Earthquake Bird

Earthquake Bird (2019)

An enigmatic translator with a dark past is brought in for questioning after an ex-pat friend, who came between her and her photographer boyfriend, ends up missing and presumed dead.

Director: Wash Westmoreland
Stars:  Alicia VikanderKiki SukezaneKenichi Masuda

*Spoilers*

This is a film that should have been so much better. The premise is actually pretty fantastic and I was well up for an ex-pat in Japan murder mystery – unfortunately it does fall a little flat. I don’t think it’s really anyone’s fault – the central performances are fine – the set pieces are lovely and Japan continues to be utterly beautiful.

The landscapes here seem a little more subdued than they usually appear on film. Sure we get some neon lit karaoke bars but for the most part the backgrounds are low key and functional, the apartments no frills. I think you could probably say the same about the characters.

We centre around translator Lucy Fly (Vikander) who begins a relationship with local photographer Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi). Things are fine enough until Lucy starts to show signs of suspicion, breaking into Teiji’s apartment and going through his things. When she finds a file of photographs of his old girlfriend, she torments herself with questions about their relationship.

These feelings of jealousy are exacerbated further when she meets Lily (Riley Keough), a young American woman. When she is persuaded to help Lily find an apartment, the trio grow closer and Lucy is not amused to note that her new friend and boyfriend appear to be attracted to each other. When she shows her jealous side, Teiji encourages it because she is his “girlfriend, after all”.

Lucy is should be said is rather a buttoned up person and at times, and as we learn, an unreliable narrator. That means that the whole sorry tale as it unravels might not even be the truth and we never really know whether we can trust her version of events. The story is unpacked across two timelines, the ‘present’ (e.g. Lucy being interrogated by police who have found the remains of a woman who may or may not be Lily) – and flashback, in which we are party to the development of this awkward love triangle.

The main question is: is Lily dead and did Lucy do it? 

This does go on quite a big longer than necessary but there are some nice moments. I enjoy the concept of blame and responsibility – and as I mentioned, I really love how late 80’ Japan looks. There’s also a very shocking scene involving a freshly waxed staircase that I can’t get out of my head – so this is probably memorable for the wrong reasons.

3/5

What are you watching?

Late Summer Reading List

I’ve spent the best part of the last two months trying to get through the first book in the Game of Thrones series – and although I’m enjoying it, there’s a lot to get to grips with. I love the story and many of the characters but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fantasy girl. Thankfully, I’m coming to the end so I’ll be able to pick up something new soon. I have a couple of books waiting in the wings, hence this late Summer Reading List.

I’m only 28% through my Goodreads Reading Challenge and according to the app, will need to read two books a week for the rest of the year to hit my target of 50 books in 2019. Better get my skates on then, I guess.

What I’m Reading Next

The Corset by Laura Purcell

This book has been on my radar for a while. I loved The Silent Companions and found it genuinely eerie – so I have high hopes about the follow up. I’ve already spoken about it so I don’t want to repeat myself but I’m looking forward to dipping back into Purcell’s version of Gothic goodness.

Honestly, this is the kind of book I normally reserve for Autumn reading but fuck it. It’s windy enough out there to appeal to my nesting sensibilities, so bring it on.

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

“So, this is me. Lily Allen.

I am a mother, and I was a wife. I’m also a singer and a songwriter. I have loved and been let down. I’ve been stalked and assaulted. I am a success and a failure. I’ve been broken and full of hope. I am all these things and more.

I’m telling my truth because when women share their stories, loudly and clearly and honestly, things begin to change – for the better.

So, this is my story. These are my thoughts exactly.”

I’ve got a soft spot for Lily, who hasn’t always got it right but has always been seemingly honest, which I admire. She also been through an awful lot in her career and personal life, so I suspect this autobiography is going to be pretty eye-opening stuff. I’m holding out for heaps of scandal and a healthy dollop of bitching about other celebrities.

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

I follow Laura on social media and find her quite endearing, so when I saw she’d written a novel, even though it’s not my usual kind of book, I wanted to check it out.

When I was grabbing dinner in Sainsbury’s at the weekend, I found it for the bargain price of £2.99. Well I’m a girl of limited means, so what was I going to do?

The premise is this:

“What if you almost missed the love of your life?

Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine.

Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.

One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.”

Cute, huh?

No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter

Bethany is an internet staple for me, someone I’ve followed and admired for a long time. I’d go so far as to say she is one of the people most responsible for helping me change my way of thinking towards my own body. I’d definitely recommend you check her out on Twitter and beyond.

NBD is her debut fiction novel and I am so excited to meet her fat protagonist, Emily. I suspect this is a book I could really have done with back when I was a teen and I just really hope it gets the attention and acclaim it undoubtedly deserves.

A little outline:

“A warm, funny YA debut about a fat girl embarking on her first romance, female friendship, valuing herself and not settling, by one of the best body positive writers in the UK.”

So that’s me. Getting ready to hunker down with several good books and a duvet.

What are you reading?

Crooked House

Who doesn’t love a damn good whodunit? I love all the (mostly incorrect) guessing, the red herrings and the final reveal – it’s all so deliciously satisfying. But does this tale suffer for not having a stong central character à la Miss Marple/Hercule Poirot? We’ll see.

Crooked House (2017)

In Agatha Christie’s most twisted tale, a spy-turned-private-detective is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather’s murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark family secrets.

Max IronsStefanie MartiniGlenn CloseChristina HendricksGillian AndersonTerence Stamp

Hot Private Dick Charles Hayward (Irons) is all out of sorts when his former lover, the beautiful Sophia De Haviland (Martini) turns up in his office, all red lips and jewel-coloured tones. Although the pair parted on bad terms – after a romp in Cairo – here she is asking him to solve her grandpapa’s murder. Bit cheeky if you ask me but there’s still feeling there between them so no judgement for now.

Charles flip flops back and forth on whether he should take the assignment given the conflict of interest but he eventually gives in, not least because the publicity from solving such a case, surrounding the death of a very wealthy and famous buisness man will do his one man outfit the world of good. Plus, he wants to know why Sophia left him in the first place.

Chief Inspector Taverner (Terence Stamp) of Scotland Yard gives Charlie his blessing. Which is pretty decent of him.

Lady in Red dunit

When Charles gets to Aristide Leonides’ sprawling estate it soon becomes clear that this is a family with secrets. The walls practically creak with scandal and intrigue. Right away Charlie bonds with the youngest resident, Sophia’s baby sister Josephine (Honor Kneafsey) who is something of an amateur sleuth. Bored out of her box, she looks for clues in every corner – and keeps record in her notebook.

Also living in the house are Aristide’s two bickering sons, their wives and his own sexy wife, former dancer Brenda (Hendricks). There’s also the nanny, his first’s wife’s sister, another grandson and the children’s personal tutor, Laurence. Phew.

Obviously, everyone’s a suspect.

As Charles visits each member of the family/household, one by one, he realises there are motives everywhere. Brenda was banging Laurence (John Heffernan) – therefore has a very good reason for wanting her husband out of the picture. Aristide’s eldest son Philip (Julian Sands) hated his guts. Meanwhile, Sophia looks set to inherit everything given that her grandpapa failed to sign his will – ooooooh!

Glenn Close dunit

So the question is: who?

Was it saucy Brenda with her curves to die for, skanking about with the hired help on her husband’s dime? Could it be Edith De Haviland, Aristide’s ex-sister-in-law who despised him for his coolness towards his grandchildren?

What about beautiful Sophia, who’s about to become a very rich woman indeed? Nanny (Jenny Galloway) might be pissed off about low pay maybe. And Clemency (Amanda Abbington) is a literal botanist (the victim was poisoned) – could she have knocked off her father-in-law? After all, she and her son Roger are barely keeping it together financially.

Was in one of the neglected grandkids – sly Josephine or snarky Eustace (Preston Nyman), sick of mean Gramps, hellbent on revenge or excitement? I guess all bets are off when you enter Christie’s imagination – but it’s fun trying to work it all out. Will Charles get to the answer quick enough, especially since more murders have start to happen around him?

You know what to do.

Gillian Anderson’s wig dunit

This movie looks great, the setting is exactly what you’d expect and enjoy about a film like this – and it is enjoyable, perfect for a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know about it being Christie’s most twisted story but then again the final reveal is an interesting one that doesn’t pull its punches. I like it for that.

Charles himself doesn’t have much going on apart from a pretty face. He’s no Marple, no Poirot and yes, I do think the story suffers for that. I haven’t read enough Agatha Christie to know if he’s a reoccurring character but I do feel he lacks the charisma to bring this all together. His sexual chemistry with Sophia isn’t all that – and I don’t really care about the side story of their love affair.

I do love self-absorbed Magda – and Anderson is always an absolute delight. As a fading stage actress with a drink problem, she’s even more glorious. When an accident occurs and her youngest child ends up in hospital, she doesn’t even go and visit. What a dame.

The kid dunit

Likewise, super snooper Josephine is so much fun. Lurking in shadows and listening at doors, she has her nose up in everybody’s business – and I love it. I also have all the time in the world for Edith, who has her own personal shit going on.

God I love murder mystery. I want more. Way, way more.

What does my prime suspect Jillian think of this tale? Would she work it out in the first first minutes or murder it in its sleep? Find out here.

3.5/5

Greta

Everyone Needs a Friend.

Greta (2018)

A young woman befriends a lonely widow who’s harboring a dark and deadly agenda toward her.

Starring: Isabelle Huppert • Chloë Grace Moretz • Maika Monroe 

*Minor spoilers*

Bags of fun

Huh. Knowing this is directed by The Crying Game’s Neil Jordan, you would naturally go in expecting a high quality thriller. What you actually get is an enjoyable, yet ultimately empty and forgettable movie with questionable central performances. Which I’m gutted to type, honestly because ever since I saw the trailer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release date.

The premise alone is so intriguing. When nice girl Frances McCullen (Chloe Moretz) finds a handbag on the subway, there’s no question of what she will do. She returns it to its rightful owner, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). Greta invites her in for coffee and learning that she is widowed and missing her daughter, who lives in Paris, Frances takes pity on the woman – and a friendship is born.

Grieving for her own mother, who has passed away the previous year, Frances finds a natural connection with Greta. Frances’ BFF Erica (It Follows’ Maika Monroe) warns her that the whole scene is a little bit icky – and moreover, that Frances’ wholesome goodness will result in her being eaten alive by NYC. Frances doesn’t see it like that… until she discovers some new (and sinister) information about her new friend.

What on earth is Greta’s game and what does she want from Frances?

Chink chink motherfucker

Needless to say this is an intense stalker story that culminates in a nasty situation. But why? This is my issue with the story. We learn via a secondary source (played by Zawe Ashton), that things aren’t as they seem, particularly regarding the relationship between Greta and her daughter. There’s a vague hint at what G might be hiding but there’s no exploration of why she is what she is. And the climax is cool and all but it’s also shaky and predictable.

I was expecting so much more. I thought I’d be blown away by a motive I’d never even considered, with twists and turns I couldn’t imagine. Instead I got several shoddy false starts and a lot of head scratching time. That said, I still enjoyed myself – and while she’s not given that much to do, I liked Erica (when will MM get the consistently great roles she deserves?).

“I loved you in It Follows.”

About those central performances. I mean, c’mon! Huppert is a dream of an actress with a sting in her tail. Her turn in 2016’s Elle was wonderful – I expected more of the same, if not even more unhinged and delicious. Yet her Greta never really gets going in the way I hoped. It’s not a bad performance, it just doesn’t ever gain the momentum you’d expect. She is chic AF though, which is a given.

In turn, lovely Miss Moretz seems to phone her part in. I do find her acting hit or miss at times (even though I like her) but it’s as if she turned up to filming without really reading the script first. However, I can’t really blame the actresses for this, the film just doesn’t pack a punch and they can only do so much.

⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is a book I read a lot when I was a teen. I was thrilled to find a copy in HMV the other day when I also bought Rosemary’s Baby in a delicious 2 for £5 offer. I re-read it over last weekend and found it just as sinister and creepy as ever. I think I had forgotten just how sexually active our Laura was and now I’m older I must say it makes me feel uncomfortable to be privy to the way she’s exploited.

Female sexuality aside and her right to autonomy over her own actions and body, she’s such a vulnerable character let down by so many people around her.

The diary is a companion piece to the series’ and film, and fills in some of the blanks around the mystery of Laura’s murder. Sort of.

I never really picked up on any clues back in the day but they are there. The diary itself doesn’t appear until episode 4 in Season 2 of the show. I read it with sadness and despair, the latter of which is an emotion that escalates in Laura from an incredibly young age.

From 12 to 17 she’s tormented by visits from BOB, a presence that takes great pleasure in humiliating and torturing her. At night he takes her to woods and does unspeakable things to her, leaving her frightened to sleep at night.

As she reaches puberty and discovers sex and drugs, she is able to numb herself against some of the trauma but at a price. Her antics further alienate her from her best friend Donna, her parents, her peers – and as she gets in with some deeply unsavoury characters – namely Leo Johnson and Jacques Renault – and gains employment at One-Eyed Jack’s – she begins to spiral out of control.

Sadly we know what happens to Laura (her fate is revealed in the first episode of Twin Peaks) and it’s heartbreaking to witness the demise of such a young woman with so much to offer the world. She is such a greatly complex character and as mesmerising to read as she is watch onscreen.

This is a book that could be triggering to some. At times it is extremely explicit and does allude heavily to the abuse Laura is routinely subjected to. When I read it as a teen I thought I was so edgy reading about sex but as an adult, I am far more aware of the darkness inside this character and of the injustice of it all. It’s really upsetting.

I’m on a massive Twin Peak revival tip at the moment and I’m currently plowing through the TV show at a rapid pace. I’ll be revisiting it on this very blog in the coming weeks. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Laura, once of my favourite fictional characters of all time.

Book details:

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (8 Dec. 2011)
ISBN-10: 9781849838627
ISBN-13: 978-1849838627
Bought paperback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Suspiria

Suspiria (2018)

While I half fucking loved this and half hated it, I do believe this is one of the most interesting films of the year and therefore a success in my eyes. The remake of Dario Argento‘s 1977 original is completely different to its counterpart, in style and in conclusion but it’s still beautiful and grating.

I can safely say that Suspiria (1977) is one of the most unpleasant viewing experiences I’ve ever had and yet it will stick in my mind forever. Much like a lot of Argento’s imagery – but this version is not by Argento so let’s park him here.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino (most recently of Call Me by Your Name), Suspiria Reloaded is also an acquired taste. The film follows ambitious dancer Susie (Dakota Johnson) to a world-renowned (and freaky deaky) dance company and as she settles into the flow of the place, under the stern eye of Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), shit starts to get weird. Like seriously weird and at times incoherent and psychedelic. It’s really better if you just watch it and draw your own conclusions.

There are moments of sheer horror that have stuck with me (looking at you bendy woman in the mirrored dance studio) but there are also parts that feel really flabby. I’m referring to the story arc belonging to Dr. Josef Klemperer (also played by Swinton), a grieving psychotherapist with a missing wife.

I guess the novelty of Swinton playing multiple characters (she also appears as Helena Markos) is interesting but it also jars on me. I wondered why I couldn’t connect to Klemperer before I knew it was Tilda in prosthetics and now I understand it. Dakota Johnson does a decent job as Susie Bannion but there are a couple of scenes I think don’t work for her. Mia Goth meanwhile is lovely, commanding attention whenever she’s onscreen.

Again, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of horror, even if you’re not because there’s a lot to love here. It’s odd and abstract and compelling for the most part – and I most definitely need another viewing.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have you seen Guadagnino’s Suspiria? What are your thoughts?

Searching

Searching (2018)

This morning I learnt that there’s a name for films using this all-on-the-screen format and it’s “Screen life”. So not only is this an interesting film, it’s also been highly educational. Kinda.

Anywho, Searching is a very tense thriller in which David Kim (the gorgeous John Cho) fights tooth and nail to find his daughter Margot (Michelle La), who has mysteriously disappeared. As he picks at the threads of her life, he realises he barely knows her at all – which doesn’t help when he’s expected to unravel the truth about what happened to her.

With the help of determined Detective Vick (Debra Messing), David delves deeper into Margot’s social media account, messages and emails to paint a picture of where his daughter might be – and who she really is.

I really enjoyed this though I will admit to getting an inkling of the truth half way through. That said it makes you doubt every character you come into contact with, even David himself. And while it centers around Margot’s disappearance it also sets up their relationship really well. The beginning is genuinely touching and gave me the feels not ten minutes in.

I’m trying very hard not to hone in on any of the details for a reason but this was impressive and the screen life format kept my interest throughout, much as it does in Unfriended. I think it might get tired quicker than found footage but here it successfully builds up suspense – and makes you want to upgrade your five-year-old acer laptop for something quicker and shinier (just me?).

My Rating

4/5.

Flavia Flav: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Review

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

My, my, my. What a book. Flavia de Luce might be my new favourite literary heroine of all time.

The Alan Bradley books were recommended to me by my brother some months ago and it seems my entire family had already deeply ensconced themselves in Flavia’s World before even bothering to mention it to me. (The cads!)

I’m sort of glad though because its always nice to stand at the doorway of something wonderful and know that you have a lot to dig into. All those books are there for the taking! I will have to pace myself of course, it wouldn’t do to gorge myself too soon.

The Sweetness is just lovely, conjuring up gorgeous imagery with its language. Set in 1950, it tells the tale of tenacious 11-year-old Chemistry obsessive, Flavia Sabina de Luce, the youngest of three girls and daughter of gruff Colonel de Luce.

Flavia’s main interests are pottering about her inner sanctum (her beloved laboratory), paying special attention to poisons and their effect; and plotting revenge on her sometimes cruel (but always hilarious) older sisters.

I love the to and fro between sisters and in some ways I want more from the domestic set up than I do the mystery since their family history is so rich. Colonel de Luce is a cold fish with minimal input in the girls’ lives other than to teach them to fear ‘the instrument’ (telephone) and to stare them down at meal times.

The girls’ mother has passed on, gone missing during a mountaineering trip in Tibet ten years previously. Despite this she, Harriet, is everywhere and mentioned often, at least she permeates Flavia’s inner monologue.

But to the mystery. One afternoon, the de Luces’ cook finds a dead bird on the door step, it’s beak piercing a postage stamp. Colonel de Luce damn near loses his shiz and withdraws completely, leaving Flavia to ponder why.

She doesn’t have long to mull it over though as the next thing we know she has discovered a body in the garden and all Hell breaks loose. Who was the dying man, as he had been when she found him, and what was he doing in their garden?

Well, this is where I shuffle off and you find out for yourself. All I can say is that Flavia is a fiesty girl with an eye for detail and I’m pretty confident you’ll be falling for her as hard as I did.

One of the reasons I like her so much is because she’s so fiercely feminist. When one of the Police Officers called to the scene dares to suggest she pop off to the kitchen to make tea and leave them to their investigation, she is outraged. Damn right!

Can’t wait for the next in the series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. Did I mention the epic titles? The stuff of book lover’s dreams!

Book details:

*Please note: Photo is not mine

 

Sovereign, Deadly, Perfect: Night Film Review

DSC_0363_312

I love this book and devoured it like a jumbo bag of sweet/salty popcorn. True story.

Compared by Good Reads to the works of Stieg Larsson, I knew it would be a read I would enjoy, although I hate those lazy taglines: “If you liked Gone Girl, you will LOVE this!”. Shut up, I will decide for myself!

The fact that the story is based around the life and times of an infamous, and reclusive, horror director and his family, made it even more intriguing for me.

Horror is my very favourite genre and growing up I would go out of my way to be frightened so although this isn’t as gory as I expected, the descriptions of the films of Stanislas Cordova have been right up my alley.

On this subject, I have to say, without giving anything away, the best bits in Night Film are those talking about Cordova’s films, and if not describing the various synopses, any anecdote about being on set with Maestro. A sinister mix of Hitchcock, Coppola and Argento, Cordova uses fear and pain as a means to total freedom; of the mind, body and soul.Thumbscrew

Were he real, I have no doubt I would be an avid Cordovite, spending my down time tip tapping away on the secret fan boards.

The story is this: 24 year old Ashley Cordova is found dead one night, having apparently committed suicide in an abandoned warehouse somewhere in the underbelly of NYC. She is the beautiful yet mysterious daughter of the (aforementioned) film maker, Stanislas Cordova.

Her death is senseless of course, but veteran Investigative Journalist Scott McGrath has his doubts about what really happened that night, and with his own personal interest in the Director, and a curiosity about Ashley he can’t quite explain, he starts to piece together the last few days of her life. But what is the truth?

And why won’t anybody talk about Cordova?

Woven into this really quite decent thriller are web pages, medical and police reports, articles, interviews about Cordova and postings from the dark corner of the internet, otherwise know as the Onion. These are most fun of all, as all manner of Super Fans share their Cordova theories and if they are ‘lucky’ enough, personal brushes with the man himself. Sure these segments are gimmicky, but who doesn’t like a little bit of that?

tumblr_mrxklqAQAy1sfwakko1_500I hadn’t read any reviews on Night Film before I picked it up, apart from that of my friend, Hannah (of Hannah Reads Stuff). I actually jumped straight on the back of her bandwagon as soon as I read the synopsis, because that’s just the kind of girl I am. Her review is better than mine for sure, but I thought it would be cool to review it from the point of view of a Hard-core Horror lover.

As for the whole Larsson comparison, I get it. In the sense that Scott McGrath is a disgraced journalist, found guilty of libel like my Beloved Blomvist. As a famous Journalist, he has gone slightly off the boil and he does enlist the help of some less than traditional ‘research assistants’, neither of whom, however likeable, would be fit to lick Salander’s motorcycle boots.

But that’s about it for me. The Millennium Series is perfect and addictive, everything you need from a nail biting ride and to compare anything else to it is a little unfair. Though personally, I think Night Film can proudly hold it’s head up.

I feel like I need a holiday now though.

Book details:

  • Title: Night Film
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (30 Jan 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0099559242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099559245
  • Bought paperback (secondhand)

I am desperate for more books of a similar nature, so if anybody has any decent recommendations, please let me know!