what’s it all about, you ask, next to the rock from under which you have just crawled.

Well, according to IMDb:

Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

Does she though? I mean, at the start of the film she is already one of the universe’s most powerful heroes and her connection to Earth is tenuous at best. But I quibble, of course, because that’s what I do.

So, I went into this film with high expectations which were not only met but exceeded. I wish films like this had been around when I was a girl (which was a very long time ago let me tell you) but I am so very glad they’re here now.

This is an origin story with a twist. As I mentioned above, Carole Danvers is already hugely powerful but is living under the impression that she is something she is not. When the events of the film bring her to Earth and cut her off from her team, she teams up with Nick Fury (for it is he) and slowly begins to piece together her past, what happened to her and that rather than being supported, she is being held back by the race she has inadvertently become a part of. The relationships in this story are hugely important, not only with Fury but with her best friend Maria and Maria’s daughter Monica, and those relationships which give her the means to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Oh, and there is Goose; a very, very special cat.

Brie Larson is excellent in the lead role, with just the right balance of vulnerability and strength. The special effects are of course really well done, especially the process used to make Samuel L Jackson and Clark Gregg younger versions of themselves, the aliens are all brilliant and there is added Annette Bening, which is always a good thing.

Ignore the small group of haters on social media; I love this, and can’t wait to see Captain Marvel in the new Avengers movie. Not long now 😀

Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck | 2h 3m running time | 12A for moderate fantasy violence and implied strong language.

 

 

Alita: Battle Angel

alita-poster-800x1185Long in the planning (like a lot of James Cameron’s stuff these days) and directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel finally hit our screens in February. Although I was aware of the manga on which the film is based I really didn’t know anything about the story line other than, of course, that her name was Alita and she was, um, a battle angel. So turning to IMDB:

A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

What they mean by deactivated is that Christoph Waltz finds her head and a bit of her upper torso in a dump, attaches her to a body he had built for other purposes and voila, Alita is up and about.

We were really keen to see this movie because of the original trailer which looked exciting and fast-paced, but were almost put off entirely by the dull, boring and earnest infomercial (if that’s what they’re called) where Cameron & Rodriguez patted each other on the back for making the film. I hate the trailers/adverts where the stars and/or directors talk to the audience about the film – they are almost never enticing.

Anyway, we saw Alita in 2D because that’s the way I roll, and I have to say that we really enjoyed it. I thought it was going to be a disaster because (1) the Odeon whooshy thing that they play before the programme starts had its soundtrack replaced by light opera (!), (2) the house lights didn’t go down and (3) after the BBFC advisory card everything on the screen went blank. After a computer reboot everything was OK; have to say the staff at the Rotunda in Kingston were really helpful and got it all sorted as soon as they could AND we didn’t need to sit through the adverts again, but I do miss the das of a proper projectionist.

I also thought I might be put off by the aesthetic used for Alita herself (the very large eyes in particular) but Rosa Salazar did a really good job bringing her to life and after a very short period I just didn’t notice it any more – that’s just what she looked like, NBD.

The plot is no great shakes; revived cyborg meets boy, he is not what he appears, she isn’t what she appears and there are villains after her for reasons that become mostly clear as the story progresses. There’s a Rollerball-adjacent game and a lovely cyberpunk look to the movie – parts of it are genuinely beautiful – but the ending doesn’t really provide much of a conclusion, instead setting us up for a sequel which I for one would like to see made.

Big shout-out to Mahershala Ali as one of the bad guys. I’m currently watching him in True Detective S3 and it was fun to see him being all cool and villainous.

So like I said, not groundbreaking but really fun and enjoyable. On our DVD to-buy list!

Yet Another Book Haul

IMG_0812I’ve skipped a couple of Sunday Salons and am behind on reviews and other stuff so I thought I’d ease myself back into the blogosphere by confessing what I have bought bookwise since my last post. I deliberately didn’t ask for books for my birthday but did that stop me from buying them for myself? Of course not.

So here goes

Speculative fiction

The Last by Hanna Jameson – Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilisation, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia, and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message. Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive. Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.  This was a pre-order.

The Line Between by Tosca Lee – An extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming. This was a pre-order.

Rosewater by Tade Thompson – I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get a copy of this highly-regarded novel, but here we are. If you’re not aware, this won Africa’s first award for speculative fiction. Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumoured healing powers.

Crime & Thrillers

The Great Mistake by Mary Roberts Rinehart – Illness, jealousy, and murder poison the atmosphere in an ultrawealthy community. MRR is one of my favourite old-school American crime writers so new editions of her works are always welcome chez Bride.

The Charlie Parker Collection 1-4 by John Connolly – I’ve read some of Connolly’s other work and some Parker short stories but it feels like its time to work my way through the novels.

Smallbone Deceased by Micheal Gilbert – Horniman, Birley and Craine is a highly respected legal firm with clients drawn from the highest in the land. When a deed box in the office is opened to reveal a corpse, the threat of scandal promises to wreak havoc on the firm’s reputation – especially as the murder looks like an inside job. The partners and staff of the firm keep a watchful and suspicious eye on their colleagues, as Inspector Hazlerigg sets out to solve the mystery of who Mr Smallbone was – and why he had to die. Another lovely British Library re-issue.

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey – In a crumbling park in the crumbling back end of Copacabana, a woman stopped under an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar. That was the last time anyone saw the famous Brazilian novelist Beatriz Yagoda. Upon hearing the news of her disappearance, her American translator Emma flies immediately to Brazil. There, in the sticky, sugary heat of Rio, Emma and Beatriz’s two grown children conspire to solve the author’s curious disappearance.

Horror

Help the Witch by Tom Cox – Inspired by our native landscapes, saturated by the shadows beneath trees and behind doors, listening to the run of water and half-heard voices, Tom Cox’s first collection of short stories is a series of evocative and unsettling trips into worlds previously visited by the likes of M. R. James and E. F. Benson. In other words, creepy stories!

Sleeping with the Lights On by Darryl Jones – Four o’clock in the morning, and the lights are on and still there’s no way we’re going to sleep, not after the film we just saw. The book we just read. Fear is one of the most primal human emotions, and one of the hardest to reason with and dispel. So why do we scare ourselves? 

I seem to have a lot of pre-orders for download in February but I’ll try to cover those in Salon posts o that it doesn’t look quite so bad 😀

 

 

 

 

Mid-January Book Haul

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As mentioned in my Sunday Salon post, I have already bought enough books by the middle of January to justify their own post, so here we are. Try not to be tempted too much – I clearly failed!

These aren’t in any particular order of purchase or preference, I’m just adding them as they come.

The Histories

Hitler & the Hapsburgs by James Longo – I didn’t know that Hitler, because he loathed the Hapsburg dynasty so much,  pursued the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (yes that Archduke Franz Ferdinand) throughout his time in power. I am fascinated by all things Hapsburg and this has been well-received

The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman – subtitled “Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicines and Murder Most Foul”; I love all of these 😀

Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Diaries of Kenneth Rose 1944 to 1979 – from the bombing of London in WWII to the election of the Thatcher woman, this promises to be full of gossip; I can’t resist reading other people’s diaries and letters.

The Crimes

The Puppet Show by MW Craven – “A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.” Sometimes you have to make your own entertainment

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup – “October, Copenhagen. The police make a terrible discovery – a young woman is found brutally murdered, with one of her hands cut off.Next to her lifeless body hangs a strange doll made of chestnuts . . .” Murder and crafting. Written by the author of The Killing which I loved, except for the ending of Series 3.

The Katherina Code by Jorn Hier Lorst – “Katharina went missing twenty-four years ago. Each year on the anniversary of her disappearance Chief Inspector William Wisting visits her husband, the man he could never help. He re-reads her files, searching for the answer he could never find. The code he could never solve. Until now.” Wisting is the new Wallander, according to Amazon at least.

The “I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read That Yet”

The Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins – in my defence I have seen and loved the film and toyed with the graphic novel but when my husband, a huge Collins fan who has been trying to get me to read his stuff for years, pointed out that there was a “new expanded novel” I finally agreed.

The Stuff That Only I Find Interesting

If you find this sort of thing interesting too, then you are my kind of people.

Declutter by Debora Robertson – “the get real guide to creating calm from chaos” Nigella Lawson said she needed this book and who am I to gainsay Nigella? Real solutions for real people. I am looking forward to reading this and comparing it to Marie Kondo’s approach (I’m reading her book at the moment and being irritated by many of the hot takes on Twitter). Whether I will actually declutter is yet to be seen.

L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau – I love lists and have been making them for as long as I can remember. I can’t decide if always writing things down has led to my memory becoming a little wonkier because I no longer rely on it so much, or whether I’m just getting older (I suspect it’s the latter). ” The humble list has the power to change your life. In its immediacy, its simplicity and its concise, contained form, the list enables us to organise, to save time and to approach facts with clarity.

Rituals for Every Day by Nadia Narain – “Let rituals bring you back to yourself.” I’m always looking for things to help me structure my day as a retired person, knowing that otherwise I would spend my life on the sofa reading. According to the Sunday Times this is non-patronising and authentic. I hate the word authentic in this sort of context but let’s give this a go.

Everything Else (otherwise known as the Bride gets bored with categorising)

Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill – “This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements the original work.” One of my favourite authors, Ronald Frame, thought this was fiendishly ingenious.

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – A fourth entry and prequel to the Wayward Children series. I enjoy her stuff immensely. This was a pre-order.

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – I found this by going down one of those Amazon ‘customers who bought that also bought this’ rabbit hole. “When it begins, it begins as an opera should begin: in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger, who you discover has your fate in his hands . . .  She is Lilliet Berne. And she is the soprano.” I know nothing about this at all. Liked the cover though.

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar – alternative-history novel, love those, and Tidhar is an extremely interesting author, so looking forward to this one very much.

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart – “The rambling house called Thornyhold is like something out of a fairy tale. Left to Gilly Ramsey by the cousin whose occasional visits brightened her childhood, the cottage, set deep in a wild wood, has come just in time to save her from a bleak future. With its reputation for magic and its resident black cat, Thornyhold offers Gilly more than just a new home. It offers her a chance to start over.”

So that’s it. For now at least 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?