Author: Alex Doenau

Movie Review: Emma.

Bonnet dramas are an institution in the UK, the way that the BBC keeps the classics alive, from Austen to Dickens to Gaskell. Sometimes the bonnets escape to the big screen, where they are necessarily concatenated but can offer either a bright sumptuousness or a gritty natural lighting, as the director dictates. While the nineteenth century could be a gloomy place, music video director Autumn de Wilde’s feature debut Emma. offers a genteel rural paradise where the emotions are deeply felt, the servants audibly silent, and the houses impossibly large for only two people to live in. Jane Austen’s fourth novel is brought to the silver screen for fourth time (including Clueless), and this incarnation crams the novel’s charms while despatching with many of its blind alleys.

Book Review: American Dirt — Jeanine Cummins

Most anticipated book lists are a way to plan out a month, a season, a year, in reading. American Dirt showed up on so many lists that you think you could trust it. On the day it came out, the day that Oprah lauded it, the internet exploded. American Dirt’s author has historically identified as white (as recently as 2015), but has rebranded to vaguely latinx courtesy of her Puerto Rican grandmother. She is described as being married to a formerly undocumented immigrant (undisclosed in the text and promo material: he’s from Ireland), and the material is adapted and twisted from material written by people closer to the source.

American Dirt is not a good book, for multiple reasons. It’s not #OwnVoices, which is a problem that this reader keeps coming back to (particularly from the cottage industry of gay teen books written by straight white women), but if you can look beyond that (and maybe you can, but take it on board anyway), you should consider its perfunctory nature, its clumsy writing, its irresponsible presentation of Cummins’ alleged research, and its carefully manicured apolitical stance that turns out to have a dubious political stance after all.

Movie Review: Little Women

Some books are classics, but in the modern era they serve better as blue prints for adaptations. Louisa May Alcott’s 1869 novel Little Women is a landmark novel, but to the eyes of today it is fragmented, moralistic, and bigoted against the Irish. In her own version of Little Women, writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) takes most of the greatest elements of the novel — and at least part of one of the dumbest — and fashions them into something vibrant and new.

Constant Reader Chronicle: Christine

You never forget your friend’s first car or their first girlfriend, especially when they’re the same entity. Christine, a Stephen King novel released in a banner year for Stephen King novels, is one of those works that earned him the reputation for writing door stops. Christine is an imperfect, fragmented work, more than a little sexist and reactionary, but buried in its six hundred pages is a genuinely sweet paean to friendship lost and the dangers of nostalgia.

King Spoilometer: Christine is best discussed in a more granular fashion, and so this write up will draw attention to late stage revelations as they pertain to the book’s overall themes and their presentation.

Book Review: Meat — W.A. Harbinson

Xavier was dead: to begin with. This exploitation novel by W.A. Harbinson, a man who in the nineties would put out a “non-fiction” book claiming to prove that Nazis are using concentration camp labour to build UFOs in Antarctica, is a curious beast without a centre. Can you exploit someone who was never really there?

A moment of context for Meat: it was found at the equivalent of a Free Little Library, offering the promise of a silly and quick read that would hopefully toe the right side of the exploitation line. It emphatically does not achieve that goal.

This review references systematic sexual abuse, so please avoid reading if that bothers you.

Book Review: The Wife and the Widow — Christian White

If the afterword is to be believed, the real star of The Wife and the Widow, Christian White’s second novel, is White’s own wife. At a time when White had an ensemble, a location, and a murder scene, it was his wife who told him who the murderer and victim should be. Quite how The Wife and the Widow would have worked without this information is mysterious. After the initial success of the continent hopping The Nowhere Child, White returns with a mystery set entirely within Australia. It hinges on a piece of narrative trickery that may not quite work, but at least it’s different.

Movie Review: Ford v Ferrari

It is true that cars used to be more aesthetically pleasing than they are now, but equally true that they would kill you for even so much as thinking about getting behind the wheel. Ford v Ferrari, known internationally as Le Mans ’66, hearkens back to a golden age of engineering, when the most important thing an American man could do was make a car that could go for 24 hours without exploding to stick it to the Italians. It’s a simple concept and a simple film, but Ford v Ferrari brings such talent to bear that it’s never far off exhilaration.

Movie Review: Doctor Sleep

The Shining is one of the most iconic films of all time, in horror or any other genre. It is also iconic for how much Stephen King hates it, to the extent that he eventually had to sign a document to the effect that he would no longer publicly excoriate it. But The Shining was only King’s third novel; Doctor Sleep, which would come thirty-six years later, was his 52nd. In 2019, nearly every movie and TV show is based on a Stephen King property, and it is safe to say that he has more clout than he did in 1980. The main thing about King’s The Shining versus Kubrick’s is that they had completely different priorities and, despite their commonalities, they told different stories.

Along comes writer/director/editor Mike Flanagan’s (The Haunting of Hill House) Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, which acts to bridge the gap: it is a sequel to both the book and the film of The Shining. It does well when it sticks to King and flounders a little bit when it comes to Kubrick, but it is a daring film, and more striking than almost any other recent King project this side of TV’s Castle Rock.

Movie Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

It has been only four years since the Terminator series tried a new direction with the under-appreciated but terribly named Terminator: Genisys. 2019 brings Terminator: Dark Fate, a film that fashions itself as the new third Terminator film. In a series that is so heavily predicated on time travel and timelines, production can create any continuity that they want and get away with it. The main point of difference for Terminator: Dark Fate is that Linda Hamilton (Curvature) and producer James Cameron (Alita: Battle Angel) are back in harness for the first time since 1991, but it is never more ambitious than that.

Movie Review: Ready or Not

The current vogue in many films, and not just horror, is how evil the super rich are. Despite the numbers these movies do, the super rich still haven’t got the memo. Ready or Not is your classic girl falls in love with a rich boy, rich boy’s family attempts to murder girl story. Timeless. Ready or Not is well executed, tense but with a sense of humour, and blood. Gallons of blood. All over the camera lens.

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