(I apologise in advance for the use of caps lock. Never a good sign when a review makes me use caps lock…)
Chrissie wakes every morning and does not know where she is. She doesn’t know who the man sleeping next to her is, and why the face in the mirror is twenty years older than it should be…
They really made a movie out of this? Well, it started with a strong premise, fair enough, but then quickly ran out of steam. Most of the book is section-break repetition of “Can I trust my husband? Yes. Oh, no, I can’t. Oh, yes, I can. Nope…changed my mind again.”
It really slows the pacing down.
I understand that Chrissie’s mental state is fragile and easily unbalanced, but it gets pretty wearing after two hundred pages, sometimes when it happens from one paragraph to the next. And when it’s essentially the only thing happening, it really slows the pacing down.
So, yes. Let’s talk about pacing. The writer seemed to think thriller means filler. Here’s a paraphrased example:
“I started washing the dishes in hot, soapy water. I made sure the bubbles were frothy before I started. I washed Ben’s breakfast plate. The doorbell rang. I put down the sponge. I dried my hands on a tea towel. I walked to the front door. There was a man there.”
GET. ON. WITH IT.
And I was wondering what about the narrative voice was annoying me until I realised that Christine doesn’t use contractions, making her stilted and artificial:
“I think Ben does not hear me walk into the kitchen. I do not hear him move from the sofa. He has walked into the kitchen behind me. But he does not talk.”
For most of the story, there’s not much else going on but stilted narrative and clumsy dialogue (“It’s your novel,” he said. “The one you wrote”. As opposed to her novel she didn’t write?).
By the time the last third came around, I just wanted to be finished and done. Which is a shame, because the last third is where all the good stuff happens. But by then, it’s too late to save it.
Have you read any books where the story starts off strongly then fades out? Let me know!
First man is a potted biography of Neil Armstrong (You might have heard of him) from 1961 to the first moon landing in 1969 (I hope that’s not a spoiler for anyone except those who think he didn’t go).
At times it felt like it was trying to out-odyssey “2001”
It started off shakily. Story wise, that is. The shaky camera work was pretty consistent all the way through, and it was damn annoying. At times it felt like it was trying to out-odyssey 2001: A space odyssey. There were lots of extreme eye close ups, lots of shaking heads and shaking rockets. Despite that, I enjoyed the dive into his character.
This man is so stoical he wouldn’t sweat if he was on fire.
Armstrong was a notoriously reclusive and private man, and the film gets that isolation across. He doesn’t even talk to his wife or his kids, but internalises everything. It’s tough, trying to live with us introverts sometimes, huh?
The background information makes it sounds like this man is so stoical he wouldn’t sweat if he was on fire.
Well, so much for that, then. He looks pretty happy and emotive to have walked on the moon to me.
It’s not a film I’d go out of my way to re-watch, but it was interesting to see someone who was so private portrayed on the screen. Kudos to Ryan Gosling for trying to act so emotional internally and not externally.
It reminded me of why I tend to avoid Oscar-heading movies. (You can always tell: They come out in January and have odd subjects or are biographies). They’re usually like this:
Man: I told you.
(Long, long, long pause in which the camera does not cut away and no one moves)
Woman: About what?
(Cut to woman who has not moved at all)
(Long, long, long pause in which the camera does not cut away and no one moves)
(Cut back to man)
Man: About Jack.
…and so on, for about three hours or more. Scenes which never end and go on for far too long without dialogue or moving the film forward at all.
First Man was bad for this when it started: We have a shot of Armstrong’s daughter (I’m presuming: It could be his niece for all we’re told) in hospital, some kind of machine looking at her.
We have no clue how the actors are feeling.
We have no idea what’s going on, since there’s no dialogue or exposition going on. Is she dying? We don’t have a clue until we see her being buried. Again, this goes on with minimal dialogue, so we have no clue how the actors are feeling in these scenes.
I don’t mind not being spoon fed for every scene. I don’t mind long scenes that do something for the movie. But Oscar-bait movies always go for these long, endless scenes with no exposition and no explanation of what’s happening. You can make a great movie without the pretention, folks!
Do you watch Oscar laden movies, or tend to avoid them? Let me know!
Books to movies rarely seem to work. People end up loving one over the other. Well, guess what…me too!
(From my Goodreads review, 2012)
In the disintegrating world of 2044, Wade Watts, a hermit teenager, dedicates his life to discovering the online clues that could win him the ultimate prize…
The OASIS is the only place to be in the future. The world has fallen apart, and almost every aspect of humanity is pushed onto a massive online, virtual reality. Even schools and public services are in there – there’s a planet with nothing but schools, for instance. Interaction is through avatars. They can be ‘killed’ (more like a restart), but nobody really gets hurt in there. Not physically, anyway.
The man who designed this became the richest man on the planet, and when he dies, his fortune is left up for grabs for whoever can solve the puzzles he left behind, puzzles rooted in very, very obscure 1980s pop culture references.
I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons. I’m not particularly skilled at computer or arcade games, so the (80s) subculture that the author immerses us in is mostly lost on me. But luckily, he explains every reference as he goes along.
In fact, he seems just to drop references in just to explain them…they don’t really advance the plot much. There’s an example where Wade travels somewhere in a Back to the Future DeLorean with a Knight Rider and Ghostbusters add-ons. It’s never used again and not mentioned, so why do it?
In the movie “Signs” a character says: “…this stuff is just about a bunch of nerds who never had a girlfriend their whole lives. They make up secret codes and analyse Greek mythology and make secret societies where other guys who never had girlfriends can join in.”
That’s what the 80s subtext of the novel mostly felt like to me; obscure references that very few people would understand (or even care if they weren’t there). They’re just secret handshakes for the society the author moves in.
Fortunately, the main character is likable enough to keep you reading – you want this little underdog to win, especially against the corporate bullies who are willing to kill him and his friends. You want him to come out with the girl and the prize and some good friends. There are no real surprises when he does all three.
I have some grievances against the pop culture references. Where was Madonna? Where was Spielberg? Where was Tron? And one the author missed that I caught: Wade references Fantastic Voyage (1966)…why not Innerspace (1987)?
Also, since the references seemed to stretch back and forward decades a little, where was Potter World?
Wade calls his diary for keeping track of all the clues his Grail Diary, a reference to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s a nice metaphor, and it carries nicely through the book; as Jones discovers that the search for the Grail is the search for what’s important rather than an artefact, so does Wade discover that what’s important to him isn’t inside a computer, but back in the world of the real.
(Watched in 2019)
For a book I felt so frozen out of, the movie was very accessible. It’s one of those films where everything is thrown at the screen, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it, or lose a sense of where the characters were while all this was going on. Because of the nature of the film, you could freeze every shot and spend hours looking for all the 80s references, and still probably miss some of them. And a shout-out for the retro soundtrack, which is awesome.
None of the flashy effects or 80s references pulled me into the movie and made it stick with me, though. What hooked me was the portrayal of Halliday, the man who invented this virtual world. High marks to the actor playing him: He nailed social anxiety.
In the first scene where we get a glimpse of his personality, his only friend is walking out of his life. How does Halliday deal with this? By avoiding eye contact, by fidgeting and moving chairs around, by keep his voice low and his attitude passive. I watched that and said to my wife: That’s exactly what I’d do!
In a closing scene, Halliday explains – while fidgeting and playing with nothing – the he created the virtual world because he was terrified his whole life and couldn’t connect with any of the people in the real world. There’s a solid sense of his loneliness and isolation. Yeah, man. I hear you.
It was so refreshing that Halliday was played straight. This was just the way he was made. No one sneered at him, or laughed at him or looked at him weird because he wanted to go to a movie instead of dancing.
I liked that.
Verdict: Movie over book!
Book Vs Movie: Any you’d like to see me compare? Let me know!
It’s one I’ve not shared with many people, but those who know me best know all about it. I’m not proud of it, but it’s part of who I am.
I’m coming out with it today, so here goes. Deep breath.
I love disaster movies.
I know. I’m sorry! I just can’t help myself. I should know better. But there’s something about a good disaster movie that pulls me in. The worst part is that I even love the bad ones, where the character types and fates are pretty obvious from the first ten minutes. I even love The Corewhere the characters are deep in the centre of the earth…and then go outside.
The PoseidonAdventure also started an appreciation of Gene Hackman movies for me
It started for me with The Poseidon Adventure. I didn’t really understand most of it when I first watched it as kid, but the peril and the danger seemed very real to me, especially as someone who couldn’t (and can’t) swim. It was a few years later when I watched it again that I got upset at the death of…well, if you’ve seen it, you know who I mean. (TPA also started an appreciation of Gene Hackman movies for me – I’ll watch that guy in anything!)
I followed that up with Earthquakeand The Towering Inferno, the second best disaster movie ever made. The 1970s was a golden age for Irwin Allen disaster movies, and they shaped my movie-loving experiences as well. Okay…three disaster movies. Let’s not talk about The Swarm, which killed the genre just as fast…
I have low requirements for watching a movie and enjoying it
There’s something delightful about disaster movies, something I can’t really identify that pulls me in and makes me sit down and watch, and even own a few of them. I can’t define why I love them, but I do have a few theories…
* Low standards! I have low requirements for watching a movie and enjoying it. It doesn’t take much to entertain me, to be honest. As a result, I’ve watched some pretty bad movies over the years, some intentionally. Some of them even had a plot! Disaster movies are high art compared to some of those.
* It’s the end! Throw everything in the air and start again. No more mortgage payments or work tomorrow! Of course, no running water or sanitation either…
* Melodrama! I love me a bit of melodrama – I’ve read nearly all of Dickens, after all, and he loved a bit of melodrama. I don’t like excessive subtext in my movies, and there’s no nuanced performances in a disaster movie: Everyone knows who everyone is and what their motivations are. Chewing the scenery is almost a requirement. I find that refreshing in a film.
* There are no rules! No one is guaranteed to survive to the end. It doesn’t matter how high your star billing is, you might not make it. Lends an air of tension to the whole thing, I find!
* A preparation for death. Yeah, that’s a deep one. How will the characters face the end? Saving someone else, running away, or laughing into the face of their mortality? Would I do the same? Those are pretty philosophical question to ask yourself while you’re watching Dwayne Johnson muscle his way through San Francisco in San Andreas.
All this disaster movie love does have it limits: I’ve only ever watched Armageddon once. It’s a disaster of a disaster movie…more like being inside hyperactive music video. Given what I’ve just said about being entertained easily, and having such low standards, that should give you an idea of how awful it is. Avoid it if you can, and if you can’t: Run!
So break out your emergency rations and prepare for the end of the world however you wish: giant waves, massive tectonic plate shifts, angry bees. I’ve lived the adventure and seen it all.
I’m ready, baby. Bring on the end of the world!*
Do you have a love for a genre you know you shouldn’t enjoy but do? Let me know!
There are a lot of books out there. And there have probably been a lot added since you read that sentence. But here are some I bet you’ve missed and I think you should be reading sooner rather than later…
It might seem odd to start the list with a TV tie in book from a show that aired in the 80s, but this book is brilliant, and engrossing enough to be read as a standalone without having seen the show. Crispin could have slavishly copied the script, but she pours characterisation and backstory into a well-rounded experience. Superb.
One of my candidates for “Where’s the movie?”, and the first of my John Wyndham choices. The Chrysalids concerns a strict restrictive religious community long after a nuclear war has decimated the world. This orthodoxy despises mutation in any form – extra toes is a cause for exile. Which is a problem for the teenagers born with telepathy. Just brilliant.
Day of the Triffids
Imagine waking up blind one morning. Now imagine waking up blind and everyone else is as well. Now imagine a rogue carnivorous plant is somewhere outside your front door, and you don’t know where it is. How do the few sighted survive in this silent and new dangerous world? There are scenes from this that still haunt me on dark nights (“Bill. There’s a light.”).
This book deserves better treatment than the dodgy two BBC adaptations (One too low a budget, the other nothing like the book) and the feeble 60s Hollywood movie.
(Special shout out to my man Wyndham for The Kraken Wakes: He was talking about the effects of the ice caps melting in 1953.)
House of Stairs
My wife put me on to this one. She remembers reading it thirty years ago, and the ending has still stuck with her. From her brief summary, I tracked it down and ordered a copy and then devoured it. If you want to know how easy it is to brainwash someone, read this and be very afraid.
Although dated a little now – there are terrorists in the later part that hijack a plane and keep it on the runway – this still manages to be a powerful and rewarding story. Gould admits that the trope of teleportation is an old one, but he manages to give it a fresh and invigorating spin. Just don’t watch the terrible movie or bother with the book sequels.
The Great Train Robbery
Now this one has been made into a movie, even though it wasn’t very good. Crichton takes a train robbery of 1855 and spins a fanciful (and mostly fictitious) host of rogues, ne’er do wells and scoundrels into the mix. He adds historical notes (Did you know Victorian women were deemed mentally incapable of committing crime?), and lets it all whisk and blend and then simmer for a few hours before serving. It’s a hoot and a blast.
… And these are just a few of the books I know about. Do you have any favourites that the rest of us missed? Let me know!
“No, it can’t be. I’ve spent years searching for… this. The great Jack Sparrow is not some drunk in a cell. Do you even have a ship? A crew? Pants?”
A few minutes into this film, my wife and I were debating what number Pirates film this was. Four? Five? Six? It took a minute to figure out, and that was only by recapping the plots of the others.
That’s the big problem here, you see…the plots. They’re all jumbled into a mass we can’t differentiate. Was the one with the mermaids the fourth film, or the fifth? The whirlpool was the third one, right? And so it went. Anyway, for the record, this is the fifth Pirates movie. It’s also the shortest, but it certainly didn’t feel like it.
It doesn’t really matter if this is the fifth or the tenth. Here’s the plot of all of them: Jack will act like a crazy drunk, there will be swordfights and some action scenes. Jack, friends and enemies will all require a magical artefact – a sword, a magic coin, a trident that controls the seas, and so on. They’ll find this artefact in the last act after many beautiful beaches are walked / run across, lots of sea spray, fights and cannon fire. Jack will somehow walk away at the end with nothing but the sea and The Black Pearl.
Don’t get me wrong about this series. I loved the first movie and quote it all the time. Depp put a new spin on the old pirate and swashbuckler genre, and it’s a swaggering and rolling riot of a first movie. But it should have ended there and somehow Disney dragged this out until we’re left with this sad shadow, a poor pastiche of itself. What was fresh five movies ago is now formulaic and predictable.
The whimsy and charm of Jack is gone and replaced with a sense of pity.
Depp has always carried the movies, but here he seems uncomfortable and distracted. The whimsy and charm of Jack is gone and replaced with a sense of pity. He’s nothing now but a drunk falling into mud pits and he reeks of desperation. The thinness of the rest of the characters shows through when we’re looking at them because we aren’t distracted by Jack. The jokes and wit are weak and the humour is callow and vulgar.
Neither Orlando Bloom nor Keira Knightly return in any real sense, so we’re given two characters to replace them who are exactly the same, right down to Orlando’s accent and Knightley’s kick-assery. They might as well have called them the same names and be done with it.
The action scenes are confused and noisy, and there were times when I felt like hitting pause while I worked out which ship everyone was one fighting on. They seemed to go forever, and it was difficult at points to keep it all straight.
The real highlight was a deliciously silly part where horses pull a building through a town, chased by half the British Army. It’s delightfully daft and entirely entertaining. However the next scene immediately trashes it: The pirates are on a landlocked ship in the same town they were just chased through and my wife said, “I guess they stopped chasing them?”
The pleasant surprise was Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa. His character arc is the most satisfying and he’s the best developed character. There’s a sense of a man deeply conflicted and too far down a dark path to turn back, as much as he wants to. He was wasted in this movie, pushed to the side in favour of Jack’s desperate antics.
In fairness, I sat through the whole thing and enjoyed it more than the one with the mermaids and the weird sea-shell sailors.
“…standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”
When I first stumbled across this movie by accident, I was unimpressed. It mostly seemed to be Bill Murray doing his usual cynical-guy routine, something he excels at and has honed to a fine art since the early 80s. Seen it, done it, bought the movies. Yawn.
I was expecting a mild comedy I’d watch once or twice, and planning to come away with maybe a chortle and possibly even a laugh or a guffaw. But that’s not what happened.
Suddenly I was watching a man deconstruct himself.
Something happened about halfway through the film that made me sit up and pay attention. I’m trying to identify the moment, and what woke me up was Phil listening to Mozart as he reads. He pauses, looks around and realises how simple and elegant the music is, how beautiful it sounds. I can almost see him wanting to get up and shake people and make them realise how precious the seconds of our lives are. And then he smiles and goes for piano lessons.
Suddenly I was watching a man deconstruct himself. He slowly breaks into parts and then re-builds himself in a better shape as I looked on. By the last act, I was hooked with the story and completely in love with this movie.
It’s one of what I call “seasonal” movies for me, an annual treat. As trite as it sounds, I always make a point of watching it in February. It’s so strongly linked in my head with late winter that when a TV channel played it in June this year, it wasn’t right at all.
This is a spring-and-hope-returning film, a promise of a new year just getting into its stride. Summer isn’t right for it, no more than winter is right for Weekend at Bernie’s.
Groundhog Day always makes me melancholy as it draws to its conclusion. I’ve been enjoying the experience so much, I don’t want it to end. I’ve had the same feeling with books I love: I see only thirty pages left, and realise I won’t be spending any more time with these people, and mourn that they’re gone from my life and their time is short.
I feel the same way about this. Too quickly, far too quickly, we’re into the third act, Phil is at that piano in front of everyone in the town, and I realise that my time with him is nearly over. This movie could be three hours long and I probably wouldn’t notice.
I always want the fantasy to continue for a little longer. As the credits roll, I imagine Phil and Rita living their eternity where it’s always February third…for both of them.
Goodbye, Phil. I’ll miss you. See you next year, old friend.
Do you have any “seasonal” films that you only watch at certain times of the year? Let me know!
When this film came through the post, my wife said, “I can’t believe you rented that. It’s a turkey of a movie!”
Once again, she underestimates my tolerance for bad films…and I’ve sat through a lot worse than Killer Tomatoes. At least AotKT isn’t going for high art and falling laughably short. No one making this was expecting anything but to have a blast and maybe make some cash on the side.
And let’s face it, you call a movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, it’s a bet you’re not going for an Oscar.
I’d mention the budget, but there was none. I’d mention the acting, but it was awfully, terribly, wonderfully bad. When the first scene has a woman doing a bad acting job while she’s washing dishes, you know this is going to be a laugh a minute.
The dancing military men was the strangest part.
That it wasn’t, but it had me genuinely laughing at some parts and just scratching my head in others. The dancing military men was the strangest part. To quote Penny from The Big Bang Theory, “The only way I could explain it would be to a therapist…with dolls.”
There are moments of genius humour though: A very cleverly edited phone call between a reporter, her boss, the man she’s following and his boss was a real standout. Brilliant! (Also, that’s pretty much the whole cast!). There was a hilariously badly dubbed Japanese scientist that cracked me up every time “he” spoke.
And kudos to the guy who did the entire film while dragging a parachute. That sucker looked heavy, and he’s getting some very physical stuff done while he’s hauling it around.
Aghhh! My eyes! My eyes!
However, I realised the real horror of this film about halfway through: It was made in the 1970s. Yes, the decade that taste forgot. And it shows.
Item! Check out that lovely dark blue sofa. With those burnt orange curtains, and the pumpkin carpeting. Colours that just scream to be together, huh? Aghhh, my eyes, my eyes!
Oh, that quilt cover! Restrained and subtle colouring there. Matches the puke green walls perfectly though, huh?
Proof that at least some of this movie was shot on grass. Or maybe that’s the carpet?
One last warning: AotK is not a film to be consumed while sober. Do not attempt to operate heavy machinery immediately during, between or after consumption.
It won’t be worth watching again…but just turn your brain off and roll with it. I’ve seen worse!
Have you watched any movies so bad they end up being good? Let me know!
“The kid wasn’t sick. The kid wasn’t sleeping. The kid was dead.”
I can narrow down when I first saw Stand By Me to a period of two or three years in the late 1980s. I’m guessing ‘87 or early ’88. I remember which room of the house I was in and where I was sitting.
I remember it so well for a lot of reasons: My brother rented it (on VCR tape!) and brought it home with some other movies and some friends. They watched the other movies first; to this day, I have no idea what they were.
Then they stuck on Stand By Me and promptly fell asleep. But I never felt less like sleeping in my life. I sat there completely captivated by it. Hey! Kids my age! And not acting like they were five years old!
By the times the credits rolled, I loved this movie.
But there was more there. The power of the acting and the strength of the characters pulled me into their world and their search for the kid killed by a train. I had a moment of uncertainty and doubt when they fell in the swamp and went down to their underwear: I’d seen quite a few films where that happened and the characters never get dressed again, but the film thankfully picked itself up and carried on. By the time the credits rolled, I loved this movie.
It was a long time before I discovered this was a Stephen King novella in a four story collection called Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, and I was just as enchanted with the story as the film. Dig it out and read a copy when you get a minute.
Then in 1990, something happened to my brother. He was driving too fast on a slippery road, rolled the car he was in, and died.
I didn’t see SBM for another few years after that, and suddenly it had more relevance than ever. After all, the last time I’d seen it, my brother was sleeping four feet away from me. It changed from a film to become a personal where-were-you-when moment for me.
“In April my older brother Dennis had been killed in a Jeep accident. Four months had passed but my parents still hadn’t been able to put the pieces back together again.”
“Chris: Gordie? Gordie: Why did you have to die? … Gordie: Why did he have to die, Chris? Why did Denny have to die? Why?”
Check and check again.
It’s a movie that resonates for me on so many levels. It touches the part of me that still grieves for a dead brother after nearly thirty years.
You won’t have the same experience as me watching it, I realise that. It’s a very personal journey for me, as much as it is for Gordie LaChance.
Stand By Me is more than a movie for me: It’s a memory and an experience, one of the mileposts of my life.
“Do these smiles seem fake? It doesn’t matter where they come from. The joy is real.”
Two minutes into this, my wife said she knew exactly where it was going. Penniless man becomes rich, forgets the friends who helped him, has a major setback, and discovers his real richness is his friends and family.
No surprises there in the storyline, to be honest. But it’s a musical, after all, and the story really only exists to join the songs together.
I loved the way some of the shots were framed so symmetrically. I noticed it a few times – in the Jenny Lind scenes and when Barnum is leaving to go on tour with her and his kids run after him.
The colour choices were all grand as well. It was nice to see a film not done in orange and teal for a change. I liked the solid and thick colours of the costumes and sets, all with the feel of a well loved and well used circus.
I wonder how well the soundtrack will hold up.
And Hugh Jackman, as usual, looks like he’s having a blast running through all his songs and routines.
What didn’t work so well for me (and my wife) was the choice of a contemporary soundtrack. Contemporary isn’t something I listen to a lot, so for me it bounced me out of the numbers more than pulling me into them. I found a lot of repetition going on because I was analysing the music rather than enjoying it.
It felt unfamiliar to my ears, so it felt uncomfortable. I do wonder how well the soundtrack will hold up in a decade or so, but people still listen and watch Cats and Chess, after all.
But when I could relax into the numbers, I enjoyed them more: The This is Me song was a showstopper. I adored the part where the bearded lady spins while everyone else is in slow motion. I loved the Rewrite the Starstrapeze song and the routine was wonderful and inventive. I’m still humming the Million Dreamssong a few days later, so they did something right!
But it felt like there should have been more wonder…there should have been more spectacle and amazement. More songs and routines like the trapeze and the slow-motion spin. I should have been blown away more.
It isn’t something I’d watch more than once all the way through, but I’d watch parts again – the This is Me song and Rewrite the Stars, in particular. It’s a shame; there seemed so much potential there that wasn’t used.