Room (2015) Film Review

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Ma (Brie Larson) has been held in a room by a horrible man, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), kept as a sex slave, for years. She has a son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who was born in Room – it is his whole world. All Ma wants to do is protect her son and leave. Jack doesn’t know that anything is wrong with the way they live. And then, finally, they get free… and they need to deal with the outside world, with reuniting with family, with the press and just everything.

The book was hard but wonderful, and this is an excellent interpretation. I think the performance of the young boy was particularly wonderful – not only in his little world, but coming into the real world. Heartbreaking.

Brie Larson won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, and Room was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Lenny Abrahamson) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Emma Donoghue)

 

 

 

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Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993) Film Review

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After her time in hiding in the convent in Sister Act, Deloris (Whoopi Goldberg) has hit the stage as a headlining act in Vegas when the sisters come to ask for her help. They have been assigned to teach at a rough school in San Francisco and need her to come, teach music and get the kids in line. Of course, she goes, and before you know it, she’s whipped the music class into a choir and they’re out to prove themselves to the world.

This is a really good, fun film. Sure, there are some parts of the plot that are a touch weak, and I love films that are set in rough schools yet all the teacher needs to do is raise their voice slightly and they have them all in their seats and listening (rough? Hmm… in my experience, that’s quite polite), but ignore that. What you want to watch are the characters. Of course, we have Delores and the wonderful nuns from the first film (including the wonderful Maggie Smith and fabulous Kathy Najimy) but then there are the kids; Lauren Hill obviously stands out, but whether we know their names, they are a great little ensemble. Sister Act 2 is a classic film of the early nineties and it rates as one of the top comedy sequels – I found I liked it a lot more than the first one.

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Sister Act (1992) Film Review

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Deloris (Whoopi Goldberg) is a lounge singer in Reno who witnesses her gangster boyfriend, Vince LaRocca (Harvey Keitel) kill a man and is put into witness protection – in a convent. Of course, she is all streetwise and sweary and cynical and the nuns are fearful like Mother Superior (Maggie Smith), totally naïve like Mary Patrick (Kathy Najimy)and Mary Robert (Wendy Makkena) or cynical like Mary Lazarus (Mary Wickes). It’s a disaster – and then Deloris is put in charge of the choir and funks it up, and everyone loves it – the nuns are having too much fun, the local people are literally pouring in off the street, even the Pope hears about it. Everyone except Mother Superior, who is dead jealous and can’t stand to lose the power she has over them all.

It’s really a pretty awful film in many ways. I have a lot of issues with organised religion, yet I found myself getting annoyed that some outsider felt she could tell the nuns how to do their business… Plus, surely most nuns these days (even the really old ones) work in the community, and while they may have opinions about things that happen, they’re not in their convents to hide. Reading too much into this? Hell, yes. It essentially is a fun bit of fluff with some pretty fun singing and silly faces. Perhaps I should just back off a bit.

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Q&A vs Slumdog Millionaire

Q & A by Vikas Swarup – Book Review

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Just fabulous. If you don’t remember Slumdog Millionaire (the award-winning film based on this book) from a few years ago, the premise is pretty straight-forward. A Ram Mohammad Thomas from the poorest parts of India manages to get on to their equivalent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and wins the whole way. But given that he has very limited education, the producers are suspicious and have Ram arrested and tortured. But, as he tells his story to a lawyer who appears to defend him, he doesn’t know very much, but events in his life have led him to know the answers to the questions which he is asked.

I can see how appealing it was to make a film from this – the story is simple but beautifully told, with a cinematic eye for detail, not too many characters, and it really is a great tale. It’s fun, at times tragic, at times hilarious. Absolutely worth getting your hands on.

 

Slumdog Millionaire – Film Review

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This is a really enjoyable film. The actors are great, especially the delightful children who play the youngest versions of the characters. The story from the book was written so perfectly for adaptation, and even though there was a lot of detail from the book that was lost or changed to ensure a film that lasted 90 minutes rather than 500 minutes.

There were just a couple of tiny things that I found somewhat disappointing. The key one was that, in the book, the lawyer who helps the poor boy when he is arrested and being tortured is a woman, and this is significant in the book. Yet, for no really clear good reason, in the film, this is a man. I am always going on about women in films and wondering why there are not more women in many roles – and here was a perfect role for a woman and it’s given to some guy. Ok, not just some guy, Irrfan Kahn, a well known and respected actor. Still. Disappointing.

Slumdog Millionaire won Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Direction  (Danny Boyle) Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Score, Best Achievement for Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Song (Jai Ho) and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, and was nominated for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement for Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Song (O Saya).

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Me Before You vs Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Book Review

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Lou Clark is a bit odd, a bit quirky and a bit useless. She’s stuck in a relationship with a guy she doesn’t really like that much, living at home and the café where she’s been working for several years has just closed. Her family is barely coping financially and so Lou is forced to take and remain in a caring job – being a companion for the grumpy and rude Will Traynor – ex high-flying CEO who is now paraplegic after a car accident.

I knew that this was going to be a tear-jerker. I also suspected that it might be somewhat offensive, in that there is a huge issue with representing disabled people as preferring to be dead than disabled. However I felt that Moyes represented things well in this book. It was clear that this is how this character feels, and clear that many other disabled people do not feel this way. I thought it was very clever the way it represented the way many able-bodied people treat people with disabilities – embarrassment, condescension, confusion, even anger. And I like that it might make people think about how they treat people around them.

 

Me Before You (2016) Film Review

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The story is the same – quirky girl meets depressed and recently disabled man and they find a connection. And it was great – great in exactly the way the book was. Of course, it didn’t get into the depths of the book, and having read the book, I was slightly disappointed that some of the back story and motivation was missing, but I think had I seen the film first, I wouldn’t have missed it. But one thing I have to get out of the way – it was Khaleesi! I was stuck on who the actress was playing Lou, and was stunned to learn that it is Emilia Clarke who is also Khaleesi in Game of Thrones – such extremely different characters! My only real complaint was that I didn’t feel much chemistry between the two of them, which I think was really needed.

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Chinese Cinderella: The Secret Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah – Book Review

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Adeline Yen Mah’s mother died giving birth to her in China in 1937 and from then, her older siblings considered her to be bad luck. Her father remarried a woman who disliked and treated all of his previous children badly, and none more than Adeline. The children fought for their own place in the world, and Adeline always had the worst of it, despite the love of her aunt and grandfather. This is her story.

As I read it, I felt it was quite a basic telling of the story. It told of some quite horrible events in the life of this poor, unhappy child, however it seemed quite lightweight. It was only later that I realised that this is the version of the author’s story that has specifically been written for younger readers – I’m thinking early teens, probably, or perhaps a bit younger. Adeline Yen Mah has also written an adult version called Falling Leaves, and I am now interested in reading this. I think this is an excellent account for a young reader, but I want more.

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The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon – Book Review

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Pasha Ivanov is a writer in Russia as it comes through Gorbachev and the end of the cold war, the fall of Communism. He recalls as a child, sitting in his family home as his parents and their friends, dissidents, met. Now, as an adult, he is struggling with his writing, with his relationships, with his connection to what the USSR was, what Russia is now, and what Russia has ever been.

I found this a very difficult book to engage with. I was surprised, as it was recommended by my mother who loved it and read it quickly, and is now wanting a reread. Often, we have similar tastes in books. But I found it hard to connect with Ivanov, I had trouble remaining in the time that each section was placed in, and I really struggled with what was dialogue and what was internal monologue. I usually have no problem with non-traditional representation of dialogue, and by this I suppose I mostly mean not using talking marks, but with this book I would think that a character had finished speaking and then realise a paragraph or two later that it was a longer story, and have to reread. Clearly, there is an audience for the book, but I’m afraid I’m not it.

The Memory Artist has been loved by many. It was listed within the Top Ten list from the ABCs “The Book Show” of books of 2016 as well as winning the Australian/Vogel Literary Award for 2016.

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