Of Musings and Wonderings











{August 27, 2013}   The Full Monty [Film Review]

full montyA group of unemployed men band together to form a male striptease act, and are encouraged to go all the way.

Former steelworker Gaz (Robert Carlyle) risks having his son taken from him, unless he can find a way to gather the money to pay off the maintenance he owes. He enlists the help of his reluctant best friend Dave (Mark Addy or, if you rather, Robert Baratheon) and starts looking for men to join the group, as well as getting their former foreman to teach them to dance.

The characters come together with one goal; to make as much money as they can through stripping. Gaz is doing it all for his son, doing it so he can keep spending time with him, and we see their relationship warm up over the course of the film as Nathan realises his dad isn’t as useless as he seems, and when it becomes apparent that one of his money making schemes might just work for once.

Carlyle is, as always, brilliant. Every time he’s on screen you really feel for his character, as he struggles to become a man worthy of his son’s love. The men in the film are all pretty much down on their luck, unemployed and struggling with other problems. Dave’s insecurity comes in the way of his marriage, while Gerald, the foreman and dancer, desperately tries to keep his unemployment hidden from his wife.

The-Full-Monty1

One of the best things about the film is the fact that these are all real, normal men. They’re flawed, physically and mentally, and none of them have it easy. They’re not coasting through life, and their problems aren’t thrust of them during the film. The problems are all there anyway, even if they are just under the surface, and will perhaps remain even after the film ends. But after the end, even if those problems remain and these guys are still unemployed, they now have hope. They have friends around them, in each other, and a sense of having done something worthwhile. There’s no big romantic plot here – Gaz is not going to get back with his wife – but instead, the plot simply pulls them along to do one thing, at one time, and leaves it at that. There’s no big Hollywood happy ending. But there is a sense that these characters aren’t as desperate and alone as they started out.

Nothing against Hollywood, but this film would be completely and utterly different if it had been American. Guys with perfect bodies, maybe one overweight one thrown in for good measure, who spend the film acting like they don’t have great abs under their shirts. If it had been Hollywood, Gaz would have most likely ended up with his ex-wife and everything at the end would be perfect. As it is, we have a group of guys who seriously panic about their bodies as the prospect of stripping draws closer. Too old, too big, too scrawny. And it’s right there on screen for us to see. It’s what makes the movie great, because it’s not their bodies that draw the audience to the club at the end; it’s simply the promise of seeing the full monty.

full-monty-1997-28-gThe Full Monty is more than the story of six strippers. It’s the story of men who no longer have their traditional roles of breadwinner and family man to fall back on. It’s light hearted, sure, but with some real things to say underlining it. (Or maybe I’m reading too much into something, again.) It’s witty, funny, and is well worth a watch. So, check it out.

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17801911Minutes Before Sunset follows Eric Welborn, a Shade who is destined to fight a battle with the Light when he turns eighteen. It’s down to him to save the Dark, his friends and family, and potentially die in the process. Eric keeps himself to himself, away from everyone around him, until he meets a mysterious Shade by the river who turns out to be more powerful even than him.

Alongside Eric’s story, we learn about Jessica Taylor who, upon moving to Hayworth, is determined to find out about her biological family. But the only way to do that is to get perfect grades, and when she’s paired with Eric, she realises that might be harder than it seems.

Right from the start, the whole concept is interesting and unique. We have the Dark, which is shown to be the good guys, and the Light, which are the bad guys. Not to say they’re all wholly good, and we don’t really get a good glimpse into the Light, but it’s a nice change from the typical light and dark sides. On top of that, even though the main focus is Eric, he’s not the strongest character. Even if he is the one set out to save his race. Instead, the strongest roles are the girls – namely, the mysterious Shade and Eric’s friend and guard Camille/Teresa. Camille is half-Light and half-Dark, as are a few others in both sides of the war. It’s one of those things that you sort of wish could be explored more, with the whole complications that must come from a pairing like that, but one that doesn’t really fit into the story. (Not a criticism, but I love dwelling on things like that and what they could mean in the wider world of novels)

Camille has abilities from both sides and, as such, is able to do things Eric can’t, and able to withstand the power of the Light, which does come in handy at times.

Even though the book focuses on Jessica’s and Eric’s POVs, we still get insights into those around them. We get glimpses of what everyone else is going through, as Camille and Eric’s father try to protect him, as Jessica’s new friends try to drag her to prom and dress shopping. None of the characters are ‘just there’; they all serve a function, all have their own roles in the novel. And the contrast between what Eric and Jessica are going through and what they’re like in high school works well, as both hide their own secrets – Eric hiding his life as a shade, and Jessica dealing with trying to find any trace of her biological family.

The novel draws you in and makes you really care for those involved, and even if some of the twists are a little obvious, the impact of them on the characters still work really well. It’s a novel I really enjoyed reading, and I would strongly recommend it if you’re looking for a decent young adult read.

Buy Minutes Before Sunset on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Smashwords.

Visit Shannon’s Goodreads page and her website.

I’m always looking for new stuff to read, so if you have something you’d think I’d enjoy – whether it’s your novel or someone else’s – just let me know.



51htaQUCLhLZombies invade Britain on a boiling hot day, unprecedented in the UK. Carrie desperately makes her way through London to get to her daughter, Craig is trapped on a motorway in Scotland with his parents, and Vincent is trapped in a castle in North Wales, with a bunch of tourists and the girl of his dreams. The novel shows us these three different survivors – and the people they meet – through the first day of the zombie attacks.

I was really excited to read this book. A lot of zombie novels are set in the US, at least the ones I’ve read, Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s always nice to read a book where you have a bit of a more solid idea of the places the book is talking about. Plus, well, I’ve always thought any kind of apocalypse would play differently, depending on what country you’re in. For starters, there’s less guns in the UK. And less open spaces. And just different types of people. All of which should have made this book different and exciting and unique.

Spoiler; it’s not.

Zombie Britannica reads like a typical zombie film. Don’t get me wrong, I love zombie films, but if I’m reading a zombie novel I want something different. I don’t just want gore and horror, I want decent characters and a good story and some depth. Instead, this book focuses on the gore, with the zombies crawling over everything and devouring people. There are parts where it feels like Emson is just going for a shock factor, but it doesn’t work. As for the guns…none of the characters seem to have any problem getting hold of them, no matter where they are.

As for the characters themselves, they’re 2D and flat, and I couldn’t really feel for any of them. Let’s start with the guys. Craig is a kid who has nothing really going for him, steals cars with his mates and makes trouble for his family. And…that’s about it. We don’t really get a stronger glimpse into him, when there is a lot that could be played with here. He’s heading to the airport with his family to go on holiday, and has to go with them because he’s on tag. He acts like he hates his family but when pushed he does show that he cares for them, really. Something everyone has read/seen before. Nothing different there, really. We get a few glimpses into his parents, with a few chapters dedicated just to them, but again they’re flat and even a couple of revelations – revealing that all three main characters are linked – don’t make them anymore interesting. Vincent, trapped in a castle in North Wales, tries to get himself, the girl he fancies – Holly – and the others he’s stuck with out of the castle. But with a few exceptions, we don’t really get a strong idea of what he’s feeling. It’s like he’s just going through the motions of what he should be doing because he’s in this situation, following in the footsteps of every other male character we’ve seen in countless zombie flicks.

As for the women…let me start by saying this. It is 2013. George R. R. Martin has already proved that men can write three-dimensional, complicated, in-depth women who have their own motivations and own lives outside of their husbands, children, etc. That’s what women should be in fiction and in film. In this book, that is not the case. Each woman seems driven only by her family. Carrie is a mother, and pretty much nothing more. Same with Craig’s mum. Holly wants a knight in shining armour, and seems pretty useless when Vincent isn’t there to hold her hand or fight back the zombies. The other women he is with in the castle are shown as weak, as whores, or religious fanatics (or easily succumbing to the religious fanatic in their midst). A girl who Carrie and Sawyer (the man she finds who, surprise surprise, is the only reason she survives as long) save is a messed up kid who tries to do anything to get her ex-boyfriend back. Carrie sleeps with Sawyer and then is full of shame for doing it. It gets really annoying after a while when there’s nothing else to these characters.

Overall, the writing itself isn’t that bad. But there isn’t too much of a plot outside of what we see in every zombie related thing out there, though other zombie books/films/series tend to have more going on, too. The characters really don’t have much to them. Shame, really. Not one I would recommend, as there are much better zombie books to be reading.



{August 18, 2013}   Revolution – Series One [TV]

Revolution - Season PilotCreated by Eric Kripke.

Need I say more?

Ok, yeah, I should probably say more.

The first thing I heard about Revolution was the fact that it was created by Eric Kripke. The same guy who brought us Sam and Dean Winchester. I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that the show took place after a mass blackout, in a world that has become used to having no electricity, and I knew the show’s creator. I wanted characters I could fall in love with as much as Dean, characters as tormented as Sam.

Instead, Revolution is light-years away from Supernatural. The latter focuses on two brothers, Revolution has a bigger main cast whose lives have been shaped by the last fifteen years. For the younger characters, that means not knowing what Google is. It means not really needed electricity or anything that comes with it. They’re used to walking everywhere, used to hunting for food. For the older characters, it means accepting that life will never be the same again and understanding what needs to be done to survive in this new world.

We follow Charlie on a desperate quest to save her brother, forming a friendship with Aaron – a displaced man who was on top of the world, working for Google, before the blackout reverted him to being a geek in the playground. She grows closer to her sort-of step-mum Maggie, as they try to find Charlie’s uncle, Miles.

Right off the bat, the characters are solid and interesting. They draw you in. Charlie is at times really annoying, but it’s easy to forgive because of the way she is constructed. You understand her, completely, and get why she acts the way she does. It’s easy to feel sorry for Aaron, but he remains likeable and funny. Nora, when introduced, is shown to be a tough-as-nails kind of girl, who will do whatever it takes for what she believes to be right. And Miles. Where the hell to start with Miles?

He’s downright awesome, with a past he is ashamed off. In the flashbacks shown, it looks like Miles never really gave a shit for family except for when it suited him. Charlie becomes his key to redemption, and she offers him a way to make up for his past without her even realising it.

"What's a boyband?"  You lucky bastards.

“What’s a boyband?”
You lucky bastards.

Every so often, there’s a reminder that this comes from the same guy who brought us Supernatural, beyond the appearance of everyone’s favourite devil. Supernatural in some ways is all about family. Revolution is, too. Charlie is driven by the search for her brother. Her mother is willing to sacrifice everything for her son. Miles’ potential redemption comes from reforming the links between him and his family. And, like Supernatural, families present some of the biggest conflicts in the show. They’re shown to be flawed, and blood-ties can be devastating.

The woman willing to give up everything for her son ignores her own daughter. The father loses everything under the Monroe republic because of the disobedience of his son. But, what was most interesting for me, was the relationship between Miles and Bas – aka, General Monroe, aka a paranoid man who seems to be losing his own mind in the role of leader.

The two aren’t brothers by blood, but they sure as hell are brothers. They grew up together, enlisted together and formed the Republic together, until Miles leaves and buries himself away from the Republic and away from the conflict growing within it. The struggles between the two are brilliant, well-balanced with regret and an urge to just kill each other. And it’s easy to see, in both of them, how the destruction of their friendship has almost destroyed them, though in different ways.

On top of all that, this is a world where civilians aren’t allowed guns, where ammo is precious and where the main choices of weapon are swords and bows. The sword fights are some of the best scenes in the whole series, and are always pretty damn epic. Let’s face it, fighting with swords always looks more badass than with guns, and it’s almost a shame when the guns do become more easily accessible.

Episode-1-01-Pilot-Promo-Photos-revolution-2012-tv-series-31915666-600-400The characters, even the ‘bad’ ones and annoying ones and ones you want to slap in the face, keep you completely locked to the screen and story. You come to actually care for them. Though don’t go caring for any of the extras. Whenever there is any sort of fight – and this is especially in the gun fights – the main characters seem to have invisible bullet proof vests surrounding them, meaning they can stand in the middle of the cross fire and not get hit. Unlike the number of different characters who try to help them out and end up getting mowed down.

Anyway!

Revolution won’t change the world. We won’t end up casting away our laptops and phones and tablets in favour of…well, not many people seem to even have books so God knows what they do for entertainment. (Most likely fight. Or hunt. Or go on dangerous quests that may end up in lots of non-named people getting killed) But it is fun. It has its flaws but so does everything else. And it will make you damn grateful that you can watch it on a TV screen or laptop while at the same time making you wonder what you would do if those things were taking away from you.



{August 18, 2013}   Movie 43 [Film Review]

4403_3366New rule: avoid any film that has ‘outrageous’ or ‘hilarious’ on the poster or description. I want an hour and a half (is that all it was?) or my life back, from everyone who was involved in this film. Seriously. Don’t even watch it. It’s terrible.

And damn it, actors, you are ones I liked! Ones I respected! And it feels like that’s all just been thrown in my face.

Bit of back story; my brother and his girlfriend are down for the weekend, and Dad suggests renting a film to watch from On Demand. We’re looking through these films, and my other brother suggests Movie 43. We ask multiple times if it’s actually good, actually funny, and he reassures us it is. Watches part of it with us, then heads out. My brother, his girlfriend, Dad and me come to the agreement that the oldest brother must have been seriously high when he watched it, to find it in any way funny.

The film is about two teenage friends who try to prank one’s younger brother, by convincing him there’s a ‘secret’ movie out there that they can’t find. The younger brother, being a geek and being very full of himself, is sure he can find it. So he sets out on a quest to find this mysterious ‘Movie 43’, and comes across what the description called ‘hilarious’ short films on the internet.

Let’s start with the first one. It involves Kate Winslet getting set up on a blind date with a rich, handsome man, played by Hugh Jackman. They’re having a good time until they get to the restaurant and he removes his scarf, revealing that he has balls hanging from his neck. It’s absurd and ridiculous, done with no explanation, and even weirder, everyone else in the room seems to be ignoring them.

And the tone for the movie is set. There’s a film about the girl-from-Scary-Movie asking her boyfriend to poop on her (not shit, never shit) which is played on for the whole of this ‘short film’, a joke that feels lifted pretty much from Not Another Teen Movie. A kid whose parents home school him, making sure he gets all the awful, awkward high school experiences, but with his parents playing every teenager, including his first kiss. (Again, most of this joke feels lifted from Not Another Teen Movie) The film goes on like this, switching between the kids looking for the elusive film and discovering its real and looking through more awful not funny films.

Okay, there was one that was actually kind of okay. Chloe Moretz is on a date with the brother of Christopher Mintz-Plasse and gets her first period. Cue two clueless guys freaking out, no idea what’s going on, and freaking the poor girl out, too. It actually wasn’t too bad. But that was like ten minutes of the whole film.

The actors themselves aren’t too bad either, really, but the plots and dialogue massively let them down. The truth or dare story could have been decent, but it, like a lot of the film, was just pushed way too far. As for the ending…there was yet another ‘short film’ tagged onto the end, then another, like whoever made it just didn’t want to let it go.

This is a film that should have been scrapped the moment it was mentioned, a film where I really, really wish the actors had just gone “Oh, hell no.” Unfortunately it does exist, and all I can do is say it’s terrible, awful crap that you should never, ever watch. Under any circumstances.

At least I learnt never to trust my brother’s judgement on movies again.



et cetera