Review: Stake Land (2010)

Stake Land Poster

“They’re dead! There’s nothing to be done about it but kill that thing.”
– Mister

SYNOPSIS: Martin was a normal teenage boy before the country collapsed in an empty pit of economic and political disaster. A vampire epidemic has swept across what is left of the nation’s abandoned towns and cities, and it’s up to Mister, a death dealing, rogue vampire hunter, to get Martin safely north to Canada, the continent’s New Eden. – via IMDB

So I watched this a few years ago at the behest of some fellow bloggers, and remembered liking it, though not loving it. Recently on Netflix I saw the sequel, and figured I might as well give this a rewatch for refresher purposes and check it out. Now, this is actually a decent watch but it also has a lot of things that are annoying.

Let’s start with the vampires – I struggled with them because, well, they are vampires, but they behave just like zombies. While I appreciated a fresh, different aspect on the phenomenon, I also wanted more answers. Keeping it vague kept it interesting, but also frustrating. But then, as Mister says, “we don’t do history”, so that also ties in nicely. The acting at times is a little awkward, too. Like, Mister must be badass, and Mister is pretty damn cool, but sometimes it comes across like he is trying too hard.So I watched this a few years ago at the behest of some fellow bloggers, and remembered liking it, though not loving it. Recently on Netflix I saw the sequel, and figured I might as well give this a rewatch for refresher purposes and check it out. Now, this is actually a decent watch but it also has a lot of things that are annoying.

I really liked the relationship between the Martin and Mister. Like, the other characters come and go, and Martin becomes more attached to them than Mister, who has obviously been around long enough and lost enough people, yet he has this attachment to Martin he does not demonstrate to the others. It is them against the world. I was quite interested in the concept of this crazy Brotherhood and their special brand of cuckoo, and I saw Michael Cerveris in there and all I thought is “September went dark side”, like the Observers went more off the deep end before. I found the ultimate showdown between him, Mister, and Martin to be rather dull, and it had so much more potential, and it was built into this big thing.

I enjoyed the ambiguity of the story – no real history (though it could get frustrating at times), it just gets right into it, and we are told this snippet of a story by a boy who was saved by a stranger who has taken him on this deadly journey. The sets are great, and everything looks apocalyptic and dreary. The narration from Martin is sad and depressing, and the score works together to bring this all together.

Stake Land is a slight different vampire movie in the sense that we get zombie like vampires with no higher brain functioning, but it is a decent watch. You will be engaged throughout, and the dynamics between Mister and Martin are enough to keep you going, and to see how people have survived this apocalypse, or, more accurately, how they are trying to survive.

Advertisements

Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

“I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy. But now you’re here. To finish us off… for good.”
– Caesar

SYNOPSIS: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. – via IMDB

Oh yeah! Went to see this the a while ago (my first official trip to the cinema in London) and I had a blast. Actually, I don’t know if that is the right phrasing. Either way, we are going to roll with it. Andy Serkis returns as the most amazing Caesar, and is as honourable as ever. War for the Planet of the Apes really goes for certain themes, and the conflict and strife between the apes and the humans reach a peak.

Woody Harrelson steps in as the truly reprehensible Colonel McCullough . Like I mean really. The man waltzes in and just destroys things all round. Harrelson was good, if underused, which was the same complaint lodged against Oldman in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. There is so much more potential here, but it doesn’t come. Serkis completely owned in his role of Caesar, but I expected no less from him on that front. His portrayal is brilliant, he really has made Caesar his own. Naturally the movie was visually stunning, too, because these movies have all just looked fantastic from the beginning. It definitely has heart and is excellent. I must be honest and say that Dawn is still my favourite.

The plot progression is also good here. It rapidly brings you up to speed with where everything is now in the world, and then it hits the ground running and it does not let up. You feel the fear and the anger here, and I would like to give the movie credit for that. The score also works hand in hand with the visuals to set the mood and tone for what it to come. I was also super pleased to see Maurice, Luca, and Rocket all together here, and I also found Bad Ape to be an amusing and yet sad (his backstory and the lasting implications on his psyche) addition to the movie. This movie didn’t really go between the two sides, as we have become accustomed to, giving us the first movie that is more about the apes than anything.

I feel this movie was totally worth the excitement I had stashed away for it. It totally had that Logan vibe going for it, like this was the last stretch, and it was most certainly serious. It was grim and heavy and it was not out of place. These movies started at a lighter area and have progressed through a whole array of emotions and settings, and have not once stumbled. These movies are a great example of how a film franchise, and especially a reboot franchise, should be handled. War for the Planet of the Apes is definitely worth watching!

Review: Blindsighted – Karin Slaughter

karin slaughter blindsighted cover

Grant County #1

SYNOPSIS: A small Georgia town erupts in panic when a young college professor is found brutally mutilated in the local diner. But it’s only when town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton does the autopsy that the full extent of the killer’s twisted work becomes clear. Sara’s ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, leads the investigation — a trail of terror that grows increasingly macabre when another local woman is found crucified a few days later. But he’s got more than a sadistic serial killer on his hands, for the county’s sole female detective, Lena Adams — the first victim’s sister — wants to serve her own justice. But it is Sara who holds the key to finding the killer. A secret from her past could unmask the brilliantly malevolent psychopath .. or mean her death. – via Goodreads

I have been reading Karin Slaughter’s work for years. My love affair with her books and her characters started with this book, something I randomly stumbled upon years ago, totally by accident, and then I was hooked. Just like that, it was all over for me. Blindsighted is one of the best debut novels I have ever read from an author.

Slaughter wastes no time setting up her characters, and before you know it, you are invested in them, their lives, their everything. She has an earnest way of writing, and it makes the characters real, bringing them to life from the pages, and that is not an easy thing to do. The novel also doesn’t suffer from stiff writing, like some debuts do. The story flows, and Slaughter also does not hold back the punches, and is not scared of getting her hands dirty. She does not shy away from heinous details, and they are also not just thrown in to shock. They are there to serve a purpose .

The book is fast paced, bold, brutal, and is written in a way that is flows effortlessly. It makes for an intense, albeit quick, read. Slaughter really is one hell of a storyteller. The tales she weaves and the characters are strong and well presented. The story had the perfect balance that simulates real life intersecting a terrible tragedy. For a debut novel, this truly blew my mind. I also appreciate that the situations were not too far out there like usual for some novels, so strong points for her there as it gives it a feel of the events being viable. Also, she deals with real issues, from romance, relationships, friendships, to issues still riddling the South.

Blindsighted is a fantastic debut novel, and I have been hooked from this very first book. Dark, brutal, violent, with characters that are so real that you get invested in, I cannot recommend Slaughter’s work enough. The Grant County series is a fantastic series, and would definitely say that this is worth the read if you are into gritty, nasty crime thrillers that have darkness and guts.

Review: Equilibrium (2002)

“You exist to continue your existence. What’s the point?”
– Mary

SYNOPSIS: In a fascist future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system. – via IMDB

I haven’t seen this since I was a kid, and I have been meaning to rewatch it for ages now as I quite enjoyed it then and wanted to see how it held up after all these years. Recently I did so and my husband joined me, as he had not seen it. Well, in short, it is still good, though there are some things that I do take issue with.

First and foremost, the story is interesting. Nothing really new, and has pieces that distinctly feel like they are in line with concept of The Matrix, and it is very heavy handed with its message at times. That being said, it is an enjoyable watch if you don’t overthink it or watch Diggs’s performance too closely, because that it probably the biggest drawback of the movie. He is terrible, and my husband had severe beef with how cheery he seemed and smiley, especially if he was supposed to be hopped up on as much Prozium as his counterparts. Also, I get that Bale started feeling, but his character fell apart so violently at times that it was impossible to suspend belief that this futuristic regime would not notice their top cleric going to pieces as he was.

I did like the revolution that was being planned to revert back to the core of what people are, and to see how books and music and little things have been banned in this future world is heavy. Granted, you might be rid of war this way, but you have also lost the core of what it means to be a human, to feel, to have free will. I did like the colours that were used, and Preston’s clothes colours demarcating who he was and what he felt ultimately were good. I do enjoy imagery like that in movies. The costume design for this was also really good, and suited the tone and style of the movie.

The action sequences were fun, too, as is expected from an action movie, and they are choreographed well. I see that this movie gets quite a bit of hate, which I don’t get. It looks pretty good and has a solid story and comes together quite well. It is flawed, yes, but then just about every movie out there is. Go in for an action film with more story than most, and you will be in for a pretty good time. Equilibrium is well worth your time I would say.

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.