A Good Day to Die Hard

•February 15, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday really was A Good Day to Die Hard. It was a salve for those of us with V-Day fatigue to sit in the theatre and wait for John McClane to utter yippie kay yay…well you know the rest. Caution to those who haven’t seen the movie, this review will have spoilers, so you might want to mark the page, run out and see the movie and then check back with me after. I wouldn’t want to deprive you of the fun of discovering it for yourself.

A Good Day to Die Hard finds Bruce Willis’ John McClane on his way to Russia, to support (or possibly rescue) his son who is in trouble again and has been out of touch for a few years. As it turns out, McClane manages to screw up his son’s mission – that’s right, mission – to rescue Komarov and thus embroils himself in another blockbuster mission that’s not really his problem, but there’s no one else to step up to the plate. What follows (after the WAY too long car chase scene) is the two McClane men, father and son, doing what they do best: taking out scum bags. This time it’s the Russians playing the part of the bad guys and it’s up to the dynamic McClane duo to save the day before the Russian baddies can get away with weapons-grade nuke materials.

At 1 hr 37 mins, it’s considerably shorter than the first Die Hard (which clocked in at 2 hours plus) but during that hour and a half, it’s non-stop. And after that hour and a half of action-packed entertainment, I could come up with only two complaints. One is the aforementioned overly long car chase and the other is McClane the younger. If they had shortened the car chase/gratuitous vehicle destruction scene at the beginning, they could have afforded a better actor. I’m not saying a Die Hard film requires an Oscar contender, but someone who has more to offer than biceps would have improved the tenor of the movie immeasurably.

In the end, A Good Day to Die Hard, like all movies in the series is about good triumphing over evil and this time in addition to kicking some bad guy ass, John McClane and son repair their relationship amid the veritable hail of gunfire and multiple explosions we expect and love about these movies. All that family reunion cost them were a few cuts, scrapes and a concussion or two. The movie manages to avoid getting too sappy as the men bond in a suitably “manly” fashion but you still get the heart warming feel of it – if you’re watching for it.

While the original Die Hard (1988) and 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard remain my favourites due in large part to villains Alan Rickman and Timothy Olyphant respectively, A Good Day to Die Hard is still a lot better than the worst of the series, Die Hard: With a Vengeance and in my estimation, totally worth your $12 to see it in on the big screen.

 

And that’s my yippie kay yay 2¢ for today.

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The Following Series Premiere

•January 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Did you watch Fox’s new drama The Following last night? I did. And despite compelling performances by series stars Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, I’m not sure I’ll continue to watch the show. I was just thinking to myself that I had the same feeling I had about Prison Break when it opened (that it had a fresh angle and had a shot at being really great because of that) but at approximately 9:12 pm local time I found myself exclaiming at the TV. Spoiler alert – the crazy Joe Carroll (Purefoy) fan with writing all over her body declaimed Poe’s last words and stuck some kind of pick into her eye, committing suicide in a very graphic way. Unnecessarily graphic if you ask me. They could have gotten their point across and managed the visuals in a way that was less…icky. I was hoping that would be the last of the really gross stuff, but it wasn’t. A few minutes later I was crying for some tortured to death puppies another crazed fan had killed when I had a couple of years scared off my life when the poor Sheppard on the table was still alive. I abhor animal violence, even when it’s faked. I can’t even handle when horses fall down in movies even though I know they’re fine.

We’re now about 20 minutes in and by this point, all I’ve really gotten from the story is that the guy escaped from death row and the FBI brought back the guy that caught him (Kevin Bacon playing the part of a psychologically damaged former agent), most of which I got from the previews. I can’t help thinking the writers are going for shock value over story. A mistake when you’ve got actors of the caliber of Bacon and Purefoy. (By the way writers, you are truly twisted.) The violence isn’t what’s putting me off; I’ve enjoyed a lot of the procedural “cop” shows, of varying levels of violence over the years, but something about The Following is turning me off rather than pulling me in. I haven’t decided if it’s the train wreck you can’t help watching or if I’ll be able to resist the pull of The Following. I guess only time will tell.

 

And that’s my disturbed 2¢ for today.

THE GODS OF ATLANTIS by David Gibbins

•January 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Don’t ask me why it took reading The Gods of Atlantis to make me realize how much I like fusion (be it cuisine or books) but it suddenly dawned on me as I was drafting this review. Thanks to the pile of books on my nightstand it was almost a year in between my first David Gibbins book, The Mask of Troy and my second, but The Gods of Atlantis made it easy for me to pick up the threads of the characters lives again, which really appealed to me. I quite enjoy that sense of continuity once I’ve made a connection to characters. The Gods of Atlantis is a well-told story of what might have happened when naturalistic and anthropomorphic religions/worship clashed. It’s a story that will fascinate you even as you race through the pages on the edge of your seat, unable to wait to find out what adventures Howard and his IMU companions will have and what they will discover on their never-ending quest for answers.

It’s no coincidence the word Atlantis was in the title either. Much like Ancient Rome or Camelot, it’s a topic that never fails to catch my interest. (No I haven’t read Gibbin’s Atlantis yet, but it’s on my list, you can be sure of that, especially since it’s the prequel to The Gods of Atlantis.)

Gibbins fuses the myth of Atlantis with the myth of Noah and the flood and the actions of the Nazis during WWII. It’s fascinating the way his mind manages to take what we’ve established as historical fact and combine it with rumours and imagination to come out with a piece of fiction that is at once believable and entertaining. I got so excited reading Gibbin’s description of Jack Howard scuba diving at Atlantis that I’ve put “learn to scuba dive” back on my bucket list because the conclusion that if Atlantis existed and is to be found it will be underwater, seems so logical (not to mention obvious) that I want to be prepared if it’s ever discovered and turned into a tourist attraction like Stonehenge.

Join Jack Howard and company on this journey to uncover the truth about Atlantis – or at least one possible explanation for it – its connections to history and to discover some of the truth behind the mystery surrounding Himmler’s Ahnenerbe and the last days of WWII. And once you’ve done that, be sure to come back and let me know what you thought of The Gods of Atlantis.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.

 

THE ORACLE GLASS by Judith Merkle Riley

•December 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

I’d never heard of Judith Merkle Riley or The Oracle Glass before the day I bought it. I was wondering around Chapters, which long-time readers will know is probably the best way to fine me on a weekend, when someone came up and gave me one of those you could win as much as 50% off your entire purchase as long as you spend at least $30 kind of promotions, so I was on the hunt for one more book to take me over the amount and just figured I would put the book back if my discount wasn’t significant. By the time I got to the cash I couldn’t bear to part with the book, even though I only saved about $2 on it, and I’m glad I didn’t.

The Oracle Glass is set in Paris, the most romantic city in the world during the late 1600s, in the time of Louis the XIV when the occult and witchcraft were at the height of popularity with the French aristocracy. It centers around the life of Genevieve Pasquier, a young girl who is taken under the wing of La Voisin, the Queen of Shadows and her….let’s call them adventures.

I was first drawn to Riley’s book because it was historical fiction, which I quite enjoy but was still out of my typical milieu of that genre (since it takes place after the Fall of Rome). I’d never heard of Judith Merkle Riley and it was only after reading the book that I investigated further and found out that she’s a native of California and died in September 2010. A quick read of her bio revealed that she was a woman after my own heart, a lover of books. In addition to The Oracle Glass, Riley wrote several other historical novels; to see a full list, please click here.

Mlle Pasquier did not have an easy home life. Beware! Spoilers ahead! She was much beloved by her father and rather hated by her mother due to her deformity. After her father’s untimely death, Genevieve escapes her family and before she can commit suicide is recruited by La Voisin, the Queen of Shadows. La Voisin makes Genevieve into her protégé because Genevieve can is a water reader. (She can read a person’s future in the pictures she sees in the water.) La Voisin clothes her, trains her, creates an alternate past for her to permanently escape her family and then sends her out into the world to make money both for herself and for La Voisin. By the time she is in her early twenties, Genevieve has experienced rather a lot, but then, people didn’t live so long then as they do now, so that’s to be expected. I found the characters to be a little bit clichéd but not so much as to take away from their robustness. (Meaning they were still appealingly “real” characters) but the true beauty of the story was in Riley’s ability to paint the city of Paris and its inhabitants so that you could, if you squinted just right, almost see them shimmering in the air before you. She captures the attitudes of the era perfectly (rife with superstition, discrimination and pomposity). Her one failing is in the occasional slip into modern vernacular (I doubt anyone who lived in the time of the Sun King would have said “Hey!” to get someone’s attention, let alone a Parisian who would have found the exclamation the height of vulgarity).

The bottom line, I would definitely recommend the book if you enjoy the genre, or if you’re looking for a really cheap trip to Paris and have a good imagination. And should I come across another of Riley’s books in the future, I won’t hesitate to add it next to The Oracle Glass on my book shelf.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.

COLD DAYS by Jim Butcher

•December 3, 2012 • 4 Comments

Thank you Jim Butcher for writing Cold Days. Harry Dresden, alive (as opposed to being a ghost) and if not quite well at least functioning, emerges from Arctis Tor as the Winter Knight and is poised to once again save the world. Life inexorably marched on and in Harry’s absence much has changed in his city and in the people he loves.

The latest novel of the Dresden Files, Cold Days just came out on November 27th and I immediately went to Amazon to order my copy (they had the best price and it was delivered to my door less than 48 hours later). I tore the packaging open with my bare hands I was so excited.

Cold Days is a superior story and was a joy to read. This weekend I locked myself indoors on Saturday and read the whole thing in one sitting. It’s no secret that I am a fan of the Dresden Files, but I was definitely pleased with this book, which I can say with complete confidence is the best piece of writing Butcher has published to date. By turns hilarious, entertaining and poignant, Cold Days is a testament to the development of Butcher’s skill as a writer and Dresden’s growth as a wizard, and more importantly, a man. It was a masterpiece of storytelling, full of the wit and sarcasm we love in Harry Dresden and company, and surprisingly, weaved in very apt character development that was completely in line with what I would expect from these people if they were real. That’s not to say there wasn’t a surprise or two along the way, because there was indeed a twist near the end that I didn’t see coming until the very last minute. Readers, Cold Days, is your reward for still keeping faith with Butcher as he continued to write those awful Fury tales that thankfully, seem to have ceased.

With only 20 shopping days left before the big day, consider Cold Days, or any of the other Dresden Files, of which you can find a list here, for the book lover on your list this year.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.

Skyfall

•November 16, 2012 • 2 Comments

I’ve been waiting for the latest Bond flick for several months now. I’ve also been hoping it would be better than the last (Quantum of Solace). I can honestly say that Skyfall is one of the best Bond movies ever. And I’ve seen them all. This doesn’t mean it was without fault.

The number one complaint I hear about Skyfall is that it doesn’t have the typical, frenetic, Bond movie pace. That is a true statement. It is more of a thinking man’s Bond than previous movies. I think that’s due in large part to the influence of director Sam Mendes and the plot itself. There were two, maybe three places in the movie where it got to be a bit too much plot and too little action. I think had the movie shaved off say, 12 minutes it would have been just about perfect. Having said that, I think the action sequences were creative, well thought out and if not strictly adhering to the laws of physics, well it’s a Bond movie, so we don’t expect it to anyway.

I really want to tell you about the plot of Skyfall but I want you to be as pleasantly surprised as I am by it, so I’m going to steer clear of the plot so I don’t spoil any of the fun for you.

Some really great things in the movie. The writing. I’m not sure who wrote this one and I’m not going to check on imdb either (I’m supposed to be working at my day job right now) but they wrote a fantastic script. The Komodo dragon touch was a fabulous example of lifelike CG work, so kudos to the team responsible for that. The nuanced acting was probably what pushed this Bond flick to stand above the others. Daniel Craig delivered a performance of a subtly broken, struggling-to-hold-it-together James Bond that we’ve never seen before. It’s amazing to me how much acting he does simply through facial expression. Dame Judi Dench is incomparable, enough said. The new Q (played by Ben Wishaw) is adorable and a wonderful foil for Bond in way completely different from that of the old Q (and a big improvement over John Cleese who just didn’t fit in). Javier Bardem plays an absolutely brilliant sociopath. I cannot emphasize that enough. He was both evil genius and lunatic, carefully balancing the two on the edge of a thin dime. I could have done without the icky blond wig, but I mostly forgot about it his performance was so good. So often it’s the villains that make Bond movies so entertaining, and Bardem is officially leading the pack in that arena. Finally, Ralph Finnes makes his entrance into the franchise as civilian oversight of MI6. Even after playing a character as recognizable the world over as Voldemort, Finnes is not defined by the role; he’s easily capable of convincing the audience he’s whoever he chooses to portray. He’s very lucky that way – or just that good.

Skyfall was a throwback to classic Bond in many ways, some were subtle jokes (about the exploding pen among others) and others more obvious – the 50 year old Astin Martin from Goldfinger (?) that drew an audible response from the crowd. These throwbacks were in complete opposition of the plot line which is all about how evil and destructive technology can be in the wrong hands.

My advice? Bond turned 50 this year and he’s never been better. Get out to Skyfall this weekend and if you’ve got the money to burn, shell out the extra to see it in IMAX.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.

THE DEVIL COLONY by James Rollins

•November 6, 2012 • 2 Comments

Have you read The Devil Colony by James Rollins? Mummified bodies, Indians, curses, legendary/sci-fi-reminiscent technology, Sigma operatives in harm’s way, intrigue, a trip to Fort Knox and of course the Guild is back again in this fantastic adventure where history meets fiction. What’s not to love?

With a big certification exam coming up I haven’t had much time to read, but when I’ve had spare moments James Rollins’ The Devil Colony captured my absolute attention. This is the kind of book you don’t want to put down; the kind of book you might lose sleep over or even call in to work “sick” for because you stayed up all night to finish it.

The pace is great and the book just keeps on building. Just when you think it’s over and you’re coming down there’s – spoiler alert! – one last thrill. At the end of the book you’ll find (should you wish to disillusion yourself) a brief section from Rollins detailing which pieces of information are true. I enjoy this part almost as much as the story because it’s like guessing who-done-it, it’s a mystery. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Rollin’s does a fantastic job merging fact and fiction.

Another point in his favour: he’s responsive. After I emailed him to let him know that I’d read and reviewed Blood Line, he actually took the time to write me back. And not just a standard thanks for being a fan email either. It’s an advantage of the electronic age in that fan mail reaches the target much easier and they can respond much easier while still remaining anonymous and removed from the fan.

On a non-opinion note, my exam is this weekend, so I should return to my weekly posting schedule very quickly. Thanks to my readers for their patience and continued visits.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.