Book Review | So much I want to tell you : letters to my little sister by Anna Akana

so much i want to tell you anna.jpgAnna Akana is a film producer and YouTuber living in LA. Growing up with a military Dad meant her family moved often and she experienced life in many places. When Anna was a teenager, her younger sister committed suicide. The event had a strong impact on her and is said to be the preface for this book. Though subtitled “letters to my little sister”, there actually are no traditional letters, with the book having more of an essay type approach. Think of the book as advice from life-learned lessons, as relayed by a millennial on the following topics: creativity, identity, relationships, money, works and career.

As a YouTuber, Akana has a lot of experience distilling broad topics into short, digestible chunks. This book read similarly to video script ideas. Though I found much of the advice valid, it all seemed pretty straight-forward, without offering any groundbreaking news. The helpful anecdotes contained within would be much more beneficial to a younger reader (high school / college age), or someone with less life experience. The book is a quick read with short sections, making it easy to pause often. Check it out from a library near youI received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Film Review | The Daughter starring Sam Neill & Geoffrey Rush

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After many years away from his birth town and father, middle-aged Christian returns home to attend his father’s second wedding. The relationship between father and son is tense, owing to something other than the fact that the upcoming wedding involves the 31 year old housekeeper his father had previously employed. As Christian reunites with his old friend Oliver, he pieces a few old secrets together that threaten to break apart Oliver’s family.

This Australian drama based on Henrik Ibsen’s play provided much more than I’d bargained for. The story line was intriguing and the characters were easy to relate to. The acting was very realistic without anything being overdone. Music set to the film worked quite well and served to enhance the movie overall. While the budget for this film couldn’t have been too much with it’s rural setting, I’m actually surprised it hadn’t drummed up more attention in the film world. Though it may bring on a few tears, The Daughter is certainly worth checking out from your local library!

Film Review | Demolition starring Jake Gyllenhaal

indexOpening with a sudden car crash in which his wife loses her life, Demolition follows protagonist Davis (Gyllenhaal) as he transforms from a traditional member of society into a more free thinking version of himself. His father-in-law and boss (Cooper) asks him to take time away from his financial industry job after several out of character incidents at the office. Davis develops a correspondence with a customer service worker (Watts) and eventually meets up with her. The film follows as their relationship develops.
I found this film to be constantly engaging and fresh. The perspective explored seemed to be a theme that people are often unwilling to talk about or recognize: not everyone views success or happiness in the same light and fitting in is not always the most important thing. The acting and dialogue were realistic despite some destruction scenes that may have been a bit much. I’d recommend this film to those content bucking the mainstream, fans of Gyllenhaal and those looking for a good movie without too much drama. Check it out from a library near you!

Film Review | Journey to the Shore (Kishibe no tabi) directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

indexThree years after his disappearance, Mizuki’s husband Yusuke returns home and calmly explains to his wife that he drowned at sea. Pleased that he has finally come back to her, Mizuki seems mostly unfazed by the fact that her husband is dead. Yusuke asks her to go away with him and she agrees, leaving the mundane life she has established as a children’s piano teacher behind. The couple embarks on a journey where they cross paths with various people in need of some type of spiritual release, ranging from a man whose wife has abandoned him, to a couple who has lost a child.

This movie was very well done. It was both moving and thought provoking. Although it dealt with seemingly impossible happenings, such as dead people blending in among the living, Kurosawa has done so tastefully, in a palatable manner. The movie captured my interest from the beginning and continued to keep my attention for the whole two hour duration. Fans of Japanese cinema are likely to enjoy this feature, especially because it moves at a decent pace with a logical and easy to follow plot. It may also appeal to those going through relationship issues away from a loved one or those who may have lost someone very close to them.

Film Review | Irrational Man starring Joaquín Phoenix and Emma stone

indexPhilosophy professor Abe Lucas transfers to a small college in New England bringing along his scotch and cynicism. It’s not long before he is befriended by student Jill and desired by a married colleague. Perhaps unfortunately for Lucas, it is only when he sets his sights on killing a corrupt judge that he feels his life has regained purpose. With the spring back in his step, he plots the judge’s murder, sleeps with his colleague and begins dating his student. Things become more complicated as Jill falls for him and it is discovered that the judge has been poisoned with cyanide.

The idea behind this film is a good one, but I’m not entirely keen on the execution. The beginning of the movie drew me in, but then it seemed to go on too long. I appreciate the casting choices that were made and Phoenix did a great job playing the professor in despair, but the romance between Jill and Lucas was rather dry, lacking feeling. It didn’t seem like there was enough substance to get through to the end of the film. Aside from the judge’s murder there were no real events or major points of interest. Perhaps this film will still appeal to die hard Woody Allen fans, or those intrigued by the idea of pulling off the perfect crime. Check it out from a library near you.

Film Review | Infinitely Polar Bear starring Mark Ruffalo

pbcThis movie is one of the best I’ve seen this year. It’s no secret that I am a big Ruffalo fan, but that wasn’t enough to get me to like Foxcatcher, Spotlight or Thanks for Sharing. Infinitely Polar Bear shares the story of two girls growing up in Boston in the 70’s with a bipolar father caring for them while mom is pursuing her MBA in New York City. Dealing with living in poverty and being a stay at home Dad and single parent are two of the movie’s themes. The film gives a keyhole perspective likely unknown to those unfamiliar with manic depression.

I laughed out loud, cried once and generally experienced a wide range of emotions while viewing this film. All four of the main characters do an excellent job getting into character and making their feelings palpable. The movie was instantly entertaining and kept my attention for the duration. I recommend this film to anyone who is or has a bipolar partner or is going through long distance relationship issues. It would also be of interest to a much broader audience, so give it a shot even if you don’t fit into either of those two categories. Check it out from a library near you.

Film Review | Félix et Meira by Maxime Giroux

Meira feels suffocated, living the life of a Hasidic Jewish married woman in Montreal. Because of strict tradition, she is unable to listen to the music she would like or spend time with friends of her choosing. The majority of her time is to be spent caring for her infant in the confines of her home. When Félix introduces himself to Meira in a neighborhood bakery, her immediate reaction is to flee without speaking. When the couple runs into each other again, Félix shares the news of his father’s passing and gives her a drawing he has made. Meira’s interest is piqued and she begins spending time with Félix and having a new kind of fun that furthers her belief that her current life is stifling.

While Félix & Meira is somewhat slow moving, it is interesting enough to keep the viewer’s attention. The plot is well developed and believable. The film won several awards in Canada, it’s country of origin, but the true highlight of the film is it’s soundtrack. Perhaps those to enjoy this film most would be those affected by similar issues of religious lifestyle restriction, or those wishing to leave a difficult relationship. Check this film out from a library near you.