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August 13, 2017

Movie: Get Out (2017)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:40 pm

imageWhat an unorthodox movie! A movie that tackles race relations either goes down the serious path exploring the race question or is a film with all out African American characters and it just goes on with the story, sometimes in an exaggerated fashion. Here is one film that is refreshingly different. It is a horror but does not take itself seriously and just goes with the flow, with humour.

And this story has a punchline / twist that is extremely unusual. It bursts on you and I did not expect it at all because the twist is really a very unusual view on things and I bet you or at least 99% of you will not guess it either.

In addition to it they drop all kinds of clues on what is going on, with misdirection enough, like a finely crafted mystery thriller, which is what this is. I love the way they have developed the story, from the very first short scene to whet your interest to the final denouement.

Enough of a preamble? Let us see what the story is all about. First the small little preface I mentioned. An African American man called Dre is walking alone in the night. A car slowly follows him and he is creeped out. (Imagine this – an African American apparently stalked and spooked  From a stereotypical point of view, totally unexpected. See what I mean?) He then decides to change directions – it is a small street and the car cannot make a U turn.  After going several paces fast, he cannot resist turning back and seeing what happened to the car. It is now standing with the driver’s door open and a mediaeval knight has come out of it and is following him! (Yes, they mean a man in a knight’s costume). It is too late to run and he is attacked and his unconscious body is dragged into the car.

The main story is about photographer Chris Washington and Rose Armitage whose relationship has progressed to a point where Rose wants Chris to meet her parents. The problem is that Rose is white while Chris is black and he is very worried that her parents may not like it. Rose assures him that they are very liberal and would love him.  Even though he is the only black man she has dated so far, they will be  pretty cool with the idea.

He reluctantly agrees to go, against the advice of Rod Williams his closest friend who works for TSA not to go to ‘white people’s house’. He finds the family welcoming; if anything it is overly so. Strange things start happening to him slowly. The only black people he first meets are  servants in the house seem to be stiff and overly proper and look at him very strangely. He wonders if they are being kept under bondage but they do not seem to agree or is it that they do not want to confess?

And then there is the other black man who comes visiting. He seems to be married to a much older white woman and seems to have totally bought into the aristocratic life (never mind a white man’s life) with a hat and three piece suit at all times.

The father is all friendly. He is rich, a neurosurgeon but the mother strikes him as a bit cold. So when she offers to cure him of his smoking addiction through sheer hypnosis. He rejects it saying that he does not like people tooling around inside his head. Other friends of this family also seem very friendly.

When one of the maids behaves really oddly suddenly while pouring tea, the suspicions of Chris are aroused and then the other black gentleman who came to the party also “kind of goes crazy” when he was photographed by Chris. Chris is freaked out.  There are weird stuff like some of the friends admiring the “strength” of Chris and people praising the long distance runner Chris Owens showed up all those racist Nazis and beat out all the white folks in the Olympics.

 

Before he is aware of it, Chris is hypnotized by Rose’s mother, while he is still mocking the idea of hypnosis. Then the movie takes many scary turns and you watch Chris trapped, helpless and under every command of the family, losing consciousness.

He is freaked out when he finds his cell phone repeatedly unplugged when he is not in his own room. It is as if someone is trying to stop him from communicating outside.

When Chris and Rose agree that something weird is going on and that she should make up some excuse so that they can leave, we see an auction happening. The object of the auction? Chris himself. The auction is conducted by Rose’s dad, the neurosurgeon and the whole community seems to be bidding for him. For what?

If I tell you more, I will give it up. Trust me that the whole movie is one tense ride and you don’t relax for one little bit. And it all hangs together. Every little, weird, bit of it.

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris and his comic friend Rod played by LiRel Howery carry the whole movie well. But the real stars of this movie are the writers and the director, who present a splendidly crafted entertainer.

Don’t get me wrong. I did not say realistic; I did not say thought provoking; I said entertaining. If you keep your reasoning half of the brain quiet and just go along for the ride, there is not a boring moment.

The last line is phenomenally funny – when whatever is happening is all over.

 

8/ 10

–  –  Krishna

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April 30, 2017

Book: Master of the Game by Sydney Sheldon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:51 pm

imageEven on a re-read, even after all these years, the story simply sparkles!

 

We have reviewed Are You Afraid Of the Dark and The Sky Is Falling by the same author earlier.

 

Starts with Kate Blackwell’s ninetieth birthday. She remembers her long life, and the story is fully in her reminiscences.

 

Awesome storytelling. What else do you expect from the master of the storytelling game? Starts with Jamie McGregor trying to strike it rich and going from famine stalking England to South Africa to make his fortune, alone, a nineteen year old boy.

He happens to somehow go to South Africa and meets Solomon Van der Marwe, his big African slave Bantu and his daughter Margaret and manages to get himself equipped with spending almost all his money (he had told Solomon how much he had). He goes and almost dies but manages to find diamonds, comes back rich, only to find that he does not own a thing. Solomon had tricked him into signing a contract that gives him everything!

 

When he protests, he is beaten up and left in the desert for dead but Bantu rescues him and they make a plan to just take the diamonds in an extremely heavily guarded island.  They go in a raft against all odds but reach the island with the raft smashed up. They collect the islands and the way they exit with no raft or an apparent  way to exit is wonderful.

 

He comes back to destroy Solomon Van der Marwe but also destroys his daughter Margaret in the process. She wins his grudging admiration with the boy and he is forced to offer her marriage to keep his son with him. He never offers her love, sadly.

In a drunken stupor, he gives Maggie a girl, Kate, and when in a mine one of his supervisors kills a native, his son is killed in revenge and Banta saves Kate from a similar fate. Jamie gets a stroke in agony and dies. Maggie runs the empire and brings up Kate with David’s assistance and Kate is determined to marry him! She is a wilful but a genius child.

 

When David falls hard for Josephine O’Neill, daughter of Tom O’Neill who has invented a way to revolutionize food industry and agrees to move to San Francisco to marry her and take care of the new company, Kate is crushed. But his plans fall apart when a major food conglomerate buys off his idea and he stays back in Kruger Brent. Did Kate have somthing to do with that reversal?

 

The twists in the story are incredible. How the young lady twists and plots and outwits them all is great to read. (Even the third time)

 

David marries Kate and discovers that they disagree on how to run the company. For instance Kate forces the company to make and sell armaments to the First World War, which David is vehemently opposed to.

 

When Kate suddenly finds she is pregnant and gets a son named Anthony, she is ecstatic but David dies in an explosion in South Africa. Her son Anthony wants to be an artist and has no interest in running the business which is Kate’s life. She manipulates him by sending Dominique to be his girlfriend to keep an eye on him and gets a master critic criticize his work to get him to give up painting and get back into running the company and his heart is simply not in it.

 

He hates his mom and how she still maneuvers him into marrying exactly the girl she wants for him is brilliant. The book reads well even the second time but it is really all fluff. The story is told straightforward, like a children’s tale and there are no subtle layers there. It is all anchored on sudden twists and surprises and it definitely works at that level. But then this can be said of all of Sydney Sheldon’s works.

 

She finds out that Marianne, the wife of Tony may die in childbirth and decides to hide it from Tony as well. All of her schemes are exposed to Tony on the same day that he learns that Marianne dies after giving birth to twins, Eve and Alexandra. He shoots his mother and goes plumb crazy and has to be lobotomized to keep him calm.

 

Eve is the evil one and tries to kill Alexandra several times from the tender age of five, and every time Alexandra narrowly escapes. Several times over.

 

When Eve goes wild with men and seduces a long time friend of Kate, her gig is up and she is cut off with a tiny allowance. She plots revenge and meets a gorgeous hunk of a man called George Mellis with a vicious temper. Perfect. She plans to “give” Alexandra to that man.

 

The scheming evil of Eve comes out well even in this fluffy narration. The plan is set in motion and Alexandra is hooked hopelessly by George Mellis. Marries him too.

 

George and Eve plot to take all the money of Kate after killing Alexandra. When Kate hears that Eve was near death and “out of concern” for her grandmother, wanted to keep it secret, she has a change of heart and takes her back in life. George knows that he may be written out of everybody’s life and wants to go ahead and kill Alexandra anyway, and the plot turns are brilliant.

 

When George Mellis takes Alex out on the boat to execute his evil plan anyway, knowing that if he did not, he himself would be sidelined by Eve, he is outwitted and outplayed completely by Eve.

 

The ending is exhilerating too. How Alexandra finds happiness, how Eve ends up, how Kate keeps planning tirelessly for the best of the company – it is all written brilliantly.

 

Sure, this is fluff. But good, absorbing, fluff.  8/10

– – Krishna

August 14, 2016

Movie: The Shallows (2016)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:43 pm

imageThe story is interesting. It merges the feature of several previous movies which had new concepts into one, and also does some things very well.

First of all, there are not many people in the movie. It is all about Nancy, a surfer girl, and she dominates the movie, from the beginning to end, played reasonably well by Blake Lively. You can see the stranded girl in her and she gives a credible performance. Other than that, there is the driver who takes her to the island who comes in the beginning and the end, and a couple of surfers and a drunk who come for a couple of scenes.   OK, there is dad and sister talking to her on the smartphone but that’s it. They all have a scene or two but Nancy stays with us from the beginning to the very end of the movie.

Nancy goes to the beach that her late mother had frequented. As is the custom in disaster movies, everything goes wrong. She was supposed first to go with her friend Anna but Anna claims to be sick and bails out. She goes to the beach and the waters are gorgeous and she decides to surf alone.  It is supposed to be a safe beach and she meets two other surfer dudes who try to pick her up. She politely declines and swims alone after they leave.

Then she is suddenly attacked by a Shark and manages to reach an isolated rock. With no food, no water, all her equipment on the shore and she stranded on a rock with absolutely nothing (well, almost – more of it later) to survive with, let alone battle a hungry shark doing the rounds, does she survive? If so, how? If not, how far does she get? That is the rest of the movie.

There are some things that make this movie very interesting.

First, the cinematography is stunning. The surfing scenes are like poetry; the above and under water angles and perspectives take you as close to surfing as you possibly can get in a movie.  The locale is breathtaking (Hawaii?) and the camera does full justice to the location. Brilliant.

Sentiments are galore – her sister, her father, hints about her troubles with dad, her intention to give up her medical studies in despair of having lost her mom and her blaming the father… All of it are done well, and are told in a touching way without wandering into maudlin territory. Nice.

The make up artist is fabulous. The deep gash in her leg that is shown in its raw form and the self stitching she does is impressive, even in these days of great animation.

At least since Castaway, or perhaps even before that, Hollywood likes to give a useless and dumb companion to the stranded central character. There you had Wilson, the football. Here you have a seagull stranded in the small rock with Nancy. This part, to me, sounded artificial.

The scenes where she almost gets saved multiple times (the surfer dudes just a bit too far to hear her cries for help and they calmly storing their possessions into the jeep and driving away, the ship that does not notice her flares,  or the drunk, for instance) are formulaic but still count as interesting to watch.

Initially I was thrilled to see the shark behave like a shark and not a super intelligent human equivalent that comes in Jaws, and I was prepared to see a girl with no weapons outwit it with her intelligence alone. But soon it degenerates into just such a behaviour unlike any real life shark and ends in a very similar dramatic sequence that cannot happen in real life with a real shark. What a waste of potential after that fabulous start of the movie!

 

All in all, worth watching but the performance does not compare to the brilliant portrayal by Tom Hanks in Castaway and the very artificial plotline to keep the movie interesting stop this from being a brilliant movie, in my opinion.

 

6/ 10

– – Krishna

July 17, 2016

Book: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:23 pm

imageThe hallmark of any good author is the ability to get into the minds of characters and see the world and the unfolding events as that particular character would see them. All successful authors do it to a fairly large extent. It is easier to do in a first person account but in a story where multiple people tell the tale, it is harder to do. And this technique has been used to devastating effect by William Faulkner in The Sound and The Fury (even if the story is hugely confusing). But Stephen King consistently does it very well. And now I find that Gillian Flynn can do it very well. This book is absorbing, and one of the reasons is this.

 

The story is great too.

 

Nick Dunne married Amy Elliot but now there are difficulties in the marriage. He moves to a poky little town (Carthage, Missouri) from New York  to be helpful to his ailing parents and also borrows money from her to start a bar with the sister, Go (Yes, the sister’s nickname). The bar does not do well. He is an author who lost his job with the journalistic recession due to internet/ blogs etc undermining the business model of the press.

 

On the Fifth Anniversary of their wedding Amy is pissed off because Nick does not notice or remember anything important.

 

She talks about meeting him in that party – in her diary. Nick finds out that day from the neighbour that the door is open to his house and the cat was wandering outside. He goes home. Finds the glass coffee table broken to shards and the furniture upturned. Amy is ‘gone’.

 

As I said at the beginning, Gillian has the power to delve into the psyche of a carefree, calm Nick and to the boisterous, irrepressible Amy, brimming with fresh ideas every minute – from a rich family who marries for love and finds out that her dream life is not so dreamy after all. The narrations of each ring true to the character and she has a very nice way of describing that immerses you into the story.

 

Nick behaves very strangely for a husband who had just lost his wife, but explains it based on his upbringing. He does not inform his in laws, knows nothing about his wife’s friends or even her blood group. Even earlier, he stood up his wife in a party when all the other husbands came for their wives. She seemsedunconcerned.

 

Officers Velasquez and Riorden are puzzled by his behaviour. To top it all off, in the TV interveiw when Amy’s father is tearful, begging her to come back, he smiles.

 

The detectives discover the treasure hunt Amy has set up for him. Meanwhile Nick smiles a smarmy smile again for a selfie with a woman he does not even like. Behaving more and more like a husband untroubled by the death of his wife. Police naturally zoom in on his as the prime suspect.

 

Meanwhile we understand how Amy sees him as insensitive and how he does not even tell major events in his family like his dad getting Alzheimers to her. When his mom gets terminal cancer he decides that they have to move to Missouri without even a token consultation with Amy, which riles her up.

 

Nick comes across as a jerk even before he reveals that he has an affair with a very young student of his, Andie.

 

He lies a lot and gets caught out every time. His neighbour announces that Amy was pregnant in front of the whole crowd. The detectives find evidence of blood – lots of it – which was (forensically) clumsily cleaned up in a room; he lies about who did not want kids to his in laws. Even Go, his alter ego and twin sister who stood by him all this time, is finally pissed off.

 

Then comes the real Amy story. She explains how she staged the murder scene and disappeared, how she was aware of Nick cheating on her, everything.  Amazing twist (that is, if you have not seen the movie already).

 

Amy’s trip into a remote cabin to hide and her being cheated out of all the money by two of the neighbours who she thought were friends is well told. What comes out strongly is how he decides to give an interview off the cuff to an unknown reporter who was sympathetic and starts turning public opinion in his favour. His engaging a tough lawyer called Tanner is well told and the strategy by Tanner when he figures out that Nick has pissed off his mistress, his in laws and found all the things he is supposed to have bought out of his credit card mysteriously stored in the outhouse of his sister’s house, his strategy to get Nick out of the deep hole he is in is also interesting.

 

Amy’s brilliant planning comes to fore. In fact, even the clues she left have two meanings, one referring to his infidelity with Andie (Amy even knows the places he took Amy to in order to be private and make love) and also using inside jokes so that what he said would make no sense to the cops. In addition, even the Punch and Judy dolls are there to establish a murder weapon (missing stick at the bottom)

 

When Amy returns after being in the clutches of Desi to whom she had gone for help and realized that she will be a prisoner, the story gets even more interesting with Nick fearing Amy and Amy playing cat and mouse games, checkmating Nick’s every move and making him realize that there is no way out. Even the legal genius Tanner seems stumped.

 

 

The final confrontation between Amy and Nick are interestingly told. I do not remember the story moving forward after Amy’s return in the movie but a lot happens in the book, with Nick trying desperately to get Amy her just punishment through a million ways. Frankly, I do not know if I prefer the movie or the book ending. Interesting. Lovely. Well told.

 

9/10

 

– Krishna

March 19, 2016

Movie: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:33 pm

imageThis is an interesting movie from some respects. First of all, the story starts with Michelle (played by Mary Elizabeth Winestead) getting into an accident and fainting. The first thing interesting is that the accident is depicted stunningly well. Yeah, I know it has been done like this before but still it feels like you are in the movie.

 

Second thing: At the end of the movie, you realize that the movie just involves three people. Beginning to end. That is it. There are voices and a TV announcer etc, but I do not really count them as ‘characters’ even if one of the voices belongs to Bradley Cooper.

 

Third, the movie keeps you guessing as to what kind of a movie it is. First you think it is like the Saw series, because she wakes up in a room with a bed on the ground and the entire room bare, except that she is chained to the wall and a saline solution is being fed into her via an I.V tube. She tries to get to her cell phone desperately, and all this is very much like Saw.

 

Then, when you meet Howard, he seems to be so much divorced from reality you begin to think that it is one of those innumerable movies where a deranged man has taken a young girl prisoner and will keep her tormented and sexually abused. Then it changes again. In order not to spoil the movie let me just state that there are a couple more turns or twists before the movie ends.

 

The major twist in the movie is interesting, but somehow, when we are hit with it, you feel the nagging suspicion that ‘I  kind of thought that this would be the twist’ kind of feeling. It is still interesting.

 

Howard, played brilliantly by John Goodman – I would call it one of the best roles he has done – is a very interesting character, alternately sane, sometimes fantasizing about aliens or Russia or one of the Koreas taking over the world and trying to destroy America. He has ‘anticipated it all’ and has built a safe bunker, where he has taken Michelle to ‘save her’.

 

The rebellious Hollywood American female lead she is, Michelle does not take it lying down and fights tooth and nail to escape. She discovers the words ‘Help’ etched on the skylight at the top of the house. She hears what sounds like cars going above (they are in a bunker underground, in preparation for the alien invasion). Howard believes that the air is contaminated and so has built an air purifier and airlock, to protect them.

 

The ‘them’ includes another young man, Emmet, who is injured with his arm in a sling. He claims that he got injured trying to fight his way into the bunker because of the disaster outside, which he saw as a bright flash before running inside.

 

Intrigue upon intrigue follows. Michelle discovers that Howard has been lying about his daughter or at least the photo he showed Michelle as his daughter is found out not to be the daughter. Emmet categorically states that he knows the daughter and the photo Howard earlier showed Michelle is definitely not the daughter’s photo.

 

I am not going to say much more so as not to give away anything you need to find out at the movie.

 

The movie definitely keeps your interest but my main issue with it is that it is like a winding path where, for the sake of suspense, twist is piled upon twist till you don’t know whether the story is coming or going.

 

The fact that John Goodman has done an absolutely phenomenal job, in my opinion at least, only shows up the gap in acting between him on one hand and the other two characters on the other. They do a credible job but he simply overshadows everybody in the movie.

 

Is it worth seeing? Definitely. Is it an edge of your seat movie that leaves you thinking of it long after you have seen it? I would not go that far.

 

6 / 10

– – Krishna

 

 

 

 

 

January 9, 2016

Book: Where Angels Rest by Kate Brady

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:44 pm

image“Angelmaker” is killing a girl and plotting the death of her brothet at the preface. Ties in later.

 

Justin, a man who deviated into bad ways,  is arrested for killing a teenage girl but his sister Erin is convinced that Justin is not a killer. When the lawyer himself who was hired to defend Justin bows out, she knows that she is in trouble.

 

What bad descriptions! The thoughts of the characters and indeed the entire story telling has a feel of a teenage story level. Initially.

 

The killer kidnaps the wrong woman and is livid with rage. The detective has a crusade against bad guys because. – wait for it –  his own wife was murdered by a lunatic.

 

The twist is weak. You can see who the Angermaker is from miles away. Nevertheless, this is a fairly interesting story, especially the back story of how Mann’s wife got killed due to his harassing the drug lords in LA prior to his move to the town and how his daughter got hurt.

 

When another girl goes missing in his new place and when he discovers that Laurence McAllister had terminated an unwanted pregnancy with John Huggins, Mann is certain that he knows who  the killer is but the Angelmaker has already trapped the suspect and is slowly killing him.  After trying to kill Erin and failing, the Angerlmaker again tries to kill Erin in Hopewell and again fails but both times arranges so that John Huggins is the suspect.

 

John Huggins himself is now suspected to be dead and Mann’s hobo brother comes to tell them why Erin is disbelieved. It is the work of a US Senator who wants Justin take the rap for a crime he did not commit.

 

The AngelMaker gets antsy about Mann looking too deeply into the murders and plans a fire at Mann’s house. In the meanwhile Mann gets an important clue: One of the missing girls, Shelly Quinn was a lesbian and so could not have had sex with Jack. By now, we already know that Jack himself has been murdered by the AngelMaker.

 

We get to know the identity of the AngelMaker and see the person kidnap Becca and prepare to kill her. The same modus operandi of having a mask made of the face. Nick Mann inches close and now focuses on Margaret when he realizes that she is a lesbian too.

 

When Calvin accidentally sees the AngelMaker in action with Becca and runs away, the AngelMaker only realizes that someone saw the whole thing and panics. The only solution is to bait Nick Mann with Erin and kill them both, as well as the other loose strings before starting a new life with a new identity. I do not want to give the suspense away even though I said it is weak and so my  descriptions here are deliberately vague.

 

The tension is there, the book is interesting, the descriptions are good. This is an entertaining book to hold in one’s hand, and you get the satisfaction of having read a good thriller.

 

The last hundred pages are tense and are on par with the best of thrillers. Kate can really ratchet up the tension and make you turn pages with no hopes of putting the book down. A nice thriller to read and it definitely does not disappoint.

 

The end where the Angelmaker traps Erin as a bait for Nick and takes him to Nick’s own cabin, the part where it slowly dawns on Nick about who the killer is what the motive is, the part Calvin plays in giving a vital information, the staged death of Maggie to make it look like she is the killer, are all done very well. Fun to read.

 

7/10. Could have been better if the dialog and descriptions were a bit deeper.

– – Krishna

November 6, 2015

Movie: The Visit (2015)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:17 pm

imageAccording to some reviewers, M Night Shyamalan could never live up to his debut film The Sixth Sense ever again. He had a brand of movies that seem to have a tremendous twist at the end, in every one of those movies but the magic was, to hear some say, gone. In fact, a Simpsons episode lampooned him as going the other way, making “increasingly crappy” movies.

This movie definitely does not equal the magic of his first movie, but I would claim that it is a lot better than some of his earlier movies. The twist at (near) the end is there, but this one is much more believable than, say, the story of The Lady in the Water, just to name one of his earlier disappointments.

The story is cleverly constructed to make way for the improbable situations. The story is about two kids, Becca and Tyler, two very cute kids. In many cases their conversation is funny and the banter between them is close and easy, almost reminding you of the brother and sister in the Jeepers Creepers movie. (I mean the first, and in my view, the only good one).

The story is about their grandparents, who have been estranged from their mother Paula. Paula made a really bad choice for a husband, and they never wanted to speak to her again. Her choice ended in a disaster and a divorce and now she is dating someone else, and wants to take a cruise with him. Coincidentally, the grandparents relented and asked her to visit. She decides to send the kids there.

Well scene set for two kids in their grandparents’ house for the first time. They seem very nice, and loving, and then strange things start to happen. And on top of that, there are strange rules like, ‘No matter what you hear, do not come out of your room after 9 PM’.

Well, the grandparents seem to have really odd habits sometime bordering on the bizarre. They seem to have no control over the limits of making fun, the grandmother walking around projectile vomiting in the night (which they were not supposed to see but sneaked out to see anyway).

There are very nice touches and hints that you do not pick up until the end – in this regard, this is closer to The Sixth Sense than other movies. For instance, a doctor comes in to see the grandparents when they were out for a walk and mentions interesting happenings in the local asylum which he wants to discuss with them.

There are some interesting scenes where the mother talks to them on Skype (or what looks like Skype) but due to the bad connection, could not have a full conversation.

The kids are increasingly puzzled and each time something weird happens, the grandparents give a plausible explanation – plausible but not normal.

The weirdness escalates, and some of the scenes specifically are over the top. For instance, why grandpa sneaks into the outhouse (which is always locked) and what the kids find out about it. The explanation for that is also bizarre.

The final twist, if you were really paying attention, is not really hard to guess and, like I said earlier, is a believable thing.

All in all, not a bad effort. Not spectacular, but not bad at all.

6/10

– – Krishna

March 21, 2015

Book: Intensity by Dean Koontz

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:56 pm

imageA great book from Dean Koontz. We have reviewed a mixed bag of Dean Koontz’s other books  earlier here.

The story is tight, starts with a bang, and does not let up until the end. Just the kind of book where Dean Koontz excels but unfortunately does not do consistently. But when he gets it right, the result is a very good thrill ride, like this one is.

Laura Templeton, daughter of Thomas and Sarah, loves fast cars, dreams of flying naked, having sex in mid air and is a very close friend to a more reserved Chyna. When Chyna goes to the Templetons, she sees in the night that there is a lone killer who is bent on murdering the entire family of Templetons and hides under the bed. Finds all of them dead and finds herself in his RV while looking for her friend Laura. She discovers Laura dead in it.  She tries to escape in a gas station but fails.

The killer, Edgler Vess,  blows away two sales people in the shop with Chyna hiding in there. Chyna is enraged. She also learns that the killer has a very young girl imprisoned in his house. She now abandons her plan to run away and wants to save the girl imprisoned by him. She follows his RV in a stolen car.  She discovers the car is empty of gas and stages an accident to ride into his minivan unnoticed.

Tension escalates slowly. Very well written. When you notice that he knows she is in the RV, you feel a chill. Even the first scene of the killings is amazingly written. This is vintage Dean in the right kind of books.

Chyna  seems to be a mouse in the hands of a cat, who expertly plays with her and teases her. You feel very sorry for her all through and the tension escalates to a near breaking point.

She is easily caught and chained to a chair, for his later pleasure and killing. When he has to go to work, she, inspired by strange elk visitations, tries to free herself againt all odds. Her struggles to free herself, with the threat of the return of Vess and the killer Dobermans let loose by Edgler and  impatience outside to tear her to shreds if she against all odds manages to escape are described in vivid, tense, terrifying detail. A romp of a read, this book is.

Her battle for her life against the guard dogs is very well told indeed and is credible (Within the boundaries of thrillers of course. I do not claim that it will happen in real life).

The final twist is also very well told, with hints dropped earlier of what it could be, but then you (or at least I) do not catch on. The twist is unexpected and what is more, from the first page till almost the last, the tension is always there and is never let loose. It is as great as reading one of his ealier works. Nicely done.

I would award it a 9/10

– – Krishna

March 6, 2015

Book: Congo by Michael Crichton

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:29 pm

imagesMichael Crichton, of course, is the author of numerous thrillers based on latest scientific developments. He writes them not as a science author but a thriller writer, and is famous for his Jurassic Park and its sequels. We have reviewed his The Lost World, a sequel to Jurassic Park, before.

Congo is one of his earlier works. Let us talk about the story first.

Jan Kruger, the local expert is hired as a guide to lead the geological team of US into the densest of the Congo forests, the unexplored Virunga region.

It is funny how, in this book written in 1980, Chrichton says that ‘what used to be called Congo is now Zaire’!

They are after diamonds, not for their value, as they are so impure as to be worthless, but for their electrical properties. (They are geologists after all, not entrepreneurs or adventurers). The book starts explosively, with the “bone crusher” attacking and killing them all, but what did you expect in a Michael Crichton book?

Dr Peter Elliot is trying to teach Amy, a pet female gorilla, to communicate based on previous ( and what looks like real) evidence that they can learn. She has learned a modified version of the sign language and seems to be able to communicate her thoughts and wants.  When she “views” ancient ruins in Congo in a dream, he knows he has to take her there.

He convinces Ross, the researcher and the female interest in the story, to take him and Amy. The Consortium, a multinational competitor to Ross’s client who wants to find the beryllium mines before they do, are already on the move. They may even reach the site before Ross’s team (including Peter Elliot and Amy). They bid for Captain Munro with the Consortium right there in the room!

The team finds that the Consortium has been intercepting their data and that the “gorilla” that destroyed the previous camp could be a brand new species. Consortium’s effort to kidnap Amy  fails as Ross has put tracer inside it previously and finds it fast.

They are shot at in Congo and decide to jump out of the plane, Amy and all.

The old age of the plot shows. Think about this – A highly sophisticated computer with 189K memory! Those were simple times….

They visit a pygmy village where an ERTS old team member is met. Then they go through a white water rapids to reach their destination. They find people had been killed with their skulls crushed by a gorilla-like animal with an odd grey fur.

They find bodies crushed with stone paddles and come to the realization that there is a kind of gorilla “that is not gorilla” (Amy’s definition) that lurks there.

The grey gorillas launch a ferocious attack on the camp and are foiled the first night. When Elliot goes to capture one of them to learn their ‘language’ (since they seem intelligent) he falls in their midst and is saved in the nick of time by Amy.

The satellite communication fails due to solar flairs and they are left with no power of computers in US to back them up. They are almost overpowered and killed by the trained (to be killers) gorilla troop when the artificial warning Elliot had made studying their language makes them go away. They finally find the diamonds but Ross ignores and hides warning from her own base station to abort and return.

The mountain erupts and then, from that point on, the story seems to be written only to finish it, as if suddenly the author lost all interest in the subject and was unable to wait to finish it properly. Fairly annoying.

Not a bad story but a little bit too thinly woven. The sophistication in the later works like Jurassic Park is also somehow missing. Entertaining, but just that.

5/10

– – Krishna

Movie: The Equalizer (2014)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:59 pm

imagesA story that is more up to Liam Neeson’s alley than Denzel Washingtons; but that is not to say that Denzel does not do a good job of it.

The story is well told, and this is an edge of the seat kind of thriller in its essence. So, this is not a movie where you will exercise your brains, but simply go along for the thrill ride. There are some scenes that challenge your credulity – and I am not talking about a man who is so good at combat that even a dozen men are no match for him. Yes, that stuff is there but that is a given in these movies and no one questions that aspect of it.

Even with that assumed, there are scenes that are not practical at all – for instance how he takes care of the Don of all his underworld adversaries. Makes absolutely no sense that he walks in and walks out.

But if you take the attitude of ‘anything can happen in this movie’ it is really a good, enjoyable movie.

The story is about a quiet, middle aged man called Robert McCall living alone, not making any waves at all, friendly with all his colleagues – inspires them to do better – and well liked. He works in Home Mart, a do it yourself store (Yes, you heard me correctly, It is not Home Depot or Wal-Mart; it is Home Mart)

He meets a girl daily in the deli where he goes unerringly, like a clock, to have his dinner. (The same order every day). He develops a platonic friendship. He learns that she is a hooker but it does not change the friendly talk he has with her. He learns that she is trying to be a singer, and she gives him a CD of her song recorded at home.

Slowly tension escalates for the girl (Alina). First she is forced by a hooligan pimp Slavi to get into a car with an abusive, obese, violent customer and turns up with a bruise next day. A couple of days later, when Robert and Alina are taking a walk, Slavi slaps her and takes her into the car. Robert notices a gun on Slavi’s person and also the bodyguards and does not get involved. Slavi even hands Robert his business card saying that he can provide better girls if Robert wants.

When the next day Robert learns from the restaurant that Alina is in ICU, beaten up he goes, meets her friend Mandy who also is a hooker, that Alina was beaten up and disfigured by acid by Slavi to make an example to others in the brothel of what would happen if someone wanted to leave or disobeyed, he finally decides to take action.

He goes to the address in the business card and first offers his life savings $9800, to leave Alina alone. When he is laughed off, he walks to the door, locks it, sets the timer in his watch and kills everyone there, even though they are armed and he unarmed.

The Russian mafia, to whom all of them belonged, is incensed. They send a highly intelligent mobster called Teddiy (as in bear? Really?) to work with turned cops and track down who did it and why. Teddi is impressive to see in action when he goes snooping to find out who it is that caused mayhem in his operation.

Then starts a brilliant cat and mouse game where Teddy gets close, identifies Robert and tries to trap him, every time outwitted by the wily Robert.

Finally, when the pressure gets to be too high, Robert goes for unofficial help from friends Brian and Susan. You then learn that he was in a secret service and was the best agent they ever had and has unbelievable skills.

How he goes against the entire Mafia organization and wins is the rest of the story. Brilliantly told, with tense scenes that never let up, the movie takes you along on a fast thrill ride. True, it is unbelievable, but there is that childish pleasure in seeing the avenging angel outwit an entire mafia mob of bad guys and winning.

Good entertainment. 7/10

  • Krishna
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