Girl One

April 24, 1972

Girl One, Sarah Flannery Murphy, Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2021

Standard detective with an element that’s supposed to make it cool and original but really doesn’t – instead turning the whole thing into a slog to get through.

Girl One is one of the girls that have been created without any male influence – aka no sperm. This tidbit is mostly mentioned through how society looked at them, not adding any cool scifi-ish bits until the last part of the book. Before that, Girl One (Josephine) is looking for her mum. They don’t have a great relationship, but there’s a deserted looking home and she ~feels~ like she has to.

With the meeting of the other girls created the same way her mother’s disappearance seems to turn into something bigger, but details are fed so slowly and unclear that it’s just.. why should I bother?

The story ends with a Life-Changing disappointment for the protagonist. I mentally signed out long before that.

Be Dazzled

The Boston Convention Center has good security, but it doesn’t have missile launchers, which means it would have a pretty tough time defending itself against Evie Odom.

Be Dazzled, Ryan la Sala, Source Books 2021

I know a story – and definitely a YA one – needs a clear villain, but Be Dazzled picking the protagonist’s mother without ever even mentioning his father somehow didn’t sat right with me.

It’s the one bother in this cute story about a neurotic, talented cosplayer that has to take his ex on in a cosplaying con competition. Of course the adorable, in the closet cool guy ended things terribly and our protagonist will never love (him) again. It’s YA, after all.

With such a title anything but an overload of glitter and loving descriptions of outfits and designs would fall short, but La Sala delivers. It outbalances the negative and circling thoughts of Raffy about himself and everything he does.

If I enjoyed it, the target audience might really run with this. I hope they do.

Resort to Love

101 min.

And the winner of overacting this Film-a-Month-Project goes to… this Netflix gem! I know, I know, easy pickings to go for the Netflix romcom, like I should expect award-worthy material but dear reader: the overacting was A Lot. For a majority of the time. I don’t give out these prizes easily.

Anyway, all this acting excellence happens because the main character – played by Christina Milian – becomes a resort singer and discovers that her next assignment at the resort is to sing at the wedding of the ex that ghosted her. While being engaged. You’d throw around your arms and your volume for lesser things.

And it’s not just her that’s doing it. Honestly, except for the love-interest, everyone seems to be in on the fun and good for them. I would rather have more of that than another excuse to get Milian to sing another song to show she can.

Night Teeth

108 min.

Talking about lost potential.. here’s a prime example. We have snappy, chrome/neon looks, youths that can be considered attractive and vampires – a genre that never needs much to still deliver.

So to not do that could be called impressive. Almost everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Bad acting? Could be saved with okay plot. Corny, cringe-worthy dialogue? Could be accepted with some smooth (action) scenes. But in the story of a cab-driver driving around vampires on a rampage it’s error on error. Bad decisions are made without any back up to make it slightly believable. Plot motivations are thin. Acting is bored or over-done. It’s vampires! Any kind of nonsense lore would have sold this film!

But no. It seems like they went for a music video with a bit of blood and fangs and forgot about the rest – ending with a whole lot of nothing.

The Harder They Fall

139 min.

I wouldn’t have watched this if it hadn’t been this cast; I don’t care for westerns They seem to be the original genre in the category Film’s Too Long.

That’s one of the issues here: dare make it a straight revenge film without the unnecessary straight romance. Don’t bother fleshing out side-characters if you’re only going to do it half-cocked (because it a western, get it?).

The OST manages to carry almost the entire film on its back, but in the end it’s the running time that cripples us all.

De meest besproken man van Nederland

De meest besproken man van Nederland zit om 05.00 uur rechtop in zijn bed.

De meest besproken man van Nederland, Jeroen Pen, Uitgeverij Pluim 2021

Had een vrouw dit ook gepubliceerd gekregen, vraag ik mij af een paar uur na het uitlezen ervan.

Weinig verder aan te merken op deze ‘we doen alsof het een roman is’-roman, maar een man zonder journalistieke opleiding krijgt kansen die de vrouwelijke journalistieke student nooit zal ervaren omdat ze al na x aantal minuten uit gebrek aan betalend werk maar de communicatie in gaat. Ja, ik spreek uit ervaring en ben nog steeds bitter. Enfin.

Jeroen Pen schrijft over freelance/flexibele schil/vaste-contractenterreur in de mediamwereld. Over de dinosauriërs die wel de komeet aan zien komen, maar niet weten hoe er mee om te gaan. Allemaal – als mededertiger – veels te herkenbaar. Bek houden over de staat van de werkomgeving en doorbuffelen – dat ook.

Zo is dit een zeer milleniaanse klacht over media, de vorige generatie, de economie en hoe er tegen werk aan gekeken wordt. Vlot geschreven en zonder enige verdieping of oplossingen dus een lekkere aderlating.

Aan te merken? Het ouderwetse, seksistische gedrag van de vaste-contracters had vast wel alleen benoemd kunnen worden om Otto’s innerlijke feminist/one of the boys-strijd te tonen, in plaats van in detail te benaderen. Maar hier spreekt dan ook een sneeuwvlokje.

Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild

58 min.

I almost definitely picked this film because it was just two minutes short of an hour. Okay, I’m always up for trying something animated, but a film that’s called Monster Hunter and created by CAPCOM (so probably based on a game)? Let’s not expect too much.

It turns out to be a very sanitised version of a Hollywood fantasy (no blood, dancing around violence and maiming, no naked boobs). Except for the statistician monster hunter. And a talking cat, and fun looking monsters – whom I rooted harder for than any human character.

It’s clear that I out-aged the demographic for this, but the potential is there. Right now it’s just cheap (looking) Saturday morning entertainment for cool kiddos, but imagine if the people behind Witcher ran with it. Or a young Tim Burton. You might have to see to see it.

The Hidden Palace

Of all the myriad races of thinking creatures in the world, the two that most delight in telling stories are the flesh-and-blood humans and the long-lived, fiery jinn.

The Hidden Palace, Helene Wecker, HarperCollins 2021

I don’t remember exactly why, but I remember absolutely loving in that swept-away-recommend-everyone way the prequel to this: The Golem and the Jinni. Maybe it’s a sophomore slump or the time between has dropped the rose colour from my glasses, but I didn’t love this one. Sadly.

My biggest complaint is how compartmentalized it felt: there’s never much room given to have the story flow, instead of continuously moving on to another character, another angle, another location. It’s like the notes for a story; not a story.

Of course, it’s still a wonderful look at a young New York city (although not that young anymore, with the first World War around the corner), a broad view at the mythology/-ies of golem and jinns. Some of the new characters add to the stories of the golem and the jinn, others take up too much space and sentimentally planned scenes (assuming, of course) don’t pull at the heart strings at all or only very little.

It’s all too one-dimensional, but there’s rumours there’ll be another book. Maybe the third time is the charm – again.

The Witch’s Heart

Long ago, when the gods were young and Asgard was new, there came a witch from the edge of the worlds.

The Witch’s Heart, Genevieve Gornichec, Penguin Random House 2021

I love a good retelling. Mythological, it is. Madeleine Miller did it with Greeks, Genevieve Gornichec goes way up North with Loki’s story from one of his wives’ point of view.

Angrboda is much more than Loki’s wife: she’s a powerful witch, a threat to the Norse gods (mostly in their eyes, she just wants to be left alone), and a calm soul. She wants to live her little life, but mythologies aren’t build on that. So there’s an unfamiliar feeling (love) for an unreliable person (Loki), pregnancies, children and terrifying visions about (growing) threats. As it goes.

Gornichec doesn’t attempt an old-timey tone that will assure you this is a myth: she tells it like one. There’s a clear chronology, little side steps, lovely visuals. A novel like a comfortable sweater — if you manage to ignore the several deaths, abuse and apocalypse. It’s still a myth, after all.

De vrolijke verrader

George Blake had zich al veertig minuten in een doorgang net binnen de muren van de Londense gevangenis verscholen.

De vrolijke verrader, Simon Kuper, Nieuw Amsterdam 2021

Echt geen idee wat vrolijk is aan dit verhaal of al het verraad eigenlijk, maar dat kan ik ook gewoon gemist hebben.

Simon Kuper levert namelijk een grote berg informatie over spion George Blake die een dubbelagent (Engeland/Sovjet) was tijdens de Koude Oorlog. Het boek gaat niet alleen over Blake maar over misschien wel de beste tijd in de wereld van spionage. Als een complete leek het boek in was best een uitdaging; gelukkig waren er ook hoofdstukken die zo uit een John le Carré-boek kwamen en wat tempo en spanning toevoegden.

Tegelijkertijd blijft het bizar dat dit ten eerste non-fictie is en ten tweede nog niet eens zo lang geleden allemaal gebeurd is. Ook blijft Blake een apart figuur dat het hele verhaal allemaal net iets vreemder en daardoor aantrekkelijker maakt.

Maar wanneer hij nu vrolijk was door zijn verraad? Misschien allitereerde het te lekker om te negeren.