February 2016 ~ Films

January 2016

I’m very behind with my end of month posts for February! But here’s my roundup of the films I saw, I’m trying something slightly different this time.

What Richard Did
Director – Lenny Abrahamson | Writer – Malcolm Campbell | Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Lars Mikkelsen {{Television}}

An emotional drama that is slow to build to a crescendo, but packs a powerful punch when it does. Great performances from a young cast whose assured direction from Lenny Abrahamson produces a memorable film that has stayed with me in the weeks since I watched it.

Spotlight
Director – Tom McCarthy | Writer – Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer | Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams {{Cinema}}

This is a gripping film, focused on the real life events about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the abuse of children at the hands of catholic priests. Thoroughly deserving of its recent Oscar win for best film, it’s my favourite film of 2016 so far, with, for me, a standout performance by Liev Schreiber, whose quiet determination shines against more exuberant performances by the likes of Mark Ruffalo.

Girlhood
Director – Céline Sciamma | Writer – Céline Sciamma | Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Mariétou Touré {{Amazon Video}}

Having only previously seen a short clip – of four young French girls dancing and lip syncing to Diamonds by Rihanna – my interest was thoroughly piqued by Girlhood, and I was not disappointed. Marieme is a young woman who, when her academic options are curtailed, finds herself seeking solace with a gang of girls. Karidja Touré is a wonder as Marieme, and that Rihanna scene is quite simply perfect.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Director – Woody Allen | Writer – Woody Allen | Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Naomi Watts {{Amazon Video}}

I’ve watched a lot of Allen films so far this year, but this one has already passed from my memory. Set in London, the narrative focuses on a single family, recently separated Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones, and their daughter and her husband, Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin. Unfortunately, it’s just totally unremarkable, though I always enjoy Lucy Punch, no matter what she’s doing.

Dad’s Army
Director – Oliver Parker | Writer – Hamish McColl | Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones {{Cinema}}

There’s no doubt that in my mind that this, a film based on the much-loved sitcom from the 60s and 70s, was made with love, rather than a cynical cash-grab. But it just doesn’t really work for me; it’s not that funny, the story meanders all over the place, and its only saving grace is the genius of Toby Jones in everything he does, and the swoon-worthy sophistication of Bill Nighy.

Zoolander
Director – Ben Stiller | Writer – Drake Sather, Ben Stiller, John Hamburg | Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor {{Netflix}}

It’s time for me to accept that I shouldn’t watch comedies just because they are considered funny by the rest of the world at large. I didn’t laugh once at Zoolander; I’m sure that a story about a male model being brainwashed to assassinate a world leader is funny, I just didn’t get it.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Director – Burr Steers | Writer – Burr Steers | Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston {{Cinema}}

This is a silly film, there’s no doubt about it. I doesn’t take itself particularly seriously, and ultimately, it is a lot of nonsense. But I can’t pretend I didn’t have fun watching it. In all honesty, I will watch Pride and Prejudice in just about any form, because it makes me laugh, and I love Elizabeth Bennet.

The Revenant
Director – Alejandro G. Inarritu | Writer – Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Inarritu | Leonardo Di Caprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson {{Cinema}}

Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo Di Caprio, is left for dead after he is mauled by a bear. The Revenant follows his journey across the wilderness as he fights for survival. There’s no better word to describe this film than ‘visceral’. It pulls no punches, and the stunning cinematography makes it a joy to watch.

Melinda and Melinda
Director – Woody Allen | Writer – Woody Allen | Radha Mitchell, Chloë Sevigny, Jonny Lee Miller {{Amazon Video}}

A debate between two intellectuals about comedy vs tragedy gives us the dual stories of Melinda, played by Radha Mitchell. In one narrative her unravelling life and neuroses play out tragically, while in the other, she plays them to her advantage, and starts a new life in New York City. Not an Allen film that I particularly enjoyed, this one; mainly due to slightly annoying characters.

A Bigger Splash
Director – Luca Guadagnino | Writer – Alan Page, David Kajganich | Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes {{Cinema}}

Tilda Swinton plays Marianne Lane, a world-famous rock star, who is recovering from throat surgery on an idyllic Italian island with her husband, played by Matthias Schoenaerts. Their peaceful holiday is disrupted by the arrival of Ralph Fiennes and his daughter, and the ensuing sexual tension plays out against the beautiful backdrop. Tilda Swinton is, as ever, masterful.

Along Came Polly
Director – John Hamburg | Writer – John Hamburg | Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman {{Television}}

Failing to learn my lesson with Zoolander, I tried another Ben Stiller comedy. I still didn’t find it funny.

Deadpool
Director – Tim Miller | Writer – Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick | Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein {{Cinema}}

I giggled my way through Deadpool: proof positive that I do get comedies, they just have to be funny. A superhero movie with a proper sense of humour about itself, it still managed to have a final act epic battle, but it made its way there with such aplomb and hilarity, it’s entirely forgiven.

Grimsby
Director – Louis Leterrier | Writer – Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston | Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson {{Cinema}}

I went to see this against my better judgement, having never been so inclined with any of Baron Cohen’s previous films. I wasn’t disappointed, because my expectations were so low. I found the whole thing almost entirely unfunny; it was crass and cheap, and I really didn’t like it. Mark Strong is so much better than this!

Ice Cold in Alex
Director – J. Lee Thompson | Writer – Christopher Landon, T.J. Morrison | John Mills, Sylvia Sims, Anthony Quayle {{Television}}

John Mills’ army captain is tasked with getting an old ambulance across the desert to Alexandria, taking two nurses, a British colleague, and a South African captain with him. The relentless heat of the Egyptian desert is the foe here, rather than enemy forces, and Mills puts in a wonderful performance as an alcoholic, battle-weary officer.

February 2016 ~ Books

February

February wasn’t a great month for books number-wise, but I read two great books, so it was very much a case of quality over quantity.

The Faithful Couple by A.D. Miller

I reviewed this book earlier in February; I had already received a review copy way back when it was released, and then was asked to join a blog tour for its paperback release. I struggled to get into it a little, although in the end I did enjoy it. The basic premise is that a pair of young men who meet while they are travelling in the US find their subsequent friendship defined by a single incident that takes place early in their relationship. As I mentioned in my original review, it was much more about the power the lies and secrets that arise from this incident hold over the pair, than the incident itself, which seemed a little tame.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

When I hear that a book is being promoted as the new Gone Girl, or more recently, The Girl on the Train, it can be a bit off-putting. I still haven’t actually read Gone Girl, having tried a couple of times and given up. Disclaimer was described as having ‘shades of Gone Girl’, so I was a little wary, but I ended up just loving it. It tells the story of Catherine, a professional woman whose comfortable life has been upended by the appearance of a book on her bedside table, one that seems to tell the story of a particular event in her life years ago. The narrative switches from her story, told in the third person, to a first-person account of a man, who is gradually revealed as the perpetrator of the campaign against Catherine. This is an expertly paced thriller; everything is set up so carefully that as the twists and turns arrive, you feel entirely shocked by them without feeling manipulated in the slightest.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi

Books about cancer aren’t generally my jam. I’d have given this one a similarly wide berth if it wasn’t for the fact that I had read a little about the author and his story on A Cup of Jo, a blog I read every now and again. Paul Kalinithi was a brilliant neurosurgeon completing his residency when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This book was written in the last year of his life, as he succumbed to the disease, and it is absolutely not the book that you expect it to be. It’s a frank and unflinching look at the reality of death, and yet it’s completely uplifting in a way that you just wouldn’t imagine it could be. It was finished by his wife Lucy, who wrote a touching and moving epilogue that moved me to tears. I can’t recommend this book highly enough; it’s just wonderful.

The #1 Rule for Girls by Rachel McIntyre

Daisy Green, having just finished her GCSEs and her relationship with her first love, is headed to college, eager to escape the confines of school and the bittersweet memories it holds for her. I’ve read a lot of YA books, and I can honestly say it’s a genre I love. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of the great YA novels. A good YA author, despite their own age, allows their characters to behave in a way that feels entirely appropriate for their young age. McIntyre imbues Daisy with an odd narrative voice; she’s far too knowing for her young age. The story behind the title, of a list of rules that were dreamt up by Daisy and her friends, felt like an afterthought: ‘I need a title for this book about a girl who starts dating a guy that’s no good for her, what can it be?’ It didn’t have any bearing on the story, and felt entirely tacked on. It’s a book that felt as though it was trying to be gritty, and feminist, but never went far enough. I really didn’t like it very much at all, unfortunately.

* Books marked with an asterisk were made available to me by the publishers for review.

Books in 2016 – 10

Looking back ~ February 2016

My blog has become a place where I do a monthly round up of some sort and then go quiet for three weeks! I wish that I could dig myself out of this rut that I find myself in, but I’m struggling. Hopefully my forthcoming move (more on that shortly) will provide the fresh start I need.

How was your February? Mine was fine, if largely uneventful. I went to see Singalonga Grease, my first time seeing that particular film in that particular format, but by no means my first time at a Singalonga (nor my first time watching Grease, of course). I went back to the BFI to see Mark Kermode: Live in 3D, which was the second date of that monthly event. I am already booked up for March’s date, and I’m hoping to make it to all 12.

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I’ve been knitting feverishly, trying to get a blanket finished in time for a non-baby shower next weekend. I have had to restart it over and over again, because I’m a bit rubbish, but it’s finally taking shape and I’m hoping it will be done in time. I will share it here once it’s all ready and with the mum-to-be.

As I mentioned, I’m moving house! We were asked to move out with a fairly flexible deadline of the end of February, and though I wondered how it was going to happen, it almost has! We found a little cottage/flat/bungalow type abode very near to work, and everything has worked out pretty perfectly, and we move next week. Packing is obviously the most hideous thing that has ever been invented, but needs must. If I’m a proper blogger at any point in the future, I may share photos of the new place, particularly if we can get it looking nice!

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In other happenings, I got a second tattoo (to be blogged about); I got a dot-to-dot book; I went back to Jump Street and regretted it, as my back still hurts three weeks later. Plenty of reading, and books, as ever, as well as watching The Detectorists in its entirety – having watched the second series on iPlayer, I had to go and buy the DVD to watch the first series. I can’t recommend it enough, frankly, so if you haven’t seen it, give it a go. It’s Toby Jones at his absolute best. I’ve also started on The X-Files; I watched the odd episode as a teenager, but I’ve gone back to the start and immersed myself in it. Mulder 4 Scully 4evs.

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Oh and Dennis came into work and was adorable. As ever.

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