Film Review: Blackfish

Posted on by 5WC in Film

Even though it’s a documentary, Blackfish has been on my list of “movies” to watch virtually since it was released in 2013. Essentially focusing on the effects of keeping wild animals (in this case Orca Killer Whales) captive, Blackfish attempts to outline the psychological effects on the animals this imprisonment has, as well as, a wider debate about the way the animals are used for entertainment and the safety of training them to perform.

There can be no question that, whether embellishing the truth or not, Blackfish has had a direct and sizable impact on its main target – Seaworld. I need to point out, however, that whilst I try and keep an open mind, try to just watch without prejudice and review without bias, my own personal opinions will, of course, cloud my thoughts. I have never been to Seaworld. I don’t actually agree with zoos either because I don’t believe that taking wild animals and putting them on display is an acceptable thing to do. Or a fun day out. But I do eat meat and I’ve kept domesticated animals as pets, so I fully accept I may appear hypocritical in my choices. Read more

Book Review: Hunger by Michael Grant

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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Hunger is the second novel in the “Gone” series by Michael Grant, following on from the series titling original. The book picks up on the lives of a group of school children who have been cut off from civilisation, turned against each other as the realisation of their plight and the natural power struggle it gives rise to becomes more pronounced and now, starving, they are stalked by a deadly pray.

The book really does pick up from where Gone finished and as a result I actually believe that unless you have read the original there is no way you could even attempt this. I thankfully, have read the first book, but even so, I found this instant reconnection hard initially. I’ve had a 6 month gap between finishing Gone and starting Hunger, not a massive amount of time, but enough to mean I’d forgotten some of the background characters, idiosyncrasies and finer details that made up the world, it’s inhabitants and what had gone before, so to be presented with a character and be instantly expected to remember everything about them, and more importantly why they did, said or acted as they do was annoying and frustrating to say the least. I didn’t want the book to recount everything from before, I wanted it to be independent, to continue the story by going forward but it needed to ease the characters back into my life in a gentler and more compassionate way. It’s too blunt and asking too much as it is. Read more

Film Review: Straight Outta Compton

Posted on by 5WC in Film

I truly believe that if you want to talk to people about peer pressure don’t use smoking, use music. Nicotine has nothing on the playground pressures of rap, rock and dance music. When I was growing up if you couldn’t rap The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, play Smells Like Teen Spirit on a Fender guitar or at least own You’ve Come A Long Way Baby you weren’t cool and that’s before you’ve even started to chose a side in the great fight that was Oasis versus Blur.

I’m not really a fan of rap music, it’s one of those genres – like jazz and blues – that I enjoy snippets, fair weather tracks here and there. I can’t listen to the whole of an Eminem album from start to finish and I don’t own anything by Tupac Shakur but from time to time it has its place in my life and when push comes to shove I know enough of the “hits” to get by. My knowledge comes in Cliff Note form as it were. Read more

Book Review: Apache Dawn by Damien Lewis

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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I’ve owned Apache Dawn for a very long time. I can’t tell you why I originally bought it, chances are I was probably off ballooning somewhere and thought having a book with me “just in case” was a good idea, but whatever the reason it has sat unread, squished into the corner of my bookcase for a very long time. I only have one bookcase, so to speak, and it now only has a few fingers worth of unread books left on it. I’ve become a digital reader, Google Play stores my “to read” pile now and, as it seemed to make more sense to read up the physical books I already own rather than spend digital money on new, so, I blew off the dust and set to, but I have to admit, as I did my heart wasn’t really in it.

I’m not a big fan of military warfare either in general, or as a genre. I can accept it on screen, or in literacy because there is a detached safety that makes it somehow not real. It’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s the truth. But when you make it real, when I’m forced to accept that these are real people and this actually happens I don’t enjoy it. It’s not something I can connect with because I know I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be in the army, or the air force, facing these situations. If I was, I’d would be the weakling, cowering in the corner, probably urinating over himself, that you see so often shown in war movies as the hero charges past to save the day. Read more

Film Review: Pixels

Posted on by 5WC in Film

This may put me in a minority but I like Adam Sandler. I will admit he’s never going to win an Oscar or create a genre defining film but I went through my teenage years surviving on his movies. The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison all repeated over and over and over, while The Waterboy, Little Nicky, Big Daddy and 51st Dates were all happily enjoyed. I will even go as far as to say that his 2002 remake of Mr Deeds is a film that I adore (although that’s as much down to Winona Ryder as Sandler).

However, over the last few years I have just found his films becoming more and more washed up and more and more shambolic. So much so, that I have actually started to not bother with them. I completely ignored Blended, and when I look at the last five films I have seen by him (Click, Reign Over Me, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Bedtime stories) I don’t think I actually enjoyed any of them, and certainly not enough to bother watching them again. Read more

Film Review: Cake

Posted on by 5WC in Film

Ever since Matthew McConaughey went from zero to hero as a result of an amazing visual transformation and startling stand-out performances on both the big (Dallas Buyers Club) and small (True Detective) screens people have been throwing themselves to label any performance, that is slightly outside what is naturally expected, by any actor whose career has floundered, as the start of another ‘renaissance’. First it was Jake Gyllenhaal with Nightcrawler, then Reese Witherspoon with Wild and now it’s Jennifer Aniston in Daniel Barnz’s Cake.

People actually went as far as to say that Aniston would be verging on an 2015 Oscar nomination for her performance, that is how good it apparently was and that perked my interest in the film. Annoyingly though, while it was released last February, it had a very limited cinema run and so, I have had to wait for it to arrive “on demand” before I’ve got a chance to see it, but all that time it’s been stuck in my mind, this seed of expectation around Aniston’s turn firmly rooted. Read more

Film Review: Inherent Vice

Posted on by 5WC in Film

It’s been a long time since I misjudged a film as badly as I did with Inherent Vice. I was expecting almost screwball comedy, a parody of the private investigator and instead I got a complete mess. A film which made so little sense whilst watching that the longer it went on the more confused I became, and even now, reminiscing, I still have no idea about how it all adds together.

The worse part though is the fact that Inherent Vice lost me in the opening few minutes. It starts how it ends, refusing to be concise and clear. The dialogue in this films destroys everything around it in such a way that it constantly felt like I was being pummelled around the head. Being forced to dictate three words when one would do and in a language designed for no other purpose than being obtusely difficult. Read more

Film Review: Les Combattants

Posted on by 5WC in Film

I like foreign language films. There is something wonderfully independent about the nature and style of films produced without the demands of Hollywood number crunchers. Films made primarily to tell a story, rather than sell a franchise. Les Combattants, or Love at First Fight as it’s been translated to in places, has been niggling away at the back of my mind for a while, something about the trailer just provoking enough intrigue to warm me towards it.

While Hollywood productions have a very obvious fingerprint, so do works from elsewhere. Indian films tend to be romantic, uplifting and colourful (The Lunchbox is a good example) while French films are very character driven, looking at life through the reactions of those on screen. Two Days, One Night and Rust and Bone both good examples of the way France makes movies and it was that very character driven story that I expected to find again with Les Combattants. Read more

Film Review: Focus

Posted on by 5WC in Film

When Focus was released into the cinema I was torn as to whether to see it or not. The trailer suggested it’d be another style over substance film sold on a big name – Will Smith – yet there was something about that superficial glamour that drew me towards it. Even if, as the reviews suggested, it wouldn’t ultimately satisfy. I had another problem though, one which needs a confession before I explain. One of my few guilty pleasures in life is Neighbours. It’s the only “soap” I watch, in fact it’s the only regular TV I watch, but it meant that Will Smith’s co-star Margot Robbie, will to me, always be “Donna”. And I wasn’t sure I could handle watching her for 100 minutes attempting to be someone else.

So I let it go, I watched other films, using the reviews and my casting myopia to justify not seeing it. Yet all the time I was tinged with a slight sadness. When I caught a glimpse of the poster, or another review, I would get the passing pang in my mind that maybe, somehow, it wasn’t as bad as they were saying and that I was actually missing out. Read more

Book Review: Around The World In 80 Days by Jules Verne

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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Having been left so disappointed by Falling Sideways by Tom Holt I was suddenly gripped by wanderlust. Mentally I just wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to let my imagination travel, dream and walk upon foreign lands. I didn’t want reality. I didn’t want comedy. I just wanted to be transported from the confines of my life and shown the world. And so I turned, naively, to Jules Verne.

The reason that I say “naively” is because in my mind Verne has this loose connection to hot air ballooning that means I feel some sort of affinity towards him. I think if I’m honest, I decided to read Around The World In 80 Days because I’m so use to seeing images of both hot air and gas balloons associated with it that I was expecting a tale of globe-trotting by balloon. So it came as a bit of a shock when one neve appeared within its pages. Read more