Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Film Reviews W/E 29th December 2014

     I’ve been away from writing reviews for a bit. I now share my thoughts on a Perth Radio Station Curtin FM 100.1 every Friday at 12:40. But we are on break until the end of January, so I thought I’d better write some quick reviews so you know what to see on the big screen.
   My recommendations for the family films over the holiday break are Big Hero 6 & Paddington. Both are fabulous for the whole family. If you’re an Aussie, why not support Australian film and go see the Water Diviner.
    If you would like a break from movies, why not grab an e-copy of BACK AGAIN my time travel novel. It’s been making some best of lists recently, so I know you would enjoy. Click here to check it out.


Big Hero 6  ✪✪✪✪½
Opens in Australia:               26th December 2014
Other Countries:                    Release Information

Disney are so good at these animations. This one is no exception to their quality releases. They just have the formula so right. Great, unique characters, interesting layered plots, and beautiful, colourful animation, along with jokes that are actually funny.  Baymax, the robot, is absolutely adorable, and it looks like this one has been set up as the beginning of a series. I certainly hope so. Very young, young, old, and in-between, go see it. You will love!
The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.

The Water Diviner  ✪✪✪½
Opens in Australia:           26th December 2014
Other Countries:                Release Information
Perth:                                 Luna Palace Cinemas

I didn’t expect to like this film, directed by and starring Russell Crowe, but it’s a good little tale well crafted and with a good pace. It’s a different take on World War 1, and we gain a perspective on the opposing point of view, the Turkish side, and their losses. It’s quite a heart-wrenching tale, but the material is handled well, and I came away impressed. If you’re an Aussie, do get along to see it and support our Australian film industry. This year we’ve had some really wonderful films that just weren’t given their due. This one does deserve to be seen on the big screen.
An Australian man travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons.

The Imitation Game  ✪✪✪✪
Opens in Australia:               1st January 2015
Other Countries:                   Release Information

This is a fascinating true-story film of how WW2 was shortened by a group of mathematicians, chess champions, intelligence officers and other unlikely heroes who cracked the almost unbreakable German enigma code. Benedict Cumberbatch is fabulous as Alan Turing the genius leader of the pack. He is perfectly cast. I thoroughly recommend this film, and as well as being entertained you will learn about some amazing history of which you were probably unaware.
During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of  ‘gross indecency’, an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality – little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern-day computing. Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited with cracking the so-called unbreakable codes of Germany's WorldWar II Enigma machine. An intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man, THE IMITATION GAME follows a genius who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save millions of lives.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb  ✪✪✪
Opens in Australia:               26th December 2014
Other Countries:                   Release Information

It’s the same cast, the same story and, yes, it’s one of the last films starring Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney, so there’s some sentiment attached. It won’t feel as whimsical and original as the first one, but it is colourful and there are a few laughs. If you are a fan, go along knowing there is nothing new, and this film was made to wind it all up and grab a few extra bucks from the pockets of cinema-goers. That’s what Hollywood does, if the first or second are a success, they go back again because it’s less risk than actually coming up with something new and interesting. More is the pity.
Get ready for the wildest and most adventure-filled Night At the Museum ever as Larry (Ben Stiller) spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever. (c) Fox.

Annie  ✪✪
Opens in Australia:               26th December 2014
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Ugh, this film is really not very good. I love the other versions of Annie and the songs from the musical, but this one left out some of the songs, added some new ones, and just took all the magic away. Cameron Diaz is woefully miscast and Quvenzhané Wallis cast as Annie, who was so charming in Beasts of the Southern Wild, just lacks the necessary precociousness to pull this off.  This is the type of fare you see on the Disney Channel, but you shouldn’t be laying down  $60 to take your family to it. A bad idea and a bad film.
A foster kid, who lives with her mean foster mom, sees her life change when business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in.

The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies  ✪✪✪
Opens in Australia:               26th December 2014
Other Countries:                   Release Information

The title says it all. It’s five armies battling it out in CGI. I don’t like this HFR (High Frame Rate) that Peter Jackson keeps using. It just looks like you are watching television and its very distracting. So be prepared. Just because we have this technology, doesn’t mean we need to use it. This film, also, seems like it didn’t need to exist, except to add some more gold to the studio’s bounty.  However, I found it a reasonable watch, but not as much fun as the previous two. The hand-to-hand combat scenes toward the end, though, are truly spectacular. But nothing I say will deter Hobbit fans from seeing this film. So if you enjoyed the first two, off you go!

Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.

Paddington  ✪✪✪✪✪
Opens in Australia:               18th December 2014
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth:                                   Luna Palace Cinemas

Paddington Bear has never made his way into our household via books, films or toys. So the movie didn’t rank highly on my expectation list. What a delightful surprise it was then to experience this utterly charming film.
Paddington books have been translated into 30 languages across 70 titles and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, so that alone should guarantee this film’s success. Even if there wasn’t a huge fan base, the clever script, extraordinary animation, and energetic, on-note performances in Paddington will still put it up there with the top films of the year.
Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) arrives in London from “darkest Peru,” sent by his Aunt Lucy to find a better home after she moves to the Home for Retired Bears. His expectation of the welcoming he will receive from Londoners is based on his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) encounter decades earlier with an explorer from London who’d told them they would always be welcome. This explorer also introduced the bears to marmalade and gives Pastuzo his hat, which Paddington inherits.
Bustling London, though, is not welcoming to Paddington until he is found by the Brown family and taken home—just for the night. Mr. Brown, (Hugh Bonneville) a risk analysist, insists a bear in the house will increase the risk of disaster by too high a factor, so Paddington must leave. The family decides that if they can find the original explorer he may be willing to take in Paddington so they begin a search with limited clues. Mr. Brown is correct on the risk factor as Paddington immediately creates much mayhem and, also, attracts the attention of a sadistic museum worker, Millicent (Nicole Kidman), who wants to capture and stuff him.
Paddington will do for bears what Stuart Little did for mice. It’s whimsical, wonderful, and a joy to experience. Rating: five out five marmalade jars.
A young English boy befriends a talking bear he finds at a London train station. A live-action feature based on the series of popular children's books by Michael Bond.

Exodus: Gods and Kings ✪✪✪
Opens in Australia:               18th December 2014
Other Countries:                   Release Information

Exodus: Gods and Kings has a cast of thousands, the lead roles are household name actors,  and the director, Ridley Scott’s (Alien, Blade Runner, Hannibal, Prometheus) films are always greatly anticipated, but, sadly, Exodus falls short of its clearly ambitious mark.
Occasionally you almost see its epic vision realized, but it’s dogged by a plodding script, occasionally lifted up by spectacular special effects, only to come crashing down again like the wave in the parting of the Red Sea scene.
The film tells the biblical story of Moses (Christian Bale) leading the Hebrews out of Egypt, but focuses initially on the sibling rivalry between Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses (Joel Edgerton) and foster child Moses. When Moses is banished from the kingdom, he assimilates into a new tribe, meets his wife, and fathers his children while hiding his identity. After being commanded by God to free the Israelites, he falls in with the rebellion’s leaders as they plot to rescue the slaves from Ramses’ tyrannical rule.
It’s the depiction of the plagues and the conflict between the two factions where the film finally begins to build some momentum a good hour into the film. Exodus could have been so much more with a tighter script. The story is grand, the cast including Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Ben Mendelshohn and many more are hugely talented, but the impressive, epic scenes combined with the slow interlinking expositional scenes do not add up to absorbing storytelling. In the end, Scott’s helming of Exodus feels about as self-indulgent as Rameses’ desire to build great monoliths to honor himself. It’s simply an okay epic, if that isn’t an oxymoron.
The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Hush by Anne Frasier

Rating: ✪✪✪✪ ½ out of 5 Stars

Release Date:                       2002 (but still brilliant)
Author’s Website:                Anne Frasier's website
Purchase at Amazon:              CLICK HERE

Purchase from Author:    CLICK HERE

    I love serial killers. I love reading about them. I love writing them. I wouldn’t want to meet one, and I don’t glorify them, but there’s something delicious about getting inside the mind of one via a good book.
    Anne Frasier released the thriller Hush in 2002 and it went on to become a bestseller alongside many other bestsellers among her 24 books published so far. Frasier writes a serial killer with the best of them, just as creepy and absorbing as Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs and as tense and satisfying in its conclusion as Michael Robotham’s 2012 Say You’re Sorry (named by Stephen King as one of his top three reads of that year).
    "The Madonna Murders," as the press have named the killings is back again after a break of almost two decades. He brutally and mercilessly kills mothers and their babies. And now it seems the killer is back.
    Ivy Dunlap, the only survivor of the Madonna killer, her son murdered by the killer, comes back to assist with this new outbreak of killings. She’s now a skilled FBI profiler with a degree in criminal psychology. However, Chief Homicide Detective on the case, Max Irving, is not welcoming. In fact, he doesn’t understand why they need her or whether these fresh murders could really be the Madonna Killer after all these years. Meanwhile, Max is also dealing with his teenage son, Ethan, who has changed in recent months and become distant from his father.
    There’s depth to this story and the last hundred pages you can barely turn quick enough. The twists and turns and view into the mind of the killer are intriguing and the characters wonderfully imagined.
    This is a story about a particularly horrifying killer; killing babies is a terrible spectacle, even in words. However, Frasier handles this well and with respect. If you love your thrillers dark and absorbing, HUSH has got to be your next read.

What's your greatest fear?
It's criminal profiler Ivy Dunlap's job to unravel the psyches of the most dangerous men alive. None haunts her dreams more than the killer who took her son's life sixteen years ago, then silently disappeared into the dark. Now an urgent request for help from the Chicago police has reawakened Ivy's greatest nightmare. The Madonna Murderer has returned to fulfill his calling. This time Ivy understands the killer and will face her greatest fear to stop him from killing again.

I received a copy of this book from Belfrey Press in exchange for an honest review.

Anne Frasier (a.k.a. Theresa Weir) is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one books and numerous short stories that have spanned the genres of suspense, mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, paranormal, and memoir. Her titles have been printed in both hardcover and paperback and translated into twenty languages. Her memoir, The Orchard, was a 2011 Oprah Magazine Fall Pick, Number Two on the Indie Next list, a featured B+ review in Entertainment Weekly, and a Librarians’ Best Books of 2011.

Going back to 1988, Weir’s debut title was the cult phenomenon AMAZON LILY, initially published by Pocket Books and later reissued by Bantam Books. Writing as Theresa Weir she won a RITA for romantic suspense (COOL SHADE), and a year later the Daphne du Maurier for paranormal romance (BAD KARMA). In her more recent Anne Frasier career, her thriller and suspense titles hit the USA Today list (HUSH, SLEEP TIGHT, PLAY DEAD) and were featured in Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, and Book of the Month Club. HUSH was both a RITA and Daphne du Maurier finalist.

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