Author: Alex Doenau

Movie Review: Bullet Train

Japan has its fair share of bombastic action films and novels, but it also has many mannered and cleverly compartmentalised stories that unfold like so many origami cranes. Director David Leitch (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) is not one for subtlety and never has been. In Bullet Train, Leitch has taken the puzzle box of author Kotaro Isaka’s superbly titled Maria Beetle and shot it, smashed it, poisoned it, and ran over it with a train. It’s quite a different experience to the book, but it’s not the worse off for it: Bullet Train is a literal high speed breakneck action comedy that keeps the audience engaged right up to the largely superfluous third and a half act.

Movie Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

With over 12 million copies sold, Where The Crawdads Sing is considered one of the best-selling novels of all time, written by a naturalist who is wanted for questioning in Zambia for her connection to the murder of an elephant poacher. One of the breakout titles of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club, Where The Crawdads Sing is a borderline racist mid-twentieth century adventure that can be read in the space of one day. As a film it’s come out as more Nicholas Sparks than its own movie, and cut-rate Nicholas Sparks at that, no matter how good the cast or scenery may be.

Movie Review: The Black Phone

If you know anything from horror, you’d know that Stephen King has two sons, both of whom are also authors. One of them, Joe Hill, made his name in shorts and comics before revealing his identity. Hill’s 2005 collection 20th Century Ghosts featured a twenty page story called The Black Phone that was, among other things, about a haunted telephone. Twenty pages can fit a lot of detail but, as a film, The Black Phone is proof positive of the power of converting short stories rather than full novels into movies – there’s a lot more room to breathe. Apart from the basic concept, The Black Phone is made up from near whole cloth. There’s so much going for it that it’s difficult to feel bad for Scott Derrickson’s (Doctor Strange) unceremonious ouster from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: some men were meant to not only play, but thrive, in the world of small budget horror.

Movie Review: Morbius

Despite what Sony keeps trying to tell you, there is no such thing as the “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe”. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man was clearly part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the whole time, even with the up in the air nature of No Way Home’s conclusion, and Tom Hardy’s Venomhasn’t had much to do yet. But Morbius, one of the most deserving victims of the multiple COVID-19 influenced delays, has finally been born. It adds nothing to the cinematic canon, the comic book movie canon, or the Marvel cinematic canon. It can’t add nothing to the Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, because that does not exist.

Movie Review: Uncharted

Long ago, back in the mists of time, the Playstation 3 had no games. This all changed in 2009, when Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released and packed in with the console — admittedly a paradox when Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was released on the same platform two years earlier — and Sony was saved. In this series, which is like a modernised Indiana Jones (or, more cynically, “a boy version of Tomb Raider”), a man with a gun and preternatural ability for climbing globetrots for treasure and gets involved in a dizzying series of betrayals, triple crosses, and flirtations with the supernatural. 

Movie Review: No Time to Die

Few tentpole films have suffered more from the privations of the last two years than No Time To Die, which has been slated and reslated so many times that one could have been forgiven for thinking it would never see release. Star Daniel Craig, famous for his exhaustion with the productions, had to follow the promotional trail far longer than any mere multimillionaire actor should reasonably be expected to. Somehow not the Craig Bond film burdened with the most meta-narrative (a title owned by the largely forgotten Quantum of Solace, brung low by industrial action), No Time To Die is nonetheless the end of an era: Craig’s swan song, a Bond vehicle that hits so many of the right notes that the ones it muffs are both glaringly obvious and largely forgivable. 

Movie Review: Godzilla vs. Kong

In times of trouble, humanity needs hope. We need the likes of Kong and Godzilla, to ruin our cities and cause billions in collateral damage. Godzilla goes where he pleases, but Kong is historically transported against his will. Godzilla vs. Kong posits a question first asked in 1962, and recently twisted by Zack Snyder: what if two of the world’s greatest heroes came to blows? Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth entry in what has been termed the Monsterverse, and it is easily the dumbest yet, in the best possible way. You may protest “they should be friends!” but, as a great man once said, “let them fight”.

Book Review: Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany — Bill Buford

By the time Bill Buford’s Heat and its impossibly long subtitle came out in 2006, the modern era of food writing was well and truly kicked off; Anthony Bourdain was on his fourth book and second television series. Buford is not Bourdain, but no one was. Rather than being from a chef turned writer, Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany is the tale of its author’s journey from writer to at least cook, if not a chef.

Heat is different to read fourteen years later, especially as the man who opened so many doors for Buford was ultimately revealed to be a sex pest (to put it mildly), but fortunately it’s about so much more than that.

The Expanse Season Five: Episodes 1-3

“Exodus“, “Churn“, “Mother”

Possibly the best thing that Jeff Bezos has ever done is bring The Expanse TV series back from the brink of extinction simply because he wanted to see more of it. The insane whims of billionaires should always be pointed in that sort of direction, because it is the one that bears the most fruit and hurts the fewest people. Though it has been recently announced that The Expanse ends (or “goes on hold”) after season six (out of a potential nine), we’ve got two entire books worth of story to tell. 

Season five is based largely on Nemesis Games, the book where shit gets real. A lot has happened in the series to date, but this particularly story raises the stakes to an intense degree. In the first three episodes of Season Five, handily released together before the show switches to a weekly onslaught, we have the prelude to all bets being off – and, with some of the changes afoot, not even a dedicated book reader can see all of this coming.

The initial set of Expanse coverage does not contain heavy spoilers – this is subject to change as the season progresses. This piece should be pretty safe if you’ve seen up to the end of season four – and can handle cryptic references to the book series.

Book Review: A Song for the Dark Times — Ian Rankin

After taking a breather in 2019, John Rebus is back for dark times indeed. In a post-Brexit-vote but pre-COVID world, is there room for a retired detective for whom everything is changing too fast? Ian Rankin returns with his most enduring character and his two sidekicks still on the force, for whom he feels varying degrees of affection, and none of them are found wanting.

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