Review: Mary Queen of Scots

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It is inevitable to notice how much contrast there was in in the lives of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I.  How much women in their time fought for the power to be heard. If you’re wondering how these rival queens are related here’s the quick guide. Mary Queen of Scots’ grandmother was Margaret, Queen of Scots who was also King Henry VIII’s older sister and as we know Queen Elizabeth I’s father was King Henry VIII. So that is how these two queens are related, they are cousins. Their rivalry over England’s throne is one that we know from the many Elizabeth biopics that exist, it is based on Elizabeth’s parentage (remember her mother was Anne Boleyn).

The movie started off and moves rather quickly rightfully so as historically these events happened over several years, so the movie proceeds by marking important events in Mary’s life in the span of two hours. You do have to follow closely as the narrative moves very quickly; however, it does not bombard you with information about the plot which lets the characters carry the story through until the end. There are a few spots where the audience is expected to assume Elizabeth’s romantic relationship with Lord Dudley, Elizabeth’s royal advisor and his motives, Mary’s half-brother and his involvement with England, but most notably there is not a clear marker of how much time has passed.

Director Josie Rourke covered a lot of ground by marking the important life passages in Mary’s life which mirrored those of the roles women were expected to fulfill at the time but which resonate even today. Saoirse Ronan (Mary) is radiant on screen, this is one of her best performances yet. She transcends the audience into Mary’s struggle to prove herself among the men who undermine her authority when she proves time and time again that she is the boss, that she knows what she wants. Margot Robbie’s (Elizabeth I) performance is suitably quiet yet strong. We’re so used to seeing films about Queen Elizabeth I and her reign or her lovers, but this is not that film. This one is particularly about Queen Mary and her fight to a throne that was rightfully hers. You can expect the men to grotesquely enjoy weaving lies and plots to have these two women against each other. Why? Why else if not to be king. Because there is nothing more attractive than watching men moving two monarchs across like game pieces to gain power themselves. They will build them up only to bring them down.

This is a great approach to a different perspective that we don’t normally see in film. We’re so tired of seeing Elizabeth I  biopics what about everyone else? There are so many other stories this one waited too long to be told but it was desperately needed.

Mary Queen of Scots premieres Friday, Dec. 07.

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Review: Venom

 

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Let’s start with how this is the closest comic to movie Marvel film to date. Last night I was part of a group who got to see an advanced screening of the movie out this Friday, October 5, and I will say that the general consensus was that Sony and Marvel stayed close to the comic for the first big anti-hero movie we’ve seen. I am a true believer that not every story needs a hero and sometimes the villain wins. While I am an absolute supporter of all of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed previous performances I walked in with an open mind and super excited to see all of them in one movie. They did not fail. All three brought forth their best in the most professional way that I know also brings out the best in every scene with anyone they work with. Anyone.

As an audience member, I enjoyed the funny parts which were earned. Lately, previous Marvel films have really pushed comedic moments and they come across forced and overwhelming, I’m looking at you Avengers. That is not the case for Venom. While it’s an anti-hero movie, there is an exact balance between the tension the characters require as well as the release that the story needs. All tension and no release is not good on the page or on film. Which brings me to the following: as a writer, I appreciated that every scene and dialogue in this movie is earned. There were no unnecessary scenes that we often see in superhero films (I’m looking at you Superman, Batman, and others).

There is no comparison needed between this movie and a previous characterization of Venom in the Spiderman 3 (2007) movie. Because I’d like to point out just like other people, other critics, and other writers make it known when it’s convenient for them and that I will throw back at you that that characterization exists in a far-long gone Marvel universe that is irrelevant to the one in the Venom movie.

Tom Hardy’s performance brings charisma and character to Eddie Brock who stumbles upon Venom in a heroic way. Eddie’s relationship with Annie (Michelle Williams) is one of the most modern and solely independent characterizations of real relationships I’ve seen in a Marvel film. Their chemistry on-screen is genuine and through their characters truly show us that actions have consequences that hurt for the people involved. Which again doesn’t typically happen in these types of films. Riz Ahmed’s performance as Dr. Carlton Drake is amazing. He takes you scene by scene building up to his villainous stride.

Like all origin movies, it is going to feel like there is too much to take in quickly because that’s how these types of stories are supposed to feel like in the beginning. There is no other way to convey to the audience in an origin story all the important bits as well as the stuff that makes them care for the character without making them feel this way. All of these things take time and in this movie, they achieve it in less time than most. Which speaks to the timely pacing that exists and moves the story forward. I was fully engaged in the story.

Don’t miss out and get your tickets today.

You definitely want to check out Venom this Friday, October 5th.

Release + Review – A Nordic King – Karina Halle

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You guys this is the book you want to come home to and read endlessly. I was looking for a story that would take me away and let me fall in love with its characters and feel them falling for each other. Let me tell you this is that book. Not everything is what you’d expect King Aksel to be and Aurora is a strong and determined woman who will stand her ground. I liked that the characters leaped off the page within every scene. Their relationship is magical, ALL THE FEELS. It is a standalone, royal romance and I wish there was more. It’s got everything, a twist that takes you on an emotional ride. A love that gradually intensifies. Aksel and Aurora are everything. This is my first Karina Halle novel and you bet I am going to be reading more of her books. A NORDIC KING is available now on Amazon 

 

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SYNOPSIS: When I first applied for the job I thought it would be like all the others: working as a nanny for an aristocratic family.

Then I got the job and found out how wrong I was.

Now I’m the new nanny for two adorable little girls who happen to be princesses.

Their father is the widowed King of Denmark.

And my new home? The royal palace in Copenhagen.

Adjusting to my new life isn’t easy but the hardest part hasn’t been the girls who still grieve over the loss of their mother.

It’s their father.

Cold, mysterious and moody, with an icy stare that seems to penetrate your soul, King Aksel may have hired me to take care of his daughters but he wants as little to do with me as possible.

Yet the longer I share these palace walls with this man, the more that I’m drawn to him. His chiseled face and sexual swagger are only part of the package. It’s in the long, intense glances at the dinner table, the way we’ll brush up against each other in the halls, the rare glimpses of the man deep inside, like the sun passing through clouds.

But no matter how I feel about him, we can never be together.

You think it’s bad enough being in love with your boss?

Try falling in love with a king.

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2HaEWBb

Review: KIN

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Here’s why you have to go watch KIN this weekend. First, let me start by saying that this is not your typical film and that’s a good thing. The title tells you pretty much what the main plot involves: family. Families come in many different ways and this movie celebrates that. It starts with Eli (Myles Truitt) a fourteen-year-old boy, who’s been having a tough time since his mom died. His ex-con brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) returns home from prison and from there all hell breaks loose. As it would right? Only Eli has been hiding a secret, a weapon he found in an abandoned warehouse. A weapon that does not belong on Earth. The genre of this film is undefined it has young adult sci-fi vibes with tech-noir undertones. It’s dark and gritty it’s the perfect antidote for anyone in search of a palette cleanser this summer. KIN is the type of film that I am so often searching for and you’ll realize that too. It’s got great fresh talented faces and some familiar ones too. The chemistry among the cast really transcends across the screen to the audience. One of the reasons I enjoyed this film is that the story is solid about family. You have a story of a family living on this Earth and all the conflict that can entail in the forefront and then you have in the background the mysterious otherworldly weapon. The story not only focuses on what the main plot is and what you’ll discover along the way until the ending, but it also brings out the complexities of families, the dangers that exist for all of us in this world or another.

Gosh, I hope there is a sequel.

KIN is directed by twin brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker it is out Friday, August 31st

Review: Lygia Day Peñaflor’s All of This Is True

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Don’t you just want to read a book that will take you down the most unexpected path in terms of story, plot, and twists? I do. I am always looking for a book like that. Well, look no further because all of that can be found in Lygia Day Peñaflor’s All of This Is True.

Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of mixed media storytelling in books. In All of This Is True the plot unravels through a series of interviews, excerpts from the book the main character wrote (think book within a book), texts and emails as well. This type of storytelling is fascinating it keeps the story moving and the reader intrigued at what could possibly happen next. I could not put it down.

The story begins with four teens, Miri, Soleil, Penny and Jonah who have been majorly obsessed with a particular YA author, Fatima Ro, who seems to have the pull and charisma of a cult leader. Her debut was a hit and she is riding that wave to her next success–at any cost. Or at least it seems that way–right? I suggest you keep reading. Each teen has been keeping secrets from each other as expected, but they seem to be quite honest with Fatima Ro who is keeping them suspiciously close.

One lie after another they discover things about each other that should have remained hidden. But what happens when those lies are exposed for all to see? I thought I knew where the book was heading until I realized I was wrong. I absolutely love what Lygia has done. She takes the reader down a tunnel of so many twists and just when you think you see the truth she pulls a fast one right from under your nose. I’m one of those people that usually ‘call it’. Why, yes people still want to go to the movies with me. Regardless, I did not expect what really happened to have happened. Trippy right? You have to check it out!

All of This Is True is out now.

Review: Jessica Knoll’s The Favorite Sister

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The web of lies and twists that are in this book are going to have you hooked. The story takes place as the characters are returning to their reality tv show “Goal Diggers”. As you can probably guess you cannot have reality tv without drama. I was drawn to this book because I absolutely love Jessica’s writing style and reality tv. However, even if you haven’t read her debut “Luckiest Girl Alive” (which you should) or don’t watch much reality tv, the complexity and darkness of each character will keep you turning the page. There’s intrigue, gossip, scandal, twists, an original conversation starter on today’s topics.

If you think relationships are hard. Female relationships are worse. They can be the best of the best or the worst of the worst. Even between good friends, fake friends, and sometimes friends lines can get blurred and we make mistakes. While reading this book you’ll identify some part of yourself, the frank, blasé part you barely let through to others. Frankly, I think there’s a Regina George in all of us and Jessica weaves a story that lets us into the lives of women who will do anything to get what they want.

This book involves a large cast of characters each with a very distinct voice so pay close attention.  Its pace is just right, making the reading experience nearly cinematic, moving steadily as the action rises. Also, I recommend trying to get into the frame of mind of how a reality tv show is presented for tv. For example, you have the story play out then you get the character’s perspective and then you get commentary responses from others. I really enjoyed this book, it’s scandalous and out for revenge. It is a must read!!

Review: Gemini

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This is the reason why you need to go watch Gemini this week/weekend!

From the moment the movie begins you get the feeling that you are indeed in the beachy parts of Los Angeles that hide in plain sight. The palm trees and purple chrome tinge in the film give us a clue that not all is what it seems in a town that reports 24/7 on the ongoings of most of its citizens. The first scene is perfect taking it’s audience into the world of celebrity that we don’t get to see, but only read about in the tabloids or on TMZ. We meet Heather (Zoë Kravitz), an actress and Jill (Lola Kirke), her assistant. From the get-go it is understood that they have been working together for quite some time, with Jill often covering for Heather, who is wanting a change of pace and wants to just chill for awhile. There’s nothing wrong with a rather busy person wanting to take some time off from work from time to time. Heather refuses to carry on with her commitments so you can imagine the response from the people involved–they hate her–they threaten her. Heather’s just a movie star that has fallen victim of her profession, she wants the simpler things in life–friendship, close relationships, people she can trust. At some point you feel sorry for her for what she possibly has had to endure to get to where she is–fed up with her life being so public. Zoe Kravitz performance is a testament to what is not said but shown. She nails her characters likability with other characters–and communicates the other side of that to the audience.

The writing is where it’s at with Gemini. Aaron Katz who wrote and directed gives the audience exactly what they need to know for this thriller. Every scene has a purpose, the transitions between each are direct, the score pulls you into these characters lives and resonates an eerie kind of loneliness that springs from the screen. As does the choice of film and color which complement the story very well. Every turning point brings you closer to the truth. So pay attention. Lola Kirke’s performance is captivating as her character Jill is left to make sense of Heather’s mysterious murder. You have to listen and take cue again, to what is and isn’t said to get that Jill may have something to hide–from her past. That’s one of the reasons why this movie is so precisely written, you have a great balance of backstory that’s sprinkled throughout the movie that gives off this sticky feeling of fresh and dreamy mystery that plays with what you may have gathered to be true. The only thing I can say is that there were not enough John Cho scenes. However, he too nails the push-hard, play -hard detective role to a tee. Leaves you wondering whether he’s got a motive of his own.

As the end approaches we’re left indeed with a lingering feeling of uneasiness that borders both on having found the answer to having barely touched the surface to a murder that may not be what it seems. This I think was intentional on Katz part. Perhaps the answer we got wasn’t to the right question or person.

Gemini is out in theaters now.

Review: Elizabeth Acevedo Poet X

Absolutely loved it. Xiomara, is a teen that must balance her individuality as a young Latina girl growing up in Harlem. Acevedo paints a very clear picture of her characters through prose that sticks with the reader and rich description that jumps off the page. A wonderful story that peeks into the teen struggles, in particular, those caught between two cultures. It is so beautifully written I highly recommend this book. I’m ready for whatever Elizabeth Acevedo has next!!

Review: Amanda Lovelace The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One

 

 

This book is on fire! A poetry collection that speaks so much truth it just gets you to the core of everything you’ve always wanted to say—everything you’ve thought about and more. Amanda has crafted an EMPOWERING message to all. She magically weaves ALL the topics that challenge us today with love & respect. I cannot stress how much I love this book. I felt such raw surge of energy–that seriously made me feel like I could fly. No joke. You must pre-order now! Target will have a special edition RED cover copy with bonus material while Barnes and Noble will have the WHITE cover copy. Out Tuesday, March 6

Review: The Light Between Oceans

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Is your love as deep as the ocean? Would you be able to do anything for the one you love? Would the past prevent you from moving forward?  In “The Light Between Oceans”, a film adaptation based on the novel by M.L. Stedman and under the direction of Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, A Place Beyond the Pines), we are taken to Janus Rock, a remote island off the coast of Australia. Like the two-faced Roman God it is named after, it faces two different oceans which symbolically serves as a reminder that all beginnings have an ending just as all those who love have a past and future.  Tom (Michael Fassbender) is a war veteran struggling to find normalcy in his life after the Great War. In his search, he finds an opportunity as the lighthouse keeper at Janus Rock. Life on the secluded island is just as one would expect, quiet and rewarding, as guiding those lost at sea proves to Tom that there is light for those who seek it.

A few months later in his new position, Tom unexpectedly meets Isabel (Alicia Vikander), a light hearted and spirited young woman who had lost two brothers to the war. Learning they share the bonds of grief and loss, Isabel takes it upon herself to be the shining light that Tom had only hoped to find amidst the darkness. After a short courtship, Tom and Isabel’s relationship develops into an endearing, non-traditional love story in which the couple increasingly views each other as equals during a non-egalitarian post-war 1920s. Together they face struggles that no couple would ever expect to experience. At the time far less complicated situations would have separated them, emotionally dooming them for a life of resentment and guilt. However, their relationship remained strong through the hardest of times because the devotion they shared for one another was not faltered by the crushing of the waves that daily remained them of what could have been. But as soon as the storm had settled and stayed with them a ray of hope appears out of nowhere and breathes on new beginnings.

Through sharp and beautiful cinematography, Cianfrance is able to bring to the big screen a vibrant and timeless romance. Each scene reverberates the inner struggles that each character conveys and becomes obvious that Fassbender and Vikander are the real deal. The challenging choices the story presents after a “reawakening” occurs in both of their lives transcends across the screen and into to your heart. Rachel Weiz’s characterization of Hannah, a grieving mother with little will to live, is nothing short of magnificent as she echoes the person she once used to be before the loss of her loved ones. The score of the film is by Academy Award winner Alexandre Desplat (Argo, Philomena, The Danish Girl, Secret Life of Pets) and is the anchor that sets the motion and aura of this dramatic love story.

This is a story about love and letting go, and embracing the present and moving forward to the future. While there are moments of predictability, the dialogue is strong and thoroughly centers the story without oversaturating its ebb and flow. Highest acclaim to the performances and production of the film as it portrays the humanity that exists between the notions of right and wrong when love clouds our judgment. This film is a perfect representation of the moments in life that are taken for granted, the selfless and selfish acts that we do out of love for others and the inner sadness that we battle in our search for forgiveness. A powerful, heartbreaking story beautifully told of what it means to love and to be loved.