Film Review: Mistress America

Posted on by 5WC in Film

I said in my review of American Ultra that I am naturally drawn to Jesse Eisenberg only to be constantly disappointed by the end result. The same is somewhat true with director Noah Baumbach. I will actively watch his films: The Squid & The Whale, Greenberg, While We’re Young, only to be left deflated by a story that doesn’t seem as quirky, or as interesting as I expected or believed it would be.

Even though they haven’t worked too much together, in my mind I view Greta Gerwig as Noah Baumbach’s muse. It’s a combination that instantly grabs my attention because together they created Frances Ha, a film about a character I hated but who left such a lasting impression on me I named it my third favourite film of 2014. So when I heard they were collaborating again on Mistress America, it was guaranteed I’d seek it out. Hoping, expecting, that together they’d again provide something to equal my memories of Frances Ha. Read more

Film Review: American Ultra

Posted on by 5WC in Film
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I’ve never seen a Twilight film but I really like Kristen Stewart. Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Maria, On the Road and The Cake Eaters providing more than enough proof that her name alone will draw me to a film, even if I don’t always like the end product. Whilst my relationship with Jesse Eisenberg is similar but more strained. I regularly convince myself that he’s better than he is. I’ll sit through Night Moves, Now You See Me, The Social Network, Zombieland or The Squid And The Whale expecting more than he delivers. Somehow pretending to myself that he’s better than he is, that no matter how good or bad his previous films, that this time, he’ll have learnt how to act.

So, placing Stewart and Eisenberg together would always grab my attention. They previously starred in Adventureland, which I actually enjoyed (even if Eisenberg was true to poor form and Stewart a bit to Hollywood A-Lister) but even without their natural draw, for me, the trailer alone was enough to suggest that American Ultra could have something about it. That it was a film worthy going to see. It just looked a fun and novel spin on the political spy thriller, with a cast you wouldn’t naturally expect to see tackling those roles. Read more

Book Review: What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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When it comes to social media I am a far greater fan of Twitter than I am of Facebook. I have always felt that Facebook is somehow egotistical. That’s it’s “friends” structure forces a culture of boasting and voyeurism, whereas, Twitter is about engagement. It’s about finding people: friends, strangers, companies or brands, and talking, debating, listening. It’s not about showing off but rather, about sharing interests.

And it was Twitter that lead me to What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor. My interest in reading and my love of writing mean I like to follow authors on Twitter, whether it’s the obvious “big names” like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, or the smaller influences on my life like Matt Haig, they provide a constant source of interest with their tweets and it’s through them that I came to be following Virginia Macgregor. Read more

Film Review: Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

Posted on by 5WC in Film

I had simply passed a tertiary glance towards Me and Earl and The Dying Girl and moved on. The name gives nothing away, the poster is minimalistic and judging a book by it’s cover, it appeared to be nothing more than a simple throwaway teenage rom-com, albeit set within a joyless subject. Cancer.

Listening to Empire Magazine’s weekly podcast, however, they started raving about it. They gave it 4 stars, arguing that it could have even been 5, and said that it was “the summer’s most sincere and beautiful indie”. Comparisons were made to The Fault In Our Stars, but with added compassion and clarity, and I sat there listening, wondering, if I’d completely misjudged it. If in fact, this was a hidden gem of a film that would pack an emotional punch way above it’s weight. Read more

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