All things come to an end, but some come to more of an end than others. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is set to be the final X-Men movie after nineteen years, so you’d think that they would swing for the fences, try something big. In Dark Phoenix, writer Simon Kinberg (TV’s The Twilight Zone) attempts to revisit the story that he famously botched in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. The good news: it’s nothing like that movie; the bad: it’s nothing much like anything, really. Logan was an ending but, with this addendum, nearly two decades fizzle out on the screen.
A wise Hulk once said “big monster”. He wasn’t talking about Godzilla, but these two words sum up Godzilla II: King of the Monsters regardless. In 2014, Godzilla was controversial because it barely featured the title beast, and his opponents were nondescript. Godzilla II: King of the Monsters not only takes a mere minute to feature our hero, he has a whole menagerie of distinct fiends and friends to commune with. 2019 is a good year for fans of giant lizards.
The musical biopic, just like the bitch, is back. After the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, we almost immediately have Rocketman, which does more for Elton John than the former ever did for Queen. Movies should not always be reviewed via direct comparison, except there is an important connection between the two: Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) is openly the director of Rocketman, and he was the secret director of Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired. Where Bohemian Rhapsody was a spectacular creative failure and a massive commercial success, Rocketman is an actual movie, with an aesthetic, a voice, and not total contempt for its ostensible star. Rocketman is still a music biopic, with all the drawbacks of the genre, but it at least attempts something with the form.
Let’s be real: it’s amazing that Gillian Flynn didn’t properly explode until Gone Girl. Her first two novels were accomplished. Sharp Objects was disquieting and deeply unpleasant in places, but it was pointy right to the very end. Dark Places is more assured, with a strong mystery intertwined throughout and a more immediately understandable main character. Dark Places is a prescient novel; the fringe that it depicts is no longer underground.
Aladdin is the second of three live action adaptations of classic Disney cartoons released in 2019. After the retrofuturistic art deco Dumbo, which took extreme liberties with the source material, Guy Ritchie’s (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) Aladdin is a more straightforward piece. With an extra forty minutes to fill and a desire to give Princess Jasmine more agency, the new Aladdin has its points of difference without compromising its story. Even without the spontaneity of Robin Williams, who practically invented improv animation, Aladdin still has something to recommend it.
There’s a general rule in Young Adult fiction that applies often enough to stick: if a story is about a boy with deep-seated character flaws, the characters around must adapt to accommodate him; if it is about a similar girl, she will have to undergo some growth and change so that the people in her life don’t give up on her forever. Hot Dog Girl, possibly one of the best cover and title combos on the YA market this year, definitely falls into this mould.
Elouise May Parker is a piece of work, and no one in her book understands her cockamamie scheme.
Some books can never hope to live up to their covers. Roadwork is one such novel. Richard Bachman goes introspective, shifting his focus to the family. The first Bachman book about adults is dark and nihilistic, with none of the optimism that characterises many King novels that run along similar lines. There is a certain distress involved in reading Roadwork, a crushing inevitability that perhaps can’t be helped. It’s a theme that King will return to as himself in Pet Sematary, but with no supernatural interference, Roadwork hits hard.
If batrock.net was a paid outlet, Lot would likely be given to a queer person of colour to review. As this is a one man outfit, that’s not an option, but this review of Lot will attempt to tackle the stories contained within this collection without the air of tourism or gentrification.
Short stories, that publishing bastion which was once dominated by genre and feared by book vendors, are suddenly commercially viable. Between Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black and Bryan Washington’s Lot, the form is receiving a renaissance of public attention. Lot itself is a stunning debut collection that asks the reader what constitutes a collection of short stories and what makes up a loose novel, when every story shares the same neighbourhood and most of them the same narrator. Regardless of its taxonomy, Lot is a book worth more than dipping into.
Can anyone truly know the law? So many crime novels are predicated on police ignoring conflicts of interest that you’d think they’d never heard of recusing themselves. The Scholar, Dervla McTiernan’s second Cormac Reilly outing, appears to take the procedure out of the procedural, but it’s not a bad novel for that.
Time is a harsh mistress. At the time of On Writing’s publication, Stephen King was 26 years into his career, and a year out from his near fatal car accident. Nearly twenty years and approximately 29 books later, it is hard to conceive that On Writing almost didn’t happen, and that King was going to retire. Perhaps it was the cry of Constant Readers who thought that they would never know what would become of Roland and his Ka-tet; perhaps King himself could not resist the call of the Beam. On Writing heralded the return of the King, and Constant Readers remain grateful to this day.