Book Review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

8807977I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: 2011 by Penguin (first published 2010)

Pages: 374

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books–but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing.

But “they” know. They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. They killed them all. I am Number Four. I am next.

This is one of those rare occasions where I actually watched the film before I read the book. The film came out a few years ago now and I’ve watched it many times. I heard it wasn’t as good as the book (what a surprise) but just really liked the characters. I was therefore hopeful about the book. Even so I put off reading it for a long time, even though it was on my shelf waiting, because the experience of reading a book after seeing a film adaptation just isn’t the same. You already have expectations of what’s going to happen. Nevertheless I did enjoy reading I Am Number Four, and am keen to read the rest of the series to find out where the story goes.

At first I found it hard to read. I couldn’t get into the style of writing. There were a lot of clipped, short sentences and it read a little odd, almost like it hadn’t been edited yet. In the end though I decided it was deliberately written that way, because the style was consistent. I did eventually get used to it though.

The plot isn’t really anything new, unfortunately. Aliens arrive on Earth and guess what, the bad aliens want to (insert bad thing here) take over/destroy the planet. I liked the idea that Number Four and the others had to be killed in order because of the charm protecting them. There wasn’t much unique or new about the plot though.

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Film Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

HO00005086Film Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

Release date: 14th December 2017

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson

Runtime: 152 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fans have been divided over this film, but I have to say I loved it. No, it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was a little different from other Star Wars films. Yes, that is a good thing from my point of view! I’ve liked (to varying degrees) all of the films. I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens, but it did recycle major plot elements from the original trilogy too much. It didn’t stand on its own two feet. This film did.

It was rather long. It did feel a little episodic, almost like a TV series squished into a film. However, that didn’t really bother me. I just enjoyed the story. There were a lot of twists and turns and although some parts were a little predictable, there were parts that I didn’t see coming and broke from the mould, which I really liked about this film.

Visually and musically it’s stunning yet again. The soundtrack of John Williams is part of what really makes these movies great for me. Some interesting new worlds were explored in this film which made for some new captivating visuals and designs.

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Film Review: Dunkirk

dunkirk-posterFilm Review: Dunkirk

Release date: 21st July 2017

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Aneurin Barnard

Runtime: 106 minutes

Genre: War, Historical

Watched in: 2D Impact

Rating: 4/5 stars

I was quite stunned to discover that this film was still in cinemas yesterday when a friend suggested we watch a flick. Almost seven weeks since its release date, Dunkirk was not only still on with multiple screenings per day, it was still showing in Empire’s biggest screen at my local cinema – the Impact screen. It was my first time in the big Impact showing, and the screen was absolutely massive, covering the entirety of the front wall of the room. The sound was bogglingly loud, much louder than a normal screen, and unfortunately I’m not good with loud, so the sharp racket of gunfire and bass heavy soundtrack wasn’t enjoyable for me and did spoil the experience a bit. The film itself was great, and I would gladly see it again (in a quieter, though unfortunately smaller, screen or at home where I can change the volume).

The name of the film says it all. It follows the events of the evacuation Dunkirk during the Second World War. While it was a mark of a military defeat, the evacuation of thousands of soldiers was a victory. The film follows several characters closely – a group on the beach trying to get on a ship to take them home, fighter pilots in the air, and the civilian boats coming to rescue the stranded soldiers.

It was in some ways a very strange film. There was no context and no set up. It starts at Dunkirk. Most of the characters the film follows are unnamed, and nothing is known about them. I think this was probably a deliberate artistic choice, which was interesting and different from the norm for historical films. However, it also made me feel disconnected from the characters.

The filming was spectacular. They used minimal CGI, filming on location at Dunkirk beach and with real planes and ships. It was refreshing to know that what I was seeing was mostly real, as so often these days filmmakers rely on CGI when some of what they are filming could be done without it.

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Film Review: Wonder Woman

wonder-woman-final-posterFilm Review: Wonder Woman

Release date: 1st June 2017

Director: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright

Runtime: 141 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Historical

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Prior to its release, Wonder Woman was a highly anticipated female-led and female-directed superhero movie. I had my doubts, since films don’t often live up to their hype. Man of Steel, which I liked, is the only other DC film I’ve seen, and since many of their films have flopped and had negative reviews, I was a little apprehensive. In this case, I was thrilled it met expectations.

Wonder Woman follows Diana of the Amazons, who chooses to leave her paradise home and join the war to end all wars when an American pilot (played by Chris Pine) crashes on the island. I knew nothing about the Wonder Woman comics before I saw the film and didn’t realise the background to the character is of Ancient Greek mythology. As mythology has always been an interest of mine this was a pleasant surprise.

Gal Gadot does an excellent job of playing Diana, and it’s refreshing to see a new face playing a lead superhero role. The other cast members also played their characters well and side characters had personalities rather than being cardboard two-dimensional afterthoughts. There are some good touches of humour throughout which also adds to the likeability of the characters.

The cinematography is stunning. All of the fight sequences were well thought out and choreographed. As I watched, I couldn’t help but marvel at the stunning way these sequences had been filmed, capturing such detail in fast paced action scenes. At the climax, the film took a different direction than I was expecting, with a twist that I didn’t see coming and which made for a thrilling final conflict. It did slide into clichéd sentiments towards the end, but it didn’t prevent the ending from being satisfying. The film was perhaps a little too long, with small scenes that could have been cut down a little to give a better flow to the movie.

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Release date: 28th April 2017

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell

Runtime: 136 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the follow up to the highly successful first film in the franchise. The first film provided great music, quirky characters and bucketfuls of fun adventure. In some ways, the sequel can’t live up to the first film for me, but it is equally enjoyable. This time, the group has found friendship together, but the cracks are beginning to show and while the first film brought the characters together, this film shows them having to overcome their differences to realise the importance of their friendship. The main plot centres on discovering Peter Quill’s parentage, which I won’t say anything more about to avoid spoilers.

Most of the humour was amusing, although there were a couple of places where it felt too forced or overdone. Baby Groot provided both cuteness and humour, but while still having character and not being reduced to a comic twig. None of the new characters stood out especially, it was still the returning characters from the first film which I liked the best. It was good to see more of Karen Gillan’s Nebula, and this second film explored the sibling relationship between Nebula and Gamora much more, giving more insight into their past and complex relationship.

The design of the whole film was once again excellent. There are some beautiful set pieces which are so creative and made great viewing on the big screen. As well as the visuals, the action was also good, with tension filled action sequences.

The only problem is it seemed to be trying too hard to live up to expectations. They threw so much at it that at times it missed a beat. However, on the whole it was thoroughly exciting and enjoyable, and that was my overall impression after exiting the cinema.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar’s Revenge

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Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar’s Revenge

Release date: 25th May 2017

Director: Joachim Rřnning, Espen Sandberg

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Kaya Scodelario, Brendan Thwaites

Runtime: 129 minutes

Genre: Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is the fifth film in the franchise and an attempt at rebooting the series. Notably, they’ve decided to call it ‘Salazar’s Revenge’ here in the UK instead of ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ for no apparent reason. It would be far less confusing if they just gave films and books the same names. I prefer ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ and since this is a line in the film it fits much better. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, who once again has an undead seaman seeking revenge upon him. Sound familiar? Javier Bardem plays the undead Spanish captain who wants to destroy all pirates. Jack joins with astronomer Carina and a sailor, Henry, to find the Trident of Poseidon.

The film features some memorable and bizarre scenes that are familiar in style and comedy to fans of the franchise. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbosa and once again plays a great double-crossing pirate alongside Captain Jack. Kaya Scodelario did an excellent job playing the intelligent Carina, providing a strong female character whose superior knowledge regularly results in confusion from the bumbling pirates. Henry on the other hand, although acted well by Brendan Thwaites, was fairly two-dimensional. His goal is to find the Trident of Poseidon so he can free his father from a curse, but this is about all we know about him. He lacks any defining characteristics and faded into the background compared to other characters.

In many ways it was more of the same, following similar plot lines to previous films in the series, and certainly doesn’t compare to the original film. There is a very odd scene on an island which I think was supposed to provide comedy but just seemed rather silly to me. There’s a scene early on which seems rather unrealistic and excessive, but this is a Pirates film so it’s easy to overlook that and enjoy the spectacle for what it is. In the end, that’s why I gave this film four stars. It wasn’t brilliant, but was thoroughly entertaining and if you just take it for what it is then it’s an enjoyable comedy adventure flick.

The film ties up some loose ends and unfinished stories from previous films, and so would seem an appropriate place to end the franchise. I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t make any more films, as I felt Salazar’s Revenge provided an appropriate ending for the series. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made another one though. So long as they’re still making money they’ll keep making them. I also wouldn’t complain about them making another one, so long as they can actually come up with a good plot for it, and make it a justifiable addition to the franchise.

Film Review: Passengers

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Film Review: Passengers

Release Date: 21st December 2016

Director: Morten Tyldum

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen

Runtime: 116 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Romance, Drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

On a long journey to another planet, everyone on board is in stasis. Jim and Aurora wake up 90 years early, without the ability to contact anyone for help or return to sleep. They’re stuck with nowhere to go and only each other for company – besides the android barman played by Michael Sheen.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. Not in the good way as in it surprised me. As in, it was advertised in a way that made it seem like a different kind of film to what it actually was. The trailer and description makes it sound like a sci-fi action thriller flick with romance. When in fact it’s a romantic drama in a science-fiction setting, with a dash of action at the end. I liked the concept – two passengers wake up 90 years too early on a spaceship destined for a new planet. This is the base of the film and has a lot of potential as an idea. However, I wasn’t sure about the direction in which they took the film.

The digital effects are great with a creative design for the ship. Although the story is limited to this one space, and there were very few characters. The acting was good and Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence gel really well together. I liked that the film dealt with the psychological effects of being isolated on the ship, especially in the beginning of the film.

I went in expecting an action science-fiction thriller, which isn’t what I got. So it was disappointing from that point of view because I spent a lot of the film confused about how it could have been advertised as being so different to what it was. As a romantic drama set in space, it was good. There were some twists and turns. It was good and I enjoyed it but it had a lot of potential to be better. It’s a film that doesn’t know what it’s trying to be – it’s stuck between being a thought-provoking drama about serious moral issues, a romance, and a science-fiction action film.

Film Review: Rogue One

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Film Review: Rogue One

Release date: 15th December 2016

Director: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Jiang Wen

Runtime: 134 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a standalone film set before the original Star Wars film – Episode IV: A New Hope. It’s about a band of rebels who plan to steal the Death Star plans from the Empire. The film fills in what was thought by many as an annoying plot hole in the original trilogy. What was good about this film is that it has a different plot. As much as I love The Force Awakens, it was basically a rehash of plots from the original trilogy.

Unsurprisingly, the visuals are stunning. We see several different worlds in the film, each of which is unique and detailed. What is amazing is how they can now create characters digitally. For example Tarkin features (he was in the original films), although the actor who originally played him passed away. A similar looking actor played the part and then they used digital effects to make him look like Peter Cushing’s Tarkin.

The acting is good. There are some typically cheesy Star Wars lines of course. But then it wouldn’t be Star Wars without them. All of the actors made me like their characters and they all interacted well together. There are some intense scenes, with a long end battle. Despite all the action the actors developed their characters well.

I really liked the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything so can’t explain why I liked it. Also it tied well to the start of A New Hope.

As we’re not getting Episode VIII until December it was cool to still get to see a Star Wars film in 2016. Coming in 2018 is another Star Wars Story about a young Han Solo. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that one yet. Rogue One is relevant to the other films and leads up to Episode IV so I can see why they made it. The young Han Solo films however, will have to be good for me to agree that they’re worthwhile making.

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Release date: 18th November 2016

Director: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell

Runtime: 133 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the latest spin-off from the Harry Potter series. The script, penned by J. K. Rowling, follows magizoologist Newt Scamander on a trip to America. Trouble inevitably follows when some creatures escape from his suitcase. Meanwhile, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is causing disturbances in the wizarding world.

I was excited to dive back into Rowling’s world and wasn’t disappointed. Visually, it’s as stunning as Harry Potter. There is incredible detail and such imagination in all of the sets, making it an immersive experience you can just get lost in.

Other reviews I’ve seen have found Newt flat in comparison to his friends Tina, Queenie and Kowalski. However I found his character quietly charming. It makes a change for a main character and he’s certainly different from Harry. I loved his interactions with his creatures and the bond he clearly has with many of them. The aforementioned characters also all gelled well together. The acting was very good all round.

At first I was kind of wondering where the plot was going. There wasn’t anything to connect the various events going on in the film. But when things started to come together it made a lot more sense. It was quite unpredictable in many places. I was often surprised. There was a strange mix of humour and darkness. Newt and Kowalski’s escapades with the escaped creatures are very humorous, but there are also a lot of dark goings-on. There are also political undertones to the film as it looks at prejudices and restrictions (wizards and No-Maj/Muggles aren’t allowed to interact or marry), and child abuse.          

There are to be a total of five films in the franchise. At this point I’m really not sure why five films are necessary. I loved this first one, but how can they stretch this plot into five? It seems a little excessive. But I’m not exactly complaining. I’m happy for the magical journey to continue. So long as they don’t ruin it by stretching the plot too thin.

Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Release date: 30th September 2016

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney, Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd

Runtime: 127 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is based on the novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs. I only read the book a few weeks ago (you can see my review here) so went in with the conscious effort in mind that I should sit and enjoy it and not make comparisons to the book the whole way through.

After his grandfather’s horrific death, Jake travels to an island off the coast of Wales which is home to the children’s home his grandfather stayed in for a time during the war. Unexpectedly, he finds Miss Peregrine and the children with ‘peculiar’ powers still there, but monsters are looking for them and Jake’s ‘peculiarity’ is key to keeping them alive.

Although I wasn’t surprised to find that Tim Burton directing the film (the book is, well, a tad peculiar) I was a little apprehensive. However, I was glad to find that it wasn’t too Tim Burton-esque and kept with the tone of the book (although there was a tad more humour in the film). As far as adaptation goes, it kept relatively well to the story with only a large chunk at the end being completely added in.

What irritated me, and which I just don’t understand, is why they messed with Emma’s character. She’s the main female character (besides Miss Peregrine), and in the book her peculiarity is controlling fire, and she has a rather fiery personality to match it. In the film however, Emma’s peculiarity is levitation/air, which is Olive’s peculiarity in the book, and Olive has control over fire. I understand that when adapting books there will always be changes in terms of plot, in order to adapt it to the screen, but I just really don’t get why they did this. It seems a completely unnecessary massive change to make.

Overall I enjoyed the film and it was a good adaptation. It had the same quirky feel as the book, which is what I liked about it. It’s a shame they messed with the characters.