A Simple Favor

119 min.

Batshit crazy, pretty much the entire story and the people involved. But in such a stupidly entertaining way.

a simple favor posterBesides that, there’s jealousy-inducing wardrobes involved, Anna Kendrick showing that she can act and that Blake Lively can’t play anything other than the Serena Woodsen – good thing her character isn’t the emotional type.

Super mom Stephanie befriends super cool aloof power woman (whom happens to be a mom as well) Emily. Emily has some weird habits, but look at the house and the outfits and the martinis! And then she goes missing.

During what follows, pretty much everyone is a suspect, red herrings and embellishments are thrown out left and right, and the women are well dressed (and Henry Young’s character as well).

Could all this have been cut down to a brighter Gone Girl? Very probably, but the two hours would have been far too much then. Better to just keep it as a sugar rush roller-coaster.

A Simple Favor, Lionsgate 2018

Searching

102 min.

After finishing this, I don’t know if I should go change all my passwords, or share them with loved ones. Searching is a search through your digital and online presence, and it shows first of all how easy it is to get to everything you share and secondly all the traces Searching film posteryou leave behind.

The search mentioned is by a father for his teenage daughter, and it’s completely shown through iMessage, FaceTime, live news items etc. At first it feels a bit gimmicky, does one really use FaceTime that often, but quickly it becomes uncomfortably intimate. Not just the father scrolling through his daughter’s videos and texts, but also the endless surge of stimulants; hashtags, texts, chats, videos, messages. Give everyone involved time to think, please.

The movie threw me a few times, using red herrings that only add to the feeling of discomfort. As said above: I don’t want to experience all this, but I don’t know how to prevent it either. Except for some decisions to make, but that would spoil the clue.

Searching, Sony Pictures 2018

The Luminaries

The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.

This is over 800 pages, I’m just going to share that before anything else. And the first 300 – 400 are basically just world building and giving you the background of the characters involved. If I wouldn’t know better (Tolkien isn’t a kiwi author), I’d say kiwi authors can’t write short and to the point.

The point here is a detective mystery. Some people show up dead in this nineteenth century gold miners town, some things go missing, some relationships are destroyed and made. Before the reader gets to the conclusion of this mystery, they might be worn down by all the endless details shared leading up to it.

If you start this novel knowing that a very long game is being run here, you might enjoy it in an almost encyclopedic way. I didn’t know before that there was a New Zealand gold rush, I enjoyed the descriptions of nineteenth century New Zealand and the immigrants living there. I can’t remember precisely how the mystery was solved, though.

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, Granta 2013

The Hollow

10 x 24 min.

Ja, wat is dit dan nu weer? Om de zoveel tijd probeer ik een geanimeerde serie, omdat ik daar mee ben opgegroeid en fijne herinneringen aan heb terwijl ik tegelijkertijd niet die nostalgische meut met ‘vroeger was alles beter’ wil zijn. Om die reden is veel anime niet the hollow netflixaan mij besteed, maar er is meer animatie dan anime.

Onderdeel daarvan is The Hollow, een Canadese serie die nu op Netflix te vinden is. Het zijn dan wel tieners die in een vreemde wereld wakker worden zonder dat ze weten wie en waar ze zijn, het is zeker geen kinderachtige serie. Na een ietwat log begin, ontvouwt de serie in iets dat Dali-light genoemd zou kunnen worden; minotaurussen, poorten naar andere werelden, het zieke paard van de Dood en zo verder. Het is vreemd en soms een beetje eng, tot één van de hoofdrolspelers weer zijn rol als comedic relief invult.

Het unheimliche gevoel verdwijnt snel wanneer de clue bereikt is, en de serie wordt weer standaard zaterdagochtend-kindertelevisiemateriaal. Misschien hoef je de laatste aflevering niet eens te bekijken. Maar daarvoor … daarvoor is het best allemaal vermakelijk met een vreemd randje.

The Hollow, Netflix 2018

Career of Evil

He had not managed to scrub off all of her blood.

This is going to be a grumpy review, with some (mild) spoilers.

First of all, why did I expect things to be much less misogynistic because of a female author (Galbraith is J.K. Rowling)? Was that a very stupid idea? Don’t we know already from the serial killer’s actions that he really doesn’t like women? And I know she isn’t the most original writer, but really, we had to put rape in a woman’s background?

Okay, to the story. Cormoran Strike is still a big, ungainly, ugly private detective that can barely keep his agency upright. Robin, intelligent, smart, fun and kind of attractive, is still his partner/employee/potential love-interest. This time the case seems to be quite personal, because Robin gets sent a severed leg, at the office! This seems to be the gateway to learning a bit more about her, but sadly there isn’t much cheer to be had about this. And all the while is just misogyny left and right, oh – with some romance sprinkled in.

Because in the previous books, and about the previous books, there had been plenty of comments about how Robin and Cormoran should start something, but Robin’s engagement (to someone without any visible redeeming feature) always kept that off. So when that changes, both people involved seem to fall back to something instinctual that means you suddenly have to get romantic feelings about the people close to you. It feels so shoehorned in that I wonder if Galbraith wasn’t writing some romance on the side and swapped documents from time to time.

There’s plenty of good detectives out there, and J.K. Rowling writes enough if that’s the shot you were looking for. But you can dodge this one.

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith, Sphere 2015

Trouble is a Friend of Mine

Of course I didn’t like Digby when I first met him.

I never read a Nancy Drew novel (I think), but I’m pretty sure this could be the more reluctant, twenty-first century version of one. Protagonist Zoe mentions it as well, so I’m definitely onto something.

After the divorce of her parents, Zoe moves to a small town where’s she pretty quickly adopted by the town’s outcast, Digby. He wants/needs her for his research regarding missing girls. His lack of metaphorical bed manner doesn’t enthuse Zoe a lot at first, but plenty of shenanigans happen for her to slowly come round to his hypotheses.

He’s a weird but appealing fellow, and it’s not like Zoe is surrounded by new friends and an understanding mother. So instead of a high school story, the reader gets a small town detective with character descriptions that Celeste Ng would appreciate.

It’s a quick, smart read. The only thing I’m still unsure about is the ending; this novel is one of the very few cases in which there could have been a few more chapters to round things up a bit more completely.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Stephanie Tromly, Penguin Random House Company 2015

Happy Valley

13 x 58 min.

Laat ik maar voorop stellen dat deze titel zeker weten ironisch is. Happy Valley is een detective in een klein dorpje met zoveel criminaliteit dat het niet verwonderlijk is dat het zijn eigen politiebureau heeft.

Happy Valley posterHoofdrolspeler is Catherine, en zij en de actrice die haar speelt (Sarah Lancashire), zijn ook de USP voor deze serie. In plaats van weer een nukkig supergenie als leider te hebben, is Catherine zo verdomde menselijk dat het regelmatig ongemakkelijk wordt. Niets van wat zij meemaakt, lijkt geschreven voor goedkoop scoren of om haar karakter snel als eigen te beschouwen. Wat ze ook doet, er is een magnetisme waardoor je blijft kijken.

Het is een grauwe serie, maar door de onderwerpen, niet door kleurgebruik. Per seizoen (twee), is er een rode lijn, terwijl tussendoor Catherine politiewerk en leven op de best mogelijke manier wilt doen.

Ik ben niet vaak van de detectives, ze herhalen zichzelf snel, maar met Happy Valley krijg je zoveel mensen er bij dat de boel nergens vertraagt of gaat vervelen.

Happy Valley, BBC 2014