Friday, January 15, 2021

A Glass of Wine at the Movies - Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman

Rating: R (USA)/ 14A (Canada)

Director: Emerald Fennell

Language: English

Length:  113 minutes

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox

Viewing Method: Advance Screening

Release Date: December 25, 2020 (cinemas)/ January 15, 2021 (streaming)

Synopsis: Nothing in Cassie's life is what it appears to be -- she's wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she's living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs from the past.


Promising Young Woman is a lollipop wrapped in barbed wire. It's a tale of revenge backdropped against a bubblegum pink veneer. It's the story of a woman hell bent on payback regardless of anything else. I expect a majority will feel rage after finishing this movie and with good reason.

Cassie was once a promising young woman with a whole future ahead of her. So was her friend Nina. One night changed all of that and now Cassie spends her time trying to right the wrongs that have occurred. It a fresh, exciting take on a story we've heard before and this one has teeth.

Emerald Fennell has written and directed a gut punch of a movie. A fact that is made all the more impressive when you consider it is her directorial debut. It's smart, sharp, and demands to be heard.

Carey Mulligan is breathtaking in this. Her performance should definitely be part of Oscar talks this year. Not since my beloved Amy Elliott Dunne has a female character captured my interest with all her fury and rage. They are very different characters but there is something similar that beats at the center of both of them. Carey plays this with just the right amount of unrestrained anger and exhaustion. Grief is crushing and Carey nails it beautifully. She's literally (and figuratively) a nightmare dressed as most men's daydream.

The idea of the 'nice guy' is tackled with the movie showcasing that plenty of these men are not as nice as they claim they are. Their toxic entitlement is displayed in all its ugly honesty. All the men in this are the absolute worst. Phrases like 'I'm a nice guy' are uttered in one breathe while their actions show that they are anything but. They claim to be gentleman even as the movie showcases that these 'gentleman' can often be the worst of them all. It especially highlights that silence is complicity and that their lack of action makes them just as culpable regardless of what they protest. The fact that these guys are played by the likes of Adam Brody, Chris Lowell, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who are guys known for playing nice guy characters, only serves to add another layer to this element.

As for women this movie doesn't pretend they are innocent in victimizing their fellow women. It is sure to remind us that they can play into victim blame culture too. Familiar phrases we hear are ones about how a woman shouldn't have worn that skirt, or gotten so drunk and they are usually coming out of the mouth of another woman. It's a stark reminder that society thinks she got what was coming to her because of her choices. It gives a free pass to the guy because, after all, the woman should have been smarter.

I feel like this cannot be reviewed fully without talking about the ending because I think the ending really showcases the entire point behind the movie. I am going to put it in spoiler tags so that anyone who doesn't want to read it can skip it. 

We hear the phrase 'promising young man' tossed about when a privileged guy commits a sexual assault and people are hesitant to wreck his future because of all that potential he has. This movie screams a reminder of the promising young women on the other end of those crimes. What about her potential? What about her life and future? This movie is asking us to ask those questions while also offering a smartly written screenplay, and a beyond excellent soundtrack. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas 
Release Date - January 12, 2021
Publisher Website -  Harper Collins Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 320 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received for an honest review from the publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can't just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.

There are those books you pick up knowing you are going to be immersed in something icredible. Those books that you know are going to be good before you even turn to the first page. I knew that Concrete Rose was going to be a great reading experience, but it might also be Angie Thomas' best book to date.

Maverick Carter, Starr's father from The Hate U Give, takes the focus in this historically set novel that showcases how he became the man we meet in The Hate U Give. While it may technically be considered historical I think that as a coming of age story this book will still easily resonate with young readers.

Some books are mirrors and others are windows. This book is obviously a window for me as a reader but I am most excited for those who will find this to be a mirror to discover this book. Representation is important and Angie Thomas has created a beautiful, affirming story of a black teen finding his way. It can (and should) be enjoyed by everyone but I think this book will offer pure magic when it finds those readers it will most resonate with.

Logically I knew how close in age Seven and Starr were while reading The Hate U Give. I, however, did not get how hard that would have been on Maverick until I read this book. The Hate U Give's Maverick is so put together that it just doesn't register in the way that it should until you experience it in this book. It gave me a different perspective on the character which I think is entirely the point. There is a sympathy brought out in the reader for the choices he has to make and a deeper appreciation for the character we know he becomes.

This book really showcases the power and need for a strong support system. Maverick has people who care about him surrounding him. These people care enough to let him make mistakes and encourage him to own up to those mistakes. It is easier to believe in yourself when you know others believe in you and not everyone is afforded that gift. I really enjoyed all the supporting characters and their role in shaping Maverick's path both for the positive and negative.

If you loved The Hate U Give you will absolutely want to pick up Concrete Rose. Angie Thomas once again provides a book that is thought provoking, well written, compulsively readable, and engaging. It really is a must read for young adult fans.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Waiting On Wednesday ..... Elizabeth and Monty

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo 

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Violet-eyed siren Elizabeth Taylor and classically handsome Montgomery Clift were the most gorgeous screen couple of their time. Over two decades of friendship they made, separately and together, some of the era’s defining movies—including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Misfits, Suddenly, Last Summer, and Cleopatra. Yet the relationship between these two figures—one a dazzling, larger-than-life star, the other hugely talented yet fatally troubled—has never truly been explored until now.

“Monty, Elizabeth likes me, but she loves you.” -Richard Burton

When Elizabeth Taylor was cast opposite Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun, he was already a movie idol, with a natural sensitivity that set him apart. At seventeen, Elizabeth was known for her ravishing beauty rather than her talent. Directors treated her like a glamorous prop. But Monty took her seriously, inspiring and encouraging her. In her words, “That’s when I began to act.”

To Monty, she was “Bessie Mae,” a name he coined for her earthy, private side. The press clamored for a wedding, convinced this was more than friendship. The truth was even more complex. Monty was drawn to women but sexually attracted to men—a fact that, if made public, would destroy his career. But he found acceptance and kinship with Elizabeth. Her devotion was never clearer than after his devastating car crash near her Hollywood home, when she crawled into the wreckage and saved him from choking.

Monty’s accident shattered his face and left him in constant pain. As he sank into alcoholism and addiction, Elizabeth used her power to keep him working. In turn, through scandals and multiple marriages, he was her constant. Their relationship endured until his death in 1966, right before he was to star with her in Reflections in a Golden Eye. His influence continued in her outspoken support for the gay community, especially during the AIDS crisis.

Far more than the story of two icons, this is a unique and extraordinary love story that shines new light on both stars, revealing their triumphs, demons—and the loyalty that united them to the end.
Thanks to my 2020 #PopCultureResolution I became a fan of Montgomery Clift and have wanted to find out more about him and his work. I previously mentioned that I felt he had a vulnerability that comes through in his performances. I am not sure if it is just because of his accident and the turn his life took after that or something more undefinable.

I was aware that he and Elizabeth Taylor had a close friendship and loved A Place in the Sun with them in it so when I found out this book was being released it immediately went on my reading list. I hope it dives into who they both were aside from their friendship as well. I have a feeling it is going to make me want to watch more of both their movies.

It comes out in May and means it will offer a juicy nonfiction read for pool season.

Expected release date - May 25, 2021

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

2021 Reading Challenges

I am taking part in a few different reading challenges this year and wanted to share so everyone could follow my progress.

First up is a reading challenge hosted by the ladies over at the What You Should Read podcast. If you're a fan of The Bachelor you'll definitely want to take part but it can really be done by anyone with the book prompts being pretty open.

Here are my choices for the books I will read:

1. Tayshia Adams: A book by a Black or Latina author - Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

2. Bachelor Nation: A book about or set in a reality dating show - If The Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

3. Chris "The Most Dramatic Season Ever" Harrison: A book about or set in a theatre or a book featuring a play - Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

4. First impression rose: An author's debut book - Further to Fall by Catherine Cowles

5. One - on - One date: A romance novel - One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

6. Group date: A book that is part of a series - Isn't it Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

7. Two -on-one date: A book written from two POV's - My Favorite Souvenir by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland

8. Not here to make friends: A book featuring a strong friendship group - Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

9. Here for the right reasons: A book with a main character facing a moral dilemma - Marriage for One by Ella Maise

10. Hometown dates: A book set in you hometown or the town/city you live in now - Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks by Nathan Burgoine

11. Fantasy suites: A fantasty book - Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

12. Men/Women tell all: A gossipy 'tell-all' celebrity memoir - Open Book by Jessica Simpson

13. After the final rose: A sequel, or a book with a sequel  - Isn't it Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

It states that I am allowed to use the same book for multiple prompts and so I have where appropriate. I may have gotten a few recommendations from friends and I am looking forward to reading all of these.

Next up is a challenge I saw floating around Twitter. I am not sure who the first person to come up with this was so if it was you please let me know so I can credit you properly.

The idea is to get twelve friends to recommend twelve books and you read one a month. I reached out and got people to recommend some titles and certainly have come up with a delightful mix of genres.

Jan - The Seven Husband's of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Kelly)

Feb - Written In The Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (Christy)

Mar - The Birthday List by Deveny Perry (Emilie)

April - Marriage for One by Ella Maise (Katie)

May - Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine Von Radics (Ciara)

June -  The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth (Christa)

July - The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Jess)

August -  The Grace Year by Kim Leggitt (Christa)

Sept - Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Meaghan)

Oct -   Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston (Katrina)

Nov - Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (Kim)

Dec - Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (Julia)

Are you doing any reading challenges this year? Are you taking part in the same ones I am by chance? Let me know in the comments as I would love to see your reading lists.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Recapping my 2020 #PopCultureResolution

As you may have seen yesterday I shared my selections for this year's #PopCultureResolution. I am exposing myself to more horror movies, and some mystery/thriller reads. I am excited to get started on them.

I wanted to take a few moments to wrap up last year however before moving on. I read the following books:

August - The Stranger Beside Me by Anne Rule
November - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

First off, all of these link to the reviews I wrote. You may have noticed that The Stranger Beside Me by Anne Rule does not have a review. It's because I have had a hard time finding something to say about a subject that has pretty much had everything said about it. I'll try to get one up in the next little bit however. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil also doesn't have a review. Again, I am struggling with what to say but expect a review soon.

I enjoyed all of these books to some extent. I think the one I was most disappointed by was The Devil in the White City. This is mostly my own doing as I was expecting something else from the book, but it wasn't one I connected with as strongly as the others.

The books that stood out to me in particular were:

Seduction by Karina Longworth - Karina is amazing. I would love to sit and just listen to her talk about old Hollywood for hours while enjoying a glass of wine. Her book about Howard Hughes sort of used him as a means of getting the reader to know the women he didn't treat very well which delights me even further.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow - Everyone loves Ronan Farrow and after reading this book I also think he is one heck of a journalist. This book is 'WTF' bananas and is a huge part of the #meetoo movement. I cannot wait to read whatever Ronan writes next.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - It's a classic for a reason and this is the book that basically launched the true crime genre. Capote may have been a complete jerk, but he could actually write. It's a fascinating look at a case that held everyone's attention.

Next up are the movies that I watched. Again, each of these links to my reviews of these films.

April - Sabrina
May - Niagara
August - Humoresque
October - Gaslight
November - Pillow Talk

Here are my initial reactions to each of these films that I posted to my Instagram (via stories).

I stand by my assessment that young Marlon Brando was ridiculously good looking (and a great actor too). I have become a huge fan of Jimmy Stewart and his movies. I have also come to love watching Cary Grant in pretty much anything. I want to learn more about Montgomery Clift because there is something about him that intrigues me (perhaps it's that vulnerability that shines through his performances). 

My favourite movie of the bunch is probably Rear Window. It's definitely one of my top (if not the top) Hitchcock movie. The most fun and ridiculous may have been Niagara. The most touching was probably It's A Wonderful Life. A Place In The Sun and A Streetcar Named Desire are right on Rear Window's heels (that Marlon Brando performance alone makes A Streetcar Named Desire worth watching). I have also added Hitchcock as a director whose work I want to check out more of.

I am definitely going to continue watching old Hollywood classics that I've missed seeing and I will be adding in some non fiction from time to time to my reading. It was nice to focus on both of them this past year and I definitely have some new favourites, and a few actors/directors whose work I want to continue watching.

Are you making a #PopCultureResolution this year? Did you make one last year? Let me know what they are / how you did in the comments.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

#PopCultureResolution for 2021

We all have pop culture blind spots. It might be that genre you barely read, or that movie you have been meaning to get to. I have been thinking about the books I read and what my own pop culture blind spots are.  I am going to make an effort each year to help fill some of those blind spots and hopefully make my reading choices more varied and diverse than what I currently consume in the process.

With this goal in mind I launched my #PopCultureResolutions last year. I had so much fun doing it, and managed to keep with it for the entire year so I figured I would do it again.

I love thrillers and mysteries. I have read quite a few but there are still so many books I haven't managed to get to. In terms of movies I haven't watched that many horror movies, and it's not a genre I normally gravitate toward without some extra hook or incentive. 

I decided for 2021 I would read twelve thriller/mystery books and watch twelve horror movies.

My twelve thriller/mystery books are:

My schedule looks like this (and if anyone wants to read any of these as well, I am happy to chat about them). Each of them links to their Goodreads pages for more details.

January -  The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (goodreads)
February - The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian (goodreads)
March - When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole (goodreads)
April -  The Other Mrs Miller by Allison M Dickson (goodreads)
May - The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James (goodreads)
June - I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll (goodreads)
July - Survive The Night by Riley Sager (goodreads)
August - The Golden Cage by Camilla Lackberg (goodreads)
September - Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane (goodreads)
October - Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy (goodreads)
November - The Guest List by Lucy Foley (goodreads)
December - Mistletoe Murder by Leslie Meier (goodreads)

Here are the horror movies I am going to watch for this event:

The schedule for this will be as follows (and again, if anyone else wants to watch and chat just let me know).

January - Jennifer’s Body
February - My Bloody Valentine (2009)
March - The Stepfather (1987)
April - Frankenstein (1931)
May - Final Girls
June - Sinister
July - Frailty 
August - Rosemary’s Baby
September - Ready or Not
October - Halloween (2019)
November - Rope
December - Better Watch Out

What are your own pop culture blind spots? Have you read any of the books, or seen any of the movies that I am going to tackle this year? Let know in the comments. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday ... Every Vow You Break

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is Every Vow You Break b⁰y Peter Swanson

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A bride’s dream honeymoon becomes a nightmare when a man with whom she’s had a regrettable one-night stand shows up in this electrifying psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of Eight Perfect Murders.

Abigail Baskin never thought she’d fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. He’s a good guy, stable, level-headed, kind—a refreshing twist from her previous relationships.

But right before the wedding, Abigail has a drunken one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend. She puts the incident—and the sexy guy who wouldn’t give her his real name—out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life.

Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail’s future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something much, much more. Something special. Something real—and he’s tracked her down to prove it.

Does she tell Bruce and ruin their idyllic honeymoon—and possibly their marriage? Or should she handle this psychopathic stalker on her own? To make the situation worse, strange things begin to happen. She sees a terrified woman in the night shadows, and no one at the resort seems to believe anything is amiss… including her perfect new husband.

I love a good mystery/thriller novel. This take on the the whole fatal attraction trope sounds like it is going to be a popular one.

The synopsis sounds horrific and I could not imagine being in this situation. I hope it creates a tense, twisty read that will help chase the winter blues away.

This one comes out in late March which may seem far away but will be here before we know it.

Expected release date - March 23, 2021

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