Yesterday

116 min.

How much better would this movie have been with a female main character, and are there are well-known singers that have covered The Beatles?

Yesterday film posterOf course, it’s considerate that they didn’t make the entire cast of this film about one guy bringing The Beatles music to the masses white. The Beatles were white, after all. All this playing out in England, with a large immigrant population – why not have the protagonist be of Indian descent? Is it sad that we have to applaud this happening? Yeah.

Anyway, the plot. After a strange occurrence is Jack the only one that recognises The Beatles and their impact on music and pop culture. Having struggled as an artist before, he decides on bringing their music into the world again, working hard to remember all those lyrics. And getting incredibly famous on the way because wow – what music!

Along the way there are some Life Lessons and sometimes you wonder why Jack makes the decisions he does, but in a world where every other movie is a sequel or a reboot, it’s a slight fresh breath of air in the theatre. Or on any streaming service it will soon hit, no doubt.

Yesterday, Working Title 2019

The Goblin Emperor

Maia woke with his cousin’s cold fingers digging into his shoulder.

I hate to copy someone’s review but yes: if you’re about court stories, intrigue and politics in a fantasy setting, this one will do you real good. No need to call it Game of Thrones but with goblins: there’s not enough mass slaughter and incest for that. It (looks to be) is a stand alone as well, which doesn’t happen to often in fantasy either. And how often do goblins get their chance in the sun?

Well, in this book not all the time either. These are elvish countries after all, and freshly made emperor Maia is …not like the usual people in charge. He’s far from prepared for his new role, and there’s little people eager to help him out.

That’s where politics and intrigue come in. Sometimes there’s so many names and roles that it’s best just to cling to the story line, but it never turns into a list of characters. The glances at the world throughout make you long for more; another main story line about ordinary life in this steam punk-ish world would have been welcome.

All in all, it’s a solid, traditional built and written fantasy with some freshness coming from the steam punk elements (could have been more, but that’s world-building-loving me) and goblins in the spotlight.

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison, Tor 2014

The Lonely Hearts Hotel

On that day in 1914, a young girl banged on the door of the Hôpital de la Miséricorde in Montreal.

Boy, does this author love her metaphors like a dog likes a bone. Don’t use them as a drinking game, you will end up in the hospital. Even though it’s becoming quite noticeable after a while, I have to admit that they add to the fairy-tale like feeling this story already has. The development and rise of orphans in Great Depression North America, involving clowns and mobsters, maybe they deserve a metaphor every other sentence.

Main characters are Pierrot and Rose and share the chapters whenever they are together or apart. They’ve got very different views on life and what they want from it; making the fairy-tale like feeling disappear before it can give a (happy) end.

Besides that, there’s the surroundings this plays out in. Montreal with its alive snow, New York with the buildings full of possibilities and risks. It’s all written very visually, which neatly distracts from the small plot holes or just hiccups it provides. This story is pretty and enticing; everything else is subordinate to it.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill, Riverhead Books 2018

Normal People

Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell.

I should have known that an impatient wait would only lead to disappointment, but I guess such repetitious mistakes make you human. This novel got plenty of accolades, but the summary didn’t particularly appeal me. After one review – one I didn’t even recognise the previous summaries read in – I changed my mind. Blow me away, Rooney.

There was no blowing away, only dragging down and wrestling through (negative) emotions. These two people, the main characters Connell and Marianne, are just …incomplete(?) and manage to simultaneously make it worse and better in the other. So much low self-esteem, depression, (mental) self-harm and words that should be said to improve things, but never are.

I finished this an hour ago and still feel that kind of daze of finishing a story that doesn’t let you come up for air. Of course, no story has to be completely happy, or even have happy moments, but every other word is doubted and dissected. The story involves only a few months, making me wish for these poor people involved for it to be decades because surely everyone deserves to have a mental breather.

And underneath all of it, I couldn’t find anything the author wanted to do with this story. Share suffering? Show us that there is no such thing as normal people? Or that no matter what kind of train wreck, people just can’t look away?

Normal People, Sally Rooney, Alfred A. Knopf 2018

Sucker Punch

110 min.

Met sommige films/boeken (ik houd het meestal niet lang genoeg vol bij een slechte TV-serie) is er gewoon al voorpret over de review. Potverdikkeme, wat is Sucker Punch een sneu zooitje in zeventien tinten groen en grijs.

Sucker-Punch-posterHet maakt me niet eens zo erg uit dat er geen plot is, en dat wat doet alsof het plot is, compleet onlogisch is. Hey, dat gebeurt wel vaker. Maar gewoon helemaal niks van deze film klopt? Meisje gaat door iets traumatisch en wordt door een gemeen familielid naar een gesloten kliniek gebracht (ook al blijkt ze oud genoeg om daar zelf over te kunnen beslissen?). In die kliniek zijn alleen maar mooie, dunne vrouwen van haar leeftijd, en die dansen voor vieze oude rijkelui. Oké? Máár! Tijdens dat dansen hallucineren ze, of volgen we de jonge vrouwen hun hoofden in, en verzamelen ze in kleine, infantiliserende pakjes, voorwerpen waarmee ze kunnen ontsnappen. Het dansen wordt nooit getoond, maar iedereen is er schijnbaar vreselijk van onder de indruk.

Dit alles in enkele tinten groen en grijs, met veel pruillipjes, koosnaampjes en de hele Sexy Halloween-catalogus. Maar maak je geen zorgen, man-in-charge Zack Snyder vond het een zeer feministisch project. Waarom is onduidelijk.

Enige dat enigszins de moeite waard was? De soundtrack, en die is vast online ergens gratis te vinden.

Sucker Punch, Warner Brothers 2011

4 3 2 1

According to family legend, Ferguson’s grandfather departed on foot from his native city of Minsk with one hundred rubles sewn into the lining of his jacket, traveled west to Hamburg through Warsaw and Berlin, and the booked passage on a ship called the Empress of China, which crossed the Atlantic in rough winter storms and sailed into New York Harbor on the first day of the twentieth century.

The amount of times I thought ‘this would have been more interesting with a female protagonist’ was more than ten. The amount of times I wondered if Paul Auster has any kind of editing team or editor is even higher. Seriously mate, if you need fifteen-plus item lists to get to almost 900 pages, consider aiming a bit lower in page number.

Oh, and definitely change that ending.

What did I like about this story about a young Jewish boy growing up in fifties – sixties – seventies’ USA? Well, it’s one big ‘What if’ story. Every chapter starts with a new Ferguson, but some of them die, some of them grow up to be sterile, some have parents that divorce, some get into accidents. And Paul Auster shows the impact of all these internal and external factors on a human life.

But besides that, he shares a visual description of every woman in the boy’s life, and of every sexual encounter and masturbation session. And then there’s the lists.

If I’d be more aggressive about this time wasted, I’d create an abbreviated version of this book; instead I just want more ‘What if’-stories that won’t repeatedly tell me about a boy’s first erection.

4 3 2 1, Paul Auster, Faber & Faber 2017

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

A Place for Us

As Amar watched the hall fill with guests arriving for his sister’s wedding, he promised himself he would stay.

Finally, a story that grabbed me again. One of those that makes you ache for the characters involved, making you wish that you could reach out to them and shake some sense into them.

At first, I got a bit frustrated by the lack of chronology; a story line is never finished before a memory (from another character) intervenes. It took me until much later that this is how humans work: our bodies might follow a chronology, our minds are always connecting things to thoughts past and future dreams. You learn so much about this family because of all the things they remember, worry about and wish for. But gosh darn it, why don’t they just TALK to each other?

Maybe it’s because it’s a Muslim family that uses their traditions as a wall, a shield and a safety net. Maybe it’s because they’re immigrants in the USA, some of them growing up during and after 9/11. Maybe it’s culture and surroundings and character and fears.

But gosh darn it, do you root for them. Do you wish for more pages to set things right, because surely a happy ending is in order here. Until then, you’re stuck with a lump in your throat.

A Place for Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Penguin Random House 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

All Our Wrong Todays

So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.

If the main character wouldn’t have been female, this book wouldn’t have been published or written of as chick lit and get none of the acclaim this one had. And ‘acclaim’ here is the categories my CloudLibrary put it in, so maybe it’s only Canadian acclaim, but still.

Anyway. I picked All Our Wrongs Today because it was time travel with a bit of The Jetsons and environmentalism sprinkled all over it. What’s not to like about that?

Well, probably the fact that all that is merely a background for half of the book, because protagonist Tom just whines about his life, his family, his actions (and inactivity), his life, his family and how his original surroundings are so much better than where he’s now. Mixed through that the reader gets a few female characters that are clear points to hang the plot on: mother, ex(es), (unattainable) love of his life.

But wait, it’s not just the women in Tom’s life that are merely plot points!

And like that, the reader might start hoping for Tom to time travel into nothingness, rendering this entire disappointing story non-existing. Or at the very least with 80 percent less navel gazing.

All Our Wrongs Today, Elan Mastai, Penguin Random House 2017