REVIEW: The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

trouble-with-womenThe Trouble with Women is a graphic novel looking at women’s role in history – or lack thereof. It questions why we only ever learnt about three women at school and whether or not women can be geniuses.

The Trouble with Women is really funny. Thanks to the observational drawings and the sharp wit, it’s a very smart and different take on women in history. There are so many great lines like, “In the Olden Days there were no women which is why you don’t come across them in history lessons at school” and “For a long time there were no black women.” It’s kind of brutally honest as it looks at the terrible attitude men had towards women and their intelligence. It is sad that the stereotypes that if women become too smart and educated they’ll become unattractive to men are still prevalent today in some shape and form.

The Trouble with Women features many women from different fields – many of which I hadn’t heard of before. There’s women like Marie Currie, Annie Oakley and Jane Austin who are obviously very well-known but it also talks about women like Phillis Wheatley, Elisa Grier and Emmy Noether who I had never heard of before. I’ve made a note of all the women featured who I know very little or nothing about so I can read up on them later. All the women featured were scorned or dismissed by men with them often being surprised by the women’s skill or attention to detail.

The Trouble with Women makes you think about women’s role in history and how they were seen by society and how it was very difficult to progress in any field without being judged by men and society as a whole. It’s unfortunate that some still believe women are incapable of making any achievements whether in science or the arts, but there’s still hope. A line that I absolute love and can’t reiterate how important it is, is “Women have been retrieving each other from the Dustbin of History for several thousand years now.” Women in history are being rediscovered by women of today and women helping other women, in whatever way, is a very important thing indeed.

The Trouble with Women is a short original book that looks at history in a different way. I wish it was longer and I’ll definitely be looking into Jacky Fleming’s other comics and writing. 4/5.

REVIEW: Don’t Think Twice (2016)

dont-think-twice-posterWhen Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), a member of a New York City improv troupe called The Commune, gets a huge break, the rest of the group made up of his best friends and girlfriend, all start to realise that they might not all make it.

Don’t Think Twice is really funny. It can sometimes be a bit dark with its humour or even slightly inappropriate depending on the scene but it all works really well. These are funny people so the scenes when the Commune are performing are naturally funny but then when these guys are just doing normal stuff like hanging out at a bar they are still funny.

Don’t Think Twice is surprisingly sweet and touching. It offers an insight into thirty-something comedian’s lives and how they use humour and their own experiences to make others laugh. It’s also a great look into how a group of friend’s function. It’s truly an ensemble film with each character having their time to shine and their own story arcs on display. Sam (Gillian Jacobs) isn’t sure she wants her life to change when she gets offered the chance of fame, Allison (Kate Micucci) loves to draw comics, Miles (Mike Birbiglia) hasn’t had a meaningful relationship for years, Lindsay (Tami Sagher) still lives with her parents while Bill’s (Chris Gethard) father doesn’t really understand his son’s passion. They each have their own problems and dreams and while they might get mad at or jealous of each other, that doesn’t mean they stop caring. The entire cast does a great job of making these people feel real and funny, they say inappropriate things at times and they wind each other up but really they feel like a real group of friends.

Don’t Think Twice is funny and sweet and a surprising rollercoaster of emotions thanks to a great ensemble cast. 5/5.

REVIEW: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

goldenhandLirael is no longer a shy Second Assistant Librarian. She is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, and she has the Dead to battle and Free Magic creatures to bind. When Lirael saves Nicholas Sayre from an attack by a Free Magic creature she finds he is tainted with Free Magic and she must return to her childhood home at the Clayr’s Glacier for guidance. But Lireal is unaware that a great danger threatens the Old Kingdom. A messenger from the North is trying to reach to give her a warning about the Witch With No Face, but who is the Witch and what is her plan? This time the fight may rage both in the living world and in the remorseless river of Death.

As this is a sequel, there may be some vague spoilers for the rest of the Old Kingdom series, Abhorsen especially, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.

Goldenhand is brilliant. It continues a few months after the events of Abhorsen and while it is mostly Lirael’s story, it’s great to see how she is fitting in with her new found family and what they are all up to now as well. Sam continues to be slightly oblivious to things that aren’t to do with inventing things but he’s still very smart and capable. In Goldenhand you really see how much Lirael has grown and become more confident but she still gets scared and she’s still mourning her oldest friend which I’m pleased was not something that was easily pushed aside.

The story alternates between what Lirael is doing and what Ferin, the messenger from the North is going through. Ferin is a wonderful new character who is strong and resourceful and never gives up. She is a fighter who doesn’t mince her words and she’s nothing like any of the other female characters that have appeared in this series so far.

It was nice to have Nicholas return, especially as he is a bit of a fish out of water in the Old Kingdom. If you’ve read the series, you as the reader are quite familiar with the world and its ways so it’s nice to see an outsiders’ perspective. Also his and Lirael’s relationship was lovely as the hesitantly try to figure out where they stand and Lirael tries to figure out her feelings in general because even having a friend is something she’s very much not used to.

Goldenhand is a fast-paced book, full of action and suspense and there’s the kind of scary moments when it comes to the Dead. In this book there’s Free Magic creatures you’ve never seen before and shows a whole part of the world that hasn’t really been explored before either. While the majority of the characters, and the stakes, are familiar that doesn’t really matter as Goldenhand is such an enjoyable thrill-ride and it even makes the bad guys interesting.

Goldenhand is a perfect addition to the Old Kingdom series and is a super fast-paced read with some wonderful character moments. 5/5.

REVIEW: Letters from Baghdad (2016)

letters-from-baghdadA documentary about Gertrude Bell, the most powerful woman in the British Empire who helped shape the destiny of Iraq after World War One.

Letters from Baghdad is an interesting blend of archive footage and letters from Bell and first-hand accounts from her friends and colleagues. Bell’s letters are a voice over from Tilda Swinton while the letters and accounts from other people are from actors, playing the part of the real historical figures as if they were being interviewed. It’s an interesting setup that takes a little while to get used to but having all these first-hand account soon pulls you into the rich history of Iraq and Gertrude Bell. Also Bell’s letters helps you feel more connected to her as she not only writes about her day to day life in Iraq but her opinions on the people she meets and how she does miss her family, her father especially.

Gertrude Bell is a woman I had never heard of before seeing this film. Bell travelled across Arabia, sometimes being accused of being a spy, working in archaeological digs and ended up being recruited by the British Government to draw the borders of Iraq. She knew T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) and Winston Churchill, she socialised with Muslim, British and German women alike and Iraqi royalty. It is a shame that she has been all but written out of history. She did a lot for Iraq including setting up the National Museum of Iraq practically single handed.

Letters from Baghdad is not only a historical documentary, it does shine a light on how British and American involvement in the Middle East has both aided and hindered the region throughout history, but it also looks at the attitudes of the time towards women in positions of power and who have independence, and how some of those attitudes have still not changed a lot.

If you want to learn more about Iraq’s history and a remarkable woman that has almost been forgotten from history, then do check out Letters from Baghdad. 4/5.

Letters From Baghdad – Official Trailer from Letters from Baghdad on Vimeo.

REVIEW: An Insignificant Man (2016)

an-insignificant-manA political documentary following Arvind Kejriwal an activist who wants to end political corruption but soon realises that the only way to do that is with politics and so newest political force in India is born – The Common Man’s Party (AAP).

An Insignificant Man is fascinating, well-structured look at India’s political landscape, especially the campaigning leading up to the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections. It follows Kejriwal and his party as they struggle to make themselves a formidable force against The Congress, Mahatma Gandhi’s party and the party that’s ruled India for the majority of the years since India’s independence, and he opposition party BJP.

Other notable people featured in the documentary are Yogendra Yadav, an academic and co-founder of the AAP. Yadav was often the most pragmatic person in the party having studied politics for so many years. He is the kind of person who knew you could only pick certain battles and not go promising everything to everyone. His and Kejriwal’s relationship was interesting as Kejriwal was often stubborn and make big promises to do with free water and energy bills that many people, Yadva included, thought were too extreme. Santosh Koli was another interesting AAP candidate, she was a formidable woman and while her story was cut short (it’s a documentary so you can google her if you like) I really liked what you saw of her in An Insignificant Man and wished she could have had the opportunity to make a bigger political impact.

I knew nothing of Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP and the political landscape in India in general before watching An Insignificant Man but this film did a great job of showing who the man is, both the good and the bad, and what he and his party stands for. It made this recent piece of political history exciting and almost thrilling at times while also still showed the farcical side of politics. There are indeed laugh out loud moments in this, for instance when one politician is told to stop shouting over other campaigners in an interview and he said “I’m not shouting, I have a loud voice.” An Insignificant Man really shows how politics is just as absurd and flawed in India as it is anywhere else in the world.

An Insignificant Man is an interesting documentary about a group of people who do almost the unthinkable of starting a new political party. It feels honest and does not try to judge Kejriwal or AAP, it simply follows them through the ups and downs of campaigning, showing the successes and the failures. It really is a fascinating film. 5/5.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: My Top Ten Villains

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature run by BrokeAndBookish each week. This week it’s all about villains and I’ve chosen to write about the most memorable villains I’ve ever come across, whether that’s because they really are despicably evil or for some other reason. So without further ado, here’s some great villains.

Professor Dolores Umbridge – Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
While Voldemort might be the main bad guy in Harry Potter, Umbridge is almost more terrifying because she’s so normal and the way she inflicts pain and restrictions is all within the rules of the law. She uses the system to her advantage and is a bigot who always believes she is right.

Nils Bjurman – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
This man is evil and manipulative who preys on people who he sees as weaker than him and who are dependent on him. He’s a rapist and a sadist and just really, really horrible.

Cruella de Vil – The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
I read The Hundred and One Dalmatians when I was about thirteen and I’d seen both the animated and live action films many times, but Cruella de Vil in the book was still super scary. (more…)

REIVEW: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

magnificent-seven-2016-posterWhen the tycoon Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) takes over a town and terrorises its people, seven men lead by bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) come together to take on his army and save the townspeople.

The Magnificent Seven is a lot of fun and a lot of that is thanks to the cast. The seven men have a lot of chemistry and each bring something different to the group. Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) is the joker and gambler of the group who enjoys annoying Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) a Mexican outlaw a lot. Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and ex-soldier and Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) a knife fighter come as a pair, while Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a tracker and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) is a Comanche warrior. They are all very different people and it’s the moments where they are all sitting around a campfire or are in a saloon talking that are real highlights of the film. And while she is the only prominent female character in the film, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) is a force to be reckoned with as it’s she who goes out to find men to fight for her town and she has the respect of the men she employs.

The cinematography in The Magnificent Seven is gorgeous, there are often extreme wide shots of the town and the battles and they all look wonderful. The fights themselves are also well-shot and the action is very clear to follow and you have a good idea of where everyone is in relation to each other. There’s only a few shootouts in the movie but when they happen there is a good pay off and the one at the start of the second act has a good standoff between the good guys and the bad.

There are some clichés and tropes in The Magnificent Seven, but the characters and action are so well put together that it doesn’t really matter that much. Some characters do things that you can see coming a mile off but that’s mostly because the formula for The Magnificent Seven is a classic and even if you haven’t seen the 1960 original, you’ll know what will probably happen as the basics of the story has been seen in many different genres of films over the years.

The Magnificent Seven is a lot of fun. It has everything you want from a Western and the final battle even offers some surprises. 5/5.