Wanted-Man-Review

Spy thriller author John le Carre writes complicated, twisted tales of suspense and covert ops. In the 60s he wrote about the Cold War – now it’s the Middle East. First let’s go over some of le Carre’s past film adaptations: most recently Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011), The Constant Gardener (2005), The Tailor of Panama (2001) and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965). All of these films have one thing in common: they are dry and very confusing, at least to me.

Now let’s look at A Most Wanted Man, also based on a le Carre book. This film is fast-paced and filled with intensity and action, but easy to follow. Is it le Carre’s novel writing that has gotten less muddled and involved? Well, maybe. Is it because we, as an audience, are more prepared for convoluted plots, with more and more spy action thrillers being made (The Bourne series, the recent Bond movies, etc.)? Could be, but I think it has more to do with how the book is adapted…how expert the screenwriter is at adapting the twists and turns on the screen.

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true-detective

One of the most talked about new TV shows of 2013 had to be True Detective, HBO’s crime/buddy drama set in backwater Louisiana.

One reason it was so popular is that HBO has the magic touch when it comes to dramas (The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, etc.). Another reason is the cast – two actors (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) star in it, both of whom have normally stuck to feature film roles, especially McConaughey, who in 2013 was having a year actors only dream of, culminating in a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.

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bitterriver

Keller’s second mystery set in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia and featuring prosecutor Bell Elkins is ALMOST as strong as the first, A Killing in the Hills (2012).

I loved Keller’s first Elkins outing (it was one of the most compelling American mysteries I had read in a while), so I was very excited by the prospect of another harrowing suspense tale. Although it’s not as strong as the first, this story is still intense – a real page-turner. This time, just as Elkins is put in charge of prosecuting the case of a murdered teenager found in the river, two more devastating events happen in Acker’s Gap…a sniper shoots up the courthouse and there is an explosion at the popular diner in town. Elkins pursues the case in her usual persistent way, but this time, her life comes under threat and the case has issues hitting too close to home, literally.

The best part of this book, as it was with A Killing in the Hills, is the well-constructed plot, fully-realized characters and excellent, top-notch writing. Keller, a journalist by trade who earned a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for her feature writing in the Chicago Tribune, has found a second trade: crime novelist. I cannot wait for the next Elkins book!

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library.

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dramas3

Whereas all procedural shows are close ended episodes, serial dramas are the complete opposite. A show with an ongoing storyline where not all loose ends are tied up in a neat little bow by episode’s end. In order to sustain the longevity of the show, each episode ends in a cliffhanger and character arcs and multiple subplots take time to develop over the course of half (generally 12 or 13 episodes) or a full season (22-24 episodes). A binge viewing is recommended in order to fully comprehend the story as a whole. This type of TV requires viewers to watch the show from the very beginning in order to understand what is happening. If you missed an episode, it is advisable to view the previous episode before catching the newest one. To that end, this is what I refer to as appointment television.

Below is a list of SOME of the RECOMMENDED popular dramas available at the Niles Library!

24 (Though the 9th season has yet to be released on DVD, you can catch all previous 8 seasons here).

Set in real time, this popular action drama follows the adventures of counter-terrorist agent, Jack Bauer, as he thwarts terrorist attacks both foreign and domestic over the course of a day. If you enjoy intriguing mysteries, edgy and spectacular action, and high stakes drama, you will thoroughly enjoy this show! The twists and turns are a mile a minute.

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nikita

If you have followed this blog series up to this point, then you have probably wondered what that one show was that was canceled in December. It’s time for the reveal…And that 2nd spot belongs to NIKITA!

This sleek and action-packed thriller had it all: Attractive characters, engaging plots (including the subplots), a well thought out and densely plotted seasonal arcs, and lastly, the action itself.

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Prisoners

One feeling kept me going throughout the entire time I watched the film Prisoners: FEAR. At over two and a half hours, you would think that I could not possibly have been afraid for the entire film. Well, I was. And, most likely, you will be too.

In addition to instilling fear from minute one, Prisoners also continually surprised me. I thought it was going to be just a simple revenge movie. But, this is so much more than that. Filled with leaps and twists and unexpected turns around every corner, Prisoners is more than a thriller. It is an adrenaline ride.

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captain-phillips

I have issue with movies based on real stories where I know the ending…mostly because it kills the suspense. Titanic: No matter how much Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet love each other, the boat will still sink. Marie Antoinette: She tells the French people to eat cake and then she loses her head. Joan of Arc: She inspires France and gets burnt at the sake for her troubles. Now, I know Hollywood takes a lot of liberties with endings (adaptations rarely end exactly as they do in the book or on the stage, etc.) But, even the fickle movie industry would never be so brazen enough to change the ending of a real life tale, right? Titanic 2: It’s Didn’t Sink will never be produced, right? (Well, hopefully!)

So, in Hollywood’s latest string of based-on-real-life movies (Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave), one stands out for me, EVEN THOUGH I was pretty sure I knew how the movie was going to end. Captain Phillips is based on a book by, that’s right, Captain Richard Phillips. Chances are (and I’m just GUESSING here) if he was able to write about his death-defying experience, he most likely survived. Again, I’m JUST guessing. So, what does this tell us…that we know the ending. Darn, another Titanic. But, wait. Not this movie. Captain Phillips is a wild ride, a fast-paced, highly enjoyable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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A strong Chicago-based mystery from Chicago-based writer Walker, who has a knack for capturing both the essence of the city and the suspense that fills its streets.  In this novel, Walker, a former Catholic priest, uses his seminary background as the backdrop for this latest, involving a priest who gets caught up in an international quagmire.  One day, out of the blue, Father Paul Clark’s friend is killed right in front of him.  Barely escaping with own life, Clark soon finds out that his friend was involved in some less than savory dealings with the wrong types of people.  Enter a woman who says she is from the government who has a plan to help Clark. Can she be trusted?  Clark spends much of the novel trying to answer that question, a search which leads him all the way to South America.  In the midst of all of this, a young man enters him life and shakes his beliefs to the core. 

As mysteries go, this is quite strong.  The character of Paul Clark is a believable, convincing protagonist.  All throughout the book, no matter what Clark is going through, we feel his pain and can sympathize with his difficult situations.  As a priest, he might appear as unrelatable, but Walker gives Clark such compassion and conscience and even some faith crises that we can understand what Clark is experiencing. And Walker also makes good use out of Chicago.  Through the pages, I was able to visualize the gritty and dank streets of Chicago where Clark was desperately trying to run for his life. 

This is the second mystery I have read by Walker (Saving Paulo was the other one) and though I liked both, I found myself drawn more this Clark and his set of nerve-wrenching circumstances. 

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