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Come Sundown
Come Sundown
Nora Roberts | 2018 | Mystery
9
9.5 (4 Ratings)
Book Rating
Great Author, another bestseller right here (0 more)
Contains scenes of rape and abuse (0 more)
Brilliant but a harrowing read!
I am a big fan of Nora Roberts, and this book undoubtedly shows just why she has become such a top seller. Romantic suspense or crime thrillers aren't usually my thing but this author has a way of dragging me, and I know whatever I read will be worth it.

This book was very hard to read in places and extremely dark, some of the subject matters were hard hitting and I had to put the book down and walk away for a for a while. I am surprised it didn't come with a bit more of a warning to readers.

The story centres around the Bodine family who have a ranch resort in Montana. Like all her books it is based on family values and the healing powers of friendships formed. The story centres around Bodine Longbow manager of the resort side, which her family have had for generations. Due to circumstances out of her control she is in need of a horseman, and it just so happens here brothers best friend is back in town after a stint in Hollywood with his show horse Sundown. She has had a crush on him since they were at school and it is very sweet to watch the romance blossom between the two.

Alongside of this in true Nora style, there is another darker, more sinister story developing. One member of the Bodine family Alice, has be gone for years, expected of being a run away and giving up on the family as she was always strong willed and somewhat of a free spirit, was actually kidnapped whilst making her way home and has been in confinement in a room for years, being brutally beaten and raped repeatedly by a religious nut, who believes women are for bearing children and doing as their husbands tell them. Most of these scenes reduced me to tears.

<i>“He told her she was his property now. Though she’d clearly been a whore before he’d saved her on the side of the road, she was his responsibility now. And his to do with as he pleased.
He suggested she read the Bible, as it was written a woman was to be under a man’s dominance, how God had created woman from Adam’s rib to serve as his helpmate and to bear his children.”</i>

These scenes and many like them, within the book are very graphic, and there are a lot of triggers. As mentioned earlier in my review I had to put the book down and go do other things to get my mind off what was happening. Time and time again Nora shows how the love of family and friends can mend almost anything.

There are lots of parallel story lines running throughout the book, which all come together towards the end, making the darker parts more bearable. Another brilliant book by the author, the only reason I didn't give it five stars is because of how much I struggled with parts of the brutality and abuse.
  
The Muppets (2011)
The Muppets (2011)
2011 | Comedy, Family
8
7.3 (11 Ratings)
Movie Rating
As a child, I have fond memories of watching The Muppet Show and enjoying the mix of comedy, music, and dance with my family and recapping the show with my friends the following day. Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, and the whole gang were my childhood icons and provided countless hours of entertainment with their brilliant and inspired variety show as well as the three movies that followed. It is hard to believe that 1989 was the last time the gang graced the big screen with “The Muppets in Space”. Thankfully they are back in a big way to delight fans, old and new, this holiday season.

The new films stars Jason Segel as Gary, a mild-mannered guy who has a swell life in his small community. He has been dating the lovely Mary (Amy Adams) for ten years and they are excited to plan their first visit to Los Angeles. Gary has a younger brother named Walter who is a huge fan of the Muppets, having grown up watching the beloved show with Gary. The fact that Walter actually is a Muppet might explain his utter devotion to the show and characters. So when Gary invites Walter to accompany Mary and him on their trip, Walter is ecstatic. At long last, he can visit The Muppet Studios.

Upon their arrival in L.A., Walter is shocked to find the studio in shambles and disrepair. Undaunted, Walter sneaks into Kermit’s old office and accidentally overhears a businessman named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plotting to steal the property from the Muppets. Determined to thwart Richman, Walter and Gary look up Kermit the Frog who, despite his reluctance, agrees to reunite the gang to put on a tele-thon to raise the needed money to save the theater.

Along the way there are some great and touching segments where we see what many of the characters have been up to in the recent years, and more than a few laughs and musical numbers also follow. In a race against time, and despite the lack of confidence the network has in their relevance, Kermit must whip the cast and theater into shape for an epic performance.

The movie was an absolute joy. It was so refreshing to see how Segel and director James Bobin have brought the Muppets to a new generation without losing the previous ones and staying very faithful to the characters and to Jim Henson’s vision. Segel, who came up with the story and co-wrote the script, seems to be having the time of his life as he sings and dances his way through several production numbers and gives a very funny, and in turns, tender performance.

Adams is a joy as the sweet, yet determined Mary, and the addition of the new Muppet Walter was a treat. Sure the plot may have been fairly formulaic but there were more than enough moments to keep the adults happy. At our screener, the adults were laughing even lauder than the kids in attendance, especially at the numerous pop culture reference, celebrity cameos, and nostalgic nods to the show.

I do not want to spoil the film but from Beaker doing his take on the Nirvana classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, to the Swedish Chef channeling Tony Montana from “Scarface” I was thoroughly entertained. I can honestly say this is not only one of the best of the Muppet movies but it is a perfect film to take the family. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself enjoying the magic as much, if not more, than the kids.
  
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The Power of the Dog (2021)
The Power of the Dog (2021)
2021 | Drama, Romance, Western
Deep and Layered
If the movie you are watching has a long shot of wheat blowing in the wind, then you are watching a character drama. If that same film also includes a 5 minute scene of someone braiding rope, then you have THE POWER OF THE DOG.

Written and Directed by Jane Campion (THE PIANO) and based on the best-selling novel by Thomas Savage, THE POWER OF THE DOG tells the tale of 2 brothers, talkative and charismatic Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and quiet and contemplative George (Jesse Plemons) who are tending their cattle ranch in Montana in the mid-1920’s. As horses give way to horseless carriages, George falls for a widow (Kirsten Dunst) who has an effeminate son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and this relationship makes Phil face his own feelings - and a changing world.

In the hands of Campion, this film is a quiet, introspective look at how a hard-drinking, hard-living Cowboy deals with a changing world - and his own pent up emotions - and it works well. She weaves a fascinating story that takes its time unfurling it’s pages and the time that the audience takes in steeping themselves in the story and the characters is time well spent, indeed.

This is because the great Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s SHERLOCK) is on-screen for 95% of the film as Phil and he commands the screen every moment that his presence is known. It is a bravura - though eerily quiet and introspective - performance by Cumberbatch. Campion and Cumberbatch create a memorable character that fills the screen not because he is wide or high or showy, but because he is deep and layered and the film spends most of its 2 hour and 6 minute running time peeling back the layers and digging deep into this character. It is an Oscar-worthy performance and is a shoo-in Oscar nominee and would not be surprising if Cumberbatch finally wins his Oscar for this role.

Plemons and Dunst (who played a couple in the first season of the TV series FARGO) are the catalyst that set the film - and the discoveries - in motion, but, though they are good, they have very little to do besides react to Cumberbatch’s characters’ moves.

Surprisingly, the character that does stand-out and the actor who does go toe-to-toe with Cumberbatch’s Phil is Peter, the son of Rose and played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (NIghtcrawler in X-MEN:APOCALYPSE) who is (at first) befriended by Phil as a joke and becomes closer and closer to him as the film progresses. It is through Peter that we dig through the layers of Phil - and it is a fascinating journey.

This is a gorgeous film to look at - Cinematographer Ari Wegner (THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE) is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination as well - and this is good, because Phil (and the audience) spend long stretches looking out in the wilderness, contemplating the world - and change.

Not the fastest moving film you will ever encounter, but if you are in the mood for this sort of thing and can get caught up with discovering the layers of Phil, then you will be rewarded with a layered and deep experience.

Letter Grade: A-

8 stars (out of 10) and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
  
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
2020 | Action, Adventure, Animation
It’s been a very long time since I played the Sonic the Hedgehog video games on my brothers SEGA Megadrive. I was, and always have been, a Nintendo guy, so since then my only experience of Sonic has been when he joins forces with Mario and Co for Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. I do have good memories of his solo outings though, and he is clearly an enduring and popular character, ideally suited for a CGI/live action movie.

When we first meet Sonic, he’s a young hedgehog on his home world, zipping about the place without a care in the world and being mentored by an owl called Longclaw. Before we get a chance to learn anything about Longclaw and the world that he and Sonic inhabit, some bad guy echidnas show up, looking to get their hands on Sonic and his speedy powers. Longclaw gives Sonic a bag of rings that can be used to open a portal to another world, and after opening one for him to escape through, tells him to use one whenever he is in danger of being captured.

Cut to Green Hills, Montana where we meet local sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Tom has been accepted, pending background checks, into the San Francisco police department, and he and Maddie are currently in the process of looking at houses there. We also learn that a now grown up Sonic has found his way into our world and has been living in hiding in Green Hills for some time now. The local crazy old man, Crazy Carl, claims to have seen a ‘blue devil’ on a number of occasions, but otherwise Sonic has managed to stay hidden. He’s even got himself a little underground man cave, and has become quite attached to Tom and Maddie, observing and following their every day lives from afar.

When Sonic manages to cause a city-wide power outage one evening, he draws the attention of the government, who bring in mad scientist Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate. When the gold rings that Sonic needs to transport to another world are mislaid, and as Robotnik and his team close in on him, Sonic makes himself known to an unsuspecting Tom and asks for his help. The movie then becomes a road trip, with them both on the run, evading Dr Robotnik and searching for the gold rings.

The CGI representation of Sonic had been something of a hot talking point, ever since the release of the first trailer sparked a huge online backlash. Looking more human, with smaller eyes, and longer limbs, the reaction of horror by anyone vaguely familiar with the character was enough to make director Jeff Fowler stand up and take notice, and the release date of the movie was pushed back to allow for some serious rework by the VFX team. Thankfully, when the new trailer was released, it was to a much more positive reaction, and rightfully so - Sonic was now much more aligned to his video game persona and on the receiving end of some pretty decent marketing material and promotion to back it all up. Ben Schwartz provides the voice for Sonic, giving him a wonderful childlike quality - in awe of the world around him, funny and confident in his abilities, but never really coming across as an annoying brat.

Jim Carrey brings to Robotnik the kind of madcap comedy that he we haven’t seen from him in a long time and is a delight in every scene he features. James Marsden is no stranger to appearing alongside CGI characters in children’s movies, and does his part well once again. Outside of that, the rest of the cast don’t get much to work with and kind of just fade into the background.

Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog is a fairly enjoyable movie, but it’s also instantly forgettable. It’s been a couple of days since I saw it and, apart from a couple of fun action scenes along the way, and the climactic showdown, I really don’t remember very much about it. If you’ve seen the wonderful scenes in the X-Men movies where QuickSilver zips around, interacting with characters and scenery as though time has stood still, then there are a few scenes just like that for you to enjoy. It’s a much better movie than I was expecting to see, but ultimately I think it could have been a hello a lot worse if they’d stuck to their guns with the original character design.
  
Let Him Go (2020)
Let Him Go (2020)
2020 | Crime, Drama, Thriller
7
7.8 (4 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Lesley Manville and Diane Lane deliver powerhouse female performances (0 more)
Feud for Thought
After a family tragedy for the Blackledge family, grandparents George (Kevin Costner) and Margaret (Diane Lane) are left to bring up baby Jimmy (Bram and Otto Hornung) with mother/daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter). But a few years later, Lorna marries bad-un Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain) and disappears back to Donnie's hillbilly extended family in the wilds of North Dakota, led by the fearsome Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville). Fearing for the child's wellbeing, Margaret drags retired Sheriff George on a dangerous journey to rescue the child.

There are strong similarities in this story with a sub-plot of the excellent "Ozark", where the psychopathic Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) is intent on having a child to grow up with on her remote ranch. The sense of tension there is recreated here, exacerbated by the movie's extremely slow (read "glacial") pace in its early stages. It's the same sort of rising dread that I felt with "Nocturnal Animals". This reaches its peak at a tense standoff over lamb chops at the Weboy ranch, but we are probably half-way into the film by then.

The slow pace however is broken by a couple of extremely violent scenes that earn the movie its UK-15 certificate. One (no spoilers here!) harks back to another Kevin Costner blockbuster where he was a bit luckier! And the finale turns a slightly sleepy tale of "two old folks" into an 'all guns blazing' action western that's highly unexpected. Although you could argue that this is tonally extremely uneven, it works and makes the movie a lot more memorable than it otherwise would be.

The standout leading performance here is the one from Diane Lane as the mentally tortured Granny pursuing her convictions across the country. Here writer/director Thomas Bezucha gives the character full rein. It's a memorable 'strong female' part, that would have been dominated by the male lead in the writing of films a few years back. Lane delivers a dramatic and rock-solid performance that has Oscar nomination written all over it.

I'm also a big fan of Kevin Costner, not just because he's a solid and reliable actor over many years. I always remember him gamely appearing as "The Postman"/'propeller-guy' in Billy Crystal's hilarious montage opening for the 70th Academy Awards. Anyhow, here he has his meatiest dramatic role in many years, and delivers fully on it. Top job, although I suspect this may not be his year for his elusive Best Actor award.

Finally, rounding out the Oscar hopefuls is the brilliant Lesley Manville as Blanche Weboy. It's a dream of a role for the Brighton-born star, nominated of course for the Best Supporting Actress two years ago for "Phantom Thread". And she is genuinely chilling here, firing on all cylinders like some sort of deranged Bette Davis on speed. She's used sparingly in the movie, but that makes her scenes all the more memorable. Another nomination perhaps? I'd predict so, yes.

I found this to be an uncomfortable watch, since I found myself in a moral quandary with the storyline. It's clear that Margaret is genuinely concerned for the safety of Jimmy (and less so, Lorna). Yet, what she is ultimately prepared to do is consider child abduction, when the law if probably on the side of the other party. Sure, the lifestyle and attitudes of the Weboys are alien to this more traditional "Granny". But although Blanche rules with a Victorian-level of grit, isn't she - at least before any of her more vicious tendencies emerge - entitled to do that? The film firmly roots itself behind the Blackledge's as "the good guys", but the script cleverly has you questioning that at various points,

Two technical categories in "Let Him Go" are also worthy of note. The cinematography is by Guy Godfree, and the sweeping vistas of Montana and North Dakota (actually Alberta in Canada!) are gloriously delivered. And the music by Michael Giacchino - one of my favourite composers - is cello-heavy and fitting for the sombre storyline. I always assess the quality of a score by whether I annoy the cinema cleaners by sitting until the last of the end credits have rolled, and this is one I did that to.

As the last movie I see before Christmas, "Let Him Go" is not exactly a feelgood festive offering. It's a well-crafted and thoughtful story, but not one to make you feel good inside, for the reasons outlined above. If you are a movie-lover though, then it's an interesting watch, if only for the fine acting performances on offer.

(For the full graphical review, please check out the "Bob the Movie Man" review on the web here - https://bob-the-movie-man.com/2020/12/23/let-him-go-is-not-a-joyous-affair-but-delivers-oscar-worthy-performances/. Thanks.)
  
The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
2016 | Hip-hop
8
6.3 (4 Ratings)
Album Rating
Kanye West is an iconic rapper from Chicago, Illinois. Not too long ago, he released his seventh studio album, entitled, “The Life of Pablo“.

ULTRA LIGHT BEAMS
The opening track functions as a Sunday-morning church revival, where Kanye is the ordained minister. He’s standing in the pulpit, preaching a time-sensitive sermon to his loyal congregation.

His message: God over Satan, keep the faith, pray for Paris, pray for parents, and we’re living God’s dream.

West sets the tone and declares where he stands on religious and socially-driven issues.

A Gospel choir emerges. The Dream and Kelly Price reinforce West’s message by singing verses of encouragement, leading to a heartfelt testimonial by Chance The Rapper.

While the collection plates are being filled with hopes of a better tomorrow, Kirk Franklin concludes the service by praying for everyone. He uplifts those who feel they are not good enough or have said, “I’m sorry,” too many times.

Father Stretch My Hands (Pt. 1)
A spiritual figure, Pastor T.L. Barrett, ushers in the second track with praises to The Most High. Future appears for a brief moment and Kid Cudi delivers a stunning chorus.

A liberated West returns to the pulpit and gives a brief, but somewhat explicit testimony of his past and present relationships to Amber Rose and Kim Kardashian.

Father Stretch My Hands (Pt. 2)
West continues his testimony and raps about his personal experiences. He speaks on the importance of returning his wife’s phone calls and not wanting to make the same mistakes his father made. Also, he mentions the passing of the mother in Hollywood, being broke, and the reason why he broke his jaw.

West’s words hit home, making room for another liberated soul to tell his story of triumph.

Desiigner, a newly-signed artist of G.O.O.D. Music, emerges from the underbelly of the ghetto. He raps about getting money illegally, drugs, and violence-familiarized by urban-street hustlers.

Though his grim subject matter contradicts the song’s hopeful message of liberation, it somehow adds mysticism or substance to Kanye’s brutally-honest testimony.

Desiigner, blessed with a futuristic flow, highlights a few things that West’s congregation needs to examine in order to be totally liberated.

FAMOUS
Whenever an important event occurs in an urban community, an after party is sure to follow. And a host of celebrities are always on standby to attend it. The Life of Pablo is no exception.

The fourth song features Rihanna and legendary-producer Swizz Beatz. Also, it contains timeless vocals from Sister Nancy and Nina Simone.

West, no longer in church clothes, stands out lyrically with witty, braggadocios lyrics.

Whether that statement is factual or not, it’s doesn’t really matter because West believes it is.

FEEDBACK
The fifth song serves as a transformational period, where West shows signs of the old Kanye.

West doesn’t need a psychiatrist to diagnose his problems. He does that himself by wearing them on his sleeves.

LOW LIGHTS
On the sixth track, West wrote via Twitter, “I put Low Lights on my album just thinking about all the moms driving their kids to school, then going to work.”

Listeners can now relate to the everyday struggle that mothers endure.

The song features an acapella sample from “So Alive” by Kings of Tomorrow.

The woman gives a grateful-testimony of God’s graciousness over a laid-back, simple piano groove. Her honesty is felt. Also, she sounds liberated because her Creator has accepted her for who she is.

HIGH LIGHTS
From lows to high, the seventh track is in direct correlation to “Low Lights”.

West and Young Thug put on their festive robes because it’s time to celebrate life. El Debarge and The Dream chime in, and West addresses a lingering issue.

But this is only the beginning. West finishes strong with more thought-provoking lyrics.

FREESTYLE 4
The eighth track features Desiigner. Again, when he and West are together, all hell breaks loose.

The once festive scene transforms into a grimy underworld filled with a prostitute that West is explicitly lusting after. The temptation makes it difficult for him to stand on his opening statement of Jesus over Satan. But the power of darkness is more powerful than West thinks. So, he subconsciously indulges in sexual misconduct.

I LOVE KANYE
On the ninth track, West realizes that he’s at war with himself. The old Kanye, known for chopping up soul records is fighting against the new Kanye that everyone hates. But Kanye wants to go back to being sweet again if that’s even possible. His multiple egos are fighting for control over the ‘real’ Kanye.

WAVE
West doesn’t stare in the mirror for too long. On the tenth track, redemption happens. Chris Brown, disguised as an angel, comes to West’s aid by providing much-needed light.

Miraculously, the sun emerges from the shade, a bird flies out its cage, and a nostalgic feeling is felt.

West realizes that nothing is impossible because waves don’t die and feelings don’t really go away.

FML (FOR MY LADY)
On the eleventh track, West realizes what’s really important to him and that’s his wife. Someone he won’t jeopardize for no other woman. Also, his children are all layers of his soul.

The Weeknd appears in the form of West’s conscience.

West remains focused and listeners can feel the positive aura of God surrounding him. He is determined to remain faithful to only Kim, no other woman.

REAL FRIENDS
West continues his introspective outlook and raps about trust issues that everyone can relate to. His honest, down-to-earth lyrics, mixed in with Ty Dolla $ign’s vocals, paints a vivid picture. Also, it forms a collectible souvenir that hangs nicely in listeners’ collective memories.

WOLVES
The thirteenth track provides a cooling effect with wild emotions and bizarre-sounds.
The setting, maybe an extraterritorial realm in West’s subconscious mind. Perhaps, it’s the Milky Way Galaxy or a dream-state of Saturn.

A time for relaxation, preparing listeners for a surprise guest.

SILVER SURFER INTERMISSION
The fourteenth track features a phone conversation between incarcerated Max B and French Montana. Also, Max voices his gratitude to West for showing him love.

30 HOURS
On the fifteenth track, West takes a trip down memory lane and raps about an ex-girlfriend that he used to drive 30-hours to see. He used to drive from Chicago to St. Louis, St. Louis to Chicago. He recalls the good times they shared. But unfortunately, her infidelity was the reason why they broke up.

NO PARTIES IN L.A.
The sixteenth track will go down in history as a legendary bar-fest between two elite emcees. Kendrick Lamar and West rap with dope punchlines and clever metaphors over a Madlib-produced track. Once again, West is flowing like the old Kanye that people love.

FACTS
The seventeenth track is a standout anthem where West brags that Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman. He’s in boss-mode, talking that big-money talk.

FADE
The final track features Post Malone and Ty Dollar $ign. The song has a reoccurring sample from Rare Earth, “Your love is fading/I feel it fade.”

The Eli Linnetz-directed video shows Teyana Taylor explicitly dancing.

CONCLUSION
Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” is a memorable hip-hop album with solid content and heavy replay value.

https://www.bongminesentertainment.com/kanye-west-life-pablo/