All the Bright Places, Book Review

Author: Jennifer Niven
Published: January 6th 2015 by Knopf

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground—it’s unclear who saves whom. For fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, this is an exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die…

 

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

I have to be honest, This book took me longer to read than the few I read before it. But I’m glad I persevered, very glad. This book gave a true glimpse into depression, the horribly crippling side effect of Bipolar Disorder. And by the time I finished, I had really enjoyed it.

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The novel starts out a little differently, with the two protagonists meeting in the clock tower of their school, contemplating suicide. After this unusual, and uncomfortable beginning, the two take a while to become friends, and eventually more, and this was the part of the book I found a little slow. But as I mentioned, I’m glad I pushed through, because as the two become closer, Violet gets more of a look into Finch’s mind while he begins to slowly fall apart. But I’ll get to Finch later, because for me, he made this book.

Violet Markey has her own demons that she is dealing with. Almost a year ago, her older sister died in a car accident while driving them home from a party. She used to be in with the popular kids, and now she just wants to keep her head down and get to graduation. But then she meets Finch. Finch, over time, pulls violet out of her funk, out of her shell and out into the world. Once again, Violet slowly starts to be excited about things again, and starts to write again, and even starts to drive again. And she, of course, falls in love with Theodore Finch. The thing I love most about Violet is her love of writing, which she has lost, but starts to find again throughout the novel. She used to work on a website with her sister, eleanorandviolet.com, and she later starts up a new project, an online magazine she names Germ, both of which exist and you can visit online. I adore when authors create extra content and avenues for their fans to explore the book.

bright placesTheodore Finch is troubled. He contemplates death, he wanders aimlessly, and he doesn’t really care what people think. Except that he does. He has periods of ‘the Asleep’ – where he can not function, or perform normal day to day tasks, while depression is not spoken about obviously or openly in the book as much as suicide, it is clear that this is what Finch is suffering from. He likely has Bipolar Disorder, suffering his manic periods alongside mania with his excitement about being with Violet, and the uphoria he feels when they are together. The thing about Finch that drew me in – as much as he may just be another quirky, not-fitting-in, rebellious teenage boy – is that I understand him. I have Bipolar Disorder and have struggled, predominately when I was a teenager, with depression and with thoughts of suicide. The way Niven voices Finch, the way he talks about how it feels, even the way Violet observes his behaviour, is how it is when you just don’t fit in the world situation you are living in. When you don’t fit in your body, you don’t fit in the world, you don’t fit anywhere and it’s completely debilitating.

Jennifer Niven beautifully captures the tragic, overbearing, often unnoticed struggle of depression and suicide, for those struggling to avoid it and those struggling to pick up the pieces upon being left behind. I genuinely recommend this book to all ages, as mental illness can strike at any stage in life, and it should not be taboo, we should be able to talk about it, not have to keep it inside.

It’s important to reach out for help if you think you might be suffering from depression, sometimes this is the hardest step to recovery. If you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone in your life, sometimes an anonymous ear to listen can go a long way, contacting a counselling service can save a life. Check out Beyond Blue for more information in battling depression, or suicidal thoughts.

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We’re All Going to Die (Especially Me), Book Review

Author: Joel Meares 
Published: March 25th 2015 by Black Inc.

My late twenties have felt like a series of slow-motion epiphanies, each one sneaking up before slapping me in my newly acquired jowls. Everything I said I’d do ‘by the time I’m thirty’ as a glassy-eyed graduate is now in the ‘by the time I’m forty’ box.

we're all going to dieI have to admit, it is a completely surreal feeling, reading a book set in the place where you grew up. Particularly when that place has never really been the centre of anything, besides a local newspaper article about realty every now and again. But this book is set where I grew up. And it’s written by someone I grew up knowing. And it’s awesome

Now I’m not plugging this book simply because I somewhat know the author, I am plugging this book because it’s smart, witty, humorous and very entertaining (all at the authors expense of course, but entertaining nonetheless). More of a series of essays rather than an actual story, We’re All Going to Die (Especially Me) illustrates several key points in Meares’ adult life that have caused some kind of awakening about who he was becoming, the man he was as an adult and no longer a fledgling twenty-something. He writes about finally figuring out that he was gay (read more about that here) and about his family life growing up mostly with his mum (more on that here).

beer-smackdown-joel-162x210However big or small each event and it’s telling in the book seem to be, Meares writes with such clever and engaging language (I suppose that’s what being a journalist teaches you), that almost any audience should be captivated by this book. Granted, it’s definitely not targeted at young adults (read: teens), however, there is a lot to be learnt from his discoveries for early twentys to thirties and even older- because let’s face it, we are all always still discovering things about ourselves, that’s very relatable.

You can find a detailed interview with Joel Meares about his book here.

Meares appears at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in the ‘Myself in Pieces’ talk with Kim Williams and Hannie Rayson, Thursday May 21, 3-4pm.

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I’ll Give You the Sun, Book Review

Author: Jandy Nelson

Published: September 16, 2014 by Dial Books

It’s been a long time since I read a book in which I fell so in love with the characters that I wanted to live with them forever, so in love with the words that I just wanted to read them over and over and over again. For me, this is one of those books.

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tumblr_inline_naprj6V5zL1re4pvvThe way the stories in I’ll Give You the Sun unfold and intertwine is magically written, the characters are explosive, they are incredibly real and I fell in love with them so hard and fast it winded me. Noah and Jude, and even Oscar, are heartbreakingly true, and untrue, to themselves and to the world. The relationships between them are constantly changing, fluid and fluxing with the world around them as that changes, sometimes for the better, but often for the worst. They act as most teenagers would act, angry and lost and confused, there’s no out of place wisdom or uncharacteristic know-all. They are simply real teenagers, with wonderfully rich personalities.

And then there is the language – oh, the language! – such vivid images are created in your mind as you read the words that the colours start to lift from the page and fill the room you’re in. Such amazingly simple, but so very complex detail, such explosive descriptions that just make you want to keep reading and never stop. The language was my favourite thing about this book, as much as I loved Noah, and then Jude, or even Oscar and Brian, I loved the language. Jandy Nelson has such a sublime and inspiring way with words, the language begged me to become a better writer, just from reading it.

illgiveyouthesun - felixturtleYou aren’t supposed to, so I’m told, but you always have a favourite twin. I’ve known a few twins and there’s always one you’re a little closer to than the other, because as similar as they may be, they are always two very distinctly different people. At first I loved Noah, I just wanted to keep reading Noah’s story, and felt that I had nothing in common with Jude, but then as Jude began to tell her stories, I fell just as much in love with her struggles and her pain as I had Noah’s charisma. I love them both. Jude and Noah are so wonderfully different, relatably so. I’ve never been all that close with my sister, so I related to their strange, awkward communications as they got older, in Jude’s telling, and longed for the closeness we had as children while I read Noah’s stories. The two are so lost, so brilliantly, and life alteringly lost; the trials they face are terrible, and the world in which they live drags you in and begs you to helps them, only you’re as helpless as they are, flailing about in the sea that is life’s hardships. But of course, from hardship we grow, and change and it moulds us into who we are to become as we reach the peak of adulthood, and this book explores that so beautifully, so artfully, that it just makes you want more and more and more. Never have I read a coming of age story that has enveloped me so completely and driven me back to how it felt to be a teenager so terribly, particularly as I get further and further from my own. Don’t get me wrong, I have barely anything in common with Noah and Jude, besides struggling with finding myself at that age, yet I still feel so inexplicably connected to them. The story is just that good.

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 This is now one of my favourite books ever. I don’t want to leave Noah and Jude behind. I will reread this many times in the future and I will likely love it just as much ever single time. It is mesmerising. It is superb.

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Eleanor & Park, Book Review

Author: Rainbow Rowell 

Published: 2013 by St. Martin’s Press

Yet again, I have found another Rainbow Rowell novel that resonated with me. This book is so wonderfully nice. I don’t mean that in a bad way, at all. I mean, I just enjoyed sitting and reading it, taking the journey with these two cool people, watching them fall in love and watching their world change and mould and crumble around them.

imageEleanor is so very much a younger version of myself in so many ways (despite my being born two years after the book is set), she is somewhat reserved, outwardly, doesn’t seem to care what people think, but inwardly is so hateful of herself it makes it hard for her to love anyone else. Also, she deals with being a little bit chubby – and I love that, cos its HARD. And Park, funnily enough, reminds me of my boyfriend in some ways too. But we didn’t meet when we were teenagers, regardless of how many times we have fantasised together about just that.

The process of their falling for each other is so awkward and clunky – it is exactly how two teenagers would behave. Rowell gets inside a teenagers head so well that it feels like a teenager has written it themselves. With all the unsurety and insecurity that teenagers hold close to their hearts the story has a real sense of truth about it. The book explores the emotions of the two protagonists in so much back and forth without all that much happening until the story comes to a head in the last few chapters and shit really hits the fan. It doesn’t even feel like that much of a build up, just subtle hints along the way at one point the penny dropped and I just thought ‘Oh, shit.’

Rainbow Rowell has once more written a world that both teens and adults alike can get lost with the characters in, and it’s really, really good.

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4outof5  

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Ed Sheeran, Live in Concert

Ed Sheeran is Hands Down the Best Performer I Have Ever Seen Live.

I love his music, and I  love his image and his whole attitude. Ed is just a stand-up guy, a great person with the power to do good (and he does!), and the man delivers when it comes to a live performance. There is a huge difference between being a ‘singer’ and being a ‘performer’, and Ed is definitely the latter.

With a mix of current music, older music, mash-ups and covers, Ed definitely knows how to entertain a crowd. Honestly, I have never been to a concert (and I’ve been to my fair share) that is so much an interactive experience, rather than just some famous person standing up and singing at you. He knows how to get you excited, how to have you singing along, tapping along, bobbing along and even rapping along if you can keep up! At one point, Ed had the audience singing back-up, in unison, and in harmony! You feel that you are as much a part of the concert as Ed is, and that, for me, is a rare occurrence.

It amazed me (more than Ed himself and his musical talent) that Ed was the only person on the stage during the entire performance (okay, there were a few roadies here and there, but you know what I mean). Ed, his guitar, a couple of peddles at his feet and Ed has the whole band at his disposal: backing tracks, the chorus, riffs and beats and it’s all so natural, but also ALL LIVE. He is adding backing tracks as he needs them, playing guitar like a total fucking boss and singing – all at once. He performs covers, and makes them his own, including Blackstreet’s No Diggity, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, and even Iggy Azalea’s Fancy. He even mashed these songs into medleys with his own songs, and he made it look really easy.  The man is brilliant. Period.

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Ed in 247. Magazine UK, 2012

He sang all the new songs, and some of the best old ones, opening with Lego House and closing with a huge rendition of Sing – complete with harmonised audience back-up – and an amazing light display. The screens behind him on stage show live video of Ed as he’s singing, but also show images, light displays, and tell stories through animated and pre-filmed footage – the final result: a completely seamless, stunning display and a thoroughly enjoyable concert.

Not to mention Ed is just such an awesome guy – check out what he did this week in Sydney for a couple’s wedding over at popsugar. He is truly a nice guy, the kind of dude I’d love to just hang out with. That, and he’s besties with my favourite – Taylor Swift. Couple the whole thing with Ed telling us that Australia is his favourite place to visit, and I can honestly say that this was the most enjoyable and exhilarating concert I have ever been to.

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5 out of 5

 

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Fangirl, Book Review

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published 2014 by Pan Macmillan, 461 Pages

A light-hearted frollick through the turbulence of teen fangirling.

It’s true, teen fangirling is a big deal. It is a life altering, game changing thing. Falling into a fandom, and becoming part of something amazing, bigger than you, always changing and so, SO inclusive is wonderful. It fills you up and takes you away. It is an escape. You can go anywhere you like, and share experiences with a multitude of different characters, whether they be from your favourite book, TV show, movie or game – there is a fandom for everything and we are not limited to one. Being a geek is the ultimate escape from reality, there is always a side window to sneak out of, a forest to run away to, a community waiting for you online to comfort, console and share in all the wonders that are created by artists all over the world – fiction.

It’s funny, how much I actually related to this book. It’s been a long time since I was at Uni, andFANGIRL book cover it’s so different to American college, but it’s been even longer since I was 18. But I still remember how it felt. The insecurity of it all. I studied English, and creative writing, like our main protagonist, Cath, and I used to write fanfiction too… In fact, I wrote fanfiction about Harry Potter falling in love with Draco Malfoy – much the way Cath write about the fictional world of Simon Snow, and how the protagonist of her fandom is falling for his nemesis. I saw so much of myself in Cath that this book dragged me in head first, very quickly.

I’m not judging my feelings, or my judgment of this book on my own connections to it. Fangirl is incredibly intuitive, it glides through the (short) storyline with ease, and the events draw out the perfect amount of empathy, sympathy and nostalgia. There is nothing obnoxious about this book, it is simple and pleasant and easy t0 read, and has a nice solid flow to it. Nothing really seems out of place and it feels quite natural, the way life generally flows, with ups and downs and busy and quiet. It has plenty to relate to, both for the introverts and extroverts of the world, perfectly represented in the twin protagonists Cath and Wren. The situations that unfold: partying, feeling alone, anxiety, teenage drinking, love, sex – all of these are made relatable through the eyes of the opposing views of the twins, and the other utterly believable characters around them, and that leads me to me next point…

FanGirlCOLOURWhat really makes this book is the characters. This is a bunch of characters a minimum of nine years younger than me, most of them closer to twelve years younger, and yet I can still relate to them all. (Perhaps it’s because I’m still so young at heart!) But there characters are real, and flawed and honest and not, and all of them human. They each make mistakes and sometimes deal with them poorly, they stumble and don’t always have exactly the right thing to say. The book does, indeed, read smoothly, but it has the expected jaggedness of a coming of age story, that stop/start kind of ebb that slowly pushes the protagonists to breaking point, to the point of change, where they learn something and grow up, just a little bit.

IamafangirlAt the end of it all, even though it was only a shirt journey with the characters as they transitioned from high school to college, and from freshmen to their second year, this was a delightful romp in a cute little world with some very likeable characters, the nerdy references made it all the more enjoyable for me, all the little in jokes that only a fellow nerd would get. Rainbow Rowell creates magic with the ease that this story, and even the Simon Snow stories within the story, read. I truly enjoyed this book, in fact, I devoured it in a day – and I haven’t done that with a book in a very, very long time.

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The Girl with All the Gifts, Book Review

Author: M. R. Carey
Hachette UK, 14 Jan 2014 – Fiction – 416 pages

“Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.”

Let’s face it, zombies are in right now. No, really, they are all the rage. I even find myself fantasising about how I would go about surviving a zombie apocalypse; what I would hoard, who I would align myself with, where we would secure a safe-house. Twisted I know. But The Walking Dead is one of my favourite Graphic novels and TV series. But this dark and twisted view of death and perhaps, some form of afterlife, are fitting for this book, being that it was born from a short story commission to the tune of an anthology of dark fantasy and horror with the theme of “school days”.

Aside from the overshadowing living dead and apocalyptic themes, it’s been a long time since I read a book I enjoyed as much as this, since I read a book I couldn’t put down and came home to, needing to know what happens. A book as completely engrossing as this one.

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Having said that, not all that much really happens throughout the book, but that is the glory of it. There is so much attention to detail, and none of it is overbearing or too much; none of it boring or arrogant. It doesn’t drag. It’s spot on. The depth of emotions from each character, and the construction of the world around them is spectacular; and yet the language and the story are beautiful and so easy to read. This book tackles the taboo parts of a zombie apocalypse, the questions that we don’t really want to ask while these things that used to be human are stalking us, and we are driven to kill against our will. It questions morals and social structure, it sheds a new light on society and psyche, and explores a different view-point. One that is very, very interesting and perplexingly explored in this novel.

I also really love the way Carey weaves realism into his story, like the links to modern science and the structure and subsequent fallout of the military. But I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, in fact, I don’t want to give away any of it. Every page is truly full of wonderful language, engrossing little pieces of story twinning together to create the overall tapestry of the world it creates, and the wonderful innocence of Melanie. I loved this book.

5stars
5 Stars

For more great reads, checkout the Goodreads list of Adult books of 2014.

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Wild, 2014 Review

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by: Cheryl Strayed and Nick Hornby
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern

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Every now and again, you see a film that really sinks in, deep down, and resonates with you. A film that pulls on heart strings and causes thoughts to swirl up into a dust storm in your head, fogging your vision. A film that captures you, and encapsulates you, and doesn’t let you go until long after you’ve finished watching it.

This is one of those films, for me.

This movie about a troubled girl who needs to get away from civilisation and heads into the desert and forrest to get away from her past to try and find herself, makes me think a lot about myself, particularly when life gets too hard and I try and retreat. I just wish I’d had a trick like this up my sleeve.
On a true adventure of self discovery, Cheryl Strayed hiked 1100 miles alone, in order to get over the severe hardships her life faced, that earns the woman some serious kudos points as far as I’m concerned. I’m all for camping a few days here and there, but we are talking over 90 days in the wilderness with a small tent, mush and very sore feet.

The film is stunningly shot, depicting gorgeous scenery and vast, yet confining landscapes; the overall tone certainly sits very well with that of the story being told. I have to admit, the imagery alone had me contemplating doing a small stretch of the hike myself. Starting out in the desert, as Cheryl hikes north, the landscape changes and becomes more lush, more mountainous, more inviting. And while very subtle, the camera work and cinematography are both very pleasant to watch.

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Then there’s Reese.
She was fabulous in the role, and it’s no wonder, as Cheryl herself sent a copy of the book to Reese 5 months before it was released, in anticipation that were it ever to be made into a film, Reese, and only Reese, should play her character. The emotion that she injects into Cheryl onscreen is just the right amount, the sex scenes have just the right amount of (tasteful) nudity and awkwardness, the drug scenes the right amount of pain, the aura of giving up and being lost.
The character was not a particularly easy role to play – it was severely emotionally charged, but above and beyond that, it was also very physically demanding. I was really impressed with Withersoon and her representation of the range of emotion and the constant pain, coupled with determination.

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For me, the film just struck a cord. I’ve been there, maybe not to the same extent, I’ve not done drugs, or yet lost someone more important or close to me than a grandparent or boyfriend; but just understanding that desire to wipe the slate clean, to start over and re-discover yourself. Maybe, one day, I’ll have the opportunity to do just that.

If you get an opportunity to see this film, I very highly recommend it. And am also very much looking forward to reading the book as well.
Also, it has foxes.

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Star Trek: Into Darkness Review

Not being a Star Trek fan prior to the 2009 relaunch I was always fairly dubious of watching the films, what with being a Star Wars obsessed geek and all. However, having loved the first installment, I had quite high expectations for this second film. And boy did they deliver!

Aside from my annoying ability to guess almost every plotline that is coming up, I found this film to be an almost magical harmony of action, suspense and comedy. I still love the casting of these films – almost everyone cast fits into their roles quite nicely. One of my favourites is John Cho as Sulu, his ability to shake the character of Harold from the Harold and Kumar series has served him very well indeed, and let’s face it, he’s hot. Then again, so is the lead, the Captain himself – Chris Pine. I think Chris is such a brilliant Jim Kirk, with just the right amount of recklessness balanced by his desire to do what’s right, even if he needs Spock to remind him of that sometimes. I’m not entirely sure how the many die hard Star Trek fans feel about Zachary Quinto as Spock; I can only really take Dr Sheldon Cooper’s opinion on board, and that is that he has worked out quite well for the role. This I agree with, in fact, I enjoy Quinto so much as Spock he makes me want to spend my last $100 on a new Blu Ray player so I can re-watch Heroes from the beginning.

New to the cast for the sequel though, are Benedict Cumberbatch, playing the villain – Khan, and Alice Eve who plays Dr. Carol Marcus. Both are brits, and it will never cease to make me happy that brits are breaking into Hollywood. While Eve has a minor role, she still brings some spark, and a little bit of competition for Spock also. Cumberbatch is just completely in his element in this film – he plays the villain without a hitch, you are never quite sure when he’s going to turn on everyone around him; he’s conniving, intelligent beyond understanding, manipulative and just outright entertaining to watch. His character has depth and is strikingly and impressively easy to empathise with.

Also – a shout out to Noel Clarke – a support role in Doctor Who will always get you somewhere, was super proud to see a whovian on the big screen!

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The visual effects are, of course, stunning. Though the images do sometimes seem quite dark, I felt that the overall feel of the film sits well, it isn’t just a joy ride, this time it is more personal to Kirk and the team. The 3D was fantastic, it works really well, and the end credits just looked awesome. The sound track was also really good, keeping with the feel of the original series, which I love even though I wasn’t a fan.

Over all a great, action packed, fun filled romp. Definitely buying this one on Blu Ray!!

5stars 5 out of 5 stars.

Iron Man 3 Review

I was sincerely excited to see this film. The first two films of the trilogy had, from memory, completely engrossed me and left me anticipating more. Much more.

Initially, I was quite excited to be sitting in the cinema, 3D glasses on, popcorn by my side. Robert Downey Jr. has again reprised the role of Tony Stark (and let’s face it, he IS Tony Stark), and the familiar red and gold suit graced the screen before me once more.

The look of the film was all there – it looked great. The colours of the film give it that grainy war like feel continued from the first film, and there are some other recurring themes also. We see similar images in the background of the terrorist clips we see through out the film, as those that appeared in the cave where Stark was held hostage in the first installment, it’s just a shame they had to recast Rhodey after the first film.

Pepper returns to support Tony in all the areas he needs them, but she has changed a lot since the first film, where her witty comments about taking out the trash had me in a small fit of giggles. She isn’t really funny anymore, and is instead used as the key to keeping Tony focused. While this works for the film, I miss Tony’s reckless boyish charm, and don’t really like having to sit through a love story when I want to watch an action movie.

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SPOILERS:

It was the terrorist videos however, that started to drain me after some time, particularly the way Disney had decided to make Guy Pierce the mastermind (like we didn’t see that coming), and have the man we see in the videos turn out to be a washed up, drunkard out of work actor. ‘The Mandarin‘ – in the comics – was “a genius scientist and a superhumanly skilled martial artist“, and should have been truly feared by Tony and the audience alike. I don’t like this direction away from the comics. If they wanted to have a fake terrorist on the screens, then fine, but they should have created a new character for the role, instead of ruining an already well known one.

I also really disliked Pepper getting superhuman powers (I know that this is in the comics, I just don’t like it) – again, it was simply too predictable, and it bothered me that they felt it necessary to flip the damsel in distress role. It seemed to open a whole idea of further storyline, that we know they wont be pursuing (and if Pepper is in any of the follow up Avengers films featuring super strength and healing powers, I will be most unimpressed).

Aside from these two points, the rest of the film was great, I loved seeing the return of some of the older suits, and the army of automated suits was kinda fun at the end too. Overall, I think the film was well done, summed up the series well and looked great, and lets face it, I’ll buy all three on blu ray eventually.

4.5stars 4.5 out of 5 Stars