Hot on the heels of the stupidly long Culture Consumed 15 post, here is what I’ve read and watched so far in 2016.
Joy – The latest film from the ensemble that gave us Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. David O. Russell directs with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro all back. De Niro was in American hustle but was uncredited. The previous too films from this team were brilliant. Joy is good but I don’t think it’s as good as those other two. It does have some good dramatic, comedic, and surreal moments. I’ll certainly be buying it to keep for future watching. Time will tell how it stands up beside Playbook and Hustle. Looking forward to more films from the same team. I rated it 7/10.
The Danish Girl – The story of Danish artists Lili Elbe (née Einar Wegener) and Gerda Wegener. With Lili Elbe being the first woman to have sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). I thought the story of Gerda Wegener was the more interesting one. About how appreciation of her art changed after she started painting portraits of Lili. Alicia Vikander was spectacular in the part. Eddie Redmayne portrayed Lili. I thought his performance in the last quarter, when Lili was undergoing surgery, was a bit too much like his Stephen Hawking performance. Still good. But Alicia Vikander was the stand out for me. I rated it 7/10.
Europe in Autumn – Dave Hutchinson. The first in the Europe series of books. I’d seen people I trust sing the praises of this book a lot last year. So I bought a copy and finally got round to reading it just before Christmas. It’s very good. Literary writing without being too heavy. I was wondering why it was classed as science fiction for 90% of the book. But at the end it becomes clear. This would be a great intro for anyone who thinks Star Wars when science fiction is mentioned. I have the sequel here to read. Looking forward to it. Recommended.
The Hateful Eight – The latest Tarantino film. It’s too long. It’s violent. It’s what you would expect. A tendency to monologuing in dialogue. The music is good. I rated it 5/10 at the time. On reflection it’s probably a 6/10.
Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen’s 2013 release. With an Oscar winning performance by Cate Blanchett. Justifiably so as well. It’s a great performance in a good film. The rest of the cast are great too. Plus the cinematography and music are top notch. Gave it 8/10.
Serena – I’d been wanting to see this for a while. Mainly on the back of the Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper partnership. No David O. Russell or Robert De Niro involvement in this film though. It’s not the stinker some of the reviews would have you believe. The ending was a bit shocking to me. I rated it 8/10.
Legend – Marie Lu. The first book from the Legend YA trilogy. It’s more YA than The Hunger Games, and a bit shallow. Okay but not something that gripped me. I have the two others in the trilogy to read sometime later this year.
The Good Dinosaur – I only saw this in the cinema due to a power cut and I needed something to do. It was the only film starting just after the time I got to the cinema. A Pixar animation film that had many issues during production it seems. The world building and rendering in it are stunning. I’m still not sure if it was all rendered and not a mix of live action and animation. The story was just okay. The power cut was more exciting. Sparks erupting from an arcing overhead electric pole 100 metres up my street. Fire engines arriving and everything. Worth seeing the film for the visuals though. Rated it 5/10.
Room – This is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not the film you would think it is from the description. It is not a horror film. It is not a explicitly sexual or violent film, although there is some of both of those. It is a film about a 5 year old boy, and his mother, discovering the world after she was held captive for 7 years. So the boy has always been a captive. He only knows about Room where they live. Until he turns 5 and his mother starts to tell him about the outside world. I cried, laughed, and at one point my heart rate must have been up at 140 bpm. The performances by Brie Larson as the mother and Jacob Tremblay as the boy are remarkable. I was fully invested in the characters. Hence the heart rate thing. The supporting cast are also great. See this when you can, either in the cinema or when it comes out for home viewing. It was easy to rate this 9/10. Came very close to being a 10. Again; it’s not the film you think it is.
The 5th Wave – A new YA focused sci-fi, alien invasion franchise. It’s all done competently enough. But it is very formulaic with character types lifted straight out of the YA fiction construction kit. It has generated $84M from a production budget of $38M, so I expect the sequels will be made. I will go see them as the film is not a disaster. I rated it an average 5/10.
Speak – Louisa Hall. I saw this mentioned on Twitter by Adam Roberts. Had a look at the blurb and it looked interesting so got the sample. I liked that so I decided to get the audiobook. It’s amazing. Both the book itself, and the audio presentation. The story is about AI but it is told via six very different narrative arcs ranging from a pilgrim diarist on her way to America in the 17th Century, Alan Turing penning letters to the mother of a friend, two developers of AI systems, the wife of one of them, and the thoughts of an AI doll with fading batteries. All the arcs are relevant and they come together nicely. Destined to be a classic I think. The audiobook edition has 6 different actors narrating the different story arcs. A fabulous example of how an audiobook can enhance the written version.
The Big Short Can a film make you root for financial traders and market analysts who foresaw the 2008 housing crash in the USA, and who bet that it will happen in order to short the market and make money? Yes. Bankers are just above slime moulds on the likability scale. But at the end of the day they are just people. And if they are interesting people then their story will be interesting. The characters in this film are. I really liked it. It breaks the fourth wall quite a lot and this usually makes me twitchy. But it works in this. I thought Steve Carell’s character and performance was great, although the whole cast is good. Vinnie Daniel politely asking the auditors to leave Mark Baum’s office is brilliant. And easy 8/10 rating.
Dad’s Army – A reboot of the 1970’s British TV series. Many people are questioning why. It was okay. As good as the original. One good thing is a more prominent role for the women of the village. Felicity Montagu is fantastic as Captain Mainwaring’s wife and head of the local ATS platoon. And Cathering Zeta Jones is great in it. It was good fun. Gave it 6/10.