Author: elenasquareeyes

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books with Numbers in the Title

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is a freebie so we can do whatever we’d like; make up our own top ten list or go back and do one we missed. I had actually pretty much written my Top Ten Tuesday post of Books with Numbers in the Title but didn’t get it finished and posted in time so I thought now was the perfect time to share it as I’d already done most of the work.

I’ve read and enjoyed all these books to varying degrees, though some I read so long ago that I remember little of them now and am not sure if they’d hold up if I read them today. If I have a review of any of them I’ve linked to it.

One of Us: The Story of a Massacre and its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
The Three by Sarah Lotz
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Thirty Days by Annelies Verbeke
172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews
Metro 2033 by Dimitry Glukhovsky

Have you read any of these? What are some of your favourite book titles that have numbers in them?

REVIEW: Mortal Kombat (2021)

Washed-up MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) learns of an ancient battle when he’s recruited by Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) to stand against the enemies of Outworld who wish to take over Earth.

Having not played the games I’m pretty much a Mortal Kombat novice. Though that being said, I did watch the 1995 Mortal Kombat film earlier this year, can’t say I remember much about it though so really this Mortal Kombat is a blank slate for me.

The plot of Mortal Kombat doesn’t feature a big tournament, instead they talk about it a lot and it’s more a getting the team together to prepare to fight in the tournament kind of film. So really it feels like a lot of setup for the next film – which hopefully will be made otherwise this one would’ve been a bit of a waste of time.

The majority of the special effects and fight sequences look great. In fact, Mortal Kombat starts and ends on a high as it’s bookended by fights between Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). Those fights are very entertaining and the second one where what can be amounted to superpowers are involved, is truly an excellent way to bring things to a close. The rest of the fights don’t quite hit that standard and a few seem to end before they have even begun. That said, all the fights are pretty bloody and gory so if you like that kind of thing you’re in luck.

A lot of the characters in Mortal Kombat feel pretty generic and don’t have too much personality. While Lewis Tan is great at the fight sequences, his Cole is the usual chosen one character and is defined by his love of his family and not much else. The rest of the heroes aren’t given much of a backstory or personalities and, for many of them, there isn’t a feeling of camaraderie between them that there should be when you have a team of heroes. Kano (Josh Lawson) almost feels like he’s in another film entirely as his personality is the biggest out of all the characters. He’s loud, brash and argumentative and they way he delivers one-liners just feels out of place as the rest of the characters are quite dour and serious. He does make it so things don’t get too dull but it still feels a little weird.

Mortal Kombat is a bit of a mixed bag but even though a lot of the characters are pretty generic (they’re fighters who all have some sort of special power), the plot moves at a good pace and the fights keep coming so you never really get bored. 3/5.

REVIEW: Single All The Way (2021)

Desperate to avoid his family’s judgment about his perpetual single status, Peter (Michael Urie) convinces his best friend Nick (Philemon Chambers) to join him for the holidays and pretend that they’re now in a relationship. But when Peter’s mum Carole (Kathy Najimy) plans to set him up with her spin instructor James (Luke Macfarlane), the plan goes awry.

Single All The Way is a wonderful Christmas romcom that has all the best tropes; friends to lovers, meddling family, sharing a bed, and more! Obviously, it’s clear that Peter and Nick are meant to be together but their trepidation is understandable (because who wants to ruin a great friendship?!) and the two of them need an extra push from some loving family members.

Like Peter’s family, you’re rooting for the two of them but then there’s blind date James. He’s attractive and nice and just generally a really good, fun guy that seems to genuinely like Peter. He’s not painted as wrong for Peter or a terrible choice in comparison to Nick. In fact James and Peter go on some fun dates and they like each other, making you almost as torn as Peter is as he struggles to figure out what his heart truly wants. It helps that James is played by Luke Macfarlane who is often a leading man in Hallmark movies so it’s hard not to find him charming and likeable.

The whole cast is fab but a special mention has to go to Jennifer Coolidge who plays Peter’s Aunt Sandy. She’s just full of drama as her main focus is the winter show she organises every year and she has some of the best lines. She’s funny and just the epitome of that slightly eccentric relative that is at these family gatherings.

It’s kind of easy to compare Single All The Way to last years gay Christmas film, Happiest Season. But whereas Happiest Season had a closeted lesbian take her girlfriend pretending to be just her roommate home for Christmas and comes with all the fear of homophobia and rejection from the family, Single All The Way is out and proud. Peter’s whole family loves him (and they really like Nick too) and even though Peter and Nick are from LA where it’s clear they have many friends who are gay, coming to a small town in New Hampshire for Christmas neither of them ever express any discomfort or fear of any random person’s reaction. There’s even jokes about how Peter’s mum set him up with James as they’re they only gay guys in town. Homophobia is just not a thing in Single All The Way and that allows it to be a wonderful cliché Christmas romcom like all the heterosexual Christmas romcoms that have come before it.

Single All The Way is just so much fun, is sweet and full of love like a big Christmassy hug. Is it strictly “good” enough for a 5-star rating? Probably not. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself, it made me laugh and it makes all the tropes work in a way that I just couldn’t be mad at them. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is loving being Spider-Man though he does feel guilty about continuing his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as he feels he’ll only put her in danger. That danger soon arrives in the form of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and as Peter tries to deal with this new threat while still coming to terms with the secrets of his parent’s past, his best friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York.

Watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 now, knowing this was Andrew Garfield’s last outing at the titular character and the filmmakers/studio never brought to screen the Sinister Six they spent a chunk of this film setting up, is a very funny and kind of a sad experience.

Because by the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 you can’t help but feel it’s an extended set up for what never came. There are so many plots in this film and if a few were cut out or even shortened it might have made a more cohesive film and the plots left might’ve been more effective. In the end, there’s a lot of things that felt pointless and repetitive.

Speaking of repetitive, the on and off again romance between Peter and Gwen got old very quickly. While yes, they’re supposed to be awkward teens in love they just kept going over the same arguments about why they should or shouldn’t be together. Garfield and Stone still have great chemistry but there’s only so many times you can watch two people have the same argument or talk at cross-purposes.

Another aspect that felt pointless and dull was all the stuff about Peter’s parents – or rather his father, his poor mum certainly got shafted. There was one minor detail revealed once Peter learns more about his dad but it’s more of a “Oh that’s cool” thing rather than having any major narrative impact. Otherwise, anything to do with his dad seems to say Oscorp is bad – something which was already pretty clear from the first film. In The Amazing Spider-Man you learnt that Peter’s dad didn’t want his research getting into the wrong hands and in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it just rams that point home again.

Electro is a pretty decent villain. His looks and powers are interesting though (like another character) his decent into villainy felt far too quick, especially because of where he started. Before he got his powers, he was a nerdy guy who was a pushover and idolised Spider-Man so seeing him first of all be scared and overwhelmed by what was happening to him felt true to character. How he changed from loving Spider-Man to hating him so quickly felt more out of place.

Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is still one of the best we’ve seen on screen. He’s confident, cracking jokes and poking fun at the bad guys, but the problem is that the attitude bleeds into his Peter Parker. While his Peter Parker is clearly more intelligent than the Maguire version (always like the scenes where Peter is doing experiments to improve his web shooters) he doesn’t seem as awkward, quiet and nerdy.

Surprisingly considering how little screentime and decent character development he had, I once again both really liked and felt sorry for Harry Osborn. Though, I probably would’ve liked his arc a lot more if it was given more time and his decent into villainy wasn’t shoehorned into the end of the film. Also, having Peter and Harry be childhood friends reconnecting is a neat way of getting him back into Peter’s life but there’s only really one scene where you see them bonding and acting like friends before Harry starts to want something from Peter. Cutting out some of the will they/won’t they stuff with Peter and Gwen to give us more scenes of Harry and Peter could’ve helped all three of those characters.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just has too much going on and now there was never a third film in this series the flaws seem even more obvious. It’s messy when trying to juggle all these plot threads and while many of the Spidey scenes are great fun and action-packed, there’s a bit of a videogame quality to them due to the CGI.

I’ll end this on a positive, I did like the score by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger, Junkie XL, Johnny Marr, Andrew Kawczynski and Steve Mazzaro. Electro’s theme especially was eerie with the whispers underscoring the techno and it really suited the character. 2/5.

BOOK BLOGGER HOP: Why did you start a book blog?

Book Blogger Hop

 

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly feature hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, to find bookish blogs and to learn more about the bloggers themselves. You can find more info on the feature on their website.

This week’s question is: Why did you start a book blog?

I had to look up when exactly I started this blog as it’s been a part of my life for so long, I can barely remember not having it. My first posts were in the summer of 2013 but I started blogging pretty regularly from 2014 onwards.

While I’d definitely count this as a book blog it’s also a mix of everything. I think I started it as I wanted a place to talk about books (and films) and try and improve my writing skills as I was at uni at the time. I had tried my hand at starting a BookTube channel but didn’t really feel comfortable in front of the camera nor had the time or editing skills to make them so a blog seemed to be the best way forward for me to share my love of books and to perhaps meet some likeminded people.

READ THE WORLD – Saint Lucia: Poetry by Sassy Ross

As it was difficult to find induvial work by Sassy Ross, or any writer from Saint Lucia, I discovered Coming Up Hot: Eight New Poets from the Caribbean. A poetry collection featuring poems from eight poets who are from Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, St Vincent and St Lucia. This “review” will solely be about Sassy Ross’s work.

I liked the fact that before each poet’s work began, there was a photo of the poet and a short bio. These can add some context for the work you’re about to read and in Coming Up Hot there were fifteen poems by Sassy Ross.

Themes that appeared in a lot of Sassy Ross’s poems are family, childhood, and stiving for connections. The poems are all pretty short, most being only a page long and only a few stanzas long too. A few of the poems are monostich poems – they are comprised of just one (sometimes almost a page long) stanza.

My favourite poems that showed these ideas well were “My Grandmother’s Room” and “Patching Up”. With “My Grandmother’s Room” it’s like she’s searching for reminders of the past, while the way “Patching Up” is written is like a dialogue between siblings. It’s almost two poems in one as one is from the brother to the sister and the other is the other way round. You get to see two sides of a story and how different people can perceive the same situation.

Welcome to blogmas 2021

So probably to my detriment, I’ve decided to attempt blogmas again this year. I last did it in 2019 and it seems as if I somewhat unintentionally rotate doing blogtober and blogmas each year so now it’s time for blogmas.

I have not been posting as regularly as I usually do this year, in part because I’m not watching as many films or reading as many books, so I thought it might be a good idea to push myself and hopefully give my yearly blogging stats a boost while I’m at it.

While blogmas is supposed to be super Christmas themed, I’ll just be hoping that I post something every day between now and Christmas. There will probably be book and film reviews (including a few extra ones from Cambridge Film Festival), some tags as they’re always good to take up a couple of days and the weekends will be for Christmas movie reviews.

Including this one, I have ten posts already written and scheduled, a couple half written and plans for the rest so I’m not going into this completely unprepared. It would’ve been nice to have had more scheduled but I only really decided to attempt blogmas last week so really the fact I’ve got the next week’s posts already scheduled is an achievement and gives me some breathing room.

This is really your warning that there will be more stuff from me on your feed and perhaps make you panic about how close to the end of another year we are – I certainly felt like that when I saw it was the 1st this morning!

REVIEW: Everything in the End (2021)

Stranded in a small Icelandic town, a young Portuguese man named Paulo (Hugo de Sousa) seeks out human connections and intimacy during the Earth’s final days.

Sometimes you watch a film at exactly the right time and it hits you in a way it probably wouldn’t at any other time. That’s how I felt about Everything in the End. It’s a film that was made pre-pandemic but is one that is strangely relevant to our times now.

It’s a film about loneliness and isolation but also making connections with other people. Everyone is just waiting for the world to end. How and why this is happening you don’t know, there’s just an acceptance of what is coming and Paulo and everyone else he meets is just in a strange limbo as they live out their final days. As Paulo meets different people, sometimes multiple times, others just in passing, it’s little moments of connection that often feel bigger because soon they are never going to meet someone new again.

There’s a sense of both longing and acceptance throughout Everything in the End. The longing for more time, to have done and seen more things in what time they were given. But also, the acceptance that they don’t have that time, this is where they have chosen to spend their last days, with these people. That Paulo decided to travel to rural Iceland where he knew no one isn’t easy for some characters to understand but they take him at face value because what harm can anyone do now when the world is ending?

The fact that there’s no subtitles when characters speak Icelandic or Portuguese is really effective. English is the mutual language (some characters speak it better than others) so when someone tries to talk to Paulo in Icelandic before realising he doesn’t understand you feel as lost as he does. Likewise in one emotional scene where Paulo is rambling in Portuguese you just have to listen to the emotions and while I didn’t understand what he was saying, I knew what he was talking about due to context clues in previous scenes.

Rural Iceland looks beautiful yet haunting and it feels like the perfect place to wait for the end of the world. There’s a lot of wide shots of Paulo walking through fields or sitting on the shore perfectly encapsulating the loneliness he feels. Having those times where Paulo is alone makes the moments where he is with others more impactful.

Everything in the End is a really impactful film full of longing and grief and though things are undoubtable terrible for Paulo and the rest of the world, there’s still small moments of joy to be found. It’s those little sparks of light and connection that pull us through tough times and even though Paulo’s fate is inevitable, those connections still having meaning.

Everything in the End is one of those films where I was impressed as I watched it but then it’s one that I’ve been unable to stop thinking about since. It’s so melancholy but almost hopeful at the same time. Like I said, I think living during a pandemic where there’s been times I’ve felt isolated from loved ones and adrift has made Everything in the End take on new meaning and become almost strangely comforting. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

After getting bitten by a genetically-engineered spider, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) finds himself with amazing new abilities. As Peter begins to look into the secrets of his father’s (Campbell Scott) past, he meets Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) whose own life-altering research turns him into something dangerous.

The Amazing Spider-Man sure had a lot to live up to in comparison to the (first two) Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. It’s hard to not compare the two but I’ll try my best. The Amazing Spider-Man does have some of the same narrative beats but it’s impossible not to when you’re adapting the origin story of a character who has been around for decades.

Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is a different kind of nerdy kid compared to Tobey Maguire’s Peter. Because, as 21 Jump Street showed, what’s nerdy and cool changes over time. Things Peter may get picked on now is not what he’d get picked on ten years ago. Side note: the Tom Holland films continue this trend of what makes Peter nerdy/unpopular.

Peter is quiet and smart and a little awkward and when he suddenly gets superpowers, he is definitely not responsible with them to begin with. He has some power now and uses that to make him feel better and even embarrass those who used to bully him. You get to see Peter change and grow and he’s definitely more of an angsty teen and it’s totally un but is just as understandable why. The fact he feels abandoned by his parents (though naturally the focus is on his father) is a big part of this Peter’s personality. He is desperate for answers does some reckless things to get them.

Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is Peter’s love interest and the two of them are actually quite sweet and work well together. She’s smart and a bit awkward too but it just as smart as Peter, if not more so. Stone and Garfield have great chemistry and it’s nice for the romantic lead to know of Peter’s secret identity from the outset. Having that dynamic means that she can help him when he’s Spider-Man as well as when he’s Peter Parker.

It does feel like The Amazing Spider-Man has a wasted opportunity with the villain. Dr Connors/the Lizard is sort of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenario but Dr Connors never gets enough character development for you to really care about him. He’s a guy in a lab coat and as the focus is more on Peter and his dad’s connection to Dr Connors’ research, you never really get to see more of him than the scientist part of his life.

Overall, the action sequences are pretty great and the moment in finale with building cranes is a nice touch of the support Spidey has from New Yorkers – because this Spider-Man has been on the job for a far shorter time when he has his big final battle than Maguire’s Spider-Man had in his first film.

Personally, I find The Amazing Spider-Man good but not outstanding or thrilling like most of the Raimi films were upon rewatch. I think my main problem with this film (and from the little I remember of it; I have a feeling it’ll be a bigger problem in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is the focus on Peter’s dad and the secrets he had. While I admire them putting a different spin on the story (and maybe in the comics Peter’s dad was a man of mystery, I don’t know) it kinda makes Peter Parker/Spider-Man not so much of the focus of his own story anymore. Also, while I understood why Peter was acting as he was when avoiding his grief, I didn’t particularly like him then, and I never got as attached to him (or any of the other characters) as quickly as I did with the Raimi version – but then again, maybe that is nostalgia talking. 3/5.

REVIEW: The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

In the 1970s and ‘80s, Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Jim (Andrew Garfield), rise from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park. However, financial improprieties, scheming rivals and a scandal soon threaten to topple their carefully constructed empire.

Personally, I had never heard of evangelicals Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker before hearing about this film. It is about people and events that were before my time and I’m pretty sure we didn’t have any kind of religious broadcasting channels here in the UK – personally my family didn’t get Sky and therefore more than the standard four channels until I was about fourteen and that was in the mid-2000s. But I like Jessica Chastain a lot and got the chance to see The Eyes of Tammy Faye at a local film festival months before it’s released in the UK so thought why not.

I’m very glad I gave this film ago. It is a bit unsure at times whether it wants to be a standard biopic or lean into the over-the-top almost satire of these people’s situation but Chastain’s performance guides you through any shaky moments. It also works best when it leans into the absurdity.

The costumes are stunning and are so very ‘80s and it’s hard not to get swept up in the glamour of it all. The religious songs Chastain sings are also super catchy as well and the whole package that Tammy Faye presents to their audience is bold and energetic. How this then contrasts to her at home, when she feels neglected by her husband makes events even more affecting.

Truly Chastain is fantastic in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Often, she’s unrecognisable thanks to the hair, makeup and prosthetic work she has going on but equally her performance is stunning too. Over the course of the film, she goes from being bubbly and full of life to disconnected and close to depressed as all her hopes and dreams come crashing down around her. She plays all the aspects of Tammy’s personality so well and it’s kind of sad sometimes because Tammy appears to be a woman who loves people, loves God, and to her detriment, loves her husband. She is full of love and is far more accepting than any other evangelical preacher seen in The Eyes of Tammy Faye – Vincent D’Onofrio plays Pastor Jerry Falwell who is the most pious of the religious figures that surround her.

While Chastain and Garfield are both great, Cherry Jones who plays Tammy’s mother Rachel steals just about every scene she’s in. Her scathing line delivery is hilarious and her presence is felt even when she’s not on screen. She’s the one person Tammy wants to impress and be proud of her, while Rachel is more suspicious of her daughter and son-in-law’s careers. Rachel is a religious woman but doesn’t see how people sending their money to the network is something God would condone.

Honestly Andrew Garfield is great as the weaselly Jim Bakker. He can be both cruel and charismatic and as the viewer you can see the things that Tammy is oblivious to and how while she did things with often the best intentions, he did them to further his life. Like honestly, the man was awful and both Garfield and Chastain did such good jobs in their roles that I was mad at him for hurting her – even though if she’d been a little more present in the running of the network, she wouldn’t have been so blindsided by her husband’s lies.

Speaking of Garfield, at the beginning in the 1960s when Jim and Tammy meet at college there is some weirdness going on with Andrew Garfield’s face. I’m not sure if it is the de-aging CGI that we’re often seeing in films nowadays, the makeup or a combination of the two but I’ve never seen a man with such a smooth face. He looked like a Ken doll in those scenes. Once the narrative had moved on so he was playing a Jim that was closer to his age (Garfield is 38) this stopped and he looked a lot more normal.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a funny and at times almost surreal biopic. The performances are all fantastic and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Tammy Faye as it really does seem like she was an enthusiastic and caring woman. But, due to her trusting nature and her faith she was easily led and betrayed. 4/5.