BLU-RAY REVIEW: HOUSESITTER

Housesitter is a film that shares a few things in common with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Both star Steve Martin playing a character where he has to deceive some people and both are directed by Frank Oz. Housesitter was never a film that was going to win any awards but it is ultimately a fun and forgettable little lightweight comedy.

The story goes as follows: Newton Davis (Martin) is an architect working away in a hum-drum job. He builds his dream house in his idyllic hometown and proposes to his childhood sweetheart, Becky (Dana Delany.) Things are looking pretty sweet until Becky rejects Newton’s proposal.

Three months later Newton is still reeling from the rejection. But he finds solace in the arms of a quick-thinking waitress named Gwen Phillips (an effervescent Goldie Hawn.) Gwen is a compulsive liar. She initially tells Newton that she’s Hungarian. But she’s just a free spirit who enjoys reinventing herself and living new lives. The pair have a one night stand but Newton leaves before the morning arrives.

This film requires a huge suspension of disbelief with respect to what happens next. Gwen has a napkin containing a drawing of Newton’s dream house and decides that this is enough to jack in her waitressing job and set up house in the vacant one that Newton built (when she doesn’t even know the exact address.) In Gwen’s first hour in town (after finding “the house”) she sets up accounts in Newton’s name and tells everyone (including his ex and his parents) that she is Newton’s wife. This is the first of a web of lies that become more and more convoluted and complicated.

When Newton learns about what happens he isn’t that mad because he views the situation as an opportunity to get back together with his ex-girlfriend. Newton’s ex becomes jealous of Gwen and Newton’s love and marriage even though their wedded bliss is a sham. Gwen may be a liar but she at least improves Newton’s life for the better- by reuniting him with his father, helping him win a promotion at work, etc. But is it love?

This film basically sees Steve Martin playing the same character he always plays- the over-the-top anxious/serious guy. He seems a tad too old for this role. Goldie Hawn is also the same age as Martin was at the time (46) but she is better-preserved and more believable in her role. Hawn is the real star here and she carries this film as the attractive and sensuous eye candy as well as playing a ditzy woman on the surface but quite a calculating and well-meaning liar as you dig a little deeper.

Housesitter is a zany little comedy caper that could do with a few more laughs. It has some pleasing moments and it’s an easy watch but it’s not an excellent movie by any stretch of the imagination. This outrageous and over-the-top comedy is an enjoyable little piece of escapism but don’t expect it to stay with you beyond the closing credits.

Originally published on 19 March 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/whole-truth-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com

BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE WHOLE TRUTH

 

The Whole Truth is a courtroom drama and thriller that spends its entire runtime getting to the truth of a matter. The film is one that – for the most part – keeps the audience guessing in much the same way as Doubt did. This ultimately makes for a story that is not a bad one to watch, even if there are areas needing improvement and the ending is a tad predictable.

Keanu Reeves stars as a hard-drinking, defence lawyer named Richard Ramsey. He also narrates the story but his delivery is so detached and flat and the content adds so little to the film that for the most part it seems like these are obtrusive elements are like a fly that you’d love to swat away. Reeves’ performance is also rather uneven and unconvincing as he attempts to play a guy trying to defend an open-and-shut case on behalf of a family friend.

A wealthy personal injury lawyer named Boone Lassiter (Jim Belushi in a rare dramatic role) is found dead. He was stabbed and has a knife protruding from his chest. His son Mike (a poker-faced, Gabriel Basso) kneels above his estranged, old man’s body and mutters, “Should have done this a long time ago.” The police take this as a confession and it is Ramsey’s job to try to defend the boy and possibly get him acquitted of murder.

The main problem is that Mike won’t talk, not even to his lawyer. So Ramsey adopts a strategy of making it look like the prosecution is winning the case until some extra, crucial pieces of information are revealed. But are some of these red herrings that have been planted or are they the actual truth?

Boone is painted as a philanderer and a tyrant who assaulted his wife (a troubled, Renée Zellweger). The information is revealed via a series of flashbacks with director, Courtney Hunt (Frozen River) attempting to keep the audience on their toes until the very end.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion) also appears in this film. She plays Janelle and is brought in as a young, eager-to-prove herself co-counsel to assist Ramsey. Mbatha-Raw’s role is a largely thankless one. Janelle attempts to suss out the truth and discovers that there could be more to this story than meets the eye. The only thing that seems certain here is that there are many shades of grey and at least a few people are telling secrets and lies.

The Whole Truth is a drab-looking film. It’s shot mostly in-doors in the grey courtroom and is rather dull in depicting the events leading up to it so it’s really an unnecessary one to view on Blu-ray. It also tries to weave together a bunch of different subplots while forcing the audience to question just who Boone’s killer was and what was their motive. For a straight-to-video film it certainly has its movements but you also get the sense that with a few adjustments it could have been so much better.

Originally published on 8 March 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/whole-truth-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com

BOOK REVIEW: MARTIN SIXSMITH – AYESHA’S GIFT

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Ayesha’s Gift is a book that could also be called “Ayesha’s Curse” because it is brimming with sorrow. It’s the fictionalised account of the real-life events that saw Philomena author and former BBC foreign correspondent, Martin Sixsmith assist in investigating the death of a British-Pakistani man. The book is ultimately a rather multi-faceted detective tale where a murder is solved, cultures collide and a kind of quiet respect, empathy and trust is forged between two unlikely main characters.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201702/224417

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

BOOK REVIEW: BEATRICE COLIN – TO CAPTURE WHAT WE CANNOT KEEP

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If you’re looking for a wonderful romance novel to consume on Valentine’s Day then To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a worthy candidate. This historic fiction book by Beatrice Colin is a good, old-fashioned love story set in the 19th century in Paris after building has commenced on the Eiffel Tower. Some of the real-life characters star in this novel and at the end of the day it’s the kind of tale that makes you realise why Paris is considered the city of love.

The story’s main character is the complex but likeable, Caitriona Wallace. She’s a young and mostly smart widow from Scotland. Her husband succumbed to an untimely death so in order to make ends meet she agrees to chaperone two annoying, little rich kids to Paris. Nice work if you can get it!

Catriona’s charges are the disorganised, lazy and privileged lady’s man, Jaime and his flighty younger sister, Alice. The latter is silly and quite often obsessed with appearances and keeping up with the Jones’s. There are quite a few occasions where Alice feels like she could be considered Lydia Bennett’s (Pride & Prejudice) Scottish clone. The similarities to Austen’s novel do not end there, as Colin’s work is also a multi-faceted one where love, revenge, lies, society and manners are all deftly-tackled, albeit in a historic setting.

This story looks at the burgeoning romance between the low-class, Caitriona and Emile Nouguier, a Frenchman who is an engineer working on the Eiffel Tower and a member of high society. The two have to keep their courtship a secret due to their marked differences in social standing. There is also pressure from Nouguier’s elderly mother because she wants her son to be betrothed to the “right girl.” These ingredients make for a beautifully-written slice of sexy escapism where rules are broken almost as often as they’re followed.

To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a novel that’s as vibrant, charming and atmospheric as the city of Paris itself. It also shares a few things in common with great romance stories by Austen or more recently Natasha Lester’s A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald. To Capture What We Cannot Keep is an absolute treat, an evocative and easy read where you can sit back, relax and enjoy the warm embrace of a sumptuous historic drama and a beguiling romance that is tres magnifique.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-to-capture-what-we-cannot-keep

BOOK REVIEW: ANNA ROMER – BEYOND THE ORCHARD

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Beyond the Orchard is an Australian saga spanning multiple years, taking in different generations and perspectives. It seems to have a lot in common with the late Bryce Courtenay’s work insofar as it’s an epic slice of Australiana. The book is the third novel by Anna Romer (Thornwood House) and a rich and detailed tapestry where some different characters lives are all interwoven together through a series of secrets and lies.

The story stars Lucy Briar, a young woman whose mother passed away when she was just a young girl. Briar is now all grown up and has been living in London for the past few years. She is also newly engaged. Lucy left Australia for the UK a few years ago after a relationship with an older man (the father of a friend of hers) had gone awry.

Lucy is called back to her childhood home after she is invited to her friends’ wedding. Before Briar arrives in Victoria she receives a message from her estranged grandfather that is completely unexpected. He wants to meet her and set the record straight on a few things regarding the past. Sadly, Lucy’s grandpa does not get the opportunity to follow through with his promise. But little by little Lucy undertakes he own detective work and uncovers a rich and complicated family history and some life events that involve her relatives as well as love, loss, death, despair and redemption.

Anna Romer’s novel is a rather ambitious one that threads together the perspectives of various characters living at different points in history. She also adds additional textural flourishes in the form of extracts from a book written by Lucy’s father Ronald. These extra storylines add greater depth and meaning to the existing characters and their motivations because it is a case of art imitating life.

Beyond the Orchard feels like it’s a real story because it is so atmospheric and emotional. It’s a testament to Romer’s fabulous writing that the characters seem as rich and complex as real people. Romer’s prose is well-written and sometimes quite poetic and beautiful. This book is a well-constructed one where mystery and romance make for one haunting and intriguing family history.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-beyond-the-orchard

BOOK REVIEW: RACHAEL JOHNS – THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS

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Rachael Johns knows how to tell a good story. The author has written numerous romance novels and chick lit books. Her latest novel, The Art of Keeping Secrets is a well-crafted and emotional piece of fiction. It’s also a story that is a testament to the power of female friendship.

The story is about three women who have been friends for the past five years while their sons have been studying together at high-school. The trio have a regular book club meeting but they’re also heavily involved in each other’s lives. You have the down-to-earth Felicity (known to everyone as “Flick”) who is a non-nonsense woman and a keen taxidermist. She seems to be living a textbook romance despite being married to her near-perfect husband Seb for years. But is their marriage all it’s cracked up to be?

Emma is the divorced mother of Caleb and twin teenage girls, Laura and Louise. She is a superwoman juggling the new demands of full-time work and single motherhood. She appears to be coping but she is also harbouring a number of secrets of the head and heart. Then there’s Genevieve (known as “Neve”) who is a looks-obsessed make-up artist and a single mum who has a close relationship with her son, Will because she has always been the sole parent in his life. The only problem is she hasn’t told Will the truth about his father’s true identity.

This novel is told in the third person and split into separate chapters focusing on each of these strong women. Their friendship is a real and inspiring one and the trio are almost like sisters. They’ve shared lots of things together and they’ve also had their share of ups and downs and lived to tell the tale afterwards. So they should be able to make it through anything that life throws at them, right?

Rachael Johns has crafted an excellent little book in The Art of Keeping Secrets. She reveals things slowly with just enough to keep the reader hooked and interested. The reader is basically strapped into an emotional roller coaster of a journey, bumps and all! In sum, this book is a fun read about three strong, everyday women and it examines the choices they make and how their secrets, lies and betrayals have lasting impacts on the individuals living around them. Fascinating stuff.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net

DVD REVIEW: HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT

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How To Make An American Quilt is a film that is written by, directed by and starring women. It’s a dramatic story that looks at a group of women and the love, hurt, lies and betrayals they have experienced in their course of loving men. The story isn’t’ an overly preachy one but it does try to cover a bit too much ground. This means it’s like a missed opportunity where you are often just scratching the surface of all the characters and their different backstories.

The film was originally a novel by Whitney Otto and was adapted for the screen by Jane Anderson with our very own, Jocelyn Moorhouse (The Dressmaker) at the helm. Winona Ryder (Little Women) stars as Finn, a flighty Berkeley masters student who seems to go through thesis and research ideas like some people go through clean clothes. Finn is the product of a broken home so she’s a little apprehensive when she is asked for her hand in marriage by her well-meaning boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney.)

Finn’s response to the proposal is to go and live in California with her grandmother (Ellen Burstyn.) It is there that she is introduced to her gran’s quilting group. These strong women have come together to make Finn’s wedding present, a gift about the meaning of love. As the group sit around sewing and sharing their stories they open up to Finn about their own broken hearts and bittersweet romances. Some of these flashbacks have culminated in broken dreams, single motherhood or longing over what might have been. In other instances the women found themselves either in the arms of another man or their beau’s arms wrapped around another woman’s.

This story is tender and it tries to get you to think. Finn’s own character has a lot of introspection and navel-gazing to do. There’s the marriage proposal and her thesis to contemplate as well as the promise of an exciting summer fling with the seductive Leon (Johnathon Schaech.) Finn also enjoys the refuge and counsel offered by these wise older women who have been through a lot before and essentially had a lot of adventures and life experience that they can talk about.

How To Make An American Quilt is not a perfect film where the characters rich backstories from a detailed and cohesive tapestry. Instead, it barely skirts around the surface of these vignettes meaning it’s all a little haphazard, just like in real life. In all, this is a good little film where some strong performances take us on a journey through some methodical stories about love, loss and life. It’s like a lukewarm chicken soup for the soul, it could’ve been tasty but it is lacking a bit in bite.

 

Originally published on 24 July 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/how-to-make-an-american-quilt-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

BOOK REVIEW: ALYSON NOËL – UNRIVALED

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Unrivaled is not your typical book. It’s supposed to be a suspense/thriller set in the bright lights of Hollywood and told from four different perspectives. The premise is ultimately a good one but the writing is overly simplistic and the characters are too stereotyped and clichéd to appeal to adults (although this could be perfectly pitched at the young adult readers the novel was designed for).

Alyson Noël is a successful author of over 20 books and is a New York Times best-seller whose work has been translated into multiple languages. Her latest offering, Unrivaled is the first in a new trilogy called, “Beautiful Idols.” It’s a young-adult novel and I think this may be why I had trouble engaging with the story. As a 32 year old Australian woman with only a passing interest in celebrity (and a distinct hatred of anyone that is famous for the sake of being famous) I found this story to be too vapid, slow and superficial.

The story begins with the mysterious disappearance of Hollywood It-girl, Madison Brooks. She is someone that is harbouring a number of secrets but she is certainly not alone on this front. The story then turns back time to a month prior where we meet three young, hungry teens who have agreed to take part in a contest run by a Hollywood heavyweight called Ira Redman. The competition will see an aspiring entertainment journalist named Layla, a wannabe musician called Tommy and a bratty would-be actress named Aster competing with other desperate teens to become a full-time promoter for one of Redman’s clubs. To do so they must get people through the door of one of his establishments and the more famous the guest, the better.

The book is a slow-burner and it spends a lot of time detailing the competition and the lengths the characters will stoop to. Even with all of this information, the characters still feel rather hollow and not fully formed, especially when they do things that are completely unexpected. The story of the competition also lacks suspense and it merely unfolds amidst the expected world of hidden agendas, dirty laundry, secrets, lies and the like. The book really hits its stride when it manages to catch up with the part of Brook’s disappearance but it ends in  such an unsatisfying and abrupt way in order to leave things open for the sequel that some readers may walk away feeling cheated by this turn of events.

Unrivaled is a dark novel that shows how ambitions can turn poisonous with a bunch of unlikeable and self-absorbed characters that seem like a reflection of today’s society. Noël is a good writer but this novel is a flat one, as it details some beautiful people’s competitive natures in the seedy underbelly of Hollywood. It was a book that wasn’t to my liking but the kids may enjoy this easy-to-read tale of celebrity thrills and spills.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-unrivaled

BOOK REVIEW: LUKE DEVENISH – THE SECRET HEIRESS

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The Secret Heiress is a rich, historic fiction book set in Castlemaine, Australia in 1886 and 1903. The novel is by screenwriter, playwright, author and academic, Luke Devenish. The latter is no stranger to writing about history as his two previous books were set in Ancient Rome. His latest offering is a rather mysterious one set closer to home.

The novel is told in two separate, interwoven parts. Initially we meet Ida, a naïve farm girl who is offered an amazing opportunity to work as a housemaid at the exquisite, Summersby House. Ida accepts the job because it’s a great opportunity for a poor girl who has been told that she’s not very bright. It’s possible that her intelligence was not given its full credit because she is a rather inquisitive young lady nonetheless.

Ida has a rickety start at Summersby. Her mistress, Miss Gregory is found dead on Ida’s first day. But Ida perseveres because she hopes that someone at Summersby will still want to employ her. That somebody proves to be the charming and handsome gentleman, Samuel Hackett and the former fiancé of the late Miss Gregory who wishes for Ida to continue her work at the stately home. Things initially seem okay but then a serious of mysterious events start taking place and these contribute to a rather strange and vivid mystery entangling all of the characters.

The other main thread in this book stars Biddy MacBryde, a young lady with a cheeky disposition who works as a Reverend’s kitchen maid. Her big mouth sees her fired and eventually she is lured to the elusive surrounds of Summersby where she is employed as a friend/companion to one of the residents. She also possesses a natural curiosity for the house’s inhabitants and what she discovers is a rather complicated story entrenched in the past.

Luke Devenish’s prose is well-written but there are moments where it is a bit too detailed and flowery for its own good. The novel is a sprawling and ambitious one that is engaging. But there are some moments where it is a tad too confusing and difficult to understand- namely where the identities of the twin sisters, Margaret and Matilda Gregory are described. The characterisation is rich but the names are too similar and the structure is a little too messy and this can confuse some readers. Thankfully this is all resolved eventually in what is a rather neat and satisfying ending.

The Secret Heiress is a complex book filled with layers of lies and deceit. It’s an interesting story and Devenish should be commended for setting a dark and gothic tale in Australia. There are some minor problems that let this book down but ultimately it is quite a dark and stirring read set in an opulent house and grounds. Nice.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-the-secret-heiress

BOOK REVIEW: JOSEPHINE MOON – THE BEEKEEPER’S SECRET

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The Beekeeper’s Secret marks a slight departure in style for Australian author, Josephine Moon. In her third novel the writer has once again put together a vibrant and easy-to-read story about love, loss, family and friendship but this time around also manages to thread in some extra twists of suspense and mystery to the tale, as well tackling some dark and topical subject matter.  This was ultimately an enjoyable book boasting some well-realised characters and hopefully this is not the last that readers will hear from this diverse and intriguing lot.

The story stars a kind-hearted and well-meaning former nun named Maria Lindsey. The latter likes nothing more than her solitary life tending to her honeybees and making honey-based products that she can sell at the local markets in order to raise funds for an orphanage in Cambodia. Maria is a likeable character who is also harbouring a number of terrible secrets. She is plagued by a sense of guilt and feels like she needs to continue in her quest for atonement.

Tansy Butterfield is a successful 30-year-old interior decorator and the estranged niece of Lindsey. She is suffering a mid-life crisis because she must reconsider her feelings and make some big decisions with respect to child-rearing and following her husband overseas. At the same time she also wants to establish a relationship with an aunt she’s never met and knows nothing about. If that’s not enough, Butterfield also has a tight-knit immediate family and they are battling a number of their own issues like loss of faith, infidelity, sick children and regrets about the past.

Moon’s story was a little slow to begin with but it really hit its stride in the middle and towards the end. The characters are rich and realistic ones like those found in Marian Keyes’s novels and the story is an interesting and relevant dramedy that contains added messages, meaning and metaphors thanks to the vivid descriptions of honeybees. In all, this book shows a dysfunctional family negotiating their way through rights, wrongs, cover-ups, lies and betrayals in a story that is like a pot of amber gold and a rather sweet family tale.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28509498-the-beekeeper-s-secret

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