Review: The Happening (2008)

the-happening-movie-review-2008I was too much of a wimp to see Split (2017) in the cinema in January, and the wait for it to be released on DVD is killing me. I’m not a hardcore Shyamalan fan per se, but I love a thriller movie with a twist! I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the ‘good’ Shyamalan movies, but I was desperate, and so despite the fairly cold reviews, I gave The Happening (2008) a try the other night. This is a movie that I’ve forever mixed up with The Knowing (2009) which I now realise is just called Knowing, so it looks like I’ve been pulling a Hidden Fences blunder for years.

Moving swiftly on…

Guys, there is no way I can discuss this movie without spoilers. Let me tell you the plot, and if you want to watch it un-spoiled from that, then please just close down this page and hunt down a copy. I’ll save the ‘I told you so’ for when you come back. In The Happening, a strange plague hits Central Park in New York which causes people to kill themselves. A lady stabs herself in the neck with her hair accessory, and workers jump from scaffolding into the streets. Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) flee their home.

Right. Now we enter spoiler territory. The greatest plot twists are those that seem so outrageous at the time, but when you start to backtrack through the movie, the clues were all there in plain sight for you to see, leaving you feeling a little hurt, but amazed. The worst kind are either outrageous with no reasoning behind them, or so bleedin’ obvious that you wonder whether there was a twist at all!

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Setting the scene here, at the opening of the movie, Mark Wahlberg is a Science teacher talking to his students about an incident where thousands of bees simply disappeared without a trace, no bodies left behind. After a discussion with the group, he tells them that Science may give the situation an explanation, but what actually happened was a force of nature, and is unexplainable. Right, so I’m guessing that this plague is a force of nature that can’t be explained then? An hour and a half later, yes, I was right. Oh.

If you can move past that, and the horrendous acting (how did this cast make the dialogue sound so bad?) this might be a good movie to watch this friends and a few too many alcoholic drinks. Let me highlight some of the crazier parts for you:

  • Mark Wahlberg has a serious conversation with a house plant, basically asking it not to kill him, just to find out it’s made of plastic.
  • He also creeps into some old lady’s bedroom to find a hella-scary doll tucked into the bed. WHY.
  • When the gang realise it’s the plants killing them (or sending them crazy) Mark Wahlberg shouts for them to ‘outrun the wind’. Um…what?
  • Have I mentioned yet that the Earth’s population is being murdered by plants?

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At least when I get this movie confused with Knowing, it won’t matter any more, because they’re both terrible. I’m not going to lie though, I had a brilliant time watching this, laying out on the sofa with my headphones in, giving a running commentary to my very confused husband. I think he thought I was joking most of the time. 2 out of 5 murderous plants from me!

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Review: Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004)

I’ve been putting this review off for a while, because I’m a little scared of what you might all think. Let me introduce this in my usual way to put my nerves at ease first however.

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My New Year’s Eve was extremely tame, I spent it at home with my ill husband. It was still a good night though, we had take out pizza, played a few board games, and we decided to watch a movie too. There was nothing on Netflix that took our fancy and rather than bringing in the New Year flicking through every movies going ‘no…no…no…’ we grabbed a DVD off the bookcase which we’ve been putting off watching for ages. Kill Bill: Volume 1!

I’m not well versed in Quentin Tarantino movies. I watched The Hateful Eight and Django, and really enjoyed both. Other than that, I’ve only seen Pulp Fiction, and that was alright too. More than anything, it was nice to see where all the references I’ve heard over the years came from. In fact, I’m not even sure why we owned Kill Bill, but I’m guessing that we’ve been told so many times what a classic it is we thought we should see what the fuss is about.

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Perhaps it should have been obvious, but we didn’t realise that Kill Bill is literally a 4 hour movie split into two halves, so we ended up watching Volume 2 the very next day, because we knew if we didn’t, we’d probably never see it.

For those who haven’t seen it, Kill Bill is essentially the story of ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) working her way through a kill list. Her assassin colleagues and boss tried to murder her on her wedding day, but they’re clearly not the A-Grade assassins they make themselves out to be because they failed, and she’s out for revenge.

Let me start with Volume 1. This was a whole barrel of fun. Knowing nothing about the story, the non-linear story really pulled me in, and it’s always enjoyable to watch some bad-ass fighting! In particular I loved the origin story of O-Ren (Lucy Liu) when the movie turned into an anime style animation. The over exaggeration of the bloodiness reminded me of an anime I used to watch called Bleach!

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It felt like everything was leading up to The Bride’s fight with the Crazy 88, which there weren’t 88 of, which is funny in that ironic kind of way. The fight itself was incredible to watch, and the violence doesn’t hold back in the slightest. We ended up watching and going ‘ooh, ouch’ along with it, as if we could feel those blows ourselves! All in all, it was something I normally wouldn’t watch, and although some parts were quite slow, I enjoyed it.

Which brings us to Volume 2…

First of all, I really liked the opening sequence, where we learn what happened at the chapel those 4 or so years ago. That brought me the closure I needed. What stuck out like a sore thumb though, and perhaps I just didn’t notice it in the previous volume, these camera shots in black and white, for reasons I can’t work out. In the buried alive scene, the screen is much smaller and that makes complete sense, but the other shots seemed so random.

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What else felt random? The Bride is buried alive, and she’s about to punch her way out of the box. How is she able to do that? Training montage! It just wasn’t very…subtle. If that scene was much sooner in the movie it would have been a ‘eureka’ moment, but instead it just felt lazy. I fully except at this point that I’m the minority here whinging about a universally accepted great movie!

Even the finale with Bill felt a bit lacklustre. With such a huge build up in Volume 1 to the fight with O-Ren, I was expecting something even bigger for Bill, but it was literally *SPOILER* a punch to the chest that killed him. *SPOILER OVER* I was expecting something a little more…showy?

I still enjoyed both movies, but they just felt overrated to me. Volume 1 was far more enjoyable, but paired together as they should be, Kill Bill gets 3 out of 5 pussy wagons.

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Book Review: The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware

So, this is brand new territory for me. I’ve been blogging about movies for almost 3 years now (almost 3 weeks here at Often Off Topic!) and attempting to review a book feels very much out of my comfort zone. More importantly however, I’m actually feeling quite proud of myself, because despite setting myself a 2017 resolution to read 1 book per month, I read my first book in a week! I’m feeling very positive about achieving this goal.

As I mentioned in my Resolutions post, I’ve deliberately chosen books from a wide variety of genres to broaden my horizons a little, but as the last book I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) was The Girl on the Train, I thought picking something in the same genre might be a nice way to ease myself into the challenge.

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By way of introduction, author Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex and studied at Manchester University, and has now settled in North London. Before she became an author of two Top 10 Bestsellers in both the UK (Sunday Times) and the USA (New York Times) she worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. Currently, Ruth is working on her third book.

The Girl in Cabin 10 is thrilling in every sense of the word, from its very first chapter to it’s last, I’m deadly serious. Here’s the official blurb from Ruth’s website:
“When travel journalist Lo Blacklock is invited on a boutique luxury cruise around the Norwegian fjords, it seems like a dream career opportunity.
But the trip takes a nightmarish turn when she wakes in the middle of the night to hear a body being thrown overboard – only to discover that no-one has been reported missing from the boat.
How do you stop a killer, when no-one believes they exist?”

Lo’s story begins with her being burgled and attacked in her own home, and becoming deeply traumatised by the ordeal, leaving her with a bad case of insomnia and panic attacks worse than what she already deals with on a daily basis. During one particularly bad night, Lo walks in the rain in the middle of the night to her boyfriend Jude’s apartment, which is currently empty as Jude is out of the country. When Jude comes home whilst Lo is sleeping…let’s just say Lo isn’t the only character in the book to be attacked at night in their own home!

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It was a fantastic way to introduce the book’s main character whilst setting readers up for what’s to come. There was no doubt in my mind that this was going to be a bumpy ride. Once Lo is aboard the Aurora, we get a quick insight into the other passengers on board, including the rather out of place passenger in cabin 10, who hastily lets Lo borrow her mascara with no intention of wanting it back. That very night Lo is woken in the night by a scream, a chilling splash, and the sight of blood smeared on the veranda of cabin 10. What makes matters worse is that the Aurora’s head of security confirms to Lo that there was never a passenger in cabin 10 to begin with…

To say anymore than that would be a disservice to author Ruth Ware, because I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was so difficult to put down, and I felt such a strong connection to Lo as she was trying to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. It feels like a game of Cluedo, only most of the clues don’t add up until much later on. There are twists and turns aplenty, and the last 80 pages or so were so nail-bitingly tense that I stayed up ridiculously late just so I could finish it.

I have a feeling I may this too many times during this challenge of mine, but The Woman in Cabin 10 would make an excellent movie!