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Sunday, July 26, 2015

June 2015 Review Roundup

I screened a mere five movies in June: two low-budget time travel movies, two long-standing recommendations from Allan Sampson, and a well-regarded thriller of recent vintage.

My friend Allan recommended horror classic The Wicker Man (1973) many years ago, but only last month did I finally sit down to watch it. It was worth the wait. Though nothing supernatural happens in the film, its performances and premise make for a truly chilling experience. My favourite scene is one of the musical numbers, in which the hapless protagonist, an uptight, religious and virgin police sergeant, fights off the seduction of Willow, who sings and dances in the nude, beckoning like a succubus. He very nearly succumbs to temptation - and ironically, his faith and resolve ultimately doom him. Sometimes it's better to give in to the vampires...

Some years later Allan sang the praises of Three Kings (1999), a movie set in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. The movie still works as a war dramedy, but loses some of its lustre in the face of the unfortunate xenophobia and economic devastation wrought by the never-ending, so-called "War on Terror."

Nightcrawler (2014), is a showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays a petty criminal drifter who builds a new career for himself in the cutthroat world of electronic news gathering. While the news business has been an easy target for criticism going back all the way to Network (1976), Nightcrawler approaches the subject in a new and interesting way, from street level, as it were. It's well worth your time.

Project Almanac (2015) is a mostly forgettable by-the-numbers time travel film, but it's a decent way to spend a couple of hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Time Lapse (2014) tackles the same subject in a more interesting way; three roommates discover a camera that takes pictures from a day or so in the future, which leads to interesting questions about free will and predestination.

I read a few more books in June than disastrous May, though still not enough to meet my target. Three Mira Grant biomedical thrillers (Deadline, Blackout, and Parasite) provided reasonable thrills and interesting twists on old horror tropes, but nothing more than that. Stephen King's Finders Keepers is the second mainstream novel in a row for one of the world's most famous genre authors; it's refreshing to see King pursue more grounded work. Canadian SF great Robert Charles Wilson has a new book out this year, The Affinities, which takes the phenomenon of social media and spins it into a thought-provoking socioeconomic thriller.

Jo Walton has been around a while, but she's a relatively new favourite for me; I quite enjoyed Among Others earlier this year, and followed it up last month with the sad and delightful My Real Children and a collection of essays, What Makes This Book So Great. I've picked up a few books from Walton's back catalogue, and I'm looking forward to exploring more of her many worlds.

A couple of middling Star Trek tie-ins rounded out June's reading. 

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