2017: 100 Book Challenge

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Hello!

Welcome to another 2017 round-up post. I’ve already done a post about my favorite and least favorite movies of the 2017 and now it is time for my list of book for this year. I don’ really post about books on this blog (I write short comments about them on Instagram as @sharingshelves) but since a lot of the books I’ve read are movie related (novels and comics that are adapted into films or non-fiction works about movies), I thought that some of you might be interested in my suggestions/recommendations. Also, I wasn’t planning on repeating the challenge but I managed to finish 100 books again this year (did the same in 2016). I have to promise myself that I’m not even going to attempt to read this many books next year, as when I have a certain numerical goal in mind, the reading experience does become more about quantity than quality.

Before I give you the list, here are a couple of general notes about it:
• From the 100 books this year, 10 were in Lithuanian (my native language) and 90 in English – I’m reading less and less in my native language every year.
• Most popular authors were Galbraith/Rowling for novels and Ennis, Bendis, and Snyder for comic books.
• I’ve read more graphic novels this year but fewer non-fiction books. My most often read comic book characters were Batman and Wonder Woman.
• I didn’t do an author break down by nationality but a general overview is this – I mostly read books by English-speakers. I didn’t even read a single book by a Lithuanian author (one by an author of Lithuanian descent was on the list, though).
• I’ve read mostly stand-alone books this year: if we’are not counting the comic book series, I’ve only read one full novel series.
• The 20th and 21st-century books were my most preferred for leisure reading, while for my English course, I’ve jumped around all time periods, but mostly focused on the literature of the 19th century.

Anyways, here is my list of books divided into the different genres. In every part, I’ve highlighted a couple of my favorites! I have also linked some movie reviews next to the relevant books. Enjoy!

Non-fiction:

  1. S. Cain – ‘Quiet: The Power of the Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’
  2. W. Isaacson – ‘Steve Jobs’ (adapted to film)
  3. R. Roll – ‘Finding Ultra’
  4. P. Pfitzinger and S.Douglas – ‘Advanced Marathoning’
  5. F. Hufton – ‘Running: How To Get Started’

Fiction:

  1. D. Brown – ‘Digital Fortress’
  2. M. Zusak – ‘The Book Thief’
  3. W. Carther – ‘Death Comes For The Archbishop’
  4. Z. N. Hurston – ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’
  5. N. Gaiman – ‘American Gods’
  6. N. Gaiman – ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’
  7. S. Meyer – ‘ The Chemist’
  8. A. Huxley – ‘Brave New World’
  9. A. Huxley – ‘Island: a novel’
  10. I. Welsh – ‘Trainspotting’ (adapted to film)
  11. J. Moyes – ‘ The Girl You Left Behind’
  12. L. Groff – ‘Fates and Furies’
  13. R. Galbraith – The Cuckoo’s Calling’
  14. R. Galbraith – ‘The Silkworm’
  15. R. Galbraith – ‘Career of Evil’
  16. L. Moriarty – ‘Big Little Lies’
  17. A. Burgess – ‘A Clockwork Orange’
  18. G. Orwell – ‘Animal Farm: a fairy story’
  19. G. Orwell – ‘1984′
  20. D. Eggers – ‘The Circle’ (adapted to film – review)
  21. J. le Carre – ‘The Night Manager’
  22. E. Morgenstern – ‘The Night Circus’
  23. L. Evans – ‘Their Finest’ (adapted to film – review)
  24. M. Bulgakov – ‘The Master and Margarita’
  25. D. O’Porter – ‘Goose’
  26. C. Palahniuk – ‘Fight Club’
  27. C. Bukowski – ‘Post Office’
  28. N. Larsen – ‘Passing’
  29. G.R.R. Martin and G. Dozois (as editors) – ‘Rogues’
  30. D. Gibbins – ‘Crusader Gold’
  31. R. Sepetys – ‘Between Shades of Gray’
  32. B. Ridgway – ‘The River of No Return’
  33. F. Molnar – ‘The Paul Street Boys’
  34. T. Parsons – ‘Starting Over’
  35. T. Capote – ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’
  36. A. Christie – ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (adapted to film – review)
  37. A. Thomas – ‘The Hate U Give’
  38. P.K. Dick – ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ (adapted to film – review)
  39. S. King – ‘It’ (adapted to film – review)

Cinema related books:

  1. G. Jenkins – ‘Empire Building’
  2. J. Luceno – ‘Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel’
  3. A. Freed – ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ novelization (film review)
  4. C. Fisher – ‘Postcards From The Edge’
  5. C. Fisher – ‘The Princess Diarist’
  6. C. Fisher – ‘Wishful Drinking’
  7. D. O’Neil – ‘The Dark Knight’ novelization
  8. C. Clark – ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me’
  9. C. Clark – ‘My Week with Marilyn’
  10. J.K. Rowling – ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ script (film review)
  11. A. Kendrick – ‘Scrappy Little Nobody’
  12. S. Nathan and S. Roman – ‘Frozen’ novelization
  13. S. Bukatman – ‘Blade Runner – BFI Film Classics’

English 3rd year degree books:

  1. Aeschylus – ‘Prometheus Bound’
  2. C. Marlowe – ‘Doctor Faustus
  3. J. Milton – ‘Paradise Lost’
  4. M. Shelley – ‘Frankenstein; 1818 text’
  5. R. Henryson – ‘The Testament of Cresseid’
  6. D. Defoe – ‘Robinson Crusoe’
  7. N. Shephard – ‘The Quarry Wood’
  8. N. Larsen – ‘Quicksand’
  9. A. Carter – ‘The Bloody Chamber and other stories’
  10. C. Bronte – ‘Jane Eyre’
  11. E. Bronte – ‘Wuthering Heights’
  12. A. Bronte – ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’
  13. G. Elliot – ‘The Lifted Veil’
  14. G. Elliot – ‘The Mill on The Floss’
  15. C. Dickens – ‘Great Expectations’
  16. H.G. Wells – ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’
  17. B. Stoker – ‘Dracula’
  18. W. Collins – ‘The Woman in White’

Graphic novels:

  1. Various authors – ‘Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Doctor Strange’ (film review)
  2. D. Abnett – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon and Groot steal the galaxy’ (film review)
  3. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Gone To Texas’
  4. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Until The End Of The World’
  5. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Proud Americans’
  6. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Ancient History’
  7. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Dixie Fried’
  8. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 1’
  9. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 2’
  10. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 3’
  11. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 4’
  12. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 1 The Lies’ (film review)
  13. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 2 Year One’
  14. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 3 The Truth’
  15. M. Finch and D. Finch – ‘Wonder Woman: Resurrection’
  16. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The Court of Owls’
  17. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The Nights of Owls’
  18. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The City of Owls’
  19. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: Endgame’
  20. J. Tyrion – ‘Batman Detective Comics Rebirth: Volume 1 Rise of the Batmen’
  21. G. Morrison and A. Kubert – ‘Batman and Son’
  22. T. S. Daniel – Batman: Battle for the Cowl’
  23. A. Conner and J. Palmiotti – ‘Harley Quinn Rebirth: Volume 3 Red Meat’
  24. J. Hickman and C. Pacheco – ‘Ultimate Thor: Volume 1’ (film review)
  25. M. Wagner – ‘Trinity’ (film review)

And that is it for the books I’ve read this year! What was your favorite book(s) of the year? What are you planning on/excited to read in 2017?

Leave a comment below and Have a Happy New Year!

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Movie review: The Mummy

Movie reviews, Music

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review of a film that literally could have come out at any time in the last two decades – The Mummy!

IMDb summary: An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

The Mummy is the official beginning of the rebooted Universal Monsters franchise, now titled Dark Universe. The first attempt to revive this classical (1920s-1950s) series happened in 2014 with the release of Dracula Untold, however, since the film underperformed, it was later made non-canon. And yet, I still feel like it might be reinstated into the franchise, as The Mummy is not fairing much better, neither critically nor financially. One last note – Universal’s Monster Dark Universe should NOT be confused with Legendary’s MonsterVerse, which has Godzilla and King Kong instead of The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, and The Mummy.

Writing

The 14th The Mummy film was written by David Koepp (who has worked on some of my favorite pictures – Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, Panic Room; some stinkers like Indy 4 and Mortdecai; and some who were somewhere in between, like Inferno and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; he is also writing Indy 5), Christopher McQuarrie (who worked on The Usual Suspects and a trifecta of Tom Cruise films: Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, and MI 5; he is next both scripting and directing MI 6) and the actor Dylan Kussman (the least accomplished screenwriter on the project – this is only his 3rd project as a writer). The story credits were also given to Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange, Passengers), the actress Jenny Lumet (she wrote Rachel Getting Married), and the director of the film.

I actually quite enjoyed the writing for The Mummy – it was definitely better than the writing for a few blockbusters that I’ve seen this summer movie season already. The film started on a really solid footing – the set up was good and interesting enough even if a bit heavy-handed and dense (I always liked the mixture of history and fantasy, so maybe that’s why I liked that ancient Egypt sequence)  – but the promising script fizzled out in the 3rd act (the love story and the solution to defeating The Mummy were both predictable). Also, the set-up story was repeated too many times. The viewers did not need to hear the same exposition 3 or more times.

The characters were great though – I liked the fact that we got to see the narrative through the ‘everyman’s’ perspective (even if Tom Cruise isn’t really an ‘everyman’). What I liked the most about his characters was the fact that he was a genuine idiot – let me explain – his character was a thief and not even a very good one, so the stupid actions that he had to make during the plot actually sorta made sense. It would have been illogical if a super smart person acted that certain way that action movie narratives require. I also liked the contrast between the two leads, how she was a scientist and he was totally clueless about most of the stuff except how much everything is worth on the black market. The duo of the two military partners was also good – I liked how one was an adventurer and the other wanted nothing more than not to be there. These contrasts between the characters gave rise to some funny moments. Actually, The Mummy was a way funnier movie in general than I expected it to be. A lot of the funny moments stemed from the awkward encounters or involved characters reacting to stuff – nothing too original but at least these scenes weren’t cringe-y.

Looking to the future of the series, the two main things should be kept in mind. First, Russel Crowe’s double identity (Jekyll and Hyde, good and evil) will probably come into play in the next film. He, as the head of Prodigium, is the connecting tissue for the Dark Universe, so his involvement in all the films is all but guaranteed. Second, Tom Cruise’s character’s double identity, acuired in the final act, will probably be also explored further, maybe in other Dark Universe films or perhaps in The Mummy 2, when or if that movie materializes (the future is unclear due to lukewarm reception from critics and moviegoers alike).

Directing

The Mummy was directed by the screenwriter Alex Kurtzman – this was only his second directorial attempt and it wasn’t a bad one for sure. The pacing was fine and the action sequences were serviceable too. The design of The Mummy was really cool looking as well and her powers were realized well (even if they were really vague). I especially liked that reanimation effect – it lookes appropriatelly disgusting. The world building/the visualization of mythology was fine too. The design for The Mummy’s victims-turned-zombies could have been better though – they looked like they were in/from World War Z. Overall, a good directing effort – not groundbreaking but nothing to be ashamed of either.

Acting

The Mummy had a pretty well-known cast. The biggest name was, of course, Tom Cruise, in the lead role Nick Morton. Say what you want about him as a person, but I still belive that Cruise is a good actor, especially when he is in his element – an action movie. He is good at physical stunts and charming AF. This time around, he also got a chance to show off his comedic skills – haven’t seen those in a while. His next film is Doug Liman’s American MadeAnnabelle Wallis (quite an unknow actress to me) starred as Jennifer Halsey and was good too. This was defintely her biggest role to date. She also had a small part in the new King Arthur film, which I’m finally seeing in a couple of days.

Sofia Boutella played Princess Ahmanet. She has made a name for herself by performing physically interesting or challenging roles in pictures like Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond. Those skills really helped her embody The Mummy as well. Her next film is Atomic BlondeRussell Crowe (Noah, The Nice Guys) was also good as Dr. Henry Jekyll. I like the fact that they were able to get a serious actor into this franchise – maybe that will give it more gravitas?

The comedian/actor Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street, Neighbors, Mike and Dave Need Weding Dates) starred as the sidekick to Tom Cruise’s character and did a good job being the comic relief. Lastly, Marwan Kenzari, who I just saw in The Promise a handful of days ago, played a security officer. I knew he looked familiar and I was rocking my brain, trying to remembering who he was, everytime he appeared on screen. 

In short, while The Mummy is a rocky start to Universal’s Dark Universe, it is a perfectly fine summer action movie. It doesn’t have any deeper themes, but it is also not convoluted, offensive or boring.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Mummy trailer

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Movie review: Terminator Genisys

Movie reviews

Hello my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer of sequels and review Terminator Genisys.

I am a kid of the 90s (I was born in late 90s), so I grew up watching Jurassic Park, Terminator and Mission Impossible on TV in the early 2000s. During this summer, we are getting sequels to all 3 of my childhood franchises. Jurassic World was normal (financially successful, a flop with the fans (review)). Sadly, Terminator Genisys is a double flop. So maybe Mission Impossible Rogue Nation will succeed in every aspect? We will find out in August. Anyway, let’s stay on topic and review the film which should be terminated.

Also, if you still plan to watch this film, don’t watch the trailer. The biggest twist and practically all cool action scenes are spoiled in the trailer.

IMDb summary: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.

Timeline

The timeline of Terminator films was complicated without this 5th installment but Genisys decided to mess it up completely. Don’t think about this movie in terms of other films – it’s impossible to put it in a timeline, so that it would make sense. You can watch the original James Cameron’s films in order to understand the Easter Eggs but the T1 and T2 won’t help you to understand the plot of T5 at all. However, if you think about this film as stand alone one (a reboot, a new beginning and so forth), it doesn’t makes sense as well. It relies too heavily on the originals but tries too hard change everything and misses the mark. The multiverse and time travelling are tricky things to do and, while I applaud the creators’ efforts, the results are bad. I hope The Flash season 2 will deal better with multiverse.

Reboot

Some people say that this is the 5th film of the franchise, some think it’s a reboot. For me, it’s somewhere in-between. The movie’s plot is definitely different – they tried to do a mash-up of T1’s and T2’s plots with some unnecessary twists added. Basically, they wanted this film to be a new generation’s version of Judgement Day. I have no idea why they wished to remake a perfect movie, by making it worse.

In addition, if you treat this as a reboot, why do you cast the same actors? The Connors have always changed in between movies, so it’s okay to recast them for a reboot, but why keep Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character? I know he is iconic but if you want a fresh start, you have to leave everything behind, even your icons.

Acting/Character by character

Since I am a teenager/young adult, I should like younger actors more, but this time the old Arnold was the best one.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian/The Terminator – was the best character. His action scenes were the coolest – after all these years he still looks like a bad ass. His comedic timing was also great – the joke about smile worked for me.

Jason Clarke as John Connor was okay. Nothing too good but definitely not bad either. If his reveal wasn’t spoiled in the trailer, the movie would have been more enoyable and interesting for sure.  

Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. I am a fan of Clarke, I love her on Game Of Thrones but she is no Linda Hamilton. However, I warmed up to her by the end of the film, she won me over but it took some time.

P.S. The Clarkes were playing The Connors – I’ve only noticed that now.

Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Courtney has been getting a lot of work recently, but I still haven’t seen him in a role which he would truly make it his own. He was functional in Divergent and Insurgent (review), he didn’t stick to me in Unbroken (review), but I hope he will be awesome in Suicide Squad! (Have you seen the trailer?)

Courtney and Clarke really lacked chemistry at first, but they got there by the end of the film. Their pair and Arnold’s character made for an awesomely awkward trio.

Lee Byung-hun as a T-1000 brought some diversity to the film but I still prefer Robert Patrick in the role. I also was surprised how quickly they defeated him, when it took them the whole T2 to do the same.

J. K. Simmons as Detective O’Brien wasn’t a character but a plot device. But J.K. Simmons, being the master of acting he is, was great in the role. His comedy was nice too.

Matt Smith had a small role, which I don’t wan to spoil. I have only seen a few episodes of the Doctor Who, but after seeing what Matt Smith can do with 5 lines, I’m maybe more interested to try my hand at Doctor Who one more time.Regarding this film, I’ll only say this – if Smith’s role was bigger, the film might have been much better. 

Effects

The CGI looked terrible in some places (young Arnold *facepalm*), but really good in others (John Connor’s robotic body). T-1000 looked cool too, but he looked the same 24 years ago, so that isn’t a big compliment. Action scenes were okay too, they actually were the best part of the film because they did not require any explanation. And when this movie tried to explain something, it starter to sink like a Titanic. Or even faster than a Titanic.

Screenplay

The screenplay was the worst part of the film. The plot made absolutely no sense. I tried to follow it so hard in the first 30 minutes but then just gave up. My dad was napping the whole movie, because he wasn’t able to follow the plot too and then simply did not know what was happening and was snoozing because of boredom. I don’t know if a screenplay by a Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier was really that bad already or did a studio altered it way too much. Kalogridis was an executive producer on Avatar and Lussier wrote a few horror movies, but both of them aren’t really established writers, so maybe that was the problem.

However, I will give them credit for introducing the theme of humanity’s dependence on technology. Genisys app looked like an interesting device but we only had tiny bits of information about it. If the film focused more on the actual technology and less time on time travel and family dynamics, it might have been a really great motion picture.

Directing 

The film is directed by Alan Taylor – he has only directed 5 movies, including Thor 2, which I liked but a lot of people had mixed reactions to it. However, Taylor directed a lot of TV shows, like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Rome, Mad Men and Game of Thrones. To my mind, after this flop, he won’t be making any movies moving forward, but I hope that he will be able to get some work on TV.

All in all, I loved Arnold as the Terminator once more, the action and acting was tolerable, the plot lacked focus but wrapped itself up nicely, although, it made no sense to begin with.  I advise you not to waste your time on this film or if you do decide to see it – have very low expectations. Mine were too high. I believe that this film will be a huge box office flop and although 6th and 7th installments are slated for 2017 and 2018, I won’t believe that they will be happening, at least not with this creative team. Maybe if James Cameron had the rights back, we would actually get a good Terminator film in the 21st century.

Rate: 3.25/5 

Trailer: (spoiler-y) Terminator Genisys trailer

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Movie review: Dracula Untold

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for not posting this week but my computer crashed again and I have only just now got it back. However, now I will give you very informative Dracula Untold review, so, I hope you will forgive me for the lack of posts this week.

Vibe

I actually haven’t seen a real fantasy movie in a while. I mean, I have seen a lot of science fiction and superhero movies but those are not real fantasy. The real fantasy for me is a thing you can’t explain and can’t imagine happening in a real life. Having said that, I really liked the vibe of Dracula Untold and enjoyed the movie much more than the rest of the people who had seen it. The reviews form the critics and Rotten Tomatoes score were quite bad and Universal expected it to earn much more, especially when they are trying to launch their monsters’ cinematic universe. In addition, as a huge fan of period movies, I fancied the medieval-ish setting of the film and all those historical costumes and cool sword fights. True historic Middle East and Eastern European setting also pleased me, as I live in a country that is on the verge of being in Eastern Europe – I mean we (my nation) call ourselves part of the Western world but that doesn’t change the fact that our country is situated quite deep into the northern/eastern part of the continent.

Acting

Luke Evans was great in the role of Vlad Tepes/Dracula. I have previously seen him in Clash of Titans and The Three Musketeers. Although both these movie were kind of box office flops and fails with the critics, I enjoyed Luke’s acting nonetheless. He was also great villain in Fast&Furious 6 and don’t even get me started on how excited I am about the third and final Hobbit film.

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Another, one of my favorite actors, is Dominic Cooper and I really liked him in this film as well. I have seen quite a few of his movies, starting with Mama Mia (when it came out, I was 11 and going through a phase of worshiping ABBA, so that movie was perfect for me) and I am also really excited that he will be reprising his role as Howard Stark in the Agent Carter TV series.

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The third actor I would like to mention is, of course, Charles Dance. As a huge GoT fan, I was really happy to see him in this movie, his role was quite small, but he did an amazing job with what little time he had on screen. I am really sad that Tywin (his character on GoT) died at the end of season 4 but I hope we will see him in flash backs in season 5.

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The main female character – Vlad’s wife – was played by Sarah Gadon. I wasn’t familiar with her work before and I got to say – she was quite disposable in this movie. Anybody could have played her character.

Lastly, props to the young kid playing Vlad’s son- Art Parkinson– he was really good. I didn’t recognize him while watching the film but, doing the research for this article; I found out that he used to be on Game of Thrones too – playing Rickon Stark. I knew he seemed familiar!

Visuals

I liked the visuals and the overall dark and appropriate mood for the film. The scenes where vampires were turning into bats looked cool and the last “burning alive in the sunlight” scene was also great. Charles Dance also looked amazing in his costume – the make up was superb. I also really liked how the Dracula looked when he went into full on vampire mode with his eyes glowing, skin darkening and fangs gleaming.

Story

I liked the overall plot, it differed form the source material but practically everything in Hollywood nowadays does so. Moreover, I loved the fact that the movie was only half and hour long because I am so tired of these super long films that can’t seem to wrap up. The plotline of “sometimes we don’t need a hero, we need a monster” reminded me of Batman’s infamous quote: “I am not a hero Gotham needs, I am the one it deserves” or something liked that. The final acts (SPOILER) of Dracula turning his last people into the vampires, defeating Mehmed in the last dual and demolishing last pieces of sultan’s army in an uneven fight were really great scenes. However, the saying goodbye to his son and sacrificing himself and all his followers was predictable but enjoyable twist. Soul mates/star crossed lovers meeting in a different period and unexpected ‘friend’ from the past were also quite nice predictions of a possible sequel.

All in all, the movie was quite good, though, you can definitely find a handful of clichés in it. The visuals and acting were superb while the story might lack intensity for majority’s taste. I enjoyed it nonetheless and I hope Luke Evans will reappear as Dracula in the future Universal’s monster movies.

Rate 4/5

Trailer: Dracula Untold trailer

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