Movie review: Therapy for a Vampire (2016) directed by David Rühm

Product info:

1932, Vienna. Dr. Sigmund Freud (Karl Fischer) helps a depressed vampire aristocrat Geza von Közsnöm (Tobias Moretti) whose marriage is on the rocks. Or rather on a tip of a wooden stake. After 500 years of ‘happily-ever-after’ it can happen even to the best of couples, right?

In order to appease his more and more demanding wife who needs to be flattered all the time the vampiric Count finds a young painter who is supposed to paint his lady’s portrait and give him more nightly hours wife-free. Soon the girlfriend of that painter, young and tomboyish Lucy, catches the vampire’s eye. Even though she works as a simple waitress, she is a dead ringer for his long-lost love, the divine Nadilla…

My impressions:

Be warned: Therapy for a Vampire might elicit a few ironic smiles but rarely belly laughs. It veers from psychological parody to romantic mix-up comedy to campy horror,  an uneven mess of vampire movies cliches, mistaken identities and misplaced affections. I didn’t regret watching it, far from it; still I can’t shake off a feeling it might have been a lot better and edgier if only the director took risk and followed one of more interesting paths, mentioned in the movie. Like how to face infinite life with dignity.

Final verdict:

Do you really like vampire comedies? Do you thing a dry sense of humour suits you the best? If you answer ‘yes’ on both counts you might want to borrow and watch this one.

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Posted in comedy drama, dracula/vampire movie, gothic romance, movie review, psychological | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Movie review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri directed by Martin McDonagh

Movie info:

After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes

makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby, the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command, Officer Dixon — an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence — gets involved, the battle is only exacerbated, polarizing the whole community. Will the murderer of Angela Hayes be found? 

My impressions:

It was a movie which could easily fall into ‘boring’ category. And yet it didn’t. Why? The characters were three-dimensional and rather complex, believe it or not. What’s more the cast was spot-on. There was no clear ‘baddies-goodies’ division line, no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides. The plot was full of emotional twists and turns. The ending was ambiguous which made it even more real. Finally there were scenes full of peculiar sense of humour. All these features worked for me surprisingly well.

Final verdict:

A completely watchable movie about ordinary people and their choices. I would even call it uplifting. Recommended. 

Posted in comedy drama, movie review | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Three-sentence reviews of Yule season movies

Wonder Woman (2017) directed by Patty Jenkins

Who can end the Great War? Only a Wonder Woman, right? Still, feminist vibes or not, if you manage to watch a 141-minute movie in half an hour and you don’t feel you’ve missed something important, that fact alone remains rather a bit telling…

 

 

Manhattan Undying (2016) directed by Babak Payami 

 

A vampire approaches a talented artist and asks him to paint her portrait, so she can see herself for the first time. Cliches, thy name is vampire. BTW you know a guy is an artist when he has longish hair a la Kurt Cobain, snorts cocaine like a vacuum cleaner and has a serious lung problem… overall not impressed although the ending was nice.

 

Oblivion (2013) directed by Joseph Kosinski

Of course the Earth is on the blink of destruction and of course Tom C. has to save all the

mankind while piloting a white, sperm-shaped craft into a giant space uterus . Still let me tell you it was a great visual experience and not the worst Tom C. movie I’ve ever watched. Overall I was pleasantly surprised even though the plot was rather repetitive.

 

Posted in movie review | Tagged , | 6 Comments

It’s time to say goodbye…

…at least temporarily.

Due to my personal situation I am going to give myself more blogging-free time than usual, basically almost the whole December. My hiatus might last till New Year 2018 and believe me, I need it rather badly. Then either I am going to resurrect this blog or not – we’ll see. Anyway, thank you for your visits, comments and remarks, these have been always very appreciated by yours truly. Have a lovely December everybody, no matter whether you celebrate Christmas or not,  and once again thank you very much! Hopefully see you all back in January!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

Product info (from Goodreads):

Sugar, 19, prostitute in Victorian London, yearns for a better life. From brutal brothel-keeper Mrs Castaway, she ascends in society. Affections of self-involved perfume magnate William Rackham soon smells like love. Her social rise attracts preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.

My impressions:

First a very short but pertinent remark: I am going to polish the fine art of writing short reviews. Don’t expect long elaborates from now on… and, of course, any reactions, positive and negative ones, will be more than welcome!

So. Those petals… It was a good book not only because it was able to surprise me more than once. The narration was very nice and smooth, the characters interesting enough to be worth following around and the setting… who wouldn’t like to visit Victorian London, I ask? At least for a while?

Still, I had a strong impression this book was far too long.  Really. About one-two hundred pages I would gladly remove from the novel without any adverse effect (and I am thinking here about the paperback edition, 835 pages long). Then came the ending and once again it seemed to me that the author got tired of the story (and small wonder, with so many pages…) and wanted to tuck all ends and tie all threads very quickly.  The effects were unimpressive.

Final verdict:

A novel for those who have a lot of time and love Victorians. Perfect for a long trip – like several days long. If the ending makes you as disgruntled as I was you can always throw it away through the window.

 

Posted in book review, historically-flavoured, literary fiction, romance, suspence | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

Synopsis:

SOMETIMES THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU IS THE ONE WHO HURTS YOU THE MOST

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

My impressions:

This book would be good if it wasn’t so damn predictable.

You get Lily Blossom Bloom,  a girl whose daddy dearest was a sadist, using her mom as a punchbag whenever something went wrong. Lily grows up just fine and meets the divine Ryle Kincaid, a perfect husband candidate. Ryle is tall, handsome and rich, on his way to become a very good neurosurgeon. He is intelligent and has a great sense of humour.  Are you hearing that dum-dum-dum ditty in the background? If yes then you know  that Ryle will be also prone to violence *gasp*. He hits Lily for the first time when she, a bit sozzled, laughs at his clumsiness in the kitchen, right after he burned one of his precious hands. Ryle hits her for the second time when he finds the phone number of Atlas, Lily’s teen crush, hidden under the battery of her mobile phone.  Lily is pushed down the stairs and ends up with a concussion. It’s their honeymoon.

And then contrite Ryle explains. He is very good at explaining. (spoiler, highlight to read or skip) When he was a six-year-old kid he and his older brother found a loaded gun in their parents’ garage. Ryle shot his sibling and he died. It wasn’t his fault, far from it, but he’s been attending therapy sessions ever since. He’s been having issues too because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t? After that he claims he loves Lily more than any other woman he’s ever met. Isn’t it sweet? Still Atlas, also a victim of home abuse, warns Lily that she should leave Ryle while it’s not too late. What will she do? What would you do? Would you be ready to risk a marriage with a man that during any dispute might hurt you or kill you, even if not voluntarily? A man who sometimes gets so jealous that he becomes a dangerous stranger you hardly recognize? After all a surgeon knows human body like nobody else and he can be a very skillful murderer…

I won’t spoil anybody’s pleasure by telling you the rest. For me it was a bit predictable but who knows, perhaps you will be tempted to find out on your own what happened to Lily and Ryle.

Let me also said that the character of Atlas had a lot of potential but wasted it all. Such a pity.

Final verdict:

Decent novel about home abuse but nothing ground-breaking. Hello Kitty.

Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

Posted in book review, chicklit, contemporary, crime, meh, rating | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch 01) by Ann Leckie

Synopsis:

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren– a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

My impressions:

The story of Breq, the last physical manifestation of the ship “Justice of Toren’s” complex AI, was compelling, especially when it came to a powerful mixture of politics and war campaigns. The mere idea behind a sentient ship which can control hundreds of human bodies called ancillaries seemed a bit creepy but after a while I warmed up to it.  After the destruction of her ship, lonely Breq, now almost incapacitated, started a quest to get answers and justice for said destruction – so far so good.

Then came the weird. The Radch empire used language with just one grammatical gender. They refer to everyone as “she”, a default pronoun so to speak (Ursula Le Guin anyone?). It is one of the main novelties of the book. Actually for some characters you’ll have to figure out and decide on your own, if a character is male or female in any given scene. I admit sometimes I had an impression the same person can be both male and female but it’s perhaps only me.

The confusion concerning sexes worked well for most of the book but it made me annoyed too, especially when Seivarden was involved. A word of explanation – Seivarden is a former  lieutenant from Justice of Toren . She (?) is two thousand years old but most of that time she spent in a cryogenic capsule, drifting unconscious through space. After that time she landed somewhere, started planet-hopping, got addicted to a drug called kef and was found, half-dead, by Breq and saved almost as an afterthought. Seivarden’s way of thinking was bland at best and irritating at worst. In my view she was easily the worst character of this book, never being able to stand on her own.

Then the plot, although engaging, started to fray. The alternating timelines (plus numerous flashbacks) were tremendously confusing because they spoke of events that didn’t interest me and omitted things I considered important. I finished the book only because I yearned for some kind of conclusion, molding One Esk and Breq. And I got one.

Final verdict:

A powerful story of an AI which once operated as hundreds of “ancillaries” — mindless human bodies linked to and controlled by it — but has been cut off from her ship. A story  which might be difficult to imagine or swallow. If you’re fond of epic space battles  this book isn’t for you. If you find an idea behind one-gender-only language idiotic be warned: the descriptions of characters don’t conform to our gender stereotypes, the effect is deliberately confusing and may be off-putting to some. Still, in my opinion, it is a book worth reading.

Posted in book review, dystopia, fantasy, sci-fi, space opera | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman

I got a complimentary copy of this one from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Product info:

It is a story which contains some reality: the terrorist attack at Burgas Airport in 2012, during which five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian bus driver were murdered. In ‘The Burgas Affair’, the aftermath of the attack is fictional.

An Israeli data analyst and a Bulgarian detective are tracking down those responsible. The two must establish whether the terrorists were assisted by a Bulgarian crime organization, in laying the groundwork for the attack.

Shadows of the past keep interfering, which is why what was supposed to be a routine investigation turns into a nightmare. The detective’s interactions with a crime boss pursuing a vendetta against him threaten to throw him off track. At the same time, his partner’s pursuit of the terrorists and their accomplices brings up painful memories of a family tragedy.

My impressions:

The huge asset of this one was the fact that the author described Bulgaria very vividly – it was obvious at once he was there, talked with those people, drank rakija, visited local hotels and train stations and so on. Its narration had a distinct colour which I appreciated.

When it came to the main characters I have to admit they were three-dimensioned and rather complex. I  liked the fact that Boyko Stanchev was chased by shadows from his police past and also Alaya was haunted by some traumatic event. The secret of Alaya’s brother, Tomen, who hated everything Bulgarian, was also a nice addition to the plot.

What didn’t work? I might be wrong but in my very humble opinion the style could have been polished a tad more. Below I quote two passages which, I suppose, would profit from another editing session:

“She shifted her weight, resting one hand on her enlarged belly. She needed to sit down. And she had to pee. She was tired, despite her nap on the flight. She hoped their hotel-room bed would be comfortable, but that really didn’t matter. In her present state, she was capable of sleeping anywhere.”

“You’re catching up fast, Boyko. They will ask many questions. Did the bomber know that this particular bus would transport Israeli tourists? Was the bomb on the bus or under the bus? Is the bomber dead or alive? Was the bomb detonated by remote control? Did the bomber have accomplices, or did he act alone? And more important than any other question: who sent the bomber?” p.22

I was also a bit surprised by the fact how naïve and inexperienced the main characters sounded. Boyko is an experienced police detective. Alaya is an intelligent, young Jewish woman, a member of Mossad. Still, from time to time, they just sound as if they’ve never undergone any practical course or schooling in their lives. An example? Read one scene, introduced by the internal dialogue of Alaya:

“Richard Milkin was not the bomber’s real name . And, the bomber was not from Michigan after all! She understood this now, yet this was this man’s identity as he travelled round Bulgaria. And the other names were the ones used by his collaborators. ‘We should call to report this information, no matter what’ she said. ‘My phone’s battery is dead. Can I use yours?”

Hmm… wasn’t Mossad (a.k.a. HaMossad leModiʿin uleTafkidim Meyuḥadim) supposed to be the very best intelligence agency in the world? How come its member didn’t take care of her mobile while away in an foreign country on an important mission? Why it was so hard for her to assume that the suspected terrorists used false names and a set of false documents?

Final verdict:

Despite its flaws it was definitely a thriller with a lot potential and a story with great local colour. Give it one more editing and it will be completely recommendable.

 

Posted in ARC, book review, contemporary, crime, mystery, thriller | 6 Comments

Farewell, dear friend!

I am extremely sad to announce a sudden demise of my faithful pet, Jet. He was a miniature Yorkshire terrier, a pedigree, and a great dog to own: funny, intelligent, compassionate, and tender, very friendly towards both cats and dogs. Farewell, dear friend, and thank you for 13 fantastic years – I hope they were as good for you as they were for me. I miss you and I love you!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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Movie review: What We Do in the Shadows (2014) directed by Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement

This one was recommended to me by @Myk Pilgrim at Twitter. Do follow him; even though he sometimes pretends he doesn’t like you he is really a great pumpkin guy and a swell writer (I suppose) ;p.

Product info:

Four vampires—Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) , and Petyr (Ben Fransham)—share a flat in the Wellington suburb. Although Viago, Vladislav, and Deacon are all several centuries old, they have retained normal human appearances. The 8,000-year-old Petyr, however, resembles Nosferatu and acts more savagely than the younger vampires. He also sleeps in a stone coffin because he is more familiar with stone than with wood.

Each night, Viago , Vladislav, and Deacon prowl the streets of Wellington searching for people to kill. It’s not an easy task. Their clothes make them look dubious so they are rarely invited inside clubs. They must stay in the flat during the day to avoid sunlight—which is lethal to vampires—therefore they have not adapted to 21st-century life. Deacon has a human servant (familiar)—Jackie. She is a married mother of two, frustrated that Deacon will not turn her into a vampire even if she pronounces herself more than ready. Jackie thinks it is extremely unjust and sexist – if she was a man she would have been bitten ages ago.

One night Jackie leads her ex-boyfriend Nick and her former school nemesis to the vampire’s flat so they can drink their blood; the woman is killed but Nick escapes; as he leaves the flat, Petyr attacks him and later turns Nick into a vampire. Two months later the vampires accept Nick into their group and also bond with his human friend Stu, a computer programmer who shows them how to use modern technology. That will change the entire household in an unpredictable manner. Yes, there will be blood.

My impressions:

It was a cheap indie production but also a great vampire comedy, as anti-Twilight as it is actually possible. I’ve seen it named ‘Mockumentary’. It is a very apt term. You get a ‘family’ of four guys with fangs who quarrel, have to do dishes, and keep up with ever-changing technology while avoiding conflicts with a rival gang, that of werewolves.

Some scenes were so funny that I couldn’t restrain myself from giggling all the time; I mean here especially those featuring Stu, the Bella Swan of the story. Stu (not an accidental choice of name, male Mary-Sues are often called Gary-Stu) is an ordinary guy with ordinary looks and ordinary IT job but somehow our four vampires can’t get enough of him. He teaches them basic computer skills while they admire his rosy cheeks and kind character. Stu is swell, Stu is nice, Stu is anything an old-fashioned, European vampire can dream of and yet none of the fanged gents dares to bite him and make him theirs. Stu is simply untouchable. And so lovely. ;p Speak about insta-love and a bromance.

Another great, humoristic twist: you watch the group’s frustrated attempts at entering several clubs nobody wants to invite them into. Without invitation, they can’t enter them,  a familiar vampire trope. After I heard Clement’s Vladislav protesting in the background while Waititi’s Viago skittishly explains through voiceover narration why his friends always wind up at “the hottest vampire nightclub” (ie: one that is always empty) I was laughing like mad. So simple. So funny. So incisive.

Last but not least: the chemistry between the actors was simply fantastic, something which  can’t be overstated as it often doesn’t work so well even in professional, big-money productions.  This is especially true of scenes where Viago and the gang fight in the air, flying above the ground and hissing at each other, like airborne feral cats. If only Twilight movies were half that funny…

Final verdict:

If you haven’t seen this one and you are looking for a Halloween-themed comedy, look no further; you won’t regret watching this jewel with fangs. Highly recommended.

Posted in comedy drama, dracula/vampire movie, movie review, one great movie | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments