Showing posts from May, 2013

Circe by Madeline Miller (♦♦♦♦)

Granddaughter of Oceanus, daughter of Titan Helios and sea nymph Perseid, Circe was different from the start. While her siblings discovered their unique gifts very early on and gained their independence—either by claiming their inheritance, like Perses and Aëstes, or by marriage to a wealthy demigod, like Pasiphäe—, Circe remained among her family in the halls of the gods. Her love for young fisherman Glaucus changed everything. Circe used a potion to transform Glaucus into a worthy suitor. Glaucus, seeing his station changed, fell in love with one Circe’s cousins, a sea nymph named Scylla. Out of jealousy, Circe put a potion on Scylla’s bath and, unintendedly, transformed her into a monster. Circe’s confession forced Helios to go to see Zeus, for witchcraft is something that gods fear can tip the balance of power. Zeus declared an eternal banishment for Circe from the halls of the gods to the island of Aiaia.

Exile was not easy but, as Circe learned, it had its advantages; being away f…

Won’t Back Down (♦♦♦♦½)

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. John Adams Elementary school has been failing its kids for years due to a combination of bad leadership and union contracts for teachers that don’t allow them to help their students after hours.
Jamie Fitzpatrick, mother of a dyslexic child, thinks the system is failing her kid. Jamie has two jobs and can’t afford a private school for her daughter so they’re both trapped in the system. That is until a chance conversation puts her on a path to revolution. Joined by Nona Alberts, a schoolteacher whose son gets bullied due to his learning disability, Jamie leads parents and teachers in a fight against the school district to force a vote so the school changes hands and thus its path.
Wow! After I finished watching this movie I was utterly excited. I confess I saw this film playing at my local theater but I passed on in favor of other productions. What a pity if I had missed this movie at all! With Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davies in the leading roles one cannot e…

Gangster Squad (♦♦♦)

It’s 1949. The City of Los Angeles is under the reign of terror brought about by Mickey Cohen, a brutal gangster who thinks himself as “the future”. As many other gangsters, Mickey has bought out cops, politicians and judges, so he is virtually untouchable, or so he thinks, until the chief of police gives a former war vet now a detective with L.A. police the go ahead to form an independent force to weed out Mickey Cohen and his empire. Several misfit policemen join the task force which is informally called “gangster squad”, and they somewhat erase the line between good and evil in their efforts to bring Mickey Cohen to justice.
I thought this was an OK movie, but no more than that particularly because the story resembled way too much The Untouchables, which is movie legend by way of its cast, musical score, direction and everything you can think of that makes a movie great. Gangster Squad was not so. As I said, this film paled in comparison with the other one in more ways than one.

Beautiful Creatures (♦♦♦)

It’s the beginning of the school year and Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is going to be a junior in high school. He lives in Gatlin, South Carolina, a town where according to his late mother “there’re two kinds of people: those too stupid to leave or too stuck to move”. Ethan has been dreaming for months with a girl he has never met, but meeting her in his dream leads to danger.
Enter Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), niece of Macon Ravenwood--latest descendant of the town’s founding family and a recluse. The Ravenwoods are hated in the town since it’s rumored they have a pact with dark forces, reason why Lena becomes an outcast at school.
Ethan and Lena quickly become mad about one another but Lena is a “caster”, a young witch with special powers and on her sixteenth birthday—which is on December 21st, coinciding with the most powerful solstice in 5000 years—her nature will decide whether she is claimed to the light or the dark.
It is said that a caster cannot love a mortal or their love i…

Promised Land (2012) (♦♦♦♦)

Steven Butler is a small town Iowan working for a billion dollar corporation in the natural gas business. Steve and Sue, his coworker, are sent to a small town--not too different from the one where Steve grew up—to make farmers sell their lands to Global Natural Gas for a small percent of what they would be worth once the multibillion dollar company extracts natural gas from their parcels through a process called fracking.
 Steve and Sue start canvassing the town signing people up on contracts, but an independent environmentalist named Dustin Noble, who claims he lost his generations-old dairy farm after selling the land to Global makes town folks rethink their stance towards the sale. Since the folks aren’t in agreement, a vote is postponed until three weeks later to decide the fate of the town. However, after relentless assault from the environmentalist and confrontations with town folks, Steve has a change of heart, but is it too late?
Directed by Gus Van Sant and co-written and co-pr…

Special Forces (French) (♦♦♦♦♦)

Elsa Casanova (Diane Kruger) is a French war reporter on assignment in Pakistan when Pakistani militants, led by a Western-educated extremist, take her hostage--while trying to rescue a source—along with her Pakistani guide. French Special Forces are sent to Pakistan on a recognizance mission but due to the urgency of the situation, the mission changes status to a rescue operation.
The rescue occurs somewhat smoothly, but the team loses their radios and thus the possibility of contacting their rides home. Unfortunately after they miss the encounter with the helos they face a tough choice: make it on foot to the Afghan border, crossing snowy mountain chains, to be found by ally forces on the other side. As anyone can guess, things don’t go as planned because the mountains and the rebels on their tails begin to decimate the group.
As you can guess by my rating I loved this movie. I have seen many war movies and I can say that only two have seriously altered my perspective on war and its c…

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw (♦♦♦)

Legend has it that there’s a creature in St. Hauda’s Land who turns everything to white and glass with only a glance. Albino animals are proof of that. Also, St. Hauda’s Land is home to exotic creatures like moth winged bulls.
Ida Maclaird is an outsider but has come to live in the islands after her feet have turned to glass. She is looking for Henry Fuwa, a hermit of sorts, whom she believes is going to help her find a cure for her ailment.
Ida finds a chance at love in Midas Crook, a young man with a complicated family history worth exploring and untangling… Only they are running out of time.
I liked The Girl with Glass Feet, though not as much as I thought I would. I had difficulty reading this book despite being only 287 pages long because of the exotic vocabulary I’m not used to; due to that I had to read paragraphs over and over to make sure I understood what was going on. I did like the underlying messages of the story; it is about second chances, redemption, but it’s also about h…

When Darkness Falls by Heather Graham (♦♦♦½)

Jade McGregor, a travel writer who lives inNew Orleans, becomes one of the few survivors in a massacre occurred inScotlandduring a historical tour of a cemetery on Halloween. What she claims she witnessed that night makes law enforcement authorities reconstructing events question her sanity.
A year later, back inNew Orleans, Jade is dating a handsome, honest cop and she seems to have been able to overcome the tragedy until events inNew York CityandMassachusettsbring back the details of that night she has tried so hard to forget. Quite by coincidence, if there’s such a thing, a mysterious “virus” attacks people close to Jade and she meets in the street the devastatingly handsome stranger who saved her life inScotland.
The stranger’s name is Lucian DeVeau, king of the undead, who is inNew Orleansto protect Jade from the onslaught of attacks that have as targets the survivors fromScotland. As Jade becomes entangled with Lucian, so do her sister and friends who ultimately will aid in bringi…

The Place Beyond the Pines (♦♦♦)

Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a gifted motorcyclist who discovers he has a baby son fruit of a fling with a young waitress named Romina (Eva Mendes). Luke decides to leave the traveling show he works at and stay near his son and Romina, who at the time is in a relationship with another guy. Luke gets a job in an auto shop run by a friend and in desperate need of money begins to rob banks in Schenectady, NY, aided by his close friend. Life is good while they score big, but Luke's brief stint in jail convinces his partner that they should quit while they're ahead. Unfortunately Luke differs.
Luke goes ahead with his plan to keep robbing banks, but his life is cut short after he parapets himself in a stranger's home and a rookie policeman corners him. Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is the rookie policeman who, just six months into his new job, encounters Luke that fateful day. Avery carries his guilt for the next fifteen years yet his ambition propels him to run for public offi…

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦)

A Russian journalist in an undercover assignment is killed in a hotel in France to prevent him from exposing an incendiary arms deal. Later, the editor in chief of the newspaper where the late journalist worked is found on the brink of death by Gabriel Allon before making a startling confession. After both deaths, Gabriel travels to Russia in an apparent routine mission to meet with yet another Russian journalist who may know about the arms deal-- with serious implications for the West and Israel—and this time there’s an attempt on the lives of both Gabriel and the female journalist named Olga Zukhova.
When Olga reveals that the name of her source is none other than Elena Kharkov, spouse of powerful oligarch and arms trafficker Ivan Kharkov, Gabriel has no other choice but to engage in a mission to recruit Elena and finding out the nature of her husband’s latest profitable arms deal.
A painting by Mary Cassatt, of whose art Elena is a devoted admirer, provides the entry way to Elena’s w…