Slayground (Richard Stark)

This is the fourteenth entry in Richard Stark’s (the writer’s real name Was Donald E Westlake) excellent series about Parker, the amoral criminal whose carefully-laid plans almost always come undone because of some unforeseen accident or because of an act of carelessness by one of the other crooks involved in the plan. In this case, it’s the getaway driver who screws everything up. This is not the driver that Parker would have preferred, but it’s the driver that Parker had to settle for. And it’s Parker who will now have to pay the price. [Read more…]

After The Sunset (USA 2004)

Max (Pierce Brosnan) and Lola (Salma Hayek) are eating at a restaurant with an American couple and are discussing their business activities. Wendell: “My family’s been in manure for three generations.” Max: “No shit.” Having pulled off yet another amazing and cunning diamond robbery and left FBI Agent Lloyd with yet more egg on his face, Max and Lola retire to the Caribbean and get on easy street. After a while though the lobsters start to lose their luxury, the sun seems normal and the days are boring more than they are relaxing. [Read more…]

Wonder Woman (2017 USA)

Mainstream films get dumber, louder and tackier all the time, and they substitute mawkishness for real emotion and character development. Banned in Lebanon, but to really do it justice this pile of crap should be banned everywhere! WW is really the same as every other cartoonish, overblown comic-book action flick, except with a female protagonist. Actually, this is worse than the average comic book movie, because it preaches to the audience about pacifism but then hypocritically celebrates “heroic” violence. In other words: Wonder Woman is an alleged pacifist who enjoys killing lots of  people. But wait!, all is not lost, WW delivers on three things – lots of slow mo, dodgy special effects, and painful clichés. [Read more…]

Downton Abbey ( Britain 2010–who cares?)

Downton Abbey has been a predictably enormous ratings success, taking the viewer-friendly melodrama of the soap operas and adding a bodice-ripper gloss by adding a period setting. Twenty or thirty years ago this series would have been a chippy pseudo-Marxist drama but in the post-modern world we get the Edwardians re-invented by a modern snob (Lord Julian Fellowes is quite a mouthful! ) as perky progressive aristocrats who love their servants as much as their servants love them. Each story is carefully compartmentalized (the only person to ever talk to the chauffeur is the young lady who is in love with him but won’t admit it) and un-named characters essentially don’t exist (during the numerous hospital scenes nobody, bar the protagonists, ever speaks or moves unless interacting with a named character).
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Inferno (1970 United Kingdom)

This was the final story in Jon Pertwee’s debut season and, although slow, it is the best of a series that, whilst an improvement on latter period Patrick Troughton, seemed a bit stilted and somewhat stuck. Not least because after a ruling by the Time Lords, Pertwee is stuck on earth to help Unit (a hush-hush military brigade headed by the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) and there is no time travel. This gave the whole 1970 season a ‘Quatermass’ vibe that is very cosy and British. The story concerns a mission at a research station to bore through the earth’s crust with a view to harnessing what lies beneath as a form of cheap energy. [Read more…]

If You Could See Me Now (Peter Straub)

The blurb of my copy of the book manages to drop three spoilers in the space of two sentences, and then reiterates one of the spoilers just in case I was slow on the uptake. I shall endeavor to avoid doing something similar. Straub brings class to horror unlike anyone I’ve ever read. He has literary tricks up his sleeve that will keep sophisticated readers happy throughout. He is a master of tone. And not just with the mystery he puts forth in this novel, but with the way he sets up our narrator as this haughty know-it-all faced with a town of plebeians that plague him. This book is a wonderful ride to take for that reason. [Read more…]

Tau Zero (Paoul Anderson)

Author James Blish considered this book the ultimate hard science fiction novel. There is something to be said for that. Praise indeed… I have rarely read a novel with such rigorous scientific underpinnings. Anderson had a degree in physics and in other novels it is quite clear that he thought about the properties of fictional planets he created. Anderson had a degree in physics and in other novels it is quite clear that he thought about the properties of fictional planets he created. Anderson takes hard science fiction as far as it will go here.
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Dune (Frank Herbert)

In order to enjoy Dune you have to enjoy complexity. All authors create little worlds in their stories but Herbert created a world. He puts people on the planets, governments, conflicting cultures, conflicting religions & conflicting ways of life that are thought out to the Nth level above and beyond anything else I’ve ever read. You could write a sociology dissertation on the societal relations Herbert conceived for Dune. Most authors need more than one book in order to tell an epic coming-of-age story. Herbert did it in one. Part of his genius as an author was his ability to imply far more about his world than he actually showed.  [Read more…]

Valkyrie (2008 Hollywood)

Tom Cruise had no idea who Hitler was when he first saw the script. The gay scientologist had never even heard of the Fuhrer. Cruise claimed he used to dream about killing Mr H. Yeah, right. In his dreams. Tyrannicide: it’s not something on the to-do list of your average gay scientologist…Valkyrie’s account of the failed plot to kill Hitler is no more than a thriller that does not thrill. In theory, it is possible to tell a suspense story about a historical event with a known outcome. Although we know de Gaulle was never assassinated, Day of the Jackal pulls its audience along with the intricate details of how the fictional killer almost brings it off, and how the French security services thwart him at the last minute. It works as a howdunnit. But the story of the plot to kill Hitler is a whydunnit, and Valkyrie takes the why for granted.  [Read more…]

Stripes (1981 USA)

Psycho: “The name’s Francis Sawyer, but everybody calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you.” Leon: “Ooooooh.” Psycho: “You just made the list, buddy. Also, I don’t like no one touching my stuff. So just keep your meathooks off. If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I’ll kill you. And I don’t like nobody touching me. Any of you homos touch me, and I’ll kill you.” Sergeant Hulka: “Lighten up, Francis.” The movie is basically trying to make the Army the way Police Academy made the Police look. Dumb and unbelievable. The plot is shabby, the characters are thin and of course guys love this flick. A nude woman within the first few minutes of the film. Two scenes involving multiple nude women. Bikini mud wrestling. The DVD even throws in even more gratuitous nudity than the original contained. [Read more…]

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