Tuesday, 20 August 2019

TV Review: NOS4A2 - "The Gas Mask Man"

AMC's NOS4A2 | The Gas Mask Man | Judith Roberts is Jolene July

I have to admit, I really enjoyed the first two episodes of NOS4A2 but I was beginning to wonder if it wasn't more of a high school magical detective drama than anything truly terrifying. Thankfully, the incredibly dark (and adult) undertones in The Gas Mask Man swiftly disabused me of those fanciful ideas.

The Gas Mask Man is as slow as it is menacing but there are a couple of key developments. Before Vic McQueen and her bike, there was a young figure skater and her ice skates. She is an old, lonely and wheelchair-bound woman now - fair play for the morally bankrupt Charlie Manx. He pays her a visit to terrorise her before realising that she couldn't possibly be the one who has found the Shorter Way.

As Manx's icy grip on Bing Partridge deepens, we see Bing's decent into Manx's service, through the eyes of the gas mask he is wearing. I won't spoil it by going into detail of what he was doing and to whom, but suffice to say it is a far cry from the kind, slightly naive janitor we met in "The Shorter Way".

The most disappointing surprise in The Gas Mask Man comes with Vic's decision to throw her father under the bus in order to fulfil her dream of going to college, despite knowing full well what the consequences will be. Sadly enough, it will probably be all for nought because events in Here, Iowa and Haverhill, Massachusetts are about to take a very personal turn for Vic.

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Saturday, 17 August 2019

Devastating and Powerful: Kathleen Glasgow's 'How to Make Friends With the Dark' ★★★★★

How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Book Review

I knew from the minute I picked up How to Make Friends With the Dark that it was going to be hard work. It's one of those books where you need to be in a good space to read it but is there ever really a good time to read about grief? Nevertheless, I was keen to read Kathleen Glasgow's latest novel because I kept reading such great things about it.

Tiger Tolliver is sixteen and should be making mistakes, falling in love and being a normal teenager instead of worrying about unpaid bills and tiptoeing around her overprotective mother. On a day that starts with an argument about a school dance, Tiger is incensed when her mother buys her a dress that can at best be described as grotesque and she's says some pretty unforgivable things. And then her mother dies.

In a devastating account of what can happen to a child when there is no known family to take care of them, Kathleen Glasgow takes us through Tiger's grief and pain, as well as her attempts to cope with her impossibly changed world. In so many ways, How to Make Friends With the Dark would make a great film but especially in how Glasgow conjures up an image of a broken teen in a dress that she cannot remove. It is a great metaphor for how we think people are recovering sooner than they are but how grief is ever-present, every minute of every day.

How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Book ReviewHow to Make Friends With the Dark is a complex story, as complex as Tiger's experience of grief. There are many characters and settings which stayed with me long after I finished reading the book. On a personal level I found the book incredibly painful as I was taken into care at the same age as Tiger was and appallingly found myself relating to some of the worst events in the novel. I also related to Glasgow's afterword and how this instils in us a desire to look after children who are not our own, to give back.

Perhaps the most poignant part of How to Make Friends With the Dark is Tiger's mother's backstory, both as a child and an adult, and why she made the choices that she did. In a large sense, as a daughter, I was hesitant to read this book as it forced me to consider my own mother's mortality but it certainly made me appreciate her more.

How to Make Friends With the Dark is a raw and emotional novel. I related so much to Tiger's experience, especially that feeling of being skinned. In my own experience of grief, I felt like I'd stepped outside without my skin on. As I raced though those final chapters, I found myself crying into the dark hours of the night. It is a superb depiction of grief and the crazy things it does to your head.

As I'm sure is obvious, I'm not really sure how to review this novel without relating the extremely personal nature of the experience. Kathleen Glasgow has written a novel that draws the reader right in to Tiger's experience and to which you can relate on a visceral level. It's not an easy book to read and may be too painful for those in the throes of grief but sheds light on the grieving process for those seeking to understand it. Plus, it's just a really great story.

I give How to Make Friends With the Dark a superb five out of five stars. I'd highly recommend this book in classrooms as it would be powerful in stimulating discussion about one of the most difficult topics to talk about.

★★★★★

How to Make Friends With the Dark is currently available on Kindle for £2.99 (affiliate link, I will make a very small commission if you purchase using this link).

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Tuesday, 13 August 2019

TV Review: NOS4A2 - “The Graveyard of What Might Be”

AMC NOS4A2 | The Graveyard of What Might Be | Jahkara Smith and Ashleigh Cummings

I had a feeling we'd be seeing more of school janitor Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) after the first episode and how right I was because the second episode of NOS4A2, is all about Bing Partridge and also Vic's parents' great split.

In "The Graveyard of What Might Be" Charlie Manx is drawn to Haverhill on a quest to locate the person able to find the Shorter Way but instead he sinks his claws into Bing Partridge who desperately wants to work at Christmasland.

With Bing in mortal peril and her parents' hostility escalating, Vic grabs her bike and heads as far away as she possibly can, which just happens to be Here, Iowa. Vic and Maggie finally meet and we learn more about Vic's ability and what it is costing her.

Vic: "So, what did you call my bridge before when we were outside?"
Maggie: "It's an endscape, it's a world dreamed up in your imagination. Everybody has them but only strong creatives can pull theirs into the real world with the help of a knife".
Vic: "My bike?"
Maggie: "Exactly. It cuts the fabric between the real world and the world thought and it allows you to access your bridge".

It almost seems like a spoiler; what's happening to Vic is not new but it is her specific gifts that Maggie requires in order to locate lost Daniel. Of course, it's not that easy because rapidly unraveling Vic has absolutely no intention of playing nicely with the strange and flamboyant librarian from Iowa.

NOS4A2 almost begins to take on a fairytale quality with talk of abilities and created worlds; is anyone else getting serious Heroes flashbacks? I say almost because suddenly we're reminded that this indeed is a horror series with a glimpse of the Graveyard of What Might Be and an insight into Charlie Manx's depravity. Long may the darkness continue!

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Sunday, 11 August 2019

The Feel-Good Film of the Year: Gurinder Chadha's Blinded by the Light (2019) ★★★★★

Blinded by the Light | Nell Williams, Viveik Kalra and Aaron Phagura | Film Review

I loved the 80s and will watch any film (or TV series) that reminds me of what it was like to be a teenager in the mid-to-late 80s. Directed by Gurinder Chadha, Blinded by the Light is a coming-of-age film about a Pakistani-British teenager living in Luton in 1987 and how his discovery of The Boss allows him to find his own voice as a writer. It's an absolutely wonderful, uplifting, feel-good film.

Javed (Viveik Kalra) and Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) have been best friends for as long as they can remember but Javed's strict parents are driving a wedge between them and Javed feels like an outsider in Matt's world of girls, Ibiza and house parties. When Javed goes off to sixth form college to study economics English, he has to find his way in a crowd of brand-new faces and meets Roops (Aaron Phagura), a massive Bruce Springsteen fan.

Their meeting is momentous for it introduces Javed to a singer who really understands what he's going through and who understands the need to run as far away from suburban Luton as possible.

Blinded by the Light | Viveik Kalra is Javed | Film Review

As Javed's world bursts open with change and possibilities, he discovers that he has a true talent in writing under the excellent guidance of his teacher Ms Clay (Hayley Atwell). In a film bursting with positivity and hope, Ms Clay stands among the greatest teachers of all time including Michelle Pfeiffer's Louanne Johnson (Dangerous Minds) and Robin Williams's John Keating (Dead Poets Society).

And then there is Eliza (Nell Williams), Javed's classmate and fellow English student who teaches Javed so much about friendship and acceptance while catching the Springsteen bug herself.

Set against a backdrop of Thatcher's austerity Britain, Blinded by the Light also tells the story of the protests and riots in the mid-1980s; factory closures, redundancies and endless dole queues; racism, the rise of the National Front and violence against minorities and what it meant to be a minority community. This part of the film was particularly poignant, not in how far we've come since that time but in how close we are to going back there.

Still, Blinded by the Light doesn't skip a beat and this is due in large part to the music. With a soundtrack full of Bruce Springsteen tracks (understandably) the film is also full of other 80s tracks that transported me right back to 1987. Cutting Crew's "Died in Your Arms" was a particular favourite of mine at that time.

Perhaps the best thing about Dangerous Minds was the excellent performances by every single one of the cast members. Hayley Atwell is deservedly a household name but I predict that Viveik Kalra and Nell Williams will be rising stars soon. Aaron Phagura and Dean-Charles Chapman were great supporting actors, as was Nikita Mehta in her role as Javed's sister Shazia. Finally, Kulvinder Ghir and Meera Ganatra gave touching, often heartbreaking performances as Javed's parents Malik and Noor. I will be personally offended if this cast doesn't clean up during the British awards season.

For being my top feel-good, all-dancing, sing-along and grin-like-mad film of 2019, I give Blinded by the Light a superb five out of five stars and recommend that everybody go see this at the cinema. If you loved Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham, you'll love this too.

★★★★★

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Saturday, 10 August 2019

Sally Green's Half Bad on Audiobook, narrated by Carl Prekopp ★★★★★

Half Bad by Sally Green | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Audiobook Review

Today is a quick one because I’ve read (and reviewed) Sally Green’s Half Bad before but I’ve recently listened to it again on audiobook and it is so good that it deserves a shiny, brand new post of its own.

The best place to start will be to explain why I was listening to a book I’d already read when my original review wavered between 3 and 4 stars. After I finished Half Bad the first time, I read the Half Bad series novellas and the rest of the trilogy and absolutely loved them all. I realised that I needed to go back to Half Bad and see what I missed in that first book, the clues as to what a great series this would become. And boy, are there clues.

Experiencing this book again was cathartic and emotional. I devoured every word and I didn’t find that it dragged at all this time, knowing what I know now about where the story was going. If anything, I found it ended too soon and too abruptly, leaving me hungry for more.

It wasn't just a love of the characters and a deeper appreciation of the story that prompted me to change my rating to a firm 5 stars. Listening to it on Audible, narrated by Carl Prekopp, absolutely brought the story to life for me.

This was a book I’d read before yet I found myself impatiently counting down the minutes until I could listen to it again. For the week that I listened to it and even now, I've lived, breathed and dreamt Nathan Byrn. Carl Prekopp's narration is perfect and he absolutely captures Nathan's sardonic attitude.

For making me fall in love with the series all over again, I give the Half Bad audiobook, narrated by Carl Prekopp, a superb five out of five stars and I cannot wait to start listening to Half Wild.

★★★★★

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Tuesday, 6 August 2019

TV Review: NOS4A2 - “The Shorter Way”

AMC NOS4A2 | The Shorter Way | Zachary Quinto is Charlie Manx

It's strange how television can change your life. One minute I hadn't even heard of AMC's NOS4A2, the next I was absolutely captivated by it. Based on Joe Hill's 2013 horror novel, NOS4A2 is a different kind of vampire story featuring a man who feeds off the souls of children and a teenage girl with a supernatural gift for finding lost things.

The series begins with "The Shorter Way", an episode packed with world-building information and an introduction to the main characters. In Here, Iowa we meet Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto, Heroes) who murders a boy's mother and her lover and lures the boy away with the promise of a visit to Christmasland. The problem is that Manx appears to be draining the life force from the boy, Daniel and Manx's vitality and youth increase as Daniel visibly ages.

AMC NOS4A2 | The Shorter Way | Ashleigh Cummings is Vic McQueen

In Haverhill, Massachusetts we meet Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) and her dysfunctional parents. While riding on her motorbike, Vic discovers a covered bridge that doesn't exist and that's just the start of it. She soon realises that the bridge can transport her to places where a lost thing is located, be it her father's watch or her father himself.

Meanwhile, back in Here, Iowa purple-haired librarian Maggie Leigh has a supernatural skill of her own. She can draw Scrabble tiles out of a bag and spell out clues to find missing things, in this case Daniel. At the end of "The Shorter Way", it seems highly likely that Maggie and Vic will soon cross paths. Maggie is played by YouTube superstar Jakarta Smith aka Sailor J.

AMC NOS4A2 | The Shorter Way | Jahkara Smith is Maggie Leigh

It's been an intriguing start and absolutely not what I was expecting. I knew nothing about NOS4A2 before I started watching, which is how I like to approach my TV series. I like the mysterious feel of the show and the suggestion of true horror to come. I also really liked both Vic and Maggie and am interested to see if and how they meet up.

AMC NOS4A2 | The Shorter Way | Asher Miles Fallica is Daniel Moore

NOS4A2 premieres on Shudder (US) August 8, with new episodes added every Thursday through October 10. UK viewers can catch NOS4A2 on AMC UK (BT TV 332 Sky channel 186); episodes 1 and 2 premiere on 13 August, with new episodes added every Tuesday at 9pm.

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Sunday, 4 August 2019

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw - Basildon Cineworld 4DX Review

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw | Cineworld 4DX Review

I began to wonder what I'd got myself into when I saw the option to turn water on or off on my cinema chair. I decided to brave it out, if I was going to experience Cineworld 4DX in full, I needed to do it, water and all. 4DX is exclusive to Cineworld in UK and Ireland and can best be described as extreme cinema viewing. It extends far beyond visuals and sound effects; the 4DX experience features strobe lights, bursts of air, falling rain and moving seats.

Think stomach-dropping helicopter rides and thrilling car chases where you're hanging on for dear life. There's no need to switch the water off either, it really wasn't enough to even vaguely smudge my makeup.

Hobbs & Shaw

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is the perfect film for 4DX; it's non-stop action from the very first minute with explosions, car chases and fight scenes providing a rollercoaster ride on your moving seat. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are forced to work together, much to their mutual dismay. A lethal virus with the power to destroy all of humanity has been stolen by a rogue MI6 agent and both the CIA and MI6 want it back. The problem is that the MI6 agent is Shaw's sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby, The Crown) and she has almost certainly been set up.

Cue the introduction of the glorious Idris Elba as Shaw's former colleague Brixton, a cybernetically enhanced and seemingly unbeatable opponent who refers to himself as the 'black Superman'. Hobbs & Shaw must overcome their differences to beat Brixton and save the world. Note that 'saving Hattie' doesn't feature into that because Hattie is perfectly capable of looking after herself.

With Helen Mirren reprising her role as Shaw's mother Queenie, the wonderful Eddie Marsan featuring as a mad scientist and cameo appearances from Ryan Reynolds and Rob Delaney, Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is not only a non-stop, breakneck action film but hilarious and oddly endearing too. The chemistry between Johnson, Statham and Kirby is fantastic. I've loved all of the Fast & Furious films and am absolutely invested in the Hobbs & Shaw franchise. Bring on the sequels!

4DX: The Verdict

4DX is a lot of fun. In the very first minutes, I found it slightly distracting and I couldn't stop giggling but I soon got used to it. I thought I'd made a fool of myself in front of the couple next to us but at one point, the man threw both of his hands up in the air as if that was really going to help stop him falling out of a helicopter. Amateur.

Would I do it again? Definitely. I don't think 4DX is right for every film - action films would work best - but the tickets aren't that much more expensive than normal tickets for what is a fun, immersive experience.

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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