Thursday, June 27, 2013

Film Review: World War Z (2013)

World War Z 

Released: 2013

Directed by: Marc Foster

Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Peter Capaldi

Synopsis: United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself. (Via IMDB)


I'll be honest, I had no real desire to see this film given the epic train-wreck of the film's production. Actually, rephrase that, I had no real desire to pay money to see this film given the epic train-wreck of the production. It wasn't that I thought it would be bad (although I had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn't be great), my real concern was how boring it looked. When the first 2 minute trailer hit I all but fell asleep. I mean how, HOW do you make a film about a zombie apocalypse which has the money to be epic and insane and big BORING? And in a trailer? Ugh, so yeah, I had little desire to see it, but when I was offered two free tickets by a friend and had nothing better to do on my Friday night I decided to give it a shot.

And you know what? It was alright. It was pretty bloodless and clinical for a zombie film, but I was entertained for the two hours it was on the big screen and there were enough jump scares to make Tom laugh at me. I thought the zombie make up was well done and I really loved the reckless abandon of the zombies. Watching them ram their head repeatedly into a car windscreen to get to the humans inside was really flippin' cool. I didn't care much for the CGI zombies, but mostly because they look so CGI compared to the actual human zombies. But that first scene in Philly was really good, and if the rest of the film had been as well constructed it would have been a much more memorable film.

mild spoilers below...I guess? 

So aside from the CGI zombies and some terrible shaky-cam, it's an entertaining enough film. The issues come after you leave the cinema and spend even two minutes talking about it. The whole story makes no sense. None. Every single thread falls apart with the tiniest of tugs. Why do they need to find patient zero? Given that we're told that pretty much everyone is burning the fully-dead zombies, how would you find them anyway? Surely they'd have been burnt already? And if it's so important, why does that story thread just...end. And why are we told the zombies in South Korea took 10 minutes to turn and the American only took 10 seconds - why isn't that followed up on? Why does Brad Pitt have a family? They're completely unnecessary to the plot and just waste screen time. Why does his wife nearly get raped in a supermarket in the first 10 minutes? Why is Brad Pitt their number one pick to solve this whole issue? Why doesn't he tell the scientists in Cardiff who he is? Why do they ride bicycles in South Korea? WHY DOES ANYTHING IN THIS MOVIE HAPPEN?

end to whatever teeny spoilers I gave.

There is a good film or TV series buried in here. It's also called World War Z and it's based on the actual god damn book. OK, the style of the book could never have been replicated (except maybe in a TV series), but at least the book took one interpretation of the zombie mythos and stuck to it from start to finish. The film version of WWZ felt like a kid in a candy store, "oh oh oh! I want a big scene in Israel" "And a crazy CIA agent in South Korea!" "Oh and please can I have a voice over at the end which tells everyone basically nothing about the story they want and everything about the family they did not give a shit about? Please, please, pleeeeease?!" Was it an investigative thriller about finding the source of the contagion or a traditional zombie seige film? Was there any political motivation about the spread of the disease, or did we just want to show a scene where Yay! Arabs and Jews are getting along just fine thanks! Do we want this to be a film about a family's survival, or do we just want a flimsy backdrop motivation for our lead star? Are they zombies (which we will keep saying they aren't even though they are dead and still moving/attacking) or are they infected?

It comes down to, I think, the conflict between making a zombie film, something which is traditionally low budget and focuses on the survivors and how they interact in their enclosed house/shopping centre/barn or making a big budget contagion thriller. They never knew what they wanted, they didn't know how to make the book work as a film, and they decided to try and make it work on the fly. So what you get is a very well produced film that's pretty to look at, with some impressive action set pieces and fantastic acting but no actual substance. And I know people like to get all "but it's a zombie film, SERIOUSLY" about this sort of thing, but the best zombie films (and the best films full stop) are about an actual story, while also being bloody and gory and creepy as shit. It's not enough to have one and expect success. Zombies don't sell. What sells is the story that the zombies facilitate, a story about people surviving, solving problems, dealing with their shit and looking badass while they do it.

So if you want to see the film, then do it, because it's got some killer scenes (seriously guys, it starts so well) and, of course, zombies. But do yourself a favour and leave your thinking cap at home and leave it off until well after the film finishes. And then come back here so we can bitch about Brad Pitt's stupidity on a certain plane when talking to a certain stupid wife after a certain stupid scene.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Winter Reading

So since I don't have a review today (I'm tossing up whether or not to write a review about the Stephen King/Joe Hill short story I just read) I decided to do a filler post, because I know how desperately you all wait to read my iridescent prose *nudge nudge* riiiiiight?

And what better than a winter reading post? Everyone loves to know what I'm reading right? And what we weird Australians read in our non-summer months? Anyway, this is a mix of 'how is this still unread', 'this needs to go back to the library' and 'just saw the film, let's read the book' books. And you might notice how small and comforting they all are, I'm dangerously close to burning out people.

Anyway, here's the obligatory photo of said stack.

I've had Eleanor and Park since I finished Attachments, but I've been so scared to read it because then there will be no more Rainbow Rowell (until Fangirl comes out) and I don't know if I'm ready for that yet.  How have the rest of you survived? SERIOUSLY.

I bought Mother Tongue in January for a particular reason. A reason I no longer remember. But read it anyway I will.

N.P has been sitting sadly on my desk for months and I keep overlooking it but NO MORE! Yoshimoto is sooooo good, and I need goodness in my life. Also, since I might be in Japan this October I feel like I really should.

Look Laura! Caitlin Moran! Now I can get those references you make!

I began The Drawing of the Three a month ago and put it down to concentrate on Harry Potter so maybe it's cheating to put it in this list, but I am going to read it this winter so what list should I put it on huh?

Cloud Atlas... Ugh, I didn't particularly like the film and I'm starting to feel like I won't like the book. But I got it as a Christmas present and it's one of those books I feel like I should read. So maybe. It's probably at the bottom of my to do list.

And finally Skeleton Crew. I know I've already got a Stephen King on my list, but this is Stephen King short stories and I watched The Mist a few weeks ago (it was alright?) and it's in my shelves so onto the list it goes!

So yeah! Yay reading! And yay hopefully not burning out!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Links

*A really great, really snarky blog by an anonymous literary agent,  ( Slush Pile Hell via Belle's Bookshelf)

*Flavorwire wonders why there are so few female anti-heroes in film. (Via Flavorwire)

*This is a really gorgeous photo series of much used and discarded library books by Kerry Mansfield (Via NYTimes blog)

*Here's a thing. Someone inserted pictures of authors into sitcoms. (Via Html giant)

*Bet you always thought there was a lot of water on Earth right? Well take a look at this graphic and article and report back. (Via Earth Sky)

*Ummmm, bookish restaurants? Yes please! (Via Flavorwire)

*Stephen King did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) and it's worth a look. His answers are pretty short at times, but guys, it's Stephen Freaking King. (Via Reddit)

*I don't think I've mentioned how much I love reading Foz Meadow's blog for awhile, so here's another reminder. She's sharp, well written and she can somehow write about the issues that make me rage without resulting in all caps yelling and calling people poo-faces. (Via ShatterSnipe: Malcontent and Rainbows)

Harry Potter and the Wrapping Up of the Super Long and Super Awesome Readalong

So after a very computer heavy work week last week I got to Friday and the thought of going near my computer or blog made me want to vomit. So this is very late, but since it's the wrap up post I could hardly skip it could I?

I will keep it short though.

It's been a super enjoyable 6 months, and I actually spent part of last night talking to another group of friends about how awesome HP is and how it's the best series you could ever possibly grow up with and I was mentioning all the dirty references to penises and prefect bathroom nookie and they looked at me in SHOCK! And they're all boys, boys who talk about masturbation in front of me faaaaar too much. So well done ladies, I think that's proof that our readalong is a success!

So thanks to Alice for hosting, thanks for all the awesome posts full of the best gifs and the best nit-picking questions. And a special thanks to Emily to introduced me to my first ever piece of HP fan-fic, and holy crap I loved it. So much more satifying than that ridic epilogue chapter that I refuse to believe actually exists. And now I'm trapped firmly in the 'fan-fic will make me forget the series is over' cycle so maybe I should take back that thanks Emily!

Byeeeee, see you for regular posting about books that aren't Harry Potter and therefore can never come close to the intrinsic fantasticness of this series!

Byeeeee Hogwarts! I'll miss you 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: Poem for the Wolves by Andrew Cyrus Hudson

Poem for the Wolves

Written by: Andrew Cyrus Hudson

Published: 2013

A thousand miles of stone black pavement
Along the war torn, snow packed plains.
Beckons you to soon forget
The place you once called home.

In the middle of a world wide war against an anonymous alien force, self-described "world's worst poet" HC Diego takes eight-year-old Aimée Dumont across America to see her father. However, the two quickly find out that the mission is not as simple as it sounds. Armed with only an old M1 Carbine, a Glock 35, and sheer wits, HC Diego and Aimée Dumont discover new places, grand adventures, and constant dangers. And soon, they'll find a close companion as well.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Poem for the Wolves is an ambitious book. Spanning over 600 e-book pages, a cross-country adventure and a heck of a lot of action, this book clearly aspires to the standard set by Stephen King with his post-apocalyptic classic The Stand. Considering The Stand is one of King's best received novels, the question is less "does Poems for the Wolves reach the dizzying heights set by King", because such a feet would be near impossible even for an author more established than Hudson. Instead, the question should be, "has Hudson done something new and exciting with the genre?"

Hudson treads the fine line between well-known tropes and exciting new terrain, for the most part, with great success. The world created in this book is an interesting one. After a fleet of aliens attacked Earth we lost the battle, but have yet to lose the war. Life is a constant battlefield, they can attack anywhere, and suddenly. But while people are battling the aliens, life is still going on somewhat as usual. There's school and work, people can live in their houses (when they aren't being invaded by aliens), and they fall in love. It's not post-apocalyptic or even apocalyptic, it encompasses this liminal space, a snapshot of life amidst the chaos as humanity tries to keep things moving forward while an outside force strives to take them down. Much of the book takes place on the front line, so to speak, and I kind of wish we'd had a chance to view more of how life was lived in the midst of this hell. Luckily there are flashback scenes with our principal characters so we do get a peek at how different families and groups spread across the country handled the news of the attack and the early shock and terror of the alien's first arrival but I wanted more. Maybe more of a World War Z approach, or more time spent with the people they meet and their story.

The aliens are also interesting. They're a faceless, nameless foe, and through the course of the novel they're referred to, in bold, as They.  They might be invading Earth, but they're oddly prehistoric in their attack. Their weapon shoots needles, and while they do prove fatal quite often, their fatality really depends on where on the body they hit the human. And their attack wasn't a surprise. Or not entirely. Our technology meant we first caught sight of them two years before their arrival, and while that gave us a certain amount of time to prepare, it clearly wasn't enough. Because of the anonymous them status of our alien friends, they're utilised more as roadblocks for our characters... tremendous roadblocks that like to fight back with sharp, pointy things.

But now onto our characters. HC is our protagonist. He's young, smart and handy with a gun, but he has some growing up to do. He's also saddled with the responsibility of getting an 8 year old home to her dad, a trip that's going to take them through towns and cities under constant barrage by the aliens. Aimée is young, precocious and amazingly brave considering the situation. When I began reading this book I'd just finished The Walking Dead videogame and the relationship struck me as very similar. HC wasn't a criminal like the protagonist in The Walking Dead, but the relationship between man and child, and the on-the-fly adapting to raising a child in a dangerous situation was similar. Perhaps I was projecting my relationship with the characters in the game with the characters in the book, but I felt like I understood and cared about their relationship from the instant the book started. While the two of them journey to find Aimée's father, they join forces with various combat groups, come up against roving criminals and make friends in the unlikeliest of places. There are other characters that join these two along the way. There's Shelley, HC's love interest, who joins them fairly early on. Jim and Marla Casey, a brother and sister wanting to move to California. And a motley array of friendly, aggressive, perfectionist, jokers in the college militia.

As I said before, the book is ambitious, and ambition can be risky. Besides the alien invasion, the story flits back to before the alien's arrival and to during the first days of the attack. Between each chapter there are a couple of poems that HC, self-acclaimed "world's worst poet", wrote along the journey, and Hudson employs a plethora of literary techniques and devices to tell his story. Some of the devices were really enjoyable. I loved that any time a character died, whether we'd known the for one sentence or 10 chapters, their death was book-ended with the sentence "X was Y years old". It brought the reality of the situation crashing down. Most of the people we meet in the story are civilians who take up arms to protect their homes, towns and country. Some are college students, some are parents, some are actual military personnel. Whoever they are, their death is felt by someone, on some level. It was a nice token to remind the reader of the situation, and help people put themselves into the battle. The poems I was less jazzed about. I can't honestly comment on the quality of them because I really dislike reading poetry, so I'll refrain from commenting on them completely. But they are short and they're reflections on the previous action, so if you don't like poetry you can always skip them.

The flashbacks I loved because I liked to see the comparison between life before, during the initial attack/arrival and now. I also loved that in a lot of the cases, the characters had actually found a better life after the invasion because it was the push they needed to get out of their dull or oppressive lives, or to force them to make a decision about their future. But in some cases the stories didn't quite feel like they aligned with the rest of the book or with the characters. Aimée's story for instance comes right towards the end and what you learn from her flashbacks are really quite troubling but I didn't feel like the other character's reacted enough and Aimée, young though she is, didn't seem to realise the severity of what she was telling the others. If a little bit more time had been taken in these flashbacks maybe the extra fleshing out of the story would fill in those odd gaps and miscommunication. And on top of the literary choices, the writing itself felt a little stiff at times. Some of the dialogue didn't feel natural, or was too formal given the age and backgrounds of the characters. And while I felt like the action was written clearly, (the opening sequence was a really great way to start the novel, meet HC and Aimée and introduce the aliens) and with the excitement necessary for action scenes, the occasional issue that popped up in the dialogue and flashback scenes upset the flow of the novel and the pacing suffered a few hiccups.

Any book this ambitious is going to have problems, especially when it's only the author's second novel. Because of the flaws and the time investment the epic size and story necessitates this isn't a book for everyone, but while it may not be joining The Stand on people's bookshelves just yet I think the story itself has a lot of promise and heart and just like Hudson's first novel Drift, it marks the promise of this young author.

Movie Trailer: The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo Dicaprio has reunited with Martin Scorcese for The Wolf of Wall Street (based on the book by Jordan Belfort) and it looks all kinds of awesome. Like, I'm actually really excited about it. Leo seems to be chewing scenery as much, if not more, than he did in Django Unchained and the whole film is worth it for this majestic gif of Leo.

Let the cocaine fuelled 90s decadence begin!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Links

*Anyone else got the Game of Thrones blues? Well this blog looks at the relationship between Norse mythology and the Game of Thrones world and it is AWESOME. (Via Game of Throne and Norse Mythology)

*I find Taylor Swift boring and her "don't call me a feminist" stance mind-boggling (seriously, how is any woman not a feminist?) but the Feminist Taylor Swift twitter account is awesome. I would probably listen to her songs if these were the lyrics. (Via Twitter)

*I'm still too scared to read any James Joyce, but even I can appreciate the awesomeness of this recording of Joyce reading Ulysses. (Via Flavorwire)

*I wish I was artistic. Tatsuo Horiuchi makes art using excel spreadsheets. I still don't exactly know how that's possible. (Via Spoon Tamago)

*There's a documentary on J.D. Salinger coming out later this year. Follow the link for the trailer and a bit of info about the project. The trailer's a little questionable but the subject matter is wicked. (Via Slashfilm)

*Here are some fancy ladies dressing up as different iterations of Doctor Who (Via Buzzfeed)

*Been looking to get into comics or experimental novels? Why not combine the two? By the way, if anyone wants to buy me a copy of Building Stories, please and thank you. (Via Flavorwire)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Readalong post 4 *SOB*

So I had all these plans to write about the characters and the info dump chapters and ask questions about whether certain things mean certain other things and then I got to the unimaginable shriek of grief that McGonagall made when they all thing Harry is dead and woooooshhhhhh every plan for a coherent post went the way of a fizzing whizbee.

I greatly appreciate JKR's attempt to add some Looney Tunes funnies into the battle with the "Snape shaped hole in the window". It's not much but it's a welcome reprieve from all the deaths of my favourite characters.

And holy shit, death much? Since people always complain about how unrealistic it is that heroes live through battles JKR decided to kill EVERYONE.

Fred's death will never not kill me. I left reading this till the last minute and I was a WREAK yesterday afternoon. And stupid Percy, I know I should be happy that they reconnected and that Fred got to witness Percy's very first joke but but but Fred is dead dead dead. So I kinda still hate Percy and wish he'd died instead. Stupid Percy.

And Lupin and Tonks. I detest JKR for killing them both, I didn't care for them as a couple but Harry Pottering poor little Teddy? I don't care about the mirroring of generations... Nuh uh, JKR, NOT COOL. Side note: Who raises Teddy? Is Tonks' mum still alive? In the epilogue which shall not be discussed Harry says that Teddy comes around 4 nights a week. So did he live with Harry and then move out? Or did he never live with Harry?

Voldemort's death isn't super spectacular which I kind of love, it's like JKR was denying him from the satisfaction of going out in style. But I also love how he's basically taken down by his own hubris. Silly man, did you learn NOTHING from having your spirit ripped from you body?

I'm so glad I didn't do a death tally, because ummmm, how would you have room for anything else in your post? Also, Harry notes that 50 people on his side were dead, how many death eaters died do you think? Did the Order and the students use curses that could kill or mostly just stun people?

But tallies are fun and since this section of the book was 99.9999% battle I'm going to do a badass tally. Beside it means I get to talk about ALIVE people and avoid the fact that EVERYTHING I EVER KNEW AND LOVED HAS BEEN DESTROYED.

1. Neville Longbottom.

Neville is Ash, Ash is Neville
He kills Nagini immediately after Voldemort set his head on fire. And that's just like one thing. He averages about 40 kickass feats an hour all year. He is amazing.

2. Professor McGonagall.
"if any of you attempt to sabotage our resistance, or take up arms against us within this castle, then, Horace, we duel to kill" 
Do I even need to add anything to that quote? There is no questioning the badass-ness of McGonagall.

3. Luna Lovegood

Did Luna even realise she was in the middle of a war? Someone needs to work out how to bottle Luna's calmness and sell that shit because they would make a mint. And that scene where she helps Harry with his patronus? I want to tattoo her name across my heart because she is the greatest person alive. (How stupid is it that JKR didn't set Luna up with Neville? Can you imagine their kids? Super handsome, super badass, super fantastic, for sure.)

4. Mrs Weasley

Mrs W was always straight up the coolest, but her fight against Bellatrix and her ability to fight right after losing her son makes her a legend. If one of my kids died I would curl up in a ball next to them and never get up again. Respect.

5. Harry Potter
Except replace Pippin with Horcruxes.
Neville (rightly) gets most of the badass attention, but Harry deserves a sliver of that spotlight. His rescue of Draco in the room of requirement, his decision to go into the forest without saying goodbye to everyone, letting Voldemort KILL HIM WITHOUT FLINCHING and his monologuing while facing Voldemort part 2... Dude is a straight up BAMF.

And I think I'm going to leave it there because I know you guys are going to make me want to cry in your posts (damn you all DAMN YOU TO HELL) and I do not want to feel these feels more than I have to. You can't make me, JK Rowling can't make me and damn it I am basically a shrivelled up sultana (raisin to you weird Northern Hemisphere folk) from all of the crying.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Movie Trailer: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I know a lot of people soured on the first Hobbit movie but I actually loved it. I loved the songs, I loved the Bilbo, I loved Radagast. Maybe it's because I'm a D&D* player and just love a good old fashioned adventure  that pits adventurers against dragons for profit, but yeah, it worked for me. So I'm pretty excited by this new trailer. There's more Radagast, more Bilbo (who I keep typing out as Biblo for some reason) and Legolas is back AND UNF, LEE PACE IS BEING ALL EYEBROWSY AND ELFISH.

My question, which I asked after watching the first one, is what happens in the final film? IMDB has film three's (There and Back Again) synopsis as: Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves are in Smaug's lair, but will they get their gold and return home safely? So is it still just about the dragon (and the subsequent 5 armies war), and how does the Necromancer (Sauron Lite) fit into all of this?

*I just re-read the linked in post and I made the exact same claim. I'm circling around on myself, destruction is imminent.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monday Links

*So the Tonys happened and since I'm in Australia and apparently people don't think Australians like Broadway all I have are the youtube clips but holy shit NPH is a great host. And holy shit imagine if all awards shows were as awesome as the Tonys. Also, Jesse Eisenberg NEVER smiles.

*More Joss Whedon! Here's the letter he sent to friends asking them to take part in Much Ado About Nothing. I wish I was his friend. (Via Buzzfeed)

*I KNEW I was right to always wonder whether actors with the same last name were are some freaking crazy famous family connections. (Via Cracked)

*Ever get stuck trying to decide what to read next? Here are 8 websites/apps that can help (Via Apartment Therapy)

*This is cooool. An archaeology site may show that there was over 800 years of ritual sacrifice practiced in Kent. A really interesting read, science yo! (Via Science Blogs)

*Superman hits cinemas soon (wooot!) but if you're new to Superman (is anyone actually?) here's a neat little graphic giving you all the details (Via Buzzfeed)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Book Review: The Diabolist by Layton Green

The Diabolist

Written by: Layton Green

Published: 2013

Synopsis: In this gripping thriller, the bizarre murder of a Satanic priest in San Francisco draws Dominic Grey and Viktor Radek, private investigators of cults, to the scene. Witnesses claim a robed figure, seemingly able to appear and disappear at will, set fire to the priest. When the leader of another Satanic cult in Paris dies under similar circumstances, the case only grows stranger… and more dangerous.

Convinced that a charismatic New Age prophet is behind the murders, the investigators undergo a perilous journey into the world of the occult as they try to penetrate the prophet’s inner circle. From the catacombs of Paris to London’s nefarious East End, from the haunted walls of York to a monastic fortress in the Sicilian wilderness, the case plunges Viktor and Grey into a vortex of black magic, ancient heresies, and the dark corners of their own pasts.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

"Because magicians, at least real magicians, have no connection to santanists. The popular American concept that gullible teenagers are drawn into Satanism through the occult is an urban myth. Someone who reads Harry Potter, plays role-playing games, or dabbles with tarot and palm reading is no more likely to start worshiping the devil than anyone else" 

Reading Layton Green makes me really angry at Dan Brown.

Dan Brown is pretty good at what he does and I don't begrudge him his success, but when it comes to interesting characters embarking on a thrilling exploration into the dark world of cults, religions and magic Layton Green does it SO much better. Sure it's possible Layton Green will get the recognition he deserves, and this might even the book that makes people stand up and take notice, but right now Dan Brown is probably laying on an ridiculously large rotating bed throwing money into the air giggling like a school girl and that irks me tremendously.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed The Diabolist. This is the third book in Green's Dominic Grey series, and easily my favourite. The Egyptian, the second in the series, was the first book I read, and while I would recommend taking in the entire series chronologically they're designed to be stand-alone books - akin to Sherlock Holmes, certain previous knowledge is presumed but you aren't left in the dark if you choose to jump around through the order.

Joining our unassuming hero Dominic Grey in a more direct capacity is his boss, the absinthe-drinking professor, Viktor Radek. And unlike in the previous books, the veil of mystery is removed from Victor and he becomes less an adroit cult expert and more a flawed, troubled and deeply fascinating man. Though they're separated for much of the novel, the interplay between Dominic and Viktor was one of my favourite elements. Victor is the world famous phenomenologist, descended from minor Bohemian royalty with a heady addiction to absinthe. He's sharp and intelligent but has a quietness and softness that betrays his near-7 foot height. Dominic, on the other hand, is small, slight and trained in a litany of martial arts and surveillance techniques. They make a formidable team, the teacher and the student, the protector and the protected, the father and the son...but which character takes which position shifts constantly throughout the novel. They both have their flaws, blind-spots and their vulnerabilities but each regards the other as the most important person for them to protect and their loyalty to one another is touching.

The thing Layton Green does really well is blur lines. Nothing is black and white in Green's world (or ours to be quite frank), there is no clear divide between good and evil, magic and illusion, reality and imagination. In the end the only thing the characters can rely on is their faith, their faith in science, or in a God or in their partner, but the acts of the novel are constructed to shake that faith to its core, to make it impossible for a character to confidently claim to believe in any one thing. Answers are provided at the end of the novel, but not to every seed of doubt that was planted. By the conclusion of the novel, each character has had to reexamine their beliefs and concede that maybe they aren't as sure as they once were. And as we come out the other end, we, as readers, have our own beliefs and assumptions shaken and questioned. It's the way a book should be, asking questions, encouraging introspection, and delivering information and alternate points of view without being didactic or pushy.

There is only really one female character (aside from Eve who appears briefly in flashback) and while she's mostly hovering along the periphery, Anka is also one of the most riveting and oblique characters in the story. She isn't simply there to be romantically involved with Dominic, she's a mystery to be solved, a question to be answered and, potentially, the key to solving the whole thing. I feel like I may have made her sound like a tool to be used by the male protagonists and I guess in some ways that's exactly what she is. But I also think she's a physical manifestation of the religious and moral debates that proliferate this story, she's within and without, and it's great.

The Diabolist is a well-paced and thrilling narrative that had me captivated throughout. The characters are complex, the mystery well portrayed and the content is intelligent and clearly well researched. These are the kinds of books you read with a wikipedia or google tab open so you can read up on Ahriman or Satanic cults or Bram Stoker's connections to magic as you wind your way through the story, and I can't wait to see what phenomenon Viktor and Dominic get involved with next.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Readalong Part 3

Ugh Deathly Hallows you are KILLING me.

I got to Dobby's final appearance while I was sitting in my office and before I realised what was happening I had tears running down my cheeks. Thank christ the office was empty because that could have lead to an uncomfortable discussion!
"The Elf had gone where he couldn't call him back" 
As I got older I was a little more meh about Dobby in the series, but when I was 13 and first introduced to him I loved him. I thought he was wonderful and weird and adorable and I loved how easily and openly he loved Harry. So even though by book 7 I wasn't super excited by Dobby's arrival, his death KILLED me. He's so innocent and nice and loyal and never did anything wrong, and he marks the beginning of the end - we're basically going to have another character dead every second page from here on out. Oh, and the line about grief pushing Voldemort out - which Dumbledore would have called love? WAHHHHHHHH!

You know what I want to know? Why doesn't the trio do some good old muggle disguise work? It wouldn't protect them indefinitely, but if Ron dyed his hair dark brown and put on a pair of glasses, Hermione cut her hair super short and went blonde and Harry -- well I don't know what Harry would do because his scar would be the real issue, but if they all made some superficial changes like that it'd be much harder for a death eater to pick up a copy of the Daily Prophet and be like "uh doy, this looks just like you girly".

The final movie/s were probably the best in the series, and mostly because of the AMAZING animation of The Tale of the Three Brothers. It was so freaking cool, and perfect and it made me sad we didn't see creative interpretations like that in the first 6 films. If you haven't seen the film, here's the animation in full.

Full sentences are becoming harder, so here's some bullet points.

*How genius is the taboo? I mean, it basically guarantees that they don't waste their time finding small time folk. THAT'S why Voldemort is the dark lord. 

*"He must have known you'd always come back"  Harry loves his Weezy.


 *I'm sure I read somewhere that JKR meant for the werewolves to be analogous with AIDS sufferers, but the description of Greyback, with his teeth and nails and everything, makes him sound like a creepy ass meth addict.

*Anytime Ron refers to chess like he does when he sees the Lovegood house it makes me sad because it's a reminder of the character he could have been. JKR is just playing with my emotions now.

*"I only said that to make you come to the Lovegoods, I didn't believe it" This is a problem when you're the smartest and de facto leader of the group lady, they take everything you say as gospel.

*I kinda hope Harry took the time to say "nyah nyah nyah, I was right you were wrong" to Hermione. It happens so rarely it would have been hard to hold back.

*More proof to the every growing "wizards are dicks" class action - Harry is seen as weird and odd because he saved a goblin from the torture house that is Malfoy Manor. Get you shit together wizards.

*Can I add Olivander to the list of characters we want books about?

*At the vault could they not use a broom to sweep the goblets, galleons and whatever else off the floor away from them? Do they multiply on human touch or touch of any kind?

I hope everyone has their rage and depression gifs ready for next week's slaughterfest. Ugh, and that abomination of a final chapter.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Film Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great Gatsby

Released: 2013

Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

Starring: Leo DiCaprio, Tobey McGuire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton.

Synopsis: An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Long Island-set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway is lured into the lavish world of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Soon enough, however, Carraway will see through the cracks of Gatsby's nouveau riche existence, where obsession, madness, and tragedy await. (from IMDB)


After an exhausting morning of running the Colour Run and an afternoon of Dungeons and Dragons, Tom and I decided to spend the rare work-free evening seeing a movie. Being exhausted we were hoping for a silly popcorn flick, but sadly Fast and Furious 6 isn't out until next week. And then I spotted The Great Gatsby. Hardly a popcorn film, but really, how could I turn down the controversial adaptation of one of my favourite books and films?

Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby has a lot of things going for it and a couple of fairly big things going against it. Overall though, I was pretty happy with the film and think that a lot of people's complaints are a result of that much loved "hating Luhrmann" hobby so many people seem to enjoy. It isn't perfect, and it definitely isn't my favourite incarnation of that story (the book will always win that prize) but I am also super happy with how it turned out and some of the additions and changes Luhrmann made.

First off, it's a beautiful film. I mean of course it is, Luhrmann has always made visual spectaculars and this is definitely no exception. The set pieces are big, glittering and captivating, the costumes are amazing, and the grounds around Gatsby and Nick's houses are too die for. If I could live in Nick's little cottage for the rest of my life I would die a very, very happy woman. But aside from that, the visual choice to depict the flashbacks as tinted film was inspired - it added a romance and nostalgia to those memories as well as being visually arresting. I also liked the occasional addition of actual text on the screen as Nick narrated the story - it didn't always fit and probably could have been cut down, but I liked it as a nod to Fitzgerald's writing and some of it was really creatively incorporated.

As beautiful as the film was, this was also where it slipped up. Luhrmann's captivation with beauty and making things theatrical and grandiose works perfectly in some scenes but also overshadows the real heart and soul of the story. Amidst the hedonism and ridiculous Gatsby parties, the actual story is very small and contained, a lot of it is told through stolen glances and brief meetings heavy with meaning . Framing it with huge crane shots of New York and of Gatsby's butter yellow car as it races through Long Island makes it really hard to pay attention to what the story is really trying to say. The two greatest scenes in the film (and luckily these are also two of the most important), the confrontation scene during the heatwave and the pool scene at the climax, are also the smallest scenes in the film. The confrontation between Gatsby, Daisy and Tom takes place in a tiny hotel room and the scene is electric with emotion. it's claustrophobic and hot and there is no escape for any of the characters. It's beautifully shot and the scene is decorated perfectly, but it never takes away from the actual story that the scene is unpacking. Similarly, the final scene in the pool is rare in how quiet it is, and how at peace Gatsby appears. The colours of the pool, the shining sun, the events that had just unfolded and are about to's heavy with foreboding and consequence, but it's superb in its simplicity. Luhrmann has what it takes to tell perfectly contained and vibrant stories as well as theatrical show pieces, I just wish he knew how to balance the two better.

And now for a potentially controversial opinion. I loved Tobey McGuire as Nick and I really liked the addition of the sanatorium as a means to narrate the story. The thing is, when reading The Great Gatsby, it doesn't matter where Nick is or why or to whom he's telling his story. But in cinema to tack on narration without a purpose is shoddy film-making. People disagree about what Gatsby is all about, but one of the reasons the book resonates with me is Nick's story. To me the story is as much about Nick as it is about Gatsby and Daisy. He crosses such an intense arc in so short a period of time, from anticipation to heartbreak, from naiveté to realism. It makes sense that such shocking and world-crashing events would not leave him unscathed, simply narrating this story to his grand-kids at bedtime. He is in a sanatorium for alcoholism, depression and anxiety and retelling the story of his summer, of Gatsby, is his catharsis. it gives a purpose for the narration but it also gives us a look at how the events shook Nick to his very core. And I like this, very much. As for Tobey McGuire, people seem to have this weird hatred for him that I just don't get it. I think by and large he was doomed to be criticised regardless of how he portrayed Nick. Me however, I thought he handled the retelling of Nick perfectly, managing to convey the "within and without" aspect of Nick with a subtlety that I felt was lacking from some of the other performances. He brought life to the narration and narrated with such care and deliberation that I truly believed he could have written the words. By the end of the film I had unabashedly fallen in love with him.

As for the rest of the cast, I thought DiCaprio did really well, although personally I liked the quietness of Robert Redford's interpretation over DiCaprio's more emotional version. There were a couple of close-up shots of Leo which could have been taken from Romeo and Juliet, he looked so young and vulnerable and in those moments he broke my heart. Carey Mulligan was good as Daisy, and while Mia Farrow will always be my Daisy I do think Daisy as a character was better realised in this film. She isn't simply a shallow and materialistic woman, there's a depth of vulnerability and self-awareness which the acting choices of Carey Mulligan combined with the narration present to the audience. And the mostly Australian supporting cast, Joel Edgerton (Tom), Isla Fisher (Myrtle), Jason Clarke (George Wilson) et al, were incandescent in their roles. Amidst all the successes and the failures, the championing of Australian actors is Baz Luhrmann's greatest achievement, and our film industry owes him a great deal.

Finally, I just wanted to touch on the soundtrack. Aside from one song playing during a party sequence I thought the music choices perfectly fit with the film. Jack White during the final car scene home from New York gave me shivers, Lana Del Ray was perfect for Daisy and Gatsby's reunion, the Jay-Z track, infused with a trumpeter on a New York fire escape worked really well. They reflected the mood of the scene, you didn't notice that they were anachronistic (not that it matters since it's all non-diegetic sound) because it connected you to the characters and the story before you. Also, the XX song playing over the credits was the most perfect credits song in all movie history ever. EVER. It perfectly encapsulated the quiet and insular story in a way that Luhrmann wasn't always capable of presenting, but quite clearly understood.

Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby isn't perfect and it loses focus every once in awhile, but amidst the flaws the pulse of the original Gatsby beats away. I might have complained about the crane shots distracting from the true story, but they are still spectacular and the larger than life story of Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan and Nick Carraway, a story of transformation, love and deceit set within the New York backyards of the Old Money and Nouveau Riche is both one for the ages and for the big screen.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday Links

*Scriptwriter John August has a blog and podcast about screenwriting and it's pretty fantastic. This post is a transcript from a recent podcast about Batman and the Bechdel Test. There's also a link on the page to the actual podcast. (Via John August Blog)

*Was everyone following the #FBRape issues? Here's a recap. (Via Buzzfeed)

*Joss Whedon praises Shakespearian female characters AND wants to write a ballet about a library...NEVER STOP BEING WONDERFUL JOSS! (Via Flavorwire)

*Rookie magazine did a really great interview with Emma Watson. Can she and I just be friends already? (Via Rookie Mag)

*Eek! Cute and awesome alternative bookcase and book display ideas! (Via Buzzfeed)

*I took part in a bunch of the Armchair BEA talks this week, but my favourite was my children's lit post because it was all Australian fiction and all the books are AMAZING and please read the post and the books OK? (Via ME)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Armchair BEA (day 5): Children's Literature- Reppin' Australia

Sorry for my absence yesterday folks, I had a full up schedule and didn't get a chance to write about non-fiction and ethics but wowzers you all did really well covering it all, so I don't know that I could have actually added anything new anyway!

So children's literature! I LOVE children's lit and it's such an important genre because 9 times out of 10 it's the writing that informs whether someone becomes a reader or not. I was a reader from a young age (I doubt there are many of you who don't share that claim) and I always loved fairytales. I had these two huge compediums of fairytales and nursery rhymes. Both were filled will really beautiful and detailed illustrations to accompany the stories and rhymes from the 16th to the 19th centuries and both are now locked away awaiting the birth of my children, whenever that will be. I loved pouring over the story of Rose Red and the Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme was my absolute favourite. A couple of years later I was given a book of stories about British and Irish sprites and fairies and pixies. I'd like to say it was this book that lead to me loving to research the subject of my reads and to examining the subtext that is hidden to all but those of us obsessive enough to dig a little deeper.

But the most wonderful books I read as a kid were all Australian. When it comes to Australian children's lit my mum is a book-pusher, I read my fair share of Hungry Caterpillers and Baby-Sitter's Clubs, but it was the books written by Australian authors set (mostly) in our very own country that I read the most often and loved the hardest. And since I know there aren't a huge selection of Australians taking part here I figured I'd introduce you all to some BRILLIANT reads. There are classics stories written by our bush poets (Mulga Bill's Bicycle), books which challenged gender stereotypes at a time when that was unheard of (Seven Little Australians), series that forced ordinary Australian teens to become guerilla fighters (Tomorrow when the War Began) and series which were just delighfully absurd (collections by Paul Jennings). It's an absolute pleasure to present you with my lists of favourite picture, children's and YA Australian books.

Get reading!

Picture Books 
My selection is perhaps a little dated since I don't have anyone to buy picture books for, but I know for a fact that most of these books are still just as popular today as they were when I was a little gal. All are uniquely Australian, and though not listed you should also hunt out the many, many picture books which tell the dream-time stories of the Indigenous Australians.

Wombat Stew by Marcia Kay Vaughn
Mulga Bill's Bicycle by Banjo Paterson, Deborah and Kilmeny Niland
Possum Magic by Mem Fox
Animalia by Graeme Base
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner and Ron Brooks

Children's Books 
Since this is an Australian list I can't really include Roald Dahl, but I'm going to pimp him out anyway because ALL of his books should be read, Matilda, George's Marvellous Medicine, James and the Giant Peach, The Magic Finger, The on and so forth. Similarly if you don't read The Magic Faraway Tree or The Wishing Chair, both series by Enid Blyton, to your kids then I consider you to have failed in your parental responsibilities. But on to the Aussie contemporaries and classics!

Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park
Unreal/Unbelievable/Quirky Tales (or any other short story collection) by Paul Jennings
Two Weeks With the Queen by Morris Gleitzman
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda (a series)
Storm Boy by Colin Theile

Young Adult
If you've run out of Harry Potter, Hunger Games or Divergent books to read then why not turn to Australian YA? This is the bracket I have the least to suggest, but head to this Goodreads list if you're interested in the many, many YA Australian books and series I haven't read. These should be enough to get started though!

The Infernal Optimist by Linda Jaivin
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Tomorrow when the War Began by John Marsden (a series)
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Deadly Unna by Phillip Gwynne


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