The Book Pile – 01/04/2021

It took me a long time to pick up a book this year. I just didn’t have the motivation to. A mixture of not sleeping, work and lockdown had gotten to me and reading was the last thing I wanted to do. Then Later by Stephen King arrived, which I had ordered way back when the book was first announced. It was a nice surprise as I had forgotten about it. I started reading it while waiting for dinner to be cooked and felt like I was back home.

After Later, I decided to continue my challenge of reading of every Stephen King book. The next on the list was The Bachman Books. Really 3 books that King wrote under the name Richard Bachman. The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man. I didn’t know much about these books before reading. I knew the premise of The Long Walk and I had heard of The Running Man, mostly because of the film though. There is also a 4th book, Rage, which isn’t in modern collections of The Bachman Books, removed by King due to the nature of the plot, a school shooting. I have read Rage, a little while ago, borrowing my mum’s copy of it and enjoyed it.

The Long Walk is about 100 young men who have taken up the challenge of walking, continuously, without break until every one of them falls. If they stop for 30 seconds they get a warning, 3 warnings and the next time they get a bullet. It takes an hour to remove a warning. This is in a similar vain to The Hunger Games or Battle Royale. When I started reading, the writer inside me almost panicked. What is supposed to happen while they all walk, not much can happen. The story will run out of steam pretty quickly. Well King manages to pull it off. While I think it’s the weakest of the three and there are places where it starts to drag, it’s still an enjoyable, if forgettable, experience. There’s real tension at points and the friendship between the men on the walk does shine through. Definitely an enjoyable read.

Next up came Roadwork, which while I had mixed feelings about The Long Walk, almost as soon as I started Roadwork, I knew this was going to be one of my favourites. A road is be being built through a city and this is set to ruin Barton Dawes’ life. His home and workplace are set to be demolished and Dawes’ who is already grieving for his son, snaps and can’t take anymore. Almost straight away, the narrative shows how unstable Dawe’s is and it works really well. Even before I knew everything that was going on I was completely hooked. Like most of King’s best work, this story wasn’t about the actual plot, it was about a human emotion, grief. The devastation of losing someone so close and you really feel it. This is the one I will come back to at some point. I loved this one and near enough read it all in one day. It’s short and I would recommend this to anyone.

The final book in this collection is The Running Man. At a loss for money, Ben Richards takes part in a barbaric game show to earn enough money to get his child medical attention. He is chosen for The Running Man, where he will be hunted across the world and every hour that he survives he earns $100 for his family. Out of the 4 Bachman books that I’ve read, this one feels the least like King’s writing. It took me a few pages to actually get into it, but once I did I was hooked. It’s dark and twisted and I really wanted Ben to survive as long as possible in order to keep his daughter alive. Well worth a read.

The last book that I’ve read this month is completely different. The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride. A stream of consciousness book following Eily, a student actor studying in London and her first love with an older actor. I’m not a big fan of Stream of consciousness books, which try to mimic the chaotic nature of thought. I had to read enough of these in university to put me off. If I had known this about The Lesser Bohemians I probably wouldn’t have started reading, but as I already had it I gave it a go. By 10 pages in I was ready to give it up. I was struggling, with re-reading sections and not 100% sure on what was going on.

I then tried something, I read passages aloud and started getting a feel for the poetry in the words, once I’d read the following 6 or 7 pages out loud it started to click. I had to go back to the start and re-read parts, but it all opened up to me and ended up really enjoying the style. It feels very personal reading about this relationship in this style and it’s brought me around to trying other books in a similar style. Once I had gotten used to it, it was very gripping and I did enjoy it. I do think that overall the book is disappointing though. Take out the experimental style and there is a bare bones stories of a dangerous relationship where I didn’t feel that they belonged together. It’s volatile throughout and I wasn’t rooting for them to stay together by the end. I think it’s worth a read just to get inside the head of Eily for a short while and I will definitely be trying out other books by McBride.

At the moment I’m reading Imajica by Clive Barker. A book that I’ve had for near enough a decade and finally decided to crack open. I’m 110 pages in and enjoying it so far. It’s almost 900 pages, so it’s probably going to take a while. I’ve not read much of Barker’s work. Only The Hellbound Heart and The Scarlet Gospels. I’ve always wanted to read more and now I am.

Thanks for reading, and until next time,

Ashley

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End of March

We’re almost a quarter of the way through 2021. It’s gone quickly and Christmas seems like yesterday almost. Hopefully with lockdown easing and a new normal on the horizon we can all get outside and start doing things that makes each day different. I’ve spent most of my time reading, writing and watching films. After the last post, I’ve written a little bit each day and am getting into my new story. It’s very rough at the moment, and not very long but it’s getting there. I don’t want to say too much.

Last year, in the summer I spent a some time walking around the neighbourhood listening to music. This lasted a few weeks until it got unbearably hot and I had to retreat back inside. It was during one of these walks, that an idea formed. It started as just a scene, a few characters on a park bench. How did they get there? I knew it was the ending of something, with the sun setting on them. But I didn’t know much more than that. Over the next few days, while washing up, in the shower, or on other walks, it started to piece together. At first I thought this would work well as a movie. It would be short and chaotic. The music I was listening to was bringing everything to life. I don’t know the first thing about making movies, and instead started to think what it would look like as a book.

It’s taken me a long time to put words down for it, but it’s finally started. I think the best ideas stay with me, rattling around in my head waiting for the right moment. I have snapshots that have been alive in my mind since I was in school, I just don’t have the rest of the story for them just yet. It just takes a little time sometimes for the pieces to fall into place. I don’t keep a notepad full of ideas, as I feel that the good ones stick around and whenever I have had a spur of the moment thing and written it down, the next time I come to it, I usually don’t like it.

I have no idea when I’m going to be finished with this one, or when I will be able to share it, but it is coming. I’ve said before that this it the most realist thing I’ve written, and that’s true. Everything in this story could happen, and probably parts of it have happened. I have been working on another couple of short stories, that should hopefully be finished soon to post on here.

I’m going to do another couple of short posts in the next few days. One about the books I’ve read this month, and one about the films I’ve watched.

Thanks for reading, and until next time,

Ashley

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Zack Snyder’s Justice League

How to watch Snyder Cut - here's where you can stream Justice League this  weekend | GamesRadar+

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film that I didn’t think would ever see the light of day. After the atrocious reaction to Batman V Superman and the hacking of Justice League I thought Warner Bros would just move on to find success in their solo films, such as with Wonder Woman and Aquaman. There’s even a new Batman right around the corner. When they announced that the infamous Snyder cut was going to be released on HBO MAX I was a little shocked, but to be honest I didn’t care that much.

Too much time had passed and living in the UK I had a feeling that it would be something that we wouldn’t get straight away. I thought the original Justice League was just OK. Nothing spectacular but not horrendous. I liked Batman V Superman a lot when I first saw it, but even so did not follow the fan campaign to release Snyder’s Justice League very closely. I’m glad it’s finally available and happy that it was released in the UK on the same day as the USA. It’s a testament to allowing directors and writers free reign over their films and not letting test audiences and fan reactions influence the final product.

The film picks up pretty much where Batman V Superman ends. Superman is dead and Bruce Wayne is getting a team together to stop an unknown enemy. Joining Batman on his team is Wonder Woman, and the ‘meta humans’ that were hinted at in the last film, Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash. Steppenwolf has been called by Luthor at the end of BvS, and knowing that there is no Superman on Earth arrives to find the Mother Boxes.

Overall the plot is very similar to the original version. There are some alterations and the running time is around double the length, but the major plot points are still there. There isn’t any twists that you wouldn’t see coming if you’ve seen the original. Which isn’t to say that this version isn’t worth watching. The extended run time definitely gives the back story and plot points a lot more time to breath and the film works a lot better. There is also a hell of a lot less crappy one-liners that were just flat out not funny. It’s more cohesive and works well as a solid superhero film.

The length is probably the biggest sticking point for me. It is very long and in places it feels it. I’m glad that we are finally seeing the original version in full, and without compromise, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. By two hours in, it does feel like it takes it toll a little. While the film picks up enough to not make it feel like a chore, maybe it should have been released like a mini-series as was announced last year. It would have probably worked better to pace it out. I also think if Cyborg got he’s own origin film, then a lot of the build up could have been done there, rather than pile it all into Justice League. I will say this though, it may be one of the longest films I’ve ever seen, but I wasn’t at any point tempted to give it a break or stop. I did enjoy my time with it, it’s just that four hours is a very long time.

CGI is all over the place, some of it looks amazing while other parts look awful. I imagine this is down to the production taking place around half a decade apart and the lower budget to finish off Snyder’s original version. It’s not horrendous or too distracting, but it is noticeable and something that I think would look bad on a big screen, rather than on TV.

The ending though is more than worth the four hour run time. The half hour epilogue sets up the sequels perfectly, building on Batman’s nightmare vision from Batman v Superman. It’s very dark and twisted and an interesting direction to take the characters in. Something I would expect from a limited series run of comics rather than a massive blockbuster. While the film does drag on, the last half hour gives it a pump of adrenaline that left me excited while the credits rolled.

I liked it a lot more then the Whedon version and I hope there is a sequel. It would be a real shame not to see the end of the story that Snyder and co. have started. I have a feeling that it won’t ever get made as DC and Warner Bros move on to a younger Batman and the recently announced Superman re-boot.

One last thing that I liked was during the credits it gave space to mention the the Fourth World was created by Jack Kirby. Such an amazing series and hopefully more people will learn about the magic that is Jack Kirby and seek out the Fourth World stories.

Thanks, for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – Snyder’s Trilogy

The Epic Failure of Batman v Superman – The Nerds of Color

Following on from Man of Steel, I spent Thursday re-watching Batman V Superman for the first time since watching it in the cinema, and this time I watched the Ultimate edition, with an added half hour or so. When I first saw this film, I had such low expectations, I didn’t like Man of Steel the first time round (check out my last post to see how that has changed), the reviews were awful and I hadn’t followed any of the hype. The only reason I saw it was because Tabby, myself and a friend has just got Cineworld cards, and could see anything we wanted at any time. We watched Jungle Book and then just on the spur of the moment decided to watch Batman V Superman. I remember thinking, at least I will be able to laugh at it.

I went into the film the first time with such low expectations that I suppose anything would have been a surprise. I ended up really enjoying it and thought that Jessie Eisenberg was fantastic as Lex Luther. That was all I really remember about the first time watching it, thinking it was much better than I thought and the cast was fantastic.

So going into it a second time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. For all I knew it was just low expectations that made me enjoy it the first time round. This time I thought it was even better. The Ultimate Edition comes in at around 3 hours and it genuinely doesn’t feel that long and the additions make it more cohesive. The film starts showing the origins of Batman, which to be honest is something that we don’t ever need to see again in film, everyone knows the story by now so it’s just wasted time. After that it shows the ending of Man of Steel from Bruce Wayne’s perspective, which is a perfect way to set up why Batman would want to kill Superman. It works so well.

In the opening scene you can completely understand why Batman would want to kill Superman. It sets up the rest of the film perfectly. We then get to see Clark Kent investigate the Batman and the harm he’s caused some of the citizens of Gotham and it’s completely understandable why he would want to kill Batman. Behind everything is a plan, orchestrated by Lex Luthor. I don’t want to give too much away, beyond that. It’s dark and twisted and I really enjoyed it.

For me personally, the stand out performance is Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. I know that some people have criticised him for being more like the Joker than Luthor, but in an interpretation of the characters where Superman and Batman have both killed people, then this doesn’t bother me at all. It works in the context of the film. I think he holds the whole film together. Ben Affleck is also a brilliant Bruce Wayne and Batman. He feels like an aged Batman and it’s a real shame that we aren’t going to get a solo film with him in the cowl.

I think the score to this film is a bit mixed. What I mean by that is when Wonder Woman finally appears and her music kicks in, it elevates the whole score from being forgettable and makes it feel more evident that the film series doesn’t have anything close to John William’s score to the Christopher Reeve Superman films. It works for the most part, but the Wonder Woman theme is far beyond the best piece of music in the film.

Overall I think the film is really good. It is messy at points and it probably could be cut down a little, but I think the script by Chris Terrio and David Goyer works really well and Snyder’s direction gives the film a distinctive tone and it works very well as a sequel to Man of Steel.

My re-watching so far has made me re-evaluate Man of Steel as a better film and I enjoyed Batman V Superman even more than the first time. My next post will be about the Grand Finale, Zack Snyder’s Justice League. I thought that Whedon’s Justice League was fine. It wasn’t brilliant and wasn’t horrible. A by the numbers superhero film with lots of one liners that don’t work. A disappointment following Batman V Superman but ok in it’s own right. Not something I would recommend and quite forgettable. Come back next time to see what I think about the 4 hour version.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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Man of Steel – Snyder’s trilogy

Now that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has finally been released, I feel like it is finally time to go back and re-watch Man of Steel and Batman V Superman before watching the grand finale at the weekend.

Man of Steel, which I haven’t seen since it released way back in 2013 kick’s off Snyder’s Trilogy. When I first saw this film I did not enjoy it, thinking it was too long and filled with silly moments that didn’t work for me. I still think there are some silly moments, but I did enjoy the film a lot more with the second viewing. Even the final fight sequence didn’t seem to drag on into eternity.

Man of Steel is the beginning of Zack Snyder’s DC trilogy and gives us Superman’s origin story, from humble farm boy to the saviour of the world. The film opens with the final days of Krypton, and show Kal-El being sent to Earth to survive the destruction of his home planet. We then get flashes of him growing up being cut into watching him do odd jobs here and there until he does something heroic or otherworldly and has to leave before someone finds out who he is. Eventually Zod comes to town and things go bad and that’s as much as I can say without entering spoiler territory.

The whole cast is brilliant in this film. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams shine brightly as Superman and Lois Lane and they work amazingly well together in the short time that they share the screen. It’s a shame they don’t get more time together and so much of the final sections of the film are taken up by Superman and Zod throwing each other around the city. The effects in the film are also really well done. It feels like Superman is flying around on screen and the city falling apart looks hauntingly fantastic.

My biggest gripe with this film is the overuse of shaky camera, which makes some parts especially the open feel as if you’re watching a pirated version that someone filed in the backrow of a cinema. It wouldn’t be a surprise if a silhouette got up and walked along the bottom at most points of the film, it’s that distracting. It doesn’t add anything to the film, unless the idea was to give a sense of motion sickness. It’s not a found footage film, so there is absolutely no need for it. It just serves as a distraction to what’s happening on screen.

I think the reason I didn’t enjoy the film back when it was first release was purely down to my own mindset going into it. This was supposed to be to Superman what Batman Begins was to Batman, it even had Christopher Nolan as a producer and co-story writer. There was a lot of hype and few things live up to that. I think with almost 8 years between the release and now, Man of Steel has some room to breath and I was more willing to give it a chance to be it’s own thing without the baggage of what came before.

Overall the film is still a standard superhero origin story with a great cast, there isn’t much that breaks the formula massively. It’s enjoyable, funny in places and has some cool set pieces, but beyond that it’s nothing to write home about. It’s worth a watch and I’m looking forward to Batman V Superman tonight. Back when BVS came out, I was expecting it to be so bad, not being a fan of Man of Steel and with the atrocious reviews. When I left the cinema I was surprised at how good I thought it was. I’m hoping it wasn’t just low expectations that let me enjoy it and BvS lives up to my memory.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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