Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Horror Film Review: Look Away (2018) ★★★★☆

India Eisley in Look Away (2018) | Horror Film Review

Maria (India Eisley, My Sweet Audrina) is living in her own private hell. Bullied and alienated at school, she find herself completely at odds with her parents at home. What wouldn't she give to escape her life? When she confides in her seemingly sympathetic mirror image, Maria is offered a way out of her situation when the girl offers to switch with her. Desperate and despairing, Maria is about to find out how bad things can get in Assaf Bernstein's independent horror film Look Away.

India Eisley in Look Away (2018) | Horror Film Review

Look Away is a beautiful film and the framing and composition in the opening scenes convey the utter sense of dread with which Maria navigates her life. We see Maria's train-wreck of a home life with her lovely yet ineffectual mother (Mira Sorvino) and her narcissistic father, played by Jason Isaac in his most hateable role since Lucius Malfoy. Her best friend is insincere but she is the only friend that Maria has and all that separates her from her creeping sense of isolation and detachment.

India Eisley in Look Away (2018) | Horror Film Review

Fear not though, half way through, Look Away starts to become a whole lot of fun - Carrie-without-the-pig-blood levels of fun. Maria accepts her twin's very kind offer and Airam unleashes all levels of evil upon those who have wronged Maria. India Eisley really shines as the out-of-control Airam and it was most enjoyable to watch her play with people, with the sinister lethality of a cat with a mouse. I've always enjoyed revenge horror and Look Away is deeply satisfying while still being utterly creepy and disturbing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Look Away and give it an excellent four out of five stars. I recommend it for fans of high school and revenge horror films and predict that India Eisley will be an actress to watch in the future.

★★★★☆

Trailer

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Saturday, 13 April 2019

Heart-warming and Uplifting: Jack Cheng's 'See You In The Cosmos' on Audiobook ★★★★☆

Every now and again, I pick up a book that is so magical and out of this world that I can't help but fall in love. That definitely applies to Jack Cheng's See You in the Cosmos, a middle grade novel about space, science, rockets and a young explorer called Alex Petroski.

Alex is on a mission. Inspired by Carl Sagan's Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft, he is heading from Colorado to a space festival in New Mexico to launch his golden iPod into space on board his homemade rocket. There is just one problem: Alex is eleven years old and he is travelling alone, unless you count his trustworthy dog named Carl Sagan (named after his hero, of course).

Somehow, against all odds, Alex slips through the net of adult supervision and embarks on a journey that ultimately takes him from Colorado to New Mexico to Las Vegas to L.A. and home again. Along the way, Alex learns the meaning of love and friendship and that family is often a lot closer than we think.

See You in the Cosmos is a wonderfully original and entertaining read that is as interesting for its focus on science and space exploration as it is for dealing with very serious issues including complicated families, unemployment and mental illness. In addition to Alex, Cheng also introduces a host of supporting characters who grow and develop as human beings all while trying to cope with a very precocious yet vulnerable eleven-year-old in what is a very short book.

Despite featuring such a young protagonist, See You in the Cosmos is one of those rare books that will transcend boundaries and appeal as much to teens and adults as it does middle-graders. Alex's earnest view of a confusing and chaotic adult world is refreshing and often hilarious.

See You in the Cosmos is a heart-warming, lovely book. I give it four out of five stars and recommend to fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and R. J. Palacio's Wonder.

★★★★☆

I've consumed See You in the Cosmos twice – once by book and the second time on Audible. The audiobook is narrated by Kivlighan de Montebello and features Brittany Pressley, Graham Halstead, Michael Crouch, Jason Culp, Therese Plummer, Susan Bennett, Dan Bittner, Pete Larkin and Courtney Shaw. I’d very much recommend listening to it as a family, especially on road trips!

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Saturday, 6 April 2019

Fabulous Novellas: Sally Green's 'Half Lies' & 'Half Truths' ★★★★★

Half Lies by Sally Green | Book Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction I first discovered the joy of series-filler novellas when Julie Kagawa wrote them to accompany the Iron Fey series. They are a great tool for authors to provide background on certain characters and to explore storylines that are not central to the main series.

Sally Green’s novellas for the Half Bad series are amongst the best I’ve read, turning me from an ambivalent reader of the first book in the series to an absolute fan and firm member of Team Gabriel. If this is the first time you’re hearing about Gabriel, that is because my review of Half Bad was careful to leave out any spoilers but suffice to say, his role in the series is pivotal.

Half Truths by Sally Green | Book Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction Half Lies is the story of Gabriel’s life in America and the events that eventually lead up to him leaving the States and seeking out the black witch Mercury in Switzerland. Short as it is, it is an extremely well written story that provides insight into the man Gabriel is.

Half Truths covers the period of Gabriel’s arrival in Switzerland, his deal with Mercury and the moment where everything changes for him when he meets Nathan.

I’d highly recommend both novellas before diving straight into Half Wild, the second book in the Half Bad series.

For completely turning around my opinions on the series, I give the Half Bad novellas a superb five out of five stars. Read them and read the series.

★★★★★

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Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Horror Film Review: Flay (2019) ★★★☆☆

Elle LaMont in Flay (2019) | Horror Film Review

The drama surrounding Phame Factory's Flay certainly precedes it. Originally due out in 2017, Sony tried to block its release, stating that it was too similar to Slender Man and infringed Sony's trademarks and copyrights. Intrigued as to why a major label would go after an independent horror film, I decided to watch it.

Flay's opening scenes tell us about the atrocities visited on Native Americans by Europeans and of the execution of a medicine man who unleashes a great curse with his dying words, damning anyone who comes into contact with his chains. Cut to the present day and his chains are stolen by Patricia Crane (Peggy Schott), a recovering alcoholic. Little does she know what evil she unleashes on the world but luckily for her, she doesn't live long enough to see it.

Elle LaMont in Flay (2019) | Horror Film Review

There are plenty of jumps and scares in the following scenes as we meet the malevolent faceless spirit who seems to kill everyone except those who truly deserve it. I would have liked a bit more of a visual representation of the spirit, rather than the flashes and hints we were shown, but it's clear that Flay had a tiny budget. With choppy editing, direction and script Flay feels a whole lot more like an adult movie than a horror film (if you were to swap random yet gratuitous sex scenes for vague death scenes).

Despite the obvious limitations, there are some good performances from the cast. Elle LaMont (Alita: Battle Angel) leads as Moon Crane, Patricia's daughter who must return home following her mother's death. Johnny Walter plays her love interest and local cop Tyler and Dalton E Cray plays her younger brother River. Special mention goes to Violett Beane (The Flash) in her role as the utterly awful and irredeemable Bethany. She is definitely an actress to watch in the future.

Violett Beane in Flay (2019) | Horror Film Review

Flay is an okay way to spend 90 minutes but didn't quite hit the mark for me. I prefer horror films with more atmosphere and less of a 'paint by numbers' feel to it so ultimately this wasn't my cup of tea. Three out of five stars.

★★★☆☆

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Saturday, 30 March 2019

Francesca Zappia's Marvellous 'Eliza and Her Monsters' ★★★★★

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Book ReviewHave you ever read a book that made you swoon, a book you loved so much that you wanted the entire world to read it? That’s how I felt about Francesca Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters. It is quite simply one of the most lovely, uplifting, inventive and entertaining novels I have ever read.

Eliza Mirk is the teenage creator of a webcomic called Monstrous Sea. By day, she is an anonymous and awkward schoolgirl, navigating the mundane halls and classrooms of her school in utter invisibility. Nobody knows her secret, unless you count her parents who think that Monstrous Sea is a cute little side project. Little do they know for online Eliza is LadyConstellation, creator of one of the most successful webcomics and mother of an epic fandom.

When Eliza meets Wallace, a new student at her school, he notices some of her drawings and mistakes them for fan art. Thinking she must be a fan like him, he invites her to a Halloween cosplay and fan meetup. Eager to let Wallace wallow in his ignorance, or keen to maintain her secret identity, Eliza agrees to go along. The problem is that she soon realises that her fans are human beings too, people that she might actually want to hang out with if she can ensure that nobody ever finds out who LadyConstellation really is.

What can possibly go wrong?

Reading Eliza and Her Monsters is like riding an emotional rollercoaster, where the reader is uplifted by this incredibly inspirational story before hurtling downwards with Eliza’s very real anxieties and challenges.  It’s going to get to a point where I’ll need a thesaurus to express my adulation (did I say ‘marvellous’ yet?) so let me just suggest that everyone, everywhere should read this.

I loved Eliza and Her Monsters and give it a superb five out of five stars. I think everybody should immediately add this to their to-read list but especially recommend it for lovers of superior young adult fiction and fans of webcomics, cosplay and graphic art.

★★★★★

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Thursday, 28 March 2019

Panic! at the Disco in Concert: The O2, London, 28 March 2019

Panic! at the Disco, O2 London, 28 March 2019 | Girls, Girls, Boys

I've loved Panic! at the Disco since the very first time I heard "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" back in 2005. I loved their sound, their snarky, irreverent lyrics and the whole theatrical package. I've become quite picky about venues lately though and am totally over UK festivals so I was thrilled when they announced arena dates in the UK. Armed with super tickets (no mean feat at the O2), I've been counting down the dates for months.

Arizona and Mø

We arrived part way through the first support, Arizona. They were okay but I didn’t really rate them. I did enjoy the second act Mø and will definitely be checking out her music in the future. Highlights were “Don’t Leave” and “Final Song”. It's clear the crowd were there for one reason only but Mø did an amazing job of getting the crowd going.

Panic! at the Disco

The anticipation in the O2 reached fever pitch when a ten minute countdown appeared announcing the start of the gig. The crowd had barely finished counting down the last 10 seconds when Brendon Urie exploded out of the stage and the gig began.

Panic! at the Disco, O2 London, 28 March 2019

Brendon Urie is incredibly energetic and a very charismatic performer but early on in the gig I was struck by three things: this is definitely more a solo Brendon Urie gig than a P!ATD gig; Urie has a massive number of adoring tween followers who sing along to every single word; and somehow linked to this is the fact that Brendon played nearly every song from his last two albums and only four from the first three combined.

So, the good then. I absolutely loved "The Ballad of Mona Lisa", "Nine in the Afternoon" and "Casual Affair". Watching Brendon walk through the crowd during "Death of a Bachelor" was lovely, I always appreciate it when artists do that. I enjoyed his rendition of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me", performed on a piano suspended high over the crowd's heads.

Panic! at the Disco, O2 London, 28 March 2019

Seeing the whole O2 arena lit up with #PATDHearts in the colours of the LGBT rainbow flag during "Girls / Girls / Boys" will go down as one of the best concert moments I've ever had and I think Brendon felt the same way as he looked truly moved.

Panic! at the Disco, O2 London, 28 March 2019 | Girls, Girls, Boys

I knew it was coming but that didn't change how good it was - watching P!ATD perform Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" was incredible and the band went absolutely mental. It was the closest I'll ever come to hearing the real thing and it really was superb. And finally, the absolute highlight of the evening, performed during the encore, I adored "I Write Sins Not Tragedies".

I'm sure that readers can feel the 'but' coming here from a mile away. It's hard to truly enjoy the show when you know Brendon Urie isn't playing for you. He's playing for the multitudes of tween fans that are singing along to every single word and queuing from 9 in the morning (not even 9 in the afternoon!) for merchandise. And I know that I was never the right demographic for P!ATD's music, being that I was already a working adult when they emerged 15 years ago but I've always loved them and would very much have liked to hear some of their older stuff. I think Brendon could learn a lot from bands like The Cure or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on how to satisfy a diverse audience who has grown up through various stages of your impressive catalog of music.

Am I glad I saw the gig? Definitely. I still love Panic! at the Disco and will still sing along, off-key, to every single one of my favourite tracks. Will I see them again? Only when Brendon starts performing a more even catalog of the band's music. After all, as he told us, he is 32 and surely his audience will start growing up too and demanding as much.

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Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Horror Film Review: Elizabeth Harvest (2018) ★★★★☆

Elizabeth Harvest | Horror Film Review

I thought I had it all figured out. I watched the trailer for Elizabeth Harvest, read the synopsis, took a look at the title and guessed the whole plot. Still, it looked good so I watched it anyway and discovered that I’m not quite the genius I thought I was. Sebastian Gutierrez's Elizabeth Harvest is a clever sci-fi horror that delivers a surprising, if not utterly disturbing punch and keeps even the most clever of viewers guessing until the end.

Elizabeth (Abbey Lee,The Neon Demon) has married the man of her dreams. As she wonders through the rooms of their stunning hilltop home, Elizabeth can’t help but wonder why her brilliant, rich and talented scientist husband chose her, a simple girl by her own definition. Little does she know it was only ever going to be her and she has less choice in the matter than she imagined.

Ciarán Hinds and Abbey Lee in Elizabeth Harvest

Husband Henry (Ciarán Hinds, Game of Thrones) allows Elizabeth the run of the house but forbids that she enter one room. When he goes away on business, leaving Elizabeth to rattle around the vast home on her own, the temptation of that one room becomes too much to resist.

But behind that door lies a horror beyond her wildest imagination and Elizabeth soon finds herself in a surreal and disorientating fight for survival.

And just when you think you know where the film is going, it changes course completely. I’m constantly searching for clever, ‘thinky’ horror and Elizabeth Harvest ticked all the boxes for me - fantastic performances, beautiful cinematography and a plot that kept rolling about in my mind for hours after I’d watched the film. I love films that do that, the ones that make you pay attention when you're watching them and haunt you long afterwards with "but wait..." moments.

An excellent independent film, Elizabeth Harvest has a tiny cast and supporting Abbie and Ciarán are Carla Gugino as Claire, Matthew Beard as Oliver and Dylan Baker as Logan. No one is who they first seem to be and part of the charm of the film is the flashbacks where Elizabeth must work to unravel each of the characters. If you’re a fan of Carla Gugino like me, you won’t be disappointed with her role.

Carla Gugino in Elizabeth Harvest

I thoroughly enjoyed Elizabeth Harvest and give it an excellent four out of five stars. I’d recommend it for fans of sci-fi horror and films like Ex Machina.

★★★★☆

Elizabeth Harvest will be available on Digital Download from 1st April and can be bought here.

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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