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Showing posts from September, 2011

Erlina of Whispering Pines by J.J. Burgess (♦♦♦½)

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Erlina (Gunn) Andersen is a determined, strong woman to whom life has dealt painful blows, first by losing both of her parents at an early age, and then losing both grandparents years later in a freak accident. At the time the novel starts, year 1880, Erlina has recently lost her husband to pneumonia. She and her children have the full support of her loyal friends and two of her servants, when she learns that she has lost her grandparents’ rather grand property Florette Manor because of her late husband’s gambling addiction.

As she learns from a trusted friend that she has inherited a modest property far away from Sydney Town, she readies for her new life at Whispering Pines in Van Dieman’s Land. To make a living, Erlina decides to train horses for racing, but she encounters serious opposition from local businessmen because she is a woman. Her partnership with Jason Caird--the man who bought Florette Manor and who also owns a neighboring property in Van Dieman’s Land—will prove usefu…

Mozart’s Sister (Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart) (♦♦♦♦)

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Nannerl (Marie Féret), Mozart’s fourteen year-old sister, lives in her famous younger brother’s shadow because she is a girl. She too possesses innate musical talent. Despite the love that keeps the family together, Nannerl resents the devotion that her father, Leopold, reserves for the younger sibling. In Wolfgang (David Moreau), Leopold (Marc Barbé) sees his own dreams of fame likely to come true.

While touring with her family, her carriage breaks an axle and they’re forced to stop at a convent where luckily they meet three of France’s King Louis XV’s daughters. One of the girls, Louise, takes an instant liking for Nannerl, making her a confidant.

Louise and Nannerl’s friendship soon extends to France’s dauphin, Louis, who is mourning for the death of his wife at childbirth. Nannerl and Louis form an unlikely bond based on their mutual liking of classical music. Soon enough, Nannerl comes to the realization that she can make a living on her own teaching music and composing for weal…

Warrior (♦♦♦½)

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Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is a teacher of high school physics. During a visit to his local bank, he learns that he is three months away from foreclosure (unless he can come up with the money); his other choice is bankruptcy. To raise money to avoid financial disaster, Brendan starts attending late-night mixed martial arts fights, but he gets suspended from teaching until the following semester. With more time available, Brendan begins training for an upcoming UFC championship to take place in Atlantic City. The purse for the winner is $5 million dollars.

Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) is a runaway US Marine with a lot of rancor in him for his natural family. He visits his father (Nick Nolte), a former alcoholic who has been sober for three years, and asks him to become his trainer. Tommy enters the same championship where his estranged brother Brendan is headed to. Their main rival is a bear-man from Russia, merciless as no other, named Koda.

This movie starts very slow, with a sketch…

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand (♦♦♦½)

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Meredith Delinn had it all…Until one painful December morning in which her world collapsed when she learned that Freddy Delinn, her husband of thirty years, had robbed investors of billions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme. Before the summer started, the Feds seized the family possessions. Freddy Delinn was sentenced to 150 years in jail and Meredith was virtually penniless. Furthermore, Meredith was banned from communicating with her children, Carver and Leo, because they too were suspected of conspiring in the scheme to defraud investors.

It had been three years since Meredith hadn’t spoken to Connie, her best friend, due in part to Connie calling Freddy a crook, which turned out to be true after all. Despite of this fight, when Meredith called Connie at the beginning of the summer because she had nowhere to go, Connie invited her to stay at her house in Nantucket.

Connie had problems of her own: her husband of thirty years had died two years ago of brain cancer. At the same time, Conn…

Contagion (♦♦♦♦)

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An American woman travels to China. Next thing we know, a virus is spreading at the speed of a touch (to the face, hand to hand), and it kills everyone she has come in contact with in the first four days, except her husband. Within little time, the virus starts mutating and there are no vaccines available anywhere. With uncertainty comes chaos, and desperate Americans turn to crime in search of relief.

I typically don’t watch end-of-the-world kind of movies, but I liked the trailer so I took the plunge. Oh boy! This movie seriously gave me the creeps! A star-studded cast is the highlight of the film and I must say each one of the actors is very well utilized. The movie is acted to perfection and the acoustic beats of the score contribute to the fast pace of the plot. In a world as small as today’s, it is only a matter of time until something so sinister happens, which is why the film has contemporary resonance.

The Debt (♦♦♦♦)

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Rachel (Jessica Chastain/Helen Mirren), Stefan (Sam Worthington/Tom Wilkinson) and David are three Mossad agents, who in 1965 were given the mission to kidnap in East Berlin a former Nazi doctor—Dr. D. Vogel, a.k.a. the Surgeon of Birkenau—responsible for thousands of deaths during the war, and transport him safely to Israel to stand trial.

The kidnapping goes as planned, but not so the escape from East Berlin, so Rachel, Stefan and David must take turns to feed and care for Dr. Vogel until their extraction takes place. There are two sure things: it will be hard for the three operatives to interact with their enemy, and they will never be able to forget what’ll happen next.

This movie is among the best I have watched this year! It starts a little bit scattered, going back and forth between the past and present day, but one the story focuses, it’s a pure adrenaline rush. It is wonderfully acted by young and old actors alike, thus there’s a sense of continuity in the time elapsed in th…

Win Win (♦♦♦♦)

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Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a lawyer with an independent, dwindling law practice. He coaches a wrestling team of teenagers at night. When Leo Poplar, an elder client with dementia, comes to his practice to make a case against moving out of his house and refusing guardianship from the state of New Jersey, Mike sees Leo as heaven-sent for Leo pays $1500 dollars a month for someone to take care of him.

Mike has tried on several occasions to contact Leo’s daughter in Ohio without success, so when he argues in court for Leo’s guardianship and the judge grants it, Mike puts Leo in an institution and pockets the monthly allowance.

Soon enough, problems come knocking when Kyle, Leo’s sixteen year-old grandson---running away from his addict mother--appears at Leo’s door. Mike brings Kyle to live with him and his family; since it’s obvious that Kyle’s mother doesn’t care for her son, Mike enrolls Kyle in the local high school and the wrestling team, where Kyle shows a special talent.

Kyle…

Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers (♦♦♦)

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FBI agent Emma Sharpe, former novice with the Sisters of the Joyful Heart, receives a phone call from Sister Joan Mary Fabriani, regarding a painting she has been given to clean. Within the hour from Emma’s arrival at the convent, Sister Joan is killed and the painting disappears. Subsequent events bring Colin Donovan, FBI agent specialized in undercover operations, and Emma together, when it becomes evident that what is happening has much to do with her and her family of art detectives.

I did like this book. It is relatively short by today’s standards and the literary images come to life to describe vividly coastal Maine in the fall. Also vivid are the descriptions of the works of art involved in the story. The characters are well defined and the romance is fun, though it sometimes takes much needed space from the main plot which is the murder and art theft investigation. I was relived at the end when the killer was exposed because I thought Neggers was going to bring about an unkno…