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Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator
Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator
Michael Scott Clifton | 2020 | Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)
9
9.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know I have a thing for middle grade fiction. There's something so refreshing that I just love. When the chance to read Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator arose, I couldn't say no. The synopsis sucked me right in, and I figured I'd be in for a great adventure. I wasn't wrong.

Edison Jones is a 12 year old seventh grader. After a car accident (that really wasn't an accident) left him paralyzed from the waist down and killed his parents, he's been living a very sheltered life with his grandpa. Edison isn't like most 12 year olds though. He's highly intelligent and has come up with a way to invent a anti-gravity space elevator. He's just go to prove to NASA that it works. Oh, and he's also being enrolled into the local public junior high school for the first time which also presents problems of its own. Edison will have to prove his space elevator has what it takes while also navigating the new realm of school and friendship if he's going to make his dreams come true.

The plot for Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator definitely was an interesting one for sure. While there are similar books out there, Michael Scott Clifton really made his book stand out. I liked how the main character had a disability which made it harder for him when it came to everything. It's refreshing to see a main character that's different from the mainstream. There is a bunch of science speak and terminology which can be a little overwhelming for the average person, but eventually, you get used to it. Plus, you don't need to know all of the terminology to enjoy this book. Context clues are also available to help make the terminology a bit more understandable. Descriptive scenes abound throughout this novel which makes it very easy to get lost in this book. In fact, many times I forgot where I was because I was so focused on this novel. The anticipation that Clifton sets up for major events throughout Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator is done brilliantly. I was definitely holding my breath and turning the page quickly to find out what would happen next especially when it came to scenes with the Breakstone twins, the robotics competition, the last junior high football game, and the launching of Edison's space elevator! The build up in those scenes was amazing! The ending does leave the possibility of another Edison Jones story being released in the future.

One thing that did irk me quite a bit was the stereotype that all of those who live in mobile homes are trashy. I felt like the author played into that a bit too much during one chapter. Here's one example which can be found at the end of chapter 26 when discussing Markie Franks who is a bully and Hondo's house (Hondo, Edison's friend, comes from a home where his mom chooses her boyfriend over him, and the boyfriend and Hondo don't get along.): "Markie's house surprised Edison. Although more modest than Bree's, it was also a brick home with an immaculate yard and appearance. He wasn't sure what he expected--maybe a mobile home with rusting cars on blocks in the yard--not the tidy home the bully lived in. Hondo...did live in a mobile home complete with a yard full of foot-high weeds. The only light came from the blue flicker of a TV through a grimy window next to the front door. With a grimace, Hondo got out and waved, his shoes pushing a path through the brown weeds and grass." It's stereotypes like this that make those who live in mobile homes easy targets for bullying as well as making those that live in mobile homes feel horrible about their life. It really shouldn't have been discussed like this at all. Not everyone who lives in a mobile home is trailer trash which is what I felt this book was implying.

I did feel like all the characters in Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator where very fleshed out and realistic. Edison is extremely intelligent when it comes to science, but he struggles with fitting in as he's been sheltered his whole life. Even though Edison isn't your average 12 year old when it comes to smarts, it was refreshing to see just how average he was when it came to navigating friendships and romance. I loved reading about Edison's thought process when it came to his crush on Carly as well as his friendship between Bree, Hondo, and Carly. I liked how Edison, for the most part, wouldn't give that bully, Markie Franks, the satisfaction of knowing that he bothered him. I admired Hondo after all he had been through. Throughout most of the book, I was trying to figure out if Hondo was a genuine person or if he would end up double crossing Edison. Bree and Carly were great friends to Edison, and it was obvious how much they admired Edison. I liked how they would stand up for him. The Breakstone Twins were also very interesting. I can't wait to see more of them in future books (if the author chooses to make this a series). I liked how cunning and calculated they both were.

Trigger warnings for Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator include some profanity, name calling including using the word pussy which I didn't like, some stereotyping, some violence, bullying, attempted murder, murder, a mention of drugs (being stoned), some underage smoking, and a mention of beer.

All in all, Edison Jones and The Anti-GRAV Elevator is a fantastic story that straps you in for a very exciting adventure throughout its pages. The plot is fantastic, the characters are diverse, and the action abounds. I would definitely recommend Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator by Michael Scott Clifton to those aged 13+ who seek adventure in their life. This would appeal mostly to those interested in science, but I think everyone who enjoys a solid story would like it.
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(A special thank you to Lone Star Literary Life for the tour and to Michael Scott Clifton for sending me a paperback of Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.)
  
A Luminous Republic
A Luminous Republic
Andrés Barba | 2020 | Crime, Mystery, Science Fiction/Fantasy
9
9.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Well-written (1 more)
Unpredictable
Flat characters (0 more)
Andres Barba's A Luminous Republic has feral children, senseless murders, and a plot that keeps the story moving enough that the reader won't want to put the book down. This story creatively combines politics, murder, fear and family - - - but the best part is, the book is unpredictable.

We first meet our main character, whose name is never given throughout the entire story, when he and his family are moving to San Cristobal because of a job opportunity. He works for the Department of Social Affairs, and has just received a promotion because he has come up with a very successful plan: " I had developed a social integration program for indigenous communities. The idea was simple and the program proved to be an effective model; it consisted of granting the indigenous exclusive rights to farm certain specific product." Our main character believes that this plan will bring the farmers more money. And he is more than happy to go back to the city where he fell in-love with his now wife, Maia - - - a violin teacher who had a daughter before meeting him, who he calls 'girl' throughout the story because she is also named Maia.

While on his way to work one day, our main character comes across one of the unknown children of the jungle, which shakes him up a bit. The unknown jungle children were known to beg at street lights for money and food, but one of the grimy, frizzy-haired boys stared the man down, only to end up giving him a very wide smile. "The boy's smile unsettled me because it confirmed that there had been a connection between us, that something had begun in me ended in him." Pretty soon after, he begins to notice these unknown jungle children running around a lot more, and that sometimes their intentions are not always innocent - - - he and the 'girl' witness an elderly woman get robbed of her groceries by a group of these children in the middle of the street in a subtle but violent way.

The unknown jungle children soon begin to rob several people,and when a police officer is killed while being attacked by them, the Mayor and the police want the children off the streets as soon as possible. Working with our main character, the former and the latter try to figure out the strange language these children use, whom may be the leader among them, and where they disappear to at night. Since the story is being told from our main character's past, the book is written like a True Crime story, with names of professionals and such being cited throughout. Our main character brings up a woman, who was a young girl at the time of the jungle children's invasion on San Cristobal: Teresa Otano, who happened to 'publish' her diary from that time, which gives readers insights into the jungle children: "Often, some of the thirty-two [jungle children], on their nightly journey back to the jungle, congregated next to Teresa's house, on one corner of Antartida Avenue. At first, Teresa, enthralled, simply makes notes, logging the days on which they appeared, whether there were three, four or five of them, what they were wearing, and so forth. She establishes patterns and identifies a few of the kids..." our main character explains to the reader.

But soon, the children cross a line that they can never come back from; being told by our main character from the view of surveillance video tapes, he describes to us that the jungle children entered a supermarket after an incident with a guard that works there, they block the entrance doors and begin to destroy items throughout the store, but the chaos quickly escalates, and two adults are murdered by the children - - - fear now holds the town in its grip, causing search parties to sweep through the dense jungle after the children fled.

But murder wasn't something new to San Cristobal, our main character explains to us that the suburbs of this area usually had a murder a week all year long, and that on the outskirts of the jungle, there were known spots for drug trafficking and assaults. What made the 'Dakota Supermarket' murders scare the town was that the residents' own children began to behave differently afterwards - - - they start to play a 'game' where they put their ears to the ground, believing that they can hear the jungle children talking to them. Our main character even walks in on the 'girl' playing this exact game. "For a second it was as if I were witnessing a ritual invented by a twelve-year-old girl, and I thought of how afraid my daughter must have felt when I found her in the bathroom that day. People often remark on the self-assured quality of the invocation, its instruction-manual tone, but I'd say that its intensity actually stems from what it dispenses: adult logic, a world that no longer serves. How could our children possibly have explained to us what they were doing? We weren't prepared for their world or their logic. Somewhere out there, underground, that dissonant sound was being sent, in code: down below, chaos. "

This phenomenon attracts the attention of money/fame seekers, which includes the Zapata children. Four siblings, ranging from the ages of five to nine, claimed that the jungle children were speaking to them through their dreams. They would make drawings from what they were told by the jungle children, but state that even they didn't know what the drawings meant. The media quickly jumped on them and put them in front of a camera, causing the family's home to be surrounded by civilians at all hours of the day and night. One night, the crowd outside becomes anxious, and breaks into the house, stealing not only the drawings from the Zapata children, but also the life savings of the family. At this point, the Zapatas had had enough, and retreat from the story altogether for reasons I won't disclose here. I can't give away much more of the book without ruining the story.

Barba's attempt at making a different kind of Lord of the Flies was done well, but the lack of emotion is felt throughout the entire story which makes the characters flat, especially our main character, who I didn't find likable in any such way. He calls a grieving woman a 'whore,' and he seems rude towards his family, especially his step-daughter.

A Luminous Republic is redeemed by is unpredictability, which is something that doesn't come along in fiction that often anymore. I enjoyed that the story was written like a True Crime novel, with fictitious documentaries, news reports and books. So, I would recommend this book to people who like True Crime and Mysteries.
  
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Hadley (567 KP) rated Feed in Books

Sep 29, 2020  
Feed
Feed
Mira Grant | 2010 | History & Politics, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Thriller
2
4.5 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
Bloggers rule the world (0 more)
Writing (3 more)
Characters
Inconsistencies
Not a horror book, as marketed
What if a powerful virus was released in the air? What if you had to be tested for it every time you tried to walk into a building? Does this sound a little familiar? What if I told you this scenario was written about back in 2010?

In her novel Feed, writer Mira Grant gives readers this very scenario of an airborne, blood transferred virus; something that seems very familiar in today's environment and day-to-day living- - - just minus the zombies.

Grant started out as an urban fantasy writer known as Seanan McGuire, with her first full-length novel being Rosemary and Rue. She received the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, as well as many other awards for her work in fiction. There are four books in the Newsflash series (Feed being the first of these).

We meet our main characters, Georgia and Shaun, while they're out in the 'field' filming some zombies for their blog. Shaun is the more careless one, as we witness him poking at zombies with his hockey stick. The two suddenly have to leave when the zombies become a pack. This is where it gets a little strange- - -Georgia explains to the readers that when zombies are in a pack, they become stronger and somehow smarter, but throughout the rest of the book, it's never really explained how this happens.

In this world, blogging and your view count determines your quality of life. Georgia and Shaun have spent years making their blog- - - After the End Times- - - into a popular blog. Every blogger's dream is to be picked to follow the campaign trail of any upcoming politician, and that is exactly what happens to our main characters. Unfortunately, this is when the book turns into a political thriller- - - this happens within the first fifty pages. Zombies end up taking a backseat from here-on-out.

We still get to learn about the virus (Kellis-Amberlee) throughout the book. We're told that any animal that weighs more than 40 pounds is capable of having the virus, and that some people are even born with a dormant-type of the virus inside of them, but this is also never explained in the entire story, at least in book one. Georgia makes it quite clear throughout the novel that she is completely against anyone owning pets that weigh over 40 pounds, but this is due-to her family having lost their younger son to a pet that went viral. This becomes extremely repetitive. Every time that an animal is brought up or seen, Georgia has to retell her stance on owning pets, when once or twice was enough to let the readers know where she stands on the subject.

There are moments of zombie attacks- - - such as after a political rally in a small town where Georgia and her crew are following Senator Ryman on his race to become President, when bodyguards are attacked by a small group of the undead, and Georgia and Shaun become cornered by a few of them- - - these scenes read as if to just keep the zombie trope going, not to actually make the story better. Grant continually repeats herself throughout the book, and because of this, the story didn't have to be as long as it is. Such as with these few zombie attacks, the reader never feels much danger for the characters. And I found that the characters turn out to just not be that likable.

One such character that had potential is Buffy; the backbone of the After the End Times blog. Scenes that were meant to make the reader care for her fell short. Unlike scenes with Georgia and Shaun, including the bond between them, is not felt with Buffy's scenes; she merely seems like a filler character to make certain parts of the story make sense by constantly disappearing and reappearing wherever need be.

Georgia does have an interesting quirk in the book. She harbors the dormant Kellis-Amberlee virus, which has effected her eyes. She can't be in bright lights because they give her blinding headaches, so she wears sunglasses nearly everywhere: " I collapsed onto our bed at the local four-star hotel a little after dawn, my aching eyes already squeezed shut. Shaun was a bit steadier on his feet and he stayed upright long enough to make sure the room's blackout curtains were drawn. "

The technical side of the story - - - the computer world and the electronic usage- - - in Feed is done pretty well. It's like the movie Nightcrawler meets 28 Days Later, but with a lot less zombies. We get to see the seedy underbelly of journalism- - - where bloggers are willing to do anything to get their view count high. Readers also get to witness how life is like living in a world held hostage by a virus - - -something that is very relatable today.

Georgia constantly reminds readers that she doesn't care about other people, and that Shaun is the only person she cares for- - - and, of course, the view count. She continually blames her lack of empathy on their adoptive parents, stating that they only took them in for the their own blog view counts. Oddly after such information, Shaun doesn't seem to be the immature one in the duo.

I haven't read the other three books, one which is a republishing of Feed, but from a different point-of-view. This story was disguised as a horror novel, but just ended up being a political thriller with some zombies thrown in for a much wider reading audience. The book skims over what life would be like after a devastating virus takes over, but focuses on what politics would be like. I can't recommend Feed as a horror novel; the tagline is also misleading: " 'The good news: we survived. The bad news: so did they. " Unless Grant was talking about politicians....

I didn't give the story a low rating because it wasn't exactly a horror book, but instead for these reasons: throughout the story, Grant repeats a lot of information that was explained earlier in the book (and only needed to be explained once); she also had inconsistencies throughout, sometimes even in the very next sentence. Adding things that needed to be explained which weren't, and the afterthoughts that broke up the flow of the story, I just couldn't enjoy it. But, if you like political thrillers, then you might like this one. I won't be continuing this series.
  
EP
Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions
6
6.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Journeys, literal or otherwise, are the theme of this young adult anthology. Appropriately enough, it was conceived as the result of a book tour.

"Giovanni’s Farewell" by [a:Claudia Gray|1192311|Claudia Gray|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1234643683p2/1192311.jpg] is a sweet, coming-of-age story of sorts. The twist is that it features a brother and sister, twins, rather than just one person. They visit Rome with a school group while dealing with major changes in their lives. There was too much background crammed into a short story, but it was interesting.

[a:Carrie Ryan|1443712|Carrie Ryan|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1343410049p2/1443712.jpg]'s "Scenic Route" is a disturbing, post-apocalyptic story set in the world of [b:The Forest of Hands and Teeth|3432478|The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)|Carrie Ryan|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320633297s/3432478.jpg|3473471] about two young sisters trying to survive in an isolated cabin. The older sister keeps the younger one occupied with the planning of a road trip that will never happen, always hoping against hope that the girl won't realize what their reality is. How long can they stay isolated enough to survive? Bloody, frightening, and visceral.

"Red Run" by [a:Kami Garcia|2895706|Kami Garcia|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1289693388p2/2895706.jpg] is the story of a girl who has lost the only person she loves in the world, and the trip she takes to avenge his death. How do you hunt a ghost? Maybe it isn't fair, coming right after Ryan's story, but I didn't truly feel the main character's feelings.

[a:Jackson Pearce|2761947|Jackson Pearce|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1336840299p2/2761947.jpg]'s "Things About Love" is a sweet story involving a jinn researching love. I felt like I'd come into the middle of something, so I checked and found that she's written a novel, [b:As You Wish|6750586|As You Wish|Jackson Pearce|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1319175193s/6750586.jpg|6217232], in the same setting. While this story technically stands on its own, it would probably be enriched by having read As You Wish.

"Niederwald" by [a:Rachel Vincent|415967|Rachel Vincent|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1262900481p2/415967.jpg] is the first story I've read in her Soul Screamers series. Sabine, a macha (nightmare), takes a road trip with a human acquaintance and detours to Niederwald, Texas, home to the harpies. No, there's no way that could go wrong. Of course you know from the moment they hit the parking lot that it will go wrong, but at least it's an interesting sort of wrong.

[a:Melissa Marr|175855|Melissa Marr|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1192302741p2/175855.jpg]'s "Merely Mortal" feels as though it's probably set in the same world as her Wicked Lovely series.

"Facing Facts" by [a:Kelley Armstrong|7581|Kelley Armstrong|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1199068298p2/7581.jpg] is set in her Darkest Powers universe. I read the first of those books, but obviously a lot has passed since then, and there were spoilers in this story. It really centers around Chloe and Tori, with a little Derek tossed in. Tori learns something she doesn't want to know and reacts badly, running off on her own, which is dangerous. Chloe goes after her and they get into trouble. That seemed rather predictable to me, but at least the type of trouble wasn't what I expected. Tori doesn't seem to have changed since the first book, but Chloe is coming into control of her abilities.

[a:Sarah Rees Brennan|836009|Sarah Rees Brennan|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1254149255p2/836009.jpg]'s "Let’s Get this Undead Show on the Road" is about a boy band that features a vampire, Christian. He's an unusual vampire, all alone without a nest or a sire. His journey seems to be about his identity as a vampire, although the band is on tour and has another sort of journey to make, as well.
 
"Bridge" by [a:Jeri Smith-Ready|56019|Jeri Smith-Ready|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1204922569p2/56019.jpg] is told from a ghost's point of view, 233 days after death. It's frustrating being a ghost, because most people can't see or hear you. There are things you have to accomplish before moving on, though, that require communication with the living. Finding a "bridge" and working things out takes a lot of effort. This was a touching story, bittersweet and well-told.

[a:Kimberly Derting|2755160|Kimberly Derting|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1229976464p2/2755160.jpg]'s "Skin Contact" nearly broke me. Rafe is looking for his girlfriend. He knows where he needs to go, and he's guided by dreams. This story nearly broke me. It's told sparingly, and something feels perfectly right about it, but it hurts. According to her author biography, Rafe was introduced in her novel Desires of the Dead.

"Leaving" by [a:Ally Condie|1304470|Ally Condie|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1325882614p2/1304470.jpg] is a very literary story, about a girl left behind after her mother dies and her father leaves. She spends the story preparing to go after her father. It's hard to describe much more than that, or to have much of an opinion. It was well-written and I think I'll probably remember it for a long time.

[a:Jessica Verday|1290625|Jessica Verday|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1243816082p2/1290625.jpg]'s "At The Late Night, Double Feature, Picture Show" is a darkly funny story about a girl from a family of monster hunters. She's usually the bait, but tonight she has decided to be the hunter — without backup. I'd like to read more from Verday.

"IV League" by [a:Margaret Stohl|2895707|Margaret Stohl|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1241421033p2/2895707.jpg] just didn't hit me right. It's the story of a bunch of southern vampires on a college tour, which could have been funny but wasn't written that way. The whole thing just didn't sit well with me, perhaps because the main character seemed too unrealistically out of touch for someone who obviously had access to television and the internet.

[a:Mary E. Pearson|123463|Mary E. Pearson|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1238978651p2/123463.jpg]'s "Gargouille" is the most touching love story in the collection. Just read it.

"The Third Kind" by [a:Jennifer Lynn Barnes|164187|Jennifer Lynn Barnes|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1243935916p2/164187.jpg] is, on the surface, about a road trip to San Antonio. The real journey is much deeper, one of coming to understanding one's calling.

[a:Rachel Caine|15292|Rachel Caine|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1272650500p2/15292.jpg]'s Morganville is the setting for her "Automatic." I think I've read a Morganville novella, but my memory of it is dim. The Morganville Blood Bank introduces an automated withdrawal machine, essentially a soda can dispenser. Michael Glass is ordered to try it first, as a demonstration for the older, more traditional vampires, with unexpected results. His journey is one of self-knowledge. I didn't really care much about him, his journey, his girlfriend, or anything else. The setting and characters do nothing for me, but your mileage may vary.

Altogether, the anthology was worth reading. There were some low spots, but that's true of any collection. To be fair, I'm sure someone who is more enthusiastic about young adult fiction would also be more enthusiastic about the works here.
  
Goodnight Mister Tom
Goodnight Mister Tom
Michelle Magorian, Neil Reed | 2014 | Children
8
9.0 (8 Ratings)
Book Rating
In September 1939, as Britain stands on the brink of the war, many young children from the cities are evacuated tot he countryside to escape an imminent German bombardment. Willie Beech, a boy from Deptford who is physically and emotionally abused by his mother, arrives at the home of Tom Oakley, a widower in his sixties who lives in the village of Little Weirwold. The boy is thinly clad, underfed and covered with painful bruises, and believes he is full of sin, a result of his upbringing by his mother, a domineering, insane, God-fearing widow.
"Mister Tom", as William christens his new guardian, is reclusive and bad-tempered, and as such is avoided by the community. Willie lives with him as his Mother wants him to live with someone who is either religious or lives next to a church. Though initially distant, he is touched after discovering William's home-life and treats him with kindness and understanding, helping to educate him. Under his care, William begins to thrive, forming a small circle of friends at school among his classmates including fellow-evacuee Zach. He also becomes proficient in drawing and dramatics. As William is changed by Tom, so is Tom transformed by William's presence in his home. It is revealed that Tom lost his wife and baby son to Scarlatina some 40 years previously, and he has become reclusive because of this.
The growing bond between William and Tom is threatened when William's mother requests that the boy returns to her in the city, telling him she is sick. At first, William thinks this will be a good thing, as he can be helpful to his mother. However, his mother is not pleased to learn the details of his time with Tom, feeling that he has not been disciplined properly. While William has been away, she has become pregnant and had a girl, but is neglecting the baby. After a bad reunion, where his mother becomes furious upon learning the details of her son's life with Tom, abhorring his association with the Jewish Zach among other things, she hits William and puts him in the under-stairs cupboard, chains him to the piping. William regains consciousness briefly to find himself in the cupboard – he has been stripped of his clothes, minus his underwear, and his ankle is twisted. He quietly sobs for Tom, before he falls asleep.
Back in Little Weirwold, Tom has a premonition that something is not right with William. Although he has never travelled beyond his immediate locality, he ventures into London and eventually locates William's neighbourhood of Deptford and his home. He persuades a local policeman to break down the door of the apparently empty home, to be greeted with a vile stench. They find William in the closet with the baby, who had also been locked under the stairs by William's mother and has now died. William is malnourished and badly bruised as he had been locked under the stairs for a number of days. William is hospitalised, but whilst there suffers horrific nightmares and is drugged simply to prevent his screams from disturbing other children. Tom is warned that it is likely that William will be taken to a children's home, and, unable to observe William's distress any longer, kidnaps him from the hospital and takes him back to Little Weirwold.
Back with Mister Tom, William is much damaged by his ordeal and is also blaming himself for the death of his sister as he had not been able to provide enough milk to feed her whilst locked away, and becomes very depressed. Later, when his favourite teacher Annie Hartridge has a baby, William is shocked to learn from Zach that a woman cannot conceive a child on her own, and realises that his mother was having a relationship with a man, even though she had previously told him that it was wrong for unmarried couples to live together or have children together (something which society in general had regarded as unacceptable at this time). Tom is traced by the authorities, who have come to tell William that his mother is dead, having committed suicide. They also offer him a place in a children's home, as they've been unable to trace any other relatives who may have been able to take care of him. Luckily the authorities realise that William has already found a good home and allow Tom to adopt him.
Tom, William and Zach then enjoy a holiday at the seaside village of Salmouth, where they stay in the house of a widow whose sons have been sent out to war. Zach then receives news that his father has been injured by a German bomb in London and he hurries home on the next train saying farewell to all his friends. Unfortunately this is the last time they see him. William later learns that Zach has been killed and is grief-stricken for some time, but his grief is later healed by another recluse, Geoffery Sanderton. Geoffery, a young man who had lost a leg during the war and takes William for private art lessons,recognises the signs of grief and gives William a pipe to paint along with a picture of two smiling young men. One of the men is Geoffery and he tells William about the loss of his own best friend, the other man in the picture and the owner of the pipe. This is when William starts to come to terms with Zach's death. Adding to this, Doctor Little, the village doctor, who was Zach's guardian while he was evacuated, is surprised but pleased when William asks to have Zach's bike. Through learning to ride it, William realises that Zach lives on inside him and he will never forget his wonderful companion that Zach was.
In the months following, William grows closer to Carrie, one of his friends. One night, on returning home to Tom (whom he now calls "Dad"), he thinks back on how much he has changed since arriving in Little Weirwold and realises that he is growing.
Goodnight Mr Tom Wiki.

Goodnight Mr Tom was published by Kestrel in 1981 and later on in that same year in the US by Harper and Row. The book won Author Michelle Magorian the annual Guardian Children's fiction prize. Magorian was also a runner up for the Carnegie Medal. The book has been adapted as a Movie, a play and a musical. The most recent theatrical adaption won the Laurence Olivier award for Best Entertainment.

I came across the book when I was 10/11 years old. I needed the book for English at primary school, since we needed to read the book and complete a series of assignments for our teacher. I have in the subsequent years read and re-read the book. The book is rather good and I recommand it for children from the ages of 9/10 upwards. The book is a good representation of what happened during WW2 in a fictional setting. And William and Mr Tom healing each other from what they both experienced (Tom loosing family to Scarlatina and William being abused by his mother). I give the book an 8/10.
  
The Buried Giant
The Buried Giant
Kazuo Ishiguro | 2015 | Fiction & Poetry
8
7.6 (10 Ratings)
Book Rating
The winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro was born in 1954 in Nagasaki Japan, but he and his family moved in England in 1960. These two places and cultures have profoundly affected Ishiguro’s writing throughout his career. His first book, A Pale View of Hills, was published in 1982 and won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, and he has since written seven novels and numerous short stories. His most recent book was The Buried Giant in 2015.

It is hard to pinpoint a genre to which Kazuo Ishiguro sticks to as he writes in fantasy, science-fiction, and historical. It can be said that all of his novels have the feeling of being set in the past even when the time period is not explicitly described, but the core theme that connects all of his writing together is memory. In each of his stories, Ishiguro examines how people use memory, how memory affects people, and who we are with or without memory.

Ishiguro explores many different ways in which memory affects people throughout his books ranging from memory loss to dream like memory distortion. In his books Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day the stories are told by narrators looking back at crucial moments in their lives. In letting us know that they are remembering their own pasts they admit that they are saying their perspective and their memory might be lacking. In this way letting the reader know that they are unreliable narrators. In The Remains of the Day the narrator, the butler Mr. Stevens decides to go on a journey to visit an old friend and along the way shows his unreliability in several ways. First in acknowledging how memory can change and fade over time.

“It occurs to me that elsewhere in attempting to gather such recollections, I may well have asserted that this memory derived from the minute immediately after Miss Kenton receiving news of her aunt’s death….But now, having thought further, I believed I may have been a little confused about this matter; that in fact, this fragment of memory derives from events that took place on an evening at least a few months after the death of Miss Kenton’s aunt” (212).

In this way, Steven’s is acknowledging human error which both shows his unreliability but gives a level of trust in the acknowledgment that he is doing his best to be truthful. This, however, is challenged because Steven’s informs us that he lies, at the very least through omission, to other characters. A clear case of this is when he allows himself to be considered a gentleman rather than a butler on several occasions throughout his journey. This becomes complex because he is allowing the reader in on the truth, but the very fact of admitting that he can lie further reveals his unreliability.

In Ishiguro’s most recent book, The Buried Giant, he looks at memory in a way that is similar to these previous stories but takes a new approach. His central two characters in this book, Axle, and Beatrice are an elderly couple setting out on a journey with almost no memory of who they are. Throughout the story, they remember or think they remember pieces of their pasts and in the process making them question who they really are. This uncertainty in themselves creates interesting questions of whether or not they want to remember their lives if they are happier not knowing, and if they can continue to live their lives the way they are with their new/old information?

“Yet are you so certain, good mistress, you wish to be free of this mist? Is it not better some things remain hidden from our minds?”
“It may be for some, father, but not for us. Axl and I wish to have again the happy moments we shared together. To be robbed of them is as if a thief came in the night and took what’s most precious from us.”
“Yet the mist covers all memories, the bad as well as the good. Isn’t that so, mistress?”
“We’ll have the bad ones come back too, even if they make us weep or shake with anger. For isn’t it the life we’ve shared?” (172).

In some of Ishiguro’s other work, he chooses to explore memory through the lens of a dreamlike state or surreal views, such as his short story A Village After Dark and the novel The Unconsoled. In these stories, the narrator enters into a new place and finds that they have slowly emerging memories connected to the places and people they meet. The Unconsoled creates a strange dynamic where the lead character Mr. Ryder has never been to this town before but finds himself confronted by childhood acquaintances as well as meeting a woman and child who treat him like husband and father and memories that support this begin to come back to him. In an interview Ishiguro did on the book in 1995, he summarizes the story as “an anxiety dream” as Mr. Ryder continually finds himself confronted with the expectation of him without being told anything in advance. At the beginning of the story, Mr. Ryder arrives at his hotel knowing that he will be playing at a concert in few days and is told he has a busy schedule up till then. At this point in the story, the anxiety dream state sets in Mr. Ryder continuously finds himself late to engagements, leaving people behind by accident and being dragged around town. As the story progresses, Mr. Ryder begins to have memories of a past associated with some of the people he has met, despite being introduced as completely new to the town. Some of these can be explained by the fact that as a reader we are dropped into a story after it has started but the memories of these instances only come back to Ryder after he has been told things have happened. This means that throughout the story it impossible to know whether or not the narrator has forgotten and is remembering or if the town is merely a dream limbo and nothing he is being told is real, to begin with.

Whether taking the more fantastical approach or the those that fall closer to realism, Ishiguro’s play with memory remains relatable to the readers. Each journey Ishiguro writes is designed to tackle something different about memory. The stories ask us questions about what memory and how much it affects who we are and our ability to live in our world. From whether or not we can know who we are without memory to how trustworthy our memories actually are. These questions, however fantastically asked, offer something to the reader that they can relate to. For memory is almost a fanatical force on its own that we all share and try to understand. It can play with us when we take it for granted and offer vulnerability and connection when shared with others. Ishiguro delves into these ideas in each of his works, ever exploring its uncertainty and power.
  
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
2012 | Comedy
7
7.3 (3 Ratings)
Movie Rating
How many times have you seen this premise played out in film or other forms of entertainment: The world is going to end and there’s one last ditch plan or effort to save it (It inevitably succeeds, of course!); alternatively, the world has ended already and we’re left with post-apocalyptic society picking up the pieces. The premise is everywhere; the fascination with the end of days has been evident throughout our popular culture for decades. Yet, the thing about these two premises is that it avoids a (quite large) important question about the nature of the situation. What if our last ditch effort doesn’t succeed? What if there is no post-apocalyptic setting giving us hope for a re-built future. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”, a brand new film directed and written by Lorene Scafaria (“Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist”) attempts to focus on that gap often glossed over by apocalyptic fiction. It assumes there is no hope, there is a conclusion, and how do we deal with that?

It’s a comedy drama that pokes fun of the absurdity of a monotonous society coping with the conclusion of all civilization, while interweaving a touching romance between two people with broken pasts and deep regrets. Yet, it is a movie with some notable flaws, mainly in how it focuses its attention.
The premise is fairly simple, and rightly so. There is a large asteroid named “Matilda” barreling towards Earth and its impact will wipe out all life on our beloved planet. The film starts with the announcement that the last chance for Earth’s survival, a space mission to destroy the asteroid, has failed due to a fire on board the vessel. With only three weeks left to live, insurance salesman Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell) must decide how to spend the rest of his life. He decides to chase down an old highschool sweetheart and is accompanied by his neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley) who wishes to return home to see her family one last time. They meet several characters in their roadtrip journey through pre-apocalyptica, including characters played by Rob Corddry and Martin Sheen.

The simple premise seems familiar due to its subject matter (C’mon, it’s 2012. I’m surprised there hasn’t been even more apocalypse movies flooding the theaters). Yet, strangely it feels fresh simply in how it handles itself. As said, most movies focus on the last daring mission to save mankind from certain destruction, or assumes that certain destruction really isn’t the end. People like to see hope, they don’t want to be confined by fate. This movie takes a different approach. Right off the bat it basically tells you there is zero hope, zero chance of getting out of this mess. Now what do you do? This particular premise lets comedy shine for the first two acts of the movie. There are subtle jokes, like the absurdity of naming a rock about to destroy all of mankind “Matilda”.

There are more traditional joke set-ups, favoring quick joke-punchline material that is mostly laugh-out-loud funny. And there is a fair amount of dark humor, simple funniness in the absurdity of how people treat the end of days. People mowing their lawns, still cleaning houses, even cops who continue to pull people over all poke fun of how people cannot let go of even the most monotonous of tasks that define their lift – regardless of how pointless they are due to the situation. Or the people who just let go and want to spend their last days without care, throwing themselves into orgies, drugs or riots. However, the tone of the drama limits the humor of the movie, favoring those kinds of moderate laughs over hysterical or hilarious moments. That’s the underlying issue of the film: that it feels like the humor is constrained due to fear of it undermining its drama.

Those who expect a comedy movie will only get two-thirds of one. And those who expect a drama movie will get mostly one. By no means does it fail at comedy or drama, but it just does not strike that delicate balance to be both in the same setting. The last act of the movie almost completely drops the comedy in favor of a dramatic and romantic conclusion. It’s not a huge fault, because the writing, and well-paced relationship development between the two main protagonists (Dodge and Penny), means that their inevitable romance seems natural, honest, and believable. The comedy is really only around in the first two thirds of the movie to try and keep your attention away from the obvious conclusion to their story – the fact that they end up together (and, perhaps, another conclusion entirely). So, when it does eventually happen, even though it was obvious from the start that it would, it does feel very endearing. The natural chemistry between Steve Carell and Keira Knightley is quite good, so buying their romance is not difficult in the slightest.

Yet, even still, that underlying issue keeps coming back. The fact that the comedy feels like a tool to facilitate a good dramatic ending ,instead of natural focus of the movie, undermines the experience for those who want to get some laughs. If there was a more natural balance between the romantic elements and comedy elements throughout the whole movie and not just the first two thirds, it could bring forth much more powerful comedy and/or drama. That way those who desire comedy or romance would be delighted to get a good deal of both intertwined.

I commend the film for how it handles the subject matter of inevitability. Even though it pokes fun at absurdity and really garners good laughs, it always has this underlying sense of regret, sadness and dread. You’re always reminded in the back of your mind that the world is going to end, but it does a good enough job pulling you into the characters’ last struggle to piece together their lives after decades of failure and regret that you end up really wanting to see them pull through somehow. Its last act is especially poignant, and definitely emotionally strong. Even though the themes of throwing away your past in favor of a happier future (despite it being such a short future) are not well concealed, they still end up being particularly strong. A film that can really make you appreciate what you have outside the film and the limited time you have left to enjoy it has to be commended for making you think.

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is a fairly powerful romance drama that focuses on how people deal with loss, regret and the prospect of inevitable fate. More importantly, though, is that it focuses on how people can build something profoundly beautiful even in the last moments of their lives – regardless of their pasts or (lack) of future prospects. It has comedy in the movie, but it never really shines nor intertwines with the drama. They almost feel like two separate elements that struggle to mix together. Yet, the comedy is mostly laugh-out-loud funny and the drama is quite poignant and endearing. It definitely had the potential to make us laugh to tears or even bring us to tears through drama, but instead it settles for simply making us laugh and reflect.
  
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
2012 | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
It is easy to be cynical or dismissive regarding the trend in Hollywood to take up beloved gems of the past – namely our childhoods – and adapt them to the big screen with all of the flare and clichés of a summer blockbuster. Yet, what happens when it actually ends up winning you over? There’s a moment in movies like “Snow White and the Huntsman” in which you realize you have let go of those prejudices and notions of incorruptible nostalgia and you’ve actually started to enjoy a new rendition of something old. It’s the directorial debut for the film’s helmer, Rupert Sanders; and to be honest he’s the star of the show. As shallow as it is to say, the visual effects and action overshadow most flaws with characters, acting, or uneven pacing. Not only because his directing ability is well done, but because any flaws with the movie are relatively minor.

The movie retells the familiar story of Snow White (Kristen Stewart), likely popularized by Disney’s adaptation for most of us. Yet, the film takes more influence from the original fairy tale with the additional focus on the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth). Snow White grows up in a kingdom under the rule of her wicked step-mother, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). The Queen is a narcissistic tyrant obsessed with preserving her physical beauty – at the behest of the entire land and its people. One day, the Queen’s mirror warns that Snow White is fairer than her which leads her to order Snow White’s death. Snow White escapes, and goes on an adventure to save herself and her kingdom with the help of the Huntsman, seven dwarves, and other fantastical allies.

The movie’s framework holds up fairly well. To be honest it was my biggest worry going into the movie – that its plot would break under bloating or simply feeling uninspired. Neither was the case, yet if it were to tip in one side or the other it definitely tips in the direction of a bloated plot. Some characters simply do not get the screentime they require, and with so many characters already it feels like some of them could have been taken out entirely without much effect. Trimming down of characters and irrelevant plot threads could have benefitted the movie greatly. It does, however, do a serviceable job establishing its own identity among fantasy epics. It’s refreshing to see a movie fully embrace two extremes – full-on hard fantasy and the more gritty, realistic and perhaps minimalist fantasy. It strikes a balance with both, so you will see great effects for trolls and fairies while still maintaining a gothic medieval feel. The plot moves forward at a mostly well-paced format, but unfortunately wavers here and there. Sometimes I wished the movie would linger on certain scenes longer – as it can help to have us dwell on great character moments or moments of visual beauty – an unfortunate side effect of a bloated script. While not a problem for the overall plot, the uneven pacing in some scenes can feel a bit rushed. Some questions in the plot went unanswered, but fortunately they aren’t important to the overall understanding of the story.

The only other major issue with the movie is acting. Kristen Stewart as Snow White was an odd choice. Not to say her performance is bad in this film, but it is awkward at points. In some moments she does very well but in others she seems uninspired. It is hard to see her as the titular character instead of just Kristen Stewart in those instances; and in those scenes it feels like she’s as much part of the audience as we are – just with more of a one-note “concerned” facial expression for every instance. While not a breaking element, it leaves more to be desired from her, especially in interactions with others. Chris Hemsworth was much more enjoyable as the Huntsman, and honestly I think his performance along with Theron’s far outbalance any flaws in Kristen Stewart’s acting. The chemistry between the two protagonists seems one sided, as Chris Hemsworth acts well on his side of the equation, but Stewart unfortunately does not reciprocate. Essentially this makes a potential major relationship fall flat. However, Theron completely inhibits the role as the evil Queen. While she may overact in some scenes, she does an excellent job playing a sinister, abusive, powerful and surprisingly tragic villain.

The highlight of the movie is definitely its visual design, cinematography, and action. The only downside in this area is that this movie will definitely remind you of other great movies from long ago. Obvious inspiration from “The Lord of the Rings” echoes while watching, as it even features the same faraway montage shots of the group traversing grand vistas. If you can get passed these obvious influences, it does establish a vibrant and inspired design. That is one of the greatest aspects of the movie – the fact that the director can do so much in a single scene to really draw you in. He does an excellent job using color and pattern contrasts to a striking and awesome effect. There are some great moments that have no action yet are just as enthralling to watch, something difficult to do with just visual style. A great use of color really brings out the themes of the movie – the grey monotones and gothic style bring out a sense of dread and annihilation throughout the Queen’s empire. She truly is a force of parasitism – entirely vampiric in the way she sucks the life out of the entire land around her. She is the embodiment of self-obsession with physical beauty – a force so vain and narcissistic that she acts as a black hole absorbing all beauty around her. Sanders plays this against the vibrant designs of the forest in which Snow White spends most of her time. Alive, colorful, and natural – she embodies natural beauty – and in doing so she seemingly commands nature itself.

Sanders’ directing ability really shines in scenes of action. Instead of lazy overuse of “shaky-cam” to get the effect, he balances it with just enough on-screen choreography so you get intensity without confusion. The movie is truly action packed with familiar medieval-esque battles throughout, but highlighted by truly amazing shots of action and use of fantastical effects. There were a couple instances of eye-rolling wonder at battlefield tactics, but that gets into too much of an area of nitpicking. The action really is one of the best aspects of the movie, and these scenes by themselves outweigh many already mentioned issues.

Overall, “Snow White and the Huntsman” has proven to be a great initial outing for director Rupert Sanders. There are some issues in the flick – namely some instances of uneven pacing and acting issues which leaves some potential to be desired. But even these seemingly huge issues are overshadowed by an excellent use of visual design, cinematography, and action. The plot may be merely serviceable overall, and the movie will remind you of great films long past; yet it still happens to triumph in its main goal – to retell the classic fairly tale of Snow White in the modern Blockbuster sense. In a summer packed with science fiction and superheroes, an entertaining fantasy movie fits in quite nicely.
  
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Gareth von Kallenbach (858 KP) rated the PC version of Outriders in Video Games

Apr 10, 2021  
Outriders
Outriders
2020 | Action/Adventure, Shooter
Once Patched: Outriders Is A Fun And Engaging Adventure Which Provides Plenty Of Action
With the Earth deemed unsalvageable and with mounting natural disasters, humanity plans to send colony ships to the distant planet of Enoch in an effort to save humanity. After 86 years in space, an elite unit known as Outriders land to pave the way and soon finds themselves under attack by rival security forces and a deadly and bizarre storm that has decimated the Outriders.

Seriously injured the player character is put in stasis and is awakened 31 years later to find what is left of humanity engaged in a violent Civil War with the player being their best chance for survival.

Thus begins Outriders; an ambitious game from People Can Fly and Square Enix which looks to combine action, combat, loot, and Science Fiction into a bold gaming experience.

Players can customize the look of their characters and must select a class such as Trickster, Pyromancer, Devastator, and Technomancer. The classes have specific abilities which as players gain experience, unlocks and allows them to select and use devastating powers as it seems the exposure to the storm has given the player character God-like abilities and has earned them the title of “Altered”. I selected the Devastator class and enjoyed being able to suspend and reflect incoming fire, add a protective barrier, produce spikes to impale enemies, crush enemies with a gravity-based attack, dash and smash, and my favorite; a propelled leap that reduced all in my landing area to a pulp. Each power has a cool-down timer after use but as the game is very customizable; players can unlock and assign new perks which can increase damage, duration, and more for their powers, weapons, and such.

The game had an extensive demo available pre-launch and this allowed me to get to know the screens to equip, modify, swap, or deconstruct gear as there is a huge variety of armor and weapons for players to use and modify.

While the menu system at times was confusing at first in terms of what the main mission was and what were numerous side missions and such; I was able to get things up to speed and with strategic capture points; players can always jump back to various locales.

Since the early missions involved being around the main base filled with trade and other options; I had figured it would play into the game going forward. However, as I went deeper into the game I found it easier to simply deconstruct or not gather loot that I did not want and simply equip better gear and weapons as they came my way.

The progress I had made in the demo also carried over onto the main game so long as you use the same platform for release that you did in the demo. This was great to experience as I did not have to replay the lengthy intro and setup nor the early missions.

With a crew of NPC characters along for the mission, the player will journey into dangerous zones each with their own unique biosphere and dangerous creatures and enemies who come at you in waves and can be overwhelming even with the ability to set the game difficulty.

Outriders is setup to be played with a party of characters and much has been made of the rough launch for the game which included server issues, cross-play problems, missing HUD Displays, and such hampered gamers. I was able to connect with a player I found in the forums for the game and he helped me through some battles that I could not figure out how anyone could be expected to complete on their own at the skill level they originated at.

Players can randomly join a party but did not have a clue where they would be in the story progress or how many were in a party, but it was very easy to resume a campaign where I left off should the party I joined be further ahead of or back of where I wished to be.

I did jump into a game that is done randomly and was able to get some higher-level gear and weapons which helped when I returned to my campaign, but in time I again found myself in need of help. One player had issues with getting in my game and then being booted as an example. The HUD display would vanish often which required a return to the lobby, sometimes multiple trips; to get it back. While it seems like no big deal and I worked my way through at times without it; not being able to see a mini-map, health, and if your powers were recharged does make it difficult.

The game offers lavish locales from snow-covered mountains to a jungle, desert, temples, and more. The enemies can be very challenging as I found the ones with guns to be easier at times than the wildlife which came in waves and could take all I had to bring down.

The graphics of the game are solid and the combat mechanics reminded me of a mix of Gears of War and The Division series as from a third-person perspective; players could take cover and shoot from a shelter, or wade on into the oncoming enemies and use the vast arsenal of pistols, machine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles to win the day.

The numerous cut scenes dive the story forward and upon completion of the story; there is a mode where players can work to retrieve items. It was humbling to have weapons that reduced powerful enemies to mush do little more than annoy the enemies I encountered as it was clear that this mode was best suited for advanced gamers in a party.

A new patch arrived yesterday which seemed to resolve the issues I had with matchmaking, server connections, and the missing heads-up display. I was able to match up with another player where I was in the game and the two of us powered through the main missions as well as some side missions to complete the game. We did not have any in-game chat/communication but we were able to work well as a team. I would suggest using Discord or a similar service if you are looking to play with friends on PC or chat with console users.

While the launch was rough due to the numerous issues; they were addressed and the final result once patched is a deeply enjoyable action game that provides plenty of fun and challenges. Some may say waves of wildlife and enemies may become repetitive but the vast array of them as well as the varied locales, weapons, and powers had me hooked from start to finish.

I was a big fan of People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm game and have longed for a sequel ever since that game arrived. Here is hoping that Outriders will become a new franchise and we will see more content in the not too distant future.
  
Ad Astra (2019)
Ad Astra (2019)
2019 | Adventure, Drama, Mystery
Impressive visuals, but rather disappointing as an overall package.
Like father, like son?
I really love sci-fi films with high ambitions. “Psychological” sci-fi like “Solaris” for example. And “Arrival” topped my movie list for 2016. In similar vein, “Ad Astra” is also a movie concerning attempted contact with alien life. So I had high hopes for it. But would this Sci-fi epic ultimately challenge my brain again, or end up in the “Crystal Skull” sin bin with a dodgy alien meeting?

The Plot
Set a few years into the future, Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is the son of a legend. H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) was a space exploration pioneer. His picture hangs in the NASA hall of fame next to Buzz Aldrin’s. McBride senior went missing presumed dead near Neptune during a mission. The mission was to get outside the Sun’s heliosphere to scan for potential alien transmissions from nearby solar systems.

But something went badly wrong, and now the earth (and potentially all human life migrating into the solar system) is at risk from massive electromagnetic bursts arising from Neptune. Is Clifford alive and involved in the emerging crisis? The authorities send Roy on a secret mission to Mars to try to communicate with his father.

Majestic cinematography
Let’s start with a real positive. The cinematography here is first rate. Hoyte Van-Hoytema – well known for “Interstellar“, “Spectre” and “Dunkirk” – knocks this out of the park. In the same manner as “Blade Runner 2049“, many of the frames of this film could be blown up and placed on art gallery walls around the world.

Add to that some cracking film editing from John Axelrad and Lee Haugen, and some beautiful sound design and I predict the movie should feature strongly in the technical awards at the Oscars.

But “science fiction” has the word “science” in it….
I’d like to park my physics brain sometimes when I go to the movies, but I just can’t. So I really need sci-fi films to live up to the science part of their name. There are a number of areas, particularly at the back end of the film, when credibility goes out the window.

I can’t really say more here without giving spoilers, so I will leave them to a “Spoiler section” below the trailer…. don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film!

What IS this movie trying to be?
In my view the film is pretty schizophrenic in nature. This is what confused me about the trailer, jumping from a cerebral sci-fi vibe to moon buggy shoot-outs.

On one hand, its the standard (but always interesting) tale of a child abandoned by a hero-father and his attempts to reconcile what that’s done to his life and relationships. How can he ever square that circle without contacting his dad? As the film’s tag-line goes “The answers we seek are just outside our reach”.

On the other there are episodes of action that would fit happily into an action scene from Star Trek.

The two elements never really gel, leading to the feeling of the film having been written as a set of disconnected pages and the writers then saying “Hey, Jimmy, once you’ve finished making us the tea, could you just write a few lines to join those pages up into a shooting script?”. Then later, “What do you mean Jimmy you used BOTH piles of paper?!”.

The greatest sin of all
Unfortunately, the film commits a cardinal sin in my book. Those of you who follow my blog regularly might know what I’m going to say….

Voiceovers! I BLOODY HATE THEM!! It’s at the very extreme of what the great Mark Kermode calls “show don’t tell”.

Here, we don’t just have a little Brad Pitt set-up intro and he then shuts up. He just drones on and on and on with his inner thoughts. At least Matt Damon in “The Martian” got away with it by cleverly filming his video blog. And it’s not as if there isn’t a prime opportunity to use that device here! He is constantly having to talk to a computer to do his regular psychological tests! But that option is not picked up.

BIG BLACK MARK!

But the film has its moments
Bubbling under all of this are some stand-out moments where, for me, the film soared. One of them (ultimately setting me up for as much of a disappointing fall as some of the characters!) is the stunning opening shots aboard the “Sky Antenna” structure. Impressive and exciting, with falling bits of metal playing Russian Roulette with Roy’s iife.

Another strength for me is Brad Pitt. I’ve seen wildly differing views on this, but for me its a quiet but strong acting performance. There are many scenes when he has no lines, his inner (and our outer) voice gives it a miss, and he acts the socks off his peers. What with “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood” its been a really good year for Pitt. I suspect “Hollywood” might be the one though that gets him his fourth acting Oscar nomination.

For a 2019 film, it’s actually a very male-heavy film, made more so by Pitt’s love-interest (Liv Tyler) being given virtually nothing to do other that look a bit sulky from a distance. I’m not even sure she gets a single line in the whole film! (“Miss Tyler – please sign for your script”. “But, there’s nothing in the envelope?”. “Quite Miss Tyler, Quite”).

The only decent female role goes to Ruth Negga as the Mars colony leader. Even then, she only has limited screen time and although having the title “Mars CEO” really doesn’t seem to have much power.

Elsewhere, its great to see both Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland back on the big screen again.

Final Thoughts
As any veteran RAF person will know, “Ad Astra” is Latin for “To the stars”. In space terms this is less “to the stars” and more “just beyond your front door”.

James Gray‘s film undoubtedly has high ambitions but, through its spasmodic script, never really gets there. It has the beauty of “Gravity” but none of the refinement; there’s an essence of “Space Odyssey” in places, but it never goes for the mystical angle; it has the potential to reflect the near-insanity through loneliness of “Silent Running” but never commits fully to that storyline. But if its novelty you’re looking for, it ticks the “floating monkeys in space” box!

I think it’s worth seeing on the big screen just for its visual beauty and Pitt’s performance. And as a major block-buster sci-fi film I enjoyed it to a degree. But for me it had just so many irritations that it failed to live up to my high expectations. A great shame and a frustrating disappointment.

But at least it’s great news for Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic shareholders. They can be assured that the future is bright for their “long distance” flights in the future!