American Horror Story – TV Review

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A man and a woman and their child move into a house that is somewhat creepy. Turns out – it’s haunted and lots of scary stuff happens. Heaps of violence and sexiness and some funniness.

As with so many shows, the most graphic and freaky stuff happens in the first episode. Being a wuss, I was more than happy with that being the case. Horror, but not too much horror, thank you. Personally, I was pretty happy with the characters and what happened to them, and while I am not racing out the door for season two, I am looking forward to checking it out at some point.

 

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Amnesia by Peter Carey – Book Review

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A cyber attack has happened that has released a whole heap of asylum seekers from their detention in Australia and (possibly inadvertently) opened the doors to a whole heap of prisons in the US, released some pretty nasty folks. Not that this gets more than a mention, to the point that I forgot about it. (Was that the intention – with Amnesia as the title?). Disgraced journalist Felix Moore, a drunken member of the establishment despite believing in his heart that he is not, is employed by old friend and unclear character Woody Townes to write the story of Gaby Baillieux, the girl who released the worm that caused the problems. Felix ends up trapped in a series of remote places out of contact with everyone listening to tapes recorded by Gaby and her mother, actress Celine, transcribing the story of Gaby’s awakening into political protest and her love affair with a strange classmate.

I don’t get it at all. I feel like there is a really interesting story in here, but I don’t get why Carey has shaped it the way he has. It felt like the actions of a teenager, being wrenched to all sides by the various different people in her life being told from the perspective of an entitled, middle-class white man, and I felt there was important stuff left out. Plus, the connections between the story being told and the original attacks were weak and I struggled to care about why the story was being told. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people love it – I haven’t read any Carey for a while, and I have generally loved his work. But… this one is just not for me.

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The Secret River by Kate Grenville – Book Review

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William Thornhill is a Londoner living in poverty who almost drags himself and his wife and children into some kind of survival until he is sentenced to death for stealing wood. His sentence is converted to transportation to Australia and his wife and children join him. Once arrving in the new colony, he quickly works (for his wife in a strange and somewhat disorganised system) for his freedom and then dreams of starting life on a plot of land on the Hawkesbury River. All one needed to do was literally stake a claim – clear the land and start farming. After all, the land didn’t belong to anyone. They would just need to keep the pesky Aborigines off the land. With his wife and children, he starts to live his dream, battling his own doubts and his wife’s dream to return home to London, a dream he knows is long gone.

I found this a really odd book to read. It is wonderful, and I think extremely important and tells some of the ugly side of Australian history. I was extremely compelled at the start, drawn into the London life. Then it came to Australia, and it was fascinating to imagine the places I kind of know empty and wild. And then, this is where it got odd,  I found I was struggling to pick it up and keep reading. I just lost interest, but was annoyed with myself for that; the story was still good, and I wanted to know what happened. And then it got to the really ugly scenes, and I was glad that I had persevered. I have heard that Searching for the Secret River, which Grenville wrote about her research and putting together the book, is an excellent read. Must get to it.

 

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The Theory of Everything (2014) Film Review

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Surely everyone knows Stephen Hawking. He’s the worlds most well-known physicist, known as much for his brain as for the body he inhabits; diagnosed with ALS (also known as motor neurone disease), he is mostly paralysed and only able to communicate through technology operated by a single cheek muscle. And the Theory of Everything is his story. His early days at university; the romance with his first wife, Jane; his diagnosis and gradual deterioration, and his ideas – developing theories and challenging his own theories.

I’m sure it’s a good film. It’s an interesting story, the relationship between Hawking and his wife goes through all kinds of ups and downs, and all of that. Yet, I was a bit bored. Perhaps it is just because I pretty much know the story, although that can’t be it. I’ve seen loads of stories made into films and don’t get bored in all of them. There was also the scene where Hawking dreams of being able to get up and pick a pen for a pretty student. Listening to a great discussion about the use of disabled actors in films on the magnificent Ouch Radio Show through BBC, this type of scene is apparently very common in films with able-bodied actors playing disabled characters as it gives the audience a sense of relief that the actor is okay. This may be a somewhat cynical view of the reasoning for such a scene, but that scene brought nothing to the film and made me groan out loud.

The Theory of Everything was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Eddie Redmayne), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Felicty Jones), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Anthony McCarten) and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score. It won Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Eddie Redmayne) and Best Original Score – Motion Picture and was nominated for Best Motion Picture, Drama and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picure – Drama. It was nominated for BAFTAs for Best British Film, Best Film, Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Actress (Felicity Jones), Best Screenplay (Adapted) Anthony McCarten, Original Music, Best Editing, Best Make Up/Hair, Best Costume Design and the David Lean Award for Direction.

 

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Interstellar (2014) Film Review

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The world is dying. There is not much food and there is dust everywhere. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer, but was previously an astronaut. Now, with his father (or father-in-law, I can’t recall if that matters) Donald (John Lithgow), he is raising two children; Murph (Mackenzie Foy, then later Jessica Chastain and still later, Ellen Burtsyn) and Tom (Timothee Chalamet and then later Casey Affleck). Then he ends up stumbling across a NASA station or something and gets roped in to a mission to explore possible inhabitable planets through a wormhole. There is the Professor (Michael Caine), a fellow astronaut, Brand (Anne Hathaway) and later the nice surprise of Mann (Matt Damon. Didn’t know he was in this film!).

Yawn. I just couldn’t get into this film. I couldn’t car about the characters, I didn’t have any particular care about the planet dying. I think it is a really well made film, if about an hour too long (it’s just under three hours). The one standout thing was the soundtrack – amazing, really bringing forth the emotion without being overly annoying or overbearing.

Interstellar was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Hans Zimmer), Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer) and BAFTAs for Best Cinematography, Best Original Music (Hans Zimmer), Best Production Design and Best Special Visual Effects

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We Bought a Zoo (2011) Film Review

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Adventure writer Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is coping with the loss of his wife and raising two children when he decides to buy a zoo. It’s a run down place that needs a series of renovations to bring up to code to open in the summer, and has a skeleton staff who are dedicated to keeping the animals as best they can despite a lack of money. Working with them, in particular Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson), Benjamin finds a way to run the zoo and connect with his kids.

I think this was marketed as a film for kids, but I think it is too sad for many kids. And then there are a couple of bit with animals which I found a bit scary, but stick a bear in a film and I just expect the worst. But I don’t think it is for adults, it is just too child focussed. I believe it did well at the box office. It’s okay. Though I was distracted whenever the little girl was onscreen – she is just far too ridiculously adorable.

 

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The Promise (2005) Film Review

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I love an epic film with beautiful costumes and amazing fight sequences. Unfortunately, this also has some terribly special effects and even worse wigs – you can see the plastic reflecting in the light. If you can ignore that and the overbearing soundtrack, and storylines that don’t quite make sense, watch it. Sounds like it it’s not worth anything – that’s not true. It is absolutely stunning. I watched it from a recording that I had taped off television, and that meant that I was able to stop it and rewind a few times, to see if I had just drifted out and missed a bit. But I hadn’t – it was just all very confusing.

So, I think the story is that a girl was saved from poverty by a goddess who made her promise that she would never find true love. Then there is a slave who can run really fast and he saves the now adult woman from a nasty prince or king or something. But she ends up with his boss. And there is another slave, but he is dodgy (but what amazing makeup) and then the slave guy goes back to the home world guided by the guy with the makeup and, um, the girl is still with the boss and… I don’t really know. Confusing and strangely put together, but quire stunning.

The Promise was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.

 

 

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