Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Round-Up#7 (Bumper Edition)

Hi there. It's been a while since I last updated this blog. But don't worry, I am back with a healthy dose of reviews of films, books and festivals! So let's begin.

Book Review: Running with the Demon: Terry Brooks is mostly known for his superior fantasy series Shannara, a mega bestseller that invigorated the publishing industry in the late 70's and continues to sell strongly to this day. But IMHO I think that Brooks's best work to date is the novel Running with the Demon, a truly original, gripping and ultimately touching piece of urban fantasy and one of the genre's finest.

Brooks weaves a spellbinding tale about a Knight of the Word, a servant of God and his vessel The Lady, and his battle against a cunning demon in human form who is after a teenager called Nest Freemark who might hold the future of mankind in her hands. The concept, while not wholly original, is elevated by Brooks's plotting and the amount of emotion he imbues the story with. This is a fantasy that feels real, reads real, and because of it is one of those books that you just don't want to end. It is a masterful thriller, a thrilling urban fantasy and, above all, a damn fine story. This is Terry Brooks's masterpiece.

P.S. Terry Brooks wrote two direct sequels (A Knight of the Word and Angel Fire East) as well as another trilogy called The Genesis of Shannara that links the Word and Void universe with the Shannara universe. All of these books are recommended.

Film review: Knowing: What do you get when you combine an idiosyncratic actor (Nicolas Cage) and an idiosyncratic filmmaker (Alex Proyas) with an idiosyncratic script posing as a summer blockbuster? You get Knowing, an apocalyptic/Sci-fi/religious thriller that is undoubtedly bonkers yet strangely compelling.

The film revolves around Cage's Physicist whose son unearths a document that has been buried in a time capsule for 50 years, which contains the dates of all the major disasters in history as well ones still to come. Cage's character then tries to use the information he has to stop the coming disasters, fails and begins to realize that maybe the end is truly coming. And did I mention that the film also has pale, otherworldly men who appear to his son with visions of burning animals? Or what about Rose Byrne who plays two characters, both of which are destined to die? As I already mentioned, this film is bonkers. But it is also entertaining, gripping and stylish, thanks to Alex Proyas's assured direction and a script, that despite having an identity crisis, remains intriguing up until the truly "out there" ending.

Is it recommended? Yes. It is too strange and compelling a film to miss. They simply don't make them like this anymore and that has to be worth something in this age of hyper-marketing and mindless, noisy blockbusters.

Extra! Every month I am going to post a title (a book, film or album), which I think is a truly original (and sometime demented!) piece of work.

This month's Extra! selection is The Drive-In 2 by Joe R. Lansdale, a shockingly original piece of surreal fiction that is equal parts funny, grotesque, and sadistic. Unmissable.

That's it for me. Till next time, keep browsing those shelves.