MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Movie Review – The Woman in Black (2012) — September 22, 2015

Movie Review – The Woman in Black (2012)

Movie Review – The Woman in Black (2012)

womaninblack

Movie Synopsis:

In 19th century England, lawyer Arthur Kipps heads to outside London to a rural area to take care of some difficult business involving the tying up of legal affairs for someone who passed away in an old home. Kipps is still in mourning over his wife’s death, and he leaves his son in the care of a nanny while he goes away on this business trip. However, when he arrives in the small town, he finds an unwelcome public who threaten him about going to the home, stating it is haunted. He must get the work done to provide for his son, but as he continues to work in the home, he continues to be exposed to frightening and disturbing situations.

Movie Review:

This film was a somewhat suspenseful, somewhat intriguing, but overall mediocre thriller. Actor Daniel Radcliffe does a decent job of playing struggling lawyer Arthur Kipps, although there are times when one can’t help but think of him in his more famous role of Harry Potter. Still, he manages to shake those vestiges off and play this role with a nice air of mystery.

The storyline of the film is intriguing and suspenseful, certainly keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat for much of the time. However, in many ways the story did not feel all that unique. There was a sense in watching the film that many of the gimmicks for suspense and plot points for a supernatural thriller / horror haunted house film had been used before, and recycled for purposes of this film. For some reason it just didn’t feel that original.

There were some enjoyable moments in the film, and the suspense was enjoyable. The setting of 19th century England was brought to the screen nicely, and is always an enjoyable setting. But overall, the suspense thriller just didn’t bring enough punches to the screen to help it rise to that of a great film.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars.

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Movie Review – Wild Tales (2014) — September 18, 2015

Movie Review – Wild Tales (2014)

Movie Review – Wild Tales (2014)

wildtales

Movie Synopsis:

This film from Argentina, in Spanish with English subtitles, is a collection of six tales that centre on the human need for revenge and letting out our anger when we are at the end of our rope. The results from these six individuals who finally let go and let loose are hilarious, shocking, and even deranged.

Movie Review:

This collection of stories from Argentina on the common theme of anger and revenge are absolutely hilarious. Each one had a different set of characters and a different focus, but they all centred on exploring some strong human emotion, and led to varying shocking results. The audience was able to laugh throughout, and sometimes be somewhat dismayed or even horrified by what they were seeing.

Each story had a very different situation happening, all in appropriate but different settings, which were all very well thought out and added to the tale nicely. Settings ranged from a busy urban city, to a remote road in the desert, to a quiet diner on the side of a dark road.

A standout story from my point of view was the regular, everyday guy who misses his daughter’s birthday party because he is fighting to get his car back from the crrupt parking authority. Being angry with the parking authority is something everyone can likely relate too, and this fact increased the amusement and hilarity from the audience’s perspective.

Certainly the movie had its moments of disbelief, but it certainly makes the viewer think about themes of anger, rage, and revenge in a variety of ways. And at the same time, the film is certainly an enjoyable comedy at the same time.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015) — September 15, 2015

Movie Review – Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Movie Review – Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

goingclear

Movie Synopsis:

This documentary, directed by Alex Gibney and based on the book by Lawrence Wright, examines the inner workings and history of the church of Scientology, including interviews from former senior officials who left the church after a variety of troubling issues and circumstances.

Movie Review:

This documentary film is a fascinating review of a variety of elements within Scientology. As someone who went into the movie with only a rudimentary knowledge of the church, I felt the documentary did a great job explaining the church’s roots, from founder L. Ron Hubbard, to the present day.

Director Alex Gibney did a great job focusing much of the dialogue and analysis based on interviews with a variety of former members of the church, who had been long time members and could speak about a variety of experiences and situations they had observed or even participated in. By focusing the work in this way, these expert individuals could identify major concerns when it comes to Scientology, such as the way volunteers are treated, the usage of “audit sessions” as a way to track what church members are thinking and doing, and the vast sums of money collected by the organization.

The fact that Scientology Church has come out hard against the film, stating it is filled with lies and personally attacking the director, writer, and those interviewed in the film, just gives increased credence to the material and research within the film and book!

This was an illuminating, interesting analysis of how a religious organization can manipulate and utilize its membership, and is also a warning for all of us, no matter our religion or political beliefs, to never be afraid to ask questions and think critically.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – Mr. Holmes (2015) — September 14, 2015

Movie Review – Mr. Holmes (2015)

Movie Review – Mr. Holmes (2015)

MrHolmes

Movie Synopsis:

In this latest recreation of Sherlock, Sir Ian McKellen portrays an aging, retired Mr. Holmes, who is focusing on beekeeping at his rural British residence, where his housekeeper Mrs. Munro and her son Roger live. Suffering the effects of memory loss that are becoming more pronounced with aging, Mr. Holmes decides to work with Roger to relive his last case, which led to his retirement because of the unfortunate results, and try to determine exactly what happened. Along the way, he also has to deal with the fact that he may not be able to stay at his home for long, particularly if Mrs. Munro gets her wish and moves to new employment.

Movie Review:

This was a great approach to a new Sherlock story, telling the tale of what happens to a much older, perhaps more cynical and jaded Mr. Holmes.

Sir Ian McKellen does a fantastic job portraying this Sherlock, with even the slightest eye movements and hand gestures played to perfection. McKellen is a fabulous Sherlock, and does a wonderful job bringing mystery and intrigue to the role, but also showcasing vulnerability as well, which is key for this story of an older Sherlock Holmes.

Laura Linney plays Mrs. Munro to great effect as well, and Milo Parker plays the young Roger character very nicely, as Sherlock’s advocate, friend, and young confidante, who can’t get enough of Sherlock’s stories, and asks for more details, encouraging Sherlock to pursue a review of his last case.

The storyline is interesting, albeit is sometimes gets confusing as it flips between the present and the prior case which involved Sherlock traveling to Japan and helping a man in Britain determine what his wife is doing when he is not looking. The story is told with great mystery and it does eventually bring us around to some interesting conclusions, but it sometimes moves slowly.

Overall though, this is an interesting and great addition to the Sherlock collection, made all the more enjoyable by the fact Sir Ian McKellen is in the starring role.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – The Imitation Game (2014) — September 10, 2015

Movie Review – The Imitation Game (2014)

Movie Review – The Imitation Game (2014)

imitation_game

Movie Synopsis:

In this movie inspired by true events, mathematician Alan Turing is brought into the employ of the British forces to try and decode secret German messages and help turn the tide of war during WWII. However, as Turing works, his unorthodox approaches and different personality mean he will have a difficult time building a team and getting the support from leadership he needs to fully develop a potential solution through to conclusion.

Movie Review:

This was a great film that provided a wonderful insight into secret activities that happened during WWII. The storyline focused on the activities of Turing and his colleagues during WWII, and while some artistic license may have been taken, the result overall is a fairly good portrayal of what some of the action looked like, well still giving the viewer a cinematically enjoyable experience.

It also highlighted some of the challenges of the time, and provided insight into how people who were different were treated. For example, Alan Turing’s personality was likely the result of autism, and because that was not acknowledged or diagnosed, Turing was never given support or understanding. Furthermore, the way Turing was treated post WWII, when his homosexuality was discovered, was both disturbing and cruel. The film did a nice job showcasing the sad realities of how society was when it came to mental illness and lgbt issues.

Acting in the film was fantastic, with Benedict Cumberbatch delivering a superb, powerful, and emotional performance in Alan Turing, and Keira Knightley portraying a sensible and smart Joan Clarke.  Supporting cast members also did a fantastic job.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, eye-opening, and informative film into the actions by a group of people that helped turn the tide in WWII, and the unfortunate after effects that saw societal exclusion hurt one of the heroes post WWII.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Book Review – Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt — September 9, 2015

Book Review – Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt

Book Review – Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell-the-Wolves-Im-Home

Facts:

  •    Book: Tell the Wolves I’m Home
  •    Author: Carol Rifka Brunt
  •    Genre: Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2012
  •    Read 361-page hardcover edition in August 2015.

Book Description:

In 1987 New York, fourteen year old June Elbus has never really felt truly comfortable with anyone before, except her uncle Finn. When Finn passes away due to HIV/AIDS, June is devastated, and doesn’t understand how or why this happened. Her mom has always been secretive of her brother Finn’s past, and June’s older sister does not help her to understand what is going on. But when June meets a mysterious man who shows up at Finn’s funeral, it leads to a surprising friendship, where June finally is able to learn more about her uncle, and the true meaning of love, loss, grief, and supporting others through the difficulties of life’s journey.

Book Review:

This novel, in a word, left me stunned. There aren’t many novels that can keep me up well into the night when I have to work early the next morning, but this was definitely one of them. I read this novel in 2 days, and it was an emotional page turner.

The inter-relationships between characters were engaging, complex, and believable. There were many solid examples of great character development and complex relationships between the central characters of June, her uncle Finn, her sister, her father, her mother, and Toby. The dialogue as these characters were developed was written beautifully by the author.

The storyline was dramatic and fast-paced. We continued to learn surprising revelations about various characters as we went through the novel. The author did a wonderful job creating a tense storyline with new plot twists coming up several times throughout the novel, often times in areas the reader was not expecting. At the same time as creating a rapidly unfolding plot, the author did a great job building and developing on characters throughout.  The connections between characters continued to develop and added to the depth of the novel.

The usage of art and paintings as a metaphor for elements of the story, such as the relationship between June and her sister, was nicely thought out and a source of uniqueness to the story.

The emotional depth of the novel was far reaching. The main theme of HIV/AIDS was well explored, thoughtful, and heart wrenching. The author captured the climate of the 1980s accurately. However, additional themes were also explored well, including adolescence, grief, feelings associated with being difference and outside the mainstream, and how relationships between siblings change with age. The author did a wonderful job exploring these various themes in a sensitive and commanding way.

The novel was a fabulous example of how an author can pull you into an emotional story with solid characters, exceptional prose, and intelligent plot. Author Carol Rifka Brunt is to be commended for writing an amazing novel that was raw and powerful. This novel made me cry, made me smile, made me think, and the characters and story stayed with me long after. Wow. Well done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Dragon’s Loyalty & Versatile Blogger Awards! — September 1, 2015

Dragon’s Loyalty & Versatile Blogger Awards!

dragons-loyalty-award versatile-blogger-award

I am very humbled and happy to report that the excellent movie blogger 13mesh has kindly nominated me for the Dragon’s Loyalty and Versatile Blogger Awards!!!  These are the first awards my blog has received before, and I am proud to share this great news, it makes me very happy indeed! 🙂

Similar to 13mesh, I will combine the two awards together and follow the instructions in both!

Award Rules:

1. Display the award on your blog
2. Announce your win with a post and link the blogger who awarded you
3. Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award
4. Link your award in the post and let them know of their being awarded
5. Write seven interesting things about you.

Seven Interesting Things About Me:

1) My favourite past-time is reading, but I think I may actually post more movie reviews than book reviews on my blog 😛

2) I have done a much better job at writing on my blog, writing in my journal, and writing my fiction works over the past couple years, although I need to make more time for my fiction / novel writing.

3) I have a busy schedule with full-time work, the odd bit of overtime and travel required with work, and volunteer and family commitments. But I am doing a better job at balancing everything then I have ever done in my life, which feels good!

4) I don’t watch much TV, but two recent series I have been watching and enjoying are BBC Sherlock and BBC Planet Earth!

5) My favourite actor at the moment is probably Benedict Cumberbatch 😉

6) For some strange reason I have always wanted to spend vacation time checking out a real desert. Perhaps its because I live in Canada on the cold Prairies? 🙂

7) I have completed two full marathons in my life (now THAT felt like an achievement, lol)

Nominating 15 Blogs for Dragon’s Loyalty and Versatile Blogger Awards:

Check out these AWESOME blogs!!

1) Husband&Husband

2) Vinnieh

3) Xingsings

4) Ajoobacats

5) HyperReality

6) UP! urban poetrees

7) Digital Shortbread

8) Daily (w)rite

9) Lowcountry Book Lover

10) RobbinsRealm Blog

11) Erika in Bookventureland 

12) Drunken Dragon Reviews

13) The Saavy Reader

14) 101 Books

15) Books Come First

Thank you everyone for reading my blog, and for all your support and comments!

Thank you again to 13mesh for nominating me! Please check out his awesome blog: https://meshthemoviefreak.wordpress.com

Have a great September everyone!  -Matt at MatthewSean Reviews