Book Review: The Rise of Nine (Pittacus Lore)

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Plot: The Mogadorians who destroyed the planet Lorien continue to hunt for the Garde, the small group of Loric survivors who have taken refuge on Earth. During a dangerous mission at a Mog base in West Virginia, John found and rescued the brutish Nine. But even with their combined powers, special abilities known as Legacies, the pair barely escaped with their lives. And in the process, John’s best friend, Sam Goode, was lost and taken captive by the enemy.

In order to save him—and our world—John and Nine must join forces with Six and Seven who have been battling the Mogs in Spain, and who are now trying to locate Number Eight in India. The Garde must come together before it is too late. They are Lorien and Earth’s only hope.

Firstly, it took me ages to write this review. Analyzing how I felt and whether the book was good took me a chunk of time. This is the third book in the series, and I would love to continue until I have finished the entire set. (Read reviews here and here or the first two books). Of the three novels I liked this one second best, after I am Number Four, although I still felt that it had plenty of mistakes.

Despite the title suggesting that The Rise of Nine is focused primarily on the adventures of Nine; the book shifts between the members of the Garde.  You barely get to know Nine – he just seems like a big brash teenager with way too much ego and way too little sense. He frankly irritated me, and he is by far not my favorite. His pissing contest with Fouris ridiculous, and if I wanted to watch Fast and The Furious for a battle of the penis, I would have. I see Michael Bay had a favorable review of these books, and it makes sense – there is a lot of bang and smoke but very little effect. Reading “The Rise of Nine” was like reading a Michael Bay film – not something I’d actually recommend that often. The book has so many drawn-out fight scenes it feels like I would guess how a book version of his work would read.

I really like Six, and wouldn’t mind a book focused on her. I guess that this series is aimed at teenage boys, which makes that wish highly unlikely to occur, but she’s an interesting character and one of the strongest. Also, least annoying.

I’m not sure where they are heading with the American Government siding with the Mogadorians, but it seems rather vague and silly at this point in the books (though not looking at the current administration, which makes it more likely). While I remember this sore point for me – the “Mogadorians” or “Mogs” is the stupidest name I have ever heard for a fictional race.

The number of dumb decisions these kids make is very high – you can just see high hormone levels drives their life choices. Particularly the final and ridiculous battle with Setrakus Ra. This “all powerful being” attacked in the middle of the series when half the Garde is seriously maimed and they still escape without a casualty? Stupid stupid.

There are some glitches and the writing is by no means perfect, and I really think I’m just too old now for this, but the books are good for light reading and are a fast thing once you get going. I found that final fight stupid. It is starting to feel that things work out for these kids because they must, not because of some brilliantly revealed plot. I am still enjoying the Legacies the kids develop, that at least remain pretty cool.

I will likely read the rest in due course, because it is good for when you want to read but don’t want to think too much about it. I wouldn’t recommend this series to anyone over seventeen actually, but it isn’t too rough just for some mindless semi-dystopian drama.

Rating: 6/10

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Movie Review: The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

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Plot: Shunned by everyone for being the son of an evil warlord, a teenager seeks to defeat him with the help of his fellow ninjas.

In an unexpected turn of events, I consented to watch the Lego Ninjago movie Sunday night. There are a number of films which I’ve seen, and wanted to see, in cinema this year, of which Ninjago didn’t even register as a possibility. However, I was under obligation to adhere to the “birthday-person-is-allowed-final-word” clause, and I sat down and watched Ninjago.

I suspect Lego is laughing all the way to the bank. It is pure genius business decision, and contains enough adult humor to entertain parents while stressing them out – every child that sits through one of these films will end up wanting some new Legos (hell, I think a lot of adults end up wanting new Legos after a film like this). It is a feast for childish imagination and is bright and colorful and really very excitable. I want to sanctimoniously preach to the parents who had their children out of bed on a Sunday night at our 20:30 screening, but I guess that is beside the point. It is child based and sweet, although it does pale in comparison to 2015’s Lego film. It is funny and cute but lacks some of the sharp dialogue that has become expected in animation films.

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Ninjago also has some seriously crazy moments and I couldn’t help but wonder which choice herbs they were smoking when thinking of the ideas they implemented. It was very weird. I liked Jackie Chan as Sensei Wu, Dave Franco as Lloyd Garmadon and Justin Theroux as the not-so-evil-supervillain Garmadon. Typing that out made me realize that this film barely had a plot or a conclusion (the end is particularly haphazard), but ultimately, for children, it is fine. Personally I enjoyed the first Lego film more, and I’ve been informed that Lego: Batman is a finer film than Ninjago.  However, Ninjago has some laugh-out-loud moments and it was bright, quirky and still not nearly as bad as I expected so all to them.

Have you seen Ninjago? If so, what did you think?

Rating: 6.5/10

Movie Review: The Intern (2015)

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Plot: 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin.

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The Intern was touching, sweet and a kind movie. It is a feel good film, the characters are set up to succeed, and really, don’t expect any plot twists. What made this film stand out for me is the warmth of Robert De Niro’s Ben – a retired 70 year old who applies in a senior intern program at Jules’ (Anne Hathaway) wildly successful but very new company. Anne Hathaway is really also quite wonderful in her role as Jules, and it manages to bring up so many things that successful women have to face – the guilt of working long hours when you have a young child, the judgement you face from other mothers with less ambition, the questions you need to endure as a CEO which a male CEO would never have to face, the emasculation your husband is doomed to feel because his fragile ego can’t deal with your success, and the scary feeling that you are employing hundreds of people who depend on you making good choices.

But The Intern doesn’t stop there. It is about making older people feel relevant and important, how important it is for retired people to feel that they still have a cause – that is something that sits very close to my heart – and also a reminder that older people have knowledge and skills that we would do well to pay attention to.

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The cast, lead by Hathaway and De Niro, really contribute to the heart that makes this film work. I would love to have the style and class Rene Russo has when I’m all grown up, Adam DeVine is there for some funny laughs – this guy has the best facial expressions – and Andrew Rannellis, Christina Scherer, Nat Wollf, Jason Orley and Zack Perlman as more colleagues bring a variety of dramas and meltdowns and adventure to the film. JoJo Kushner is such an adorable little girl – like if I can be guaranteed I’d have such a cute child I would maybe even consider having one. Anders Holm has the unfortunate task of playing the emasculated husband, and he was for the most part really sweet and I was impressed by how well Matt was dealing with having a successful wife until he was a douchebag and I was revolted – but he was cute at least.

The Intern has some problem with pacing at some times, not all the scenes are shot very well and there is a ridiculously positive tone to all the events – so not really the perfect movie, but  I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it sweet, strong messaged and fun to watch.

Have you seen this? What did you think?

Rating: 6.5/10

Book Review: Jewels of the Sun (Nora Roberts)

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Plot: Determining to reevaluate her life, Jude Murray flees America to take refuge in Faerie Hill Cottage, immersing herself in the study of Irish Folk and discovers hope for the future of the magical past.

Finally back home in Ireland after years of traveling, Aidan Gallagher possesses an uncommon understanding of his country’s haunting myths. Although he’s devoted to managing the family pub, a hint of wildness still glints in his stormy eyes–and in Jude, he sees a woman who can both soothe his heart and stir his blood. And he begins to share the legends of the land with her–while they create a passionate history of their own..

Rating: 6.5/10

I always think that I have read all that there is to read with Roberts. I think of her work in four categories – her JD Robb work I haven’t really touched, her thriller mysteries which I devour,  her romance trilogies such as this, which I really thought I had covered them all, and her Mills and Boon novels which I really rarely, rarely venture in to.

So when I the Gallaher family series naturally I had to investigate. There is a clear distinction between  Nora Roberts writing Irish stories and real Irish writers writing Irish stories. They can’t be grouped together and Roberts really writes perfectly nice books about them but it is clear she doesn’t have the cultural grasp of the nation as the authentic ones do. Her characters are nearly cartoonish with their cultural habits and they are all, always, the “black Irish”. But anyway, I’m not here to bash one of my favorite authors, that is just the impression I wanted to share with you.

Jude Murray – who names their child Jude? – is unsure of who she is when she lands in Ireland. Since we’ve all been there I won’t really blame her. She meets the incredibly attractive and remarkable single bar owner, Aidan Gallagher. She’s clearly immediately what he’s been waiting for his whole life, and he finds her neurosis and anal personality endearing and not irritating as shit. (Because this is a totally legitimate love story). But there is more – Jude is living with the town ghost, who has been cursed to stay as a ghost in eternity because she spurned a proud Prince Fairy’s advances when she was a married woman. Men and their fragile egos aren’t made for positions of power. So there are some conversations with ghosts and fairies and sad souls all in the midst of Jude and Aidan falling in love, and we are kept entertained and a little flabbergasted throughout the book.

Despite all my mean spirited thoughts, I actually did like this book. It is innocent, empty fun and you don’t have to think way too much about it. Despite the cartoonish cultural attachments, I enjoy Aidan. He’s obviously written to be a hero and he’s good at that. Jude is my favorite of the three female characters in the trilogy – Darcy is a gold digger and Brenna was written as this fiercely independent woman who really wasn’t a fiercely independent woman. Jude might be neurotic and insecure but she’s the most believable of the three female leads. The entire trilogy didn’t need the ghost element – it is certainly not the main focus of these romance novels, and it mostly feels pushed in to breathe some life into the often lagging plot.

Anyone looking anywhere for some real characters or even just a love story that feels legitimate will probably not like this. If you are in the midst of stressful exams like I was, this might just get you through the week and prevent you of beating your zoology professor to death.

Blindspot 2017: Ghost (1990)

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Plot: After a young man is murdered, his spirit stays behind to warn his lover of impending danger, with the help of a reluctant psychic.

Sitting down and finally watching Ghost was such a rewarding and fun experience for me. The 1990 Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore CGI extraordinaire feast gave me a good couple of laughs, and while I am sure the film was never created for laughs, it is a side effect of watching a 90s film with CGI in 2017 for the first time. However, the film holds really well in the test of time. It has that really hot scene with the clay and sexy time in, and that is a really well shot scene even today. The sweetness of Demi Moore’s Molly and Patrick Swayze’s business-orientated-but-wildly-in-love Sam is a really lovely relationship on screen.

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The little “devils” arriving to take all the evil ghosts made me snort with laughter. The “angels/white light” arriving to fetch the good guys is so expected but still so good to see. Vincent Schiavelli makes a really creepy Subway Ghost and did really well acting deranged and loony. Patrick Swayze’s body magic through train walls was amazing to behold. Demi Moore was really shockingly beautiful in an innocent way in the 90s – not many women would be able to pull off hair like that, and her sadness and confusion in the situation she found herself in was done well enough that I found her sincere. Patrick Swayze is attractive in a 90s way, and I really enjoyed seeing him in something other than Dirty Dancing (my exposure to him is bad, I know).

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The stand out performance is that of Whoopi Goldberg, who very deservedly won an Oscar for her role as Oda Mae Brown, the fake psychic who somehow manages to become a real one when she’s able to hear Sam when he is a ghost. She is forced to help him because he bugs her senselessly until she relents, and her irritation and attitude, as well as her quick fire remarks, made this role tailor made for Whoopi Goldberg.

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You probably shouldn’t be thinking too hard about his movie, but it is really a nice piece of cinematic history to sit through. I can see myself watching it again without any fuss – definitely excellent popcorn entertainment.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Come Sundown (Nora Roberts)

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Plot: The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana is a family business, an idyllic spot for vacationers. A little over thirty thousand acres and home to four generations, it’s kept running by Bodine Longbow with the help of a large staff, including new hire Callen Skinner. There was another member of the family once: Bodine’s aunt, Alice, who ran off before Bodine was born. She never returned, and the Longbows don’t talk about her much. The younger ones, who never met her, quietly presume she’s dead. But she isn’t. She is not far away, part of a new family, one she never chose―and her mind has been shattered…

Come Sundown has a different tone than Nora Roberts book usually has. It firstly really had way less sex scenes (something that drives Zoë absolutely nuts) and the biggest pull for me was the fact that our heroine did not lose her personality the second she got some action. Bodine Longbow is pretty awesome. She runs the resort her seriously rich family owns. She’s a staple in her family, and they all rely on and trust her decisions. The “competent woman” had me cheering. Bodine is also written with a lot of warmth. She’s a generous and giving woman and her successes does not change her perception on the world or make her hard and cynical. I also liked Callen – he has heart, is not intimidated by money and is impressed rather than scared by Bodine’s straightforward and problem solving attitude. Then there is Alice, the other main character in this book. She broke my heart, and I’m sure everyone who have read this book will feel the same. What the character goes through remains a fascinating and eery topic, and it always grabs my attention. How sick can the human race be? Well, every time I think I’ve seen it all something else happens. Alice was a rebellious girl. It is clear throughout the book that she was never the perfect child but everyone agrees – she didn’t deserve the 20 years she got as punishment.

I (unfortunately) spotted one villain pretty early one – you must really just read properly to catch it. I thought Callen’s little war with the Deputy was silly and was only there to show how manly and adult-y Callen had become. I sincerely wished I got more of Jessica and Chase’s story. I’d be happy to have had them as main characters or even just more spotlight on them. In fact, if Nora wants to write a book ten years into the future where they rediscover their relationship, I’m ordering my copy now.

I think the best benchmark I can give you is to say that one night I was awake until three reading this book. If that doesn’t speak of the gripping quality it has, nothing will. It’s a big book so do gear yourself up for a massive adventure.

Have you read Come Sundown? If you have, let me know in the comments.

 Rating: 8.5/10

Movie Review: Valerian and the city of a thousand planets (2017)

Plot:

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Plot: A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Couple of things about this film:

1) What the actual f? Valerian and the terribly long name was super long, extremely boring and amazingly pompous.

2) Who authorized the amazingly stupid and sexist decision to remove Laureline’s name from the movie title? Cara Delevigne is the only thing that actually works in this stupid, time wasting, teeth gnashing mishap.

3) Terrible, terrible dialogue.

4) Don’t watch this

5) As much as I like the guy, Dane DeHaan is miscast. He works in awkward and nerdy roles. This intergalactic officer with cheesy pickup lines laced with some sexual harassment made him look even more uncomfortable than he usually looks.

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6) Delevigne is the best thing about this film. Laureline clearly faces the same issues women face in their place of employment – sexual harassment, being overlooked for their male colleagues and always being subtly shut down when they are clearly a leader in their field.

7) The stunning visuals and CGI of the film is the only thing that keeps me from rating this movie a 0. It looks particularly good, and the fact that this is an independent production and managed to look like it did deserve a few points.

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8) The Pearl race was gorgeous, and their little converter was super damn cute. Too bad you can’t save the film with cute animals.

I actually don’t give enough fucks about this shitty piece of drawn out shit to write out full sentences, hence the bullet points above. You can steer well clear – this is exactly how I felt about Fantastic Beasts – it’s pretty but it doesn’t have a point. That said, at least Fantastic Beasts is better and has SOME POINTS.

Rating: 4.5/10

Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017)

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Plot: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

When will it stop?That was what I thought most frequently during the duration of Dunkirk. The endless bombing, the endless attacks, the lack of hope and the unseen enemy made Dunkirk anything but comfortable to sit through. The masterful score by Hans Zimmer heightens the dread. Every time a bomb went off it felt like a vibration in my heart. The correct use of young men for the majority of the army served to highlight that World War II was fought by young, scared men. Dunkirk doesn’t make them heroes – it makes them human. The cast is excellent – from the weathered and powerful lines of Kenneth Branagh to the stoic and impeccable (as usual) performance by Tom Hardy, the movie has an ensemble cast that will leave you impressed. Harry Styles takes on his first role as an actor and he does so remarkably well. I had a moment when I heard that he’d been cast in a Christopher Nolan film, but rest assured, not only did Nolan state he had no idea who Styles was when he was cast; Christopher Nolan would never cast a subpar actor no matter who he was. Styles impressed me – he is authentic and talented and I will probably like him much more as an actor as I ever liked him as a boy band performer.

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Another mention should be given to Jack Lowden, the other pilot in Air, alongside Tom Hardy. It takes significant amount of effort to divert my attention from the talented and gorgeous Hardy, but Jack Lowden managed to keep his own. He had one of the most intense scenes in the film, trying to get out of his slowly sinking aircraft. I will hope that this is not the last time I see this actor in a film, he was talented and worth the watch.

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As for the rest? It is too much to mention. It is about young, imperfect men fighting a seemingly hopeless war. Don’t expect too many acts of heroism – the only definable act can be that of the ordinary British people who got into their little boats to head to Dunkirk and evacuate 300 000 men from imminent death. The majority of the film was intense and scary, but that moment where Commander Bolton sees the tiny ships approaching had me sniffling back tears. The moment wasn’t the often used emotional manipulation in movies – Nolan is above that and is well capable of crafting a powerful scene that hits you in the feels without having to manipulate you to get you there.

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Dunkirk is haunting. It is typically Nolan. I wouldn’t name it as my favorite Nolan or war movie, but it is excellent in both categories. It serves as a reminder of the greatness of the human spirit, and sounds a clear warning to a state this world should never enter into again. I will readily admit I am a sucker for war heroes and get pulled into it every time, and this had the same result. I highly recommend it for movie lovers.

Have you seen Dunkirk?

Rating: 8.5/10

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Movie Review: Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)

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Plot: Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.

Yes, I’m still alive. I’ve just been sucked into the vortex of two weeks of study leave followed by catching up said two weeks’ worth of the activities that pay my salary.  It’s been hectic, and I’ve had to drastically downscale both blogging and actually watching things. I got a chance about two weekends ago with Spiderman: Homecoming, which is incidentally the superhero film I’ve been least excited to watch. I have some interesting friends (these are the same people with who I watched Power Rangers with), so note that it there is an actual explanation for me finding myself in cinema for the zillionth remake of the Spidey.

I didn’t dislike Homecoming. It was just so Marvel. I’m a big Marvel fan, but these guys make the same film with different actors all the time. That doesn’t say Tim Holland isn’t a solid Peter Parker. Despite already being 20, he’s the youngest looking actor we’ve had to date in this role. He does his very best to appear teenagey and awkward, which is about as successful as a young attractive guy pretending to be awkward is bound to be. My love for Michael Keaton continues – he is the coolest person in the world at this stage, and him as Vulture made some of the best times in the film. His quest for villainy was a bit one sided and this was definitely not the strongest villain Marvel has eked out, but Keaton certainly did his best with the work.

I liked Zendaya quite a lot in her role as MJ – she’s just my spirit animal with her stand offish-ness and overall awkwardness.

Homecoming also features Tony Stark/Iron Man, probably the most loved Marvel superhero at this stage. It is an obvious ploy on the side of the studio – who doesn’t want to see Iron Man suited up and in action. I always like RDJ in this role, he’s as much this character as Hugh Jackman is the Wolverine. I appreciated his presence, and although it wasn’t really defined at stages and he seemed awfully dictatorial towards the kid. Happy (Jon Favreau) comes across as one big, rushed bully and it didn’t really jibe with what we’ve come to expect from him.

What more? This film is extremely long. I was fidgeting in my seat by the end of it. It is big and boisterous and really colorful. It has a lot of flash and plenty well cast characters.

Homecoming won’t be my favorite superhero film of the year – there was Wonder Woman, I still need to see Logan and I’m sure it is going to blow me away, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Thor and Justice League still need reviews too as well. So, herewith my final comment: Homecoming certainly wasn’t made for me, but I think them teens sure loved it.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Rating: 6.510

Movie Review: Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

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Plot:A young woman who’s reinvented herself as a New York socialite must return home to Alabama to obtain a divorce from her husband, after seven years of separation.

I wouldn’t want to be the woman who had to choose between Patrick Dempsey and Josh Lucas. It seems criminal to be faced with such a decision. This is what befalls Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon), a successful fashion designer in New York. When the lovely Andrew Hennings (Dempsey) proposes, Melanie, real-surname-Smooter, must head back to the place she’s been avoiding for the last couple of years like the plague, to get a divorce from her high school sweetheart Jake Perry (Josh Lucas), without alerting the press and Andrew’s mother, who just happens to be the mayor of NYC.

But naturally all is not as easy as it should be. Melanie is faced with the fact that she’s become an uppity Yankee snob, and an uncaring one at that. Jake has a lot of secrets, and he’s clearly not as over her as he wants her to believe. There are many people of her past that hasn’t forgotten the mayhem she caused in her life, and that they are comfortable with who they are despite not being upstate and fancy.

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So yes, I wouldn’t want to choose between the blue eyes of Josh Lucas and the warm charm of Patrick Dempsey. It would be SAD. This film is your basic romantic dramedy. There are some attempts at deepness – talk of a miscarriage and Jake knowing he would have to make a drastic change to win back his estranged wife, and lots of subliminal messages about just being yourself and not hiding away your past. There was also so much 2002 fashion in Witherspoon’s outfits that I had a grand time laughing at it – who would have thought that a mere fifteen years later the choker-fashion would return?

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
 Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey
Credit: Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

I enjoyed Sweet Home Alabama. You need to walk in without too much expectations – this is just your basic enjoyable romance. A 7/10 for me.