Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Vanishing Game

 tags:  adventure, mystery, short story, travelogue-ish

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A down-on-his luck actor is paired with a weather-battered Land Rover Defender on a seemingly innocuous courier job. But some things are too good to be true and this innocent journey quickly unfolds into a dangerous plot with a shadowy cast of characters.

William Boyd was commissioned by Land Rover to write a novella. The Vanishing Game is the result. He was reportedly paid a low six-figure sum according to the Guardian interview.
He told the Guardian that despite the payout he had "total liberty to invent but it would be nice if Land Rover was mentioned" and in the 17,000-word story the character, Alec Dunbar, drives a Land Rover Defender.
"It was a most intriguing job to be asked to do. I would recommend it to any novelist, if they got the chance," he said. "Novelists have always written to commission, for example Charles Dickens. If I was approached to write a Batman movie I would assume it would have to feature Batman. There's really no difference in this case."
Boyd admitted he had "no idea how I'll be viewed" but added that he didn't "really care, to be honest". 
I've read 4 William Boyd novels. The Blue Afternoon is my favorite. I'm a bit conflicted with this very very short story. It is interesting and well-written but the ending is vague and left me wondering. I think it's still worth an hour of my time though.

If you have an hour, or 45 minutes if you're a fast reader, to spare, you can read/watch it at thevanishinggame, or download the ebook format with several photos to your device for free from Amazon.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Dark Valley (Das Finstere Tal)

tags: drama, German language (Tyrolean), late 19th century, mystery, revenge, Western

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Description fron Amazon
A lone rider arrives in a small high mountain village; nobody knows where he is from and nobody wants him there. Greider introduces himself as a photographer from America, and the town patriarch, Old Brenner, provides him with shelter for the harsh winter ahead. The village cut off by snowfall and barely a ray of sunlight reaching the valley, a tragic accident leads to the death of one of Brenners beloved sons. When another son is mysteriously killed, it is clear this is not a coincidence, and this visitor carries a secret with him.
I was wowed by this dark Austrian/Dutch/Italian produced vendetta film from the first frame to the end credits. I watched it not having seen any American westerns, although I've seen several times the spaghetti western Django with Franco Nero, one of my favorite shoot-em-up movies. 

The movie is deliberately slow to build with concise dialog but everything is done on purpose for the atmospheric feel and story. The cinematography is simply breathtaking. The alps is beautiful as the backdrop to the rustic village setting and the dark clothing of the inhabitants. Acting is top-notch too, specially the lead, English actor Sam Riley as Greider. Although it's easy to guess who Greider is and his motive, I was surprised as to the evil person's reason for his crime against his victims. I enjoyed this movie very much and will watch it again. 

Currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon

Highly recommended in German with English subtitles. English dubbed is also available but the voice actors sound cartoonish and unnatural.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

BMX Bandits

tags: Australian, comedy, rewinding the 80s

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Product Description from Amazon
The future Academy Award® winner made her movie debut at 16 years old as the pouffy-haired star of this action/comedy about a cache of stolen walkie-talkies, three BMX-riding friends, and the ruthless bank robbers who will pursue them through every graveyard, shopping mall, construction site and waterpark in New South Wales, Australia. It's a high-flying ride to adventure filled with wild stunts, cool BMX outfits, creepy innuendo, cheezy synth music, an obnoxious fat kid, and gobs of fast & furious fun. John Ley (Mad Max), David Argue (Razorback) and Bryan Marshall (The Long Good Friday) co-star with thrilling cinematography from future Oscar® winner John Seale (The English Patient) in this Down Under 80s cult classic from Ozsploitation master Brian Trenchard-Smith, the legendary director of Turkey Shoot, Dead End Drive-In and Stunt Rock! 
Nicole Kidman BMX Bandits MovieNicole Kidman BMX Bandits Movie
Nicole Kidman BMX Bandits Movie
16 year old Nicole Kidman and her wild pouffy hair

I have never been a fan of Nicole Kidman and have seen just a handful of her earlier movies [I honestly can't recall which ones] but not this way back when she was just 16, prebotox and ice queen persona. 

It's not a bad movie at all. It's kinda cheesy and there are none of the amazing Travis Pastrana stunts but I enjoyed it a lot. Nicole's stunt double is obviously a man which distracts a bit but over-all the movie is better and more watchable than what is being produced lately by Hollywood.

Currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon

Highly recommended 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

tags: comedy, horror, zombies

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Summary from Wikipedia
Continuing from where the previous film ended, Martin wakes up in a hospital after crashing his car while trying to escape from Colonel Herzog after finding one of the Colonel's coins in his car and placed under arrest when the police suspected that he killed his friends, laughing off the zombie explanation. The arm he sawed off to halt a bite infection has been replaced, but he discovers it’s Herzog’s undead limb that’s been attached to his missing appendage. He then escapes from the hospital and his zombified arm kills a police officer. Martin soon realizes that Herzog is coming back for revenge. The gruesome Nazi Zombies are back to finish some 70-year-old business: completing Hitler’s order to wipe out an entire town in retaliation for Norwegian anti-Axis subterfuge. However, Martin is not willing to die yet. En route, he gains variably competent allies in Glenn, a gay staffer at a local WWII museum, and the self-styled “Zombie Squad”, a trio of nerdy American siblings who've been waiting and preparing for the zombie invasion that popular media has taught them will surely come. Things improve a bit once Martin (whose zombie arm suddenly arbitrarily starts helping the good guys) manages to revive a troop of Russian POWs executed by the Nazis for the final battle against Colonel Herzog and his Nazi Zombie battalion.
Sequels are usually inferior to the first installment but in this case, the second is better. It is the best zom-com movie, better than Shaun of the Dead with more laugh-out-loud scenes. The movie is filmed entirely in English, has the same amount, if not more blood, gore, and spilled guts. It's really hilarious with its in-your-face politically incorrect scenes: everyone getting blown to pieces including the elderly and babies, zombies killing a wheelchair-bound guy; no one is spared. Quoting the policeman watching the battle scene: "It looks like a video game." Oh, and I really like the gross-sweet ending too.

Currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon. Watch the first one before viewing the sequel.

Multiple viewing is highly recommended for zombie movie fans.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

John Wick and The Equalizer

Ugly and Ugly

Both movies have
>clich├ęd dialog and story lines
>"retired" protagonists compelled to come out of retirement
>ageing actors are embarrassingly unfit, they move slowly like molasses during hand-to-hand fights
>overrated directors
>extremely annoying music


Not recommended.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Malice: A Mystery

Malice: A Mystery tags: cultural-Japan, mystery-crime, 

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Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his home on the night before he’s planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver. His body is found in his office, a locked room, within his locked house, by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have rock solid alibis. Or so it seems.
At the crime scene, Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka’s best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same public school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Nonoguchi eventually left to become a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka. 
As Kaga investigates, he eventually uncovers evidence that indicates that the two writers’ relationship was very different that they claimed, that they were anything but best friends.  But the question before Kaga isn't necessarily who, or how, but why. In a brilliantly realized tale of cat and mouse, the detective and the killer battle over the truth of the past and how events that led to the murder really unfolded. And if Kaga isn't able to uncover and prove why the murder was committed, then the truth may never come out. 
Malice was written in 1996 but only got translated into English in December 2014. It is a very short but clever murder mystery. Once again, as in Higashino's previous books, The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint, the killer is revealed very early on. The question is why, and the answers are slowly revealed as the investigation goes.

The novel uses the "unreliable narrator" device, manipulating the reader to form a [probably false] opinion about a character in the book. Higashino, however, gives tiny bits of clues to keep the reader in doubt as to who the real bad guy is. The book reminds me of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (read more than 2 years ago and also liked). Psychological whydunnit is becoming a favorite mystery sub-genre. When cleverly written, the novels make me think a lot while reading.

Highly recommended.