Monthly Archives: January 2013

Review: Cloud Atlas (Novel)

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“Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell is a novel that can’t really be assigned to any one genre class, rather it is a collection of interlinked shorter tales with varying genres, from Historical Fiction to Autobiography Cloud Atlas changes it up as it goes a long. The novels chapter structure seems to be subject to a lot of critical scrutiny, the structure for those who haven’t read the book splits five of the stories in half on opposite sides of the book with a sixth story as a pinnacle point in the middle which, to illustrate looks like this 1-2-3-4-5-6-5-4-3-2-1. Honestly can’t say I have read a book with such a structure before “Cloud Atlas” and although it felt a tad gimmicky initially I warmed to the structure after a couple of chapters and still think it is quite a clever technique that does work, just about.

Spoilers from here

Structure aside, Cloud Atlas showcases David Mitchells’ talents as a true wordsmith. Mitchells’ prose for one is just astounding, his ability to write from the perspective of a modern day elderly publisher then so flawlessly transitioning to an emotionless clone while still creating two totally different and convincing characters is a testament to his brilliant use of language. The attention to detail that went into each characters’ language is what made it so easy for me to immerse myself in their individual stories; Sonmi-451 calling pictures ‘Nikon’s’, Zachary’s almost completely broken speech and Autua’s ‘Missa Ewing!’ have to be amongst the best examples of that attention to detail.

Mitchell somehow managed to make every short story within the grander tale feel just as unique and interesting as the last, by the time I hit the second half of the book I was reading the thing for hours at a time because I was just so anxious to discover what was to befall the characters, that being said I wasn’t entirely impartial to each story. “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” chapters provided a much needed lighthearted and hysterical take on the big issue parallels covered in the other chapters through the eyes of the perfect anti-hero Timothy Cavendish, in spite of all the humor one of the best quotes in the book was found there ‘it is attitude not years, that condemns one to the ranks of the Undead.’ Robert Frobishers’ Letters from Zeldelghem were a close runner up for me, the only chapters that felt a bit ‘pulpy’ were ‘The First Mystery of Luisa Rey” sections, I’m not sure if Mitchell was intending to make it a bit of a pulpy read so that Cavendish could comment on it later or if was just by happenstance; for an ‘Airport Thriller’ The Luisa Rey mystery still made for a thrilling read which is good enough.

“Cloud Atlas” explored some very interesting themes, the best and most prominent of which being the repetition of mistakes made by humanity throughout time. Forced containment is the most explored of these mistakes in my mind: The enslavement of blacks in the Ewing journal right through to Cavendish with his leper like treatment in the elderly home ‘Aurora house’ and of course the future enslavement of fabricant clones in the Sonmi-451 chapters being the biggest portrayals of this. In Ewing’s final chapter and the last of the books chapters, we see Adam Ewing’s resolve to join the abolitionists on his return to San Francisco. When his father expresses his disapproval saying in the end his influence will count for no more than ‘one drop in a limitless ocean’ Ewing replies ‘ Yet what is an ocean but a multitude of drops.’ This is Mitchell out right stating that for good change to occur people need to stand for their beliefs and not just concern their selves with the size of their individual influence.

‘Selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.’

“Cloud Atlas” was a tremendous read even in spite of an unconventional structure. The themes run very deep, the characters are flawless as is Mitchells’ shining use of language, couldn’t recommend this book more too the persevering reader.

Grade: B+

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Ripper Street: “The Weight of One Man’s Heart”

Sergent Drake is placed into the forefront of the fray this week. Broader knowledge of those haunting Egyptian war experiences, Drakes ever intensifying relationship with mistress ‘Rose’ and an oh-so conspicuous old war friend, Kernel Madoc (Iain Glen) come along with him in a brutish, heartfelt and thrilling installment of “Ripper Street”

Spoilers Throughout!

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“The Weight of One Man’s Heart” opened the gates with a carriage horse being gunned down by a sniper whose villainous colleagues then proceed to knock out the carriage security and make a move for the stash within; all the while there is cross cutting to Drakes preparation for a date with the promiscuous Rose. Signposting of Drakes coming involvement with the groups crimes in one way or another through cross cutting was a smart touch but albeit quite obvious when you’re looking for it. Drakes date with Rose was looking to be quite the fruitful affair initially, until they came across the lovebirds which Rose wanted so dearly, unfortunately Drakes’ paycheck didn’t stretch as far as the asking price. Roses’ disappointment proved a telltale sign as to what she truly sought from Drake even if his infatuation clouded his vision. Seeing our brawler Drakes’ blind affections for Rose brought out his sweeter side that we have only had mere glimpses of before, which made this installments ending for him just that bit more soul destroying.

Shortly following a look at Drakes doubtful love affair and tension between Drake and Reid concerning payment, Kernel Madoc (Drakes former war time superior/acquaintance) makes his abrupt re-introduction into Drakes’ life. During this appearance the Kernel puts an ultimatum on the cards by placing the single sapphire taken from the safe theft into Drakes’ possession; being torn between doing what he felt was just and a profitable venture with an old acquaintance made for a fantastic character sub plot. Iain Glen has a meticulous talent for playing stern and unfeeling military characters, however he pulled of the role as a disciplined and confident heist thief to an equal standard proving he isn’t just a one trick pony.

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The crown gold heist scene in “The Weight of One Man’s Heart” was the episodes defining moment. Having accepted the offer of becoming an accessory too the Kernels crimes, Drake finds himself bemused and infuriated by the disregard for the lives of innocent sourcing from Madocs’ henchmen causing a ruckus ending in Drake reverting his decision and taking up arms against the criminals. At this point I was thankful to see Drakes’ return to  honorable intentions in spite of his phenomenal distaste of the ‘Queen and Country’ propaganda surrounding the Egyptian war; this wonderful progress for Drakes’ character made the final stand off between him and the Kernel (after Drake covered the floor with his cronies) a great deal more heart stopping. Such concern for a fictional characters life is a rarity and a testament to not only Jerome Flynn’s’ acting but the talent of the writers as well. Rose as expected threw salt into Drakes wounds dismissing his offer of partnership, unbeknownst to her he had even gone to the trouble of purchasing the costly lovebirds just to seal the deal, needless to say Drake saw no further use of them and released them into the wild. This shitty week for Drake seems to have mercilessly killed any love and sweetness left in him which, although a pity, should play out spectacularly in the coming weeks.

Final Thoughts: “The Weight of One Man’s Heart” served as a welcome twist on prior episodes with there being far more emphasis on violence and the tragic effects war can have on even the most gentle man coupled well with a more centralized view on one of Ripper Streets three protagonists, here’s hoping that Jackson gets a similar spot in the limelight in the coming weeks. As always leave any of your own thoughts in the comment section below!

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Sci-Fi Newcomers: Getting Started

Sci-Fi is a genre that initially alienated me (pun not intended) because of some pretty ignorant preconceived ideas I had of the genre as being very Star Trek esque on the whole (no offense to Star Trek), I think much the same could be said of a fair amount of younger people – they just don’t get what all the fuss is about. Recently having made the decision to actually delve into the genre and give it a fair chance, I came out with one regret, why hadn’t I done this sooner? In aid of those yet to convert, here is a list of five Sci-Fi films that I feel will tailor finely for any of you willing to give the Sci-Fi genre a shot.

CLASSICS

“Alien” 

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“Alien” is without a doubt one of the most iconic Sci-Fi/Horror films to date and with admirable reasons, Alien was so satisfying in fact that many current Sci-Fi producers cite Alien as having significant influence on their own work. If your aren’t of weak disposition and the idea of lethal Alien life forms wrecking total havoc on innocents during a space expedition sounds like your cup of tea then Alien should more than hit the spot.

‘In space no-one can hear you scream’

“The Thing”

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Scientists voyage to the Arctic in search of much needed test results, however their findings turn out more in line with the supernatural as a murderous, shape shifting alien monster makes himself known. The Thing has a quite unique plot and a surprising degree of mystery too which makes it an easily accessible Sci-Fi flick for those new to the genre. If the dated technology that made the original would bother you then there is always the option of watching the up to date 2011 remake!

“The Terminator”

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The Terminator offers up the 80’s best Sci-Fi/Action movie and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s greatest performance of his career.  Aspects of time travel, epic gun fights and a plethora of explosions make “The Terminator” a perfect movie for breaking into the Sci-Fi genre as it doesn’t stray considerably far from the ever popular Action genre which I’m sure all of you appreciate.

MODERN CLASSICS

“Children of Men”

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This is a Sci-Fi with an interesting twist, it shows a barbaric future, as opposed to a neon dystopia, where men and women can no longer reproduce and everything has gone to shit. A wholly original and rich plot line coupled with an extensive variety of brilliant characters (pot farming grandpa!) and the most ground breaking cinematography in recent years, “Children of Men” is not only a superb introduction for anyone trying to get into Sci-Fi but generally speaking an essential watch.

“Looper”

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Looper is the story of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is paid handsomely to execute targets of the gang he works for, these targets are transported back from the future and one day the target is his future self, this is known as closing the loop which all of the Loopers eventually have to do; on this day payment comes in gold bars. An eventful story arch, action and some interesting and unseen Sci-Fi elements that don’t take a forefront in the story make this another amazing movie if you’re giving Sci-Fi a trial period.

I hope this little collection of Sci-Fi hits makes it easier for any of you newcomers to dive into the genre, if any existing Sci-Fi fans have any recommendations  please feel free to share them and leave any other feedback in the comment section below!

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Review: Ripper Street “The Good of This City”

“Ripper Street” the Victorian set British crime drama has hit the ground running since its release three weeks ago and has failed to disappoint me since. Yesterday saw the airing of the fourth installment in the series, “The Good of This City” where-in white chapel police force are charged with tackling a case involving a stabbed landlord and a female tenant shot by him. With only one witness that is in a hysterical vacant silence a lot of work was ahead of our crime fighting trio to get to the bottom of this case that involved far more than met the eye.

Warning: Article contains spoilers!

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“The Good of This City” started with new character Lucy Eames pleading with Long Susan to allow her to work in her brothel once more , we learn that despite her being the most popular choice for clients Susan has seen she refuses to take her in with eluded reason raising questions about Lucy’s past; this continues brilliantly into the next scene where Lucy is aimlessly walking a White Chapel slum vacant and with blood on her hands. The masterfully subtle acting of Emma Rigby playing a hysterical young women managed to emit a quite chilling aura from a character that initially I wouldn’t have expected it to come from which I thought was a clever manoeuvre from the screenwriters. Despite these worrisome and inquisitive feelings towards Lucy’s character writers Richard Warlow & Toby Finlay skillfully managed to draw a moment of brief, dry yet smart comedy out of her in the scene when she is taken into Reids office and starts undressing as an instinctive reaction to him shuttering the blinds.

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Inspector Reids character has finally become exceedingly more interesting as he developed this week into a harder and sterner man who seemed to fit the role as a leader monumentally more so than he had before. The key scene depicting this long awaited turn around involved Reid, having discovered Long Susans involvement in stabbing the landlord, violently confronting and threatening Cpt.Jackson who he knew was being secretive with the knowledge of his lady friends wrong doing. Reid and Jacksons relationship isn’t the only one that looks set to involve tribulation and turmoil in coming episodes, “The Good of This City” shed some light on a now inevitable romance, or perhaps just an affair between Inspector Reid and orphanage governess from “In my Protection” Deborah Goren (Lucy Cohu) as Reid seemed to become significantly flustered and a little uncomfortable in her presence.

The hasty inkling Drake gave in “I Need Light” of a fancying for Rose additionally became far more obvious and prominent this week when, during his and Reids visit of Long Susans whorehouse, he chucked out a ‘skinny pricked’ client she was attending then showed a courteous and flustered side of himself that was a huge contrast to his usual bawdy and crude nature; It’s satisfying to see the brief but intelligent signposting involving the two finally come to fruition.

“The Good of This City” had the most engaging plot of any episode in the series currently, even if by a small margin, with several unexpected twists and an insightful sub plot involving the development of a certain electric powered underground rail service. In the scene where Lucy’s children are stolen from the orphanage there was meticulous skill in building the amount of tension and panic concerning Deborah and whether she would survive, such concern for her was surprising seeing as she hasn’t featured in the series much so far; props to the sound and editing crew for building this the tension so seamlessly. There are gripes I have with this weeks plot however, I feel that the mental health doctor was too suspicious from the off to really question anyone else being this weeks major villain, which lead to a disappointing lack of room for guess work and in regards to the electrocution of the underground rail designer, I felt his demise was unfortunately predictable and a little anti-climactic as well. Lucy’s survival as morbid as this may sound, concerned me too. Lucy is the third ‘damsel in distress’ to be saved on the brink of death which is beginning to nullify any fear I have for the lives of significant characters in the dangerous situations they get into, if this begins to become a trend in the story I can’t help but feel the series will suffer greatly.

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Final Thoughts: Despite issues with the ending of “The Good of This City” Ripper Street once again flawlessly demonstrates how decent crime dramas should be done. With intriguing character developments and sub plots looking to expand on the horizon along with a second Game of Thrones star coming to the show (albeit briefly), next Sunday couldn’t come sooner. Leave any thoughts you have on the episode in the comments below!

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Blog Update: Literature Page Added, Content to Follow Soon!

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Recently I have gradually been getting further into reading fiction and have decided that I want to make the odd blog post reviewing, comparing and analyzing the books I have read. If you’re interested in what books I read you can check my goodreads profile to get an idea of what literature based content will be posted in the months to come. The first literature related post will likely be a comparison of inspiring book  “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell and the movie adaptation. Leave any recommendations you have in the comment section below and suggestions for book related content you would like to see!

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Moonrise Kingdom Academy Nominated Script with Concept Art Available

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Having been nominated for an academy award in the ‘Best Original Screenplay’ category, unfortunately being sorely overlooked in all the visual categories where “Moonrise Kingdom” would have at least been able to hold its own, it was tremendous to discover the acclaimed script with a number of shots, quaint storyboards and pieces of concept art here released yesterday by the way of http://www.focusguilds2012.com who have also made downloadable scripts and soundtracks available for other brilliant ‘art house’ films such as “Anna Karenina” and “Hyde Park on Hudson” which I would highly recommend any aspiring film makers and screenwriters take a look at if they need some inspiration. If these scripts take hold of your attention and you want to find more you can always take a look at http://www.imsdb.com that hosts a bank of scripts from some of the greatest films released to date.

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Red 2 Official Trailer Release

Sequel to the 2010 title Red, “Red 2” is an action comedy about retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and his discontent with the monotony of his pensioner years before he is lured back into old ways by his gang of likewise retirees called RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous) when they alert him that he is on MI6’s most wanted list; Red 2 is set for release on August 2nd and last night saw the release of the official trailer. I’m not entirely sure what to make of Red 2 having now seen the trailer, the casting is strong with the likes of Bruce Willis & Helen Mirren but the comedy seemed little lackluster, the dark nonchalant humor is great and all but Red 2 doesn’t seem to be doing anything original with that style of comedy.

Let me know what you thought of the trailer below!

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