Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Title: Hacksaw Ridgehacksaw_ridge_poster
Year: 2016
Director: Mel Gibson
Genre: Action/War
Category: #38 A movie about war

Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss during WWII, although the movie centers on Desmond Doss throughout his training as well as war experience it is primarily his actions at the Battle of Okinawa that have caused his fame.

Desmond desperately wanted to serve his country but didn’t want to kill people, in fact he refused to carry a rifle and was trained as a combat medic. Despite being the only one on the battlefront without a weapon he showed a great deal of courage saving many people (including some enemies) following their injuries in the war.

I’ve seen a few war movies including Gallipoli possibly a hundred times because Australian schools just love to make students watch it over and over again. I also somehow ended up watching Full Metal Jacket when I was about 10 or 11 (if you’re thinking that’s a good idea… don’t). There have been a few that I’ve loved and a few that I haven’t enjoyed much but this one I really loved. It’s such a great story and I loved that there was a chance to get to know the characters before they went off to war.

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

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Before You Forget – Julia Lawrinson

Title: Before You Forget9780143574071
Author: Julia Lawrinson
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 235
Category: 50. Read a book set in your country
Format: Paper

OKay, so I’d already read a lot of the well known books that are set in Australia. Or didn’t have much interest in them. But, Australia has always had quite a good young adult market so I thought I’d find something there. Lo and behold I found this little book by one of my favourite authors as a teenager. Now, for any Aussies out there you might habe been expecting a John Marsden or Melina Marchetta book to make this list but I loved both of those authors and have read pretty much everything they’ve written. Don’t worry though, I’m going to reread Tomorrow When the War Began since it’s a favourite of mine.

The first Julia Lawrinson book I read was quite by accident. I found it in my school library and the blurb sounded just like my life so off I went. For the record, that book was Obsession about a teenage girl with an alcoholic mother (I had an alcoholic father) who starts at a new school and develops a crush on a girl a little older than her.

What I’ve always loved about her books and continued to love in this one, is that these books really do reflect what it’s like to be a teenager growing up in Australia (and probably to some extent in other countries).

Before You Forget is the story of a girl starting her last year of high school but her dad is acting really weird and her best friend is acting really weird so she ends up with no one to talk to. Her dad is suffering from early onset alzheimers and her friend is suffering from an eating disorder. There’s lots of awkward little encounters with her family and friends that bring me right back to what it’s like to be seventeen and so excited to finish high school but also terrified of what comes next but also to feel like no one quite understands you. This is a book I wished I could have read when I was in high school.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Gifted (2017)

Title: Giftedmv5bmjq2ndu3nde0m15bml5banbnxkftztgwmja3otg0mdi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_
Year: 2017
Director: Marc Webb
Genre: Drama
Category: #24 A philosophical movie

This movie has been on my watch list ever since I heard about it and I’m glad I made the time for it because it’s such a lovely movie. It grapples with the question of what do you do when you’re left to raise someone else’s kid. Is it better to put them ahead in school just because they’re smart or to keep them in a regular class to have a regular childhood? And do you have any kind of moral obligation to do either of those things.

Both the casting and the acting in this film are top notch as well as the interactions between them. It’s really just a cute film to watch and definitely makes me wonder what I would choose to do if it were my kid who was ‘gifted’.

What would you do?

Rating: 4/5 stars

Viral – Helen Fitzgerald

Title: Viral32175491
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Genre: General
Pages: 253
Category: 31. Read a book on paper
Format: Paper

Date Started: September 19th 2017
Date Finished: September 19th 2017

This book is super short and made a great holiday read. Nothing better to do on a huge cruise ship than lay by the pool and read… except of course being in the pool.

The basic idea of this book is that an explicit video of a teenage girl goes viral. She doesn’t remember the night, but she doesn’t have to because it’s all over the internet. She’s too scared to go home, so she doesn’t.

But the video doesn’t seem like something that she would do and her mum becomes suspicious, so does she. But, what can they do? Will the law even prosecute someone for filming and distributing a video of a girl who is clearly too drunk to consent?

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

Title: Murder on the Orient Express853510
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 274
Category: 5. Read a book written before 1950
Format: Paper

Date Started: June 24th 2017
Date Finished: June 28th 2017

This is the second of my Agatha Christie books for the year, this is probably one of the most well known Agatha Christie books out there. So well known that it’s getting a brand new movie to be released this year. In fact, that’s the reason I chose this book because I wanted to read it before seeing the movie. Of course, having read the book I’m now wondering about some of their casting choices but we’ll see. Okay, mostly I’m wondering about Michelle Pfeiffer who is playing a character who is described as ‘homely’, a word I never would’ve thought to associate with Pfeiffer. But we’ll see.

At any rate, the famous detective Poirot boards the Orient Express on the way to a job, but someone is murdered on the train and it’s up to him to solve the murder. There aren’t that many people on the train but the victim seems to have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

And again there’s a classic Christie twist at the end which is super fun and I won’t spoil it for you.

If you read no other Christie book then definitely read this one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close233788
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 326
Category: 13. Read a book written after 1949
Format: Paper

Date Started: June 9th 2017
Date Finished: June 17th 2017

This book would probably be an emotional read for lots of people but it was incredibly emotional for me for so many reasons. The book follows the journey of 9 year old Oskar who lost his father in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Oskar is a charming narrator, incredibly intelligent with wide ranging interests and abilities far beyond the regular 9 year old. Though it is never addressed directly in the book the film adaptation apparently explains that Oskar has been diagnosed with Asperger’s which explains many of his unusual behaviors. This is the first aspect that was emotional for me because my fiancee’s brother has also been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and is only slightly older than Oskar so many of his slightly obsessive interests are familiar to me.

The second reason it’s so emotional is perhaps a little more obvious, when I was a little older than Oskar I also lost someone on September 11. In my case it was not my father but my grandmother and she died from natural causes rather than a terrorist attack. But, it was also one of the biggest events to occur in my young life.

The novel explores both Oskar’s experiences trying to deal with the death of his father as well as his grandparents including the relationship between his grandma who he is very close to  and his grandfather who he has never met. And both stories are just amazing to read for so many reasons. It’s hard to tell you much without spoiling this book for you but I cannot recommend it enough.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Title: Pete’s Dragon au_movie_poster_petesdragon_3f223dac
Year: 2016
Director: David Lowery
Genre: Family
Date Watched: June 10th 2017
Category: #39 A movie about animals

I have no idea if I ever saw the animated version of this as a kid but it sounds like just the type of thing I would’ve loved. Either way, I don’t remember seeing it so there will be no comparison of the two here.

I really loved this movie in part because the dragon is really just a giant green dog which is so adorable. I find it kind of hard to believe that a kid could get lost for so long and survive so long with just a dragon for help but at the same time, it’s kind of believable too.

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about because you’ve never heard anything about this movie. The premise is that a young boy (Pete) is in a car crash in which his parents die and he runs off into the forest  where he comes across a giant green dragon who he befriends and helps him survive. It’s several years later that he is found by adults who obviously want him to join a regular family and go to school like a normal kid. I won’t give away anymore than that.

As much as I loved this movie I’m not sure I would’ve loved it when I was a kid. It was a little slow to get started and a bit more serious than most kids movies you will see. So just keep that in mind if you’re sitting down to watch it with kids. It’s a little dark and probably aimed at kids a little older than the original would’ve been.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Passengers (2016)

Title: Passengersmv5bmtk4mju3mdizof5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjm2mzy2mdi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_
Year: 2016
Director: Morten Tyldum
Genre: Action/Drama/Science-Fiction
Date Watched: May 10, 2017
Category: #25 A film about travel

This is a great premise for a movie, and absolutely topical. Space travel, cryogenics, AI and so on. Of course a ship malfunction has one passenger wake up early and even with som much to explore he gets lonely so he wakes up someone to be his friend. A girl.

What follows is a weird combination of love story and mystery as they try to solve the problem of what’s wrong with the ship and come to terms with living the rest of their lives on board the ship. The idea that they might spend their whole lives trapped in this one place with only one other person for company is horrifying. While it sounds like it could be fun to begin with I think it would get boring quickly, even in such an amazing place as a space ship.

This is a great movie though, almost like Castaway for a new generation, with less focus on survival and more on the emotional aspects of isolation.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Title: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2mv5bmtg2mzi1mtg3of5bml5banbnxkftztgwntu3nda2mti-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_
Year: 2017
Director: James Gunn
Genre: Science Fiction/Action
Date Watched: May 9, 2017
Category: #28 A science fiction film

I’ve been excited for this for a while even though the first film had become completely fuzzy in my mind, but after a quick rewatch off we went to the cinema to see the new one.

I might be in the minority here but I actually like vol. 2 better than vol. 1. Vol. 1 for me had the novelty factor in that it was new characters, new location, new technology etc but vol. 2 made me really care about the characters and relationships. Even better it changed my opinion of several characters throughout the movie from Yondu to Peter. But also… Baby Groot made this movie hilarious.

One of my favourite scenes has to be Baby Groot being told which button not to press but also the first scene in the movie with Baby Groot dancing while everyone else is fighting.

But Yondu’s arrow is a close second in entertainment value for me. I want one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Victor/Victoria

Title: Victor/Victoriadvdcover_7435
Year: 1982
Director: Blake Edwards
Genre: Musical
Date Watched: April 28, 2017
Category: #24 A musical

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Julie Andrews from my seven year old obsession with The Sound of Music which I insisted on watching at least once a week for several months (maybe even a year). Of course, Mary Poppins was also a favourite of mine growing up. And then as a teenager it was the Princess Diaries and Princess Diaries 2. Somehow, this one slipped past my radar, I’d heard of it at different times but never actually looked it up. It doesn’t hurt that Julie Andrews reminds me a little of my grandma.

At any rate, I finally found this movie and was pleasantly surprised. Right from the start it was funny and of course the music was fantastic. In so many ways this movie was way ahead of its time, treating the gay character of Toddy as just another character in the movie rather than a novelty. Of course, I do have a few issues with how it was treated throughout the movie as well. For example, throughout the movie King Marchand expresses his displeasure at being perceived as gay given his relationship with Victoria who has been presenting herself as a man. The fact that Marchand is displeased with this is understandable to me, even now, as he is being perceived as something he is not, and given the stigma associated with being gay in the early 80’s this is even less surprising. What I do find frustrating is that Victoria who during her professional career has met and associated with many gay people, including her best friend Toddy, does not find issue with Marchand’s behaviour. She does not discuss his opinions with him, nor does it seem to impact her own feelings towards him in any way.. This could have been a great opportunity for the writer/director to call out the behaviour as unacceptable though they chose not to. Honestly, I don’t really hold it against them because ultimately the film really is far ahead of its time in depicting a largely positive gay character as well as a gay relationship and many other ways. However, if the film was made today, I would hope that it would address some of these issues.

Perhaps my favourite part of the film is the running gag involving the waiter from early in the film who then appears several times, each more confused than the first.

Honestly, if you haven’t seen this film then it is well worth a watch even though it’s not quite old.

Rating: 4/5 stars