Sunday, 2 April 2017

Arrival, A Review (SPOILERS)


SPOILER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT!

Sci-fi films have, over the past few years, developed a formula that we have all gotten used to. Aliens arrive and blow stuff up and humanity retaliates as aggressively as possible. Don’t get wrong; that’s okay. Independence Day and all the others out there like it are usually pretty good and, like said about Kong: Skull Island, they serve as great movies when you just want some escapism. This was what I was expecting from Arrival, although the trailers suggested very early on that there was going to be something very different about this sci-fi film. Be warned SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!

The first time I saw this film I thought it was amazing. Finally, an alien film that is about more than just explosions and war! Arrival examines the invasion of Earth by extra-terrestrials in a way that no movie has ever done before. It takes everything you expect from a film like this and turns it completely on its head. It also asks questions previously ignored by much of what has come before it; language.

This film is driven by plot over character. Aliens arrive and the aim of the game is to find out what they want before a war breaks out. Adam’s character is there to find out what their purpose on Earth is and spends most of films going through that process. It isn’t as laborious as it sounds; the film takes time to explore the aliens as well as the protagonists of the film. Amy Adams, playing Doctor Banks a language specialist who is drafted in to help communicate with the aliens almost immediately after they land. Right from the start we know there is a bigger story going on with Doctor Banks, all the way through the film we are given insights into her life but just when you think you’ve figured out her story Arrival turns it on its head.

Adam’s is a great actress, there isn’t a film that I have seen her that I haven’t enjoyed, but this film isn’t her best. She plays her part well but is let down by her interactions with Jeremy Renner’s character Ian. Whenever they are on screen together the atmosphere seems to vanish. The flashes of another time of Adam’s life suggest there is a love interest somewhere in her story. It became relatively obvious it was Renner and that it wasn’t flash backs we were seeing but in fact, flash forwards, half way through the film. Once that realisation has happened this film becomes a lot more interesting.

It’s safe to say that now I have seen this film more than once I have developed mixed feelings for it. The inclusion of lots of science and language and philosophical concepts makes it a fascinating film to watch if you like your sci-fi to come with some form of lesson with it but at times it does exclude the viewers who does have more than a basic idea of what things mean. At times I found myself wondering what they were talking about and had to figure it out based on the actions that followed their conversations. This does risk Arrival turning into a film that is not for everybody but despite this, even if you only watch it for the aliens you won’t be disappointed.

The concept put forward, eventually, by the writers, is that the aliens, named Heptapods, do not have a liner concept of time as we do. Everything you think you have learned up to this point suddenly takes on a whole new meaning and if you miss that one small comment by Doctor Banks it can make this film very confusing. Up to this point I was slowly losing interest but when the idea of a non-liner plot was presented the whole thing suddenly got much better. There are very few films out there that dare to do this and I think it was a brave choice to do it with a sci-fi film when you already have a lot process. It works well with Arrival though, they pulled it off well.

If you are good at putting plots together, solving mysteries you will probably see the end of this film coming a mile off. I was a bit slow at picking it up until the time concept was presented, after that it was nearly an hour of waiting to see whether or not I was right and this where Arrival fails a bit. It is far too long and once you know the key plot point the ending becomes inevitable. But, despite that, it is a very moving film with unique ideas for the genre that it falls into. Adams is a credit to the cast and the script is incredible.

I’d say four out of five stars, give it a try! Enjoy!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Kong: Skull Island- A Review


King Kong has always had an iconic look. You don’t need to have seen any of the many versions out there to recognise him. Even if you’d only seen the moment he scrambles up a New York sky scraper you would know that it was King Kong you were seeing.

I’ve always been a fan of movies like this; Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Planet of the Apes etc. Anything that involves some sort of animal causing mayhem for the humans. There’s something oddly hilarious but, at the same time, fascinating about it. But King Kong has always passed me by for one reason or other. The Jack Black version was so flat that I gave up before the title character had even made a proper appearance and I have never really been able to summon the energy required to try again.

The trailer for Kong: Skull Island, however, suggested that this new take on the story was going to be something very different. There was no suggestion of the horrific romantic notion that has been forced into various other versions and the one shot you saw of Kong is those first trailers actually made me shiver. The added bonus of John Goodman and Brie Larson made the whole thing even more appealing.

People who managed to see it before me warned that Kong: Skull Island was gory and I have to admit being somewhat sceptical of this at first. But surprisingly the film was incredibly graphic with its violence compared to earlier versions and it took about half an hour for them to justify that Rated 15 badge.

One of the best things about this movie is the soundtrack. It’s brilliant. It features Black Sabbath, The Hollies, David Bowie and The Stooges, all of which make for a great soundtrack when mixed with a story about an over-sized gorilla.

I can’t honestly say a bad word about this film. It is what King Kong films should look like. The technology has finally caught up enough to create convincing action scenes. The key scene features Kong taking his rage out on a series of helicopters attempting to land on this mysterious uncharted island. Scenes like this have previously had a tendency to over-do the CGI and make it about the effects rather than the action but Kong: Skull Island doesn’t do this. Okay, so there’s a fair amount of blood splatter but it works with the rest of what’s going on, it doesn’t feel like it’s there so the producers can show off how clever that are with special effects.  

Another great aspect of this movie was the inclusion of other giant beasties. If you’re squeamish and plan on going to see this movie anytime soon be warned: giant spiders feature in the catalogue of huge and hacked off animals starring in this movie. This scene is a bit uncomfortable from a gore perspective but maybe that’s just because I don’t like spiders? Anybody else would probably think it was awesome. There is a focus on Skull Island as well as its inhabitants; it is surrounded by a permanent storm which makes some tense moments as the crew head towards it in flimsy looking helicopters.

Finding fault with films isn’t always this difficult and the things that did distract from the action were minor but they must be noted. For starters; there is a massive issue with continuity. Five helicopters take off from one singular boat headed to the island and about sixteen fly into the oncoming storm. It doesn’t detract from the plot and it did make me laugh but it is noticeable. The only other part of this film that I take issue with is, dare I say it, Samuel L. Jackson. His character in this film is infuriating. In most films characters like this are people you love to hate but that wasn’t true here; I spent the whole film hoping he would get eaten. He’s a brilliant actor and he plays the part of hard-headed but dedicated leader well but the role is over exaggerated to the point it is no longer endearing, it’s just plain stupid.

The other characters in the film are brilliant. I will admit this non-comedy film almost lost me when John C. Reilly, somebody I only know as primarily being a comedy actor, popped up. But credit where credit is due he is great in this film and he plays his part of long-lost islander fantastically. Brie Larson is now officially my favourite actress, I’d love to see her in more movies like this if they were to be made. John Goodman is the best character of the humans in this film and he acts as a helpful distraction from Samuel L. Jackson’s more annoying moments on screen. My only problem is the fact that there are very few women in this film and it would have been nice to see more of them in the action scenes instead of Tom Hiddleston flexing his muscles at every available opportunity.  

Okay so this movie probably has no artistic or cultural relevance and will more than likely only be hailed as escapism but I don’t think that is a bad thing. There is a lot of serious films flooding the market at the moment and most of the time your only alternative seems to be a superhero movie by which ever studio happens to be churning them out at the time. If you want something you can sit down and watch and not think about then this definitely the one to go for.

Enjoy!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

BACKSTAGE PASS: Debut






When it's your job to make noise, you can't afford to mess up. Pure Fiction have fought for the opportunity to show the world what they can do; now all they have to do is take on the planet. And they plan to win. Armed with a shiny new set of instruments and a truck load of attitude, they march into the spotlight with their album and every finger crossed. Expectations are high, and the risks are enormous, with disasters looming at every angle; can they make it as the world-conquering rock stars they strive to be?

Four members.

Three guitars.

Two drumsticks.

One rock band; Pure Fiction.

Music fan? Book lover?

The above blurb is the premise for my book BACKSTAGE PASS: Debut, first in the series following dysfunctional rock back Pure Fiction as they frantically clamber for the opportunity to dominate the music world.

Told through the eyes of each character individually there is something in here for everybody, whether you’re a drummer, bassist, singer, guitarist or even just trying to battle your way into a world that has previously overlooked you. Damien, Noel, Shaz, Josh, Dani and Theo make up a cast of mismatched band mates desperately trying to stamp their mark on the world, all without tearing each other apart in the process.

As stated in the press release (link below) “It imparts the timeless virtues of independence and unity altogether; achieving a common goal amidst differences – strengthened by the bond of friendship and trust.”

Available on Kindle for just £4.99 and Paperback for £13.99, links below!

Enjoy!





Links:

Press Release by Xlibris Publishing:  


Amazon Kindle:


Amazon Paperback:


BACKSTAGE PASS: Broken Record Amazon links



Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Impact- A Review

In 2015 Tracer, an explosive story about life on a space station, stormed onto our bookshelves. A few months later Zero-G did the same the thing; upping the ante on science fiction novels. This year we finally got the last instalment of this epic trilogy; Impact. And yes, it was definitely worth the wait.
I've bit a little slow this time getting this blog up but I took my time with Impact; drawing it out as long as I could because I did not want it to be over. If you read this book, and I strongly recommend you do, you will understand why.
The premise of this book is fascinating; a man witnessing the crash landing of a ship. Its a simple opening that gets you straight into the story. After this short introduction Boffard puts you right in the centre of the action as our old favourites from earlier books hurtle toward Earth. This opening is the reason this book will go far; you can't put it down. The writing in these opening chapters is so intricate that Boffard manages to make you feel as though you are right there, shoulder to shoulder, with Riley and her counterparts as the beginnings of the plot start to unfold.
Compared with the previous two books, Tracer and Zero-G, the characterisation in Impact feels a lot stronger. You get a real sense for each character and their creator has moulded them in such a way that, at times, you will want to hurtle this book across the room. The characters of Prakesh and Carver are particularly interesting in this instalment of the series; especially with them firmly out of their comfort zones from the previous books. Sometimes a series can get a little bit repetitive when you have inter-character rivalry going on but the new setting and unique circumstances of this books really helps to drive this story along.
As well as this we of course have the return of Riley, who remains one of my favourite female characters in fiction. She is strong, reckless and as unpredictable as ever. As Impact’s plot grows the character of Riley does with it; she is totally out of her comfort zone in this book and the way in which her character has been painted here will definitely get to you.
We do also meet some new characters in this book; Prophet and Harlan to name just two. Despite being a little clich├ęd when introduced these new characters provide some of the best scenes in the story and are what gives Impact its spark. We meet a whole variety of people in a range of different settings. Sometimes writers get this wrong; too many people, new or old, in too many places with too much going on. This doesn’t happen with Impact. Boffard manages to deliver each meeting, each fight, each moment with precisely the right amount of words. Nothing is drawn out, or exaggerated; it all fits together to create a story that I, personally, could not put down.
Like its predecessors, Impact switches its narration between various characters and this really lends itself well to this book. It keeps the plot going constantly, at no point do you feel like what you've just read is a waste of time. Everything happening is relevant so you don't meet any low points in the book; the bar is set high in the early stages and it keeps on going cover to cover.  
 One of the greatest things about this book is it is impossible to predict what's coming. If I had a pound for every time I'd seen the ending of the book coming before I got past page 50 I could retire tomorrow. Impact is not like that. Every aspect is a surprise, at no point did I think 'well I know what's happening on the next page' and that is so important in books like this; you have to be kept on your toes and in this book you definitely are.
All in all, this is a five star book. It moves quickly with non-stop action and a plot that had me on the edge of my seat and it will definitely have you there too.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

End of Watch- A Review

 
 

Two years ago the genius that is Stephen King published the first part of the Bill Hodges trilogy. Mr Mercedes hit the shelves and was a thrilling page turner right from the off. A year later the sequel had a similar effect. This year he's given us the third and final segment; End of Watch. Bill and his band comprising of Holly and Jerome are back in a very different kind of detective story. There will be spoilers in this review so if you are planning to read it and don't want to know please stop now.  

It has to be said that I had this book figured out before it was even released which made this story something of a disappointment in comparison to its predecessors. Within the first fifty or so pages I'd worked out what was causing hero Bill's pains and problems and at this point he hadn't even been to the doctor's yet. That, combined with the title, made working out how this was going to play out for Bill painfully obvious. It made reading this book more difficult because hey, what's the point when you know your favourite character's fate before he does? The writing in these early chapters is arrogant, like King thinks you will be fooled by his attempts to be vague. To me, and to people I talked to the book about, the signs were blaringly obvious and that is where this really failed. By assuming your readers can't work it out for themselves you create reluctant readers and scare people off. I persevered, only because it was other characters I was curious about.

End of Watch brings back the amazing villain Brady Hartsfield. It's great to have him back. The last time we saw him we weren't sure if Brady was as lost as King made out. King played this card very well, laying the signs out through Finders Keepers so subtlety that the extent to which he draws it out in End of Watch is both shocking and terrifying in places. Brady on truly evil top form and hell-bent on revenge. He's capable of more than ever before. The final chase of this book is gripping; King manages to bring the whole series together in one huge scene of good versus evil. This is what gives this the feel of a truly classic King novel; the writing is punchy and blunt with none of corners rounded off when it comes to the graphic description. It has everything one of King's classics has but with the added bonus of a very unique story.

Characters are central to the story. Not only is Bill back but so is Holly and Jerome along with other regulars such as Pete and Barbara. These are all amazing characters, they are so well presented it's hard to believe King has created them rather than copied them from real-life people. They each display an element that most readers will recognise in the people around them. The good person, the slightly nervous person, the genuinely good sole. In the case of Brady Hartsfield, one of King’s greatest villains to date; King's ability to make his characters seem more real than ever makes for some terrifying reading.

The book does deal with some very difficult themes which might make reading it difficult for some. Hartsfield's fascination with suicide is the main focus of this book and the plot is built around this highly sensitive issue. In places is it incredibly hard to read.

End of Watch is a little random in places but it is very well written so the occasional slip can be compensated for. Some of King's book's, Gerald's Game for example, read as though King's brain said 'well what if *this* happened' and he just decided to run with it without any thought about the way it would affect the story. End of Watch doesn't do this. Its occasional slips are welcome and they give it that truly Stephen King feel that readers have seen for decades now.

 On the whole I enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it to anybody who fancies a crime novel with a difference but certain aspects did let it down. If you take this novel for what it is; a cat and mouse crime thriller you get exactly that. A hectic but exciting conclusion to an amazing trilogy. Definitely worth a read.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

In The Cold Dark Ground- A Review


Last year I reviewed The Missing and the Dead, the ninth book in the epic Logan McRae series. This year the tenth instalment has finally arrived and I was so excited to see read it that I finished it in just two sittings. I admit, now I'm paying for it with a monster headache due to too-weak glasses but I maintain it was worth it.

In The Cold Dark Ground is without a doubt the best of the Logan series so far. MacBride has truly outdone himself here. His characters are on top form and my love for series has been totally reaffirmed. One of the things that has always bugged me a little about the series is that what little MacBride gave away about Logan's private life, including his siblings and his relationship with his mother and daughter has always been given in small cryptic doses. This latest book gives a much deeper insight into Logan's background. MacBride has spent time creating some heart warming interactions between Logan and his daughter which provides a look at the unfortunate copper from a new angle. We are allowed to see Logan's softer side and it is a refreshing treat, I really hope that MacBride keeps this up in any books that follow from this one. We also get the first real idea of what Logan's family is like, its fascinating to see. Again, I'd like to see more of this.

This premise of this book is quite simple: a body is found in the woods in an awful state, all the police figure out who they are and who killed them. As usual with MacBride it is not as simple as it should be and just when you think you have solved it before the cops MacBride throws in another twist and leaves you shocked. It's fascinating to read and you really  do learn with the characters.

There are the usual cast in this book: the brilliant D.C.I Steel is back on top form with her brilliant wit and one liners. We also have the sinister figure of Napier creeping about. His role in the book makes for an interesting plot point and leads to a cliff hanger ending that had me shouting "no don't end there!" It's an ending that has had me thinking since I finished the book. I can't help but wonder if I like the potential outcome of this scenario but I am equally fascinated to see what MacBride does with it and it will make for interesting reading.

Something I really liked about this book was the way that MacBride has cranked up the emotions in this book. I have been emotionally invested in this series for a long time now and I would love to see Logan get some good luck. However, this is Stuart MacBride it is never going to go smoothly. There is much emotion in this book than the others. It has some incredibly heart ranching in places. MacBride has really got the story right here, its some amazing writing.

This is an amazing book with some brilliant one liners and some big emotional moments. It is the best book in the Logan series so far  and I personally can't wait to see what comes next.




Saturday, 23 January 2016

Zero-G, A Review


Last year Tracer came storming onto our shelves. Anybody who read my post about it will know that I loved it, and I stand by my statement that one day Tracer will be a classic. This year we have the sequel, Zero-G. I was extremely excited to receive my copy in the post I pretty much begun reading straight away. I’m still quite new to the science fiction genre but its books like this that will keep me searching for more.

Zero-G opens with a dark vision of an explosion in space. Just from this opening chapter you know that something big is happening. The opening chapters are full of drama; it’s all happening. Riley Hale is back as a stomper on a mission to stop a hostage situation, Prakesh has a terrifying situation in the Air Lab and we are introduced to a mysterious new character by the name of Morgan Knox. Knox is one of the most fascinating characters in this book. His motives are clear but his methods are genuinely terrifying. When you read these chapters of the book you will no doubt feel as nervous for Riley and she is for herself. This story plays on your mind throughout, every time Riley’s character is leading the narration you have Knox’s plans in the back of your mind. It makes for very gripping reading.  

Outer Earth has a slightly different feel to it then Tracer. It feels much bigger in this book, you are able to get a clearer view of the vastness of it throughout the book in this one. Space has always fascinated humanity and will all the drama and that image of the explosion which are given in the first chapter makes the statement on the cover “In space there is nowhere to run” a very dark but fascinating statement. Once again you are left with that question of what would happen if this was the only place we had to go. That statement sticks in your head throughout this book as it builds up to an intense climax that will have you on the very edge of your seat.

This book is non-stop. The plot is always moving. This is helped by the narration switching between characters so there is never a dull moment or the feeling that a chapter was put there just to fill space. Zero-G feels like it comes in two equally fast-paced part. It just keeps coming at you. There were times when I was genuinely fearing for Riley and the rest of the Zero-G cast. The characterisation is so well done that you actually fear for Morgan Knox at times, just because of his importance to Riley’s story.

There is a continuing theme of Earth in this book, and lots of little reminders that as far as our characters know there is nothing down there. I don’t want to say too much on this but the importance of the earth in this book is definitely worth paying attention too and I cannot wait to see what will come in the next instalment of the Outer Earth series.

This is a book I fully recommend; it's fast-paced, all action genius. I cannot wait to see the final instalment of the series and after reading it I'm sure you will feel the same.