Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: Tyrant

Valerio Massimo Manfredi's Tyrant (2005) moves away from mainland Greece and into the Greek colonies in Sicily.  Following the life of Dionysius I of Syracuse the novel follows both the rise and fall of the character, as told from the point of view of journals and private papers he left for his son.

The novel follows Dionysis through his early frustrations as poor leadership causes a number of Sicilian cities to be destroyed by Carthage, and then follows his own rise to power, which starts, as is all too often the case, with the best of intentions, but ends in pure corruption.

A really interesting, readable novel, that showcases a part of the ancient world I was less familiar with.

Well worth a look!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Movie Review: Annabelle Creation

Last night my friend Mike and I were able to catch an advanced screening of the horror Prequel prequel Annabelle Creation, and it was pretty great!

So a few years back I saw, and really enjoyed, James Wan's The Conjuring, a neat little ghost story set in the seventies and featuring Ed and Lorraine Warren, a couple who made hunting these things down their business for years (including the Amnityville Horror and the Enfeld Poltergeist).  The movie had some pretty great scares, and I was quick to talk my friend Mike into checking out the sequel with me a few years later.

The Conjuring begins with a story about a demonic doll called Annabelle, as a way to quickly show the audience the types of things the Warren's would deal with, and as the doll had a distinct look and the story was creepy, a spin off was soon to follow.  I never saw Annabelle (2014) as the reviews were terrible and I wasn't sure if the character had enough interesting things to sustain a movie (it didn't).

But, when Annabelle Creation was announced I got pretty excited.  Not so much for the doll, but for the director.  David F. Sandberg has been putting horror shorts on YouTube for a few years now, and one of his first was even adapted into a feature (check out the short here), so when I heard this was the fellow who would be directing the film, my interest was definitely peaked.

In the end the movie is pretty fun, the scares set up nicely and although it has to connect to the first prequel, it has enough other interesting things going on I found it was well worth my time.  Interesting note about The Conjuring and it's spin-offs, this horror series is the most successful franchise since the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with six films done, one more coming next year and a further two in development, and all of them have been profitable.

Well worth the look!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Movie Review: The Dark Tower

So let's begin with the fact that I'm a pretty big fan of The Dark Tower series.

1) I referred to the series in one of my very first posts on this blog
2) I've read my way through the series and its connected books twice
3) I've led my wife, my kids, and my sci-fi loving best friend to read their own ways through the series
4) I read my way through Peter David's excellent adaptation for Marvel Comics and get overly excited every time the Dark Tower is referred to in any of Stephen King's other books.
5) Even though the first book was basically a modified Western and I hated westerns as a kid (because my Mom liked them - read more here) I could not stop reading it and HAD to see what happened in the sequel.

So yeah, I think it's fair to say I was looking forward to the movie every time I head it was going to be made and especially this year when it finally got a release date.

I saw the film yesterday with my wife and kids and here are my first impressions:

1) Why did they make this film version a YA adaptation of the source material?
2) Why is one of the secondary characters now the main character?
3) Why did they have to front load a ton of exposition for a story that really needs to build slowly?
4) Why have you taken two talented actors and given them such a muddled script to work with?
5) Why, having given up on the idea of a faithful adaptation, did you have to slip in the first line of the first book both in the middle of the film and with no connection in any way to the narrative?
6) a;ds lkfj;aldf (sorry, I just face-planted into my keyboard)...

Okay - I liked the performances by both leads, the production values was pretty great and the Easter Eggs were a fun diversion, but in the end - why? Why did they take such an interesting story and turn it into a 95 minute shoot-em-up which ignored almost every aspect of the first three books in the series?

In conclusion the film doesn't make me less of a fan of The Dark Tower series, but will likely make it much harder for me to sell others on this great book series in future.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: The Ten Thousand

So here's an interesting treat; Michael Curtis Ford's The Ten Thousand takes a look at one of my favourite films of the '70s, (Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979)) and tells the story that inspired the novel that the film was adapted from. This is the story of Xenophon's The Ten Thousand.

Taking place in the chaos following the Peloponnesian War and beginning in 401 BC, the novel follows Xenophon and is narrated by his servant and companion Themostigenes (nicknamed Theo), as they join an army of Greek soldiers who decide to fight as mercenaries under Cyrus the Younger in Persia, only to discover the point of their work was a lie and that they have been hired to help Cyrus kill his older brother. Things do not work out well and ten thousand Greek mercenaries quickly find themselves deep behind enemy lines with no support, little food, and most of their leaders betrayed and killed.

The novel follows the story of how (sorry for the 2500+-year-spoiler) this group made their way home. The novel begins as a war story and quickly turns into a story of survival over overwhelming obstacles. The action was fast, the story epic and I was quite happy to have purchased, rather than borrowed my own copy.

In the end, an excellent read, and an even more excellent reason to check out The Warriors again soon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: 2001 A Space Odyssey

So here's the thing about perspective. For so many people Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey is pretty much the paragon of what a Science Fiction film should be, for me however, first watching it at about the age of twelve when Science Fiction meant Star Trek, Star Wars and Aliens, 2001 was a really hard film to get through. The story moved incredibly slowly, the character with the most intrigue wasn't even human and the humans are largely forgettable.

At the time, I just didn't see what the big deal was, but as a completionist, I decided to give the companion novel by Arthur C. Clarke a try.

Reading it at the age of twelve, the novel moved along quickly enough, and suddenly a number of the images from the film started to make sense to me. It still wasn't my favourite science fiction novel (at the age of twelve that probably would have been Vonda N. McIntyre's novelization of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, but I was able to acknowledge it as a big part of the genre.

As part of my recent read through of the various Penguin Galaxy imprint, I reread 2001 last month, and I've got to say from the point of a forty-year-old father and avid genre reader, the story was much more compelling. The narrative moves along through three separate sections (the monkeys, the scientist, and the astronauts), and I thought it all held together rather well.

I guess it's time I take another look at the film, because, with a little perspective, this story got a heck of a lot more interesting.