Stephen King’s The Outsider is not good :(

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I have always had an up-down reader relationship with Stephen King. His best book in my view (and I have not read many of his classics, so they’re not in the running here), is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. His worst was, hmm, maybe the Outsider? I liked much of Needful Things, and much of The Stand, and maybe Mr. Mercedes too though I have no real memory of it, but I didn’t get the appeal of The Dark Tower. I realize the following criticism is going to annoy King fans, so to speak to that: King is obviously …

First Man – movie review

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One of my favorite movies is Interstellar by Christopher Nolan. There are some moments in this space-faring movie where the threat of imminent death combines with the genius of human scientific endeavor along with one human’s will to survive that fill me with a riot of glorious, awe-inspiring emotions. I’m thinking primarily of the moment where they have to pull their main ship out of a spiraling death spin through an insane docking maneuver. Phew. That whole extended sequence is insane. Stressful and hopeful in equal measure, with soaring music that keeps on ratcheting the tension and stakes to deliver …

The Thieves stole my heart – Korean movie review

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We’re on the last train heading home after a screening in the London Korean Film Festival, after a pell mell dash across central London to make it in time. 5 minutes to spare. The film was The Thieves, a kind of Korean Ocean’s 11, shown at the Leicester Square Odeon, and it was excellent. SY suggested we go see a K movie, and let me pick which one. I didn’t have very high expectations, but The Thieves totally smashed it. It’s a long movie (135 minutes) set around a diamond heist from a notorious gangster in a major casino in …

Why ‘Insurgent’ is, unsurprisingly, utter crap – movie review

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I should not have watched Insurgent, movie two in the Divergent series. I knew it, I know it, but still I watched it. Blame the fact that movie 1, Divergent, while quite ridiculous , drawn-out and annoying for so many reasons, actually has a romance inside it that really appealed to my wife. ‘Maybe it’s not so bad?’ I wondered. It’s true that the lead character, Tris, is way better than Bella in Twilight, while also being more proactive than Katniss in Hunger Games. Those are good things. That it ripped off Harry Potter’s sorting hat and houses for its …

How ‘The Name of the Wind’ blows Robert Jordan away – book review

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Take the story structure and wizarding world of Harry Potter, add the main character and creative problem-solving skills from Ender’s Game, then stir liberally with a generous helping of ‘epic’ from The Wheel of Time, and you’ll come up with Patrick Rothfuss’ 2007 debut fantasy novel ‘The Name of the Wind’. It tells the story of Kvothe, ‘the most interesting man in the world’ as I saw him described in an amazon review, telling the story of his life in a pub. Yes, really- the whole story is backstory. It’s a guy in a pub telling a story. For that …

Why Downton Abbey has lost its charm – TV review

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For 5 years I have loved Downton Abbey- getting excited weeks before it came on, getting all tremulous when the gorgeous and haunting theme music came on, reading up about it and being on tenterhooks to find out what was going to happen next. But now that feeling seems to be gone, and I’m sad, puzzled, and wanting to know why. Yesterday I turned on the TV and saw on the Guide Downton Abbey? What? I thought it had to be a repeat. No, it was episode 4. EPISODE 4?! How did I miss that it was on? Even in …

Why ‘The Martian’ is not so out of this world – movie review

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Have you any idea how many vacuum-packed turds it would take to turn desiccated Martian dust into thriving, bacteria-rich, potato-nurturing soil? How about hydrazine, if you knew what that was, could you turn it into water without burning your face off? Ridley’s Scott’s latest movie The Martian, based on the bestselling book by one-book author Andy Weir, will point you in the right direction: Turds- A lot Not burn off face- Wear a space helmet These are some of the most gripping scenes in the book, a runaway bestseller that started out as posts on Andy Weir’s blog in 2011, …

Why Tom Hardy’s Legend is basically a true story.

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Numerous critics have been slating Tom Hardy’s movie ‘Legend’, about the notorious gangsters Ron and Reggie Kray, on the grounds that it misrepresents history, glamorizes and Americanizes violence and the gangster life, and generally does a poor job of showing the REAL Krays and the REAL social cost of their bloody trail of terror splattered from London’s East End to Soho. But they’re wrong to attack it for that, and I’ll tell you why. ‘Legend’ is a taut action gangster story, full of threat, charm, massive amounts of cocksure grinning, and of course sudden, bloody violence. Yeah, that’s what we …

Why ‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ gives almost all I wanted – book review

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★★★★ The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey is a perspective-flipping zombie road novel with a very great deal to recommend it. It starts off extremely tight-focused, homed in on one little girl and her experience of her bizarre, locked-box (Pandoran?) school, then explodes outward in a way most zombie stories don’t- digging into the science of the zombie infection, zooming into the epidemic hypocenter, and giving us a haunting sense of closure. All the gifts indeed. Yet- I can’t say I loved it. I’ll get into why after I say everything that was so good. There’ll …

Why The Maze Runner outruns all logic – movie review

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★★★ The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Dash is a good name for a book about running) is an infuriatingly good example of taking great liberal splashes of all the great stuff that went before (LOST, Truman Show, Hunger Games), and not learning the key lesson from any of them. It is fun, it is rollicking, but by the end (and after reading the synopses of its sequels on wikipedia) I just feel like it’s empty, like a jester’s sad bauble-bladder deflated of all air. Disappointing. But, if you’re not burned out still on the let-down cop-out ending of a …