The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

The Secret Life of Pets
Director: Yarrow CheneyChris Renaud
Writer: Cinco PaulKen Daurio
Cast: Louis C.K.Eric StonestreetKevin HartJenny SlateEllie KemperAlbert BrooksLake BellSteve Coogan
Seen on: 11.8.2016

Plot:
Max (Louis C.K.) has the best life a dog could possibly have. He loves his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) and she loves him and takes care of him. But then one day, Katie brings home another dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Duke is huge and new and he’s here to stay. Max can’t have that, especially since Duke uses his size to bully Max. Their feud takes a turn for the worse when they are both captured by animal control, and then freed by the bunny Snowball’s (Kevin Hart) Flushed Animals resistance group.

I liked much about The Secret Life of Pets, but I didn’t fall in love with it as much as I thought I might.

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Yeelen [Brightness] (1987)

Yeelen
Director: Souleymane Cissé
Writer: Souleymane Cissé
Cast: Issiaka KaneAoua SangareNiamanto SanogoBalla Moussa KeitaSoumba TraoreIsmaila SarrYoussouf Tenin CisséKoke Sangare
Seen on: 10.8.2016

Plot:
Niankoro (Issiaka Kane) and his mother (Soumba Traore) have fled from his father Soma (Niamanto Sanogo), a powerful sorcerer. When Soma is starting to catch up with them, Niankoro departs on a journey to visit his uncle and get his advice. In his pocket is a magical artefact that could potentially give him the power to beat his father – and is the reason that he is pursued so relentlessly by him.

Yeelen draws on Malian myth(s) to tell a story that is deeply embedded into Malian culture and tradition and to tell it in a way that is decisively not “Western”, not Hollywood. To the European eye, that makes it sometimes a little harder to understand, but also fascinating.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the first novel in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy by Ransom Riggs.
Finished on: 9.8.2016

Plot:
Jacob has always been very close to his grandfather Abe who told him all kinds of stories of his childhood in an orphanage led by Miss Peregrine, among children that all had very special gifts. Only as Jacob grew older, he stopped believing in those stories. Then his grandfather is attacked and Jacob sees a strange monster that nobody else is able to see. He is unsettled, to say the least and convinces his father to head to Cairnholm, the island where his grandfather’s orphanage was, to find out more about his past and to hopefully be able to separate fact from fiction.

I was really looking forward to reading this. With the old photographs that Riggs actually collected and that served as a starting point for his story, and then as illustrations, the book makes for a gorgeous package. Unfortunately I couldn’t really get into the story.

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The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

The Legend of Tarzan
Director: David Yates
Writer: Adam CozadCraig Brewer
Based on: Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ short stories
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Margot RobbieSamuel L. JacksonChristoph WaltzDjimon HounsouSimon Russell BealeJim BroadbentBen Chaplin
Seen on: 7.8.2016

Plot:
Years ago the man known as Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) became John Clayton once more and returned from Congo to his home country of England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). Now he’s trying very hard to leave his wild past behind him. But then George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) turns up in London, accusing a Belgian/Congolese mining company run by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) in the name of King Leopold of slave trade. He needs John’s help to prove it, so reluctantly, John agrees to return.

I didn’t expect Tarzan to be very good and it wasn’t. But it did surprise me in some of the ways that it was bad. That’s… an achievement, I guess.

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Blue Steel (1989)

Blue Steel
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Kathryn Bigelow, Eric Red
Cast: Jamie Lee CurtisRon SilverClancy BrownElizabeth PeñaLouise FletcherPhilip BoscoKevin DunnRichard Jenkins
Seen on: 7.8.2016

Plot:
Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) only just finished police school and she’s eager to work and to prove herself. On her first patrol, she becomes involved in a robbery, leading to her shooting the armed robber. One of the bystanders, Eugene (Ron Silver), grabs the robber’s gun, though, and leaves before he can be noticed. Since it now appears that Megan shot an unarmed man, she is suspended from work, only to be reinstated after a deadly bullet is recovered from a murder scene with her name carved onto it – and homicide detective Nick Mann (Clancy Brown) counts on her help to catch the killer.

Blue Steel is a more than decent thriller with a fantastic Jamie Lee Curtis and a tense story. It pretty much kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

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[SPOILERS] Continue reading

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words (Mike Carey, Peter Gross)

Tommy Taylor and the War of Words is the sixth book (issues 31-35.5) in The Unwritten series of comics, written by Mike Carey, art by Peter Gross, with cover art by Yuko Shimizu.
[Here are my Unwritten reviews so far.]
Finished on: 5.8.2016

Plot:
Tommy knows he has to confront the cabal and Pullman head-on. But that is easier said than done especially as he’s still learning about how exactly the world and his powers work. At the same time, Wilson’s diaries manage to fill in the history of the cabal, Pullman and Anna Rausch in more detail.

Tommy Taylor and the War of Words starts by filling in some blanks in the backstory of the world, but it also works to a first really big climax of the story so far, one that definitely left me excited for what’s coming next.

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Re-Watch: Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day aka ID4
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Cast: Will SmithBill PullmanJeff GoldblumMary McDonnellJudd HirschRobert LoggiaRandy QuaidMargaret ColinVivica A. FoxJames RebhornHarvey FiersteinAdam BaldwinBrent SpinerJames Duval
Seen on: 4.8.2016

Plot:
Satellites pick up a strange signal from outer space and soon huge spaceships arrive and position themselves around the earth in strategic points. Communications expert David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is convinced that the aliens will attack and tries to get in touch with the President of the USA (Bill Pullman). Since the two of them don’t have the best history, this is easier said than done. When counterforces are finally mobilized – led by people like Airforce Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) – the aliens turn out to be near invincible. What is needed now is creative problem solving and everybody working together.

I was 11 when Independence Day came out and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the film since, though it had been years that I’d seen it. After the catastrophe of the new film, I decided that a re-watch was in order to wash away the bitter aftertaste. An excellent decision, as ID4 is still an entertaining bit of popcorn cinema, even after all these years.

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Kindred Spirits (Rainbow Rowell)

Kindred Spirits is a novella by Rainbow Rowell.
Finished on: 3.8.2016

Plot:
Elena is a huge Star Wars fan. So when the new film comes out, giving her a chance to see a Star Wars film in the cinema as it is released for the first time, she can barely contain her excitement. And she decides that she wants to queue outside of her local cinema, maybe to prove something to herself and to the world. When she arrives there four days before the film starts, she is the third in line. But other than that, nothing is as she expected. The line just doesn’t grow any longer. So she spends those days with the incessantly talking Troy and the surly Gabe, always worrying about where she could pee. But Elena is determined to see this through.

Kindred Spirits is a fast, incredibly sweet read. Rowell once more manages to create vivid characters with a deep love and respect for fandom. It’s simply lovely.

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Re-Watch: Mean Girls (2004)

Mean Girls
Director: Mark Waters
Writer: Tina Fey
Based on: Rosalind Wiseman‘s book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdamsLizzy CaplanDaniel Franzese, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey ChabertJonathan Bennett, Tina FeyAmy Poehler, Tim Meadows
Seen on: 3.8.2016

Plot:
Cady (Lindsay Lohan) spent basically her entire childhood in Africa* with her zoologist parents (Ana Gasteyer, Neil Flynn), but now they have returned to the USA and Cady finds herself in a regular (USAmerican) high school for the first time in her life. She is understandably overwhelmed, but finds first alliances with outsiders Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese). But also the Plastics, the popular girls of the school led by Regina (Rachel McAdams) take an interest in Cady – and Cady will have to figure out where she fits in and who she is.

(*I am not sure anymore whether it’s specified where in Africa, or if this is yet another case of “Africa is a country”. But neither wikipedia nor imdb give any hint other than Africa, so I’m leaning towards the latter.)

I watched Mean Girls a few years ago and found it entertaining enough and on the better end of the teen movie spetrum, though not amazing. Since it has gained quite a cult following (on tumblr at least) in the meantime, I thought I’d give it another go. But it didn’t really change my first impression of the film.

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6 Years (2015)

6 Years
Director: Hannah Fidell
Writer: Hannah Fidell
Cast: Taissa FarmigaBen RosenfieldLindsay BurdgeJoshua LeonardJennifer Lafleur
Seen on: 3.8.2016

Plot:
Melanie (Taissa Farmiga) and Dan (Ben Rosenfield) have been together since they were kids and are still very much in love. Now an exciting new time has begun for both of them. Dan works as an intern for a record label and Melanie started college. But the changes to their lives start to disrupt their relationship, and rather violently at that. Will they be able to work things out or do they have to face the fact that their more adult selves will go their separate ways?

The question of what happens to a relationship when the people involved undergo big transformations – will they develop in the same direction or rather grow apart? – is interesting, and in a coming of age context it seems particularly intriguing. But unfortunately 6 Years couldn’t really sustain my initial interest.

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