Book review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

IN A CAPSULE

Author: Michelle McNamara
Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571345144

THE LATE author (her husband, actor Patton Oswalt, wrote the foreword in her book) spent years trying to unveil the true identity of the Golden State Killer.

This serial rapist and murderer raped around 50 women and killed at least 10 people during his reign of terror in the 1970s and 80s.

Something about this cold case triggered a memory of a murder committed in her neighbourhood when McNamara was younger.

She was determined to unmask the Golden State Killer, which motivated her to create the TrueCrimeDiary.com website. This book is based on information she collected over the years.

McNamara never managed to complete the book before her death (it was finished by Billy Jensen and Paul Haynes based on information she left in her computer).

Essentially, the book looks at the crimes and profile of the murderer who remained elusive and unknown, evading capture for years. But McNamara’s friends vowed to continue to find him.

It is an interesting read but is also disturbing. The book ends without the killer ever been found or named.

But recently, the police identified and arrested a man they said is the Golden State Killer based on DNA evidence. McNamara would have been proud.

Book review: Top Ten

BEING a teenager on the cusp of womanhood is not an easy time, especially if you are sensitive, something of a loner and anxiety-challenged.

But things go better if you have a best friend to see you through all sorts of alarming situations. Gabby Hart is lucky in having Ryan McCullough for that best friend.

Gabby is always anxious and the type who would rather do anything than go to a party. Ryan is super popular, a hockey star destined for a sports scholarship, who can get any girl he wants. Strangely, he wants Gabby.

The fact that they are as different as night and day doesn’t matter. They just click. They talk about everything under the sun and moon, make top 10 lists about anything and everything. He’s at home doing dorky Monopoly nights at her place and she makes the effort to attend his rowdy house parties.

Along the highway of their friendship, however, things change and comes to a head on the night of their high school graduation night.

Can they make a go at being a couple or are they more suitable being just best friends?

This is a book about friendship as much as it is about romance, and it is really quite enlightening. However, I would have enjoyed it more if the story did not jump from one time frame to another. It was rather disconcerting and breaks up the flow of things.

Look past that and Top Ten is a pleasant read.

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

HONESTLY, Star Wars fatigue is real.

Turning the franchise into an annual event has its price.

Solo: A Star Wars Story manages to rise above it, but barely, with a story set before Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.

Over the span of the original Star Wars trilogy, we thought we knew all that we needed to know about the lovable, stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder.

But Disney thought otherwise.

The story tells of how young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) met Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), became friends with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), got the Millenium Falcon, became a smuggler, and ultimately did the oft-referenced Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

The film is at its best when it is not trying to be a Star Wars movie.

An early battle scene in the movie looked like World War II trench warfare but with lasers.

It conjured up images of the dirty and muddy encounters of the Astra Militarum, the human foot soldiers of the Warhammer 40K universe.

This is how ground-level fighting on a grand scale would look like.

There was also the heist scene, where Han and Chewbacca decide to work with Beckett’s (Woody Harrelson) crew to steal refined fuel to pay off their respective debts.

It looked and felt like an intriguing and essential side of the Star Wars universe we have never seen before.

However, to me at least, the Star Wars tropes, cliches, and references were laid on too thick.

Nods, nudges, and winks to iconic scenes, lines, and characters from past movies were too on the nose. I guess old habits die hard.

Another jarring thing about the movie is Han himself. His developmental arc here does not seem to line up with what the character is supposed to become by the time of the other movies.

It also does not help that Ehrenreich did not try to act like Harrison Ford (the original Han Solo), while Glover plays a believable young Billy Dee Williams (the original Lando Calrissian).

I felt I would enjoy the movie more if I knew nothing about Star Wars, and enjoyed it as a story that is part of a larger universe, but not necessarily connected to the Skywalker legacy.

Movie Review: Deadpool 2

FAIR warning: whatever that guy in red and black says, this is strictly not a family movie. Deadpool 2 is filled with expletives and violent gore.

But then again, it is smart, fun, exciting, and will pull your heartstrings in all the right ways – and that is just in the first few scenes.

After the many mind-numbing superhero movies (thanks Marvel) these past months, Deadpool 2 is to me the much-needed breath of fresh air. While the continually-lampooning Merc with a Mouth is not appropriate for innocent ears, what makes Deadpool endearing is his big – and most probably cancerous – heart.

While the first movie gave Deadpool form with his origin story, the sequel gives him substance.

With a cast that is bigger than the previous movie, it still manages to balance the backstories of each person to make me care about everyone.

Without spoiling the movie, I can say that the story in Deadpool 2 is more personal and has a more profound emotional impact than the first movie did, or dare I say, more than all Marvel movies.

From the start, I was invested in Deadpool (Reynolds) trying to do the right thing, in Russell’s (Julian Dennison) plight for a better life, and Cabel’s (Brolin) reason for travelling back in time. So much so that I forgot that Domino (Beetz) is very different from how she looks in the comics, although I still like her in the movie.

The cherry on top of the Deadpool 2 pie is its soundtrack. The music is an eclectic mix of blockbuster movie-sounding music like Ashes by Celine Dion, to the haunting unplugged version of Take On Me by a-ha, to a hilarious orchestral piece with rude lyrics and a title that I cannot say here without getting into trouble. I loved it.

Comicbook fans, keep your eyes open and ears sharp for fun and quick cameos, Easter eggs, and references that, although not essential to the movie, will add to the experience and perhaps warrant a second or third viewing.

A tip for those who are going to see the movie, there is one mid-credit scene, and no post-credit scenes so you can leave the hall and let the cleaners do their job early.

Movie Review: Bad Samaritan

IT’S ALWAYS a great feeling knowing you’ve been pleasantly surprised by a relatively low-key film, in this case, this thriller horror directed by Dean Devlin.

The film revolves around Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan), a ‘young, tortured artist’ who secretly robs homes with his best friend, Derek (Carlito Olivero), to pay the bills.

They gain access to private homes through their jobs as car park valets (incidentally, the movie will teach you to never keep your house keys in the car if you have a navigation system set to home).

Getting involved in this criminal activity is more out of desperation rather than profit for Sean, as he targets homes belonging to rude and entitled customers.

One night, the boys are instantly intrigued by a Maserati pulling up for valet. When the rich but rude Cale Erendreich (David Tennant) steps out, Sean has no qualms robbing his home.

What he ends up finding inside Cale’s house is a young woman tied to a chair. The shock and fear get the better of Sean, and he runs away, abandoning the chance to be a good Samaritan.

Consumed by guilt and feeling that he had to help, Sean decides to do the right thing and inform the authorities.

However is action soon leads to trouble from Cale, who dangerously disrupts not only Sean’s life but the lives of everyone he loves as well.

Sheehan’s emotion-filled portrayal of Sean means you can’t help but root for him, especially when no one believes what he saw in Cale’s house, not even the police.

Tennant does a brilliant job, perfectly embodying the beyond-bad Cale, a complete contrast to his charming image he once had as the Doctor in Doctor Who.

The film gets darker and more dramatic towards the end, but the culmination of Sean’s journey is still satisfying nonetheless, and you will soon realise why the film is called Bad Samaritan.