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Posts Tagged ‘thriller’

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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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Jenny Kramer is the subject of a brutal rape and in the immediate aftermath her parents make the decision to give her a controversial treatment which causes her to forget the attack. However, the drug does not wipe out the knowledge of the attack or the trauma and fear that the attack caused, and eventually Jenny has to decide whether it would be better to regain her memories so that she can begin to cope with what happened. There is also the question of bringing the perpetrator to justice – without her memories, finding the guilty party is nigh on impossible – and in a small town, nobody wants to believe that one of their own could do this to someone.

I had high expectations for this book – I think it had an interesting premise with a moral dilemma at it’s core…is it ever ethical to remove someone’s memories, even if done with the best intentions? However, I have to admit that while the book held my attention and kept me reading, I was somewhat disappointed. This was largely due to the narrator. The story was told by Dr Alan Forrester, who became Jenny’s therapist – and also therapist to her parents who were struggling with holding their family together. Unfortunately Dr Forrester was condescending and pompous in the extreme; I have no idea if it was the author’s intention to make him so dislikable but if so, it certainly worked. When talking about his wife for example, Dr Forrester makes no bones about stating that he is intellectually superior to her but he loves her anyway. Indeed, he clearly considers it extremely generous of him when he states that he has encouraged her to study for a Masters degree, so that they might be able to enjoy more intellectual discussion!

The other problem for me was that of all the characters in the book, the one who I felt I never got to know at all was Jenny. The narrator ended up telling his own story far more than that of Jenny and it seems a shame that after she was violated in such a terrible manner, the author did not then do her the justice of at least making her into a fully rounded out character.

On the positive side, the revelation of who had committed the violent crime genuinely surprised me, and I thought that aspect of the story was well plotted, although the plot line relied somewhat on coincidence and things that did not strike me as very feasible. I can’t say that it didn’t have any sort of flow to it – the writing was well paced although sometimes the timeline seemed a little confused – Dr Forrester is talking about the events in the book from some time in the future but how far in the future is not really clear.

Overall, this book was not a terrible read for me, but did not live up to the expectations that I initially had for it. If you choose to read it be aware that the rape and another similar event are both described in quite graphic detail.

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The world is burning, civilisation is collapsing and the human race is in danger of being wiped out…a mysterious disease known as Dragonscale is sweeping the planet – nobody knows how it started, but everyone thinks it will end with the destruction of mankind. The disease starts out as swirling patterns on the sufferer’s skin, and eventually those with it burst into fire and are literally burnt to death. It doesn’t take long before vigilantes roam the streets killing those affected in an attempt to rid the world of the disease.

Harper Grayson finds out that she has Dragonscale at roughly the same time as she discovers that she is pregnant. Her husband Jakob abandons her, and in fear of her life, Harper flees to try and find a place of safety. She is taken under the collective wing of a group of fellow sufferers who have set up their own community known as Camp Wyndham, where they believe they have found a way to, if not cure Dragonscale, at least control it and even use it to their advantage. One of the group is John Rookwood, known as The Fireman. Enigmatic and single-minded, John protects the group and has special skills of his own for using Dragonscale to defend his community. But danger and hysteria lurk within the camp…

I had previously only read one book by Joe Hill – Heart Shaped Box – which I thought was okay but not brilliant. I would probably not have bothered with any more of his novels except that dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels always intrigue me, so I gave this one a try. And wow! am I glad that I did!!

It’s a big brick of a book, at just shy of 750 pages. Sometimes I can get a bit impatient with such long books, but I seem to have got lucky with a couple this year (earlier in the year I read Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ which I also loved), including this one. The writing is engaging and there’s always something to tease you into reading just one more chapter, and oh go on there, just one more…

Some scenes were particularly poignant – crazy as it sounds, one of the scenes that sticks in my head is when Harper gets brief access to the internet after weeks of having none. She goes to Google only to find that it is no longer there.

There’s a lot of characters in the book – some I loved, and some I absolutely detested, as I am sure was the intention of the author. Harper was a feisty heroine – the best sort actually, as she only realised her own strength of character when the chips were down.  found her obsession with the film Mary Poppins a bit odd but I’ll let it go!! The Fireman was exasperating and antagonistic, but fiercely protective of those he cared about, and his bravery knew no bounds.

The story seemed to move quite quickly for me – that is there was always something happening and it didn’t lag at all. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I liked it although I know some reviewers were disappointed.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian novels. It’s well worth your time reading!

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In 2004, during a weekend away for her father Sean’s 50th birthday celebrations, three year old Coco Jackson disappears – apparently taken from the house where she slept with her twin sister Ruby and other children in the middle of the night. A huge media campaign follows but Coco is never found.

Twelve years later, following the sudden death of Sean Jackson, the truth about what really happened on that weekend is slowly revealed as his family and friends prepare for his funeral.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. Psychological thrillers are a favourite genre of mine but they can also be a real let-down when they venture into the realms of the ridiculous. However, this book seemed actually plausible and I think that may have been due to the writing. And, sadly, possibly also due to the fact that there have been some high profile disappearances of children over the years. Alex Marwood is a journalist and I can’t help wondering if this case was at least inspired by one particularly famous child disappearance.

There is a dual storyline – the first part set in 2004 and told from the point of view of various characters. The truth of what happened is drip-fed bit by bit. The second part is set in 2016 and is narrated by Mila, one of Sean’s daughters from his first of four marriages. As Mila reconnects with Ruby, the twin sister of Coco, she revisits her own past and deals with her feelings about her father and the fragile ties that can bind a family together.

In any event, it’s an absorbing read. Sean Jackson is a deeply unlikeable, narcissistic and selfish character and indeed most of the adult characters in this story are the same. Pity the children who had the misfortune to be part of their families. Speaking of those children though, I did love Mila and enjoyed her character development. I also adored Ruby, who was entirely believable as both a typical teenager and a young girl who had had to live with survivor’s guilt her whole life.

As mentioned earlier, I did think that the final twist was pretty predictable, but there were still a few surprises along the way, and the writing was great and kept me reading on and on.

Overall I would highly recommend this book, and will definitely look out for more by Alex Marwood.

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Richard Gere heads up the cast in this thriller – he plays Robert Miller, a successful hedge fund magnate. Miller is desperate to try and sell his company before his dodgy financial dealings come to light, but is soon faced with an even bigger problem on a more personal scale. Desperate to cover up his involvement in a young lady’s death, he tries to out manoeuvre the tenacious Detectiver Bryer (Tim Roth), who knows Miller’s guilt (no spoilers here) and is prepared to go to any lengths to prove it. Throughout all of this, Miller’s family life with wife Ellen and daughter Brooke (Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling respectively) starts to crumble. Can Miller outrun the truth – and how long will his power and influence be able to protect him?

This was another film which exceeded my expectations. I watched it because of Tim Roth and from the description was not sure that it would be something that I would really enjoy. However, it held my attention from the moment it started and I thoroughly liked the whole story. The cast were excellent – Richard Gere was great as the powerful businessman who could feel everything he had achieved slipping through his fingers. He moved seamlessly from a loving father to a ruthless businessman and although I did not really like the character (and I don’t think we were meant to like him) I still found him interesting. Tim Roth was – of course – excellent in the type of role that he plays so well; determined and persistent. Although his character was essentially on the side of the good, Bryer’s own morals were somewhat ambiguous. I do feel that Susan Sarandon was somewhat underused, appearing in only really a handful of scenes, although there was one very relevant one towards the end – I won’t say more about that because the ending was excellent and I don’t think anyone watching this film should have it spoiled for them.

Also brilliant was Nate Parker as Jimmy Grant – a young man with a criminal past, who is  now trying to rebuild his life, but whose connections with Miller and a favour which he does for Miller threaten to ruin his future.

Overall, an enjoyable and absorbing thriller, which is well worth a watch.

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Year of release: 2012

Director: Nicholas Jarecki

Writer: Nicholas Jarecki

Main cast: Richard Gere, Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Brit Marling

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May 1983 – 14 year old Cynthia Bigge wakes up the morning after an almighty row with her father, and discovers that her entire family – her mother, father and brother have disappeared.  The mystery is never solved, and for 25 years, Cynthia has to live with not knowing what happened to them.  Are they dead? Alive?  Did they just choose to leave her, or did some other fate befall them?

2008 – Cynthia appears in one of those hokey true-crime television shows, which revisits the mystery of her family’s disappearance, and soon afterwards, strange things start happening – a phone call from someone saying that they know where her family are; her father’s old hat suddenly appearing in their house, and other events.  Is someone playing cruel games with Cynthia, or is they mystery finally about to be solved?

Apart from the very brief prologue describing the night of the disappearance from Cynthia’s point of view, the rest of the story is narrated by her husband, a high school English teacher named Terry.  Cynthia and Terry have a more-or-less happy marriage, and an eight year old daughter named Grace, but the mystery of what happened to her parents and brother has haunted Cynthia for years, to the extent that when odd events occur, Terry questions Cynthia’s sanity.

If you are a fan of thrillers/whodunnits, then I’d recommend this story.  Sometimes the writing is a bit cliched, and I did figure out the ending before the big reveal, but there was plenty here that kept me entertained.  The writing flowed well, and I read huge chunks at a time, because I was eager to find out what happened (and if my guesses were correct).  The plot sometimes veered close to being ludicrous, but I just went with it, and enjoyed it anyway.  As with most books in this genre, I would not read it again, because it’s more about the destination rather than the journey, so once you know who ‘dunnit’ there’s not much point in re-reading.  Terry was a decent enough narrator, although not a particularly interesting character (to me anyway), but this book is definitely more plot driven than character driven, so the fact that he did not make a huge impression on me did not really matter.

All in all, it’s not brilliant, but it’s an enjoyable diversion and I’d read more by Linwood Barclay.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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ID Plays Ltd. present this performance of Donald F. East’s play.  Set in the 1970s, Clive and Moira Richards are an unhappily married couple; Moira is having an affair with Clive’s younger business partner Philip, and Clive is fed up of Moira’s deception, and her constant snippiness and dissatisfaction.  Philip wants to sell his and Clive’s business, and is prepared to go to almost any lengths to do so, while Clive is equally determined to stop the sale happening.  When a woman claiming to be Clive’s first wife Jane arrives on the scene, the stage is set for murderous plots, swapped allegiances, and neither the characters nor the audience are quite sure who is deceiving who.

The play had a cast of just four – Paul Lavers and Carly Nickson as Clive and Moira, Peter Amory as Philip and Bridget Lambert as Jane.  With all of the action being set in the Richards’ living room, this made for a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere.  All of the cast were excellent, with Lavers and Nickson really showing the cracks that have appeared in their marriage, while Amory is immediately unlikeable as Philip (although it’s not hard to see how he could have charmed Moira).  Lambert was terrific in what was the least developed role.

This play is not particularly gory or scary – some unpleasant things do take place off-stage, but on-stage is reserved mainly for the characters plotting.  None of the characters are actually very likeable, and all of them have no apparent concern for any of the others.  This actually worked well, because it meant that you never knew what any character might do next.  There were many twists and turns, and double-crosses, so that the audience were kept guessing throughout.

Overall, this was a lot of fun for any fans of murder mysteries.  I bought my ticket on a whim, and was very pleased that I had done so.  I will definitely be looking out for further productions by ID Plays Ltd.

(For more information about this production, or ID Plays Ltd., please click here.)

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