Review: Dunkirk (2017)

“Men my age dictate this war. Why should we be allowed to send our children to fight it?”
– Mr Dawson

SYNOPSIS: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. – via IMDB

So I went to see this in IMAX when it came out (I know, taking my sweet time to churn out reviews, but we are only just starting to settle in). First IMAX in years, and the first experience ever for my husband, and it was well worth it. I have been waiting for this for quite some time, because Nolan in a cinematic master who can do no wrong in my eyes. I was so excited to see his take o a war movie, and I was rewarded, greatly so.

Dunkirk is visually stunning. Every scene is masterfully crafted, and looks amazing. The fact that more practical effects were used over CGI again shows that practical is the way to go. It gives a sense of realism. I also appreciated how young the soldiers were, because it accurately depicts that they were essentially kids, trapped on a beach waiting for help, a doomed hope by all accounts. The movie does not mess around in terms of making you feel the plight of these men, and it is a heavy ordeal, one you are wholly and totally sucked into visually and with some phenomenal scoring. The performances all round were impressive, and even Styles brought the goods to the table, something I was so suspect about after his casting was announced.

The movie has three divisions, beach, sea, air, and they all take place at different times, ultimately coming together to tie the story up, and I think that was crafted and handled very well. Tom Hardy again demonstrates that he can out-act the best of them with just his eyes, and Jack Lowden was excellent as Collins, his scene of being stuck in a sinking jet something that is haunting and gets under the skin, something that lingers. Cillian Murphy has one extremely damaged character, and your heart just breaks for him, no matter what happens. Branagh is stoic and crushed, and you feel for them.

I felt that the movie was a little distant though, and the coldness worked for it in places, and worked against it in others. The only real characters that brought some form of heart, something for you to attach to, was Mr Dawson, Peter, and George. Like really, that was sad. Not that the plight of the soldiers, trapped like helpless rats, was not bad. That gets to you, and is hopeless and claustrophobic. It is heavy, and it is scary, and the minimal dialogue runs home the bleak situation, and Hans Zimmer again delivers a most perfect score. It really takes the movie experience to a whole new level. It’s all painful, and it sticks, but all these stories don’t have any real backing. Now this works to show you that these guys could be anyone, absolutely anyone, but because you don’t ever really attach to them, invest in them, they are just desperate men trying to get home, and that is where there is also a drawback.

While Dunkirk was masterfully crafted, visually stunning, contained solid performances and had an absolutely brilliant score, I do feel that it was just a bit flat in the sense that you don’t connect with it like you would hope. It is well worth a watch, and as I said, masterfully crafted and definitely something worth tripping out to the cinema for.

Review: I Know A Secret – Tess Gerritsen

Rizzoli & Isles #12

I received this in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: The crime scene is unlike any that Detective Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles have ever before encountered. The woman lies in apparently peaceful repose on her bed, and Maura finds no apparent cause of death, but there is no doubt the woman is indeed dead. The victim’s eyes have been removed and placed in the palm of her hand, a gesture that echoes the terrifying films she produces. Is a crazed movie fan reenacting scenes from those disturbing films?

When another victim is found, again with no apparent cause of death, again with a grotesquely staged crime scene, Jane and Maura realize the killer has widened his circle of targets. He’s chosen one particular woman for his next victim, and she knows he’s coming for her next. She’s the only one who can help Jane and Maura catch the killer.

But she knows a secret. And it’s a secret she’ll never tell.  – via Goodreads

As you all probably know, I am a long time reader of Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, and I was pretty excited to be granted an advanced copy of the latest novel in this series, and I got to it as soon as possibly. I Know A Secret is a relatively fast read, but this is truly one of the novels in this series I found to be rather flat. Hear me out…

For starters, I Know A Secret never hits the heights you expect it to. It starts off running, but doesn’t ever go anywhere. Some grisly deaths, to be sure, but nothing special, not on the death scene, but the investigation. It just feels like it never goes anywhere, like there are moments it wants to break out and go somewhere, but instead it just gets stuck. All the material comes across as a rehash of sections of the previous novels and offers up nothing new.

There is no real character development here, either. Twelve books down, you would expect some more development coming in, because so many situations have been set up in previous books, and instead all just feels tired. Gerritsen explores nothing new, and instead just falls back into old patterns – Angela leaves Frank (thank goodness), Barry Frost returns to his ex-wife, Alice, and Maura and Daniel run right back into each other’s arms. Just like that, we are back to where we were a couple of books ago – no real growth or change, unfortunately. I thought there would be some major changes, especially with Amalthea Lank passing on. On that note, it also felt like she was forced into this, and I honestly thought she would have more to do with the book, especially after the way the novel opened.

I was quite pleased to read about Gabriel once again, though my (constant) wish is still that he would feature more prominently in the books, he is a great character, and he and Jane work really well together when we go get to read about them. I did like the concept of this book – kids being hunted down and butchered after all being involved in some heavy witch hunt as kids, and one that seems to be rather flimsy as the novel progresses. Holly Devine, too, was a character I never warmed to. She sort of felt like a caricature of a dangerous character, not someone who was actually dangerous. She had the potential to be more, but just like the rest of this novel, she just felt a bit tired

I Know A Secret is not a terrible read, and there were aspects I enjoyed, I just felt that it was quite a flat affair when all was said and done, an idea that never really spread its wings and took flight. It was uninspiring all round, and I am hoping that the next instalment proves to be a worthier addition of the series.

Review: Legally Blonde (2001)

“I just don’t think that Brooke could’ve done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
– Elle Woods

SYNOPSIS: Elle Woods, a fashionable sorority queen is dumped by her boyfriend. She decides to follow him to law school, while she is there she figures out that there is more to her than just looks. – via IMDB

Yes. The nostalgia man. The nostalgia. I cannot tell you how many times I watched the silly movie growing up, and I have no regrets. I decided the other day to trip down memory lane as rewatch Legally Blonde, and I am glad I did. It is a silly fluffy film for sure, but it has heart, some spunk, and quite a solid message to it, and all this makes for an enjoyable watch.

Reese Witherspoon is the perfect Elle Woods. Like seriously, she just pulls of that totally ridiculous blonde with all the aplomb you would hope that goes with it. She comes across as a totally shallow, brainless airhead, and yet she is not slow. She is just interested in other things – like makeup, beauty, fashion, hair care, and her handbag dog. I love how sassy she is, too, and she has some really priceless lines (like getting into Harvard not really being that hard xD). But when her asshat boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, rips the rug out from under her, Elle goes above and beyond to win him back, and instead proves to the world that she is more than the stereotypical dumb blonde.

Disclaimer: check your brain at the door before you head in for this. If you try to take this too seriously or apply this all as happening in real life, you are going to be in for a bad time. Reality suspension, to be sure. Now, back to the movie. Harvard changes Elle, and in a good way. She gains more confidence than ever before, and feels like she is useful and applies herself, she makes a difference. She also makes real friends that side, and watching Witherspoon’s Elle and Jennifer Coolidge’s Paulette together is something else altogether. I quite enjoyed the little awkward side story between Paulette and the delivery guy, and I thought that Luke Wilson’s Emmett was terribly sweet. I also really liked how much heart Legally Blonde brought to the table, and the strong messages peppered throughout it.

Legally Blonde is a charming, light, fluffy film that tackles some strong issues and actually has quite a good, solid message that it conveys. It also helps that it is really fun and has moments that will stick with you (I mean who is in a hurry to forget the ludicrous bend and snap?!). Also, it’s totally nostalgic, and that wins points for me. It’s such a chick flick, this cannot be denied, and is cute in that slightly sickening way, but you gotta love it.

Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

“We are dealing with a monster from a bygone era.”
– Preston Packard

SYNOPSIS: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden. – via IMDB

I finally got to this, and I must say that I was more impressed than I expected to be. While Kong: Skull Island has some issues, if you don’t overthink it and just go in for what it was made for (pure entertainment), you are bound to have a pretty good time. I quite enjoyed myself throughout.

I had quite a good time with the humour, which was cheesy at times, but every now and again had a good, sharp snap to it. I also absolutely loved the soundtrack, which was totally right up my alley, and worked with this. I think the movie touted quite the impressive cast, though some of them were underused. None of them were actually given a character to really chew on, but they all served their purpose of bringing the story of Kong to life. I thought Hiddleston to be a good ex-military type, Jackson played who and what he always plays, Larson was solid (as is to be expected), and it was a treat to see Reilly here.

I did not enjoy the romance that was squashed into this (I could totally have done without it), and I must acknowledge that the movie had some super dodgy effects at times. Also, just don’t overthink it, because this is a movie to entertain, not to be picked apart like The Godfather or something. Kong was really cool, and I totally enjoyed his scenes. Those icky-ass monsters on the island that Kong protected everyone from served their purpose – to be gross as hell. Ewwww. There were also plenty fight scenes, and all were done quite well – exactly what they needed to be, which is a blockbuster action film. If that’s what you are going in for for Kong, then that is exactly what you are going to get.

Anyway, there isn’t really much to say about Kong: Skull Island other than it is quite a bit of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had a few laughs, there were some cool fight sequences, a great soundtrack to carry it all, and decent performances from the cast. It’s seriously not a bad movie to while away some time with.

Review: The Stolen Girls – Patricia Gibney

Detective Lottie Parker #2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: The young woman standing on Lottie’s step was a stranger. She was clutching the hand of a young boy. ‘Help me,’ she said to Lottie. ‘Please help me.’

One Monday morning, the body of a young pregnant woman is found. The same day, a mother and her son visit the house of Detective Lottie Parker, begging for help to find a lost friend.

Could this be the same girl?

When a second victim is discovered by the same man, with the murder bearing all the same hallmarks as the first, Lottie needs to work fast to discover how else the two were linked. Then two more girls go missing.

Detective Lottie Parker is a woman on the edge, haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her family together through difficult times. Can she fight her own demons and catch the killer before he claims another victim?  – via Goodreads

I decided to give this one a shot because the synopsis seemed alright, and people were comparing this to the work of Karin Slaughter, so naturally I was sold. Unfortunately for me, this is not the same genius as Slaughter, and I had a myriad of issues with the book. Some things I liked, but for the most part, I was not pleased.

To start, I figured out pretty quickly after starting this that this was the second book in a series, which sucks because I don’t like reading things out of sequence. It was obvious, too, because the author continually referred to things that obviously happened in the last book, and it felt like I was missing something major because I had not read it, which sucked. I prefer a book in a series to be okay on its own, even if you miss some things, but to feel like you have been chucked into the middle of the ocean is not cool.

I was not a fan of one single character in this book. Not our main protagonist Lottie Parker (I just think she’s a terrible mother and an all round bitch), and the supporting characters were not endearing, either. I just want to take another moment to talk about Lottie. She is really terrible – she knows her kids are going through stuff, and she is just absent. Completely, totally absent. I also found her extremely selfish and I didn’t like the way she treated other people. Not cool. I found most of the characters to be whiny. I was initially drawn into the writing style, because it came across as solid, but the longer I read, the more dawdling and long-winded it became, going around in circles and never really getting to a point. The plot also tried to be so much more in depth and complex than it ultimately was, so it came across as really convoluted.

I enjoyed the concept of the book, I did. I also liked reading about the young boy who fled the extreme horrors or his past, who survived, and who underwent even more harsh things at the hands of terrible people. I could have done with more of that and less rape scenes. Also, setting up this monster stalking these girls was something, but never really got to anything super scary because Gibney almost had too many bad people in this novel, so they ultimately all ran together and had no distinguishing features. There were way too many coincidences in this book to make the plot plausible, too.

I have to give Gibney credit for the grittiness of the book. She did not shy away from some heinous things (maybe that’s why this got the Slaughter comparison). I know it sounds rough, but when an author is ballsy about that stuff, I have got to respect it. You want to tell a story about human trafficking and the sex trade? You are going to have to get into some icky areas.

Anyway, The Stolen Girls is not the worst thing you could read, but it is convoluted, filled to the brim with unlikable characters, and is an excruciatingly long read that happens to have an interesting plot that is just drowned by all the issues presented throughout the book. I don’t know if I will be in a hurry to read anything else from Gibney, despite the fact that she is not afraid to go to the nasty places for her story, a book that is icky and gory does not mean it is a good read if it cannot substantiate the nastiness with a solid story.

Review: Karin Slaughter – The Good Daughter

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever… – via Goodreads

I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about receiving a book from NetGalley for review, ever! Karin Slaughter, as you probably know, is my favourite author. Hands down. The woman is phenomenal and her work is totally up my alley – it is so dark and brutal and unforgiving, and you get so hooked on her characters, they just draw you in. When I was granted access to this, I pretty much did my nut. But enough about that. How did the book hold up for my excitement?

W.O.W. This was one hell of an amazing read! Really. I was drawn in from the first few opening pages, and got hooked on these characters within moments. Slaughter delivers, once again, a solid story, told with such finesse. You get drawn in. The characters become genuine, real people to you, the women are strong (I will always appreciate this), and you never feel like you are reading a book. It is like someone is telling you this story.

I was a big fan of the characters in the book. Sam, Charlie, Rusty, Lenore and Ben all brought a distinctly unique voice to the book, and I appreciate that. You always knew who was who and what was going on. You could identify with each and every one of them. Rusty is described in such a way that even though the town hates him on principle, you cannot help but like the man. He is witty and entertaining and loves his kids. Lenore is strong and stands her ground. Charlie, while totally damaged, is difficult to hate, though originally you think you are going to. Sam, brusque and stubborn as she is, has such a brilliant mind. Ben is absolutely adorable, and a strong, supportive man. I really liked it.

The story that Slaughter tackles here is a heavy one, something I know Americans are particularly touchy about – school shootings. They are vile things, and a horrible, tragic occurrence. Slaughter delivers the goods here again in terms of story – we have a truly savage, brutal back story for the Quinn family, and to see how they all come together again 28 years down the line over a school slaying is quite something. Slaughter gets right up to her elbows in the narrative. The writing flows smoothly and is genuine.

I barreled through this book. I did not want to put it down. I was engrossed for every single second, and thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the story. I was hooked, plain and simple. Definitely one of Slaughter’s strongest novels, and very interesting to see a story told from the perspective of the sisters. Absolutely a solid read and well worth it, I highly recommend this standalone novel from such an accomplished writer.

June Blind Spot Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

“When you separate an entwined particle and you move both parts away from the other, even at opposite ends of the universe, if you alter or affect one, the other will be identically altered or affected.”
– Adam

SYNOPSIS: A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of her uncontrollable younger sister. – via IMDB

You know, this was an odd one. Even after all these years, I was not quite sure what this was all about, only that the characters were vampires. I was pleasantly surprised with the movie, after I had spent some time chewing on it, that is.

Okay, right off the bat I want to say that the film was extremely visually appealing. It was all shot at night, and everything looks dark but never really dreary, just sort of… I don’t know, typically that dark and romantic vampiric vibe. It really was pretty to look at. The score, too, complements the film every step of the way, and the sight and sound combining like they do really set the tone and the atmosphere for the movie, and then the rest is up to the cast, and boy, they really work that. The comedy in this is also very sharp, and delivered effortlessly throughout and never comes across as jarring, yet it is also extremely subtle.

Tom Hiddleston is fantastic. Really. His Adam is quite a complex character who truly entertained me. He is reclusive, haunted and depressed, yet brings massive amounts of humour to the table, which I thoroughly enjoyed. He is classy to boot, and absolutely gorgeous. Tilda Swinton, as always, delivers a solid character, and Eve is one that I quite liked. She gets this almost childlike joy out of things in the world still, despite having been around so long. Adam and Eve perfectly complement each other, and are just this incredibly beautiful, mysterious couple. Hiddleston and Swinton worked wonders together – they just click, everything falls into place when they are together. There is this comfortable, passionate energy between them.

Wasikowska, while breezing in and out, irritated me, and yet provided comedic scenarios in the midst of all the heaviness that was present. Hurt, of course, is excellent here, and his character is a good one, one I could definitely have seen more of. Naturally Yelchin shone here, as expected. While Adam might hate the “zombies”, he has quite the appreciation for Ian, and I liked how that was handled.

Only Lovers Left Alive is dark, haunting, comedic, sophisticated, and most certainly well worth a watch. It’s a movie you chew on after the fact, and that is something that I appreciate. Definitely a different kind of vampire film, and I liked that. This movie is not going to appeal to those who do not enjoy a slow burn film though, or a movie which is not spoon fed to you. There are a lot of little nuances here, things that make the bigger picture that much better.