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A Monster Calls (2016)
A Monster Calls (2016)
2016 | Drama, Fantasy
A Masterpiece
J.A. Bayona is one of the most exciting rising stars behind the camera lens. His knack for creating superbly shot, engaging films like The Orphanage and The Impossible has meant many in Hollywood have been keeping an intrigued eye on him.

His hard work paid off last year when it was announced he would be taking over directorial duties on the as yet unnamed Jurassic World sequel. In the meantime, Bayona has been busy working on A Monster Calls, based on the book of the same name by Patrick Ness, but does it continue the director’s brilliant work?

12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall), dealing with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness, a less-than-sympathetic grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), and bullying classmates, finds a most unlikely ally when a Monster (Liam Neeson) appears at his bedroom window. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth through three dramatic tales.

The first thing to say is that the film is visually stunning with detail seeping from every frame. Every shot is breath-taking in its own way and the tall tales in which Liam Neeson’s booming voice narrate are beautiful. Bayona yet again demonstrates his flair for cinematography, but this time his creativeness is set free in Conor’s imagination, where he literally paints pictures with superb animations.

Acting wise, A Monster Calls is sublime. With talent like Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones making up the bulk of the cast, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’d be easy for newcomer Lewis MacDougall to get lost in the fray, but he doesn’t. His performance throughout the film is exceptional and the chemistry he shares with on-screen mum Felicity is entirely believable, making his plight all the more heart-breaking.

But the real winners here are the special effects. Liam Neeson’s gravelly tone lends itself perfectly to creating ‘the Monster’ in all its woody glory. The incredible CGI used to bring him to life is some of the best I’ve ever seen, all the more remarkable given the film’s relatively modest $43million budget. The effects are better than those in some blockbusters costing three times this.

Then there’s the plot. Essentially a coming of age story as one young man tries desperately to hang on to his youth and escape the tragedies of life; A Monster Calls is one of the most heartfelt and emotionally resonant films in the genre. It is a testament to author and screenwriter Patrick Ness that his novel’s gut-wrenching themes are carried across perfectly to the silver screen; that is by no means an easy thing to accomplish.

Overall, A Monster Calls is a mesmerising 115 minutes that stays with you long after the end credits roll. Everything from the acting to the direction is spot on, with the story being relatable to every single one of us. This time last year I was sat in the cinema watching Daddy’s Home; what a difference 12 months makes.

https://moviemetropolis.net/2017/01/07/a-masterpiece-a-monster-calls-review/
  
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Neon Nans Reviews (267 KP) rated Joker (2019) in Movies

Oct 5, 2019 (Updated Oct 5, 2019)  
Joker (2019)
Joker (2019)
2019 | Crime, Drama
You were never really here.
Joker buries a knife deep into your chest right from the start and just when you feel it might finally be pulled out to give you relief it twists it in a little deeper. Make no mistake about it Joker is a slow burn drama/character study so those expecting big action and Batman are in for a real shock here but then again thats also what I think is so special. Joker works hard and earns its big explosive moments with such a steady, progresive, careful character build up that ensures when vilolence hits its shocking, powrful, cold and chilling and thats whats so refreshing and brave about it especially for a mainstream film. Theres no hand holding, no sugar coating and no holding back here and its absolutely riveting and glorious to behold playing out a cross between taxi driver and you were never really here joaquin phoenix plays an already dangerously unstable man pushed over his breaking point by life and society. From the moment we first set eyes on Arthur we see his pain seeping out through his pupils and an insight into his tortured mind. Its a story about an already fragile mind being pushed to a point where it finally snaps and shows how especially without the right help and support an avoidable monster is unleashed. We have all become so uncaring and selfish because of our own problems in life we fail to care and empathise with each other but its lack of care and understanding of mental ilness (treating it esentially like a joke) that leads Arther to finally snap. When he does finaly give its like a release for him all his sadness, anxiety and lack of confidence vanishes and we see man reshaped and reborn. Then theres his uncontrolable laugh which seems to come about when he's anxious or stressed and actually feels like it physicaly pains him everytime its released. Character progression is steady and realistic this man is clearly sick, had a rough upbringing, suffering from mental illness and he longs for a father figure and just to be loved which he tries to achieve from performing. Theres so many themes explored here the big one being how society and the media are partaily responsible for glamorising and encouraging violent behavior/serial killers making them popular/trendy and swaying other fragile tried and tested minds to rise up a follow the lead. Theres just so much to say about this film and its frying my head trying to get it all down and in readable state. At the end of the day Joker is fantastic and without a doubt the best comic book movie we have had to date setting the bar for all those that follow now. Its mature, graphic, highly depresing, intricate, unnerving, relevant and iteligent leaving such a thought provoking lasting impression that you cant help but be fearful and worried about the current state of the world we live in and how its changing for the worse becoming such a terifying and unsafe place.
  
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Marylegs (42 KP) rated After Before in Books

Aug 14, 2019  
After Before
After Before
Jemma Wayne | 2014 |
10
10.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
I received After Before, a while ago as a first reads book. I started it a while ago, but have recently re-picked it up and became completely engrossed by it. The pause in reading this book was not based on how engaging I found this book. But rather I was focused on other books I was reading. Once I dedicated my time to this book however, I couldn’t stop. When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking out it, and it was based actually about a point of history I didn’t know about, or at least didn’t know a lot about.

The book focuses on three women, who through chance are pulled into each others lives. There is Vera, newly engaged and newly discovering her faith in god. Her fiancé Luke, a devote Christian is helping her to change her life for the better, to move forward and overcome her past. But there is so much more to her past than she has told Luke and she finds it impossible to move on and become better while she still hold onto these secrets. Luke is Vera’s link to Lynn, his mother, who has found out she has terminal cancer and has to relinquish her control on the life. As she comes to terms with her illness and what will be her untimely death she relives elements of her life that she resents and was unable to achieve because of the choices she made. Vera tries to help care for Lynn, but the two cannot come to terms with each other and so Emily, originally from Rwanda, is brought in to care for Lynn. Emily is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and has not come to terms with all that she has seen, or what was done to her. She drifts through her life never wanting to remember her past but forever at its whim. The story flits back and forth through the present and the past for each of the three women. All with different stories but all in pain and unable to let go.

I found Emily’s story the most interesting, I could have read a book just about her and how she learns to deal with the horrible event that has overtaken her life. Her flash backs are so well written, graphic in places, but dignified to the history that these people have to live with. We hear a lot about the injustice and the horror of the holocaust, which happened in the Second World War. But learning about the Rwandan Genocide through Emily’s 12 year old eyes really touched me. I could feel the fear building, know what was to happen but having to control over it. Knowing that the people who were yesterday your friends are no longer that.

This is a brilliantly written book about forgiveness. That without forgiveness, whether that is for yourself, through god, or for other people, that you will not be able to move on and truly live. Would highly recommend it is however not a light-hearted or emotionally easy read.
  
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The book opens with Gillian Deacon's personal story for why she decided to write this book - when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though she believed that she had been living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for years, she realized that one can never be too cautious. Deacon employs a few new vocabulary terms that help to introduce the reader to what Deacon hopes to accomplish with this book - by teaching the readers to be cautious about what to use in, on, and around their bodies. The first term is pinkwashing, applying to "big cosmetics corporations that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer... [that] are, in fact, makers and marketers of products that contain many ingredients known or suspected to cause breast cancer." This term is related to the next- greenwashing, in which big corporations do the same thing with environmental awareness. She even gives a list of product lines that fall under this heading on page 10.
Deacon's motto throughout the book is "Be your own advocate," and she uses the book to teach the reader how, with multiple resources that can be found both in books and on the internet. The chapter on label reading introduces the reader to the concept of the chemical body burden, which "refers to the accumulation of chemical ingredients in the human body." This chapter was incredibly illuminating, as I am sure most people do not consider the cumulative effect of all of the manufactured products that we use on a day-to-day basis, or even how different chemicals in these different products can react negatively with one another. Governmental bodies such as Health Canada or the U.S. FDA, are also shown to be of little help in curbing the influx of chemicals into the retail market that have been presented to be linked to illness and disease - and are sometimes even prohibited from use in European countries. She gives a list of the 20 worst chemicals to avoid and why on page 31 - a list which had me examining every product in my bathroom.
Each chapter begins with some basic information about the body parts mentioned to illustrate why and how the chemicals found in products can harm the body. Every chapter is supplied with a list of products that can be found on the internet applicable to that chapter's topic along with the pros and cons of each product. If that is not enough, she also supplies recipes for do-it-yourself homemade body care products, such as face masks, hair treatments, and lipsticks.
The book also teaches that many of the common "spin" words that companies use to promote a product as safe or healthy are, in fact, meaningless, without an industry-standard definition: natural, hypoallergenic, botanicals, pure plant essence, herbal conditioning, purifying, and nourishing, to name a few. Other words can be used to hide chemicals, such as fragrance or perfume, as the companies are not legally required to list the chemicals used to achieve them. Even the regulated word "organic" can not always be trusted as anything with less than 60% organic ingredients can not be truly organic.
In short, this book is a priceless commodity for me, and with it I hope to detox both my home and and family, adding years to all of our lives.
  
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Kristy H (646 KP) rated Leave No Trace in Books

Mar 15, 2019  
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace
Mindy Mejia | 2018 | Fiction & Poetry, Mystery, Thriller
7
7.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
Quick, puzzling read
Maya Stark is twenty-three and an assistant speech therapist at Congdon, a facility for the mentally ill. She's had a tough past, and it isn't easy for her to form attachments with anyone. Maya's mom left when she was a kid, and Maya was once a patient at the facility where she now works. So she's surprised when she feels drawn to Congdon's newest patient, nineteen-year-old Lucas Blackthorn. Lucas arrives at Congdon after being arrested for breaking and entering into a wilderness store. Lucas and his father, Josiah, haven't been seen in ten years: Josiah took his son camping in the vast stretch of Minnesota territory known as the Boundary Waters a decade ago and the two haven't been heard from since. It's clear that Lucas wants nothing more than to return to the Boundary Waters. He's a recalcitrant and sometimes violent patient, who will cooperate with no one but Maya. Maya wants to help Lucas, and she wants to know why she feels so strong for this strange and angry boy.

This was my first Mejia book, and while it wasn't quite what I was expecting (I was thinking more mystery, less character-driven novel), it was really interesting. It's told mostly from Maya's point of view, but we hear some from Lucas and others too. It's a very readable book--I tore through it quickly, as there's something gripping about the style and reveal of facts about both Maya and Lucas' lives. We start out knowing very little about either of them--what put Maya in Congdon, what drove Lucas and Josiah into the Boundary Waters, and the novel does a good job of keeping you reading and wondering.

It's an emotional read--obviously being partially set in a mental hospital, it deals with mental illness. I thought, overall, Mejia did a good job with the topic, but if that's a trigger for you, just keep it in mind. The ancillary characters are pretty sparse: Maya's boss, the patients, Maya's dad, etc., but all are well-formed as well. Maya and Lucas are the stars, and both are well-done and easy to picture. The novel did a great job of pulling together all its various pieces. I was impressed how Mejia brought together the different parts of Lucas and Maya's lives--it's quite exceptionally thought out.

Probably the only thing marring this one for me were little things, but they nagged at me a bit. At times, the care Lucas receives seems odd and a bit weirdly thought out--giving a speech therapist such control over his care, for instance, and taking a violent patient into some strange situations. Maya and Lucas' instant attachment was also a little hard to completely believe, as well. But those were pretty small pieces in the scheme of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed my first Mejia book. The plot was the best part for me--I loved how it was a quick read and how enjoyable it was to put together all the various pieces of Lucas and Maya's lives. While there were a few little quirks that kept this from being an amazing read, it was still a solid, worthwhile read.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).
  
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Kaysee Hood (83 KP) rated Fangirl in Books

Nov 16, 2017  
Fangirl
Fangirl
Rainbow Rowell | 2014 | Young Adult (YA)
10
8.8 (43 Ratings)
Book Rating
Twin Life (4 more)
College Life
Mental Illness
Carry On
Fan Fic
Fangirl speaks to the hearts of the current generation of teenagers and young adults who have found love in fandoms but cannot seem to figure it out in the real world when their heads are in the clouds full of fanfics and theories.

As we grow to become adults we must venture through events of many firsts like kissing, love, heartbreak, and more. It is how we figure out who we are, who we want to be, and where we want to go even if sometimes the road is not easy to travel; however, for Cath she was never alone with her twin sister and she never experienced much other than living through Wren. This was until Freshmen year of college because Wren wants to separate herself from Cath. They've done everything together since birth. Cath does not want this. Cath does not want the space. She's scared not to have Wren feet away. She's fearful of the strangeness college will offer. She's terrified she's crazy and people will find her weird for the Simon and Baz fanfics she's written.


Wren does not give in. She moves in with her roommate, Coutrny, and spends her free time getting drunk at parties. She distances herself from Cath to the point they do not even speak. Thus Cath finds out who she is under the layers she’s wrapped around herself since her mom left without Wren to hold her hand and keep her steady. Oh boy, does this journey give her more adventures she has ever had in the last eighteen years of life all because of Nick (writing partner), Reagan (her roommate), and most importantly Levi (the boy who is always waiting outside her dorm for Reagan). There are other important characters at play in Cath’s life. Miniature quests wrapped around the biggest one of all: Cath learning to be her own person.

Rowell’s style is very pleasing when it comes to the flow between Cath around people in real life and how Cath is when she is logged in FanFixx posting Carry On, Simon chapters. We can relate to the girl who has hidden in her room relying on Wren to give little breathes of life from the one she is not living. She is realistic and not a carbon copy twisted to fit into a new plot to gain readers. In general Rowell writes her characters exquisitely as they stand out being not only realistic versions of possibly real people we could run into on the street, but all have their own lives not pieced together solely to further the plot for Cath alone shown with each word written through their actions or when they speak. Each could stand alone as interesting additions instead of misplaced messes. Even the subplots do not feel tacked on and further the story until the final page is done where it is easy to see how each line led to the end.

By the end of it all none of it felt overdone or predictable and I personally stood behind Cath cheering for her. Anyone could read Fangirl and enjoy Cath’s voyage alone as a Freshmen in college, but I think the fangirls and fanboys might enjoy it a bit more. Pick up a copy as soon as possible to learn how Cath’s story ends.