Monday, 24 September 2018

THE BEGUILED - 2017 drama thriller film

Director: Sofia Coppola.
Cast: Nicole Kidman / Kirsten Dunst / Elle Fanning / Colin Farrell.
Score: Phoenix.
Cinematography: Philippe Le Sourd.
Content Advisory: R for violence, some gory images, and strong sexual themes and innuendoes.
Source: Rented.

The unexpected arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls school in Virginia during the American Civil War leads to jealousy and betrayal.

I love this movie's trailer. You could say I was beguiled before I even started watching ;)  And you could also say that I quickly became un-beguiled when I actually watched the movie. Darn.

The dialogue is not great, the cinematography is average (there are some beautiful shots, but also a lot of sloppy ones), and the aesthetic is bleak: a merge of dusty pinks, smokey whites, greys, and dark greens. All the same, it's not quite the atmospheric, Gothic setting that I imagine it's supposed to be.

The movie is frustrating because it doesn't live up to its potential. The concept is brilliant, absolutely brilliant, and it's a very, very strong idea. Apparently it's also based off of a 1966 novel and a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood, but I doubt this latest remake will make much of an impression alongside its predecessors.
It has insane potential. But the plot is not tight enough - especially not for a thriller - and if it had followed more of a "cause and effect" procedure and had not left its scenes so episodic, then I think the structure would be so, so, so much stronger and the suspense and foreboding amplified. That's what this story deserves.

The acting, despite that A-list cast, is underwhelming. Farrell is the strongest, but if the characters had been more fleshed out and better developed (or developed at all), then the actors would have had more to work with and their performances wouldn't have been so contrived.  It's the fault of the script. After all, I'm not gonna blame Kidman. She, more than anyone, deserved better.

The Beguiled isn't as bewitching as it claims to be. Despite its raw sexual intensity, the story is squandered as a result of forced performances and an extremely weak script. 

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Weekly What's Up - The One Where I'm Tired

I'm typing this post on Friday afternoon, and as I sit here all I can think about is falling asleep. Lol. For some reason, I'm so drained. It could be my WIP, which is killing my spirit because it's falling apart, and it could be late nights. I'm so bad about getting to bed at a reasonable time. 

But anyhow. From Monday I'm on holiday for two weeks, so I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully I'll be able to piece my WIP back into shape, as well :) 

Posts of the Week

I answered writing questions in my WIP Diaries post!

I reviewed the final two books in The Darkest Minds trilogy.

I reviewed a horror thriller film, A Quiet Place.

Currently Reading

I feel like I'm reading slowly at the moment...for some reason I haven't been in a very bookish mood.


I am so excited to read these two lovelies!

How has your week been? Did you get any bookmail? What are you reading and watching? 

Friday, 21 September 2018

A QUIET PLACE - 2018 horror thriller film

Director: John Krasinski.
Cast: John Krasinski / Emily Blunt / Millicent Simmonds / Noah Jupe.
Score: Marco Beltrami.
Cinematography: Charlotte Bruus Christensen.
Content Advisory: PG 13 for terror and some bloody images.
Source: Rented.

In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Normally, I don't watch horror movies. But because this one is directed by John Krasinski and because he and Blunt star in it together (WHICH IS SOMETHING I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR IN FOREVER), I had to make an exception.

Krasinski showcases an impressive directorial debut. Having watched interviews with him about the film, heard how close it is to his heart, how passionate he is about it, I also feel like I have a greater appreciation for his work. I know that's how most directors must feel about their projects, but I found Krasinski's experience particularly interesting and inspiring. I can't wait to see what he does next.
The soundtrack is breathtaking. One minute it's tentatively beautiful, the next a crescendo of emotion and urgency. In addition, the frequent lack of sound is also smart and extremely powerful. Sound - and silence - is a big part of this film, and they play with that effectively.
The cinematography is stellar. You feel as if you're spying on the characters, and it's a consistently tilting spectrum of intimate and removed.

To be honest, I feel like A Quiet Place would be considered very tame as far as horror movies go. It ties your stomach up in knots and it is extremely tense, but there's no "AH I'M SO SCARED I'M GONNA FAINT" moments. I'm a big scaredy-cat, but all I felt was hectic tension, sweaty palms, and heartbreak. I guess it's more of a thriller?
Overall, though, I love the story. The premise is fantastic, the story is so gut-wrenching and so freaking emotional (I was a sobbing wreck by the end), and the relationships between the children and the parents are probed at enough that they have some depth. They could've been more fleshed out, but it's still more than a typical horror film would give you.

My only big issue with the characters is the parents. Whereas the kids' personalities are clear from the first few scenes, the parents remain rather one-dimensional. I would have liked to have seen more to their characters and their history. Unfortunately, they're flat. And it's a pity because with actors like Blunt and Krasinski, they deserved more.
Which brings me to: The acting is exceptional. Those children are amazing (yay for child actors who can actually act) and Blunt is magnificent as always.

But the film isn’t perfect. There are a number of aggravating plot issues and illogical writing choices; the primary one being that the actual details of the creatures' hearing and their weakness/connection to the daughter's hearing aid device, is never properly explained. By the end, we still don't have a clear understanding of how it all works. It's poorly developed.

Another example of illogical writing: when Krasinski’s character leaves the safety of the bunker to go in search of his children, why doesn’t he take his rifle – which he had just a few minutes ago – with him? He leaves it with his wife and the baby, but considering that they’re in a more secure, hidden place, it seems more practical that he take it. He’ll have more need for it, surely.
Then there’s the flood. My question: where the heck did all that water come from? Unlike the nail incident – which is beautifully foreshadowed – the pouring water comes at random and is suddenly a critical plot device. Hmm…
Another query (piece of advice?): surely when you’re walking in the wilderness and trying not to make a noise, it would be logical to have your young son – he must be about 4? – walking in front of you, or at least between both parents, where he can be supervised? Maybe don’t let him walk behind your whole group! That’s just common sense. Right?
There’s also the birth sequence. Blunt’s character goes into labour, and get this, it lasts all of a few minutes. Yes, maybe a 12 hour labour would be difficult to write into the plot, but still. Surely that could’ve been written better? The rocket goes off, the creature flees, Blunt screams, and in the next few seconds her husband is racing to save her. A shot or two later he’s cradling her and the newborn child. Say what?! It happened too fast.

A Quiet Place is a captivating, well shot, brilliantly directed and superbly acted horror thriller. It’ll make you sweat and it’ll make you sob – the balance is perfect. If not for some plot issues, it would be an excellent movie.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

2 Mini Book Reviews: NEVER FADE and IN THE AFTER LIGHT

NEVER FADE (The Darkest Minds #2) - Alexandra Bracken
Published: 2013 - Quercus Children's Books
Genres: Young adult / futuristic / adventure
Pages: 560.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / child abuse
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster. When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind.
Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her. As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

This series is truly a case of "it's not you, it's me." Because if you're a die-hard sci-fi fan and you love Bracken's style of writing, I think you'll adore the series. But for me, it's just not working.

Like you probably already know, I'm not a big fan of Bracken's writing. The style isn't for me - her paragraphs are chunky and she isn't concise, and I find that that holds me back when I'm trying to enjoy the scene on the page.

The plot and characters are so boring. The story moves slowly, and it only begins to get interesting about 250 pages in when Liam shows up; he's the most compelling character by far. But the others - especially Ruby - are dull. They lack that crucial spark. They're vivid - well, the leads are; the secondary cast is unremarkable, especially the villains who are one-dimensional - but for some reason I find them bland and unoriginal.

The world is extremely uninteresting. Amidst a sea of other YA futuristic stories that involve torn apart worlds and kids strewn around the globe rebelling against the government, this particular story doesn't have enough to make it stand out.

IN THE AFTER LIGHT (The Darkest Minds #3) - Alexandra Bracken
Published: 2014 - Quercus Children's Books
Genres: Young adult / futuristic / adventure
Pages: 592.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / child abuse.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds. They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

Warning: this review isn't complimentary and I actually feel wrong writing it because I think my review amounts to little more than personal taste. It doesn't feel fair.

Okay, so I didn't enjoy the book at all. I was bored out of my mind, there's hardly any plot, the characters' actions feel passive most of the time, and there's a ton of seemingly unnecessary teen angst. The book is almost 600 pages: boy, does it feel like it.

If you've loved this series up-til now, then I'm positive you'll enjoy In The After Light. But if your reactions to the previous two books have been lukewarm  and you're now hoping for the final story to turn things around, I'll tell you now: it doesn't. At least, it didn't for me.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The WIP Diaries: I answer questions from you!

Thank you so much to Angela, Genni, Olivia, Lindsey, Zoey, and Olivia-Savannah for asking me questions about my writing process! I had such fun answering. 

Hope you like this post :)

The Questions!

How do you keep yourself motivated / make sure to complete the goals you set for yourself without giving up?

I am not a good goals setter ;) Only recently am I seriously thinking about setting goals for myself. I’m certain they’ll help, I’ve just been procrastinating.

As for motivation: watching YouTube videos on writing, and reading through motivational quotes from other writers.....those can really get me pumped to write. There's also the unquenchable desire to tell my stories and breathe life to the characters in my head. I have to tell their stories. That drives me to write.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Brainstorming! Lol that sounds like such a cop-out, but I just love envisioning all the scenes and characters in my head and playing them out like movies to see how they work. I also thoroughly enjoy outlining – I’m a neurotic organsier, so listing scenes and plotting them out is my thing ;)

Do you work on several WIPs at once, or one at a time?

Definitely more than one at a time. I don’t know if that’s always smart, but I can’t help it. The only risk is that I get carried away with a shiny new idea and start working on that when I actually should be spending all of my time on the previous book idea….It runs the risk of not finishing anything. But I try hard to balance them.

Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?

Inspiration just happens. Movies, books, real life…I'm perceptive and I try to be aware of what's going on around me so I can use snatches for my writing. I never know when an idea will strike.

Also, since most of my novels are fairy tale retellings, I just examine the original fairy tale and ask “what if?”. That gets me thinking and imagining, and as a result a book idea is usually born.

What's your favourite character you've written and why?

That’s like asking me to pick a child! I love all my characters so much – even the villains. But if I had had had to choose, I think I’d go with Tink (it’s a nickname btw; I haven’t decided on her real name yet) from my Peter Pan retelling. She’s fierce, twisted, broken, and sometimes downright wicked. But she’s hiding a lot of pain, and out of all my protagonists, I think I have the softest spot for her.

How do make your characters realistic? 

I draw on real life emotion and incidents I've experienced and make a note of how they made me feel so I can pass them on to my characters. I also make sure to give each of my characters a quirk - usually something random or weird - and I find that that usually adds some relatability or at least humanity to the person.

What do you find the hardest thing about writing? 

Writing! Ha.

Seriously though: it's the sitting down and writing when you hate every single word you're typing out. It's torture.

More specifically, I think it's also the quieter, slower scenes in my books. I'm big on action, so a quieter scene is usually a struggle. I mean, why can't characters punch each other and jump from moving trains all the time?

Notebooks vs. digital idea keeping: how do you organise ideas?  

Sometimes, if an idea comes out of the blue, I'll scribble it down on the nearest piece of paper or on my phone if there's no paper. But I try to get them onto my Mac at some stage, and make a Microsoft Word document for each individual idea. Then, if the idea grows and develops, I'll make a Scrivener project for it and start fleshing it out.

Do you use spreadsheets? Do you use any special programs to write? plan? brainstorm? 

I use Pinterest to get a feel, or aesthetic, for the story and characters. But otherwise I use Scrivener for everything from brainstorming to plotting to outlining to the actual writing of the book.

How do you keep your character's appearances straight? 

I have them all in my head! Their appearance is glued to their name, so I always know exactly how everyone looks if I know their name. They're not exclusive. But I also use Pinterest to cast each character; there's an image of every person there.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you start with a "what if" scenario or with a character or with an event, or maybe with a theme/message?

Story idea and characters arrive almost simultaneously. The story idea, whether it's an incident, a setting, or a premise, can come from anywhere: movies, books, real life, or me just daydreaming. And when I get a story idea, a character usually appears at the same time. For example, when I got the idea for my Peter Pan retelling, I immediately knew that the story would be from Tinkerbell's pov and she'd be a rebellious, broken teenage girl. I even knew some of the secondary characters the book would have. 

So yeah. Inspiration can strike at any time, and if I've ever lost for a book idea, I can wrestle one from daydreaming and asking "what if?" I am literally never short for book ideas. Hopefully I'll get to write them all in the future. 

Thank you to everyone who asked me questions! If you're a writer, where do you get the inspiration for your stories? Do you use Scrivener? Do you cast your characters?