Tag: review

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: Review

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: Review

I’m not sure how many people I have actually recommended this book to – I know that half of them don’t necessarily take it seriously, or they’ll think it’s a good idea to read it but then forget about it all over again, but I just can’t stop talking about it. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is the first book I’ve read in what I guess would be considered the ‘self help’ genre – but it was nothing like what I expected ‘self help’ books and guides to be like, and I think that’s why it struck such a chord with me.

The Subtle Art, written by blogger Mark Manson, calls itself a ‘counter-intuitive approach to living a good life’, and this is exactly what it is (with the emphasis being on the counter-intuitive part). I’m not afraid, this time, to share ‘spoilers’ from the book because I’m hoping these will give an insight and overview to the book that you don’t get from the blurb – and if you kinda know what it’s about, you’ll know whether it’s worth a read for yourself or not. My wish is the former; I think everyone should read it.

The book’s overlying message (it seems to me) is that we, as people, really need to get our priorities straight. Not in terms of what society’s expectations for us are – because everyone knows there are an insurmountable number of those – but that we should try harder to change our attitudes and expectations towards ourselves, and focus on achieving attainable, personal goals. It’s kinda the same thing you hear in a lot of movies, no matter what the genre; the things that are important are close family, friends, human relationships and small comforts (which Manson sees as ‘internal’ goals, good ones) and not wealth, fame, glory or the everlasting freedom to travel the globe (‘external’ goals, bad ones).

As a recent graduate, it was a great thing to read. I was actually introduced to it by my Dad, who gave me his battered copy, but once I started reading it I was instantly unable to put it down. It just made so much sense, it was like a breath of fresh air after the existential crises I was having every other Tuesday. So many things that I had been feeling and thinking, but wasn’t sure why I was carrying those thoughts around, I was suddenly given explanations for.

Using various examples from people in real life, Manson’s own life, and even celebrities, Manson shows the various ways that people choose their emotions and choose their goals, even if these are what is making them unhappy, or making them feel lost – we are responsible for our own downfalls? Controversial, I know! His reaction, however, is more complicated than what you would expect for the book’s title – it’s not really about “not giving a f*ck”, but choosing what you give a f*ck about. It’s about learning how to ask yourself the really difficult questions in order to get what you want.

The Subtle Art hits home hard, but Manson’s writing is easy to follow and extremely down to earth. A lot of the time it really feels like he’s talking to you; this is also where the book’s biggest problem lies. It doesn’t always necessarily flow. The chapters are split up in such a way as to give some semblance of structure but it rambles, probably because he is originally a blogger and he is just talking to us, his readers, about what’s in his head. It also doesn’t really give ‘try it yourself’ exercises to help you learn to start asking hard questions, or give you things to do to start to change, it just explains why you should change and then expects us to know what to do. But I guess that’s part of the challenge – figuring out for yourself what you really want, not waiting on someone else to give you the answer.

Overall, The Subtle Art is a book beyond anything I’ve ever read. It might mean that I try reading other ‘self help’ books to give them a comparison, but I know I’m going to be reading Manson’s book a second time to really understand how to change my perspective on life. A refreshingly down to earth, no nonsense read, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck shows you, ultimately, that f*cks are the most important things to give, to the things in life that warrant them most. Verdict: 9/10.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Review

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Review

What a spectacular film – you know it’s going to be good when the opening credits are making you laugh and cry with joy, but I’ll not spoil the reason why. I find it’s always a very difficult thing to pull off a sequel that matches the quality of the original film, but Volume 2 is an exception if ever I have seen one. It’s easily good enough to warrant seeing in cinemas, and Marvel does a wonderful job of keeping things fresh.

Volume 2 has a very different storyline in comparison to the first Guardians film, even ignoring the difference because the second is not a origin story. Volume 2 feels, in a way, much more contained with the action and dialogue to one place than the first film ever did. Ultimately, it’s still a film about ‘saving the Galaxy’, as Rocket is happy to remind us, but it is not in a way that you would expect when the film begins.

One thing that did remain similar through Volume 2 was the music; the same way it played such an important role in the first film, the music was still as important and the song choices do not disappoint. In fact, I think the music in this film is potentially even more important; it is directly spoken about and though I knew less of the songs this time around, the choices were still exactly what were necessary for the situation and what was happening on screen. I will definitely be buying the second album.

The plot was varied and sometimes had odd timings for the way things played out, including the choices made to cut scenes and move to action that was happening elsewhere. A couple of times I was put off by them; questions would be asked which would be left unanswered by a cut to another scene – the exposition for the asked question would come later, but would happen in a completely different setting and lose the continuity. Saying that, there were strong performances from all cast members and I enjoyed the character development for them all, especially being able to learn more about Drax and his past, Yondu and Nebula. Baby Groot though – oh, Baby Groot! The adorable little wood-creature makes this film what it is, and I cried several times because of the adorable tiny tree.

I was interested to see if Volume 2 could continue to be as comic as the first film – and for the most part, it succeeded. I laughed out loud at points, but it also occasionally fell short of the mark. This film was more serious than the first at points and I think they didn’t always manage to find the right balance between the more sombre moments and the comic relief. Overall, though, Volume 2 manages to capture the same light hearted spirit that I love about the Guardians of the Galaxy, without selling out on any of the action or serious character development.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 is a heartfelt, wonderful film. Hilarious at points, I think I must have worked my way through seven different emotions whilst watching it. It’s entertaining, has great editing and writing as well as amazing back drops – but more than that, it does what any decent sequel should do for a film: it builds. Volume 2 builds and develops all the great things we loved about Guardians of the Galaxy, showing off the character’s different roles and personalities, and makes us hungry for more. Verdict: 9/10

Power Rangers: Review

Power Rangers: Review

As someone who had never really watched the Power Rangers as a child, and when it was a television program, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this film. I’m also not really sure what I got from it. Power Rangers at its most basic was an enjoyable film, but unfortunately it fell into too many of the childish / coming-of-age tropes and I found it utterly predictable. Also, it seemed to me that the writers never really found the balance of what the film was supposed to be – for the younger viewer, or not?

For instance, from the get-go there is some very adult humour (think along the lines of touching an animal inappropriately) which wasn’t even really very funny. This, plus the intense camera angles that I assume were trying to be ‘edgy’ set the movie as something that was trying to be fairly grown-up, and appeal to adults as well as children. However, as the film progressed, this element fell away and it seemed to revert to what I assume was it’s origins: an action adventure set for children, and paying homage to the original show.

The characters were good, as was the writing at some points – I admit, there were some moments that made me laugh out loud – but it also tripped up and fell flat a number of times. I found that the film focused too much on the Red Ranger, Jason, who was supposed to be the Power Ranger’s ‘leader’; it meant that some of the other main five’s back stories occasionally felt forced and shoved into uncomfortable exposition. We didn’t see as much of them as I would have liked, given that the hints and tidbits that were dropped did seem quite interesting.

The action sequences were average, if a little over the top (but I imagine that’s original Power Rangers style), and the final battle let me down. It wasn’t particularly difficult and didn’t last long in comparison to the build up and ‘personal growth’ the characters had to do to reach the stage where they could fight together. Saying that, I enjoyed the Zords and I’m sure any kids in the theatre would have loved it. I think what Power Rangers really needed, through out the film, was for the writers to decide what the film was supposed to be and stay there – but because it jumped and moved from action, thriller, child-friendly, adult humour and so on, the whole thing felt a little bit jarred.

Overall, Power Rangers was not a bad film, but it’s probably best viewed on DVD. Saying that, I will still watch a sequel if they make one, because I’m a sucker for action films and I do find it refreshing to have something to watch that is outside of the Marvel & DC universes. Verdict: 5/10.

Logan: Review

Logan: Review

(disclaimer: the poster with this review is ©Marvel Entertainment and does not belong to me)

Well, this one certainly wasn’t what I was expecting – and for that, I’m very pleased. Logan is in some ways a remarkably different film from what we have seen of other X-Men films as well as the Wolverine’s other spin-off movies. In a way, Logan has it’s own mark, and should stand alone as a cinematic experience of its own without any ties to the films that have come before it.

One of the reasons for this is because throughout the film, Logan gives allusions to past events in the X-Men universe that we as audience members (and X-Men fans who have seen all the other films, like myself) have not seen or even heard of before. Another big reason, I found, was because of all the swearing. Never before have we heard our favourite animalistic rage-machine swear at the top of his lungs, but Logan was swimming with cusses. Part of me believes this is down to the success of Deadpool, showing Marvel that adults love those comic books too, and films can be made for them instead of staying so ‘child friendly’. The language seemed a little over the top at the beginning of the film (it smacks you in the face as one of the first lines) but I reckon this was because the writers just got excited. As the movie goes on and you begin to settle into it, the swearing becomes a natural part of the plot and separates Logan from the rest of the child-friendly, Wolverine franchise. Which, in a way, is no bad thing.

The writing and storyline are good, if a little cliche in parts when dealing with the ‘creation’ of mutants (haven’t we seen this before?) but overall the film was a great cinematic experience, darker, dirtier and more bloody – but it showed the much more personal, human side to Logan and Professor X that we haven’t necessarily seen before. Given Logan’s ending, I’m not sure what any of this means for the X-Men universe as we know it, and as I have grown up with it.

In a way, with the film standing so gracefully on it’s own, I figure it’s best to leave it at that. However, through out the film there were also a few homages to Wolverine’s other spin offs; for instance, the samurai sword that hangs in Logan’s room, hinting at his trip to Japan. This was only one of several “easter eggs” through out the film as well – we also get to see Wolverine comic books, a Wolverine action figure, and a fair bit of muttered back story.

Logan was, and it did come as a surprise, a very heartfelt and human film at it’s core; it still maintained the action and ferocity we expect from Wolverine as a character, and thought I knew it was his final stint, I will miss Hugh Jackman in the role. I wonder if now, after so many years and films, the character will be left alone for the future X-Men films. All we can do is wait and see, but I personally hope so.

Though it made it clear that this was Hugh Jackman’s final Wolverine film, it was still sad to see him go. Logan was a touching, vibrant, well written film with the right balance of humour, tenderness, aggression and quick, sharp wit. What a send off to have been given. Verdict: 9/10.

Children of Time: Review

Children of Time: Review

This is, by far, the most complicated world builder I have ever read. Potentially this is because I have only recently begun reading serious science fiction, and even Children of Time, though meticulously detailed, was not heavy on scientific jargon. It focused more on the two halves of the story, even though it spanned what seemed like millennia – seriously, that’s not an over exaggeration. It literally was a story that was told over thousands of years.

Children of Time begins with a terraforming project that ends up creating a world where arachnids (more specifically, jumping spiders) have become conscious and intelligent. Meanwhile, the ‘last hope of Earth’ is leaving our barren planet in search of a new home . Unfortunately, that new home is crawling with giant insects. It should be enough to make your skin crawl, thinking about spiders the size of your leg, but I didn’t find this at all. Half the time, I was rooting for the spiders, finding the world and language they created fascinating.

What transpires, when these two worlds come together, is a very interesting – if a bit long – tale about human nature and how far we are willing to go to survive. Both the humans on the ‘last hope’, a giant space ship, and the spiders, have their own chapters. We are shown how the humans are getting on with their confined spaces, power struggles, and need to find somewhere to call home. We also, on the other hand, see the spiders building their world; their lives, their hierarchies, cities, and finding God and science (the two are not mutually exclusive). I was scared for the spiders, after a while – if the humans tried to come to their terraformed world, their life style could be destroyed. But I also couldn’t bear to think of the human race wiped out entirely. Call it my own survival instinct kicking in, which was a weird thing to feel whilst reading a book.

Children of Time is written by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and is thoroughly, wonderfully descriptive. It is utterly captivating, and he has created worlds that I would have never even thought about, let alone be desperate to know their inner workings. Tchaikovsky has created an incredibly detailed world where the spiders live, and I wouldn’t mind reading a handful of novellas about different parts of the world and how the spiders live their day to day lives.

The only thing that may put readers off is that this is a very long book; I think, in between working full time and actually living, it took me about two weeks to finish it. Sometimes you could feel how long it was, because the action took place over thousands of years as the spiders’ civilisations evolved, but I was never bored. There was always something more to know, or a question I hadn’t thought to ask answered by the author.

Children of Time s touching, human and alien all at once, and imaginative in ways I had never thought about before. This is a great book to read if you’re trying to get into science fiction but are worried about how complicated it can get, as it definitely eases you in and explains everything it needs to. Also, helpful in getting over a fear of spiders? Maybe. Verdict: 9/10.

The Trees: Review

The Trees: Review

An intriguing, totally original book by Ali Shaw, The Trees marries reality with the fantastical in the most magical of ways, resulting in a book that is both down to earth and wonderfully human whilst still holding something of the spectacular. It begins in a suburban town just outside London, but within the first chapter, the country (and world, it seems) has been tipped upside down by the arrival of the trees. They appear very suddenly overnight, causing chaos and changing life as we know it in the blink of an eye.

Our unwilling protagonist is Adrien Thomas, and the book follows the journey of this self-proclaimed coward as well as the companions he meets whilst trying to traverse this new world. There’s nature-loving Hannah, her technology deprived son Seb, and a mysterious Japanese hunter girl (and badass) Hiroko. Adrien ‘accidentally’ sets out on a mission to find his wife when he finds out that Hannah and Seb are travelling to find Hannah’s brother; along the way the group come across mythical, or ancient, creatures (not sure which they classify as), confront death and the breakdown of social structure, and also manage to learn a lot about themselves and each other.

The Trees begins at a crawl, and at first I didn’t enjoy many of the characters – especially our antihero Adrien. This might have been because of Adrien’s lack of drive, which the book definitely plays on throughout. I mostly related to Hannah as a character at the beginning, having always also enjoyed nature, but the realisation that social norms (and their lives) have fallen apart quickly has Hannah’s love of the forest beginning to wain and wear out.

At times, Shaw’s novel is very dark; The Trees plays well on human nature and our fluctuating emotions and desires, proving that our instinctive nature is as brutal and wild as the trees that appear over night and show no signs of moving or relenting. In simple terms, The Trees delivers the wonderful, if harrowing, message that humans are still just animals, and our base desires are as savage as the natural world is. I love it.

As the book progresses, I began to feel for the characters and understand them in a more profound way as their personalities were explored, the original impressions peeled away to reveal their inner natures, strengths and weaknesses. The way that they grow to care about each other, in their little band of misfits, was the same way that I grew to care about them. It was an organic (pardon the pun) character growth that definitely made me feel more involved in their predicament, and proved that Shaw’s writing and sense of pace is excellent. By the end of the book, I couldn’t put it down – I needed to know that these people I had grown to care about were going to be alright in their new and frightening world.

Thoroughly engrossing, with a spectacular concept for a nature-lover like me (or anyone who is interested in the different ways we may see the apocalypse), The Trees grows on you like the natural world that gives the book its name: slowly, inching forward and creating solid foundations, but finishing with power and total captivation of the imagination. There is definitely something in The Trees for everyone. Verdict: 9/10.

Sealed: Review

Sealed: Review

Theatre With Teeth (TWT) is one of the University of Exeter’s theatre companies, and supports student writing by putting their play-writing on as performances through out the year, among other productions such as adaptations and devised work. It gives these students the chance to go through the entire process of creating a play, from the seed of an idea to the final performance in front of an audience.

Sealed was TWT’s second major performance of the Autumn term (after Bright and their Evening of One Act Plays) and was written by Will Jarvis; it was also directed by Jarvis, alongside co-director Niamh Smith. It follows 6 ‘strangers’ who get a mysterious invitation to a house in London, and follows their evening within the house as they try and figure out why they have been asked there. The majority of the first act shows the 6 strangers getting to know each other, trying to guess why they are there and not quite understanding how they are all connected. The real reason for their invitation isn’t revealed until fairly late within the second act after a seventh arrival to the house, ‘Roxy’, appears and starts dropping hints.

Sealed is a touching piece of theatre, which deals with loneliness and the interactions that we have with the different types of people we meet through out our lives, and the way our personalities may change as we grow up. Jarvis has found the interesting balance of creating characters who are individual to each other whilst still being a stereotype of a ‘type’ of person each of us are bound to encounter at some stage in our own lives. It results in a clever dynamic where Jarvis has been able to tap into our perceptions of stereotypes, personalities, and how individuals behave within a group.

There were some excellent moments within Sealed, both through the dialogue and the actors’ performances. Overall, it was a great piece of theatre with as many twists and turns as you could wish for with a mystery, which also managed to find the right balance of comic relief dispersed within what otherwise could have been quite serious, heavy content (especially within the second act). I raise my hat to Jarvis and Smith for finding such a varied and talented cast, and the cast should be very proud of themselves to have put on such a sharp, polished performance in such a short time frame – I’m sure it was a lot of hard work, and it definitely paid off.

Occasionally, however, there were moments where I questioned the reality of Sealed. For instance, I doubted the group’s immediate desire to get drunk with the bottles of wine sitting on a table when they had not yet seen their host; it struck me as odd that this would be a group of strangers’ first unanimous decision. However, as a fellow writer I understand that Jarvis would have found it difficult – within a two-act, hour and a half time frame – to get all and the close relationships or confessions out of a group of strangers without ‘speeding up’ their friendships and openness with some ‘liquid luck’ (wine is very good for that). So these questions of the play’s reality were easy to ignore, and it wasn’t hard to be put back into my suspension of disbelief and enjoy the performance I was watching.

Overall, Sealed was a strong, moving piece of theatre, if in need of a bit of refinement if TWT were to take it any further than the three performances they did in November. Sealed did not automatically strike me as a piece of student writing, nor would I have immediately seen the cast and crew as students either (drama or otherwise). It was such a well-brought-together performance which included slick effects when they were needed, dialogue the performers looked comfortable with, and an obvious sense of chemistry within the group. Just goes to show, students often outshine their stereotype too – and as Sealed proves, we should see people as individuals in order to understand and appreciate all our differences.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Doctor Strange: Review

Doctor Strange: Review

(disclaimer: the poster that is used with this review is ©Marvel Studios and does not belong to me)

I am a big fan of the Cinematic Marvel Universe – I don’t pretend to know as much as other people, having never read Marvel Comics, but I still feel like I know my fair share about what’s going on in the Universe they’re creating for the screen. So I had pretty high hopes for the latest Marvel film, but Doctor Strange was one superhero I hadn’t heard much about before going into the cinema. All I knew was that Benedict Cumberbatch had been roped into playing the title character – and he did not disappoint (even if it did take a while for me to get over his American accent).

For another origin story (as Marvel bring all their strings together for the showdown of the century in Avengers: Infinity War, so the rumours go), Doctor Strange provided an interesting character and a good story line. Doctor Stephen Strange, played by the great Benedict Cumberbatch, is the second out-right selfish character we’ve followed in the Marvel stories after Tony Stark (Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr). Saying that, I was happy to see that in comparison to Iron Man, Stephen Strange seems to learn much more quickly how to get over this selfishness. After all, much of his self-interest and aggression stems from the loss of his hands in the first ten minutes of the film; to Stephen Strange, the celebrated neurosurgeon, the loss of his hands shouts a loss of identity and makes him question all of his self-worth.

Doctor Strange follows Stephen as, after he alienates himself from everyone who cares about him and loses his livelihood, he sets out to find a way to fix himself. But somehow on his journey to find and fix himself, Stephen Strange ends up becoming what is – in essence – a magician. After that, it’s as simple as saving the world from a giant, inter-dimensional enemy. Though it seems a similar plot to a lot of other superhero origin stories, I was pleasantly surprised by Doctor Strange‘s ending; it was an interesting, unique final battle, and unlike anything we have seen before.

More than that, there were some parts of Doctor Strange that were visually stunning – look out for some inter-dimensional travel and what the characters call the ‘mirror dimension’. Though impressive CGI, it can sometimes feel like you are looking through a kaleidoscope, and didn’t do much except confuse me for a couple of minutes; but I get the impression that that was the point, as the characters struggle with their quickly-changing surroundings. On the other hand, the fight scenes were wicked, including one that takes place between two astral-form characters. Also, watch out for the appearance of Doctor Strange’s cape, I honestly laughed out loud.

Unfortunately, the cape was one of the only things in Doctor Strange that made me laugh; most of the attempts at humour fell flat, and some of them seemed forced when otherwise the film was quite a serious piece, focusing on Stephen Strange’s struggle to make peace with his disability. Of course there were moments of humour that worked, and a few witty lines that reminded the audience that we were still in the 21st Century (given that you’d probably otherwise forget); but for the most part it was a more sombre origin story than others Marvel have done for, say, the likes of Ant-Man.

However, there is a trend with male Marvel superheroes I’ve begun to notice that Doctor Strange confirmed. Currently, they’re all caucasian… and a lot seem to have a male sidekick or friend of African descent (Thor, Iron Man, Captain America). My initial question is why? I’m excited for Black Panther and his origin as the first non-caucasian title character, but otherwise, why is it that white men are leading as title characters, whilst having a black companion? To say it’s to fit in with the “look” of characters from the comics is just not good enough. Plus, let’s just think briefly of Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One – it diverts hugely from the Doctor Strange comics and just felt… weird. If you’re looking for ethnic variety in a film, make it variety, not just one or two characters with a different ethnic background while the rest of them, even minor characters, are white.

Ultimately, Doctor Strange was a success. It was a fascinating watch; good, solid acting from most of the cast, amazing visuals and some thrilling fight scenes. However, I missed the lightheartedness of some of the other Marvel films, and I think it’s time we changed up the origin-story formula. Verdict: 8/10.

The Girl On The Train: Review

The Girl On The Train: Review

(disclaimer: the poster used with this review is ©DreamWorks, it does not belong to me)

From the offset, I wasn’t sure about this film. Its beginning had elements of Gone Girl‘s aesthetic – and I loved that film – so I was both expecting a lot and also troubled by the similarities in font and the opening shots of facial-closeups. However, that’s where the similarities (apart from the murder mystery stuff) ended, and that didn’t bode well.

The Girl On The Train mainly follows Rachel, a woman who commutes to New York every day and, on her journey, travels past various neighbourhoods. In one of these neighbourhoods, Rachel watches a house and the Woman who lives there, eventually forming an attachment to the stranger. Rachel creates a perfect, imaginary life for her, and makes sure she checks in on the Woman every day during the commute. We then jump to see the Woman, Megan, whose life is not as perfect as Rachel-on-the-train thinks. Finally, the scene flips again and we watch Anna, who has married Rachel’s ex-husband and lives two doors down from Megan. The two latter women, Anna and Megan, look ridiculously similar; though it’s used as a plot device later on, it’s no wonder I’m confused – and we’re only 10 minutes in.

The film’s beginning is incredibly voice-over heavy in an effort to get the watcher up to scratch with everything that is happening in these three women’s lives. Though the voiceover does come in useful to understand moments of the plot, I found it unravelled my immediate enjoyment. Moreover, the film’s timeline jumps around so much it’s hard to keep track of what is going on, or what timeline we are in – though we might get a black screen saying “Six Months Ago“, there’s no notification when we return to the present, and it took a moment to realise where exactly I, as a watcher, was supposed to be.

The jumbled up timelines, random fades and heavy narration definitely gives the impression that the screenwriter (Erin Cressida Wilson) struggled to work out how to structure the plot for the screen. I’ve not read the novel, by Paula Hawkins, so I’m not sure whether the format the book uses was too difficult to translate so they chose a different way in, or whether the screenplay was an attempt at following the book’s format (focusing on various characters); either way, it doesn’t really work. Having said that, the revelations we get towards the end of the film are juicy, and I definitely didn’t see them coming.

The best thing about TGOTT, by far, is Emily Blunt. She is utterly spectacular in her portrayal of Rachel, and it’s the best acting I think I have ever seen Blunt do. She perfectly captures the turmoil, confusion and deep, grating emotion that Rachel’s character feels. Throughout the film I could feel my sympathy for Rachel swinging like a pendulum; first you like her, then she’s a bit creepy, then – oh, didn’t expect that! For the longest time you’re not sure whether you trust her, or believe her – we are as messed up and confused as Rachel is, stuck knowing only as much as she does. She really made me feel, and sometimes not in a good way. For a time, I really didn’t like Rachel, and that’s partly why her character, and Emily Blunt’s portrayal, is definitely the best aspect of TGOTT.

Unfortunately, the other characters are never really looked at in much detail. Although the plot is supposed to revolve around three women – Rachel, Megan and Anna – the other two ladies never really get given much depth of character, and they’re really only used as plot devices. It’s a shame, considering this is a supposed to be a thrilling murder mystery, and I didn’t really feel scared for anyone’s safety but Rachel’s, and even that was only half the time. I was also disappointed that this was another film that lacked ethnic variety for its characters; okay, so the point can be raised that it’s based on a book, Megan and Anna should look similar, etc, but there were various outlying characters that could easily not have been caucasian. (For spoiler-free example, Rachel’s roommate, Megan’s husband, the police officers, Martha.) Come on, casting directors, it’s not that hard.

Overall, I found the film an enjoyable watch. It filled 2 hours when I had nothing better to do. Unfortunately, the voiceover drowned out some really good imagery as I focused on what was being said instead of what was on screen. The tension crawls for most of the film as Rachel tries to put herself back together, and then explodes in the last 15 minutes. The ending was good, but it took too long to get there; if you’re thinking about seeing it on the big screen, I would say wait until it comes out on DVD. Verdict: 5/10. (However, if it was based solely on Emily Blunt’s acting, it would get a solid 8.)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Review

(disclaimer: the poster used with this review is © 20th Century Fox and does not belong to me)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, at first, does not strike me as particularly peculiar. Though a Tim Burton film, his personal flourish doesn’t seem to come into play until after Jake, our main character, has stumbled upon the Home and its inhabitants – but we’ll get to that in a moment. Miss Peregrine’s follows protagonist Jake, a something-teen who lives in Florida with parents and has what seems like a very dull day-to-day life.

This all changes when a trip to a small island off the coast of Wales starts the beginning of a life-changing adventure; he meets a group of children with various ‘peculiarities’ who live in a children’s home run by the eccentric Miss Peregrine, and takes in all of these changes with an astounding sense of ease. Though I enjoyed the mystery of the house at the beginning of the film – for the first quarter I actively wondered how Jake would reach it, and I’m glad the film’s trailer didn’t give this away – I would have liked to see more of Jake’s life in Florida before his trip to Wales.

In fact, before finding the Home, I didn’t find Jake’s Florida life particularly ‘ordinary’ (as the film likes to state it is, about three times). In Florida, it’s clear from the few scenes we see that Jake is lonely- he doesn’t have any friends, his parents don’t seem to care about him, and he’s frustrated with his elderly grandfather who told him stories of monsters as a kid. This doesn’t strike me as a particularly ‘ordinary’ upbringing; it doesn’t surprise me when Jake feels more at home with the Peculiar kids and his apparent indecision of whether to stay with them or go home is shallow at best.

When we finally meet the Home and its occupants, however, is when Tim Burton’s classic style really gets into gear. I have always enjoyed his costume choices and the aesthetic he brings to a film, and Miss Peregrine’s was no exception. The Children are quirky, interesting, and I enjoy all of the actors and actresses that play the peculiar roles. This is also true of Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell, who play Jake and Emma, respectively, who I think do a solid, believable job with their characters and I hope to see more of both of them in the future. Saying that, it is Dame Judi Dench and Rupert Everett (who only play minor roles in the film) that steal the show for me, but maybe that’s just because I have great admiration for both of them as performers.

The only downfall in character, I think, is the casting of Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Baron as the main villain. Not to say I don’t respect Jackson – I think he is a tremendous talent – but I have seen him portray so many other characters that I couldn’t focus on him in Miss Peregrine’s for the threat he was supposed to be. Seeing Samuel L. Jackson instead of Mr. Baron as I watched the final confrontation just made it comical, and ruined my suspension of disbelief that these children were in real danger.

Overall, the film’s plot and writing was good but I didn’t think it stood out amongst it’s Y/A genre, which is a shame considering it had Jane Goldman as a screenwriter – whose other works include Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kick-Ass. Saying that, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was definitely worth a watch on the big screen; the score was great and the effects both magical and frightening in equal measure.

A thoroughly interesting, satisfying film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children had a range of eccentric, intriguing characters and a visual aesthetic Tim Burton should be proud of. With these, and its captivating plot, Miss Peregrine’s should have felt original, but unfortunately it fell short of the mark, feeling very similar to other young adult coming-of-age films I’ve seen before. Verdict: 6/10.