05 January, 2007

What I've Been Doing In My Downtime

Here’s a quick review of some of the books I’ve read and films I’ve watched in the past few weeks.

Poseidon: This remake of The Poseidon Adventure was a real disappointment. It had great special effects but the film was basically a bunch of athletic guys and gals running about screaming for a very long time. This may also be said about the original but at least that one had some characterization and we got to discover a little about – and care a little about – the people who were struggling and dying before our eyes. By contrast, the new Poseidon is so shallow you don’t really care what happens to all the cardboard people it features. Partly this is because modern film-makers don’t use dialogue anymore.

Doom: This is a film based on a video game – a sort of cross between Resident Evil and Alien but nowhere near as good as either. Lots of blood and not much else.

Aeon Flux: Another film of the game – or the comic – but this time surprisingly good. Charlize Theron was incredibly beautiful of course, which helped, but the plot wasn’t too silly (apart from the inherited memories thing) and it jogged along interestingly enough. The fact that Wifie fell asleep half-way through it was probably just a coincidence.

A Christmas Visitor by Anne Perry: This was an incredibly mediocre book by an astonishingly popular author. I’ve never read an Anne Perry novel before and I won’t be reading any more. The writing was dull and sloppy, the characters were shallow and clichéd, and the incredible plot didn’t help at all. On the plus side, it was very short. In fact, the story of Anne Perry’s life is far more interesting than this book.

Shakespeare The Biography by Peter Ackroyd: To be honest, I haven’t finished this yet, but I will. As ever, Peter Ackroyd is excellent value for money. Most people will be familiar with current thinking on Shakespeare’s life. So that’s not why you would read this book. You’d read it for Ackroyd’s deep and colourful insights into the times and places through which Shakespeare moved. I don’t think there is another author who brings the past alive for me the way Ackroyd does – even despite his often dry and academic delivery.

Fiddlers by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter): Yes, it’s another 87th Precinct story by one of my all-time favourite crime writers. From the opening paragraph, I was hooked and I gulped down the whole book as fast as I could. McBain’s writing is just great – not quite Raymond Chandler but close. Fiddlers was McBain’s last 87th Precinct novel before he died in 2005 – I am seriously going to miss this series as will many others.

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