Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (2011) [Minor Spoilers]

I decided I had to read this book after I saw the trailer for the film. I’ll admit the main things that stood out to me in the trailer were Asa Butterfield and Eva Green but the concept interested me too. The idea of an orphanage for children with powers was something I hadn’t seen before –  the closest thing being Camp Half-Blood in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians. I decided that I had to see the film, and, as with most films based on books, I decided that I had to read the book before the film. (I usually do this. I did it with Percy Jackson, City of Bones, Divergent, The Hunger Games, Twilight – and even Wicked, before I saw the musical.)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is about a teenage boy named Jacob, who, after a family tragedy, goes to a small island off the coast of Wales in search of the home his grandfather lived in as an evacuee during World War II. Jacob’s grandfather had told him fantasical stories about his childhood in that home and Jacob felt a pull towards the place.

This book didn’t go the way I expected it to. From the way the trailer is, I thought the story would take place during modern day, but it doesn’t. Jacob winds up in 1940 inside a thing called a Loop. A Loop is a form of stasis for the children and Miss Peregrine. The same day is repeated again and again and the children don’t grow older. They remember the events of the previous days as you and I do outside of a Loop, but they are forever living on the 3rd September 1940. The Loop keeps the children safe from the hollows – mutated Peculiars with a hunger for Peculiar flesh – as well as the bomb that was dropped on the home by a German bomber. The Loop resets just before the bomb explodes, keeping everyone safe.

I really enjoyed this book and managed to read it in just over a week. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump all year and haven’t read nearly as much as I’ve wanted to, so reading it in a week is pretty good for me this year. I enjoyed the photographs that accompany the story. At the back of the book, the author states that all photographs featured in the book are actual vintage photographs which had little to no editing involved on them. Being in a slump, the photographs helped break up the story a little bit more than the chapters alone did, and this helped me get through the book more easily than I probably would have otherwise.

I would say that Jacob is my favourite character, but a problem I found with this book is that the other characters aren’t characterised very well. I found it difficult to get to know the other characters, save for Jacob’s father. Hopefully this will improve in the rest of the series. I’ll find out soon enough as I’m going to get Hollow City from the library tomorrow.

The story in this first book is intriguing, to say the least. Modern fantasy is one of my favourite genres and I love entering new worlds with complex histories and creatures. The creatures and the lore in this story are original and something I’ve never seen the likes of before. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing the film. I hope they live up to expectations.

Django Unchained (2012) [Spoilers]

(I think it’s worth noting that reviewing film is more difficult for me than TV)

This was an odd film for me to watch. I wasn’t really interested when it came out in 2012, nor was I really interested in watching it when I actually sat down to watch it. Generally any film that’s about slavery in America doesn’t interest me. I’ve seen a few and they tend to be similar films with similar plots and similar characters. So I was actually surprised to enjoy Django Unchained.

Django Unchained is a film about a slave, Django, who is freed (literally unchained) by a German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz, in the need of his help. As their relationship progresses, Django reveals to Schultz that he is married but that his wife is currently owned by a powerful plantation owner. Schultz agrees to travel to Candieland with Django, the plantation where his wife is currently enslaved and owned by Calvin Candie, in order to rescue his wife from the slaver.

Before I get into this, I think it’s prudent that I tell you that this is only the second Tarantino film I’ve seen (the first being From Dusk Until Dawn, which I didn’t enjoy much due to me watching the TV series first and finding the film lacking.) Naturally, I’ve seen multiple scenes from Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, but I’ve not seen either of the films all the way through. I plan on it, I’ve just never gotten around to watching them.

First of all, this film was funny. That was something I was really not expecting. It’s been 4 years since I’ve seen the trailer or anything to do with the film so anything that was hinted at has gone from my memory. Of course it’s all ridiculously dark humour, such as the moment Schultz shoots Django’s original slaver in the head – which is much more amusing to watch than it sounds due to the conversation leading up to it, which I can’t remember in detail.

Another thing – lots and lots of blood. I knew that was coming because I know Tarantino likes lots of blood in his films, but I didn’t expect so much in the film. Throughout most of the film, when characters of killed, there really isn’t much blood, so it made the shootout in Candie’s house so much more surprising. It was like watching a live action episode of Bleach, with excessive amounts of blood spraying all over the place. I’m not trying to be insulting, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of films I watch nowadays have so little blood that it’s refreshing to see Tarantino remind audiences that the human body has 5 litres of blood and that large calibre bullet will in fact cause that to spatter out of the body onto everything around it.

I was upset to see Schultz die near the end of the film, as he was a rare character that exists in films about slavery that doesn’t believe in enslaving human beings. However, his final act was both amusing and satisfying, so he went out with a bang (figuratively and literally). Although, the blood spatter on the bookcases behind him was magnificent.

Django’s wife, Broomhilda von Shaft, played by Kerry Washington was a rather timid character (as one would be in her situation) but I did find it jarring to see Washington in a -for lack of a better word – ‘weak’ role after seeing her play Olivia Pope in the TV show Scandal. She did a good job of it, and I’m not complaining as I know this is the job of an actor, I just felt the need to point it out.

Overall, I liked this film. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I definitely liked it. It’s not something I would watch again, however. I feel the movie was a bit too long and could have easily been shortened whilst still keeping with the development of characters and plot.

The Winds of Winter – Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale

Anyone who knows me knows that my opinion of the last 2 seasons of Game of Thrones is pretty negative. I’m a person who likes my adaptations to stick to the original source material as closely as possible, something Game of Thrones hasn’t done as of late.

Now I know nothing can stick to source material 100%, especially something as large as A Song of Ice and Fire, but they managed well with seasons 1-4 without much of a problem, but then crammed 2 novels (3 books) worth of material into season 5 and then overtook the books for season 6, taking the story into their own hands, but I digress.

Episode 10 of almost all of the seasons has been pretty bad in my opinion. This may be because episode 9 is the big climax to each season and that episode 10 is the aftermath, which is never as enjoyable as the climax itself. However episode 10 of season 6, The Winds of Winter, was definitely a great episode. This episode might even beat episode 9 for me.

Cersei dealt with the High Sparrow and his band of fanatics, as well as taking out Margaery in the process (much to my despair). Daenerys has finally set sail for Westeros, Arya went home and crossed another name of her list (and about time too!), and Tommen met his foreseen demise, if in an unpredictable way.

Despite the fact that Margaery was killed in a fiery explosion and the beautiful Natalie Dormer will no longer be gracing our screens on Game of Thrones, Kings Landing hosted my favourite parts of this episode. I loved seeing Cersei’s plot unfurl. Watching Lancel crawl to the barrels of wildfire to try and put out the fuse was an enjoyable bit of mental torture for the religious fanatic. Seeing him fail was even better. The floor erupting beneath the High Sparrow and the wildfire engulfing him was a beautiful sight (despite, as I’ve said, the tragic deaths of Margaery and Loras Tyrell). What I also found amusing was the fact that Cersei used the zombie Mountain to keep Tommen away from Baelor’s Sept in order to keep him alive, but once he was told of Margaery’s death, he decided to take an stroll out of a high window of the Red Keep. What this means is that Cersei can now die at any time, since the Maegi from her childhood predicted that all of her children will die before her, and now they have. (I’m annoyed about Myrcella but I’ll let it go for now.)

The most satisfying scene in this episode, if not the entire season, was in the Twins. An unknown girl enters the great hall and serves Walder Frey a nice big pie. He wonders aloud where his sons are and the girl insists that they are already there. And by that she meant that they were dead, carved up and baked into the pie that Frey was just about to tuck into. A moment later the girl pulls off her face, revealing Arya Stark, getting revenge at last. After a nice little vengence speech, Arya slices open Walder Frey’s throat, much like how Black Walder murdered Arya’s mother.

Daenerys! Daenerys has finally set sail for Westeros. Six seasons we’ve waited for this and now it’s actually happening. Only without Ser Jorah Mormont or Daario Naharis at Dany’s side.  The big question on everyone’s lips is: When the heck did Varys get back? I also asked myself this question, and from online comments I’ve managed to understand that the last few scenes take place a while after the preceding ones. Varys manages to travel from Dorne back to Meereen, Jaime travels from Riverrun to Kings Landing, and Arya travels from Braavos to the Twins. My only problem with this theory is that Dany and Tyrion are talking about setting sail with no Varys in sight or mentioned. It’s assumed (at least by me) that Dany sets sail very soon after this conversation. I guess I’ll just have to put it down to some confusing editing and move on.