Our Kind of Traitor by John LeCarré

Still on our once-in-a-lifetime holiday. Still in Eden, munching on the bloody apple.

A Russian money launderer, Dima, meets an English couple: professor Perry and lawyer Gail in Antigua during their vacation. After becoming friends, Dima approaches Perry and Gail and confides in them. His suspects that gang members are killing off his mates and wants out of the crime business. He is willing to provide names and evidence of corruption in the British government and elsewhere in exchange for his and his family’s safety.

To Gail’s annoyance, Perry takes this as a personal mission. He gets in touch with Luke, Yvonne, and eventually Hector, MI6 people and conveys Dima’s message to them. The story then goes on as they (MI6 with the help of Perry and Gail) try to vet Dima’s story and transfer him to England, all the while nailing the corrupt politicians and other figures.

I don’t read many spy novels, in fact I can’t remember the last time I read one (I prefer murder mysteries and political thrillers). So this was a nice change from my usual reading. The plot is pretty straightforward and easy to follow, which was good since I was reading it during my first semester of grad school and I needed something that wasn’t mentally taxing. There wasn’t much of character development, it was plot-based rather than focused on the characters. Nevertheless, the characters were fascinating and their characterization was realistic-I could see them as real people.

The best thing about the book was the narrative and writing style. The way the story unfolds switching between conversations, flashbacks, current events, and then narrative flashbacks (are those even a thing? I mean when characters recount events). It was really entertaining to read it, a meta type of enjoyment.

Not a page turning but a fun read.

Score: 3.25/5

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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Patrick: What happened to your hand?

Lee: I cut it.

Patrick: *sarcasm* Oh thanks, For a minute there, I didn’t know what happened.

Directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan exploration of grief stars Casey Affleck, playing a Bostonian janitor Patrick who loses his brother (Joe Chandler) to a heart problem.  He’s forced now to take care of his sixteen-year-old nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedge). The movie explores their developing relationship and more importantly explores the different ways to dealing with grief. Through flashbacks we learn that Patrick has suffered loss previously and that colors his reaction to losing his brother.

I can’t beat it. I can’t beat it. I can’t beat it…

The movie received high praise so I went in with really high expectations.  At first I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for more, especially in terms of the ending. However, after mulling over it I realized that it’s the type of movie that you can’t truly appreciate unless you take some time away from it and maybe even watch it again.

Manchester by the Sea , is an emotionally raw. It’s emotionally manipulative and made me feel things: 353b663853023be06617298874b2ff05

There isn’t much in terms of character development or plot, it focuses mostly on the exploration of grief. How different people react to and process grief differently. It was realistic and cleverly taps into the human psyche. I just can’t emphasize enough how emotional it makes you feel.

Throughout the narrative, we get flashbacks of Lee’s previous life and though it was a creative approach to the flashbacks it didn’t always work because it disrupts the narrative in a confusing way.

I don’t want to get into identity politics so I’ll keep this brief and then get back to the movie. The problem with this movie is that it hardly has any women and even less people of color. It’s very white-male centric. And as much as I loved the movie, I think we’re tired of having white men leads, and I’m not saying we should treat diversity as a checklist, no it should be used appropriately. So sure, in context, the movie is set in Manchester a predominately white town so it makes sense, but still I’m pretty sure there are women at least in the town who could’ve played a bigger role in it. I’m not an expert so I can’t say what exactly could’ve been done to improve the movie in terms of diversity. At least it wasn’t the typical white man saving everyone else and it portrayed a rather different take on masculinity in terms of allowing the characters to show their emotions, a little bit at least. As I said, I don’t want to get into politics or say something that’ll spark an argument I just thought I’d point this out. Now back to the movie.

The cinematography was phenomenal, the scenes of human interactions are interspersed with wide shots of the sea or forestry. Or maybe I just love New England scenery.

The one thing I didn’t expect at all in the movie was the humor. It was freaking hilarious in an unexpected way, especially since it is a movie about grief. But the sarcasm, snark, and jokes were fantastic, especially since 98% of the time it was completely unexpected and natural. There were also many New England/Boston jokes and references that I recognized and probably wouldn’t have appreciated before moving to Amherst.

My biggest issue with the movie was the ending: it was abrupt; almost incomplete. In a way I think it was good because it’s unexpected and unconventional but leaving the movie I was disappointed and frustrated because I wanted more. Like I said earlier, it’s a movie that you appreciate afterward rather than during.

Score: 4.5/5

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Almost Famous Women

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman

The notes of song could never replicate human suffering.

A collection of short stories about historical female figures from Allegra Byron to Butterfly McQueen. Bergman takes their story and then embellish it with details and fantasies. The stories read like biographies more than fantastical stories. The narration differs in each story, sometimes it’s first person, sometimes third.

I can’t say that I liked the book.  I found my mind wandering frequently, and that’s not just a short attention span thing but because the writing was bland and events, uneventful. The fault isn’t with the story or the genre, I personally love historical fiction that focuses on people, or “factional” stories but the problem was with the writing. Bergman had a hard time brining the characters to life.  It is in a way, polished fan fiction.

Prayers were dead songs lodged in my head, soothing routine words that meant less to me than they should have.

The book has a rating of 3 stars on Goodreads so I came in with moderate expectations, but I read it anyway because it’s the common reader for the Sigma Tau Delta international convention. So dunno if I would really recommend it, I personally gave it a 2.5/5; if you’re into personal historical fiction and want to read a woman author, read it. Otherwise, don’t. Sadly I don’t remember any good historical fiction like that, but a good female historical fiction writer is Robyn Young and her tale tend to focus on one main protagonist.

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Daredevil, S.2

War changes people. Sometimes they see things they can’t unsee. Come home to find home’s not there anymore. It changed. Or maybe they did. -Matt Murdock

In the aftermath of Wilson Fisk’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) apprehension from Season 1, Hell’s Kitchen has been fertile land for gang wars. But Daredevil (Charlie Cox) isn’t the only one who’s got his hands full. There’s a new player in town, Frank Castle, they call him The Punisher (Jon Bernthal). Unlike Daredevil, he takes out his enemies with a finality. Puts them down for good. Cue the vigilante war and morality talk. Daredevil and Punisher face each other and the Punisher is apprehended.

Back in the daylight, the DA’s office wants to jail Castle and possibly even give him the death sentence. Nelson (Elden Henson) and Murdock (Cox) decide to take on the DA and act as Castle’s attorneys, and we can thank Karen Page who saw something human in Castle. A few court scenes and some battles here and there and we’re introduced to yet another new character: Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung). And a new (well old) player is thrown into the mix as well: the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia from season 1. Natchios and Daredevil work together on taking the Yakuza down and along the way discover a secret ancient organization called The Hand; their speciality? Immortality.

This leads to the epic showdown between all the parties where the fate of Hell’s Kitchen is hanging by a thread but eventually the city’s saved by its golden boy.

You don’t get to create danger, and then protect us from that danger. That’s not heroic. That’s insane. -Foggy Nelson

Season 1 had set up some high expectations that were hard to reach, and so in a way, season 2 was a bit of a disappointment. Even though I loved a lot of things about this season, I felt that it needed more work. So shall we begin?

Plot wise, this season was messy. We had 2, 2.5 different plot lines and story arches forced together into one season. On the one hand there’s the Frank Castle/Punisher story, then you have Elektra, and then there’s The Hand. And each plot line is separate from the other, they don’t naturally merge because each one is addressing a completely different set of ideals and exploring completely different themes. Trying to put them together only makes it worse. The parts were greater than the whole.

I would’ve been happy if this season was focused on just the Punisher. Give us a troubled Hell’s Kitchen with a new vigilante, have him run away, capture him and have a long court procedure. Delay his introduction, build up the tension, build up the dread give us only back shots and actions for a couple of episodes, mere allusions to him. Make us desperate. Then bring him in. One of the things that makes Daredevil stand out from other superhero (and action) shows/movies, is that it takes into account morality. Despite the gruesome deaths, the overall dark nature of the show, and the overabundance of violence, it’s not desensitizing it’s painful to watch. Every death, every fight hits you like a truck. The violence is supposed to make you uncomfortable, it’s supposed to make you think “is this the world we live in.” It’s repulsive rather than glorified.  So why not explore that this season with Daredevil v. Punisher. It would’ve been an epic battle, not just a physical one but one of will and belief. Lawful good vs Chaotic good to use D&D terms. And this would also play nicely into the courtroom because once again we’re talking about morality and ethics, about the value of human life, about our corrupt justice systems. One thing this show is good with is exploring the nuances of the problematic issue of vigilantes, so why not take advantage of that and look more into it rather than just mention it in a few conversations between the cops and the jury. Why is one vigilante good and the other not, and it’s not just about the killing, there’s more to it, so why not explore that. There’s so much to do with it. Have Murdock defend Castle and then Castle discover the identity of Murdock and go through an existential crisis or dilemma of some sort. With this show, less can be more. Just focus on that relationship dynamic and then boom you’ve got yourself a phenomenal show that attracts superhero fans and non-fans alike. And it doesn’t have to be a full season of 13 episodes, I would’ve been elated with 8 or 10 perfect episodes.

The other direction this show could’ve taken is the path of the Hand (pun intended). Don’t introduce Frank Castle, keep him for season 3 or whatever and just focus on bringing Elektra back into Murdock’s life. Have him make questionable life choices (it would be great character development). Then take down the Hand and the whole mystic ancient war plot line. Even though that wouldn’t flow smoothly with the court lifestyle it can serve as a juxtaposition or a foil, the two sides of Murdock where he fully embraces his devil persona and the court serves as a distraction (they kinda touch upon that in this season but it falls short). If you want to have an epic war with mystic Eastern immortal ninja monks, do it! But do it right. The plot has to be tight and clean, stop stretching yourself too thin with many plot lines.

Now that plot’s out of the way, let’s talk characters and acting.

The development of Matthew Murdock and Foggy Nelson was great. Matt goes from a healthy individual (as healthy as the devil can get…) who balances his two lifestyles and is a staunch protector of the law to an obsessive vigilante who thinks that if he’s not out getting his ass kicked then he’s failing. He becomes a martyr-wannabe (is that even a thing?) Too self-righteous, narrow-minded, extreme, cold, even pompous. Eventually Matt loses touch with reality and lives in his own idealistic abstractions. We lose the lovable smart Matt from season 1. And although it is painful as hell, it is great in a masochistic way.

Foggy on the other hand changes from being the underdog who’s been living in Matt’s shadow to his own man. Foggy shines in this season and he becomes more confident and independent of Matt (and it’s heartbreaking at times because I love their relationship and to see it go that way is devastating). Anyway, watching him is like watching your (hypothetical) kid grow up into an adult and it’s bittersweet because you want the innocent, life-loving, compassionate Foggy but you know that with Matt the only way for Foggy to survive is to toughen up and lead his own path. It’s just a beautiful and heartbreaking relationship. Now another returning character is Karen, and let me tell you, she is bad….I know they try to make her the strong female character but it just doesn’t work. That’s partially because Deborah Ann Woll can’t act. Where Matt and Foggy are genuine, Karen seems fake. I don’t buy her act. She fails at elicit any emotional reaction from the viewer. It’s great that they’re making her the unsung hero, which kinda reflects the status of women in society, but the execution wasn’t great.

My personal favorite is Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) she is the most realistic, human, genuine, real character on the show. I just love her. She keeps Matt in check, or tries to, by trying to make him understand his…mortality in a way. She’s selfless but at the same time realistic and not crazy like Matt. In a way, as corny as this sounds, she’s the real hero. Claire doesn’t get much screen time and that suck because she not only add a “human” aspect to the show but her sarcasm and dry humor is fantastic. I really wish she would play a more major role in the series, whether it’s here or on Jessica Jones (or any other Defender series), we need more Claire Temple.

Another personal favorite is Elektra…damn. That woman is unhinged, psychotic, and reckless in every way possible. But damn. There’s something about her that just draws you in. It’s like that trope of sexy evil but this time it’s done right, where she’s not objectified (*cough* with flowing red robes *cough*) but rather performs in such an enticing way and ugh she’s so good. She’s an enigma of some kind. Underneath that darkness, there isn’t light, but something else. I don’t know what. She tries to get to the “light side” and be with Matt but reverts to her old self but there’s something about her that I can’t put my finger on and it’s frustrating. WHO ARE YOU kind of frustrating. But also I want to have a drink and a long talk and learn more about you. She’s seductive, attractive, and overall badass. Elodie Yung did a phenomenal job as Elektra, she has it all, the sprezzatura, the sly humor, the seductiveness, the chaotic evil nature, the accent; I mean she was born for the role. A+ for casting.

The casting team for Daredevil is freaking genius. And they’ve scored yet again this season by casting Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle. Good lord. He, like Elektra/Yung, seems to be made for the role of Castle. He has that soldier-like look on his face, that undying patriotism and desire for justice and law, but at the same time he’s full of passion and rage. His face speaks volumes, the look in his eye it’s just captivating. When he tells his story, what happened to him, I was almost reduced to tears…his performance is so heartfelt and beautiful it was one of the greatest moments in the show just seeing this huge bull of a man talking emotionally and not being afraid of expressing himself, it was beautiful. And his voice, damn. He should narrate a podcast or a book with Yung and I’ll listen to the crap out of that. But yes, Bernthal, was fantastic. He is able to switch between vigilante to passionate heartless killer, to raging monster to righteous soldier in a few seconds and we see different, thoroughly nuanced, shades of Frank Castle throughout the season.

On a side note: In one scene they bring up PTSD and Castle makes a statement about how mental illness shouldn’t be used as an excuse for criminal behavior and how that’s stigmatizing and my heart leapt with joy because finally we’re getting fair, long overdue, treatment of mental health on the screen.

Speaking of Castle and Elektra, they serve as possibilities or potentials for Matt. Castle tells Murdock, “You’re one bad day from becoming me.” And it just shows you how messy this whole vigilante business is. But at the same time Castle and Elektra are exact opposites. It’s a weird analogy but hear me out:

When fighting against (or with Castle) we can see the contrast between their fighting style. Castle is direct. He takes clear, clean shots. One shot, one kill. His punches land strong and directly. You can almost anticipate his moves (not in a bad way) but more like he has no hidden agenda, heck he doesn’t even wear a mask-and tells Daredevil about that. While Daredevil on the other hand, he’s always jumping and flipping around, kicking and punching from the dark. He’s ambiguous, unpredictable. Fighting from the shadows and hiding. In a way the difference in their fighting reflects the difference in their, I don’t want to say soul but kinda soul. Castle is fully sold on his mission, he won’t step back and is fully comfortable with what he’s doing, he’s conscience is in line with his actions. Matt’s situation is more murky. He’s pretending to be someone he’s not, by fighting at night he’s going against what he stands for: the law. This is another genius moment in the show where the characters are explored in different and indirect ways that makes me love it. Now Elektra shines a different light on Matt, she’s as ambiguous and unpredictable as he is but she’s more vicious and voracious. She is what Matt could be if he wasn’t so idealistic. Although she makes him seem like the good guy, in way she also shows how pathetic and weak he is in comparison to her. But at the same time where Castle shows Murdock what he could logically be, Elektra shows him what he is emotionally capable of experiencing. The passion, rage, and adrenaline spike that comes with the fighting.

Since I brought up the fighting style, there was another “hallway fight scene” in this season and it was great. But they ruined it by going on, and on, and on, and having Matt fight a whole gang and not just a few gangsters. The beauty of that scene was in its brevity, that’s what made it unique, it a quick but well articulated fight scene that packs a punch. When the scene goes on for what feels like eternity, it loses its power. So take note Marvel, keep your fight scenes short and sweet, and plenty. Another great fight scene was Castle in the prison, I won’t give much away but it was terrifying. The fight scenes in this season in general were great, lots of great moves, great punches and awesome ass-kicking kicks. But what gives these fight scenes their edge is the cinematography. The camera angles close up at times and give you a feeling of impediment doom and then pan out and make you see the inconsequentiality of the fight. Then add to that the dark lighting, the overcast blacks and reds that make it eery and thrilling. That being said, there were several fight scenes, especially ones involving Daredevil where I could tell that the punches weren’t landing and it was obvious acting. The “thwack” punch sound would be a fraction of a second before the punch or the actors falling back dramatically and it ruined the experience.

Okay even though I enjoyed watching this season I had my issues. First off, I hate that they’ve exaggerated Murdock’s “powers” this season. They made him almost meta-human with super-hearing and that way lame. It took away the realistic “just an ordinary guy who can kickass” tone of it and made him a superhero. Last season he could hear the heartbeats and all that, which is great but this season he could hear the whole city and isolate sounds and do stuff only Batman’s gadgets can do. I had trouble with my suspension of disbelief and that ruined the experience of watching it for me because I kept feeling “oh come on he couldn’t have possibly heard that!” Just make it practical rather than extraordinary, it makes him more interesting. Oh and the police were as incompetent as Stormtroopers in some scenes, they were missing shows in a ridiculous way and that was another moment where I lost it.

And although I love, absolutely love, the whole ethical moral dilemma, they somewhat over did it this season. And by that I don’t mean that there was too much of it, no it goes well with the mythos of Daredevil and all that but the way they showed it was a bit heavy handed where they would have conversations between Murdock and Castle or Elektra about morality and ethics and choice but they got a bit repetitive. So maybe find a new way to convey that instead of having the almost same conversation over and over again. They are good at “showing instead of telling” and we see that in instances where Matt prays or crosses himself subtly and those were beautiful moments so why not extend that technique somehow into the conversation about choice/morality/ethics, etc…

The way they treat women in the show is….strange. We have the all powerful Elektra whom I think was portrayed fairly. But then comes Karen. And although I don’t like Karen, she was in a way a manic pixie dream girl for Nelson and Murdock. Hard working, doing what they ask her to do, being bossed around by all the men in the show. Sure it’s realistic but maybe give her a backbone and not show it as if she’s enjoying being bossed around. She talks back at one point and says I’m not your secretary or something but then reverts to that servile nature which is upsetting.

Last thing: they do these cliffhanger like endings to each episode and I didn’t enjoy that because they felt sloppy. Like lets throw in a seconds from the next episode. Don’t do that, it becomes less of a cliffhanger and more of a preview. One of the things I liked about season 1 is that each episode was in a way it’s own world, and there was this overarching plot, it was tidy and well contained, if you’re going to use cliffhangers use them right the way you did in the last episode.

Score: 3.95/5

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

We’re going to recapture my creatures before they get hurt. They’re currently in alien terrain surrounded by millions of the most vicious creatures on the planet; humans. -Newt Scamander

Englishman Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) breeds and protects magical (fantastic) beasts. He goes to America to return one of the “beasts” to it’s natural habitat. Arriving in New York he gets tangled with Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) a muggle, and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) former auror at MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America. Anti-magic and witch sentiments are on the rise in America while MACUSA is hot on the tracks of a mysterious magical force that leaves destruction in its path. While Grindlewald is thrown in the mix somehow. Somehow Scamander gets entangled with MACUSA’s search as they try to use his beasts as scapegoats. One tle hing leads to another and we have a big destructive battle between the forces of good and evil.

This movie….this movie..where shall I start. For one, to quote my friend, it was very David Yates. It focused more on grandeur acts and final battles, on CGI’ed creatures and grand settings. The plot was there but it was somewhat flimsy, and felt almost forced together, Scamander was put in the wrong place at the wrong time and thrown into MACUSA’s mess. It didn’t make much sense, I mean, I bought the idea and played along but it wasn’t “magical” it wasn’t “fantastic” it was meh at best…It was more like two movies forced into one to be honest, I would’ve preferred to just see Newt Scamander and his beasts, a quiet movie exploring animals and magical beasts and human nature with no grand battles. Now if you know me you know that I’m a sucker for a good vs. evil battle or a battle over someone’s soul or you know anything of that sort but it has to be done in an original smart way, not just a third act battle that destroys the entire city.

In terms of acting, Eddie Redmayne was good, he pulls off dorky, shy, awkward nerd really well. He kinda grows on you. Nothing exemplary about his performance really. But he mumbles his lines a lot and I had a hard time following the dialogue. Colin Farrell was pretty decent, but again not exemplary, and giving an example here of his role would be a major spoiler so I’ll let you be the judge. The rest of the actors were disastrous, okay maybe not disastrous but pretty terrible. They were still, almost like reading lines, I mean I could tell that they’re acting, a good actor is supposed to make you forget that they’re faking this. The characters were very static overall. There was hardly any character development, they were more vehicles for the plot to happen rather than independent characters, I personally wasn’t invested in them.

The humor element felt contrived and forced, some of it was funny like the Niffler parts or when Kowalski says he couldn’t be dreaming (the magic) because “[He] ain’t got the brains to make this up.” That was kinda funny but overall it was forced.

In terms of cinematography we have two worlds juxtaposed, the magical world inside Scamander’s case where it’s vibrant and colorful, full of life and magical and then juxtaposed to the streets of New York where it’s dire, dark, and dreary. It was visually pleasing to have these juxtapositions, you can imagine the symbolism and the messages that it’s supposed to send. But (because there’s always a but…) it could’ve been done in a better way, with less CGI (or better CGI) to make it look natural and allow for smooth transitions.

The movie was very 2016, and I don’t mean that it was depressing and killed a lot of good people, no. More like relevant to the political atmosphere of 2016. It was rife with anti-racism and anti-right wing nationalist messages and motifs with the whole “us against them”, “witches/wizards vs muggles” (I won’t say more as to not spoil it) and there was a good amount of talk around animal (or beast) right’s, mercy, humanity, etc, etc…So it was definitely tapping into that collective consciousness, and I might add that it was done pretty well, obvious enough, subtle enough, a nice balance. I think. Maybe?

The fact that it wasn’t based on an actual book, like the Harry Potter movies, was a big advantage for Fantastic Beasts because then you wouldn’t have disgruntled fans (i.e. me) complaining about how they ruined the books and how terrible of an adaptation it was. I came in watching it was an open mind expecting nothing other than the expansion of the Potterverse. And though I wasn’t mindblown and I didn’t feel anything nostalgic or warm and fuzzy, it was a relatively entertaining watch. Not something I would watch on a movie night but something to unwind with, something I don’t care much about. Does that make any sense? Yet I don’t expect myself to watch it again any time soon.

Score: 3/5

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“Language is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.” -Dr. Louise Banks

12 strange alien pods arrive on Earth in 12 different unrelated locations. Every 18 hours a door in the pod opens, and two “heptapods” (alien creatures with seven legs) appear. The army’s attempts at communicating with them are fruitless.

Enter college professor and linguist Dr. Louise Banks (the talented and beautiful Amy Adams).

An army official, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), recruits Dr. Banks alongside astrophysicist, Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner, who at times can be a jerk, but is brilliant nonetheless). Anyway, Louise and Ian try to communicate with the aliens. The army is pressing them for answers, they want to know what’s they’re purpose on Earth, but Louise takes a more academic (and rational) approach to communicating with them and tries to learn their language.

The attempts at communicating with the aliens are happening at all 12 locations and the countries were collaborating. But because collaboration and working peacefully is too challenging for humans, conflict erupts. And to avoid spoiling this phenomenal movie, I’ll just say that the last part of the movie is about conflict resolution.

“Am I the only one having trouble saying “aliens”?”

This was such a beautiful movie! The first thing that I think of is the visuals; unlike Dr. Strange’s trippy cinematography, this was very serene. There were a lot of wide shots of vast grassland and large space pods, lots of white and gray spaces. It felt liberating. And unlike other sci-fi movies that tend to bombard the viewer with explosions and special effects to establish the extraterrestrial tone, Villeneue establishes this tone by allowing the viewer to soak in each scene slowly. It was very calm and subtle to the point that it eventually feels overwhelming, even ominous; and that’s the beauty of it. It slowly gets under your skin, slowly makes you feel that this is not normal (think the Uncanny). The scenes and camera shots were absolutely stunning. And what made them even better and heighten their effect was the score.

Quick story, this movie was recommended to me by a friend and he’s a music buff so the first thing he said was something along the lines of “the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson and the piece by Max Richter make it worth while.” Now unlike him, I’m no musical expert; but I LOVED the score, especially the Richter piece. It complemented the cinematography beautifully, it was soft and serene at times but other times it was powerful and droning. It had an almost hypnotizing effect on me. I was transfixed on the screen in awe and felt a surge of emotions. My chest was swelling with feelings, feelings that I didn’t understand but conveyed something about the movie. It’s honestly hard to describe, but it just created a strange connection, a sort of empathy mixed with sadness, but a sweet, not soul crushing, sadness. It might be the alien effect, who knows.

Another great thing about the movie was it’s plot. A traditional sci-fi alien movie would be something like this: aliens come to Earth, they turn out to be monsters that want to destroy the Earth, humanity is in peril, everyone goes to war. There are variations but the main idea is that the aliens are hostile invaders and we have to fight back. Arrival was different, it was about communicating with the aliens, there is an element of war and hostility but that is used in a creative way-to highlight how flawed and even violent humans are. It’s about empathy and acceptance, appreciating difference and using diversity to advance our race and not in the “checklist” tokenizing lame way, but more profound. It couldn’t have been more timely.

And then instead of focusing on the demise of humanity it explores how we can accept our fate in hopeful way, I don’t want to give up too much of the movie but I’ll say that it was sad, yet hopeful and beautiful in a non-cheesy, genuine way.

The movie also does a great thing where it experiments with time travel and plot twists, and again, I won’t say much about it because spoiling it would be a crime, but it’s not something that I’ve seen before. It explores the idea of time in a fascinating way.

Now the nerd side of me wants to point out two things: a) I thought it was awesome that the protagonist was a linguist. Because let’s be honest, the real heroes and geniuses of the world are the people in the humanities, not that I’m biased…. But for reals, it was refreshing to see a linguist be the hero, an ordinary (well extraordinary really) college professor was able to beat the superheroes, the army, AND the STEM people. Now that’s real power.

However, as satisfying and gratifying as it was, the main idea of the movie is based on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or linguistic relativity: the idea that our perception of the world is (significantly) shaped by our language, that the way we speak affects the way we (literally) see the world. Sure there is some truth to that hypothesis, but it’s been debunked by many linguists, including John McWhorter. Now  had I not known about this I would’ve enjoyed the movie ten times more because I personally find that idea of linguistic relativity fascinating; but sadly the lecture I heard by McWhorter is still fresh in my mind and kept pooping on my Arrival parade. I guess getting a linguistic theory right would be too much to ask of Hollywood, but they did make an effort and that’s laudable. Yeah?

The other thing that I wasn’t too happy about with the movie is the fact that they rushed through the whole decoding process. When Dr. Banks was trying to decode Heptapod’s language, they produce a “training montage” of some sort: just quickly rushing through different scenes of her doing different linguist-y things and then she cracks the code. Although it wasn’t bad, I would’ve preferred it had they slowed down during the decoding and show us Banks’ frustration and attempts at processing the language. I think by slowing that sequence down it would fit more with the whole mood of the movie.

The acting was decent, I think the only “star” was Amy Adams. You don’t need me to tell you how great she is, her face speaks volumes. I mean, the look in her eye just makes you feel all those emotions. She was fantastic in every scene. The other actors, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, etc.. eh, they were okay but weren’t exceptional in any way, it was just alright you know?

Overall the movie was fantastic. Arrival was every humanist sci-fi nerd’s dream come true. The cinematography and music were great, the plot was original, the acting was good, it’s perfect. I left the movie feeling all sorts of emotions and honestly somewhat sad. It’s one of those movies that makes you feel a lot of things *insert Crowley “FEELINGS” gif*. Definitely worth a watch, even if you’re not into sci-fi or aliens, watch it because this is easily one of the best, if not the best, movies of 2016.

Score: 5/5

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Good Omens by Neil Gaiman

“There were people who call themselves Satanists who made Crowley squirm. It wasn’t just the things they did, it was the way they blamed it all on Hell. They’d come up with some stomach-churning idea that o demon could have though of in a thousand years, some dark and mindless unpleasantness that only a fully functioning human brain could conceive then shout “the Devil made me do it” and get the sympathy of the court when the whole point was that the Devil hardly made anyone do anything. He didn’t have to…”

The apocalypse is upon us. The antichrist, called Adam Young, is born. Crowley, a demon, and Azriaphale, an angel, agree to watch over the antichrist and manipulate him enough so that he’s not too evil and not too good, just enough to stop the apocalypse. All of this is foretold in The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter. However, they end up watching over the wrong kid and not Adam.The end is nigh. The four horsemen of the apocalypse ride,  the forces of good and evil face one another waiting for the signal from the Antichrist to start the apocalypse……….their plan is thwarted, Adam decides he doesn’t want the world to end. And everything goes back to normal.

This book is weird on so many levels and I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. The best part about this book was the relationship between Crowley and Azriaphale. I enjoyed their conversations and the exploration about human nature and the nature of good vs. evil. And of course, the whole apocalypse of biblical proportions was awesome, at least I thought it was…or maybe I think anything related to a biblical apocalypse is awesome because I’m a lame Supernatural fan, dunno.

Okay now for the real criticism. The story was disjointed, the plot didn’t flow well and some parts I just went, huh….It felt like a pastiche trying hard to be a whole piece. This was mainly the fault of the writing, a better writer(s) would have been able to weave the story more coherently.

And the humor. I didn’t get it, I didn’t like it, and I’m usually a sucker for bad jokes. Guess it was too British for me.

Maybe if the book was written by Neil Gaiman alone it would’ve been better, I feel like Terry Pratchett has his own way of storytelling that appeals to a certain niche and I’m definitely not part of that.

Score: 2.5/5

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Doctor Strange

You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many? -The Ancient One
Stephen Strange, Doctor Stephen Strange. A renowned neurosurgeon capable of conducting the most extremely difficult procedures with his bare, stable hands. Famous, smart, pompous, and arrogant. One day as he’s going to a fancy get-together to present on his latest research he is distracted by his phone (and arrogance) and gets into a fatal car accident. Strange is eventually rescued and taken to the ER, he undergoes many procedures and finally emerges…severely scathed. The accident busted his hands, big time. He had to have several steel rods inserted in his hands not to mention the damage to the nerves. Point is, his hands, his most prized possession, and his only means of being a neurosurgeon have been taken away from him.
Strange goes crazy. He undergoes numerous procedures to try and fix his hands alienating and hurting everyone around him along the way. He then hears about a man who was able to walk after being paralyzed, after investigating he packs his bags and books a one way ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal. After a long search he finds Kamar-Taj; a sanctuary of some sorts.
At Kamar-Taj, Strange is taught by the Ancient One and one of the disciples, Mordo. They teach him the art of sorcery and explain to him that there are other dimensions that exist. Through this “training montage” we are introduced to the villain of the story: Kaecilius. Kaecilius was a disciple at Kamar-Taj but he was, let’s say too ambitious. He stole some pages from one of the books that contains the spell/ritual to summoning a super villain entity from an alternative dimension-aptly named the dark dimension: Dormammu. In Dormammu’s world there is no such thing as time. Kaecilius wants to summon Dormammu and have him take over earth, in his belief, this will grant them immortality because when time ceases to exist, so does death. Kaecilius’ plan to bring Dormammu to Earth relies on destroying the three main “sanctums” that protect the Earth from extra-dimensional horrors. These sanctums are in New York, London, and Hong Kong.
And to avoid spoiling the movie, I’ll just say that the third act of the movie was an epic battle (epic meaning large in size not necessarily awesome) between Strange, Kaecilius, and Dormammu. The forces of evil are thwarted by the forces of good, or by the forces of the arrogant-guy-who-eventually-becomes-good.
Stephen Strange. Might I offer you some advice? Forget everything that you think you know. -Baron Mordo
I have mixed feelings about this movie. Let me say that I enjoyed it, but I had some issues with several parts.
The story starts off great, we have a clear, strong plot line: arrogant, genius doctor loses the use of his hands and tries to regain his powers by learning the mystic arts. Clear, somewhat cliche, but interesting nonetheless. Even having Kaecilius in the mix wasn’t that bad, the traditional ideal student gone to the dark side, a Darth Vader, so far so good. However when they throw in the whole Kaecilius destroying the world by summoning a timeless demon god, that’s where they lose me. It felt like a classic third act. Pointless, disjointed from the story, and even abrupt. The build up to the scene was weak, I would’ve like a smaller challenge that tests Doctor Strange and explores the nuances of the characters rather than a save the world at the last moment montage. It would’ve been much more interesting to have it be an intra-personal, where Strange is tempted to give up the whole fighting for the greater good and using magic to go back to his normal life. They hinted at that and brought it up for like 10 minutes then went back to the whole apocalyptic-end-of-the-world scenario. I wanted Strange to be an antihero of some sort, maybe have him give up the superhero business and just go back to his normal life, channeling the magic he acquired to live. And the second movie (because they’re always a sequel) can be a battle of the worlds type because by then we would’ve seen enough of Strange and his character development that his decision to save the world would have a greater impact.   I also didn’t buy the whole newly minted sorcerer Strange able to take down and escape from the star disciple Kaecilius who is powered by the dark lord Dormammu. I know Strange was supposed to be a prodigy of some sort but we didn’t see enough of Strange before he encounters Kaecilius so it was hard to believe that he was able to fight off Kaecilius–especially at the beginning.
Strange’s character arc was, although archetypal, well done and fascinating. It was a bit similar to Iron Man which I liked because it serves as a challenge (and is more realistic). Benedict Cumberbatch can brilliantly pull off the arrogant genius, like an American Sherlock. One of my favorite characters was The Ancient One, portrayed by the amazing Tilda Swinton. It was the perfect blend between morally ambiguous and ambitious leader and repenting broken character. Her acting was phenomenal. Another favorite was Christina Palmer, portrayed by Rachel McAdams. She was so realistic, very sympathetic, just so human. I loved her character and her acting, and the way she interacts with Strange was just perfect. Overall the acting was excellent.
The injuries on Doctor Strange’s face seemed fake (and at one point they disappear and reappear again). I know it’s Strange’s iconic look but I’m pretty sure with their crazy budget they could’ve done it in a more realistic way.
Visually, the movie was one hell of an acid trip. It was freaking amazing. The Deluzian kaleidoscopic terrain, the constant change in the landscape, the colors, the juxtaposition between the characters and the background…all of it. It was phenomenal. The visuals alone make the movie worth watching, I don’t have the words to describe how pleasing and otherworldly it was, aesthetically it was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The scoring was also really good. The music score perfectly complements the kaleidoscopic nature of the visual; it wasn’t the classic stereotypical Hollywood Asian-martial arts score, but rather a creative symphony that can only be described as “magical.”
My biggest issue with this movie was the humor. Marvel for the first time failed to deliver. The humor was out of place, I did not enjoy it at all. I would understand this type of humor in Guardians of the Galaxy or Spider-Man, but it doesn’t fit with the mythos of Doctor Strange. I would’ve liked the movie to be darker, more solemn, something along the lines of Iron Man III. The humor scenes with Rachel McAdams were good, really good and actually funny. But Doctor Strange trying to crack jokes or the cloak of levitation comically strangling one of Kaecilius’ henchmen was a cheap move, I didn’t appreciate it at all. I know that what differentiates Marvel from DC and other blockbuster franchises is its humor, but this time they overdid it. The humor needs to come from the characters and the scenes, the setup, it shouldn’t feel forced, which is what it felt like in this movie.
I know I tend to get fixated on small details and these details ruin the whole movie for me, this is what happened with the humor in Doctor Strange, it broke the narrative for me.
So I would say for acting, visuals, and score the movie gets a solid 5/5. For plot and scenes it would get a 3/5. Overall the movie is a 3/5. Watch it for the visuals, watch it for Cumberbatch and McAdams, but don’t watch it for the humor.
UPDATE: thinking about the movie now (9 days after watching it) I realized a lot of things, mainly that the movie is incredibly….racist…kinda, sorta…in a way. First off, the whole whitewashing issue. The role of Tilda Swinton, as much as I love her and think that she did a great job in the movie, should’ve been cast to an Asian woman. Not just to check off a diversity checkbox, but because in the original comics (and also culturally and historically speaking) the greatest monk of Nepal is supposed to be an Asian, not a Celtic woman, it’s just common sense. Also the whole mystifying of the East and exoticizing (is that even a word…? making exotic…?) of Eastern religions and practices, that felt a bit….wrong, something that we should’ve left in the past century. I understand the trope of Eastern fighting style but once you throw monasticism and an implied religious element it feels  a bit disrespectful. I don’t have the right answer as to what they should’ve done or how it could’ve been portrayed more respectfully but I think by now superhero franchises (especially one as big and supposedly progressive as Marvel) should acknowledge race politics in a better way. This isn’t about being “politically correct for the sake of political correctness and pandering to millennials’ feelings  about being offended” it’s about cultural erasure and respect.
This is probably a longer discussion for a different post and I might not be an expert on the issue but I thought I’d bring it up anyway, it could generate a discussion of some sort and we’d all learn something new by the end of the day.
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A.K.A. Jessica Jones

“Humanity sucks and they don’t deserve saving.”-Jessica Jones


Jessica Jones (played by the fabulous Krysten Ritter) is a private investigator in Hell’s Kitchen with super strength and a drinking problem, she goes around town catching cheaters in back allies. That’s how we’re introduced to her. Until a figure from her past appears and wrecks her life, again.

That figure is Kilgrave (portrayed brilliantly by David Tennant). Through flashbacks and some conversations we learn that Kilgrave is a villain who can control people’s minds and make them do what he wants. He fell in love with Jessica and held her against her will and without her consent for an undisclosed number of days. But eventually Jessica was able to get him out of her mind and escape, and in the process believing he died.

But surprise, Kilgrave ain’t dead. He lures Jessica back in by taking captive a young lady, Hope Shlottman. Jessica saves Hope but Kilgrave’s grasp on Hope hasn’t faded and he makes her kill her parents. Now Hope is imprisoned for murder and no one, save Jessica, believes that she was under Kilgrave’s influence.

So that’s the premise, and the rest of the series is Jessica trying to clear Hope’s name and capture Kilgrave.

Throughout the series we are introduced to several characters:

  • Jeri Hogarth: The sharkiest lawyer in New York whom Jessica works with occasionally.
  • Trish Walker: Jessica’s best friend and the only person she cares about.
  • Luke Cage: another superhero in Hell’s Kitchen, his specialty? Unbreakable skin.
  • Will Simpson: army veteran and NYPD cop who becomes Trish’s lover. He’s obsessed with  killing Kilgrave and is often at odds with Jessica Jones. We later learn that he was part of an undercover army program that works on combat enhancement.
  • Finally, Malcolm: a gentle soul. Jessica’s neighbor, he starts off as a drug addict but eventually through a cheesy redemptive story arc becomes a hero.


“Jessica: Breaking and entering, that’s my speciality.

Luke: As opposed to punching, kicking, drinking, and talking shit?”

Gosh this is such a great show! I devoured it in a week (and for those who know me, know how slow of a watcher I am…) I couldn’t stop watching it, it was just so good. So good. Just watching the pilot gets under your skin…I had a weird visceral reaction to it, it’s so dark and gloomy.

Plot, setting, scenes…

I love how the plot unfolds very subtly. I love origin stories, but they’re rarely done well so I was afraid they might botch this one up but surprisingly, we don’t get any long back stories. It begins in medea res and we’re thrown in with the characters. Though I have to say I found it a bit redundant that Jessica captured Kilgrave twice and he escapes, I don’t know exactly how it could’ve been improved, but it just seemed a bit lacking in events. Like oh she’s off to capture him again and he’ll have to escape so that we can have another couple of episodes. I know the nature of the show makes this impossible, Jessica is literally after Kilgrave and has to capture him and the addition of minor plots or crimes would’ve been lame so I honestly don’t know how to improve this I just think that it’s not that great.

The setting was great. I like the claustrophobic feeling you get from the generally cramped spaces juxtaposed with the open streets. The colors, the overall purplish and black hue was suiting. That being said, I didn’t like the fight scenes at all. They involved a lot of table pushing and shoving people through walls. It wasn’t choreographed well. I know she’s not formally trained in the martial arts so all she can do is punch and kick powerfully but it didn’t seem real, unlike Daredevil. It was very much the same moves over and over again and lots of punching through walls. And the wounds the characters got seemed fake, so there was that.

The music was a bit meh…I know it’s supposed to be jazz and film noir and all but it was distracting. It didn’t flow with the narrative.


The show brazenly deals with a lot of political and societal issues and it was refreshing. Most obviously it deals with the issue of rape and sexual assault:

Kilgrave: “We used to do a lot more than just touch hands.”
Jessica: “Yeah. It’s called rape.”
Kilgrave: “What? Which part of staying in five-star hotels, eating at all the best places, doing whatever the hell you wanted, is rape?”
Jessica: “The part where I didn’t want to do any of it! Not only did you physically rape me, but you violated every cell in my body and every thought in my goddamn head.”
Kilgrave: “That is not what I was trying to do.”
Jessica: “It doesn’t matter what you were trying to do. You raped me again and again and again—”

It’s not afraid to call out rape culture and to emphasize consent. I think it’s smart how the whole show is really about the aftermath of such an event, Jessica Jones, a superhero is broken and trying to recover from being sexually assaulted. It shows that even the strongest women can be victims of sexual assault, that recovery is painstaking, that it leaves the person broken, a shadow of themselves…it shows you how much sexism and misogyny still exist in our world. It shows how women are doubted in times of crisis, it highlight’s rape culture. I also think their depiction of PTSD was genius, it just shows how cruel and debilitating the condition is and how therapy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. (This article explores the topic of rape in Jessica Jones more fully).

The show also brushes on issues of race, especially the issue of systematic racism with regards to the way Malcolm is treated by other characters. But I’m assuming the issue of race is more fully explored in Luke Cage (which I will watch after I watch season 2 of Daredevil).

Another issue brought up is that of, let us call it maybe compassion or lack thereof? I don’t know what to call it really, but it’s the prevalence of cynicism and individualism in society now. This is most poignantly pointed out by Malcolm in a conversation with Robyn where he says:

Malcom: What is it with people?

Robyn: At best they’re assholes, at worst they’re zombie assassins.

Malcolm: So what, it’s just every man for himself, then, huh? Everything I learned in church, all the praying that my mom did for the sick and the dying, all the… all the community projects my dad worked on, basically, everything that they taught me… it was all bullshit? They’re idiots and I’m just the only asshole in the world who didn’t know?

It’s kinda sad how much truth there is in his statement.

Characterization, relationship dynamics, and other stuff…

Jessica Jones: First of all, Krysten Ritter’s face is just perfect for the role. There’s a way about how she looks that makes you applaud the casting team. Ritter is phenomenal at expression emotions and going from cynical, solemn, asshole, to a total powerful and determined kickass. She conveys so many emotions in her face it’s just fantastic. And to have Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) as her foil was a smart move, because it highlight’s the extent of Jessica’s broken state and compromised morality. Another great move the creators did with the characterization of Jessica’s character was the “before Kilgrave” flashback, it was so revealing. It came in the right moment and having Jessica smile and laugh genuinely in that was perfect, just the right thing to show how much she has changed.

The conversations Jessica has with Luke about their powers, their morality and responsibility, were very interesting. It’s conversations like this that make the show worth watching, because unlike other superhero shows where the hero is a hero because it’s their calling, these heroes are realistic they’re in the game because of a personal vendetta or because they’re the only ones who can do the job.They doubt and question their actions and every move they’re not confident and it just makes them so human.

I loved Jessica’s interaction with nurse Claire, their banter was great and I wanted more of it.

Another great moment in characterizing Jessica was when she thinks about turning Kilgrave into a hero, how she can use him to fight crime. She tries to see the good in him only to then do what Jessica would do and kick his ass hard. It was a great moment that reveals so much about Jessica’s state of mind.

One of my favorite scenes in the show is in the finale when Jessica and Trish come up with a code word to indicate that Jessica is still in her right mind and not controlled by Kilgrave and Jessica says “I love you” to Trish. I know it might be cheesy but it was such a touching moment and I went all “AWWW” It was so sweet and Jessica finally opening up to Trish it just shows how far she’s come. It was a great characterization moment.

One more cheesy moment, or theme…I really like how Jessica’s journey to redemption is through Hope Shlottman. The focus is on one person as a representation of something bigger and that makes my humanist soul flutter with joy. And sure, her name is Hope and she’s Jessica’s hope, it’s a bit on the nose and heavy handed but it adds a nice touch to a dark show.

Trish Walker: I didn’t think the character of Trish Walker was fully developed. She seemed like a static auxiliary character when she had the potential of being more than that. I wanted to see more of her other than just being Jessica’s foil. I wanted to see more of her childhood and her relationship with her mother, I wanted more. I guess we’ll learn more about Trish in season 2 but I still think they could’ve developed her character more.

Will Simpson: I don’t like Simpson. I think he’s a misogynistic jingoistic prick. Too full of himself and just plain annoying. He’s proof that the real monsters and the real villains are plain old humans with nothing super about them..maybe they’re worse with combat enhancement but still it shows the monstrous side of humans.

Now about the enhancements…I didn’t like how it was done. I like the idea of it, I think it’s great but to have them working after a few seconds was hard to believe, it was easier to believe that Jessica was a superhero than it was to believe that Simpson could be her match just seconds after popping some pills. They should’ve given them more time to activate.

Kilgrave: In the first two episodes we only hear Kilgrave’s voice and see the back of his head and that immediately brought to mind the introduction of Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello. The darkness enshrouding the character reflecting the mysterious nature of the character was pure genius. He’s subtly introduced through actions, such as locking the kids up in the closet, these small acts of villainy show you the extent of his evil-ness.

I love how they casually introduced what Kilgrave did to Jessica. It is implied that he raped her and then stated explicitly but in the beginning, the moment when we see him taking her by the hand so subtly and eloquently. I didn’t see it coming. It’s wicked smart! And it mirrors the way Kilgrave controls his victims, subtly and eloquently.

Kilgrave is motivated by love, presumably. He’s in love with Jessica and is willing to manipulate and kill as much as he can to satisfy his desires all the while denying that he killed or hurt anyone. He also denies raping Jessica because “he didn’t know that she didn’t want it” and says that he “did what she wanted”, I mean it just exemplifies rape culture and toxic masculinity. A guy can’t bed the girl he wants, can’t handle rejection so he goes on a rampage only to deny it all when the damage is done. The key to Kilgrave’s villainy (and the message to society) is the fact that he keeps denying his actions, he says he’s not evil.

Now Marvel likes to make it’s superheroes and villains realistic and sympathetic, or let’s say provides a logical explanation to why they are the way they are. Kilgrave is evil because his parents were mad scientists who experimented on him and infected him with a virus that gave him the ability to control minds. I didn’t like that. Attributing Kilgrave’s powers to a mere virus takes a way the mystery and charm of it, it’s disenchanting and too simplistic. I would’ve liked it more if his origins were left unknown or at least if it were attributed to a psychological reaction to his parents’ tests, something intangible and not a virus with a vaccine that’s too…lame.

Kilgrave’s death was epic (irony intended). I loved how a hero finally realizes that the villain can’t be dealt with in the traditional criminal system, that he has done so much harm and deserves to die. It was refreshing to see the villain off’ed like that especially since shows nowadays tend to shy away from killing main characters and or they do kill them only to bring them back to life (see How Hollywood Killed Death). For Jessica to cross that line of morality and do the right thing was simply a wonderful moment. It was a neat ending, clean and I liked the simplicity and crudity of his death. It was so cathartic.

I loved the jokes about Kilgrave’s name, snufflecorpse…ha!

Note on Robyn: The character of Robyn, at least how I saw it, was to function as the “natural fool”, the mentally unstable character who serves as a comic relief. At first I found her ridiculous and even funny, but then I felt guilty because I realized that this is mental illness used as a means for ridicule. But then again I wonder, is it really mental illness or am I reading too much into it? What do you think about Robyn?

And to end, the show has way too many sex scenes. Call me a prude, but they were not necessary for the plot to advance. The fling between Jessica and Luke, I can understand but having it on screen over and over again was too much.

Score: 4.75/5

Wicked show.

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The Templar Salvation by Raymond Khoury

“The devil’s handiwork, written in his hand using poison drawn from the pits of hell, its accursed existence a devastating threat to the rock upon which our world is founded.”

1310 Constantinople: The French King and the Pope have brought down the Templars and are seeking to finish off any remnants of the Knighthood. Former Templar Knight Conrad is hiding in Constantinople as a black market dealer but he comes across three boxes dating back to the Nicaea Council, the boxes contain gospels and other books that challenge the accepted Christian doctrine. He plans to use those books to either blackmail the Pope and French King or in some way free his fellow Templars. However as he is transporting the books he is overtaken by bandits and merchants who thought that what he was carrying was of high value. After several skirmish and with the help of a woman, Maysoon, he manages to transport the books to Konya and keep them safe but was never able to reach the Vatican.

Current Day Rome: Mansoor Zahed, an Iranian fanatic, kidnaps archeologists Tess Chaykin and Jed Simmons, along with historian Behrouz Sharafi. He then poses as a historian and forces FBI agent Sean Reilly to enter the Vatican archives and steal some documents. A terror attack in Rome and a few fights later, Zahed escapes with the documents and Reilly saves Tess.

Zahed uses the documents to track down the path of Conrad through Turkey but Reilly and Chaykin are right behind him. Long story but Zahed kidnaps Chaykin, again. They go through monasteries in Konya, Turkey, in search of this hidden trove but with no avail. Reilly shows up to the scene and saves Chaykin, again. Zahed disappears for a while while Reilly and Chaykin follow the leads they’ve found in the monasteries and eventually they find the trove hidden in the basement of a sufi family in Turkey. But the moment they find it, guess who appears? Zahed. He knocks Reilly out and steals the books, this time thankfully Chaykin runs away. Zahed plans on using the gospels to bring the Western world and Christianity down.

Zahed and his cronies are on a plane over the Mediterranian with the books and they’ve kidnapped Reilly. He plans on killing Reilly but in the last minute, Reilly miraculously overcomes him and throws him out of the plan only to crash into the water. The books are lost and Christianity and the Western world is saved. Chaykin is disheartened because she’s an archeologist, well guess what the family that kept the books has negatives of every single page and they all live happily ever after.


Now let me say this, I’ve read my fair share of crappy novels, just read any of my reviews on the Paul Christopher Templar novels and this isn’t necessary one of them. The biggest problem Khoury has, I think, is that he has a bad editor because the story could be told in 300 pages instead of 460. There are just so many unnecessary scenes and descriptions that drive me crazy. It forces you to skim through because it’s so mundane and redundant. If you’re writing a thriller novel you’re supposed to keep the pace fast, keep my blood rushing, a car chase that lasts for 20 pages loses it’s thrill. A five minute fight scene that goes on for a whole 30 pages is boring. Descriptions of a monastery aren’t what I’m looking for in a historical thriller. He just keeps going on and on and honestly it’s boring.

His second problem is that he lacks creativity. The Templar Salvation  was almost exactly like The Last Templarvillain wants to bring down a religion and shake people’s faith through revelation of historical documents, Reilly and Chaykin chase him, skirmishes,  a near death experience, the villain disappears, Reilly and Chaykin find the historical documents, villain reappears, they end up losing the documents and somehow stranded in a body of water. It’s just so formulaic and repetitive, there was nothing new in this story nothing creative. I also felt that in the previous book his descriptions were more like historical lectures (which I enjoyed) but here he does a whole lot more “telling” instead of “showing”and it feels like reading a badly written textbook.

Also, the book takes place three years after the events of The Last Templar,  in which supposedly Chaykin and Reilly got together and developed a relationship. In this book their relationship is going through some trouble and it’s implied that they had a good start. What I’m getting at is there’s no character development, it happened in the ether between the two books and here we’re getting the end results. Not only is there no development in the character dynamic but the characters themselves don’t evolve, they’re like stock figures going through the motions.

Overall it’s a sucky book, if you really want to read Khoury read The Last Templar  don’t bother with this one.

Score: 2/5

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