Sunday Morning

Hello everyone!

I feel it’s been a little while since I wrote an update post, so thought it would be good idea to have a catch up. I haven’t written any fiction so far this month, which is frustrating but I have been busy with reviews and reading. At the time of writing this I have six full reviews written to be posted in the future and hoping to get even further ahead in the next few weeks. I’ve also been reading a lot recently, and have read more books during September than I have in all previous months of the year combined, which I’m pretty happy with. I have a few more to read over the next couple of weeks and will be reviewing some of them. I have set a reading challenge for myself as well, which I won’t reveal just yet, but I’m in the process of completing it and it’s going smoothly so far.

I’m going to be covering London Film Festival again this year, and have already started watching and writing up reviews for the films I have online access to. I’m hoping to watch and review even more than last year, so keep an eye out for that. As soon as the dates were announced earlier in the year I booked them off work, so I’m also looking forward to my first full week of work this year. I’ll be off from the 4th until the 17th October, so will be getting plenty of films watched, books read, and hopefully get some writing done. I’m not going down to London for the full festival, as the hotel costs are incredibly high, but I’m going down for three days and will be watching a ton of exciting stuff.

The other thing I’m doing with my time off, other than getting my eyes tested (which I should have done about three years ago), is finally start travelling. I have a trip booked to Turin for three days. I’ve wanted to go to Italy for years, which started due to the Assassin’s Creed games (and now I’m going somewhere not featured in the games), but have decided to go due to a Dario Argento exhibition in Turin. I have everything booked already, and am nervously excited. It’s the first time I’ve been on a plane, and the first time I’ve left the UK since 2003. I’m also planning on going to a few filming locations from Argento’s films, so will probably write a post about that as well.

I’ve also been watching TV, keeping up to date with House of the Dragon, which I’m loving, and Rings of Power, which I wish would speed up a little. As I’m sure most Game of Thrones fans were, I was a little nervous about House of the Dragon, after the poor Season 8, but it’s been superb every episode, and has had a stronger season one than Game of Thrones did. Loving it so far. With Rings, I’m enjoying it, but it’s excruciatingly slow. I feel like barely anything has happened in almost six hours. It’s a beautiful looking show, but I’m hoping the plot moves a bit quicker. I enjoy it while it’s on, but I don’t look forward to the next episode like I have been for House of the Dragon.

That’s what I’ve been up to recently, as well as some of my upcoming plans.

What have you been reading and watching recently? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading and speak again soon,

Ashley

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Don’t Worry Darling – Film Review

Director: Olivia Wilde

Writer: Katie Silberman

Starring: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, and Chris Pine

Rating: ★★½

The trailer for Don’t Worry Darling, Olivia Wilde’s second feature length outing as a director, is one of the best trailers of recent memory. It was completely enticing, and while it felt very much like The Stepford Wives, it still looked like the film was going to be something special. Then before it was even released the film got bogged down in a lot of very messy drama, and that seemed to overshadow everything. Now the film is out, and underneath all of the hype and news headlines it’s a fairly standard thriller, but it could have been so much more.  

The mystery at the heart and centre of the story is really interesting at the beginning. Everyone is living in a seemingly perfect community surrounding the Victory Project, at least until Alice (Florence Pugh) starts to suspect that not everything is what it seems. She’s experiencing strange hallucinations, and no one believes her, not even her loving husband Jack (Harry Styles). Quite quickly it becomes evident that there’s something wrong, and nothing seems to be adding up. The strange dreams that Alice is having are hypnotic and even when she’s awake it feels like she’s never safe.

Florence Pugh is excellent, as usual, giving a stunning performance that pretty much makes the film, especially in the scenes where she comes face to face with Chris Pine, who is also on top form. Pine plays Frank, the leader of the Victory Project, who is very sinister and sleazy throughout the film. Styles, on the other hand, is horribly miscast, and while you’re watching it you can’t help but think that the film would be better if there was someone else in the role, who had with better chemistry with Pugh. There’s even a moment later in the film that tries to explain the way he’s acting and his dodgy accent, but it’s doesn’t make his performance any better. It’s a copout explanation at best.

It takes way too long to get there, but the mystery is explained pretty much all at once towards the end of the film, and that’s when everything goes wrong. It’s making a point about misogyny, with things like how men can feel inadequate if they earn less than their partners, but what’s actually going on is so underwhelming. It’s not original and is a waste of everything that was building up to that point. Worst of all, the reveal just raises even more questions that I won’t go into due to spoilers, and the more time you spend thinking about it, the more it unravels.

Going into spoiler territory a little, right at the end there’s a chase sequence with Alice running away from everyone living in the community. It’s supposed to be tense, with you willing Alice to survive and get away, but because of the twist you’re just questioning why aren’t the bad guys doing this, why aren’t they doing that? I won’t delve any further into spoilers, but I was not invested in the chase at all, because it just makes no sense.

Don’t Worry Darling is sadly a massive disappointment. While there are some fresh ideas, it’s incredibly derivative of other stories like The Stepford Wives and WandaVision.There are some good performances, but it’s way too long and the answer to the mystery is just lacklustre. If you’re going to see this based purely on the trailer, then set your expectations much lower. The trailer is excellent, the full thing is only okay. It’s still enjoyable and while you’re figuring it all out, the mystery it is engaging, but overall, it’s largely forgettable.

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This Books Kills by Ravena Guron – Book Review

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron is a great mystery story set at an elite boarding school. The story is written from the perspective of Jess, one of the students at the school whose life is turned upside down when Hugh, her best friend’s boyfriend, is murdered and it seems that the killer was inspired by a story that Jess co-wrote for school. When it becomes clear that neither the police nor a private detective hired by Hugh’s family are going to solve the case, Jess joins together with a few other students to investigate the case themselves.

The actual murder-mystery is great, there’s a ton of clues so you can figure it out for yourself. I didn’t quite solve it by the time of the big reveal, but I had plenty of theories floating about. The actual resolution makes a lot of sense, and doesn’t come as too big of a surprise. It’s very gripping and I ended up reading the whole book quite quickly as I wanted to know who did it.

Jess is a great character, and feels very realistic. The only reason she’s at the school is due to a scholarship, which is in danger due to the murder. Her personality shines through the narration and I found it very easy to get inside her head as the story progressed. She’s was born in England, but from an Indian family, and doesn’t really feels like she fits in. It’s an interesting dynamic to her character and I think that side of her is really well written. The rest of the characters are well written as well, especially since for most of the story you don’t know if you can trust them as well.

My only the gripe with the story is that despite Jess getting death threats from the murderer, her mother doesn’t pull her out of the school. Instead, Jess always manages to calm her down over the phone. The school are trying to save their reputation, but none of the students get pulled out by their parents, even after other students are attacked. As the story moved on, this became more of an issue.

Despite that, I did really enjoy this book and I would recommend it. Very easy reading with a killer mystery. When I finished the book I was a little sad to say goodbye to the characters, but I will definitely look forward to whatever’s next from Ravena Guron.

This Book Kills will be released on the 5th January 2023

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Lou – Film Review

Director: Anna Foerster

Writers: Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley

Starring: Allison Janney, Jurnee Smollett, Logan Marshal-Green, Ridley Bateman

Rating: ★★★

Netflix’s latest thriller, Lou, started its life as a script from Maggie Cohn that was on the 2015 Black List, before being picked up by JJ Abrams’s Bad Robot, with director Anna Foerster signing on as director in 2016. In the long road to being released the film was picked up by Netflix and was released today.  

It follows Lou (Allison Janney), who is living on a remote island and clearly holding onto a secret. We know that from the opening scene, which shows her preparing to commit suicide, before the main story takes hold, and you instantly want to know more about her. She clearly doesn’t like people, shrugging off any niceties from the locals on the island as she goes about her day. She shows no empathy to her tenant Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), who can’t afford rent as she’s preparing for the incoming storm the island is facing.

The mystery of Lou’s past and the secret and redacted documents she has in her possession, really grab you instantly. It’s a great opening, and not all of the cards are played straight away. It takes a while for everything to settle into place, which keeps you hooked as the story starts to get going. During the storm, Hannah’s power goes out and while she’s trying to get it back, her daughter Vee (Ridley Batemen) is kidnapped, by her estranged father Philip (Logan Marshall-Green), who had previously faked his own death. Hannah goes to Lou in order to get help, who doesn’t hesitate at all to set off after Philip and find Vee before they’re able to leave the island.     

There are some pretty decent action sequences throughout the film, most notably when Lou takes on two of Philip’s henchmen in a shack in the middle of nowhere. You get to see her fighting skills in full force as she makes full us of her surroundings to take them down. Using an opened food tin as a makeshift knife and throwing steaming food over them. It’s a real rough fight scene, and the best piece of action in it. Allison Janney is really great in the scene, as well as giving a brilliant performance the rest of the film.

There’s a twist around two-thirds of the way through, where we’re given the motive for everything that Philip is doing. While it comes as a bit of a shock, it does make the film a little messy, and it’s around that point that everything really starts to lose steam. We already knew that Lou had a secret, but when it’s revealed it doesn’t really connect in an emotional way. It doesn’t land correctly as it’s over the top and silly but still takes itself seriously. What starts of being a more grounded and gritty version of Taken, ends up with a one-on-one fight on the beach with CIA helicopters closing in.

Lou is a fine film, but ultimately, it’s not very good. The first half is great, but it fails to stick the landing and ends up being a little dragged out. Once the reveal has happened, there’s still a fair bit of story left to go, but it’s not tense or exciting. Just going through the motions until the final credits roll.  

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Ticket to Paradise – Film Review

Director: Ol Parker

Writers: Ol Parker and Daniel Pipski

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd, Mazime Bouttier, and Lucas Bravo

Rating: ★★★★

George Clooney and Julia Roberts reunite for the funny and heart-warming romcom Ticket to Paradise. A very easy-watching comedy that makes for a great time, something that’s perfect to just switch off to and enjoy, mainly due to how great the performances are.

After graduating Lily Cotton (Kaitlyn Dever) travels to Bali with her best friend before setting forth to become a lawyer. While she’s there, Lily starts to question her path in life once she falls head over heels in love with Gede (Maxime Bouttier). Her divorced and forever bickering parents, David (George Clooney) and Georgia (Julia Roberts), are shocked to hear that their daughter is due to be married, and travel to Bali to try and stop the wedding, putting aside their rivalry to work together.

The film is a blast to watch. It’s not doing anything that original, but it is very well made and incredibly funny. From the opening scene with David and Georgia recounting their engagement from two opposing angles to different friends, right through to the final moment, there’s plenty of laughs. Even the credits are funny with a blooper reel playing alongside them. The setting of Bali is also perfect for the low-stakes comedy, being absolutely gorgeous to look at, and seems like it’s literal paradise.

While the comedy is front and centre, there’s also a more sentimental and sweet side to everything that becomes more prevalent as the film reaches the final act. It all works so well because of how great the characters are. George Clooney and Julia Roberts are absolutely fantastic, with great chemistry between them that feels completely authentic, which probably comes from how long they’ve known each other in real life. Their constant bickering and quips at each other are really funny, and also feel natural. When you first meet the characters it’s hard to believe they were once in love, but by having the common goal of stopping their daughter from rushing into marriage like they did, they start to remember what they liked about each other in the first place and it’s just that life got in the way. It also has to be said that Billie Lourd is also great as Lily’s best friend, Wren. She’s not ready to be an adult and has some of the moments of the film as she drinks her way through most scenes.

There’s no real surprises in film, with the usual rom-com structure being used. As you’d expect, there’s some conflict, but nothing too major and everything works out in the end. This isn’t reinventing the genre, but it’s really well made and manages to side-step some of the usual pitfalls. Gede knows about David’s and Georgia’s plan almost straight away. The relationship between Lily and Gede is also really solid right the way through, with only the smallest of wobbles, and there’s no grand and dramatic Austenesque gesture needed towards the end.  

Ticket to Paradise is an instant classic romcom and one of the funniest films of the year. Clooney and Roberts are superb together. Hopefully this will give new life to the genre.

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