Review: A Ghost Story (2017)

a-ghost-story-movie-review-2017It’s October! It’s that time of year when I put on my big girl pants, man up a little and watch a few scary movies. Last year was a huge success (for a wimp like me!) as I watched It Follows, Krampus, The Babadook, and even the classic, Psycho. This year I’d quite like to outdo myself, but instead I’ve started on one big fail. Look at that poster! It looks terrifying, right? Only here’s the thing – A Ghost Story isn’t even a horror movie. Doh.

That’s my fault for walking in blind really, but I’ve always stood by my opinion that it’s the best way to go into a movie. So no, A Ghost Story isn’t a horror, instead it’s a cracking little indie movie about a ghost trapped in his home, forced to simply stand by and watch as time flies by.

Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck play a young couple with troubles in their relationship, which are only made worse when Casey Affleck’s character is killed in a car accident. He wakes up in the hospital as a ghost in the most recognisable way, under a sheet with holes cut out as eyes. After he walks back home, he watches Rooney Mara’s character deal with the aftermath and eventually moves out of the house, leaving behind a note hidden in the wall – something she’s enjoyed doing all her life.

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It took a good half an hour for this movie to really kick in and get interesting for me, I’ll admit. I started to wonder what the point was, and some of the shots were almost painfully long in that arty kind of way. It also took me a while to work out why the director would choose to film in an aspect ratio of 1:33:1, but during some scenes I felt genuinely claustrophobic, and then the reason became clear.

I don’t want to talk too much about the rest of the story, because I think you should go in knowing as little as you can but the last 20 minutes or so completely baffled me. Just when you think you’ve got your head wrapped around what’s happening, you get the rug pulled out from under you, but in a simple sense, rather than a shocking, plot twist sense. It was one of those endings I had to read up on, and just like the choice of aspect ratio, it became immediately clear to me.

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Oh! I have to say, despite it not being a horror movie, I still have to say “screw you!” for the TWO jump scares that sneakily made their appearance…it’s a good job my due date is still nearly two weeks away because they gave me such a freight I swear they might have brought on contractions.

So really, other than the slow start, I really enjoyed A Ghost Story. It perhaps wasn’t the scary start to the month I was expecting, but I’m glad I gave it a go nonetheless. It gets 4 out of 5 sympathy pies from me, which is making me feel nauseous just thinking about it, because no one needs to watch Rooney Mara sobbing and demolishing an entire pie in a five minute shot.

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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!

Review: A Cure for Wellness (2017)

a-cure-for-wellness-movie-review-2017Some movies look really promising when you catch that first trailer, and then they fall off your radar. Some movies look like they’re definitely worth a watch, but when you see the runtime you feel put off. 5 months after it’s release in the UK, coming in at a whopper of 2 hours and 26 minutes, A Cure for Wellness hit both criteria for me! Thankfully, my Flick Chick Jenna came to stay over the weekend and recommend that we give it a go! It’s amazing how much easier a long movie is to watch when you can have several snack and chat pause breaks.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that A Cure for Wellness is a weird movie. Dane Dehaan plays an ambitious young executive known as Lockhart, sent by his company to retrieve their CEO from a mysterious wellness centre in the Swiss Alps. When he arrives, things seem a little…off. Although the residents are known as ‘guests’ free to leave whenever they wish, no one has actually ever left, and they all seem quite odd. In fact, you could almost say they look ill, which surely can’t be right?

Dane Dehaan has always reminded me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio for some reason, so with that in mind it was impossible to not try and compare this movie to Shutter Island. It has it’s similarities for sure, but they’re very different movies.

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Perhaps it was the dessert and the company, but I didn’t feel like this was a particularly long movie. There were definitely scenes that didn’t add much to the narrative of the story, but what they did provide was their ability to give you the creeps. There’s a mystery to solve here in the mountains, and the pieces of the puzzle are fed to us slowly in a way that helps us put it all together, but the atmosphere of it all leaves us wondering if we can trust our own judgement or not, which is exactly what’s happening to Lockhart.

Some scenes are difficult to watch, and one in particular (involving a dentists chair and a drill!) was impossible! We had to cover our ears, look away and make noises until it was all over. I peeked every now and again, and wished I didn’t.

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Is it the best mystery/thriller out there? No, and I feel like it might even be a bit of a love/hate kind of movie for most, but there was enough here to keep me interested and guessing as to how it might end. I think I had a much better experience watching it with someone – I don’t think I could have put up with it solo. Right at the very end we’re left with a very confusing scene which opens up a whole bunch of questions. My favourite thing about these kind of endings is that everyone will have their own take on it!

I was pleasantly surprised by The Cure for Wellness, and so it gets 4 out of 5 glasses of water (that you should absolutely NOT drink) from me.

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Review: Song to Song (2017)

Remember how literally just a few days ago I said I was struggling to name 5 movies that I really didn’t enjoy this year so far? Remember how my list was half-hearted because I didn’t truly hate any of them, I was just disappointed by them? That I actually missed hate-writing about a movie? Turns out the movie gods were listening that day, because they delivered Song to Song.

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I’ve heard that Terrence Malick movies are often controversial, and a quick check on IMDB confirmed what I thought – until now I haven’t seen a single one of his movies. I gotta say, there were none that really shouted out to me either, but there was no way I could ignore Song to Song. Here’s what I knew:
– Music was a strong feature (I’ve been spoiled by John Carney movies)
– It was set in Austin, Texas (I got to go there for work once and had an amazing time)
– The cast was excellent (Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling & Michael Fassbender)
– It was described as a modern day love story

What could possibly go wrong?

It all started out okay to be honest. It felt a bit qwirky, a bit weird. It was a little raunchy too, so ticks in all the boxes from me. My eyes struggled to adjust to the fact that no single shot seemed to last any longer than 5 seconds, but I thought I’d get used to it. I had over 2 hours of movie to get used to it!

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About 20 minutes in, it all just went to hell. I couldn’t work out what was going on anymore. I thought it was established that Rooney Mara’s character was together with Michael Fassbender’s, but then she fell for Ryan Gosling. It seemed like some weird love triangle, because Ryan Gosling seemed way more interested in bro’ing it up with Michael Fassbender, but then he got married to Natalie Portman and…are you still reading?

This entire movie hurt my head. None of the characters ever seemed to talk much, or even smile. I’m sorry but, how can you fall in love with someone if all you do is float around silently, looking at them with the face and flair of a catwalk model? It’s infuriating!

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I actually gave up at the mid way point and turned the movie off. I thought I could be satisfied with not knowing how the story ended, or wasting another hour of my life whilst risking permanent frown lines from the face I pulled the entire time watching. Alas, the next day the completionist in me couldn’t take it anymore and I watched the rest. Did it get any better? No. Was it worth it? I got to see Ryan Gosling make a turkey out of a napkin (actually one of my favourite party tricks) so there was that.

I’m really sorry to actual, legit movie critics who understood this movie and what it was about, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea at all. 1 and a half napkins from me…you can turn them into turkeys yourself, or ask Ryan Gosling to show you how!

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TV Rambles: Fargo Season 3

Aw geez, I’ve been looking forward to Season 3 of Fargo even more than Game of Thrones this year and I can’t believe it’s already over! Where did 10 weeks go? I deliberately stayed away from every bit of news as I could so everything would be a surprise. In fact, by the time Episode 1 aired, all I actually knew was that it starred Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

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I gotta say, the first half of Episode 1 didn’t get me at all. I loved the fact McGregor was playing both brothers, but I felt like so much information was being thrown at me with no links whatsoever. That all changed the second David Thewlis came onto screen. I had no idea he was even in this season and it took a full minute for my brain to register it was even him. What a character! It was a wild ride from that moment on.

Just like the previous seasons, this one is an entirely new story set in an entirely different year, but still linked to the bigger Fargo universe. Also joining the cast is Carrie Coon, a newbie to me, playing Gloria Burgle. Gloria is the former Chief of the local police department, and together with traffic cop Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) she is the force that just won’t quit when she knows to trust her instincts.

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I think Season 1 will always hold that key place in my heart as my favourite season, but this one is only just so slightly behind. The story was as brilliant as you can expect, but it was the characters this time round that really made it special. I’ve never seen David Thewlis play the bad guy, let alone a guy so disgusting in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Some of his scenes were honestly difficult to watch (though it may just be pregnancy nausea on my behalf) and so I have to give him a shout out for that.

Ewan McGregor also shone in both of his roles, managing to play the 2 Stussy brothers so well that it was easy to forget they’re played by the same person. I’m actually tempted to say he did a better job than Tom Hardy did in Legend!

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The real MVPs for me though were Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Carrie Coon. These ladies just steal every scene that they’re in, and they kick ass. Both of their characters go on such emotional journeys, and they’re just a pleasure to watch. I seriously hope these ladies land some big roles in the future, because they’re ones to watch for sure.

I won’t go into of course, but can I just mention that ending? Perfect. I love it and I hate it at the same time, because we’ll never know what happened after those 5 minutes. Arghhhh. Now I have a Fargo-shaped hole in my life. I really hope we get a Season 4 in the future!

Review: Memories of Murder (2003)

memories-of-murder-2003-movie-reviewAfter a string of 2017 releases, it’s quite refreshing to blog about a movie a little older! Let me tell you about a cool website I stumbled across the other day. It’s called Taste, and basically how it works is that you complete a profile by rating movies that it throws at you. Once your profile is complete, you’re left with a list of movie recommendations based on your tastes. Simple, huh? I wanted to give it a try, so I completed my profile, and the number 1 recommendation for me was Memories of Murder (2003). There was only 1 way to find out whether the site was any good really, wasn’t there?

Directed by Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer & Okja), Memories of Murder is based on a real life serial murder case in South Korea. In October 1986, a young woman is found raped and murdered in a field. Detective Park Doo-man (Kang-ho Song) is first on the scene and has never dealt with a case like this before. It’s clear that him and the rest of the department are well out of their depth, so another detective, Seo Tae-yoon (Sang-kyung Kim) from Seoul, volunteers to help.

If I remember rightly, this might be my 2nd ever foreign language movie. It’s shameful actually, because the only other one I’ve seen (Incendies) was absolutely incredible, so I’m definitely open to suggestions. In fact, I almost enjoy a subtitled movie more, because my mind simply isn’t allowed to wander, or I’ll miss a huge chunk of what’s actually going on.

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Memories of Murder is a reasonably long movie, but it doesn’t ever really slow in pace. From the opening of the movie, we’re presented with the first victim, and the way the story flows it really does feel like we’re part of the investigative team as they desperately search for clues. Once the team work out that these murders only happen at night when it rains, the tension really ramps up. I felt just as frustrated as the detectives when things didn’t go their way, although Park Doo-man’s investigate techniques are extremely questionable!

In fact, his character started out as quite unlikable for me. He was presented with a decent lead, but rather than work with the suspect to gather as much intelligence as he could, Park Doo-man actually creates false evidence to make the suspect look even more guilty, and actually tortures him until he gets a confession. It’s quite hard to watch in some parts. By the end of the movie though, you can see how much his character has grown.

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Memories of Murder is up there with Zodiac as my joint-favourite detective movie I think. As far as that website goes, it was spot on with recommending me something to watch! I’m not affiliated with them in any way by the way, just to make that clear. I just like sharing interesting things with you. This movie gets 4 out of 5 Nike (or should that be Nice?) sneakers from me.

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By the way, in case you’re curious, it’s also recommending me Persepolis, Letters from Iwo Jima, Short Term 12, In Bruges and City of God, to name a few. I’ll be tracking these down soon!)

Review: A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

a-dogs-purpose-movie-review-2017As a movie blogger, I feel the need to have a ‘never say never’ kind of attitude when it comes to actually watching movies. I tell all my friends and family “If there’s ever something you want to see at the cinema and no-one will go with you, I will!”. That’s how I found myself watching Fast & Furious 5 with Jenna (having watched none in the series prior) and The Monuments Men with my husband (still haven’t forgiven him). It’s also how I wound up at the cinema last week with my Mum to see A Dog’s Purpose.

Why do we do this to ourselves? That’s what we asked each other while queuing for a cup of tea. We know this movie is going to make us cry, and yet we just can’t help ourselves. I don’t know whether to be thankful for the fact that the screen was fairly busy (more people crying to make me feel better) or full of shame because my Mum likes to choose the quiet moment to blow her nose.

If you don’t know already, A Dog’s Purpose is one dog’s story about trying to find meaning in his life. Or should I say lives, because in this world, when a dog dies he is brought back to life as a new born puppy. Say it with me now, ‘awww’.

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The dog we get to follow is called Bailey, and we hear his thoughts through the ever entertaining Olaf LeFou Josh Gad. I’ve got to admit, anyone with a deep love for their own pet will find a lot of humour in Bailey’s commentary, especially if you’ve ever had an actual conversation with your dog, cat, parrot, or whatever you have.

Of course it made me cry. It would make even those with the coldest hearts tear up just slightly. I wasn’t timing it or anything, but I’m fairly sure there were 2 dog deaths within the first 10 minutes of the movie. If that’s not enough to get you, there’s a healthy dose of angst, domestic abuse and alcoholism that might tug on those heartstrings instead.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the whole movie, sadly. Bailey has a few other lives that are saved for the big screen itself, but the middle section of the movie is all just filler, leaving you waiting for the big reunion moment that you know is coming. It’s not a masterpiece movie, but it knows what it wants from it’s audience and it succeeds in that, so what more can you say!

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I’ll tell you one last thing though, I’m fairly certain my Mum and I both went home and hugged our pets extra tight that night. It didn’t stop me from cursing my cats with every bad word invented when they hid a live bird from me of course, but for that evening, they were my favourite things in the world. In fact, can we have A Cat’s Purpose next year? Just follow the same principle, but make it an hour and a half of cats being a******s instead. I’ll watch that.

3 out of 5 bottles of Baileys from me. It’s clever, because that’s the dog’s name, but it also makes me sad because I haven’t touched alcohol since Christmas.

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