3 books and 5 movies including Creed II (R-077)

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a long-winded tale about some historians poring over old manuscripts and letters to find clues to the location of Dracula’s tomb. To be concise and blunt, I found this book quite boring at times and it only really got going in the last 100 or so pages. It’s 752 pages long, so that’s too long to wait in my opinion.

Sharpe’s Siege by Bernard Cornwell is the tenth book in the thirteen book series if you read them in order of the chronology of the character. It’s set in France in 1814 and our hero is sent with his Rifles to help the British Navy seize a strategically significant castle, as the title suggests once he’s taken it, he then has to defend it against the French who want to recapture it. As ever the battle sequences are visceral, the historical accuracy sound and the exploits of the main character as swashbuckling as ever.

The Possession of Mr Cave by Matt Haig is a short read, running at 240 pages but with lots of white space and plenty of chapter breaks, about an antiques dealer in York who first loses his wife and then son in two separate accidents. That leaves his daughter who he wants to protect from harm. This desire goes too far and possibly fuelled by the ghost of his dead son, his actions spiral out of control. As usual with Haig, it’s a easy read with some good observations about human behaviour, the nature of love and perception of reality.

The Love Witch (recorded from FilmFour) is a lavish modern-day version of an old ‘genre movie’ (think Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) about a witch who uses potions and spells to seduce a series of men in her search for the perfect partner. Written and directed by Anna Biller, who also did set and costume design, it stars the sultry Samantha Robinson as the titular character and at times is reminiscent of a Hitchcock film with its bold use of colour and symbolism. It’s also pretty funny. Most of the ‘adult’ content is inferred rather than shown explicitly, although there are a couple of rather racy scenes.

From Up On Poppy Hill (also recorded from FilmFour) is a typically touching Studio Gibli film about a boy and a girl who attend a school in Yokohama in the early 1960s. While helping to save their school’s clubhouse from being demolished, they fall in love. But their gentle relationship is threatened by a surprise discovery that they might be related. It’s a well-observed story full of interesting Japanese customs, fun characters and excellently drawn animation. Not a lot really happens, but it’s a nice film to watch and a must for any anime fan.

Triple Frontier is a pretty sold ‘robbery gone wrong’ story starring Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac (The Force Awakens), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), and Pedro Pascal (Narcos) as ex-army buddies who steal a shit load of money from a narco and then face a series of challenges after their escape goes pear-shaped.

It’s a film that’s been through a rocky development and production process and been associated with lots of Hollywood names, and to be frank it shows toward the end of the story. It was the first film to be filmed on super hi-def cameras recording a stupid amount of K (6K I think) which seems slightly necessary given that it’s a Netflix original, but it does lend the film’s mountain locations a eye-watering sense of realism which is juxtaposed awkwardly against the unrealistic storyline.

Isn’t it Romantic is another Netflix original starring Rebel Wilson. Cynical woman gets bang on head, wakes up in a romcom world, becomes less-cynical and finds that what she’s been looking for is right under her nose. It’s a cute take on a tired format and actually works quite well despite finally conforming to the tropes the main character spends most of the movies dissing.

The film was directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson who has directed a series of pretty awful films like Zombies and Cheerleaders and three episodes of the immensely bad US-remake of The Inbetweeners which everyone new was never going to work. With Isn’t it Romantic he’s actually done a pretty good job and perhaps we can forgive some of his past misdemeanours.

Creed II continues the story of Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone) and Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan). It seems inevitable that a franchise meeting would toss up the idea of bringing Drago (Dolph Lundgren) – the boxer who killed Apollo Creed and subsequently had his ass handed to him by Rocky in the Russia v USA mess that was Rocky IV – back into the story.

Drago’s got a very big and very nasty-looking son (Florean ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu) who challenges Creed to a boxing match. The rest of the story is fairly predictable, exploring father-son issues and overcoming adversity, but the character performances of Stallone, Jordan and Tessa Thompson (who plays Creed’s wife) are pretty solid, and I’m a punchy sucker for boxing films; especially ones featuring the Italian Stallion. Also there’s some banging tunes in the soundtrack.

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