Monday, 7 May 2018

Tomi Adeyemi's Superb Debut 'Children of Blood and Bone' ★★★★★

Tomi Adeyemi Children of Blood and Bone

It was hard to escape the hype surrounding Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. In January I began to notice mention of the novel exploding all over Goodreads and by March posters of the book were plastered all over the London Underground. I knew I had to read it.

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel is set in the fictional West-African kingdom of Orïsha. It is a kingdom bereft of magic due to the brutal efforts of the King to eradicate magic and kill all maji. Zélie Adebola remembers a time when magic and joy existed in Orïsha but she also remembers the night when her village burned, her mother murdered and her father left devastated. For years, Zélie has trained in secret to become a warrior but everyone knows that the best way to keep safe is to avoid the king’s guards and not, for example, inadvertently rescue a princess and become a target.

Yet Zélie does assist the Princess Amari in her escape from the King’s guards and the repercussions are extreme, setting in motion a set of events that will lead to a quest to bring back magic in Orïsha.

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Told through the eyes of Zélie, Princess Amari and the crown prince Inan, Children of Blood and Bone offers an impressive depth of character development and insight into the motivations behind both the King and Inan’s behaviour. It is not difficult to choose sides though for Adeyemi is not shy to tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time including genocide, racial discrimination, persecution, slavery and tyranny. This is what sets the novel apart from others in the genre and having focused a lot of my reading on topics such as genocide, I was impressed (and horrified) with the detail regarding conflicts and massacres in the book.

The structure of Children of Blood and Bone follows a familiar young adult fantasy formula in terms of the discovery of magical abilities followed by a quest, battle and cliff-hanger leading towards an obvious sequel. I felt that this was the only thing that let the book down but I did not let it detract from my rating due to the complex issues covered and depth of characterisation of several of the lead characters.

Tomi Adeyemi Children of Blood and Bone coverMost importantly, Children of Blood and Bone is riveting and unputdownable and I enjoyed every single word of it. The book is the first in the Children of Orïsha series and I will definitely be reading the full series. Not that I have a choice; with respect, Ms Adeyemi, that cliff hanger was pretty unforgivable.

There is talk of the book being turned into a film by the producers of Maze Runner. I hope that isn’t the case – the Maze Runner books were fabulous and I adore Dylan O'Brien but the Maze Runner films were the worst film adaptation since Vampire Academy. On the other hand, I hope that the hype continues to grow because I would like to see this novel translated into as many African languages as possible. It is about time that children in the vast continent of Africa had a hero they could relate to and this book and Marvel’s Black Panther are a good place to start.

I give Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone a superb five out of five stars and recommend it to lovers of magic, fantasy and superior young adult fiction.

★★★★★


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Sunday, 29 April 2018

Unrestricted View Film Festival Review: Hippopotamus (2017) ★★★★★

Featuring this week on the Unrestricted View Film Festival, Hippopotamus is an independent horror film from director Edward A Palmer. It is a clever psychological thriller that messes with the viewer’s mind and will have the audience questioning everything that they thought they just witnessed. It stars Ingvild Deila (best known for her role as Princess Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Ruby Ann Wattz and Stuart Mortimer as Tom.

Ingvild Deila in Hippopotamus (2017)

Ruby awakes to find that she is trapped in a white room. Her legs are broken and she has absolutely no recollection of how she got there. She encounters her captor Tom and he informs her that she will remain there until Ruby falls in love with him.

What the hell?

Ruby cannot remember who she is or how she got there but as the days go by, Ruby is filled with a dreadful sense of deja vu. She begins to play Tom’s game, to work with him to regain her memories but then comes the most startling revelation of all – she cannot trust anything, least of all her own mind.

Stuart Mortimer in Hippopotamus (2017)

Hippopotamus is a film that is seen through three lenses. The first is what you think you are seeing and understanding while watching the film, as the story unfolds on screen. The second is what your mind begins to piece together, following each revelation in the film. The third begins to happen after the closing credits, as the story turns over again and again in your brain and you begin to think wait a minute.

You remember those vital clues, scenes that lasted for just the blink of an eye. Inconsistencies and contradictions that make you realise you were wrong. You begin to realise that you can’t always believe what you see and you certainly can’t believe what you remember which means, by extension, that you can’t believe what Ruby remembers. You’ve been hoodwinked and as you try to unravel what is real and what is not, it becomes obvious that this is a very clever film indeed.

Ingvild Deila in Hippopotamus (2017)

Hippopotamus takes place primarily in the room in which Ruby is trapped, with some reliance on flashbacks, yet somehow director Palmer manages to cram the room full of significance. Throughout the film there are clues that weave together and items that seem inconsequential at first but gain vast significance later on in the film. For her part, Ingvild Deila is acting a part both in the performance Ruby gives for Tom and in leading the audience astray in their assumptions.

Hippopotamus has been nominated for six awards at the Unrestricted View Film Festival 2018 including Best Feature, Best Director (Feature) - Edward A Palmer, Best Actor (Feature) – Stuart Mortimer, Best Actress (Feature) - Ingvild Deila, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Screenplay.

For absolutely messing with my head and making me question my grasp on reality, I give Hippopotamus (2017) a superb five out of five stars and would highly recommend it to fans of claustrophobic horror and psychological thrillers.

★★★★★

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Arcade Fire at the Wembley Arena, 12 April 2018

Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena 12 April 2018 (1)

How do you describe a concert when it is the realisation of years of yearning and months of anticipation? I waited to see Arcade Fire in concert for the longest time and was ecstatic when I got tickets for the gig at Wembley Arena on 12 April 2018. It was certainly worth the wait as Arcade Fire exceeded all expectations and delivered one of the best performances I have ever seen live.

The Arrival

The concert begins at exactly 8.45pm as Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” rings out over the arena. It soon cuts to “Everything Now (Continued)” as the band make their way to the stage, punching and posing while their heavyweight boxing stats are broadcast on the massive screens above the stage. Spoiler: they are all winners and they never, ever lose.

Finally they are there and they are larger than life and it is time for the night to begin. With a setlist in excess of twenty tracks, it is to be expected that the band is short of time but even so, it feels like they rush through “Everything Now”, “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Here Comes the Night Time”.

Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena 12 April 2018 (2)

I’m relieved when the band takes a breath and Win introduces “Haïti”. Incidentally, I can’t be certain but I think that after explaining the reason behind the song, Win said something along the lines of how the audience at Wembley probably wouldn’t care about that. It’s probably worth mentioning that the British public raised £107m for Haïti so we definitely do care. Nevertheless, “Haïti” is a beautiful track and listening to it live, I almost feel like I’m beside the sea in Port-au-Prince. It’s the first time I really notice how beautiful Régine Chassagne’s vocals are live and so marks the beginning a rather enduring girl crush.

Hitting Their Stride

From this point on, the band really hit their stride and they begin to deliver hit after hit, starting with fan favourite “No Cars Go”. Next up is a pair of my favourites from Everything Now, “Electric Blue” and “Put Your Money On Me” followed by “Crown of Love”.

Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena 12 April 2018 (3)

This is the point where the concert becomes sublime. I’m standing there, singing along to “Ocean of Noise” and “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)” at the top of my lungs, with tears in my eyes, thinking this can’t get any better and then it does.

The Pinnacle

At the end of the evening when my friends and I try to pinpoint the pinnacle of the evening, it will be the next three songs that we unanimously agree upon. It all begins with “The Suburbs”, to roars of jubilation from the crowd. The band takes a minor breather next, with “The Suburbs (Continued)” but I know exactly which track is up next and I’m jumping in the air, chanting the opening chords and then it is there: “Ready To Start”. Hands are in the air, the lights are going crazy and it is one of the most incredible concert moments I have ever experienced.

Then Régine is standing up, moving away from the drum set and my friend knows what is coming next and I can only hope against hope that he is right. Of course he is. It is “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” my favourite of all of Arcade Fire’s songs and a song that even my family knows the words off by heart to because I cannot resist singing along to it every time I hear it. Hearing it live is absolutely incredible.

Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena 12 April 2018 (6)

My love for Arcade Fire is relatively new, starting only in 2013 with Reflektor and up next are two of the tracks that started it all, “Reflektor” and “Afterlife”. By this time the crowd is in a frenzy, basking in the glow of a fabulous performance, egged on by the frenetic antics of William Butler and the other mad scientists on stage.

Everything goes up in flames on the screens above the stage and as words begin to emerge, I know what is coming next. “Creature Comfort” has never felt so real and is followed by “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and suddenly the band is gone.

Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena 12 April 2018 (7)

The Encore

Sometimes a band will return from an encore and calmly play a couple of their best tracks before disappearing into the night. Arcade Fire’s encore is not like that. In fact, it is pretty mind-blowing. They burst back onto stage with “We Don’t Deserve Love” from their latest album and then things get interesting.

I look up on the stage and standing there is none other than Jarvis Cocker. I don’t know why I expect him to duet with Win on an Arcade Fire track but suddenly he’s singing “Cunts Are Still Running the World” and I’m having a moment. It’s the first time I’ve seen him live since Pulp’s surprise performance at Glastonbury in 1995 and it is glorious. And how relevant are those lyrics?

Arcade Fire welcome back the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, their support act for the evening, and they perform “Everything Now (Continued)” before launching into a barnstorming performance of “Wake Up”.

And all of a sudden, it really is over. The lights go off and both bands exit the stage to a rendition of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” and the crowd is just standing there, not wanting it to end, as twenty or so performers inch painstakingly through the crowd towards the back exit. I’m stunned, be be quite frank, and know that whatever I do, I have to see Arcade Fire in concert again.

Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena 12 April 2018 (8)

I’d Like to Make a Complaint

… but before I do, I need to mention how fantastic the production was at this concert. The lights were spectacular and the location of the stage in the middle of the arena meant that everyone had a decent view, no matter where they were. The giant screens gave a brilliant view of the action on stage, as well as several close ups of my beloved Régine.

But now to my complaint. Arcade Fire did not play four of my favourite tracks and that just makes me sad. “Body Is A Cage”, “We Exist”, “Intervention” and “You Already Know” were glaring omissions and so I will endeavour to catch each of those tracks live at least once in my life before I die. Arcade Fire, ladies and gentlemen.

Arcade Fire Setlist The SSE Arena, Wembley, London, England 2018, Infinite Content

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Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Unrestricted View Film Festival preview: 5 Top Picks

Unrestricted View Film Festival

Now in its third year, the Unrestricted View Film Festival kicks off on 23 April 2018. The festival will run in three venues in Islington, London - The Hen & Chickens, The Screen on the Green, and the Vintage Mobile Cinema – and showcases the best of independent film from across the globe.

These are my five top picks for the festival which will run from 23 to 29 April 2018. Visit the Unrestricted View Film Festival website for tickets and information.

Pickups (2017) (UK)

Pickups Still 2 - Aidan Gillan_preview

The Screen on the Green, Monday 23 April, 7pm

The festival opens with Pickups, the new film directed by Jamie Thraves. The film stars Aiden Gillan as an insomniac suffering from back pain and the breakdown of his marriage. He is drowning his sorrows in a series of pickups but fears he might have a stalker, something which is not altogether convenient given that he has murdered a couple of people and intends to dispose of more.

Usire (2017) (Czech Republic)

Usire (2017)

The Hen & Chickens, Tuesday 24 April, 5.45pm

Usire is the debut film from director Jiří Maršálek. The life of an underworld enforcer is turned on its head by a chance meeting with a women in need of his help. We begin to see who the man really is and learn of the ghosts that haunt him. Usire is notable for its unconventional cinematography and audio-visual synergy, achieved through the simultaneous creation of both screenplay and soundtrack.

Bikini Blue (2017) (Poland)

Bikini Blue (2017)

The Hen & Chickens, Wednesday 25 April, 9.15pm

Directed by Jarek Marszewski and set in Great Britain in 1953 against the backdrop pf the Cold War and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Bikini Blue is the story of Eryk and Dora Szumski. A former officer in the Polish military, Eryk is exiled from his home country and harbours a heartbreaking secret. Incarcerated in a mental hospital after a failed suicide attempt, Eryk escapes and takes Dora on a road trip across the country.

Hippopotamus (2017) (UK)

Hippopotamus (2017)

The Hen & Chickens, Thursday 26 April, 7.00pm

Directed by Edward Palmer, this thriller begins as Ruby wakes from a bad dream to find herself in a real life nightmare. Trapped in a basement with broken legs and no memory of how she got there, Ruby is told by her kidnapper Tom that she will remain there until she falls in love with him. Despite her attempts to focus on her escape, Ruby soon begins to question everything as Tom tries to help her remember her past.

The Incantation (2018) (USA)

Incantation - Unrestricted Film Festival

The Hen & Chickens, Friday 27 April, 8.45pm

Director: Jude Walko. A young American girl embarks on the trip of a lifetime to visit her ancestors’ castle in the south of France. Her visit doesn’t quite turn out as expected when she discovers that her family are harbouring a deep, dark secret about a nefarious past.

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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