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Posts Tagged ‘revenge’

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This was John Grisham’s first novel, and also the first of his which I have read, although I have seen a number of films based on his works (including the adaptation of this book).

Carl Lee Hailey – a black man living in Clanton, Ford County, Mississippi – finds out that his daughter has been raped by two white men, and murders the rapists in revenge. He stands trial for murder and is represented by young lawyer Jake Brigance. The county is fiercely divided between those who think Carl Lee’s actions were justified and he should be acquitted, and those who think he should face capital punishment for what he did. The Ku Klux Klan are determined that Carl Lee must hang and embark on a campaign of harassment and intimidation. Soon the sleepy Ford County is divided into two sides, both willing to go to any lengths to win this war.

I can see why Grisham is such a popular writer – his story flows easily and this is one of those books where you pick it up with the intention of reading a few pages and hours later you’re still reading. I am unsure of my feelings regarding Jake – I was ‘on his side’ re Carl Lee, but his politics in general put me off him somewhat. I did however like the characters of Lucien Wilbanks – Jake’s mentor, an alcoholic but a smart man, and Harry Rex, another lawyer who helps Jake.

Some of the scenes were disturbing, especially those regarding the KKK, and there is prolific use of the n word, which I found extremely jarring. But the story itself was gripping, and I would definitely read more by John Grisham.

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When Marni Olsen (Kristen Bell) discovers that her brother Will (James Wolk) is marrying the girl who bullied and tormented Marni all through high school, she is determined to stop the marriage and make Will see what kind of person Joanna (Odette Yustman) really is.

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Year of release: 2010

Director: Andy Fickman

Writer: Moe Jelline

Main cast: Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Jamie Lee Curtis, Signourney Weaver, Betty White, Victor Garber, James Wolk

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: The dance lesson! The stellar cast, lots of laughs throughout

Lowlights: None. Loved it

Overall: Thoroughly enjoyable and really funny

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Carys, Andrea and Zoe are invited by their friend Joanne to spend her 40th birthday with her in a remote and – to the other three – unknown location. As soon as they start out on the journey there, it becomes clear that nothing is what it seems. There have been tensions between Joanne and the others for some time and it seems that this is the weekend she wants to have it out with them. Nevertheless the group try to make the most of things until things take a shocking turn and it seems that there is danger lurking, and friendship turns to suspicion as everyone starts to suspect each other. From there, things only get worse and the story builds to a shocking climax.

I listened to this as an audiobook, which are my preferred method of keeping me distracted during long runs. Inasfar as this goes, this book did keep me occupied but overall I cannot say I was terrifically impressed. The narration was fine, although I always feel sorry for narrators who have loads of characters’ voices to deal with, and some of these were a tad annoying. Overall though, I have no issues with the narration, but the storyline itself dragged on and as it became more and more implausible I grew irritated with it. It’s fiction and of course you expect some dramatic licence, but some of the characters behaved so oddly for supposedly intelligent women, and many of the events were so crazy that it lost all sense of possibility for me. Also, I guessed the ending pretty early on.

So generally I would say…not terrible, but not particularly mind blowing either. If you’re looking for something just to pass time, you could do worse, but if you’re looking for a genuinely thrilling read, I cannot recommend this one.

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Well, it worked for Baz Luhrmann, when he updated Romeo and Juliet to a modern day setting.  In this film, director Michael Almereyda updates Hamlet and shifts the action to corporate New York in 2000.  Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) is mourning the loss of his father, who was the CEO of The Denmark Corporation.  He believes that his father was in fact murdered by his Uncle Claudius (Kyle McLachlan) who has gone on to marry Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Diane Verona) in distasteful haste, and is also the new CEO of the corporation.

Hamlet is determined to avenge his father’s death.  Meanwhile, he struggles with his own loose grip on sanity, as does his former girlfriend Ophelia (Julia Stiles).

I’m not completely sure what to make of this adaptation.  I like the idea – I like Shakespeare’s plays in their own settings, but I do like to see them in new and unfamiliar settings, which may entice other people to try them out.  This version comes in just shy of two hours, which is pretty short, considering that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play (the very faithful Kenneth Branagh adaptation is four hours long).  Certain parts have been cut out, but the essence of the story remains intact, and Shakespeare’s original language is used throughout, although not in its entirety.  The cast overall were strong – Ethan Hawke is an under-rated actor, and he captures Hamlet’s fine line between grief and insanity very well.  I also liked Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber as Ophelia and Laertes respectively.  Kyle MacLachlan did a fine job as Claudius, while Diane Verona was excellent as Gertrude, and really captured the character.  Hamlet’s ‘friends’ (if you have seen the play, you will understand why I use the term loosely) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are played by Steve Zahn and Dechen Thurman – who is the brother of Ethan Hawke’s then wife Uma Thurman – and Zahn in particular shone in his role.  I also really liked Karl Geary as Horatio, Hamlet’s true friend until the end.

The cast was not perfect however – unfortunately, the usually excellent Bill Murray seemed lost as Polonius.  I’ve seen Murray in straight roles before and he is normally great in them, but I didn’t think he suited this particular character at all, and just seemed to be reading his lines with no inflection or meaning whatsoever.  It’s a shame – Polonius could have been great with a different actor, but overall this did not detract from my enjoyment of the film.

What did occur to me however was that if I didn’t know the story of Hamlet, I think I would have had trouble following what was happening.  It’s not the language; it was more that scenes seemed particularly disjointed from one another, and it seemed to me that it was jumping about a bit – first concentrating on this, then concentrating on that.  On that basis, I would definitely recommend that anyone planning on watching this familiarises themselves with the story first.

On a positive note, New York City is actually a very good backdrop for the story…aesthetically it looks perfect, and I also loved the music.  I’m not sure that I can forgive the famous To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy being recited in voice-over while our hero roams a Blockbuster video store.  There was probably some symbolism there, but it escaped me.

Overall, if you are looking for an adaptation of Hamlet, this is not the best one to start with.  However, if you are a fan of the play and want to see this version for that reason, you might find more to enjoy than you expect.

Year of release: 2000

Director: Michael Almereyda

Producers: Jason Blum, John Sloss, Andrew Fierberg, Amy Hobby, Callum Greene

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Michael Almereyda

Main cast: Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Diane Verona, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Karl Geary, Steve Zahn, Dechen Thurman

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Click here for my review of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2013 production of Hamlet.

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This book is the first in a series featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire, and set in Absaroka County, Wyoming.  Walt has to investigate when Cody Pritchard, who was one of four young men who committed a serious sexual assault on a young Native American girl, is killed.  Together with his friend, Henry Standing Bear, who is also the uncle of the young girl; and his deputy, the foul-mouthed but efficient Vic Moretti, Walt tries to figure out who killed Cody, and to stop further acts of violence.

I enjoyed this book a lot, mainly because I adored the characters of Walt and Henry.  Walt narrates the novel, and he is an engaging, compassionate and witty narrator.  Henry is calculating, intelligent, and fiercely loyal to his friend, and both characters were very well developed.  I also liked Vic Moretti, who despite railing against everything and everybody, shows her dedication to her job and her boss.

The police investigate the case methodically, and more through good old fashioned instint and sleuthing, rather than the use of hi-tech forensics, or incredible coincidence, and this appealed to me.  The ending was a surprise, but in retrospect, it made sense.

If I had any criticism, I would say that it was the large amount of the novel given over to explanations of the different types of guns used in the story, and the amount of time taken to explain the geography of Absaroka County (possibly because I find it hard to carry such descriptions in my mind).  But I’m probably nitpicking.  Overall, the characters are relatable and believable, and the story does keep you guessing.  I will definitely be reading the further novels in this series.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

 

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Shakespeare’s goriest play is by no means his most popular one, and I can imagine that some people would find it too distasteful to watch (I had my reservations, initially), but as this production, directed by Michael Fentiman proves, it can be successfully brought to the stage.

Briefly the storyline concerns the titular character who has returned triumphant from the war against the Goths in Rome.  He slays a son of Tamora, queen of the goths, in revenge for his fallen soldiers.  She in turn urges her two remaining sons to rape Titus’s daughter Lavinia (which they do in the most horrific fashion, also cutting out her tongue and cutting off her hands so that she cannot identify her attackers).  Titus’s sons are then framed for this grievous crime, and executed.  When Titus discovers the truth, he swears revenge on Tamora and her sons, and – well, it’s safe to say he gets it, although it’s also safe to say that there are no real victors in this play, which ends in a bloodbath (a bloodbath that is as uncomfortably amusing as it is wince-inducing).  Sounds bloodthirsty?  It was, and at the time that it was written, there was a great public appetite for such plays, and Shakespeare was obviously happy to provide one.

This production certainly made me grimace on occasion, but it was extremely compelling and watchable, and even managed to include some dark humour – no mean feat in such a gory play.

Stephen Boxer made an excellent world-weary Titus, whose descent into madness is clear to the audience.  The rest of the cast were also superb in their roles, especially Katy Stephens as the vengeful Tamora, John Hopkins as a very amusing Saturninus, and Kevin Harvey as Aaron – a truly detestable, and strangely charismatic character!  Rose Reynolds was also heartbreaking as the tortured Lavinia, who never finds the happiness she is owed after her brutal attack, and the murder of her husband.

Titus Andronicus is not a play for everyone, and I would recommend that people are aware of the storyline before going to see it.  However, I found it extremely watchable (even if I watched some parts through my fingers!) with excellent performances all round.

(For more information about the Royal Shakespeare Company, or this production, please click here.)

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Last time I saw Jonathan Slinger at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, he was playing Malvolio in the comedy Twelfth Night – and he very nearly stole the show.  Here, he takes on an entirely different role – that of Hamlet, the tortured, grieving young Prince of Denmark, who seeks to avenge the death of his father, who Hamlet is convinced was killed by Claude, the brother of Hamlet’s father.  Claude is now married to Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, and is also King of Denmark.

This particular performance seems to have divided the critics and the audience; I fall firmly on the side of ‘loved it’.  The play was enthralling throughout, and the whole cast were excellent.  Slinger was outstanding – his Hamlet teetered on the thin line between sanity and madness; his grief and fury at the loss of his father, and the subsequent rapid remarriage of his mother were all too believable.  He also injected some humour into some of his exchanges and mannerisms.  The whole cast was actually wonderful – as well as Slinger, I loved Pippa Nixon as Ophelia, who loved Hamlet but was tragically caught up in his extreme emotions, and who eventually suffered a breakdown with terrible consequences.  Alex Waldmann was perfect, and very endearing as Horatio, Hamlet’s kind (and rational) friend, and Robin Soans provided some great comedy as Polonius.

For this production, the play was set in the 1960s, with one character wearing a CND symbol on his coat, and Hamlet sharing a spliff with his old friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  The stage was made to look like a gymnasium, complete with the necessary fencing equipment needed for the final scenes.

My favourite scenes were the famous ‘To Be or Not to Be’ soliloquy, and the final devastating scenes.  After the tense build-up, the showdown needed to be dramatic and shocking – and it was.

All in all, a wonderful production, and I recommend it whole-heartedly to fans of the play, and fans of good drama.

(To find out more about this production, or about the Royal Shakespeare Company, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of the 2000 film adaptation of Hamlet.

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This film is not a biography of Mozart; rather it is a tale of obsession and revenge.  Antonio Salieri, himself a famous and respected composer, is a great admirer of Mozart’s work, but when he meets Mozart, he is upset that such a tremendous talent is in the hands of a vulgar and crass person.  (Note: I do not know how realistic the portrayal of Mozart as shown in this film is, but certainly according to Mozart’s letters, he had a crude sense of humour.)  Salieri cannot believe that God has chosen to channel such beauty through Mozart, and is upset that Mozart will probably be remembered for all time, while he himself will probably sink into obscurity.  The film starts with the attempted suicide of Salieri, after which the story is told mainly in flashback, with Salieri recounting to a Priest how he came to know Mozart, and eventually seek revenge upon the young composer for his talent, of which he was so jealous.

F. Murray Abraham won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Salieri (one of eight Oscars eleven nominations for this film), and I can see why (although he was up against Jeff Bridges for Starman, and when Jeff is up for an Oscar, I always always always root for him to win!)  Additionally, Tom Hulce, who played Mozart, was nominated for the same award.  He too put in an excellent performance, but I do think that Abraham had the edge here.  He does a fine job of making us understand his motivations, and the reason that he both detests and admires his rival.  Despite his underhand behaviour, he does elicit some sympathy for his pains.

Naturally, the music is sublime.  I am not a particular fan of classical music or opera, both of which feature prominently in this film, but I could certainly appreciate it in this context.  The costumes were also very lavish and beautiful, and the Oscar which was won for Best Costume Design was also very well deserved.

There was some comic relief, mainly provided by Hulce, but this was mainly a touching and somewhat disturbing film – and when I say disturbing, I mean it in a good way.  It demonstrates how a sane and rational person can let their jealousy turn to obsession, and cause them to act out of character; in the hands of a lesser actor, this might not have worked, but fortunately, F. Murray Abraham handles it incredibly well.  It’s not a short film; I saw the director’s cut which is just shy of three hours – but it is an enjoyable and absorbing watch.  I would certainly recommend it, whether or not you are a fan of Mozart’s music.

Year of music: 1984

Director: Milos Forman

Producers: Michael Hausman, Bertil Ohlsson, Saul Zaentz

Writer: Peter Shaffer

Main cast: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Jeffrey Jones

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I saw this production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in Stratford, on 12th February 2013.  The show that I saw was actually a public understudy run.  This meant that some actors played more than one part (and in one instance, one part was played by two actors).  This is no criticism, and was certainly not confusing.  The public understudy runs are a great way to see a full production for an extremely low price (£5.00 to non-RSC members; £2.50 for RSC members).

The Winter’s Tale is a story of love and misplaced revenge.  It was originally classed as a comedy, but is not now always considered so, although there are some very funny moments in the latter half of the play.  Briefly, King Leontes of Sicilia (wrongly) suspects that his pregnant wife Hermione has been unfaithful with the King’s friend, Polixenes of Bohemia.  He punishes his wife in the most horrible way, but is thrust into despair when he realises that his wife and friend were innocent of any wrong-doing.  Having banished their baby daughter as soon as she was born (believing at the time that she was Polixenes’ daughter, she grows up unaware of her royal heritage, believing that she is the daughter of the shepherd who found her as a baby and brought her up as his own.  However, she falls in love with Florizel – who is the son of King Polixenes…..

Considering that the cast and crew had just four days to prepare for this production, and that everyone was playing a different part to that which they normally play (the understudies are all part of the main cast), this production was excellent.  I was particularly impressed with Phil Snowden, who played the dual roles of Antigonus (the subject of the famous stage direction, “Exit pursued by a bear”) and the old Shepherd, who brings up the baby he finds.  He was distinctive in each role, and provided a lot of humour as the shepherd, aided by his character’s son, the young Shepherd (the two shepherds’ first names are not revealed), played by Kieran Knowles.  Duncan Wisbey, who played Autolycus, a roguish pedlar (and who plays Antigonus in the main cast) was also superb and extremely humorous.  Bethan Walker who in this production played both Hermione and Perdita was very impressive, and I really felt for her Hermione.

This is not my favourite Shakespeare – in some parts of the first half, it is actually quite a disturbing play, with Leontes becoming so doubting of his pregnant wife, and actually punching her in the stomach at one point.  The second half was much lighter, with much of the aforementioned humour to relieve the tension, and the story is rounded off nicely.

The staging was impressive, with a scene of bohemian decadence to show Leontes’ palace.  There was also some considerable use of CGI, which worked well, and for some reason, a huge sort of water tower, the reason for which was unfathomable, but nonetheless it somehow worked.

Overall, I enjoyed the production and thought it was very well done.  Another triumph for the RSC!

(For more information about this production, or the Royal Shakespeare Company, please click here.)

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Gregory Peck heads up the cast of this terrific Western (‘terrific’ and ‘Western’ being two words I rarely use in the same sentence).  He plays Jim Douglas, a man who comes to the sleepy town of Rio Arriba, to witness the hanging of the four men who he believes raped and murdered his wife.  However, the night before the hanging, the four men escape and the townsmen ask Jim for his help in getting them back.

I’m not a big fan of Westerns, but I am a big fan of Gregory Peck, which is the reason I watched this movie – and I’m so glad that I did.  It has everything, a suspenseful storyline, a great main character, and a fabulous actor playing him.  This is really Peck’s movie – despite the star billing of Joan Collins (playing Josefa, an old flame of Jim’s), the rest of the cast are really supporting actors.  And Peck plays the brooding, obsessed man to perfection.  He really does have (as one of the criminals notes) the eyes of a hunter, and it’s clear that his desire to see these men dead has completely overwhelmed him.

There’s also an underlying debate in the storyline – when people use the excuse of justice to justify revenge, are they not lowering themselves to the level of those they judge?  For the most part though, this is simply a riveting storyline, with a great actor in the  main role.

Year of release: 1958

Director: Henry King

Writers: Frank O’Rourke (book), Philip Yordan

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Joan Collins

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