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Posts Tagged ‘thriller’

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This 1998 film was a remake of a 1949 film of the same name, although only the name and the overall premise remain the same. I have seen both before (the last time I watched the 1998 film was – and yes, I feel old – over 25 years ago) and I honestly think that the later film is the far superior one.

Dennis Quaid is Dexter Cornell, an English Professor. The film begins with him staggering into a police station to report his own murder (shot in black and white, this is an homage to the 1949 film which opened much the same way). He then sits down to reveal his account of events and the film flicks back a couple of days earlier. During the intervening hours, Cornell is poisoned, faces his own mortality and has to find out who has killed him and why.

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Year of release: 1988

Directors: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton

Writers: Charles Edward Pogue, Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene

Main cast: Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Charlotte Rampling, Daniel Stern, Jane Kaczmarek, Christopher Neame, Robin Johnson

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Genre: Drama, thriller

Highlights: Dennis Quaid;  the scene after Cornell is diagnosed – he runs outside and there is a fantastic scene set to The Waterboys’ ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’. I remember this scene from when I first saw this film over a quarter of a century ago

Lowlights: Some hammy acting from Robin Johnson, Christopher Neame

Overall: Enjoyable thriller

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In this first book in the series set in Southampton, and featuring DI Helen Grace, a sadistic killer is on the loose – one who gets her victims to do the dirty work for her. Two people are kidnapped, and trapped in a remote location with no chance of escape. There is a gun – and a deadly choice. One of them will have to either kill the other or kill themselves, and whoever survives is released. Grace and her team are on a race against time to find the connection between the victims and the person behind them all.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it did keep me fairly hooked throughout. I thought the narrator Elizabeth Gower did an excellent job – one of the best narrators out of all the audiobooks I have listened to so far. Under close examination, the story itself is quite preposterous – the level of planning that would have had to be done to effect some of the kidnappings would be virtually impossible, and I am honestly not sure how long someone could get away with it the amount of times that the perpetrator here did. Nonetheless as a piece of sheer entertainment, it certainly did it’s job.

I am unsure what I think about Helen Grace – she is not an easy character to warm to, but I think that that is probably deliberate. Her team respect her, but don’t necessarily like her, and the things that make her hard for her colleagues to like are the same things that make it hard for the reader/listener to like. She is interesting though, which is my main requirement for a lead character. Out of the rest of her team, only two are really fleshed out but maybe we will get to know others better later in the series.

I would certainly listen to more books in this series; having said that, this book took the reader/listener to some dark places and I do feel that I need to cleanse my palate with something a bit lighter first.

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Writers: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle

Main cast: John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

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Genre: Horror, thriller, mystery

Highlights: The acting for all three of the main cast (and for the most part, this is a three-hander) is superb throughout. The first 90 minutes of the film is full of tension, atmosphere and an underlying sinister tone and I loved it

Lowlights: The last ten minutes. WTF?

Overall: Brilliant – if it had finished ten minutes earlier!

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Listened to as an audiobook narrated by Napoleon Ryan.

Andrew Sumner is having a run of bad luck, but he believes that it is at an end when he meets the beautiful and captivating Charlie. The two of them begin a very intense relationship and are smitten with each other, but Charlie’s irrational jealousy causes problems between them. When things start going missing from Andrew’s flat, and his friends start being attacked – or worse – he starts to wonder if Charlie could be behind it…could the woman he loves really be a murderer….?

I am really in two minds about this book. There was a LOT that annoyed me, and that was before I even got to the ridiculous ending. First of all, there were continuity errors (I guess that is what you would call them; certainly if this was a film that is what they would be). For example near the beginning of the story, two characters go into a cafe in a railway station to have a chat, but halfway through it becomes a pub. In another part, two characters decide to get drunk on two bottles of gin which somehow turn into vodka. Okay, these things don’t impact on the story, but they annoy me and I feel that if I noticed them without looking, any half decent editor should have done as well.

Additionally, Andrew as a protagonist was just…blah. I couldn’t understand why any woman would become obsessed with him, although there’s no accounting for taste. More than anything he just seemed unbelievably stupid for putting up with so much of Charlie’s irrational behaviour, and largely (it seemed) because she was adventurous in bed. The ending was the biggest let-down. I don’t mind a good twist, but this was so mad as to be just plain stupid, and asked the reader to discount everything that had gone beforehand.

As a narrator Napoleon Ryan was fine when he was being Andrew – and as the book is narrated by Andrew, that was most of the time. But female voices are NOT his forte. In particular, Charlie’s voice just made her sound like a caricature out of a bad sitcom.

Yet – despite all this, I did find that the story rattled along at a good pace, and at one point I even found myself wanting to extend a long run so I could see how one particular subplot played out. So I do believe that Mark Edwards is capable of creating solid tension and mystery, even if his way of resolving things seemed to have come completely out of left field.

Would I listen to or read another book by this author? Well yes, I probably would. But I liken this one to eating junk food. It’s pretty enjoyable at the time but even while you’re consuming it, you know it’s not really that great, so it’s not something I would probably recommend to a friend.

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On September 11th 2001, Lucie Jardine is in Manhattan desperate to get away from her abusive and controlling husband. Suddenly New York and the world is changed forever by the attack on the World Trade Centre, and Lucie stumbles across an an opportunity to change her life and take on a new identity. Thinking that she has found safety at last, it becomes clear that the new life she has walked into holds it’s own dangers…

I listened to this audiobook, and it did keep me going during my long runs. I found the premise very interesting, and certainly for the first part of the story it held my interest. However, I did feel that it lost its way a bit at the end, and the story finished on a disappointing note.

The book was narrated by Star Phoenix and honestly I’m not sure if I would listen to anything else she narrated. At first I thought her voice would be annoying but I got used to it when she was narrating in the third person. However, when she attempted voices, it sometimes felt like taking a cheese grater to my ears. She voices Lucie in a sing-song little girl voice, and Lucie’s husband Curtis was given an incredibly grating voice. Also there were references to Lucie’s accent having a Scottish lilt (the character is from Scotland orignally) yet she spoke in a completely American accent! Only a little niggle maybe, but a niggle nonetheless.

Overall, I think I would possibly read more  by this author, but I would rather read a physical book, or listen to a different narrator, but if you do like thrillers, this might be something you would enjoy.

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This was another audiobook to keep me company while running. It is only this year that I have really got into audiobooks and I have discovered a curious thing – even if I don’t particularly like an audiobook, somehow it seems to keep my attention, in a way that a physical book which I wasn’t enjoying, would not be able to do. This book kind of falls into that category.

The story is told from multiple points of view, but it kind of feels like Ella Longfield’s story, as hers is the only point of view narrated in the first person. Ella is on a train journey when she overhears two young men chatting up two girls. When it becomes apparent that the two men have just been released from prison, Ella becomes alarmed and considers intervening but decides not to. However, the next morning one of the girls, Anna Ballard, has gone missing and Ella feels guilty that she did not step in.

Cut to a year later – Anna has still not been found, and Ella is full of guilt. She starts receiving threatening postcards from an anonymous sender, which tell her that she is being watched. Meantime, the investigation into Anna’s disappearance rumbles on, with chapters told by Ella herself (‘The Witness), Anna’s father (‘The Father’), Anna’s friend Sarah who was with her on the train (‘The Sister’) and Matt, a private detective who Ella employs to find out who is sending the postcards (‘The Private Detective’). There are also very occasional chapters narrated by ‘Watcher’ whose identity for obvious reasons, is not revealed. It soon becomes obvious that everyone connected to Anna has secrets and throughout the story it seems that any one of them could be guilty.

So far, so interesting. The premise is great – what would you have done? Would you have intervened? Would you have left well alone? Would you feel guilty in Ella’s position? And of course there is the whodunnit angle…who is sending the postcards? And what really happened to Anna?

So – there was plenty about this book that kept me listening. However, there were also things that annoyed me. Ella was not a particularly interesting narrator or main character. Can I go so far as to call her dull? (Yes, is the answer.) And considering that actually, she didn’t do anything wrong, she carries a tremendous amount of guilt, almost making the case all about her. I didn’t mind the multiple points of view that narrated the different chapters, and in fact I did particularly like Matt the private detective, albeit a lot of his personal story (his wife had a baby and he learns to adjust to fatherhood) was irrelevant. However, each chapter had a cliffhanger which was obviously a ploy to keep the reader/listener interested, but just ended up being a bit annoying and felt contrived.

The other problem was the ending. Okay, so I didn’t guess who the culprit was, but the things is that I don’t believe anyone guessed, because there was absolutely nothing – no clues, no hints – given earlier on. It seems slightly unfair to keep readers guessing and then to spring a culprit on them out of left-field. The best mysteries to me are when you are surprised by the identity of the culprit but then realise that the clues were there all along.

Overall, I would say that if, like me, you are listening to this in an effort to distract you from something else, it does the trick, but otherwise I probably would not recommend it. Fans of psychological thrillers or whodunnits can find similar stories done much better.

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With a cast including Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Samuel L Jackson, and a script that doesn’t take itself too seriously (or even slightly seriously) this was always going to be a good film, with lots of laughs – not to mention lots of violence and lots of swearing (something to maybe consider if this puts you off).

The Kingsman are a secret spy organisation and Colin Firth is Harry Hart (code name Galahad). The service is looking for a new recruit and Galahad’s nominee is Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a streetwise kid, often in trouble with the police. Eggsy has to pass a series of tests, in a group which consists of upperclass, rich kids, who mostly resent his presence and his success at the tests.

Meanwhile, megalomaniac film producer Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) has a plan to cull the human race in order to save the planet. Accompanied by his sidekick and bodyguard Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) their plan starts to take hold and only the Kingsman can stop it.

I laughed all the way through this film – it’s absolute ridiculousness works somehow because it acknowledges the outrageousness of the plot throughout. The cast are excellent and seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves in the roles. If swearing and violence are not off-putting to you and you want to kick back and watch something really funny and action packed, I recommend this film highly.

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Year of release: 2014

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Mark Millar (comic book ‘The Secret Service’), Dave Gibbons (comic book ‘The Secret Service’)

Main cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Samantha Womack, Sophie Cookson

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