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Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

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This is author and screenwriter William Goldman’s classic spoof fairy tale, which tells the story of Buttercup (the most beautiful girl in the world) and Westley (former farm boy turned swashbuckling hero) and their eternal love. Except that it is SO much more than that. There are pirates, kidnappings, death, swords, giants, princes, heroic escapes, magic and more besides. Apart from Buttercup and Westley, the main characters are Inigo Montoya and Fezzik the Giant, not to mention the numerous others, all of whom were highly entertaining in their own right.

It is framed in an unusual way – in the edition which I read, there is first of all a proper introduction by Goldman (I often skip introductions, but this is worth reading), and then a part where Goldman himself reminisces about being a young boy who had the story read to him by his father. The conceit is that Goldman claims that The Princess Bride was written by S. Morgenstern – who is in actuality entirely fictional – and he (Goldman) has merely edited it to get rid of the boring bits, and only tell the entertaining parts. Throughout the story itself, Goldman often interrupts the narrative to explain that he has cut part of the story and gives a brief synopsis of what happened in the part that he has cut. It sounds complicated, but all makes sense when you are reading it.

I actually didn’t realise quite how accomplished Goldman was – he wrote screenplays for such incredible and successful films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Misery. He also wrote several novels including Marathon Man, which was turned into an excellent film. His talent is undeniable, and his originality shines through in The Princess Bride. I am not normally a lover of fantasy fiction, which is why it took me so long to get around to reading this, but I would recommend this whether it is a genre you enjoy or not.

Truly deserving of it’s classic status.

 

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This is the story of Henri Charierre, known as Papillon (which is French for butterfly – he had a butterfly tattoo on his chest) and his incarceration in a French prison in 1930 for a murder which Papillon has always denied committing.  During his subsequent years of imprisonment, he spent time in many prisons and penal colonies, which had varying degrees of cruelty and inhumane treatment.  Papillon made several attempts to break out of the various institutions, with varying degrees of success.

The veracity of the story has often been questioned, with Papillon himself saying that it is about 75% true, while more modern researchers believe that parts of his story which he claims happened to him, were actually about other prisoners.  Either way, it’s an interesting adventure, and you have to admire his grit and determination to become a free man.

I enjoyed the book overall, although I found it took a long time for me to read.  There was so much information in parts that I had to take it slowly, to make sure I took it all in.  Charierre himself is an engaging, if occasionally self-aggrandising character, and certainly a good storyteller.  I liked the fact that although – especially in the beginning of the story – he was concentrated on his anger on the people who had wrongly incarcerated him (such as the Judge, prosecutor and people on the jury during his trial), and his determined to exact his revenge, over the passage of time, he came to focus on the kindnesses shown to him by various people, and was not lacking in compassion for others.

This was definitely a book worth reading, and the ending was particularly uplifting.  I would definitely recommend it.  (However, readers ought perhaps to be aware that the author occasionally uses some outdated and distasteful racial descriptions.)

 

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This film is one of many based on Alexandre Dumas’s novel of the same name.  I say ‘based on’ rather than ‘adapted from’ because this is really a very loose interpretation of the novel, with Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt and Charlie Sheen playing, respectively, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, and Chris O’Donnell as D’artagnan.  Tim Curry plays Cardinal Richelieu, Julie Delphy is Constance, and Gabrielle Anwar is Queen Anne, with Hugh O’Connor as King Louis XIII.  Count Rochefort was played by Michael Wincott, and Rebecca De Mornay rounds out the cast as Milady D’Winter.

I wanted to see this film out of curiosity, having recently read the novel, and also having very much enjoyed BBC1’s series The Musketeers (again ‘based on’ the novel, with new storylines for the characters).  In all honesty, I was not expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did – I’m not a big fan of Charlie Sheen, but he was actually rather good as Aramis.  Sutherland and Platt were the best characters, with Sutherland’s Athos suitably melancholy, and Platt’s Porthos typically boisterous and playful.

However, I did feel that O’Donnell was miscast as D’Artagnan.  This is not a criticism of the actor – I’ve enjoyed his performances in other roles – but I did not feel that he was right for this part.  I also did not really enjoy O’Connor’s portrayal of the King, although to be fair I was distracted by his awful hairstyle.  Tim Curry camped it up magnificently as the Cardinal, and appeared to be having a thoroughly good time.  I also really enjoyed Wincott as Rochefort – he stole several of the scenes in which he appeared (and what a fantastic raspy voice)!

The storyline revolves around the musketeers and D’Artagnan having to foil the Cardinal’s plot to form an alliance with England, and unseat the King, but it is really just an excuse for lots of swashbuckling, swaggering, and sword fights.  There’s lots of humour too, and Porthos in particular had me laughing out loud a number of times.

Overall, if you are looking for a faithful adaptation of the book, this is not the film for you.  If you are looking for an amusing adventure film, then you might well enjoy it.

Year of release: 1993

Director: Stephen Herek

Producers: Jon Avnet, Jordan Kerner, Roger Birnbaum, Ned Dowd, Joe Roth, William W. Wilson III

Writers: Alexandre Dumas (based on the novel by), David Loughery

Main cast: Keifer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt, Chris O’Donnell, Tim Curry, Hugh O’Connor, Michael Wincott, Gabrielle Anwar, Rebecca De Mornay

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1973 film adaptation.

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Everybody knows the story of The Three Musketeers and their friend D’Artagnan, right?  Well, if you’re like me and you were basing your knowledge  upon the various screen adaptations of the story, then you may be amazed by how much of the story – and the characters – that you don’t know.  D’Artagnan, a young man from the Gascony area of France, who goes to Paris with the aim of joining the King’s Musketeers.  After a few initial misunderstandings, he becomes firm friends with the melancholy Athos, the rambunctious Porthos, and the foppish Aramis.  The book follows their adventures as they become embroiled in trying to stop the evil machinations of Cardinal Richelieu, who is determined to bring down Queen Anne, wife of King Louis XIII.

The book was a delightful and action packed adventure, full of humour, fighting and romance.  I was surprised that there were chunks of the storyline that didn’t actually feature D’Artagnan or the musketeers, and also by the fact that, unlike the screen adaptations, the four servants of the main characters featured almost as heavily as the main characters themselves, and were very instrumental in the musketeers’ plans and actions.

The plot moves on very quickly, and there are LOTS of twists and surprises, but despite this, Dumas still found time to establish each main character’s personality.  It’s fair to say that at times they act in a less than gentlemanly manner, but despite this, I still found myself regarding each character with affection.  It is also, in parts, a very funny story (there is one particular scene where D’Artagnan visits Aramis, who is constantly planning to leave the musketeers to become a man of the cloth, and finds him in consultation with a curate and Jesuit superior, which had me laughing out loud all the way through).

The seductive but evil Lady de Winter, and Cardinal Richelieu are a substantial part of the story, playing the two main villains, with ‘MiLady’ always trying, and often succeeding to stay one step ahead of the musketeers who seek to bring her down.

Overall, this is a hugely entertaining romp through Paris, and I believe that everybody should read it at least once.  For me, it’s a keeper, and one I intend to re-read at some point.

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Click here for my review of the 1993 film, based on the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1973 film, based on the novel.

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This is chronologically the first book in the Hornblower series, but was not the first one which Forester wrote, and so it (presumably) serves as a prequel of sorts.  I wanted to read the Hornblower series, and decided to start with this one, where we first meet Hornblower, at the tender age of 17.  It is the late 1700s, and he is a nervous new recruit to the British Navy.

The book is more of a collection of short stories, rather than a novel.  Each story presents Hornblower with a new dilemma, from having to stand up to a bully (which he does – and how!), dealing with enemy ships from Spain, or transporting a Duchess home across the sea.  Hornblower matures throughout the book, and learns some tough lessons.

I enjoyed the book a lot, although I think that some knowledge of a ship’s structure would have helped when reading this, as there are lots of references to how a ship is built and manned.  However, I could usually understand enough of the jargon to workout exactly what character was doing what task, and in any event, the character of Hornblower himself was enough to keep me reading.

Somewhat stiff and awkward, and not always the most socially confident, but with a strong moral backbone and plenty of courage, I really warmed to the young Hornblower, and enjoyed reading about his adventures.  There were some other interesting characters along the way, and some moments of humour, as well as some sadder events which were described with little emotion.

Overall, while some parts of the book felt somewhat dry, I liked the main character enough to look forward to reading other books in the series.

(For more information about C.S. Forester, please click here.)

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This 1955 film stars Clark Gable as Hank Lee, an American living in Hong Kong, who runs a successful smuggling business. Susan Hayward plays Jane Hoyt, a woman who comes to Hong Kong to search for her photographer husband, who has been kidnapped. The authorities can’t help her, but maybe Hank Lee can. However, the attraction between Jane and Hank complicates matters.

This is not one of Clark Gable’s better known films, which is a shame, because it’s really very good. Here, he is doing what he did best – being all sexy and bad-ass!!  Even as he got older, Gable still had that twinkle in his eye, and that quality of charming rascalliness (if that’s a word!). He is great here as Hank Lee – a man of dubious business dealings, but who certainly has some honour and integrity. He and Susan Hayward certainly have plenty of chemistry and the attraction between them was beautifully played – she reluctant to follow up on it, because after all, she is married and her husband may be in danger; he anxious to find her husband, because he feels that he can’t compete with a ghost. The relationship is real and believeable.

The story of Hank’s rescue attempt of Jane’s husband is also filled with tension, but for me the real enjoyment of this film came from the relationship between the two main characters. This was a film I had never heard of, but spotted it one day on television and decided to give it a try. I’m very glad I did, and this is certainly a film I would like to watch again.

Definitely recommended, especially for fans of Clark Gable.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Producer: Buddy Adler

Writer: Ernest K. Gann

Main cast: Clark Gable, Susan Hayward, Michael Rennie, Alex D’Arcy

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This film is essentially a remake of 1932’s Red Dust – and the film-makers obviously thought that the only man who could reprise Clark Gable’s role from the original was Gable himself – because he is the star of both films. Gable plays Victor Marswell, a big game hunter in Kenya. When earthy, sexy Eloise Kelly (Ava Gardner) arrives, the couple have a brief relationship. Things change when Donald and Linda Nordley (Donald Sinden and Grace Kelly) come to stay, Victor falls for Linda – and the feeling seems mutual…

I haven’t seen the film of which this is apparently a remake, but most reviews say that the earlier film is the better one. However, I really enjoyed Mogambo. Clark Gable is always worth watching, and although he looks older here, he still has that sex appeal that he is known for. He is well matched with Ava Gardner, who is simply stunning. Beautiful, sexy and funny, a large part of what made this film so enjoyable, was Ava’s performance (she more or less steals the show). I’ve always thought that Grace Kelly was over-rated as an actress, and although her performance here is fine, she pales in comparison to her two co-stars.

The adventure aspect of the story takes a back seat to the romance/love triangle aspect, but this is still an exciting and engaging film. I particularly loved the scenes were Eloise Kelly was feeding the animals.

If there was anything about this film that I didn’t like, it was probably the ending. I won’t spoil it by saying what happens, but I was surprised and slightly disappointed. Nonetheless, this is a very enjoyable film, which held my attention throughout. Definitely recommended.

Year of release: 1953

Director: John Ford

Writers: Wilson Collison (play), John Lee Mahin

Main cast: Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Donald Sinden

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This is the story of four archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Michael and Azrael, who were created by the ‘Old Man’ 2000 years ago, but ended up coming down to earth to search for their four archesses, who could be anywhere at all in the world (and could in fact be anywhen as well).  The story is set in the modern day when Uriel goes by the name of Christopher Daniels and is a well known movie star, Gabriel is a firefighter who lives in Scotland, Michael is a New York City Police Officer and Azrael is a vampire, who performs in a rock band and is known as The Masked One.

When Uriel/Christopher meets Eleanore ‘Ellie’ Grainger, a book store clerk with the power to control the weather and heal people, he instantly realises that she is his archess.  But Ellie has no knowledge of all this, and has always wondered why she has such strange powers.  She finds herself irresistibly drawn to Uriel, but as the two try to form a relationship they are beset by obstacles in the form of Samael – an archangel known as The Fallen One, who was created before the others, but who was thrown over by the Old Man.  He too has come to earth and like the others, has special powers, but unlike the others, he uses his powers for evil.  He is known to the public as media mogul Samuel Lambent – and he is determined to claim Ellie for himself.

Will Uriel and Ellie be able to fulfil their destiny and be together – or will dark forces separate them forever?

This book is the first in ‘The Lost Angels’ series, so I assume that any subsequent books will deal with Michael, Gabriel and Azreal finding their own archesses.  Although fantasy is not a favourite genre of mine, I did enjoy this book.  I felt that the characters who were the best depicted were Uriel, Ellie and Samael.  Samael – despite being the villain of the piece – was certainly very charismatic, but like many great villains, he had his own beliefs and moral codes, which he adhered to.  He was one of the best characters, and I hope that he will be as prominent in subsequent books in the series.

The book does have a couple of sexually explicit scenes, which really wouldn’t be appropriate for younger readers, and some older readers may be put off by them (I wasn’t personally).  The romance story between Ellie and Uriel was believable (in the realms of fantasy fiction), and there was plenty of excitement and lots of obstacles to keep the pace exciting.

There is no religious theme in the book – The Old Man is clearly meant to be God, and Samael is as near to the Devil as a character could be.  However, there is no message here, and clearly no religious agenda of any sort.  What there is, is an exciting paranormal romance story, which I enjoyed more than I expected.

The story did throw up a couple of questions however – if Ellie is only 25 years old, how can she have been created by the Old Man 2000 years ago?  My assumption is that the powers of an archess are passed down in some form of reincarnation, but this is never explained.  That didn’t detract from the storyline however, and only actually occurred to me once I had finished the book.

Overall, it’s a good addition to the fantasy genre, and a book that I would definitely recommend.

(I would like to thank Headline Publishing Group for sending me this book for review.  Headline’s website can be found here.  Heather Killough-Walden’s website can be found here.)

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Its 1853 and something nasty is in the air in Crawditch, London.  A series of grisly murders coincides with the arrival of Dr Marvello’s Traveling Circus, which is the business run own by Cornelius Quaint, ringmaster and conjuror extraordinaire. Suspicious immediately falls upon the circus performers, and their strongman Prometheus finds himself wrongly incarcerated for the crimes. Quaint, with the help of a number of his performers and the guidance of his good friend Madame Destine sets out to clear Prometheus’s name – but before long he realises that the murders are just the tip of the iceberg concerning some very dodgy dealings occurring in the criminal fraternity.  And as the mystery unfolds, it becomes clear that the events are related to Cornelius’s own history.  Will he be able to prove his friend’s innocence…and will he manage to escape with his own life?

This is a rip-roaring adventure story, populated with an eccentric cast of characters. Cornelius is a great main character, who has plenty of cunning, an acute sense of humour and a quick intelligence – all of which he needs to employ to navigate his way through several deadly situations.

More of an adventure story than a mystery, the tale twists and turns, so that the reader is often caught unaware by the events that take place.  The main characters are well drawn, so that I did feel that I got to know them.  Some of the villains are a little cartoony, but that’s fine and all adds to the atmosphere of fun and excitement.  My favourite character was probably Cornelius’s loyal valet, Butter, and I would have liked to have learned more about him.  I also particularly liked one of the police officers investigating the murders – Horace Berry, who was perhaps the most conventional character in the whole story.

This is the first story in a series (of three books, apparently), and I hope that the further instalments of Quaint’s life and adventures are as much fun to read as this one.  It’s not completely accurate on some historical details (occasionally using descriptive words and terms that were not around at the time that the book is set), but that hardly matters – after all, this is a romp, not a study of the period.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I don’t think the reader is expected to do so either.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this book – it left me with a smile on my face.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Lucifer Box is the narrator and hero of this tale.  He is London’s foremost portraitist, and a charming wit and dandy, with an eye for pretty ladies (and men).  He is also a secret agent in the employ of His Majesty’s Government, in Edwardian England (who lives at number 9 Downing Street, no less – as he says, “Well someone has to live there”).  He is tasked with investigating the mysterious deaths of two eminent professors, and the murder of one of his fellow secret agent in Naples.  As Lucifer heads to Naples himself he finds himself drawn further and further into the mystery.  He tells the story in his own inimitable style, peppered with saucy wit and smart witticisms.

This is a hugely enjoyable satirical romp – Lucifer is perhaps the James Bond of his time, and finds himself entangled in many outlandish and incredible situations, which require all of his guile and cunning to extricate himself from.

Both Edwardian London and Naples are brought vividly to life, and Box’s descriptions of Pompeii made me want to visit that famous site.

Lucifer himself is a terrific hero – he is brazenly immoral, doubtlessly charming and the sort of rakish cad who I couldn’t help liking, despite myself.  The writing made me laugh out loud on several occasions, and it was impossible not to root for him.

The supporting cast of charcters have wonderful names such as Christopher Miracle, Kitty Blacklash and Charlie Jackpot, which add to the fun and served to remind me of the satirical nature of the plot when things sometimes took on a slightly more serious nature.  Yes, it requires the reader to suspend belief, and yes it is an outrageous story – but that’s fine, because that is exactly what it is supposed to be.  The subtitle of the story is ‘A Bit of Fluff’ – and that sums the book up perfectly.  It’s not to be taken seriously, it’s meant to be funny, sharp and pure entertainment.  And that’s precisely what it is. 

I very much look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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