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Aidan J. McQuade (Ireland)
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Argo DVD [2013]
Argo DVD [2013]
Dvd ~ Ben Affleck
Price: £5.00

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best fake movie never made, 30 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Argo DVD [2013] (DVD)
I have always thought Ben Affleck underrated as an actor, developing a negative reputation due to some unfortunate movie choices. However he really seems to have found his niche as a director.

Argo, his third movie after the superb Gone Baby Gone, and the very fine The Town, is a brilliantly tense thriller based, with some significant dramatic license, on the rescue operation conducted by Canada and the US to bring home 6 American diplomats who had evaded the storming of the US embassy by Iranian revolutionaries and obtained refuge with the Canadian Ambassador.

The focus of the movie is on the CIA operation rather than the Canadian role in the escape. But the movie is careful to show the startling courage of the Canadian ambassador, his wife and housekeeper who all risked death by harbouring the Americans. The movie is also careful to point out the US's culpability in what happened to its own people, and to Iran as a whole, through its role in overthrowing democracy in Iran and its protracted support to the dictatorship of the Shah including its wholesale and systematic use of torture against opponents.

The atmosphere is lightened occasionally by some superb moments of humour, particularly from the brilliant John Goodman and the legendary Alan Arkin as Hollywood types who help the escape by setting up a production company for a fake movie, Argo of the title, which provides the Americans cover as a Canadian crew scouting for locations.

Overall another excellent movie from Affleck who could quite easily turn out to be his generation's Clint Eastwood.


With Malice toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln
With Malice toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln
by Stephen B. Oates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Moral leadership and its price, 28 Nov. 2012
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For many this was the definitive biography of Lincoln until Doris Kearns Goodwin's magisterial Team of Rivals.

It is still a fine introduction to the life and times of America's greatest president, though the comparative lack of attention on the Lincoln's cabinet relationships leads to a much less rich discussion of his presidency than Kearns Goodwin so brilliantly achieved. In particular the warmth of the friendship with Seward is not fully explored and there is no discussion of the attempt on Seward's life that parallelled the killing of Lincoln.

But there is still much to recommend this. It has a more detailed focus than Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln's youth and career before his achievement of a national profile with his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that led him to the presidency. And it is written in an engaging and laconic style that echoes Lincoln's own voice.


Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice guys don't always come last, 21 Nov. 2012
Since its publication Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography of Lincoln has rightly become regarded as a modern classic. It is an exquisitely written account of Lincoln's life from his birth in poverty in Kentucky, through a period in child slavery (by the modern definition of that human rights abuse), to self education and success as a lawyer, politician and President during the worst constitutional crisis in US history, to his death in the Petersen boarding house in Washington DC.

Tolstoy described Lincoln as a "humanitarian as broad as the world" and Kearns Goodwin's approach to demonstrating the truth of this judgement is to focus on the relationships between Lincoln and his cabinet ministers, particularly Seward, his Secretary of State, Stanton his Secretary of War, Chase his Treasury Secretary, and to a lesser extent Welles his Navy Secretary, Bates his Attorney General and Blair his Postmaster General. Seward, Chase, and Bates were Lincoln's principle rivals for the Republican nomination in 1860 and it was unprecedented for a President to bring such rivals into his "political family" as Lincoln did. But, such was the crisis that the nation was facing with the threat of secession from the slave states in response to the election of even a "moderate" anti-slavery candidate such as Lincoln, Lincoln felt that he had to have the most capable men for his cabinet. That some of them, particularly Chase, felt that Lincoln was an unworthy candidate and unqualified to be President added to the challenge that Lincoln faced.

Lincoln's genius as a visionary, writer and speaker are well understood and well demonstrated in this biography. The book details his evolving thinking on the issue of slavery from a "moderate" anti-slavery position to an increasingly radical one as a result of contact with the anti-slavery struggle itself and with the likes of Fredrick Douglass and the ordinary black soldiers who were risking their lives to defend the Union: "There have been men base enough to propose to me to return to slavery the black warriors of Port Hudson and Olustee, and thus win the respect of the masters they fought. Should I do so, I should deserve to be damned in time and eternity", he said at one stage.

In addition Kearns Goodwin book illustrates Lincoln's managerial genius, arguing convincingly that it emerged from his enormous decency and magnanimity, and that it was fundamental in ensuring that such a disparate group as his cabinet acted together in the national interest in time of an unprecedented national crisis.

Lincoln's lovely gift of humour and intense like-ability shine through the biography and consequently the devastating tragedy of his assassination still resonates down the centuries. This book is a fitting tribute to the greatest figure of the 19th century and one of the greatest figures of all world history.


Mystic River
Mystic River
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliver us from evil, 16 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Mystic River (Paperback)
Dave, Sean and Jimmy are childhood friends. But their friendship, and for Dave his childhood, ends when Dave is abducted from the street outside Sean's house by two pedophiles posing as cops. 25 years later Dave and Jimmy are still living in the same neighbourhood, Dave in a dead end job, Jimmy running a local store. When Jimmy's daughter, Katie, is murdered Sean, now a homicide cop with the state police, is assigned to the investigation.

Many of Lehane's trademark concerns are in place in this book: violence against children and child abuse (as was the focus in Gone Baby, Gone); a strong Greene Catholic morality; life and community in working class Irish Boston; and, more lightheartedly, the vicissitudes of contemporary culture (In one passage Sean's partner Whitey actually discusses who should play him in the movie version of the case. "Brian Dennehy" is his conclusion. He is ultimately played by the great Laurence Fishburne, which would probably have annoyed Whitey...if he were a real person).

Like The Killing, which this book predates, it does the unusual thing in crime fiction of keeping a focus on the bereaved and the details of bereavement not just the investigation. It is also in many respects, another rarity, a character driven crime novel: alongside the compelling procedural account of Sean's investigation is the story of the consequences of Katie's killing on, in particular, Dave and Jimmy, and it is from this that much of the tension and dread in the novel derives.

Mystic River is a gripping, out of the ordinary crime novel, powerful and bleak. It is probably Dennis Lehane's masterpiece: an exquisitely written exploration of violent crime and its consequences in a working class Massachusetts neighbourhood.


Shutter Island
Shutter Island
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you, 5 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Shutter Island (Paperback)
Two US marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, arrive at Ashcliffe hospital for the Criminally Insane on Shutter Island in Boston Harbour to search for an escaped child murderess, Rachel Solando. Teddy has a personal reason for wanting to be on the island: He knows this is where the man who killed his wife, Andrew Laedis, is imprisoned.

In Shutter Island Lehane uses a similar device to one he previously used in Gone Baby, Gone: the first three quarters of the book are a procedural as Chuck and Teddy conduct their hunt for the missing Rachel. In the final quarter the true nature of what has been going on is revealed.

There is some debt to Sophicles' Oedipus Rex in this novel as Teddy finds his investigation coming closer to home than he could possibly have imagined. The result is a compelling novel with the final twists elegantly delivered.


Prayers For Rain: 5 (Kenzie and Gennaro)
Prayers For Rain: 5 (Kenzie and Gennaro)
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Picking over the remains and picking up the pieces, 4 Oct. 2012
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Some SPOILERS for "Gone Baby, Gone" below

This, the fifth of the Kenzie-Gennaro series, sees Patrick and Angie estranged, their personal relationship and professional partnership at an end following the devastating events portrayed in Gone Baby, Gone. Instead Patrick is working alone on routine missing persons cases when he finds that a former client has killed herself. Feeling guilty at having failed her Patrick decides to look into her death to find out just what happened. What transpires is a dangerous cat and mouse game with a psychopath whose particular modus operandi is the undermining of peoples' lives and driving them to suicide.

There are strong echoes of the second Kenzie-Gennaro novel, Darkness Take My Hand, in the plot of this book. But the well trodden nature of the plot is probably secondary in this novel to the question of how Patrick and Angie begin to rebuild their personal and professional relationships. In addition, pleasingly, Bubba takes a more central role in this book, filling in large parts of his back story in the process.

So, not the best in the series, but still a fine outing with two of the most likeable gumshoes in literature.


Gone, Baby, Gone
Gone, Baby, Gone
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suffer the little children, 18 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Gone, Baby, Gone (Paperback)
The fourth, and arguably the best, of the Kenzie-Gennaro novels. (Certainly the best known due to Ben Affleck's very fine cinema version of the story). Patrick and Angie, much against their better judgement, are drawn into the hunt for a missing girl, Amanda McCready, by Amanda's aunt Beatrice.

This is a book in two parts. The first two thirds of the book are a compelling procedural as Angie and Patrick are reluctantly accepted as adjuncts to the police investigation into Amanda's disapperance. In the final third Patrick and Angie finally, and to their utter dismay, manage to unravel the layers of deceit that surround the case.

In many ways this is the most horrific of the Kenzie-Gennaro series because its subject is the shockingly commonplace matter of child abuse and violence against children. Even the warmth of the relationships between Patrick, Angie and their friend Bubba is insufficient to stave off the bleakness for either the reader or the characters themselves. It is an angry book as well as being a hugely morally complex one, peppered with some fine humour (I particularly enjoy Patrick's occasional vitriolic asides on movies and music) and some finely drawn sequences of violence.


The Bourne Legacy [DVD]
The Bourne Legacy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeremy Renner
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.95

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The devil you know..., 8 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The Bourne Legacy [DVD] (DVD)
This film is set broadly in parallel with the events of last 2 Bourne films: The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. It follows the travails of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he tries to survive the efforts of certain government officials to liquidate the covert intelligence programme that Cross is a member of and that Bourne's actions have brought to public attention.

Where much of the tension in the previous Bourne films arose from the unraveling of the mystery of Treadstone and Jason Bourne's own role in it, The Bourne Legacy plays a neat trick of developing tension based on knowing the power of the covert agencies involved: Aaron Cross, unencumbered by the amnesia that plagued Bourne, knows what he is up against, and so too, to a greater or lesser extent, does the audience having learned this with Jason Bourne himself. The tension in this movie derives from seeing how Cross might evade or overcome the conscienceless might of the programme.

The Bourne Legacy is a less taut affair than the earlier Bourne Trilogy: some of the action set pieces are messier and perhaps a shade less believable than the earlier movies. However on the plus side Renner is, somewhat surprisingly, a very sympathetic protagonist, the great Edward Norton makes a chilling and terrifying villain, and the developing relationship between Aaron and the scientist he saves from death (Rachel Weiss) is nicely played.


Waltz with Bashir [DVD] [2008]
Waltz with Bashir [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Ari Folman
Price: £4.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering complicity to a massacre, 2 Sept. 2012
Twenty years after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, of which he was a participant, the writer and director Ari Folman realized that he had little memory of his time there. This included being stationed a few hundred metres from the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila during the three days in which the Phalangist militia massacred the population there.

Waltz with Bashir recounts how, with the help of others who had been there, including fellow soldiers, he began to recover his memory of the events.

Palestinians and Lebanese have no voice in this film. Nevertheless it still represents some of the best impulses in Israeli society, documenting how an ordinary Israeli faces the truth of a particularly vile episode in his nation's history in which he himself was directly implicated.

The massacre in Sabra and Shatila has echoes through history: one Israeli journalist, Ron Ben-Yishai a distinguished war correspondent who was witness to the massacre, recounts how the scene in the camps reminded him of the images of the Warsaw Ghetto.

There are other echoes in Middle Eastern history. One not mentioned in the film is how in 1268, on capturing the city of Antioch, the Sultan Baybars immediately locked the city gates to stop the escape of any of the town's inhabitants as he proceeded to massacre them. Folman argues with this film that the role of the Israeli army during the massacre was the equivalent to Baybars' locking of the gates while their Phalangist allies, Israeli-equipped and in the full knowledge of the highest Israeli military commanders, carried out the slaughter. While the film may provide only a narrow perspective on the Lebanese invasion, it is a startlingly brave and humane one, showing how an ordinary individual human can take responsibility even in the midst of overwhelming historical events.


Sacred
Sacred
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Through a looking glass darkly, 1 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sacred (Paperback)
In the third of the Kenzie-Gennaro novels, Patrick and Angie are hired by a dying billionaire, Trevor Stone, to find his daughter, Desiree, who has disappeared, unable, it seems, to bear the grief of a series of tragedies that have befallen her in recent months - most recently her father's own impending death. In pursuing the case they follow the trail of Jay Becker, a fellow private investigator and friend who had trained Patrick but who has himself gone missing while seeking the missing Desiree.

The investigation takes them to Florida where, in spite of the sunshine and pastel colours, the darkness gathers.

The Catholic themes of the earlier Kenzie-Gennaro novels are less emphasized in this book. In their place there is a fast moving and exceptionally twisty story, where little is what it initially seems, and Patrick and Angie only have each other to depend on.


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