Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Round-Up#44

Book Review: Run by Blake Crouch: In keeping with the spirit of this bullet-train of a novel, let's get right down to it: Run is powerful, terrifying, touching, and brutal.

The plot - about a family on the run after most of America's population contracts a psychological/spiritual plague that compels them to kill everyone in sight who's not affected - is not original. But author Blake Crouch isn't really out to break new ground when it comes to premises and plotlines; what he wants to do, and which he succeeds at magnificently, is pull you into a story that grabs hold of your attention, slams you in the chest and leaves you breathless and shaky at the knees. Thanks to a set of characters so well-drawn and three-dimensional that you feel every nick, wound, bruise and pain they suffer, and a pace so masterful that you just can't stop reading, halfway through this ambitious novel genre-boundaries are blurred and you discover that you've fallen under its merciless spell.

For Crouch, this is a ground-breaker, as his writing here reaches new heights; the prose is breezy, the pace near-perfect, and the way the story flows is sheer magic.

But be warned, this is a brutal, violent, emotionally devastating piece of fiction. So before turning the first page, get ready and get comfortable, because you ain't gonna get up till the heartbreaking and strangely uplifting climax.

Available at the Amazon Kindle Store.

Film Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats: Inspired by true events and a book of investigations into the US army's research into the paranormal and how it could be used to the US's advantage during the final years of the Cold War, this is a hilarious, compelling, endlessly entertaining film, full of quirky characters and quirky performances to boot.

The film revolves around a young American journalist (endearingly played by Ewan McGregor) whom after getting dumped by his wife, suffers a crisis of faith and decides to join the army as a war correspondent. In Kuwait, he meets a retired American soldier (wonderfully brought to life by George Clooney) who claims to be a former member of a special squad of "Jedi Warriors," American soldiers with psychic abilities. What ensues is a strange, crazy ride into the past and present, as the "Jedi Warrior" tells his tale.

Although it isn't entirely clear which parts of the film are based on true events and which aren't, that really isn't the point. This is a tremendously fun film to watch, with a game cast (including a scene stealing Jeff Bridges as a tripped-out hippie general, and Kevin Spacey as a smarmy villain), a fine, playful script, and a director (Grant Heslov) who knows what he's doing.

This is the kind of stylish, quirky film that they used to make in the 70's but don't make anymore: Entertaining, fast-paced, darkly funny, bitingly satirical, and strangely moving. The best compliment I can give it is, it leaves you wanting more. An underrated gem.

Extra! 30 Days of Night (Film Novelization) by Tim Lebbon: This edition's Extra! selection is the novelization of the film 30 Days of Night by Tim Lebbon. Novelizations are usually hit or miss, ranging from the entertaining to the trashy. But that's not the case here. Tim Lebbon takes a flawed script and turns it into a suspenseful, dark piece of horror fiction in which the characters come to life (unlike the ones in the film) and the atmosphere is so thick you can almost touch it. This is a very good horror novel in its own right, and is a rare beast, in that it is actually better than the film. A must read for horror fans and fans of the 30 Days of Night franchise.

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