Reviews

REVIEW: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

After the Secret Service is informed that the Bank of England’s gold is being stolen, 007 James Bond is put on the case to track down the mysterious Auric Goldfinger and find out how he’s been accumulating so much gold. But as Bond delves deeper, he discovers Goldfinger’s dangerous connections and that he has much bigger plans when it comes to gold.

While I have watched the film version of Goldfinger a number of years ago, enough time had past that I didn’t remember much of the plot, and even if I had the book was it’s own unique thing compared to the film adaptation.

After having the physical book on my shelves for years, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Hugh Bonneville who did a great job. Goldfinger is a fast-paced story and Bonneville did a great job at getting inside Bond’s head. The action sequences were exciting but the slower, spy stuff was just as compelling.

I love the character of James Bond in this story. He’s a mess, and an argument could be made for him being depressed when we’re first introduced to him in the opening chapters. He’s sick of his job, the travelling and the killing and he’s so very tired of it all. The thing I loved about Bond is that while he is a good spy, he is human and makes mistakes. Also, when times are tough and he’s in real mortal peril, his inner-monologue is emotional and reflective. James Bond also has a sarcastic sense of humour which I loved and there’s so many times he uses either wit or sheer luck to get by. For instance, at one point he blames a cat for something in the hopes that Goldfinger doesn’t figure him out.

Goldfinger and his trusted bodyguard Odd Job are both intimidating foes in different ways. Goldfinger is very smart while Odd Job is deadly. The language used to describe Odd Job and the other Korean workers Goldfinger employs is definitely racist and can be sometimes uncomfortable to listen to. I guess that’s the sign of the time it was written in.

The same it can be said of the way women are presented. Pussy Galore is a lesbian and the book states this multiple times. However, by the end it’s alluded to that she was only a lesbian because she hadn’t met a real man like James Bond yet. It’s eye-rolling stuff. That being said, while Bond is a self-confessed womaniser, there are moments, especially at the start of the novel, where it does show he can and does respect women. There may be some rather outdated views of them, but on the whole there’s less than one might expect from a James Bond story when all you’ve seen previously are the film adaptations.

I enjoyed Goldfinger far more than I was expecting to, to be honest. It’s a fast-paced thriller and Bond is much more interesting, funny and layered character compared to the almost archetype that’s seen in the various film adaptations. 4/5.

If you’re interested, as a part of my Bondathon three years ago I watched and reviewed the film adaptation of Goldfinger, a long with every other Bond film. You can read that review here.

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REVIEW: Deadpool 2 (2018)

Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is living life to its fullest by killing a load of bad guys and being in love with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). But when time traveller Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives with one aim – kill young mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) – Deadpool must bring together a superpowered team to stop him.

Deadpool 2 is the anticipated sequel of the surprise hit of 2016, and this sequel is just as fun, outrageous and violent as the first film. There’s a bigger scope (and budget) here and for the most part it pulls it off. The special effects do get a little ropey towards the end of the film, it’s almost as if they filmmakers had bigger aspirations than their budget, but the action sequences and fights are still well-shot and exciting. The surprising thing about Deadpool 2 is that it has a lot of heart and, for the most part, knows when to have those serious moments.

The new characters in this film are great. While it takes a while for Cable to make his entrance (and once he does he goes away again for a little while) he is captivating every time he’s on screen. He’s a total, almost unstoppable badass and his interactions with Deadpool are great. The fight sequence in a prison is brutal.

Probably the stand-out new character in Deadpool 2 is Domino (Zazie Beetz). Her superpower is being lucky and the sequences that show off that power are incredible. It’s not just herself who is lucky, her luck affects things around her so watching her fight is so much fun.

It’s the interactions between Deadpool and all these new, and old, characters that stand out to me. While the first film was great, it was naturally solely focused on Deadpool, but this time having him surrounded by a team leads to many great character moments that are often hilarious. This is still very much Deadpool’s film, he’s just got some great back up.

Deadpool 2 is most definitely still a comedy and there’s jokes and fourth-wall breaks flying almost constantly. Personal my favourite jokes are the self-referential ones to the X-Men films and superhero films and characters in general – there’s a Hawkeye-related one-liner that I found myself laughing at very loudly even though Hawkeye is my favourite Marvel character.

Deadpool 2 is bigger than the first film, and possibly even better (though it’s been a while since I’ve seen it). It’s funny, action-packed and introduces some great characters that I’d love to see more of. I’m planning to get my hands on as many comics featuring Domino as possible. Oh, and there’s a couple of mid-credits scenes too that are brilliant so make sure you stick around for them! 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Kenya: One Day I Will Write about this Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

Kenyan Caine Prize winner Binyavanga Wainaina’s memoir about growing up in Kenya, his failed attempt at learning computer programming at university in South Africa, and the moving family reunion in Uganda years later.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Ivanno Jeremiah, and I found it to be very easy to listen to as Jeremiah was an engaging narrator. While it generally has a linear narrative, every now and then a word or event will take the story back to Wainaina’s childhood or to something that happened that was related to the current anecdote but was either years in the past or the future. This hoping through time did get a bit of getting used to.

This memoir spans decades, from Wainaina’s childhood in the 1970’s to him living and working in New York in the 2010. Through all that time you see through his eyes how Kenya, and the whole African continent itself, changes. The always shifting politics, the cultural changes, the various conflicts and how pop culture, both American and African, seep through into it all.

I learnt a lot from listening to One Day I Will Write about this Place, as many of the cultural and political events that Wainaina lived through in East Africa, were either events that happened before I was born, or before I begun paying just that bit of attention to the world news. It amused me how Wainaina and his friends would joke about Bob Geldof and Live Aid, and event I’d only ever heard about through a Western perspective.

While Wainaina lived through a lot of big historical moments, One Day I Will Write about this Place is at its heart about Wainaina’s family, his love of books and him learning to fins his place with ever changing Africa. Through a lot of his childhood and adolescence it seems like he doesn’t like his home and all the complications that come from being a part of various tribes. However, when he’s an adult and spent time away from his family, having his extended family reunite in Uganda is a big moment for him.

One Day I Will Write about this Place is a fascinating insight into one man’s experiences growing up in East Africa, and who struggles to find his own identity. It’s an insightful and thought-provoking memoir that has a lot of heart.

REVIEW: What Maisie Knew (2012)

Young Maisie (Onata Aprile) is caught between her feuding parents, Susanna and Beale (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan), as they go through a bitter custody battle.

The thing that makes What Maisie Knew special yet also kind of heart-breaking, is that Maisie is our eyes and ears as the whole film is from her point of view. She sees the fights between her parents, she sees her mother spending more and more time making music, and she sees what’s going on between her father and her former nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham) before just about anyone else. It’s sad because the reason she notices what’s going around her is not because the adults in her life are bad at keeping secrets, but it’s more like they forget she’s there, and that while she’s young, she still has a mind of her own.

Maisie’s relationship with Margo and Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård), her mother’s new husband, is incredibly sweet and touching. What Maisie Knew shows how there’s more than one kind of family and it can be one where there’s no blood relations at all.

As the film progresses more and more secrets are revealed, and Maisie becomes less innocent as she goes through some turbulent times. However, she never truly loses her child-like wonder with the world even when she begins to see her parents as real, flawed people at a much earlier age than she should.

Onata Aprile is a very talented young actress, she more than holds her own when she’s in some emotional scenes with Julianne Moore, who’s also great in this.

What Maisie Knew is a touching film, full of powerful performances and compelling relationships. It’s a great drama that can be tough to watch at times but that makes it all the more special. 4/5.

REVIEW: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Best friends Charlie, Taylor and Jamie are heading to SupaCon! Charlie is a blogger and actress promoting her first film at SupaCon and it’s her chance to show the fans she’s completely over her breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When she meets super famous online personality Alyssa, Charlie begins to think her long-time crush isn’t as one sided as she thought. Taylor’s more reserved than Charlie. Her brain is wired differently making social situations often terrifying and a fear of change makes her constantly re-evaluate what she wants from her best guy friend Jamie. But when she enters a fan contest to meet her favourite author, Taylor begins to rethink her lifelong goal of always playing it safe.

Queens of Geek is a super quick read, I flew through it. It’s all set during one weekend at a fan convention called SupaCon so there are a lot of geeky references to comics, cosplay and fandom in general. It’s kind of a love letter to fandom, and how people can find safety and comfort in fandom and the TV shows/films/books that people can bond over. It’s a nice looking into the world of comic cons and how they can be very overwhelming but also be a place to meet likeminded people and make new friends.

The story is told in alternate perspectives, Taylor and Charlie’s. Taylor has anxiety and Asperger’s and it’s insightful hearing her explain how she feels in certain situations and about life in general. She’s almost constantly struggling but still loves her friends and her fandom. Taylor is bisexual and has had a past relationship with a boy and during her time at SupaCon gets to know Alyssa. Their romance is really sweet and they both talk about how their past relationships have affected them and what they’re looking for going forward.

The amount of communication between Taylor, Jamie, Charlie, and Alyssa (and all combinations of thereof) was extraordinary. Any misunderstandings are more likely to last a couple of paragraphs than a couple of chapters. It’s both great to see a solid group of friends or a potential love interest be so open about their thoughts, feelings and fears with one another, but also a bit disconcerting as it’s something that is (unfortunately) so unusual in fiction, and often in real life as well. So often one character gave an encouraging speech to another character that it felt unrealistic.

Queens of Geek is definitely a character driven book. There’s not really any plot twists or big moments, instead it highlights various important diverse topics like sexuality, mental health, body image and unhealthy relationships. All these topics are handled well but the story sometimes felt like it had been put on the backburner in order for a character to say their piece about a certain topic.

Queens of Geek is a cute, quick read with some great characters who really support one another. Jamie, Charlie and Taylor have a solid friendship and each of their personalities shines through. However, it’s not a memorable read for me as it felt like it was trying so often to tick as many important, diversity boxes as possible that it didn’t end up grounded in reality. 3/5.

REVIEW: The Terminal (2004)

When there’s a military coup in his home country while he’s flying to America, Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is forced to take up temporary residence in JFK’s terminal building as he is not allowed to set foot on American soil.

The Terminal is a really sweet heart-warming film that grows on you as the story progresses. It’s tough to see Viktor struggle because he has a limited grasp of English and doesn’t understand what customers agent Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) is telling him about his country. When Viktor sees the news for the first time your heart-breaks for him and it continues to break for him as he struggles to survive in the terminal building with no money and no food.

Over time Viktor begins to make friends with various airport staff including Enrique (Diego Luna) who works in catering, baggage handler Mulroy (Chi McBride) and cleaner Gupta (Kumar Pallana). How his friendship, and English skills, grow over the course of the film is lovely. Because Viktor is such a fixture in the terminal building, pretty much everyone who works there, in the shops, in the food court and in security, get to know him.

An unlikely friendship, and even romance, blossoms between Viktor and air stewardess Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). There’s some crossed-wires as Amelia doesn’t understand that he actually lives in the airport, even though he never really lies to her.

Viktor’s story is like that of the American Dream – or at least what the American dream should be. He always displays a kindness and compassion towards others and in turn receives help and respect and brings out the best in those he encounters.

The Terminal may not be considered one of director Steven Spielberg’s best or most memorable films, but it’s a lovely film about people, relationships and doing what you believe is right. It’s film that balances comedy and drama very well and it’s just a wonderful film. 4/5.

SPOILER REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

WARNING! This is my spoiler-filled review of Infinity War, if you haven’t seen the film or just generally don’t want any spoilers my spoiler-free review is here.

Now I don’t think this will be in any particular order and I definitely won’t manage to talk about everything, these are the things that stuck with me the most that I wanted to talk about.  (more…)