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Movie Review: “Alistair Maclean’s Air Force One is Down”

Based on the book by John Denis.

Version: 2013; starring Emilie de Ravin

Genre: adventure; intrigue

Plot Summary: When Air Force One, carrying the President and many cabinet members, is hijacked and destroyed, it is up to a team of three independently working agents to rescue innocent lives.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

This movie caught my eye because a) I enjoy stories of intrigue, and b) the name of Alistair Maclean.  It was a fairly recently made movie and I was surprised that Maclean had any stories so recent.  Wasn’t he a writer from the 1960’s or something?

It turns out that the book this movie is based upon was not written by Alistair Maclean, but by an author pen named John Denis.  It has the name of Maclean attached to it because it is a continuation of a series he started.  I believe it was originally set in the ’80’s, the decade it was written.

The story does not have good reviews as a novel, and the film (updated to a contemporary era) was obviously not big budget.  However, I found the plot interesting and exciting, even if the acting was a little cheesy at times.  There were a lot of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat.  I also enjoyed seeing actress Emilie de Ravin in another role besides playing sweet characters for a change (Australian accent not present).  As an undercover Russian agent, her edge and innovativeness in tight situations were fun to watch.

Unfortunately, this movie does contain a lot of foul language and innuendos.  Early on, a man and woman have a sexual fling.  Francesca and Steven are left to drown in their underwear.  Another scene contains a lesbian kiss, but it is shortly revealed to be only a hoax.  There were some pretty gory sights, as well.

Would I recommend this?  I wouldn’t place it high on my to-watch list but it did have an unique plot, and if you have nothing better to do or watch this may be of interest.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Book Review: “The Man from Sing Sing,” by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Genre: vintage classic

Plot Summary: Reuben Argels is a man with a past behind him and a future ahead of him.  Having been a part of Moran Chamber’s syndicate in America, he turned traitor and was largely responsible for putting that man in prison.  But there is no living the straight and narrow for Argel.  He promptly benefits from his treason and moves on to greener grass, this time to the financial fields of England.  But maybe his old enemy isn’t behind bars like Argels thinks.  And Chambers has many friends who are willing to exact revenge for the man who did him wrong.  What will become of Reuben Argels?  And is Violet– the sweet, sensible woman so ready to help him– really who she says she is?

My Book Review: Continuing making my way through the works of Oppenheim

To be honest, I prefer other EPO novels to this novel of crime syndicate members. The plot sounds intriguing enough, but I got lost among all the stock exchange jargon (dated, and foreign to me).  It did, as EPO stories go, keep me guessing as to the motives behind certain characters.  But it was hard to find sympathy for the main character, Reuben, since he was neither a goodie or a baddie.  He professes a love for Chamber’s lover Ambouyna (a name I still have no idea how to pronounce), but yet pursues Miss Violet Withers on the side.  In fact, while admitting to her that he doesn’t love her, he asks if she would fill in for him since he can’t have whom he really wants?  Sure, that’s the way to win any girl’s heart!

Actually, Violet Withers was my favorite character from the book. She easily balances a personality of modesty and mystery.  I loved a couple of quotes surrounding her sensibility:

“Lots of girls do things they don’t want to because they have to. I’m not one of them…. If I get to like you well enough, I shall certainly allow you to call me by my Christian name, and possibly to kiss me occasionally. If I don’t, I shan’t. Believe me,… I am much more worth kissing because I have such queer ideas.”

SPOILER ALERT: It’s painful to watch Argels slowly being dragged to the bottom all the way to the end of the book.  He’s sent over the edge, but at the last minute is saved by his enemy of all people– on purpose.  And then they shake hands and a check is written and all is honkey dorey.  I don’t know.  It just didn’t fit together right at the end.  There’s all this build up of suspense because of the hatred of these two enemies, neither of which you particularly want to side with, but then suddenly it all disappears and Chambers has a change of heart for no reason.  It just didn’t make sense and the story fell flat on its face for me. END OF SPOILER.

So if you like the idea of characters existing in a glamorous world of the 1930’s, full of crime and blackmail, you might have your next favorite novel (which you can read for free here). But if you’re more plot-oriented (like me), you might want to skip past this one.

If you liked this book, I also recommend:

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “John Jago’s Ghost,” by Wilkie Collins

Genre: classic; mystery

*Playlist…

Plot Summary: In need of a vacation, a young English attorney (the narrator of the story) decides to visit extended relations in America.  But upon arriving at the little farm in the countryside, he discovers that all is not right in this tense environment.  There is an all-out war between the elder farmer, his hired hand, and the younger generation of sons.  And a pretty American girl caught in the middle of the drama…

My Book Review: I immensely enjoyed The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.  So, as often is the result of something I love, I went in search of more books by same author.  This is my next foray into the Collins canon.  A novella really, this took no time at all for me to finish; it was a pretty easy read.

I found it moderately interesting, could predict some of what would happen, but novellas and short stories are not really my thing.  I did not realize it was so short when I ordered it through my library system.  But, I read it and was glad to add another title to last year’s list of books read.

Collins paints a good descriptive atmosphere that one could feel.  I like that in a book.  I might forget the details of what happened, but I carry the feel of a story around with me.  I also thought the content gave some fodder for the brain.  SPOILER: Even though the brothers did not commit murder as the town believed, their actions of hatred leading up to the dramatic episode in question reaped hard consequences.  Jago was not physically dead, yet they had ‘murdered him in their hearts’ and were paying the price.  One man lost his fiancé in the whole matter… to another man much more deserving.  END OF SPOILER.

If you want to stretch yourself to read something a little deeper but are not used to thick tomes or heavy vocabulary, I would recommend this book to you.  As an added bonus, the story is loosely based on a true story.  There is benefit to be gained by it, and will not require much time.  Another score in my book for Collins!

*This story also goes by the title, “The Dead Alive.”

I also recommend:

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Titus Groan,” by Mervyn Peake

6607257Genre: classic; literary

Plot Summary: Once upon a time there was an infant son and heir born to the Groan family of Gormenghast Castle.  His name was Titus and being so young he was yet unaware of the long line of history and tradition of which he stood in line to inherit.  But things were turned on their head (quite literally) on the day of his christening, and strange events began to unfold that are even stranger than the world into which he was born.

My Book Review: The Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake has been on my reading list from very early on.  I believe it was a discovery made while perusing the Dover catalog.  I really had no idea what it was about, which sometimes leads to interesting discoveries.  In this case, it was a very interesting discovery indeed, and has become one of my top reads for this year so far.

This isn’t normally a book I would have picked out for myself, so it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know what it was about. I’m proud of myself for completing such a thick book.  I’m also usually more action-oriented, whereas this is more character driven.  There is not a lot of action and when there is there is always a slow buildup to it, making those scenes stand out more.  I tend to quickly forget details and character names of a lot of the books I read, but not this one.  The scenes in this book stand out clear and defined in my mind, in large part due to great detailed descriptions.  With names like ‘Prunesquallor’, ‘Nannie Slagg’, and ‘Countess Gertrude Groan’, they’re hard to forget.  And the author’s own illustrations of many of them are wild and memorable as well.

Even better than just the names and pictures are the full-bodied characters themselves. You really have to read the book for yourself to make them come alive, and once you do I can almost guarantee they will live forever in your mind.  The insane Lord Sepulchrave, the 76th Earl of Gormenghast, who thinks he’s an owl; his epileptic twin sisters Cora and Clarice who are stupid and vacant-minded; the vain, middle aged Irma Prunesquallor in love with a teenager; and the sociopathic Steerpike, the young puppet master behind the inhabitants of the castle.  These aren’t all the colorful people of the story; there are many more besides.  It’s ironic that the title character really doesn’t play a major role in this first of the series.  In fact it really only covers the first year or two of his life, but all the important things that occurred during it.

f021918e76aa942568f2cff1ff2172c9It’s hard to put a finger on why I liked this novel so much. At times it seemed rather dark, and longwinded, yet the wonderful descriptions and the weirdness of it all lured me on.  The author had a way of making even peeling paint sound interesting.  I think one of my favorite scenes was the description of Fuchsia’s attic hideaway.  Who wouldn’t want a great hidey-hole retreat like that all to oneself?

Is this book fantasy? I would not call it that, although it is set in a fantasy world.  If you go into it expecting fantasy, you might be bored.  It is not set in a particular time era, though the closest one might get is the 1880’s-1910 era with a fantastical twist.

Some say this book reads of despair and futility. It is dark and the people of Gormeghast do live futile lives of pointless ritual, but the unusual turn of things as Titus grows gives a glimpse that things may change with Titus as heir… ?

One caution: there is one chapter in which a character, Keda, has a one-night stand with a lover.

I’ve read that there is more than one audio drama of this series, and also a movie, but I don’t see how any of them can be as good as the novel.  If I ever come across them, I’ll surely review it and post if worth it.

Titus Groan won’t be for everyone.  But I’ve certainly learned that character-driven books can be just as interesting (or even more so) than the plotted ones.  I’m not sure what the other books in the series will be like, but I can’t wait to see what will happen in the next installment of Titus Groan’s life.  The entire series are as follows:

  1. Titus Groan
  2. Gormenghast
    1. Boy in Darkness
  3. Titus Alone
  4. Titus Awakes

I also recommend…

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “The Seven Conundrums,” by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Genre: mystery; intrigue; classic vintage

*Playlist…

Plot Summary: A trio of entertainers are down on their luck when a mysterious man emerges out of the night to make them an offer of a lifetime.  Desperate, they agree to do anything he asks of them in exchange for a guarantee of work lineup.  Soon, they are rolling in it and living the highlife while touring England and abroad.  But exactly who’s side are they on—the side of the just or the side of evil?

My Book Review: Although Oppenheim’s most famous novel (The Great Impersonation) had me an instant fan as a kid, I’ve sort of become less enthused about some of his other works since then.  I was hoping this novel would draw me back in, or else I was seriously going to rethink whether I wanted to continue with his canon.

I was pleased to find myself enjoying this very much, especially for the book’s atmosphere.  The seven mysteries, the intrigue, wild characters, and the some of the exotic European locales had my interest.  Although it still did not have TGI beat, I’ve decided to continue on with more Oppenheim novels next year!

I also recommend…

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Random Books: Fall’s Hurrahs

And then… 🙂  I went to two more book sales over the weekend and came home with EVEN MORE!

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Book Shopping

 

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Random Books: Towering Stack

I love processing through my latest towering stack of new books.  By the time I get around to doing it, I’d forgotten what books I’d bought and it’s like Christmas all over again!

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Book Shopping

 

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