Snapshots - #42: Thor: Ragnarok, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, LBJ

Thor: Ragnarok (2017), (♦♦♦♦½): Thor has saved earth twice by now and has, for the last two years, wandered the universe searching for infinity stones. He hasn't found any. He has, however, become prisoner of an enemy of Asgard, Surtur, who tells Thor that his visions of Asgard engulfed in flames is a premonition of Ragnarok—the destruction of Asgard, which is already in motion. Thor frees himself and arrives at home to find Loki sitting on the throne, passing as Odin, and neglecting his duties to protect the Nine Realms. With Odin's exile, Asgard's enemies have been reassembling, but Odin's death may just free Hela, a goddess against whom neither Thor nor Loki are enough.
It was in Thor: The Dark World where Loki, an antagonist, first threatened to steal the show. He became the villain that Marvel fandom loves to hate. While Loki is at his most charming in this film, the director, with the help of a sparkling screenplay, has very much exploited the great chemistry of t…

The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦½)

Retired Israeli spy Gabriel Allon is spending time in the Vatican restoring a Caravaggio’s painting, but when the body of a Vatican curator is discovered one morning in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Luigi Donati, Pope Paul VII’s private secretary, secretly asks Gabriel to conduct a private investigation for Donati’s eyes only. Gabriel reluctantly accepts, convinced that the death of the woman is not a suicide but a murder; her broken neck, a missing piece of jewelry and her apparently deliberate barefoot-ness tell him so.

When Gabriel begins to dig deeper, he discovers that the late curator had been calling a phone number outside Rome and he visits the house, only to find the owner has met an untimely, gruesome demise. Enters General Ferrari, an Italian policeman in charge of the Art Theft division, who tells Gabriel the story of the dead man’s true occupation: a capo zona of tombaroli, tombs robbers who deal with valuable antiquities.

When General Ferrari suggests that Gabriel have a talk with a prominent expert in antiquities, Gabriel stumbles upon a woman with ties to Donati’s secret past, and most importantly, with the name of the killer he is searching for. Donati knows the killer too well, only he can’t prove it. The suspected killer works at the Vatican Bank, and has been using it for years as a channel for his criminal activities as a smuggler of stolen ancient art with ties to one of the world’s most dangerous and lethal terrorist organizations.

Gabriel has no choice but to go back to Israel and assemble his team of operatives to conduct an operation in search for proof of the killer’s links to organized crime, money laundering and the murder of which he is suspect. In his quest, Gabriel comes face to face with true evil and must prove his mettle if his country and the world are to survive another day.

This last installment of the Gabriel Allon series is several things but boring is not one of them, not by a long shot. In The Fallen Angel, Daniel Silva takes us on a historical ride through time and faith, exposing us to the roots of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I find this installment Silva’s most fictitious to date, but he has managed to give us a glimpse, and I must say an apocalyptic one, about the implications that a nuclear-armed Iran would have on the Middle East and the world.

When I say this novel is Silva’s most fictitious I don’t mean it in a bad sense, after all, I like this series because of their political relevance in today’s world, but while in his other books some “fictions” have actually taken place, this one has not…at least, not yet. And if the possible scenarios Daniel Silva describes were to come true, that’s not a fun world to live in.

I have only read the last three novels in the Gabriel Allon series, and in those Daniel Silva summarized their plots using a famous phrase; the one he chose to start The Fallen Angel is by Saladin and says the following:

I warn you against shedding blood,
  Indulging in it and making a habit of it,
  For blood never sleeps”.

With such an ominous beginning, you shouldn’t expect what follows to be anything but bloody and gloomy.

I’m finding more and more difficult to wait a whole year for the next Gabriel’s exploits.