4 stars

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 There may be some rather outdated views of them, but on the whole there’s less than one might expect from a James Bond story when all you’ve seen previously are the film adaptations.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.

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: 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.

REVIEW: Othello by William Shakespeare

The tragedy of Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, who is misled by his disloyal officer Iago leading to suspicion and revenge.

Othello is a Shakespeare play that I never read during my school career – for me it was Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Henry V and Hamlet that I had to study in either school or at university. I knew nothing about Othello before starting it except that the titular character is usually played by a black man.

I really enjoyed Othello. While it is certainly a Shakespearian tragedy – miscommunication and death abound – but there’s also this very dark thread of humour running through it that I loved. I did find myself wondering if I was classed as a comedy because from the outset Iago is being sneaky and telling lies to different people to get a reaction, but pretty much every other character says at some point how loyal and trustworthy he is. It made me laugh out loud a couple of times because it’s that obvious to the audience watching/reading what Iago is doing but everyone else is so obtuse.

You never really get why Iago has decided to pit all these people against one another. There’s certainly some jealousy there but even he sometimes questions his actions and the consequence he may face. But that still doesn’t get him to stop. He reminded me of the trickster archetype as he uses his wits, and other people, to try and achieve his goals while misleading everyone around him. He’s definitely one of my favourite Shakespeare characters.

Othello is a play I enjoyed reading and found it relatively easy to understand from the outset. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for performances of Othello in the future, and it’s a play I’d recommend to people who may usually be put off by Shakespeare’s work as it’s easy to follow and features some interesting characters. 4/5.

REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

My original review of Thor: Ragnarok from October 2017 is here.

Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) but he must find a way to escape and return to Asgard, where Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is set to takeover.

Thor: Ragnarok is a weird and wonderful comedy superhero film. It’s bright and colourful, with wacky characters, costumes and settings. It’s very different to the previous Thor films which can be a little jarring but once you accept that it’s showing a different side to these characters, it’s a fun ride.

It’s the characters and their interactions that makes Thor: Ragnarok. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back and once again you’re not entirely sure if he can be trusted, but through his conversations with Thor you see a different side to their relationship. There’s so many moments in this film where you can see their history and how they really are brothers who have grown up together. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is a hard-drinking scavenger and a really interesting new character. Her banter with Thor, and playfulness with the Hulk are unexpected but great. When Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk (and also Bruce Banner when he makes an appearance) are together, or any combinations of thereof, their chemistry is clear to see.

The action sequences are a lot of fun and exciting. Seeing Thor and Hulk battle is a real joy to watch while the battle for Asgard between Thor, his companions and Hela is one of the best third acts in a Marvel movie. It’s funny, compelling and has a fair few unexpected moments.

There are some uneven moments in Thor: Ragnarok when it comes to balancing the comedy with the drama. Mostly it works, but a couple of times a joke undercuts the emotion of a scene when is a shame.

Thor: Ragnarok is a lot of fun. It’s bizarre but still manages to have some of the best character development we’ve seen for Thor for ages. It also has more serious themes like colonialism and refugees, while still being very funny. 4/5.

REVIEW: Talvar (2015)

When a teenage girl and her family’s servant are found dead, the police investigation is incompetent from the outset, contaminating evidence and accusing a controversial suspect. When experienced investigator Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan Khan) joins the case, he must make sense of the little evidence available and several conflicting theories about what really happened.

Talvar is a fictionalised and dramatized version of the 2008 Noida double murder case, a case I personally hadn’t heard of before but one that got the media into a frenzy and all people connected to the case were put on trial by the media before the police or courts could do much else.

You see the night of the murders retold multiple times from different perspectives. Each one using various witness testimonies but also disregarding some other piece of evidence that doesn’t fit the prevailing theory. As the scenes are so different each time, it never feels like you’re retracing old ground, and each flashback serves a purpose.

There’s no getting around the fact that the police originally at the crime scene, did a terrible job, not calling in forensic teams and letting family member, neighbours and journalists walk into the crime scenes with no bother. It’s quite incredible how bad these men were at their jobs. From then on, the film does a good job at presenting all the evidence and suspects in a largely unbiased way, leaving you to decide who you believe.

With so many members of the police force being either unlikable on incompetent (or both) Ashwin is a beacon of sanity in this circus that is an investigation. He’s smart and sympathetic and you can feel his exasperation with this almost impossible case and the bureaucracy surrounding it.

Talvar is a gripping mystery albeit it a frustrating one due to the inept police work that could lead to such a heart-breaking and horrible situation for this family who has lost their daughter. 4/5.