Robin Hood

116 min.

Want het was natuurlijk al een hele vijf minuten geleden sinds er een mediaproduct van het Robin Hood-verhaal werd gemaakt. Deze blog zal mogelijk enigszins sarcastisch overkomen.

Robin Hood 2018Als je op zoek bent naar plotloos vermaak met wat redelijk aantrekkelijke scènes, is dit best een redelijke film voor je. De leidende acteur is van tijd tot tijd best charmant en probeert het in ieder geval met de af en toe compleet onzinnige opmerkingen. Dan is er een kleiner karakter (Huck) die in zijn eentje full time zijn best lijkt te doen, en och – de montage van diefstallen is voor het oog ook wat.

Maar de film is te lang, zo’n vijftien – twintig minuten. Niemand van de acteurs schijnen er erg enthousiast over te zijn, behalve de enige vrouwelijke – maar die krijgt dan weer niets te doen. Zelfs bekende slechterik acteur Ben Mendelsohn dobbert maar een beetje rond.

Dus ondanks de introductie van ‘Oh wow, dit is echt niet het verhaal dat je denkt te kennen’ en het super voor de hand liggende open einde met de hoop op een sequel is het dus allemaal vooral (net) niet(s).  Ga dan voor Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur van een paar jaar geleden: zelfde onzinnige toontje, maar zonder die zinloze poging om zichzelf serieus te nemen.

Robin Hood, Summit Entertainment 2018

The Mars Room

Chain Night happens once a week on Thursdays.

I changed my mind about this novel pretty much every other chapter. Probably because I expected one person’s story and got several, with almost all of those not being interesting to me. I don’t care about the male prisoner when the book is marketed as being about a woman in a female prison.

Anyway. Every chapter is a facet of the story, some just muddier than others. It is about Romy, a female prisoner. It doesn’t just show her story, but the circumstances that got her there and life in prison. And neither of those things are pretty.

With every chapter there is a slight shift in style, which could be a compliment to the author, but again adds to the feeling of ‘Am I here for this?’. Quickly, the story turns out to be another version of life in prison: you slog through and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The Mars Room, Rachel Kushner, Scribner 2018

Welcome to Lagos

Evening swept through the Delta: half an hour of mauve before the sky bruised to black.

I read books situated in South America and Asia and Africa to remember that Western culture and/or society isn’t the only one on this planet. With Welcome to Lagos I sometimes felt like I was ready a satire of how people think about African cultures. Surely it isn’t really like that? But when a (semi-)local is writing about it, you might take their word for it. And see that some known things about African countries aren’t exaggerated.

In this story the reader follows people from different walks of life that come together in Lagos. And Lagos is a creature, not just a city. The country of Nigeria is a beast, and the different people living in it are sometimes prey, sometimes predator. I’m not just talking about literal, military violence, but about poverty and corruption as well. And yet, these people find each other and connect in some way.

It’s a story about people functioning (in some way) in a country that isn’t even half way there on the road to whatever. As an ignorant white person I was surprised by the casual poverty and people abusing it, by the reach of the corrupted in power. As mentioned before – is it really that bad?

It’s with credit to the author that it doesn’t turn into one long complaint about the city and its civilians. Welcome to Lagos feels like something you could read for Anthropology class: to make sure you see the people not the system.

Welcome to Lagos, Chibundu Onuzo, Faber & Faber 2017

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

117 min.

I don’t really know what this movie wanted to be. Is it about Lisbeth and how trauma makes for dysfunctional people? A hacker thriller? Family saga? Complaint about evil authorities?  Because it might have been all of that, but the movie as it was, didn’t even manage to dip below the surface of any of it.

The-Girl-in-the-Spiders-WebThis is my first Lisbeth Salander-experience, so I can’t say how it works in comparison with the books or the other movies. I know a bit about the character, but only saw the flaws people have written about. She’s one-dimensional, and even when emotions are finally shown, it’s the soundtrack and close ups that show the importance of it. And why is she half naked so much?

This time a job of hers goes wrong, making her hunted by authorities and hardened criminals and maybe also by someone from her past as well. Lisbeth only seems to work with men, and except for ‘the American’ they’re all white as well. Will her name be cleared and the criminals get what they deserve? Will we care?

If Sony wanted to use this as an introduction, there should have been more introductions. If they want to James Bond this thing (who cares who plays Lisbeth), they should have trusted the character and not add extra fibs to round her out (and fail).

It’s just not all that, and a bit too long as well.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Sony 2018

The Underground Railroad

The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.

Watching the series Underground, The Knick and than reading this book, gives you a triangle of black American history. If you’re not a complete dunce, you can recognise that these three are slavery-related, because that’s a large part of black American history. And as I often ask myself with books about ugly subjects; why should you read it? Don’t we know already?

This time the underground railroad to the saver surroundings up north is really an underground railroad, but that doesn’t make an escape easier. Main character Cora is followed through different states and escapes, and even when it looks safe, it doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes the violence against black people is written down so detached, it’s easy to believe all the slavery-wasn’t-horrible stories some people still try to taut. Only for this author to proof them wrong, again and again. This book isn’t just about the violence, it’s about the impact on human lives.

The railroad gives it a slightly fantastical shade, but an escape is an escape, whatever way used. Sometimes the author veers off a little in style, rails to a dead end, but Cora’s story needs to be seen through.

And if people know already, even about South Carolina, even about the mass sterilisations, maybe they can just pass this story on for those that don’t.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, Doubleday 2016

Bad Times at The El Royale

141 min.

Wat is het toch met films die niet weten wanneer ze moeten stoppen? Bad Times at The El Royale is heel lang vermakelijk (op een vervreemdende en absurde manier, verwacht geen haha-comedy), maar dan blijven scènes naar het einde toe ineens maar duren en duren. Zet die schaar er toch eens in.

Bad Times at the El RoyaleEen hotel in de jaren zestig met wat vreemde trekjes en nog vreemdere gasten. Klinkt als horror en is het ook een klein beetje, maar doordat elke gast zijn/haar moment krijgt, is het te fragmentarisch om echt spanning op te bouwen. En wanneer de slechterik er is, duurt het dus allemaal net iets te lang (zie vorige alinea).

Had de film iets meer verschoven naar de achtergrond van het hotel dan naar de kartonnen slechterik die te weinig verbinding heeft met de andere gasten. Gaat dit over de onschuldigen die hoe dan ook gewond zullen raken? Hoe ziek de wereld is? Of was er helemaal geen les, en alleen de six pack van Chris Hemsworth?

Bad Times at The El Royale, Twentieth Century Fox 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

When people ask me what I do–taxi drivers, hairdressers–I tell them I work in an office.

Seems like my streak of entertaining and enthralling reads is still going on. Hurray for making the right decisions!

Some people told me that this was a romance, making me frown a bit when getting to know Eleanor Oliphant. First of all, she isn’t in the right state of mind for a romance, secondly, a romance with whom? Do women always need a romantic relationship to show personal growth?

Luckily those people were wrong, Eleanor shows growth because she has to and wants to, and -gasp- is allowed a relationship with a man that isn’t a romantic one. Apologies, that’s a mild spoiler.

As I say so often: if this would have been written by a male author, and the protagonist male, it might have been viewed as Deep and slice-of-life instead of the quick rejection of calling it chicklit because it involves women living life. Eleanor Oliphant showcases character building, motivations and lessons learned without any of it being obnoxious. While being funny from time to time as well.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman, Viking 2017