Re-Read: Graceling (Kristin Cashore)

Graceling is the first Graceling Realm novel by Kristin Cashore.
Finished on: 30.1.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other Graceling Realm novels.]

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Katsa is Graced: she has a special and extreme talent. Unfortunately, her Grace is to kill. She has suffered her whole life for it, constantly pressuring herself to get herself under perfect control, while having to work as a common thug and contract killer for her uncle, King Randa. But Katsa sees the injustices in the kingdoms around her and decides that she can atone for her Grace by setting some things right. Therefore she forms a council that works for the people. When Katsa and the council rescue an old man who has been kidnapped and Katsa meets another Graceling, a fighter, she soon has to see that something is really very wrong in her world.

Last year, a new Graceling Realm novel finally came out and since it’s been practically a decade, I decided it would be time to give the series another go. And I’m happy to report that it’s still a wonderfully engaging read.

The book cover showing a woman with a sword over her shoulder in a barren, green-tinted landscape.
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Kate (2021)

Kate
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Writer: Umair Aleem
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Woody Harrelson, Miku Patricia Martineau, Tadanobu Asano, Jun Kunimura, Michiel Huisman, Miyavi
Seen on: 28.1.2022

Content Note: racism

Plot:
Kate (Mary Elizabeht Winstead) is an assassin who was basically raised by her handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson). Kate is starting to grow weary of the assassin’s life, but has agreed to finishing the job they’re currently on. Only she ends up poisoned and knows that she only has a day left to find out who poisoned her and why and to exact her revenge. The trail leads her to the Kajima yakuza and Ani (Miku Patricia Martinea), granddaughter of Kajima (Jun Kunimura). Ani’s and Kate’s path have crossed before, and soon Kate finds herself protecting Ani more than using her to get her revenge.

I thought that watching Mary Elizabeth Winstead kick ass for two hours (which was pretty much all I knew about the film going in) could not be boring. I was wrong.

The film poster showing Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau) and Varrick (Woody Harrelson) in a neon frame.
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The Royal Treatment (2022)

The Royal Treatment
Director: Rick Jacobson
Writer: Holly Hester
Cast: Laura Marano, Mena Massoud, Cameron Rhodes, Amanda Billing, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Grace Bentley-Tsibuah, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Sonia Gray
Seen on: 26.1.2022

Plot:
Izzy (Laura Marano) runs a salon in New York together with her mother (Amanda Billing) and her grandmother (Elizabeth Hawthorne). She practically knows everyone in the neighborhood and is happiest when she can help, although money is always tight. One day, Izzy gets called to cut Prince Thomas’ (Mena Massoud) hair who is in New York for his engagement party. It was a mix-up regarding hair salons, but Izzy will not let the chance pass. When she meets Thomas, things are quite electric. And just maybe they can offer each other what they need and have been lacking so far.

The Royal Treatment is one hell of a confused film that doesn’t really satisfy the romantic itch for me. It just doesn’t come together.

The film psoter showing Prince Thomas (Mena Massoud) and Izzy (Laura Marano) smiling, each in front of their home backgrounds: a castle for Thomas, New York for Izzy.
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Love, Dance & Egg Rolls (Jason Tanamor)

Love, Dance & Egg Rolls is the first novel by Jason Tanamor.
Finished on: 9.1.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Jamie loves to dance Filipino folk dances, a fact he carefully keeps under wraps at his high school, despite dancing at an Asian Folk Festival every year. Given that his former friend turned high school bully keeps sending him racist messages, the mood in Portland during the Trump administration is heated anyway, and even his best friends say racist things every once in a while, Jamie keeps considering leaving his Filipino heritage behind altogether – despite his love for egg rolls and Tinikling. But then he learns that the Asian Folk Festival will happen for the last time this year, and on the day of the Homecoming dance no less. Jamie has to decide who he wants to be. And maybe Bethany, the cool goth girl he has had a crush on since forever, can help him find his way.

Love, Dance & Egg Rolls is better in theory than in practice, I’m afraid. I liked that it takes on racism in a humorous way, and shares its love of Filipino culture, but it felt rough and the writing is simply not particularly good.

The book cover showing a drawing of Brown legs as they dance the Tinikling.
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Red Notice (2021)

Red Notice
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos, Ivan Mbakop
Seen on: 4.1.2022

Plot:
John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is an FBI profiler, working together with Interpol, specifically Inspector Das (Rity Arya) to finally catch renowned art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). Operating off a tip from the mysterious Bishop (Gal Gadot), herself an art thief, things go sideways for Hartley after he catches Booth: it looks like The Bishop set him up, too – and Hartley ends up not only in the same prison as Booth, but also in the same cell. Despite their antagonistic relationship, Hartley and Booth agree to work together to get The Bishop. But that’s easier said than done.

Red Notice is a heist movie with an Indiana Jones touch and a nice cast – so I really don’t understand why it is so very lukewarm.

The film poster showing Hartley (Dwayne Johnson), The Bishop (Gal Gadot) and Booth (Ryan Reynolds) in evening wear.
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The Countess Conspiracy (Courtney Milan)

The Countess Conspiracy is the third novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 4.1.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Content Note: abuse, domestic violence, miscarriages

Plot:
Sebastian Malheur has quite a reputation, and the least of it is that he is a rake. No, he is known for his scientific endeavors about the inheritance of traits, a topic bound to rile people up. Only what people don’t know is that Sebastian is merely the public face of these theories. They are actually the work of his best friend, Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. Violet would like to remain respectable and pursue her work in peace. But Sebastian needs for things to change. This causes the two of them to re-evaluate their relationship and come clean about more than just their science.

I enjoyed The Countess Conspiracy, though maybe not quite as much as I hoped I would. I just didn’t fall in love with Violet and Sebastian as a couple.

The book cover showing a white woman in a purple ball gown and white gloves.
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Encanto (2021)

Encanto
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith
Writer: Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, Lin-Manuel Miranda (songs)
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma
Seen on: 3.1.2022

Plot:
Many years ago, Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) had to flee her home together with her husband and her three children. On their flight, her husband didn’t make it, but Abuela got a gift, a miracle that gave her and her family magic powers and a safe haven in a magical house. Now the Mardrigal family uses their gifts to keep the village going. Everybody in the family got a different gift. Everybody but Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) that is. Now it is Mirabel’s little cousin Antonio’s (Ravi Cabot-Conyers) turn, and there is a certain tension in the air. What if Antonio doesn’t get a gift either? But even after Antonio is successful, there is something wrong – and Mirabel is determined to fix everything.

Encanto is sweet, touching and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, its colorful world-building and characters.

The film poster showing a house wrapped in flowers and the Mardigal family in its courtyard, with Mirabel at the front.
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Holidate (2020)

Holidate
Director: John Whitesell
Writer: Tiffany Paulsen
Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu, Jake Manley, Julien Marlon Samani, Nicola Peltz
Seen on: 2.1.2022

Plot:
After a brutal break-up, Sloane (Emma Roberts) is alone for Christmas, a fact that her family will never let her forget, trying to set her up anyway they can. When Sloane’s more free-spirited aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) suggest that she should just get herself a holidate, a guy to keep her company during the holiday parties, to escape the hassle, Sloane is hesitant at first. But then she meets Jackson (Luke Bracey) who is equally fed up with dating around the holidays. They agree to try holidating for New Year’s, and since it works out rather well, they agree to continue until they have something better. But maybe there is nothing better for them than each other.

Holidate is a cute film with a few good moments, but both Sloane and Jackson remained a little too bland to make the film really memorable.

The film poster showing Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) with uncertain faical expressions standing next to a Christmas tree.
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Re-Watch: Inkheart (2008)

Inkheart
Director: Iain Softley
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on: Cornelia Funke’s novel
Cast: Eliza Bennett, Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Sienna Guillory, Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Rafi Gavron, Andy Serkis, Jennifer Connelly
Seen on: 1.1.2022
[Here’s my first review of the film.]
[Here are my reviews of the entire trilogy this is based on.]

Content Note: racism

Plot:
Meggie (Eliza Bennett) and her bookbinder father Mo (Brendan Fraser) have always lived rather withdrawn lives surrounded by books, traveling around where Mo’s work is needed. This gives Mo a chance to look for a rare book. Just when he finds a copy, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) shows up. It’s clear that he is actually an old acquaintance of Mo’s. He warns of Capricorn (Andy Serkis) and his men who are coming for Mo. Meggie and Mo immediately head towards her greataunt Elinor (Helen Mirren). But Dustfinger is right behind them as he desperately needs something from Mo: his ability to read things out of books. It’s that ability that Capricorn is looking for, too and that puts all of them in danger.

Now that I finally finished (re-)reading the trilogy, I wanted to watch the film again, too. It is still a sweet adventure film that captures the essence of the book very nicely, albeit overshooting the goal a little.

The film poster showing Mo (Brendan Fraser) reading from a book. A golden glitterwave curls up from the book, and in it are a unicorn and the other main characters.
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Miss Julie (2014)

Miss Julie
Director: Liv Ullmann
Writer: Liv Ullmann
Based on: August Strindberg‘s play
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Seen on: 1.1.2022

Content Note: dubious consent

Plot:
It’s midsummer night and Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) is alone at home. That is, her father the Baron is gone and most of the servants are at the festivities, but Jean (Colin Farrell) and Kathleen (Samantha Morton) have stayed behind. Jean and Kathleen are an item and they are rather disturbed by Julie’s presence in their kitchen. Jean, with the power of propriety, tries at first to push Julie away, but when Julie, with the power of her social position, pushes back, both of them get caught in a sexually charged power struggle.

Miss Julie is an intense film with extraordinary performances that fails to subvert its heteronormative perspective in the slightest, thus becoming too hopeless for its own good.

The film poster showing Jean (Colin Farrell) standing behind Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain).
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