Mini Reviews: Office Parties, Zombies & Puppets

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I’ve been on a bit of a movie binge over the last week or so, to the point where I don’t even know where to begin with writing a post for each of them, so rather than half-write a bunch of posts that will most likely stay in draft, I thought it was better to keep up my writing rhythm and throw out a few thoughts on some of them. There’s a very mixed bag here!

What I’ve been trying to do is tick some movies off my ever-growing watchlist. I did tick one off but then got distracted by a Christmas movie I forgot existed, and a terrible movie I knew would be terrible but I watched anyway. Maybe one day I’ll learn!

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Office Christmas Party (2016)

I missed this in the cinema when it was released, and by the time it came out on DVD it was summer, and it felt totally wrong to watch it then, which is what ultimately led me to forget it’s existence! Sure it’s a stereotypical comedy to the core, but it’s got a great cast and whilst it isn’t funny all the time, I don’t think it was half as bad as the reviews I’d read said it was. Not one that’ll get a rewatch every year but you can do a lot worse with your time I think.

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From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

This one has been sat on my watchlist for so long I can’t remember who recommended it to me or why, which led to one of the funniest viewing experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers, but I can safely assume someone told me to see this after a discussion about how much I love a good plot twist. I had NO IDEA what would happen when the gang reached the Titty Twister, and although it threw me into confusion for a while, I enjoyed it for what it was. Is the TV Show worth a watch?

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The Happytime Murders (2018)

So maybe I’m just becoming an old prude, but I pretty much hated this movie. I’m a huge Muppets fan and thought the idea of an R rated movie about puppet murders was a brilliant idea – and I still think it could have been brilliant but it was ruined by the outrageously needless sex scenes which were verging on the line of being pornographic. Am I a prude? I don’t know, maybe, but I’m still too angry to really care.

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

dont-breathe-movie-poster-review-2016Director: Fede Alvarez

Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 88 Minutes

Main Cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici, Franciska Töröcsik

Plot: Three young friends put their skills and resources together to burgle houses. They find themselves targetting one house in particular when they learn of a sizeable fortune kept within, but their plans change for the worst when they learn the owner of the house is a blind veteran.

My Thoughts: This is the kind of horror movie I actively avoid, but whilst reading other blog posts and comments recently I’ve seen so many people mention Don’t Breathe and how good it was, and after wussing out on Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House (I can’t do it guys, I tried) I put on my big girl pants on got on with it! Who knew Clay Jenson was such a naughty boy eh?

Jokes aside, it’s a really decent movie. Scared the pants off me, and even pulled my husband’s attention away from his wargames – a high honour, I’ll have you know. It’s got a few cheap jumpscares in, but most of the scary moments are just in the atmosphere and wondering when the CREEPY BLIND GUY IS GOING TO TURN UP AGAIN. I would never make it as a criminal…

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Best Part: This was originally going to be my worst part. When the girl is hiding in the closet sending a text message to Clay Jenson. WHY. DON’T DO THAT. I started flapping my arms about trying to convince her to put her phone down, and lo and behold, once she hit send on that message, MY PHONE WENT OFF. It’s a good job it’s a well-loved and battered phone in the first place because it ended up on the floor.

Worst Part: The turkey baster. Turkey. Baster. Christmas dinner is ruined for me now.

Fun Trivia: Stephen Lang wore contact lenses that greatly restricted his vision, particularly in low light. The other actors, in the scene taking place in the dark, wore lenses that made them look like they had dilated pupils but also greatly restricted their vision.

My Rating: My husband gave me a look of disgust when I suggested using turkey basters as the rating, so Don’t Breathe gets 4 out of 5 ‘quiet’ signs…that means keep your phones on silent!

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The Neon Demon (2016)

the-neon-demon-2016-movie-posterDirector: Nicolas Winding Refn

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 118 Minutes

Main Cast: Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Desmond Harrington, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Charles Baker

Plot: Jesse, a young girl who has just turned 16, moves to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a model. Her youth and natural beauty generate jealousy to an extreme extent within the fashion industry, putting Jesse in grave danger.

My Thoughts: Second movie from my watch list crossed off! The Neon Demon was on the list for one reason alone – the polarizing reviews it has. Everyone either loves it or hates it and I was dying to know why, and which camp I was going to fall into.

For quite a while, I was absolutely digging the movie. Sure, I didn’t really understand all the arty farty parts but they were pretty to watch at least. I really felt for Jesse, I wanted her to succeed and I wanted to protect her. Then there was the whole scene with the leopard/panther/whatever it was inside her motel room. I thought ok, maybe that’s just a metaphor for something that I haven’t worked out yet, I’m still enjoying this movie.

From there it just went into major WTF mode. Just…I don’t even know. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it so I won’t go into details, and to be honest I’m not sure how I would describe the rest of the movie anyway. I get that it’s definitely a dig at how awful the fashion model industry is, but it goes so much further than that. It was odd, it was creepy, and I wasn’t a fan at all by the end of it.

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Best Bit: Jesse’s response to one of the girls saying how her surgeon calls her ‘The Bionic Woman’ after all the work she’s had done. “Is that a compliment?”. I actually laughed out loud at that!

Worst Bit: If I say…Jena Malone. In the morgue. With a corpse. Not doing any makeup…but still having a good time. Do you know which bit I mean, if you’ve seen the movie? One of the creepiest things I’ve ever watched.

Fun Trivia: The film was shot in chronological order, and the ending was created and improvised on-set, according to Elle Fanning.

My Rating: 1 and a half eyeballs out of 5. Ugh…

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Book Review: Lily and the Octopus, Steven Rowley

At the start of the year, when I decided 2017 was going to be my year of getting back into reading, I compiled a starting list for myself of 12 books all from different genres. The aim was to broaden my spectrum a little, to see if I could find love for a new genre, and generally to try some books I would never have given a second thought. I’ve gone through most of that list now, but the one that’s taken me the longest has been Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley.

Steven Rowley is most notably a paralegal and a screenwriter, but after writing a short story about the death of his dog, he was encouraged by his boyfriend to turn it into a novel and try to get it published.

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Lily and the Octopus is a real life story, based on the author’s dachshund named Lily. Lily’s owner Ted is a gay male in his 40’s still dealing with a painful breakup, when one morning he notices Lily isn’t very well, and has an ‘octopus’ on her head. If you’ve ever read a book or watched a movie about a tragic dog’s tale, you’ll know what that octopus actually is.

Admittedly, I nearly gave up on this book several times. It’s just not what I’m used to, and it takes a while to get sucked into the fantasy of it all, because the story is written from Ted’s perspective, where Lily can not only talk, but also play Monopoly and make smart remarks about pop culture. It’s a lot to get used to!

However, it’s not a very long book at 320 pages, and so most experienced readers (more than I) could probably burn through the story rather quickly. I struggled to warm to Ted, he’s quite a selfish character despite his love for Lily. The best example I can give is his annoyance whilst at his Sister’s wedding when people were paying more attention to the bride rather than him, because of the news about Lily’s deteriorating health.

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I can forgive that because of Lily herself, who is a little ray of sunshine in a gloomy world. As the book approached its inevitable end, I found myself ridiculously emotional. I thought that reading the words on the page rather than watching it happen on a screen would be easier to deal with, but if anything my imagination just made it all the more real.

I’m in two minds on whether I would recommend this book to be honest, it wasn’t my favourite, but gosh darn it will make you want to hug your pets tightly if you do. Proceed with caution, that’s all I’ll say on the matter!

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors, B A Paris

It seems weird to say now, but a few years ago I had to be convinced that a tablet was something I needed in my life. Not in the medical sense, the electronic. I just didn’t see the point; I already had a phone, a laptop, a TV and a Kindle, I counted myself lucky enough and didn’t need another piece of technology in my life. Now, I don’t know what I’d do without one. I use mine every day for gaming, reading, watching, blogging, you name it, and during our house move it’s been my best friend.

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My whole house may have been in boxes, but my sofa was sat in the living room and I had my tablet, so all was well with the world. Anywho, I digress, what I actually want to tell you about today is the debut novel by the talented B A Paris, Behind Closed Doors. It was one of the 12 books I chose at the start of the year, and my messy handwritten notes tell me it was my ‘Psychological Thriller’ choice.

That was all I remembered when I started reading, and admittedly I almost gave up within the first 10 pages. It opens at a dinner party between couples, and our main character Grace is desperate for her husband’s approval with the three-course dinner she’s prepared for the guests. Ugh. What happened to cooking together? Then she gushes about how perfect her marriage with Jack is, and shares photos from their perfect Honeymoon abroad. Double ugh. I went back to read the blurb to try and work out what tempted me to read this in the first place, and then I realised.

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You see, the seemingly perfect marriage is the whole point of the story. Grace is always immaculately dressed, the house is spotless, and she loves her husband dearly. They go on holiday together regularly, and stay in the nicest hotels. You know what’s odd though? If you ever invite Grace out to lunch, she’ll either cancel last minute or turn up with Jack in tow. You’d like her number to keep in touch? Sorry, she doesn’t have her own mobile phone. Also, why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows? Why indeed!

For a book I thought was going to annoy me, I read Behind Closed Doors in record timing, for me at least. I just had to know what happened next. At 353 pages, it’s not the longest novel in the world, and you could easily read it over a weekend if you were so inclined. To tell you any more would be giving too much of the story away, but let me tell you, I’m sure I nearly passed out during the last few chapters because I was holding my breath, I was so tense.

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I think Behind Closed Doors could make a great movie too, without the need to cut much material. The dialogue would need some work, because on paper it comes across almost pantomime-like at times, a little over dramatic I think. Nonetheless, I would definitely recommend this book to you.

B A Paris is releasing her second novel, The Breakdown, later this year, and I’m quite excited to give it a read!