Tag Archives: Moderate Spoilers

Return to Sender (2015)

Format Reviewed: Blu-Ray (my winnings from the Film4 Fright Fest website competition!)

CrownJules Concludes:

3.5 out of 5.  Lulls you into a false sense of security, before the pay-off.


Rosamund Pike provides a sterling performance as Miranda Wells, a woman who has been violently attacked in her own home and the subsequent repercussions that affect every part of her life.  Even before the attack, she was something of a germaphobe (Mysophobia – according to Wikipedia!), but afterwards, she’s both physically traumatised and emotionally damaged.  She wants to move on, but life itself is a stark reminder of what she’s lost.  She’s trapped living in the house where the crime was committed, because no one wants to buy it.  Miranda is then driven to try and contact the man who attacked her, by writing to him in prison.  The letters get returned, unopened.  But the last letter she writes, although it is still returned, comes with an indication that she has worn him down a little.  So she visits him.

Miranda slowly begins to create some order in the chaos of her life.  She even strikes up a sort-of friendship with “William” – her attacker.  She regains her relationship with her father, and even his dog (who she severely dislikes at the start of the film)…  Miranda appears to have made enormous progress, and is almost back to her old self.  But there’s something beneath the surface, a hidden agenda.  Things are not what they seem.

When William finally is released from prison, Miranda actually invites him to help rebuild her house porch.  To the dismay of her father.  Has she really forgiven him?  Why would she strike up this “friendship”?

Why indeed…


Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is probably the best book of the series. Well, the first half is. For me, that’s primarily because a large proportion of the book is told from Jacob’s perspective. A lot more goes on in his head than Bella’s. As soon as it goes back to her, the plot slows back down again. We go from the complexities of the wolf-pack’s splintering dynamics and the stress and worry over whether Bella will survive her “condition”, immediately to “Edward is sooooo beautiful!”. I almost didn’t read the second half of the book!

I can see why the movie version made the changes that they did in terms of plot-pacing (and action sequences)! Other than the gathering of the witnesses, not much else really happens. Kind of anti-climactic after that long saga. All talk, no action. Not even a watered-down sex scene! That’s skipped over (several times!).

As for the wolf-imprinting thing, that could have been a really dodgy situation, imprinting on a child… but luckily that’s handled in a fairly sensitive manner. It did however sew up all the loose ends of the story in almost too-neat a fashion. Everything is just too perfect at the end. Which is why I think I couldn’t properly lose myself in this “reality” because there wasn’t any part of it which was linked to the real world. None of the characters were flawed. Only Bella had flaws, and only when she were human, as it turned out that her impenetrable mind and constant worry became her strongest asset. Her clumsiness vanished along with her humanity.

I can see why teens and YA are drawn to this story, planning for a perfect future with the perfect spouse. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really teach the young adult that the real world doesn’t work that way. It’s definitely a fairy story, with a “and they all lived happily ever after…” at the end. No description of how to stay together with the same spouse for several hundred years! What about all those annoying personal habits that people have? Oh right, they’re perfect, of course!

If nobody had any flaws, and everyone were the same, what a dull world this would be. People need their flaws and idiosyncrasies to make them believable.

In short, this whole saga was OK. But I hope that any young adult (or adult!) reading these books takes away the message of having to fight for what you believe in, and not the “happily ever after” stuff.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Format Reviewed: Cinema Release – May 2015

CrownJules Concludes: 4 out of 5 stars
Full Star_76Full Star_76Full Star_76
Ultron wants to be a real boy; but has no “Jiminy Cricket” to keep him on the straight and narrow. I’ve marked it down a star, only because as a standalone movie it’s a little weak. You need to be following the MCU.

WARNING: Review contains Moderate Spoilers.

This movie has a lot going on. It’s very much the “middle” of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and therefore if you haven’t seen at least the previous Avengers movie, and Guardians of the Galaxy, you may not really follow the plot here.

So, the Russians via HYDRA got their hands on Loki’s scepter and have been using the information contained within to do their own human experimentation and augmentation. The results of which are Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, AKA Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. The Avengers come in to reclaim the scepter, and Tony Stark (Ironman) finds out that the gem which gives the scepter it’s power over the mind also contains the key to an Artificial Intelligence program he and Bruce Banner have been working on – Ultron – to bring “peace in our time”.

5 minutes after having been created, Ultron absorbs/learns the entirety of the internet (with a few exceptions) and decides that the only way to bring “peace” is to wipe out the human race. Of course.

We later learn that the blue gem in Loki’s scepter actually contained one of the six “Infinity Stones” – the Mind stone. Within the MCU, we’ve been introduced to a few of these stones already: the Space Stone is contained within the Tesseract (from Captain America & Avengers 1), the Reality Stone took the form of the Aether (Thor: The Dark World), and the Power Stone changed hands a few times at the other end of the Galaxy (Guardians of the Galaxy). That’s 4 out of 6 so far: just the Soul and Time stones left to find (I reckon Doctor Strange could certainly put the Soul Stone to good use… that’s the plot for his movie pretty much in the bag then). The “big bad” of the MCU, behind all nefarious acts, has been Thanos. Usually sat idly on a big space-chair looking smug, and purple(ish), he’s after all of the Infinity Stones with which he will complete the Infinity Gauntlet – and no doubt bring death and destruction to the universe!

Ultron’s attempts at building himself a new body (he wants to be a “real boy” – cue the constant humming of “I’ve got no strings”), ultimately bring about the newest Avenger “Vision”.

There’s plenty of action to keep you going throughout the story here. Scarlet Witch throws a few spanners into the works by playing her mind games. A few of the otherwise neglected characters from previous movies get a little bit more to play with this time around. Finally Hawkeye (Clint Barton) gets some fleshing out with a more rounded personality, and a hint at a backstory. Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) and Hulk (Bruce Banner) keep plotting to run away together, which is cute but there are bigger issues that keep getting in their way. Like saving the world, again.  The most under-served character this time around is Captain America (Steve Rogers), but then he has already got two solo-movies to his name.

There seems to be a fair bit of buzz online regarding the so-called-misogyny around the Hulk/Black Widow relationship – however I didn’t see that theme to be particularly pronounced.  As their relationship developed, the scared Bruce Banner simply wants to run away with his new lady-friend.  Natasha, however, although tempted by this invitation to a simpler life, realises that their responsibilities outweigh her personal wants.  So she essentially says, “Thanks, but no”.

Lastly, Ultron’s final plan to turn an Eastern-European town into a man/machine-made meteor has a few real-world-physics errors, and (probably) wouldn’t have had quite the result he was after.  But it would have caused a large amount of destruction nonetheless.  Check out the reasons why, via the link below.

And Bonus – I felt compelled to draw a picture of the Hulkbuster Armour (or Veronica as Ironman calls it), because obviously – it’s the Hulkbuster!  It came our more comic book like than I originally planned, but it’s otherwise OK!  I’m going to have to upgrade my drawing materials methinks..

Hulkbuster Sketch, (c) @crownjulesb May 2015
Hulkbuster Sketch, (c) @crownjulesb May 2015

Marvel Cinematic Universe (Wiki) Infinity Stones
Kyle Hill via Nerdist – The Physics Behind Ulton’s Earth Shaking Ending

The Imitation Game

Format reviewed: Cinema release

CrownJules Concludes:

5 out of 5 stars
A both heartwarming and heartbreaking portrayal of the life and secrets of one of Britain’s National Heroes, and one of the most influential scientists to never see the fruits of his work due to injustice and persecution.

SPOILER THREAT: Moderate (unless you don’t know the history!)

We are first introduced to Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) on the day he is arrested for suspected solicitation of another man for his services.  It is through the interrogation of his personal secrets that the truth of his professional life begins to unfold and be understood.

“Are you paying attention?”

Alan Turing is different, and he learns from an early stage exactly how different he is.  He has an affinity for numbers and puzzles, he sees patterns where others do not.  The support given to him by his close childhood friend Christopher enables him to recognise not just his mathematical talents, but also his attraction to males over females.  The latter in the early 20th century was illegal and throughout the rest of his life, although he never denied who and what he was in that respect, he knew how dangerous it was.  Losing Christopher to illness at an early age had a profound effect on Turing as a man.

During the second world war, the Nazi’s communicated using the Enigma code.  A device, the Enigma Machine, encoded text using physical rotors, plugs and wires to change each letter.  The main problem was that the settings used to encode and decode the text had hundreds of millions of possible options, and they changed every day.

A real Enigma Machine.  From my visit to Bletchley  Park a couple of years ago.
A real Enigma Machine. From my visit to Bletchley Park in 2012.

At Bletchley Park a small group consisting of the best minds in Britain have already been working in secret trying to crack Enigma without success.  Alan Turing is interviewed by Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) to join this group, and almost doesn’t make the cut.  However, he’s very clever and has already figured out what the job is for, so talks his way into being accepted.  In order to find more great minds, those who might not have been given the opportunity to get a higher education, they set a prize crossword puzzle in the newspaper.  Those who respond with the correct solution, are offered to attend a test for potential job opportunity (but they don’t know what for).  Among those respondents is Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), an equally brilliant mind.  Being a woman, she’s almost prevented from even walking through the door, but thanks to Turing she is allowed to participate (and wipes the floor with the competition!).  She was lucky to have someone who thinks differently in charge of the test.

The code breaking efforts up to now have primarily been manual trial and error; pencil and paper mathematics.  Turing realises that this is far too slow, and proposes to build a machine to calculate the solutions for them.  Never before has a machine been used in this way, and will take money to build and test.  No one (other than Joan) recognises how revolutionary this idea is.  Alan generally works alone, and the rest of the team don’t like that much.  Due to the money required, and the length of time it is taking to create a working machine, Commander Denniston pulls the plug on Turing’s work.  So, Turing sends a letter directly to the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and he countermands Denniston’s order.

History shows that they eventually succeeded in breaking the Enigma code.  The war against the Nazi’s was won.  Alan Turing’s work, they say, shortened the war by approximately 2 years and saved 14,000,000 (14 Million) lives.  History also shows how Turing himself was eventually convicted for being homosexual.  He was given a choice: prison, or a term of hormonal treatment (oestrogen injections – chemical castration) to suppress his homosexual side.  Alan Turing died by his own hand in 1954, aged only 41.

Cumberbatch portrays Turing with delicacy, subtlety and compassion.  Knightley plays Clarke with exceptional integrity and strength.  The importance of Joan Clarke’s role in supporting Turing as both friend and colleague cannot be overstated.  The entire supporting ensemble contribute to make this film a masterpiece.  There has been some criticism regarding the lack of (explicit) homosexual (or just sexual) visuals/content in this movie.  I’m of the opinion that it wasn’t necessary, nor would it have added anything to the narrative.  Turing was gay, fact; and it was a facet of the story, just as it was a facet of the man.  As a film with an historical focus, it can be viewed by a whole family together, kids, parents, granny and grandpa; and they’ll all learn something.

Alan Turing died practically unknown and uncelebrated for his work.  But his research and insights changed the world.  We would not have had the computer age, our smartphones, a huge proportion of the technology we rely on every day without him.  In 2013 Turing was granted a posthumous pardon by Queen Elizabeth II.  Exoneration is one thing, but telling his story to the whole world is another.  It’s long overdue, but this film does justice to a British National Hero.

Statue of Alan Turing by AA at Bletchley Park.
Statue of Alan Turing in layers of slate by Stephen Kettle at Bletchley Park.

Want to understand more about the science and mathematics behind decoding Enigma?  This helpful youtube video is a good start, “Because Science” with Kyle Hill via Nerdist:

And finally, a shout out to the Imitation Game UK twitter account @ImitationGameUK which had a competition to win a poster.. and I did!  Hooray!

Thanks to the Imitation Game UK twitter account, I won this enormous poster of Cumberbatch as Turing.  I love twitter!
Thanks to the @ImitationGameUK twitter account, I won this enormous poster of Cumberbatch as Turing.  I love twitter!

Links for more information:
My trip to Bletchley Park, back in 2012
Official Bletchley Park Website
Alan Turing page on Wikipedia

Only Lovers Left Alive

Format Reviewed: Blu-Ray

CrownJules Concludes:

5 out of 5 Stars
The most beautiful relationship ever portrayed on screen.


This is a story about vampires.  BUT for the most part, that’s besides the point.  What this really is, is a story about a married couple.  Two people who have been together for centuries, who have the most successful and beautiful relationship that I have ever seen on film.  Tom Hiddleston is Adam, and Tilda Swinton is Eve.  We don’t know exactly how old these two are, but they’re old enough to have the deepest knowledge of history, science, literature and popular culture.

Their knowledge is both broad, and highly specific, and each have a particular talent; they both refer to plants and animals by their Latin names, Adam is a reclusive but highly successful musician and scientist in his own right.  Eve is an extensive reader of literature, and has the ability to specifically date any object she touches.

Their mutual friend Christopher Marlowe (THE Christopher Marlowe – played by John Hurt) has been continuing to write prolifically and publishing under pseudonyms throughout the centuries, including (SPOILER ALERT!) William Shakespeare.  Adam gave Schubert some of his works, and is currently writing slow emotive rock music in his incredibly messy studio/apartment.  Some of Adam’s music gets out into the world via his only friend Ian (Anton Yelchin), a human (or Zombie, as Adam calls the humans).  Eve spends her time learning all about the world and appears to appreciate and revel in the beauty of everything the world has to offer, natural and man-made.

One of my most favourite parts of this movie is fairly unimportant in terms of the overall plot, it simply highlights how learned Adam is: he has invented a completely unique form of energy generation – harnessing cosmic rays – and he simply uses it to power his recording equipment, and his car!

Adam is grumpy and melancholy.  Eve is optimistic and appreciative.  They’re married but they generally don’t live together, so when Adam feels low, Eve travels half way around the world to Detroit to see him.  It is plain to see how deeply these two characters understand one another.  They don’t always agree, but they have great respect for the others’ point of view.  So when Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) shows up out of the blue, their harmonious existence is disrupted.

The subtle and nuanced performances by Hiddleston and Swinton are perfect, supported beautifully by Hurt, Yelchin and Wasikowska.

The soundtrack to this movie is equally perfect.  Adam’s current rock compositions are the work of Director Jim Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL, and reflect the melancholy and introspective mindset of the Adam character; acoustic tracks by Jozef van Wissem; and showcasing a fantastic Lebanese artist Yasmine Hamdan.

Repeat viewings of this movie reveal layer upon layer of treats, secrets and hidden gems.  It was released independently in 2013, but on Blu-ray it’s my favourite film of 2014.

I only have one teeny tiny nitpick, which is a line towards the end of the movie claiming that quantum theory “…isn’t a theory, it’s proven”.  I have a science background therefore I have to correct this little statement!  You test an hypothesis to PROVE a theory.  It only becomes an actual theory after it has been proven.  Theory = Fact.  It’s the smallest of small things, but I’m a perfectionist!

Long story short: this movie is brilliant.  Go and find a copy and watch it yourself.