MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Book Review – The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho — October 21, 2012

Book Review – The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho


  • Book: The Alchemist
  • Author: Paulo Coelho
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year of Release: 1988
  • Read 167-page paperback edition in October 2012.

Book Description: This short novel follows the life of Santiago, a young shepherd boy who leaves his traditional life of repetition to follow a strange dream across the Egyptian desert.  Along the way, he encounters an array of fascinating characters, some of which help him continue his quest.  As well, many obstacles stand between Santiago and the end of his adventure.

Book Review: This novel written by Brazilian Paulo Coelho is a masterful work, with an intricate and mysterious story of myth and fantasy, but intertwining with moral issues and the sense of seeking wisdom and purpose in life, subjects we can all relate to.  Coelho has written the main character in a very intimate way, so the reader can quickly understand exactly what Santiago is thinking and feeling.  When problems are encountered, one really feels for the character, and you read the unfolding plot with a true interest in what will happen to him.  Coelho has also done a nice job of inserting an array of other characters into the story.  One downside to the story is that it is too short, and often we are left with questions of who these supporting characters are, and what there background really is.  While Coelho may have done this to keep focus on Santiago, and to keep the mystery level of the story high, we sometimes have that feeling of reading a rushed story. However, this is a minor issue, and usually a book that makes the reader want more information like this one is the sign of a truly wonderful book!  This novel was truly a fascinating and mysterious read, and Coelho’s excellent descriptions made us not only feel like we knew the main character, but also made us feel like we were with him in the windy desert.  The story was an excellent exploration of inner discovery, and the conclusion was expertly written, with a very nice twist at the end to wrap up the final questions of where Santiago was going.  Overall, The Alchemist is a truly excellent book, and a delight to read.  Well Done!

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5

Book Review – The City and the City – China Mieville — October 15, 2012

Book Review – The City and the City – China Mieville


  • Book: The City and the City
  • Author: China Mieville
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Year of Release: 2009
  • Read 312-page paperback edition in September 2012.

Book Description: This fantasy novel by British author China Mieville follows the investigation of a young woman’s murder in the intricately linked but completely separated twin cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma.  Inspector Tyador Borlu must look into the crime, but he soon sees it taking on international political ramifications, and he must carefully skirt the boundaries of the two cities in an effort to unravel what has happened without getting killed himself.

Book Review: This novel was a very unique fantasy-mystery by writer Mieville.  By writing a fantasy novel about two cities that overlap each other and where you are not supposed to see the overlapping “other city” right under your nose, it is an interesting analysis to consider how we often overlook things within our own city every day.  Mieville doesn’t force this lesson on readers, he allows us to explore the concept and think about the implications ourselves, which is wonderful.  Although the unique plot and setting and overall messaging of the book is great, what doesn’t work 100% in this novel is the lack of full character development.  Borlu and his associates are not fully fleshed out in the story, which is unfortunate.  It is difficult to make that connection with the characters when they are not fully developed.  Furthermore, unlike a truly successful mystery, this one just doesn’t move quite as quickly; the story doesn’t quite grab you with the same level of intensity and suspense as other mysteries.  However, for these two flaws, this is still an enjoyable and thoughtful read.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review – Cloudburst (2011) — October 14, 2012

Movie Review – Cloudburst (2011)

Movie Review: This Canadian film about an aging Lesbian couple who go on a road trip from the USA to Canada to get married and protect their rights is an amazing tale.  Along the way they pick up a young man hitchhiking to get home to his dying mother in Canada.  The three of them have an incredible comedic adventure together.  The storyline is amazing in that it combines a lot of comedic moments with some very melancholy scenery of Eastern Canada and poignant scenes with a couple that has been together through 31 years, including tough times when parts of society and family do not accept or understand same-sex relationships.  The acting in this film from the three principal characters (Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Ryan Doucette), is breathtaking.  Everyone does an amazing job.  A final sharp turn at the end of the story was a brave writing decision, but was a little too jarring and not fully executed clearly enough to be believable (it seemed convenient to add drama to the ending of the film).  Other than this small issue though, this film is a perfect LGBTT* movie, with tonnes of comedy and fun times and the right mix of poignancy and deeper thought.

Overall Review: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars

Movie Review – Frankenweenie (2012) —

Movie Review – Frankenweenie (2012)

Movie Review: This animated black and white film from renowned Director Tim Burton reminds the viewer of his recent films such as Corpse Bride which feature death as a central theme.  This story about a boy and his dog is wonderfully told, with a lot of comedic points from secondary characters and a touching story with the main characters.  The animation is top notch and makes for a very enjoyable film.  One downside was that some serious life lessons were pointed out towards the end of the film, however the ending was a little bit sugar-coated, as opposed to keeping it more poignant for viewers.  But that aside, this was a fun movie to watch, and another Tim Burton success.

Overall Review: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Adele – Skyfall — October 10, 2012

Adele – Skyfall

Check out the above link for the official video for Adele’s new song that will accompany the upcoming Bond film Skyfall … this song is a perfect Bond song … I am really looking forward to seeing Skyfall in theatres, now more than ever! 😀

UN Criticizes Canada On Crime Bill And Youth —
Movie Review – The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) — October 9, 2012

Movie Review – The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

Movie review: This 2010 anime feature from the renowned Hayao Miyazaki does not disappoint.  Miyazaki’s team decides to move into new territory, and continue their creative efforts in a somewhat different fantasy realm from some of their more traditional fantasy settings.  This helps to demonstrate just how talented Stuido Ghibli is, as this film looks at the “little people” who live in the floorboards of an old family home.  The characters are fabulously developed, the storyline is thoughtful and melancholy, and the music does a fantastic job of adding to the spirit of the story.  The animation is high quality, and the overall conclusion is not contrived or obvious.  Overall, an excellent film for children and adults.  Well done!

Overall review: 5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Total Recall (2012 Version) —

Movie Review: Total Recall (2012 Version)

This remade film is based on a science fiction story by Philip K. Dick, and centres on a factory worker who finds himself running from authorities when he unknowingly gets centred in a battle for the freedom of his people from the elite group that controls him. The 2012 version stars Colin Farrell and is a great film in terms of action sequences and visual effects.  The storyline and character development are fairly weak in the film, with action being the key focus.  This has obvious advantages, but also clear disadvantages as well.  A fun movie to sit back and eat popcorn and enjoy, but not exactly high-quality if you’re looking for more substance.

Overall rating: 3 stars out of 5

Book Review – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer —

Book Review – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer


  • Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year of Release: 2005
  • Read 326-page paperback edition in August 2012.

Book Description: This book follows the adventures of 9-year old Oskar Schell, whose father was killed in the World Trade Centre attacks of 2001.  Oskar finds a key at home that belonged to his father, and begins an improbable journey through New York City on the search of the lock that the key is for.  Along the way he meets up with interesting people and sees some amazing sites, as he journeys towards self-discovery and the way to healing.

Book Review: Although this novel was very interesting as we saw the grief and healing process from the 9-year old perspective, there were also a number of flaws in the execution of the plot of this novel, most obviously how a 9-year old can move through the cities of New York City for so many months, seemingly undetected by his mother and other community members.  That all being said, if you could suspend your disbelief on certain plot devices, the novel had some interesting points to make on grief, and was a nice exploration of NYC.  Overall though, it was a mediocre novel, nothing extraordinary or shattering in terms of poignant emotions.  If you want to read a better novel of Foer’s, read “Everything is Illuminated.”

Overall: 2.5 stars out of 5

Book Review: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin —

Book Review: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin


  • Book: Game of Thrones
  • Series: Song of Ice and Fire Book 1
  • Author: George R.R. Martin
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Year of Release: 1996
  • Read 835-page paperback edition in August 2012.

Book Description: A number of characters from a variety of noble houses and backgrounds come together in this tale of mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure.  In a land where summers and winters can last decades, a cold winter is on the way, and along with the cold winds, dangers to the King are coming as well, which will effect the peoples of the Land in more ways then can be understood.

Book Review: Disclaimer, many friends have told me to read this book and/or watch the HBO series.  I have not seen the series yet, wanting my book experience to be totally pure.  And although I found this long novel to be enjoyable in many parts, and a fast read as the reader wants to discover the variety of plots and sub-plots that are occurring, I have two overall complaints.  First, this is the first book of a large series meaning the author is trying to set up a lot of material, and thus in many ways this book largely felt a “set up” of setting, characters, and plot that will be uncovered in later books.  Secondly, I found the large number of characters to sometimes be difficult to keep track of, and almost detracting from the overall story, as it almost became too broad and expansive.  That being said, those two points aside, this was a solid start to an intense, graphic fantasy series.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.