A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd)

A Monster Calls is a novel by Patrick Ness, from a concept and idea by Siobhan Dowd and with illustrations by Jim Kay.
Finished on: 19.7.2016

Plot:
Conor has been having horrible nightmares for quite some time now. So when he hears a voice at exactly 12.07 am that calls from him from the graveyard not far from his house, he is not particularly impressed. Not even when the yew tree in said graveyard gets up and comes to him, insisting that he was the one who called it. The monster promises Conor three stories that will help him, then Conor will have to tell his own story – the story of the nightmare he dreams almost every night.

A Monster Calls is a beautiful book in very many ways. It had me actually crying a couple of times. It’s gripping, haunting and an intimate look at very big issues and the complexities that come with being human. I loved it.

amonstercallsI went into the book not knowing much about it. I bought it a while ago based on the illustrations and finally got around to reading it (with the upcoming adaptation it’s about damn time, too). I can only recommend that you try to go in as unprepared as I did. And I can only urge you to check it out. I think it will pay off for you, too. So, stop reading the review and go read the book.

In any case, from now on: SPOILERS.
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Our Kind of Traitor (2016)

Our Kind of Traitor
Director: Susanna White
Writer: Hossein Amini
Based on: John le Carré‘s novel
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Naomie HarrisDamian Lewis, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Pawel SzajdaAlicia von Rittberg, Mark Gatiss, Jeremy Northam
Seen on: 19.7.2016

Plot:
Perry (Ewan McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris) are on holidays together in an attempt to get their relationship back on the right track. But things are tense. That’s when they meet Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), a rich, jovial Russian. He invites them for drinks and Perry accepts. Dima takes a liking to him and invites him to a party. It is there that he reveals that he works for the Russian mob and that he needs Perry’s help to deliver data to the UK – data that would secure Dima and his family refuge from the repercussions of the mob. Perry agrees to help, but when he hands over the data to agent Hector (Damian Lewis), the role he and Gail both have to play in the affair is unexpectedly far from over.

Our Kind of Traitor was a decent thriller that ends in cliché country. But for a while there, it is a good ride.

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The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

The Man Who Knew Infinity
Director: Matt Brown
Writer: Matt Brown
Based on: Robert Kanigel‘s biography of Srinivasa Ramanujan
Cast: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Malcolm Sinclair, Raghuvir Joshi, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Arundathi Nag, Devika BhiseStephen Fry, Toby Jones, Jeremy Northam
Seen on: 19.7.2016

Plot:
Ramanujan (Dev Patel) works as a clerk in India, but his passion lies with mathematics. Unfortunately he finds nobody to listen to his theories and formulas because he doesn’t have any formal education. But then he manages to convince Francis Spring (Stephen Fry) to bring his notebook to England where it reaches G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) and fellow professor Littlewood (Toby Jones) at Cambridge. Hardy in particular is intrigued by the wild talent he sees in Ramanujan and arranges for him to come to the UK. Although he has to leave his wife Janaki (Devika Bhise) behind, Ramanujan can’t let this chance for recognition go and makes his way to England and academia.

The Man Who Knew Infinity covers an interesting story but it is stuck too much in storytelling and filmmaking conventions to leave much of an impression.

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Dope (2015)

Dope
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Writer: Rick Famuyiwa
Cast: Shameik MooreTony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoë Kravitz, Rakim Mayers, Quincy Brown, Chanel ImanBlake Anderson, Roger Guenveur Smith, Forest Whitaker
Seen on: 18.7.2016

Plot:
When Malcolm (Shameik Moore) isn’t busy geeking out with his best friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) about 90s HipHop, he dreams of college. Being from a tough neighborhood, he knows that he needs everything to go very right for him to stand a chance of being accepted into a good school. But then he meets Nakia (Zoë Kravitz) and decides to go to a party to meet her again. And that’s where the trouble starts as suddenly, he finds himself in possession of drugs belonging to Dom (Rakim Mayers) and he has to get rid of them without getting caught or pissing anybody of – which is easier said than done.

Dope is a fun film that tackles a lot of political issues in an entertaining and not too much simplified way.

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High-Rise (2015)

High-Rise
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer: Amy Jump
Based on: J.G. Ballard‘s novel
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter FerdinandoAugustus Prew
Seen on: 18.7.2016

Plot:
Laing (Tom Hiddleston) just moved to the 25th floor of a new apartment building. That building is equipped with pretty much everything and follows a very hierarchical structure. Soon Laing meets his neighbors. The alluring Charlotte (Sienna Miller) lives on the floor above him, documentary film maker Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) on the lower floors, together with his family. At the very top there is the architect and owner of the entire building, Royal (Jeremy Irons). Laing hopes to rise through the ranks and thus up the floors, but unrest starts brewing in the building more and more.

High-Rise is very stylish in many ways and definitely an interesting film, but it didn’t quite blow me away. Still there’s a whole lot going on that’s worth looking at.

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Her er Harold [Here Is Harold] (2014)

Her er Harold
Director: Gunnar Vikene
Writer: Gunnar Vikene
Based on: Frode Grytten‘s novel Saganatt
Cast: Bjørn Sundquist, Fanny Ketter, Björn Granath, Grethe Selius, Vidar Magnussen
Seen on: 18.7.2016

Plot:
Harold (Bjørn Sundquist) has spent his life in his furniture shop, priding himself in the quality items he sells there. But after 40 years of this, Ikea opens a shop next to him and it doesn’t take long until he is out of business. To make matters worse, his wife Marny (Grethe Selius), who was always with him, starts showing signs of dementia. With all of his rugs pulled out from under him, Harold thinks of a desperate plan: he will kidnap Ingvar Kamprad (Björn Granath) and make him pay for all he has done to him.

The trailer for Her er Harold promised many things. Above all, it made me laugh. Unfortunately it seems that the best moments were in the trailer. The movie itself was a lackluster, disappointing affair.

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The BFG (Roald Dahl)

The BFG is a children’s novel by Roald Dahl.
Finished on: 18.7.2016

Plot:
Sophie lives in an orphanage that isn’t exactly the best place as Mrs Clonkers, who runs it, isn’t exactly a good person. But then one night Sophie watches as a huge person in a cloak runs through the city of London, blowing something into people’s bedrooms with a weird trumpet. And then that person sees her watching and simply grabs her. Soon, Sophie finds herself in the country of giants, the mysterious cloakwearer turning out to be a giant himself. Fortunately for Sophie, he’s the smallest and only friendly giant which is why he calls himself the Big Friendly Giant. But when Sophie hears what the other giants are up to every night, she knows that she has to do something.

I’ve loved Roald Dahl ever since I read Matilda as a child, but somehow, The BFG had passed me by so far. It’s a wonderful book and one of Dahl’s more linguistically inventive ones as well – and that is saying something.

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Leones [Lions] (2012)

Leones
Director: Jazmín López
Writer: Jazmín López
Cast: Julia Volpato, Pablo Sigal, Macarena del Corro, Diego Vegezzi, Tomas Mackinlay
Seen on: 16.7.2016

Plot:
Isabel (Julia Volpato), Arturo (Pablo Sigal), Sofia (Macarena del Corro), Niki (Diego Vegezzi) and felix (Tomas Mackinlay) are lost in the woods. They’re wandering around, trying to find their way, not too worried about it. They pass the time as they walk with discussions and games, and sometimes they fight. They have a tape with a record of their own interactions that seems to hint at something, but they don’t know what it is. As their meandering way through the landscape becomes increasingyl circular though, they may have to figure that out.

Leones has an intriguing concept and nice camera work but nowhere near enough material to fill a feature film (even if it is only 80 minutes long). It could have worked, but really doesn’t.

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Playing with Fire (Katie MacAlister)

Playing with Fire is the first novel of the Silver Dragons Series (which is in turn a spin-off from the Aisling Grey Series) by Katie MacAlister.
Finished on: 14.7.2016

Plot:
May is a doppelganger, an identical copy of the naiad Cyrene, made by the demon lord Magoth, to whom May is bound. Being a doppelganger comes with certain perks, like the ability to shadow, disappearing from prying eyes, that makes May the perfect thief for Magoth’s purposes. But then one of her jobs leads her to Gabriel Tauhou, the head of the Silver Dragons. And it turns out that May is a dragon’s mate and Gabriel is really very attractive. But the Silver Dragons are at war with the Black Dragons and then Magoth orders May to steal from the dragons and Cyrene is constantly getting into trouble, making May’s life a complete mess.

I’m not exactly sure why I even finished Playing with Fire. It was such an annoying book that I wanted to yell at it more than once. I definitely won’t be continuing with the series.

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Re-Read: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha [Volume 1] (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is a novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. I read the translation by Ludwig Braunfels.
Finished on: 13.7.2016

Plot:
Alonso Quixano is a nobleman who loves to read novels about chivalry and all kinds of adventures involving knights. He has read so many of them, they are starting to screw with his mind and he starts thinking of himself as a knight. Deciding that he has to go out and find adventures, maidens to rescue and villains to conquer, he leaves his niece and housekeeper behind and transforms in Don Quixote. Together with his horse Rocinante and the freshly hired squire Sancho Pansa and his donkey, they’re off to great things.

It has been many years that I read Don Quixote [Volume 1 and 2], so when it was announced that it was part of my curriculum at uni, I knew that I had to read it again. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to that, I have to admit, since I remembered that I didn’t like it a whole lot, especially not the first Volume. Re-reading it now didn’t really change that.

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