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Tag Archives: adventure

Movie Review: True Grit

Based on the book by Charles Portis.

Version: 2010; starring Jeff Bridges; Matt Damon; Domhnall Gleeson

Genre: adventure; classic

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:]  Mattie Ross, 14, from Dardanelle, Arkansas, narrates half a century later, her trip in the winter of 1870s, to avenge the murder of her father. She convinces one-eyed “Rooster” Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshall, to tag along, while she outdickers and outmaneuvers the hard-bitten types in her path.”

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.  

I’ve been wanting to watch this film for a while, but you should know by now I’ve never been up to speed on pop culture.  I have never seen the John Wayne movie made in 1969, so I cannot compare it to that or the book which (as stated) I have not read.

I could immediately see why this story is such a classic.  The plot sounds like one that could easily be written today.  One could also appreciate the detail and attention taken in the production of this movie.  Much of the story’s tone is cold and austere, the characters are often grungy and hardened.  This gave it a believable feel, taking place in a tough atmosphere and time period.

I was struck by such a quick-witted heroine only aged 14 years.  She is forced to grow up far too early and therefore she is mature and capable.  She doesn’t let any scoundrel monkey with her and isn’t shy in standing her ground.  She makes for a very admirable character!  The question isn’t whether she has true grit, but whether others are up to the task of staying faithful to their word even when the trail grows cold.

I wanted to give thought to the choice of background music.  Orchestrated by Carter Burwell, much of the theme delineates from the hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”  At first I wondered why this choice was made.  The sound fits well in the background, but what about that song connects it to the story?  After thinking about it, I realized that although the film is not overtly religious and many of the characters do not recognize God (except through swearing), our young heroine Mattie Ross does come from a God-fearing family.  Mattie is not after personal revenge per se, something the Lord commands us not to seek.  But she is after justice which is a major attribute of God.  After local officials refuse to take correct measures, Maddie pursues her case with a local bounty hunter.  She wisely chooses a man she believes will not be soft on the matter of holding a wrongdoer accountable… Rooster Cogburn.  He isn’t an easy character to deal with, but Mattie is not faint of heart.

It’s a good thing she isn’t timid because there are plenty of gorey scenes that aren’t so pretty.   This isn’t exactly a family-friendly flick, and also contains some amount of swearing.

But overall, I was glad to be able to watch this movie at last and counted it as a positive experience.  I would encourage fans of both the book and the previous film version to give this a try.  No, Bridges isn’t John Wayne, but I believe he made the character all his own.  I especially got a kick out of Matt Damon’s egotistical Mr. LaBoeuf.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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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 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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Book Review: “The Big Four,” by Agatha Christie

Genre: classic; mystery; suspense; intrigue

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] “Framed in the doorway of Poirot’s bedroom stood an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust. The man’s gaunt face stared for a moment, then he swayed and fell. Who was he? Was he suffering from shock or just exhaustion? Above all, what was the significance of the figure 4, scribbled over and over again on a sheet of paper? Poirot finds himself plunged into a world of international intrigue, risking his life to uncover the truth about ‘Number Four’.”

My Book Review: This Poirot mystery was a lot different from any previous one I’ve read so far.  For one, murder isn’t so much the focal crime point as it is an international gang of power wranglers and terrorists.  This had my attention!  The way it read reminded me in a way of old Nancy Drew or other novels of mysterious intrigue that I used to read as a preteen.  I think I might have enjoyed it more back then.

It also reminded me a lot of one of Christie’s other mystery novels, The Secret Adversary.  But I was much more hooked on the bumbling Tommy and Tuppence-duo battling elusive criminals than I was on Poirot being duped over and over.

This is a short, easy read but with my then-schedule I dragged it out much longer than need be and had a hard time remembering details. It just felt like Poirot was bested one too many times, and too many lives were lost before Poirot won the day.  The last few chapters were exciting, but a little too unbelievable and made me glad I was finished with the book and on to something different.

I will enjoy watching the film, but I haven’t come across it yet. Loyal Poirot fans will want to complete the reading of the canon, I’m sure.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…

 

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “A Season of Shadows,” by Paul McCusker

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Genre: Christian fiction; historical fiction; suspense; intrigue; WWII; espionage

Plot Summary: When the rich, beautiful Julie Harris finds herself a widow during the early days of WWII, she decides she needs to find out the truth about her late husband.  Was their marriage a sham ever since they met?  Was he true to her, or did he live a double life?  The only way she can answer these questions is by going undercover herself, as one of America’s first agents of the war.  Working in London, she gets to know a small circle of people who seem to be her friends.  But who can she really trust?

My Book Review: It’s been a long time since I’ve ever read a book by Paul McCusker.  I remember I loved his Passages series when I was a kid (spin-off novels from Adventures in Odyssey, which McCusker helped create).  What would one of his novels for adults be like?  This one grabbed my attention, as espionage always does!

I found that I enjoyed this suspense story very much. Although I suspected the one character all along, I was never quite sure enough and I kept going on the edge of my seat.  Some great plot twists I didn’t see coming, and different love interests for our beautiful heroine that kept me guessing, too.  🙂

But more than that, I really learned a lot about England (esp. London) during the air raid bombings in 1940. I love fiction books that can teach me about a certain era, and this was definitely one of those.  Everything from what civilian daily life was like, how they coped, their attitude during the most difficult of days, and the everyday heroes of the war such as the emergency volunteers, the doctors and nurses, and the priests.  I even learned some things about Churchill.  To confirm all of this, I ended up watching a documentary on Netflix (“Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny”- narrated by Ben Kingsley) that went over the same timeline during which this book is set and I got to hear and see photographs of the very things “Julie” would have witnessed.  I also watched a brief documentary on the first spy training camp the US set up in Canada, where our heroine also would have been sent to.  It made the book feel all the more real and I know it was well researched.

Some drawbacks to the book are that some readers may find it predictable. Sometimes I wanted it to be a tad more cloak and daggerish, but that’s probably just me being unrealistic!  I did find it somewhat unbelievable that Julie would run off to be an agent to spy against the very people her husband supposedly sympathized with, so soon after his death.  That part just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

But I still enjoyed it, and stayed up late nights trying to finish it in time to send it back to the library. Those are the good ones, aren’t they?  So, if you’re up for burning the midnight oil, I think you’ll like this one!

I also recommend…

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Movie Review: “The Aviator”

Based on the book by Ernest K. Gann.

Version: 1985; starring Christopher Reeve; Tyne Daly

Genre: adventure; classic

Plot Summary: A physically and emotionally scarred US mail pilot is commissioned to escort a young teenager over the lonely Rocky Mountain wilderness during the 1920’s.

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

When I first came across this streaming for free online, I thought it was an early version of The Aviator that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett.  I thought it might be about Howard Hughes.  The story turned out to be quite different than I expected and was a pleasant surprise.

Though this movie may be lacking a lot of the frills and fancies of today’s world, the story was still interesting because of the well-developed characters.  Reeve plays a good pilot that is still suffering from a war incident and lives in isolation from those around him.  Tillie is a young teenage girl that on the surface seems spoiled and immature, but when put to the test proves she has courage to survive hardships.

Some beautiful cinematography from the air and accompanying filmscore is lovely.  Acting may not be A1, but there aren’t any scenes you wouldn’t want your parents to watch.  I believe there were a few ‘d’ words sprinkled throughout.  Tillie does confess that she was ‘banged up’ by a boy prior to her plane trip and declares that it ‘certainly wasn’t love.’  She begins to develop a bit of a crush on Edgar, but nothing inappropriate comes of it.  Rather, it was sweet and humorous and Edgar comes to realize that there may be something in him the right woman could love about him.

I believe that the character Tillie was made older in the movie than she was in the book, but I think this was actually in the story’s favor.  If you’re looking for something a little different, I believe you would enjoy this for entertainment.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Characters Series: Heroines in the Worst of Times

When I was a kid, I wished that I could do something really BIG and dramatic that would save the day.  I think that I still do have this desire, and I think it is a common one.  We humans want to know that our lives have a purpose and meaning.  It’s all very well to talk about character when things in life are going so nicely.  Of course, character is needed in everyday life.  But it’s so much harder when you’re in the midst of scary events. 

We’re usually not aware of these kinds of heroines until we put them in the context of history.  The real-life heroines are the most admirable, for they show us that it is possible to have integrity for real and that it’s not just for fiction.  One of my personal favorites ever since I was little has been Queen Esther—Persian queen (Jewish commoner) in disguise!  Even though she was in the prime of life and could easily talk herself out of it, she felt a duty to go to the king on behalf of her people because she could do something. 

One our favorite Lord of the Rings quotes goes something like this: 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. 

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  

Thinking of history not that long past, there are the character role models of Diet Eman and Corrie ten Boom.  They were also both women in the prime of life who did what they could while their country was occupied by the Nazi regime.  I cannot think of anything more terrifying than facing a concentration camp, yet that is what they risked experiencing (and did experience) because of their belief that all people matter.  What heart, what courage these women modeled!  Come to think of it, why else do heroes do what they do, other than because of their value for human life and freedom?  In the moment of their action, they put aside their safety and sometimes very lives for the treasuring of another. 

I have never read the book, but I recently watched the movie The Help for the first time.  This story is full of women in a particular place (deep Southern America) in a particular time (violently racial 1960’s).  Some did what was popular and easy in the community—letting others bully them as to their personal decisions and relationships.  Others saw their neighbors as human beings with souls.  And still others decided to take a stand, to say ‘enough is enough’, and try to help each other in the middle of what was impossible conditions.  They were scared; they were hesitant at first or said no at the beginning, because they were risking so much.  But each decided that their friends and family were more important than their present fear and took the step forward that eventually became fruitful.  No longer ‘Strange Fruit.’ 

Sometimes heroines will never see the fruit of their labors.  In Tangled Ashes (Michele Phoenix), Marie is a seventeen-year-old girl living in an obscure village in France during WWII.  She is just an ordinary teenager, but living in extraordinary times.  She is forced to serve in a nearby manor house where strange and secretive things are taking place under the German occupation.  She “hears nothing, she sees nothing”– until she is forced to face the facts that her best friend is pregnant with an enemy soldier.  Suddenly, she cannot live for her preservation alone.  She has a tiny, innocent life to look after and it ends up costing her dearly.  But her love puts others first, and she has to trust that her courageous actions are more important in the long run. 

What becomes of the people we have influence over?  Maybe we will never know.  Or maybe their lives will touch others in a great, wide ripple effect that never stops.  All we can do is strive to pass on a heritage that will be life-giving and honoring for others.  And maybe this idea is not relegated to the big, grandiose acts of queens, but starts with the everyday little yeses and considerations in this world. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3,4) 

 
 

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