The Rules of Magic

Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from society, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society.

It’s the book that your mother loves. Or, like, the book the mothers love in movies about small, sleepy towns and antagonists that dream about a more exciting life but are told by those mothers that you shouldn’t want that because look what could happen. If someone would have told me that this book was written in the nineties, I would have believed it. It’s absolutely stale, and I don’t even mean this in a very negative way, but just because it feels like you’ve seen this movie a hundred times already. It’s comfortable, but never thrilling.

The Rules of Magic is the (“long awaited”) prequel to Practical Magic, which was a book before it was a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Both are about a family of witches, The Rules is just a few decades earlier, so you get New York city of the sixties and seventies, which might be one of the things that make the story appealing. The Owens family is cursed to destroy those they love, so it’s moping about that, destroying (unwittingly) and avoiding anything remotely looking like love. Although it seems to only be about romantic love, else there wouldn’t have been a family at all.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong about this book, it’s not just very exciting. I wasn’t eager to read on and stay up late, and it’s been a while since I had that with a book which might have made me more impatient.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman, Simon & Schuster 2017

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

101 min.

Wat een vermakelijke idioterie. Dit is een voordeel van films over boeken: wanneer je klassiekers (en ik gebruik het woord losjes) wilt uitproberen, gaat dat met film vaak een stuk vlotter.

TRHPS posterIn het geval van The Rocky Horror Picture Show ben je in anderhalf uur klaar, plus misschien een half uurtje om te verwerken wat je gezien hebt, en of het wel een film te noemen is en niet een soort kunstinstallatie.

Want een lief, onschuldig stel krijgt autopech en komt terecht in een duister kasteel waarin iemand (iets?) tot leven wordt gebracht door een zingende travestiet (maar eigenlijk zingt iedereen wel regelmatig). Soms helpen die liederen met verduidelijking, maar het is vooral show voor Dr. Frank-N-Furter, en die steelt hij ook meerdere keren.

Voor een film uit 1975 zit er geen moment iets oubolligs of ouderwets bij, het is gewoon idiote lol waarbij je vooral niet te veel moet nadenken. Aan de ene kant wil ik meer weten van deze vreemde types, aan de andere kant ben ik vrij zeker dat je dan de vreemdsoortige magie ontmantelt. Die tag line is er voor een reden, tenslotte.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Twentieth Century Fox 1975

Suicide Squad

137 min.

In de categorie recente DCEU films keek ik zowel Wonder Woman als Suicide Squad. Omdat de eerste voor mij zo tegenvallend mat was, schrijf ik alleen een blog over deze. In Suicide Squad gebeurt er in ieder geval meer, in meerdere kleuren.

suicide-squad-posterDat van die kleuren is bijzonder, omdat een groot deel van de DCEU films iets te maken hebben met Zack Snyder, en Zack Snyder heeft het niet zo op kleuren buiten zestig tinten blauw. Bij Suicide Squad is het nog steeds mat, maar wel in enkele primaire kleuren. Misschien omdat het onderwerp deze keer bad guys zijn.

Als tegenhanger van Superman en dergelijke, wilt een gruizige organisatie graag een team met supersterke, bijzondere mensen; gewone wapens doen niets tegen machtige aliens tenslotte. Hiervoor wordt een stel criminelen verzameld, en om zich te laten gedragen, krijgen ze een explosieve chip geïnjecteerd.

Het vermakelijke zit in hoe enkele acteurs hun rollen invullen. Will Smith is altijd makkelijk om naar te kijken, en zo zijn er nog een paar die je er aan herinneren dat je niet te veel op het plot of de speelomgeving hoeft te letten. De rest zit helaas vast in stereotypes of slecht acteerwerk.

De soundtrack is ook wel leuk, en als je de te lange vechtscènes doorzapt (wat is dat toch voor vervelende trend?), ben je net zo snel door de film als je bak popcorn. Allebei hebben hetzelfde niveau van voedzaamheid.

Suicide Squad, Atlas Entertainment 2016

 

The Drawing of the Three

The gunslinger came awake from a confused dream which seemed to consist of a single image: that of the Tarot deck from which the man in black had dealt (or purported to deal) the gunslinger’s own moaning future.

I really thought I had read more from these series, but I’m pretty sure I would have remembered this book if I would have. So here we are, the second book in the Dark Tower series. Now I definitely understand people’s confusion about trying to tell this story/these stories in just one movie.

As usual with series, it’s a bit of a challenge to not spoil previous books, especially because I can’t remember anything from the first novel. Luckily, in these editions is a handy ‘Here’s What You Missed’ part before the story picks up again.

What you probably should know, starting these series, is that this is eerie Stephen King, not straight shooter/thriller Stephen King. There’s fantastical elements but also some that veer quite close to horror territory, and there’s not many straight plot lines. If you don’t mind that and are looking for (the build up of) an epic, I’d definitely recommend trying this series.

The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King, Sphere 1990

Half the World

He hesitated just an instant, but long enough for Thorn to club him in the balls with the rim of her shield.

It’s like a bodice ripper with barbarians. Usually I’m fine with what Joe Abercrombie has on offer; brutish fantasy with some comedic relief. Nothing highbrow or what you have to put your brain to work for but still, entertaining. Not so much this time.

The unlikely hero is a young woman that wants to fight, but she’s a woman so she’s laughed off and despised for being better than most. It is also repeatedly mentioned that she’s ugly and not-feminine. Anyway, she ends up as part of a trip around the world and both she and the (male) people around her learn that there’s more to her anger, violence and unappealing face.

This time even the world building just seems to be filler between the fight scenes and insult filled dialogues. I know that sequels are always viewed as to be a bit more challenging, but this was just a slog. If you want barbarian fantasy, try some of his other series.

Half the World, Joe Abercrombie, HarperCollins 2015

The Gracekeepers

The first Callanish knew of the Circus Excalibur was the striped silk of their sails against the grey sky.

Now this is what I call a fairy tale. Remember The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea? Like that, but a book. And maybe a bit more eerie on the side of gruesome, from time to time. And! It has a map that doesn’t just consist out of a large mass in the middle (fantasy pet peeve).

Maybe that’s because in this world, large parts of the planet are under water, only a few islands are left and parts of the human population just permanently live on ships, because there’s not enough land to go around. Some ships are churches, others are circuses, main character North was pretty much born in one, but things are threatening to chance her life on it.

Another character followed is a gracekeeper, some kind of undertaker with a bit of stranger habits than we’re used to. It all adds to the beautiful (and) strange atmosphere. Just wait until you meet the clowns.

The Gracekeepers is there for your mythological, pretty fantasy needs.

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan, Harvill Secker 2015

Son of a Trickster

His tiny, tightly permed maternal grandmother, Anita Moody, had never liked him.

This was such a much weirder story than I expected. I expected a YA novel about a dark and moody male teenager that throws in some (Norse) mythology to make it urban fantasy. Instead I got ..what did I precisely get?

Jared is a weed cookie maker, problem finder, care taker for his dad and stepsister, mother and senior neighbours. He almost can’t help himself, taking care while he should be getting some. For a long time this just seems to be it, a story of a screw up screwing up, surrounded by losers and failures. Until it isn’t, and there’s talking ravens and people-eating otters and things you can’t keep blaming on eating mushrooms. Mythology is added, but not in the cookie cutter Marvel way. No Norseman to be found either, because we’re in Canada, and their First Nation People have got some different stories to build on.

Even though the reader knows this isn’t just mushrooms any more, it’s tempting to blame them; the weirdness just builds up with left and right some violence thrown in. Where is this story going, why is main character Jared still at the unlikely part of the trope ‘unlikely hero’? Is this because it’s the first book in a trilogy? Either way, this might be the first YA that leaves you completely bewildered by what you’ve just been put through. And yet I don’t know how I should change anything if I could.

Son of a Trickster, Eden Robinson, Knopf 2017