5 stars

REVIEW: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

When Andie’s dad is caught up in a political scandal, all her summer plans are thrown into chaos. No more summer internship, instead she finds herself with a summer job as a dog walker. She’s not used to not having everything planned out but having everything be unexpected for once could mean a chance for love and new experiences.

The Unexpected Everything is a delightful book. At over 500 pages I was worried it would take me a while to read but in the end, I read it in just one day. I got pulled in by Andie’s story and all her friends, and by the fact there was so many dogs. Honestly if you like dogs, this book is for you as its not only the characters that are interesting and a lot of fun but the many dogs Andie ends up walking are too.

Andie is the kind of character that normally would rub me up the wrong way as she’s often quite selfish and likes everyone and everything to fit in her own plans, but much of the story is about her growing as a person and seeing how she is seen by other people. Andie doesn’t like letting people get close to her or even tell people she’s in a relationship with anything of real substance about herself – this all comes to ahead when she meets Clark. The romance between Andie and dog owner Clark is sweet and has your usual lack of communication confusion but the story has a lot of charm and Andie and Clark both have their flaws and still compliment each other that I was rooting for them.

I really liked Andie’s friendship group, their summer adventures and how The Unexpected Everything showed that some relationships can be quite overwhelming and we all need are space from those we care about. I also really liked how Andie’s relationship with her dad was so believable, they’d not had anything to do with each other for so long so suddenly being around each other led to an interesting dynamic.

The Unexpected Everything is the perfect summer read. It’s fun, has moments of humour and lots of characters you want to be happy. 5/5.

READ THE WORLD – Canada: Even this Page is White by Vivek Shraya

A collection of poetry about race, politics, gender, sex and the crossover between all these things and more.

The collection is split into five parts titled “white dreams”, “whitespeak”, “how to talk to a white person”, “the origins of skin” and “brown dreams” and seeing the headings they definitely caught my attention.

These poems are brutally honest and I think it’s something white people should read. Even from the above section titles you start to get an idea of what to expect and as a white person you learn to listen and take it in. The poetry made me think and while I’ve personally be aware of my privilege, they made me want to be more active in trying to use that privilege “for good”.

Shraya’s poems talk about white privilege, anti-blackness and the different ways racism presents itself towards people of different races. I liked how there was a section that was a conversation between Shraya and her white friends Sara Quin, Amber Dawn, Rae Spoon and Danielle Owens-Reid, though I did second guess myself because as Shraya writes, “white people listen to white people.” It’s is a great couple of pages of dialogue.

Flicking through the book, finding my favourite poems I realised that my favourites generally came from the “how to talk to a white person” section. I think that was because in a way they were targeting me. A lot of them are about how people of colour may change how they act or what they say or how they say it in front of a white person.

I really enjoyed this poetry collection. It was a very quick read as the poems are all short and concise and they were all written in interesting ways – interesting to me anyway, as I don’t read a lot of poetry. The poems are hard-hitting and don’t shy away from potentially controversial topics and opinions. I can imagine seeing Vivek Shraya perform her poetry would be an amazing experience as often the poems feel like they should be spoken aloud by someone. Still, it is a thought-provoking and lyrical collection of poems. Definitely recommend Even this Page is White. 5/5.

REVIEW: Dunkirk (2017)

When 400,000 Allied soldiers are trapped on the beach of Dunkirk by the German army, civilian boats are commandeered to evacuate them.

Dunkirk is an incredibly tense and stressful film. From the first gunshot, the film pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. The sounds are so loud it feels like you’re right there on the beach and the RAF and Luftwaffe planes really sound like they are flying over and around your head. Dunkirk is an incredibly loud film, and it can be disorientating but that helps put you in the shoes of the stranded soldiers.

There’s three groups of characters you follow; RAF pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden), civilian Mr Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son (Tom Glynn-Carney) and their friend George (Barry Keoghan) who are making their way to Dunkirk to help rescue the troops, and a trio of soldiers who are desperate to get off the beach. It’s a bit confusing at times as these events aren’t always running simultaneously but it’s not too hard to follow and each groups story is compelling.

A lot of the characters aren’t named, or are maybe are called by their name just once so it’s easy to miss, so while they aren’t really fully-fleshed characters that didn’t really matter. The situation they’re in is so dire that you are willing and hoping they survive, and it doesn’t matter what or who they’re trying to get home to, they just need to be off that beach. This is especially true to the trio of soldiers played by Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard and Harry Styles. You know next to nothing about them but the actor’s performances of desperate and scared young men is all you need to root for them to survive.

Another thing that’s quite interesting and clever is that you never see a German soldier. There’s the Luftwaffe that have dogfights with the RAF over the sea, and the Allied forces do get shot at but you never actually see a German solider. This helps to not vilify the Germans and also adds to the suspense as you are never sure where the enemy is hiding or how close they really are.

The score by Hans Zimmer is definitely worth mentioning. I don’t always talk about the score or music in films in my reviews, often because I don’t really notice it, but in Dunkirk the score helps crank the tension up a notch. The ticking clock sounds reinforce the fact that time is running out for all these men and adds to the stress you feel.

Dunkirk is a brilliant film. It’s well-shot, all the actors give great performances and it is an incredibly tense film about people desperate to survive. It is one of those films that’s worth seeing at the cinema, if not for the action (which is spectacular) but for the sound that immerses you into the film. 5/5.

REVIEW: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

After the human military comes to kill Caesar (Andy Serkis), he must wrestle with the fact that the ever-looming war between apes and humans is finally here.

If you are expecting an out-and-out war film here, you’ll be disappointed. Yes, there are soldiers and there’s conflict between the apes and humans but the film is more than that. It’s an intelligent, thoughtful look at humanity and at a group of creatures who just want to be left alone. The conversations between Caesar and The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) are really interesting because they are two smart, capable leaders who have their own kind to protect.

It kind of goes without saying but the motion capture and computer work in War for the Planet of the Apes is phenomenal. The actors performing as the apes do incredible work as do the digital artists – you really feel and understand the emotions that play out on these creatures faces. It’s easy to forget that they aren’t really “there”.

War for the Planet of the Apes is an incredible film. It builds on the previous two films and adds more depth to the characters we already know and interesting dynamics with new ones. Caesar feels so much older and battle-worn compared to when we last saw him but then there’s a new character like Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who’s weird quirks brings some much needed humour to the film. Because War for the Planet of the Apes is often a bleak and tough film. The characters, and the audience, go through so much that those moments of humour are needed to break the tension.

The relationship between Caesar, fellow chimp Rocket (Terry Notary) and orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) is delved into even more in this film. It’s fascinating to see not just Caesar’s growth across the trilogy but theirs, along with the community they’ve built in the woods.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a solid, poignant story of hope, conflict and loss. There’s a sense of tension and foreboding throughout the film and it puts your emotions through the wringer. It is an amazing end to a trilogy that just got better and better with each instalment. This trilogy is up there with the best of them. 5/5.

REVIEW: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

In her everyday life Eliza Mirk is shy, awkward and hates school, but in the online world she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of mega popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine ever enjoying the real world as much as the online one so she never really bothers to try. That is until Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction author, transfers to Eliza’s school and, believing Eliza is just another fan, he begins to draw her out of her shell. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally revealed everything in her life is thrown into turmoil, her relationship with Wallace, her art and even her sanity.

I loved this book. I’ve been wary of books about fandom because I’ve always kind of felt that the first rule of fandom, is that you don’t talk about fandom. But I’m so happy that Eliza and Her Monsters showed me that there can be great books about fandom that respects and understands it.

Eliza and Her Monsters is a mix-media novel, it includes panels from Monstrous Sea as well as emails, letters and instant messages. This, plus the fact the book is great, helps make Eliza and Her Monsters a really quick read. I loved how the extracts from Monstrous Sea often mirrored the situations Eliza found herself in, giving you an extra insight as to where her mind is at. The Monstrous Sea story was just as interesting as Eliza’s story and the book did a great job of explaining the plot of the webcomic enough that when characters discussed who their favourite characters were, you had a good idea who they were talking about.

Eliza’s two best friends are Max and Emmie and they’ve never met face to face. I love how Eliza and Her Monsters shows how people behind a computer screen can be, and often are, just as important a connection as those you see in the flesh. The three of them are all great friends who not only share the fandom stuff but their real-life events too. I also liked how Eliza realises and apologises when she does sometimes takes Max and Emmie for granted, she’s a flawed, ordinary person who mistakes and I loved reading about her.

I was on edge as the story progressed as I could tell that Eliza’s internet identity would come out and everything she had with Wallace would be put in jeopardy. I hate confrontation, both in real life and in fiction, and had grown so attached to Eliza that I didn’t want to see her hurt.

I loved Eliza and Her Monsters. I loved how various characters grew on me as the story progressed, how I could relate to Eliza but still get frustrated with her sometimes, the complexities of online and offline personas – it was all so great. Eliza and Her Monsters made me cry because it hit me right in the feels and that hasn’t happened with a book for a long time. 5/5.

REVIEW: Miss Sloane (2016)

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is the most sought after lobbyist in Washington D.C. But when she turns down the job of working against a gun control bill and instead joins Rodolfo Schmidt’s (Mark Strong) firm which is working to ensure the bill passes, she finds herself against her most powerful opponent.

Miss Sloane is a gripping political thriller. While it does feature the hot topic of gun control and putting restrictions on who can go and buy a gun, the film uses that to show the tactics lobbyists use to get congressmen onside, and how politics can be corrupted. It’s a fascinating look behind the curtain of American politics and while this story is fiction, it is an interesting look at how bills can succeed or fail.

Elizabeth Sloane is amazing. She’s one of those characters who isn’t a nice person at all and will happily use people to get the result she wants but there’s something about her that pulls you in. She is a master tactician and a thing the film does really well is it not only has multiple characters say how smart and formidable she is, but actually shows you how smart and formidable she is. Jessica Chastain knocks it out of the park in this role, showing there are some very hidden layers to Elizabeth and she has no problem with who she is.

While Chastain stills the show, the whole cast is truly brilliant. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Waterston, Alison Pill and John Lithgow all deserve a mention as they all give great performances.

The music and set design make everything about the world these politicians work in look clean and perfect but it really helps hide the truth that there is shady business going on in politics every day. All the costumes are great, with suits and office attire adding another facet to each character.

Miss Sloane is a brilliant film that will have you rooting for the underdog. Jessica Chastain is amazing in the role and it’s a film I can’t stop thinking about. 5/5.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

I wasn’t planning on rewatching and potentially reviewing all the Pirates of the Caribbean films in the run up to the fifth film’s release but I’ve seen trailers for Salazar’s Revenge every time I’ve been to the cinema recently so it gave me the craving to rewatch the series.

When governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is kidnapped by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) of the Black Pearl, blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) teams up with eccentric pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to save her.

The Curse of the Black Pearl is Johnny Depp’s first outing as Captain Jack Sparrow and it’s clear to see why Sparrow and Depp’s performance has kind of become iconic over the past ten plus years. Jack Sparrow is one of those characters who’s become a favourite to so many people. He permanently appears drunk and clueless but he often surprises everyone by having a mad plan all along. He’s funny, somewhat charming and good with a sword.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is such good fun. It’s full of action, epic duels and it does that magical thing of balancing action and comedy superbly. It’s also a very quotable film and I spend most of my time mouthing the lines along with the characters. Depp, Knightley and Bloom all have great chemistry and it’s wonderful when they’re on screen together. Everyone gives it their all, Barbossa is a formidable villain and Norrington (Jack Davenport) is surprisingly sympathetic.

I can’t not mention the score. Composed by Klaus Badelt with input from Hans Zimmer, the Pirates of the Caribbean score has become one of the most recognisable scores in recent years. It perfectly captures the fun and excitement of the film and has kind of become the theme for anything pirate related.

The special effects used on Barbossa’s crew still look pretty good over a decade later and perhaps that’s because they are used sparingly. The film waits to reveal the secret of the curse and even once it has, it still makes the moments when you see the effects of the curse truly count.

I just love Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl! It is such an enjoyable film that I do not get tired of rewatching. I honestly think the word fun is the best word to describe, The Curse of the Black Pearl. It is one of those classic, action-adventure, fun for all the family kind of films and over the years it hasn’t lost its charm. 5/5.