Friday, 20 April 2012

Reading & Seeing 5

Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists
No doubt you'll all have seen the adverts for this: the latest animation with a heart made of plasticine and a soul (and sense of humour) that's quintessentially British, the new film from Aardman. I actually saw this at the end of last month but I still wanted to mention it, if only to say: it's great! If you have missed it at the cinema, do catch it on LoveFilm or Netflix or however you crazy kids watch the latest dvd releases. The animation is superb, the plot is a little hectic but as long as you keep up there are some good laughs to be had and amusing scenes to enjoy. Overall it's a rollicking piratical ride Aardman style, complete with a heroic manpanzie. Perfect mid-week viewing (the alternative option was The Hunger Games which I am still intrigued to see - Battle Royal 12A, it baffles me). 

God Bless America
So what's wrong with America (according to Bobcat Goldthwait - the director)? Pretty much everything. What is the best way to express your total disgust for the way society has become obsessed with the idea of 'celebrity' and 'reality tv', not to mention what a load of morons we're all turning into? Get a shotgun and start blowing people away. This plan of action is, of course, extreme and as regular people it's just not something we'd do. What God Bless America let's us witness is a normal man tipped over the edge to the point where he feels that a killing spree (featuring only those who deserve it) is the best and only option.  Grim, yes, but there are moments of humour too. More importantly some of the uncomfortable observations Goldthwait makes about society are exagerated but clearly rooted in truth, so ask yourself, do you really need to watch Britain's got Talent and the extra stuff they churn out about it on itv2 after? (One thing I do disagree with is the slating of Juno - I love that film.) Watch it. It's a bit like Hobo with A Shotgun mixed with Falling Down.

The Cabin in the Woods
From writer Josh Whedon - writer and sometime creator of some amazing shows and films - The Cabin in the Woods is one of two April film releases he's had a hand in (the second is Avengers Assemble which I want to see too). I'm not going to reveal much plot-wise because it's fun to watch it unfold. The concept is v.clever, the story moves at a pace, it's gorey and jumpy in places (NB: I am completely rubbish when it comes to horror and gore and therefore hid my face in my hands at several points, if you however like your horror movies this will seem quite tame. Yes, it is rated a 15. I scare easy), the script is good (not your typical slasher flick stuff) and the humour - and tone - is dark. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this film but I did. Sci-fi lovers will appreciate one cameo appearance in particular.

Troll Hunter
This came ages ago but we've only just got around to seeing it (as part of our first LoveFilm delivery). This Norweign film sees a group of students who follow and eventually team-up with a mysterious man who turns out to be, you guessed it, a troll hunter. The film dictates that trolls have always existed but an organisation has been set up to keep an eye on them and keep them a secret (and kill them as and when they start causing suspicion amongst regular folk). The audience watches the film through the hand held camera belonging to the students throwing the viewer into the thick of the drama and suspense, it also makes the trolls seem more real. However, more often than not, it's what you don't see (or at least clearly) that's more frightening - including the abrupt end. The fantastical subject matter and grim consequences are joined by some amusing episodes including one involving some dead bears and a van of polish men. Perfect rainy, week-night watch.

TV wise - I'm lapping up the new series of Mad Men, Game of Thrones and catching up on the second half of The Walking Dead series 2 - it's taking longer than would be expected because it puts me right on edge so I can't watch too many episodes in a sitting (Mitch is super patient with me).

Replay (1987)
Written by Ken Grimwood and winner of the World Fantasy Award, Replay is centred around Jeff Winterson who dies of a heart attack at the age of 43. Only he doesn't die, instead he finds himself back in his college dorm room in 1963. Everything is exactly as it was when he was 18, but he's only 18 in body, his mind is that of his 43 year old self, full with the knowledge of what it yet to come. We follow Jeff as he lives out his first replay and how he takes a very different path compared to his original life. He uses his knowledge of the future to make vast amounts of money through betting and the stock market. As a result, he lives a very comfortable life. But again at the age of 43 he suffers another heart attack and 'dies' only to wake up again in 1963. The reader witnesses the numerous life cycles of Jeff but there is a catch: each time a replay begins it always reverts to Jeff's first life and starts further forward than the last time until eventually his last replay is but minutes long. This book is amazing. I came across it at a free Science Fiction exhibition at the British Library last year (I went on my own and spent a good two hours wandering about). I know I love science fiction but the concept of Replay is just awesome. And the way the plot twists and turns is just genius - I don't want to say what happens in case you read it, which you most certainly should! I pretty much related the entire story to Mitch in so much detail he said he feels like he has read it, so I don't want that to happen on here! I highly recommend this book.  It blew my mind.

Wild Abandon (2011)
From the author, Joe Dunthorne, who brought us Submarine, comes his second novel Wild Abandon which focuses on the ups and downs of communal living, or to be specific, one particular commune in Wales. At the centre of the book (and commune) is a family - Don (dad), Freya (mum), Kate (17) and Albert (11) - or rather a dysfunctional family, Don and Freya's marriage is rocky, Kate is longing to leave and start afresh and Albert is convinced the world is going to end rather soon. Their extended family is just as bizarre, and by extended I mean regular members of the commune (Marina who is also convinced the world will end soon and Patrick - a pot-smoking older gent who's extreme paranoia leads to a stint in the hospital). It's amusing in places but it mostly made me thankful that my parents hadn't set up a commune and raised me in it. Kate's character was the one I found easier to sympathise with because at that age you just want to fit in and showering with your brother at 17 is a bit odd. I haven't read Submarine (I really should) but I absolutely loved the film adaptation so Wild Abandon had a lot to measure up to and, to be honest, it fell a bit short.

Fables 3-5
This series is so addictive, I rattled through volumes 3, 4 & 5 in the space of a week. Obviously because it's a comic there aren't as many words to read but there's still lots to take in. I read them mostly on my commute to and from work which proved to be a little embarrassing on more than one occasion. In these three volumes there were a number of sex/nude scenes which of course is fine when your reading a novel - who would know - sadly in a comic it's very obvious. I'm guessing most of my fellow passengers didn't see but those sitting next to me on the tube would have got an eyeful! One man gave me a very reproachful look and I wanted to say - 'look, it's not porn, it's Fables ok'. But one man seeing boobs at 8:30 in the morning on the tube is better than a carriage full of people hear me say porn. Don't let these stories deter you - the nude scenes are minimal and the story is awesome.

Dangerous Liaisons (1782)
Or in it's original French - Les Liasons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Comprised of nothing but letters, it tells the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont - friends, ex-lovers and rivals to extent in the game of ruining the reputations of respectable men and women of society through unsavory and scandalous means. The novel details their actions to ruin and corrupt two particular individuals. The Marquise de Merteuil's target is Monsieur de Gercourt but in order to take her revenge on him she aims to corrupt his young wife to be - innocent and fresh from the convent, Cecile - by encouraging her to have an affair with another man. The Vicomte de Valmont sets his sights on seducing the pure and virtuous wife of a magistrate, Madame de Tourvel. Their conquests intertwine and it all ends up, as you'd imagine, quite messy. If you've ever seen Cruel Intensions it's loosely based on the plot of Dangerous Liaisons, only loosely as the book doesn't end quite so perfectly. Yes, people get their comeuppances but other characters suffer who don't really deserve it. I confess that it took me aaages to finish it, not because I didn't like it (because I did), but because it's very dense. The epistolary format is great but quite heavy going, some of the letters (between the Vicomte's aunt and Cecile's mum) are not as exciting as those between the Marquise and Vicomte. Whilst reading, the English student in me really wished I could have studied it, there's so much rich text to break down and analyse! Oh well, at least I finally got around to reading it, which you should too! Highly recommended.

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