Author Archives: Christa Bass

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Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

I knew I wouldn’t get on well with this. The trailer failed to get my juices flowing and I didn’t think I’d be able to get past the CGI’d central character, Alita (Rosa Salazar). In fact, Alita was the least distracting thing about the film and I have healthy respect for the way she’s animated.

Glynn really wanted to see and enjoy this, so with no expectation (on my part), we took Date Night to the Odeon. While this film wasn’t my favourite – and actually made me scoff a few times because it was so awkward – I enjoyed some of the spectacle. Everything is CGI’d to the hilt and it’s an impressive world built from scratch.

The year is 2563 and a world war know as “The Fall” has left the Earth devastated. We find ourselves in Iron City which is nothing more really than a massive junk yard. Times are tough here and it’s made all the more difficult by the looming sky city of Zalem, which is placed directly over Iron City.

The poor (fiscally and physically) residents of IC are overshadowed by the obscene wealth of Zalem every day of their lives. Some long to beg, steal or borrow their way up there by any means necessary. One day, cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz) is scavenging an actual junk yard when he finds the healthy head and brain of a female cyborg. He brings her home, gives her a body and a heart – and names her “Alita”.

Alita quickly adapts to her new life but she has little recollection of where she came from. For all intents and purposes, she’s just a normal teenage girl who happens to be a cyborg. When she meets Hugo (Keean Johnson), he opens up her world view all the more. But Alita isn’t just a normal teenage girl and it soon becomes apparent that whatever she is, she’s a warrior. She has incredible survival instincts and is an expert in an ancient martial art.

This comes in handy when she finds out Dyson is moonlighting as a Hunter-Warrior (bounty hunter) and she gets to help him take down some lowly criminals.

Alas, this puts Alita on everyone’s map and not in a good way as she upsets the order of things, pissing off not only the criminal underworld but also the Hunter-Warrior community. All this runs alongside the national spectacle of Motorball, an all-consuming sport that everyone seems to love. Obviously she’s a natural at that too.

And there’s a helluva a lot more to it than that. The film looks good if you don’t mind suspending your disbelief for two hours. The action is satisfying too but it just doesn’t have much of a soul. When it comes down to it, Alita is the best character in it and I think it’s because of her enthusiasm. Both Mahershala Ali (as gang boss Vector) and Jennifer Connelly (as Dyson’s ex-wife Chiren) are wasted. Waltz seems to phone it in. Ed Skrein‘s shady Hunter-Warrior Zapan is horrible –  and the central teen romance is cringe-worthy AF.

While Alita has every right to the ordinary aspects of life, I could have done without the YA romance. Hugo is as terrible as Zapan and I didn’t care for him at all. But you know, as I type this I realise there’s more to like than dislike so maybe you’ll like it more than I did. It’s not a total disaster after all, just not my cup of tea.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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My Bloody VALENTINE

I hate Valentine’s Day with a passion. Honestly can we do away with it, please? It makes me so mad because I end up questioning the validity of my own relationship just because I haven’t had 100 long stemmed roses and a 7 foot teddy bear delivered to my workplace. We do cards but that’s about it and that’s fine.

However. This year The Basses are going on a little London trip – in fact I need to be ready in the next 90 minutes. This wasn’t planned for Valentine’s but happens to coincide with Cupid’s birthday so why not, eh?

We’re seeing Neneh Cherry at Camden Roundhouse and are planning a lovely leisurely mooch around Camden. First stop Amy Winehouse’s statue then the market, food and graffiti (if I can find any). I cannot wait. We’re staying over tonight and it will be nice just to get away and enjoy our own company.

Because we’re away today, it means I’ll have to forgo the annual viewing of my two favourite (trashy) anti-valentine’s movies. Don’t worry though, I’ll be catching up on the weekend and I’ve shared them below because I’m nothing if not a giver.

Valentine (2001)

Uh, hello? This movie stars some of the biggest early noughties stars of the moment. Well, Denise Richards, David Boreanaz and Katherine Heigl (remember them?). It’s pure garbage but it’s my kind of garbage and I simply adore it. I actually revisited it recently as Netflix has just added it but I think I might go back again for the lols.

Our antagonist is a cupid-mask wearing, knife-wielding maniac exacting bloody revenge on the women who rejected him back in adolescence (or is he?). One by one a group of mean girls are dispatched from this world in imaginative and brutal ways. Personally I’m a big fan of Denise Richards’ death scene (*spoiler*), an example of careless words coming back to haunt you. There’s so much to love here and the aesthetic is very appealing.

Of course this is murder by numbers but it’s all belly tops and bitches, and I’ll always be here for it. Be nice to nerds, girls – that’s my take home. Also, *some* men are entitled whiners, so maybe scratch that and do you, boo.

My Bloody Valentine (2009)

It’s been a while for this one (I don’t think I actually did it last year) so I’m looking forward to my revisit. A remake of the 1981 movie of the same name, MBV: Reloaded focuses on a small mining town terrorised by a serial killer with a pickaxe.

When Tom (Jensen Ackles) returns (from sea? I don’t know) to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine’s night massacre, he finds himself suspected of committing the murders. AWKWARD.

He has, it should be said, just inherited the town mine previously owned by his father. The mine is the scene of a tragic 1997 accident – and the catalyst for the Valentine’s massacre the following year – so you just know no good can come of it.

As with many traditional slasher movies, there is a lot of illicit shagging and characters who are literally the worst so when they’re taken down one by one by a killer in a gas mask, you can’t help but cheer.

“Be Mine 4 Ever”

I find the mine setting quite novel and the mounting evidence against Tom (is he guilty or not?) is satisfying. And what better way than spending time with morally ambigious yet attractive young people?

How are you spending your Valentine’s? ♥

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

Things aren’t going great for Lee Israel. Once a lauded writer, her last book – a biography of Estée Lauder – has been a commercial and critical flop. Her agent is avoiding her calls, she’s behind on her rent and she’s just been let go from her job.

Struggling to stay afloat and keep her sick cat from death’s door, Lee sells a personal letter she received from Katharine Hepburn to a local bookseller. Coincidentally, while researching her pet project, another biography this time on Fanny Brice, she finds a letter from Brice to an unknown recipient. Lee sells this to the same bookseller, a lovely woman called Anna (Dolly Wells).

Something Anna says gets Lee to thinking, if the letter contained better content it would no doubt be worth more. An idea is born and Lee begins to forge letters from some of the most prolific deceased writers of all time – Noël Coward, Dorothy Parker – embellishing little details to make them seem more realistic and interesting.

This soon becomes quite the booming business and Lee’s damn good at it. Unfortunately, after one of her Noël Coward letters is sent to a collector who once knew him, it draws suspicion for its openness about his sexuality. Coward was not one to talk so freely about his gayness. In an attempt to keep a low profile and still bring in the coin, Lee calls in a favour from her new friend, drug dealer Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) who agrees to sell the letters for her.

But how long can the pair keep it up when the world of literary collectibles (and the FBI) are on high alert?

I adored this. McCarthy is wonderful as Lee, a woman with immense talent and a drink problem. I find her situation unbearably sad and as things unravel – and she revisits old wounds AND turns away from new opportunities, it hurts to watch. One particular scene made me cry like a baby and it wasn’t dramatic at all, just supremely relatable.

The friendship between Jack and Lee is also lovely if incredibly tempestuous. Jack’s flamboyance contrasts well with Lee’s reluctance to add any sort of colour or frippery to her life. She’s a no-nonsense broad with a mission and has little time for other people, while he’s determined to rinse every ounce of joy out of life before it’s too late – and damn the consequences.

But there are always consequences, aren’t there? – and our pair are about to learn them. I can’t imagine anyone not having a good time with Jack and Lee but it’s a must for any fan of literature and masses of gumption. Loved it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Escape Room

Escape Room (2019)

Escape rooms have been having their moment for some time now, so it’s no surprise that this concept horror has come along at just the right time to cash in. Cynical though that sounds – and if you see this film for yourself you’ll understand – I did have fun with it.

A collection of seemingly random strangers are mysteriously teamed together to break out of a series of rooms – each one slightly worse than the last. The rag tag bunch includes the burnout, the businessman, the former soldier and the student. You know the drill.

As you’d expect there are tensions as their personalities are thrown together under high pressure but really there’s only ever going to be one way to get through it and that’s to work together.

Can they do enough to survive?

Well, there’s nothing brand new about the premise but the escape room element at least breathes a little life into this format. As our new acquaintances use their loaves to solve puzzles and unlock doors, they begin to realise that there’s nothing random about any of it – and they might have more in common than they first thought.

Each room is deeply creative and stressful and I really enjoyed the constant change of scenery. While Escape Room is reminiscent of the Final Destination and Saw films, I kind of like that about it. To a point I enjoy both franchises and this looks set to start one of its own.

The ending is clunky as fuck and there are a couple of truly ridiculous moments (but of course) but overall I enjoyed this far more than expected.

It’s good to see True Blood ‘s beautiful Deborah Ann Woll again as Amanda but otherwise, maybe with the exception of smarty pants student Zoey (Taylor Russell), I didn’t really care about any of them very much. Which I’m afraid made the fun deaths even more enjoyable.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Smear Campaign

TW: Vaginas and speculums, oh my!

I’ve seen a couple of people I follow on social media talking about this and I wanted to get involved. So today, friends, we’re talking about smear tests.

As you’re aware I said goodbye to my thirties a while back. I’m now 41 and therefore so together in life that you can be sure I’m completely on top of my cervical smear appointments. NOT. The last test I had, according to my lovely nurse from this morning, was in 2010. This is totally unacceptable and I know that. But life gets in the way so I can’t beat myself up about it too much.

I have been getting lectured heavily by my husband recently though and he was part of the reason I finally booked the appointment. Along with a lot of press about how the number of women attending them has diminished over the years. I know this isn’t good but I’ve done it now and it was so unobtrusive that I thought it was worth sharing my experience. Reading other women’s stories helped me to be less nervous about everything so why not, eh?

My appointment by the way took just ten minutes. That’s ten minutes of my day to get a potentially life-saving procedure. My nurse, Natalie, was reassuring and professional – and although I say I wasn’t thay nervous, that’s a bit of a lie. The first thing I told her as I entered her room was how scared I was feeling. She asked me what I was most worried about – my responses: having to get my bits out, the pain, the results – weren’t very helpful. But she still addressed each one of them.

“I’ve seen it all before.”
“It can be uncomfortable but shouldn’t hurt. Tell me straight away if it does.”
“Whatever happens, we will deal with it.”

And then I was lying bottomless on the bed with my feet together and my legs angled like a frog’s. Not the most glamourous of positions and no stirrups in sight but it wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s a little bit odd when the spectulum slips in (after it’s been generously lubed up, thank you very much) but not painful. We talked about veganism, work and Jade Goody while she rummaged around.

In the end, I has to have an extra long speculum which made me laugh (and then wonder if I should be worried) but according to Natalie – and many of the articles I have read recently – “One size does not fit all”.

Did I mention I was in and out within ten minutes, with no pain, not much discomfort and a huge sense of pride? Like, I’ve ticked something off my “Sensible Woman” list for another three years. The results will be posted to me in 4-6 weeks and hopefully, that will be that.

So if, like me you’re several tests behind and putting things off, don’t. You’ll be okay.

Get those flaps out for your friendly neighbourhood nurse.

Velvet Buzzsaw

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

*Minor spoilers*

This is a film I really wanted to love based on its cast and premise. Unfortunately it doesn’t work quite as well as it could. 

Set in the pretentious and fickle world of art, it centers around a gallery – Haze – run by former punk-rocker, Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo). One evening, lauded art critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) attends an exhibition at the gallery with his friend, Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who also works there.

Morf is in a relationship with Ed but is deeply unhappy so he starts up with Josephina instead. Around the same time, Josephina returns home to her apartment block to find one of her elderly neighbours dead after a fall. The neighbour, Vetril Dease is a painter and J sneaks into his apartment after the fact to discover a vast collection of brilliant paintings.

On thin ice and recently demoted by her boss Rhodora, this is J’s opportunity to re-balance the scales and score big on the art scene. So she presents herself as Dease’s representative and a post-humous star is born. Unfortunately for Josephina, there’s more to Dease and his work than meets the eye and eery shit kicks off.

Rhodora, obsessed with the paintings, exhibits a small collection immediately and orders J to put the rest in storage. As desire for Dease’s art grows, including massive interest from art curator Gretchen (Toni Collette) and artist Piers (John Malkovich), Rhodora seeks to ensure the rarity of his paintings by hiding most of them away. Sadly this is not done fast enough and one by one our collection of central characters begin to suffer terrible accidents.

Velvet Buzzsaw is a thriller/horror with a supernatural edge. Although it is not as good as I wanted it to be, it is interesting. There are multiple deaths that really go to town creatively and I loved them. There a couple that really spoke to me as they incorporate two of my biggest loves, graffiti and tattoos.

Although this is heralded as a horror and it does have explore some overt horror themes, it isn’t that scary. It has a creepy tone that I did enjoy, and all the darkness of Dease’s apartment and paintings is stark in contrast to the bright light surfaces of the gallery interiors.

The whole scene in fact is wonderfully pretentious which I also dig. A little bit of pretension never hurt anyone I always think. It sends up the art world well and there’s a definite tongue-in-cheek dig at the eccentrics who inhabit it. Almost all the film’s characters are the worst – Morf and Josephina absolutely included – but you can kind of respect them for their hunger. Stranger ThingsNatalia Dyer pops up as poor gallery employee Coco who always seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

So, although this isn’t director Dan Gilroy‘s best work – that would be the mighty Nightcrawler (2014) – I’m still interested to see what he does next.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2019 and a New Reads List

The best thing about the new year is signing up to a new Goodreads Reading Challenge. So far, over the last few, I have failed to complete a single year – or if I’ve got anywhere near I wouldn’t know as I’ve failed to log the books I’ve read.

There’s not much to the rules of the challenge to be honest. You input how many books you want to read that year and then, as you complete each one, you check them off on the GR app. It’s quite addictive, at least in the first couple of months as you rack ’em up and see you percentage achieved rise (I’m currently on 12% with six out of 50 books done).

Anyway, I love to read and I love to buy books even though I shouldn’t and I’ve got some real peaches in the immediate pile (anyone else got piles in order of importance?). Here are some of the ones I’m most excited for:

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

I mean, what a title. It’s also meant to be an absolute belter so bring it on!

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

I’m obsessed with this cover and even more intrigued by the subject matter. I think this is definitely next in line for me.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I’ve recently read Eileen by the same author (reviewed here) and it was gorgeous so this is a no-brainer. It sounds awesome:

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature.

Men without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami

I’ve always been a big fan of Murakami but somewhere along the line I read too much of his work and needed to take a long break. I’m back in the game now after I read his little short Birthday Girl. There’s just something about his prose.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

A classic I’ve not yet read though I’ve devoured the film many times and adore it (boo Polanski). Cannot wait to dip into this deeply unsettling world again.

Help by Simon Amstell

I love Simon Amstell and find him very clever and funny. Darren and I have seen him a couple of times doing stand-up and that’s was enough to make me snatch this up as soon as I saw it.

From a complicated childhood in Essex to an Ayahuasca-led epiphany in the Amazon rainforest, this story will make you laugh, cry and then feel happier than you’ve ever been.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

I’m currently reading this bad boy and it’s started well with a definite The Woman in Black flavour (which is mentioned on the cover with a bi-line by Susan Hill). As far as I’m concerned you can’t lose with Gothic literature but I just hope this is good as I suspect it’s going to be.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel

I got the movie tie-in novel after seeing the very, very good movie adaptation on Monday night (review to follow). I loved Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel and frankly, I wanted more as soon as the credits rolled. So this is going to be a lot of fun. What an ingenious idea for a scam though.

Lee Israel’s hilarious and shocking memoir of the astonishing caper she carried on for almost two years when she forged and sold more than three hundred letters by such literary notables as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, Noel Coward, and many others.

Adèle by Leïla Slimani

Slimani’s Lullaby (know as The Perfect Nanny in some countries) was dynamite. In turn beautiful, odd and shocking, it tells the story of how the perfect nanny came to murder the young children in her care. Adèle centers around a seemingly perfect wife, mother and career woman (of the same name) who leads a very secret double life.

~

I might have to cancel the rest of the month so I can get fully immersed. I will be reviewing as I go too so watch this space.

What are you reading?