Profile for Mark West > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Mark West
Top Reviewer Ranking: 10,117
Helpful Votes: 147

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Mark West (Kettering, Northants United Kingdom)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-14
pixel
DEAD GONE
DEAD GONE
by Luca Veste
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great debut, 20 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: DEAD GONE (Paperback)
DI David Murphy and DC Laura Rossi lead the investigation into the murder of student from the City of Liverpool University. With her body is a letter from the killer, detailing a famous (and unethical) psychological experiment which was performed on the victim and resulted in her death. Then another body is found, complete with letter. Then another. At the same time, Rob Barker - who works at the university - is dealing with his own loss, the disappearance of his girlfriend Jemma for which all suspicion is pointed at him. As these two events collide, it becomes apparent to Murphy that he’s chasing a killer unlike any he’s faced before, whilst also trying to shrug off his own demons.

This debut novel is superbly paced, with Veste pulling you into the action from the off as Jemma is kidnapped and locked away. Playing on the fears of a late night journey home, the sequence is terrifying and rivetting and gets worse when you realise what it will lead too - setting the book up perfectly. With strong characterisation across the board - Murphy is a wounded hero, mourning the loss of his parents which is tied in to his estrangement from his wife and Rossi is pitch perfect as the underling who is actually an equal - and a clever use of misdirection, this sets off at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up. Using Liverpool almost as a character in itself grounds the novel in a stark reality and makes some of the experiments very uncomfortable to read, especially since they are dealt with in a very matter-of-fact way. In fact, with Veste stepping back from sensationalism, it makes the torture of one character, which you “see” happening but only find out the sheer brutality of several pages later, one of the darkest things I’ve read in a long time.

Aside from some odd typoes, this is a solidly written novel, with an unflinching eye, believable characters, a great use of location and a keen sense of the darkness of the human spirit. I would highly recommend it and I’m very much looking forward to the further adventures of Murphy and Rossi.


The Year of the Ladybird
The Year of the Ladybird
by Graham Joyce
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb novel, 4 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
David Barwise is a 19 year old student who, against the better wishes of his Mum and step-dad, gets a summer job as a greencoat on a holiday camp in Skegness. Set against the scorching summer of 1976 - and the subsequent ladybird invasion - David is led into two love affairs, one with the wife of an apparent monster, one with a lovely Yorkshire lass, as he tries to find his feet amongst the staff of the camp - some theatrical, some racist, some thuggish and some genuinely nice - and the ever present punters, adults and child alike. He is not only there to escape from home, he’s also trying to find details about his long-since-dead father, the only photograph of whom shows him on a Skegness beach. And then, in between getting caught up in the rise of the National Front, he begins to see ghosts on the beach and on the camp, of a suited man and his young charge. This is a glorious novel, full of wit and invention (and a nice line in dry humour) that is told is a deceptively simple style. Perfectly capturing both the 1976 summer and the start of the slow decline of the east coast seaside resort, this crackles with energy and pathos. The characterisation - David narrates the story - is pitch perfect, often delivered with the lightest of touches - Pinky and the way he dresses, Tony and his exuberance, Colin and his chilling demeanour - but always spot on and always human, with none of the characters ever behaving in a way that seems out of place. David is first drawn into the web of Colin, a thuggish and boorish man, and his wife Terri, who sings like an angel but is apparently abused into submission at home. Attracted to her, the relationship between him and his older, secret lover, is fantastically played with neither David or the reader quite sure of what’s going on. A surer, safer bet is Nikki, a beautiful half-caste dancer, painfully aware of her own shortcomings (which aren’t really, to David or the reader) and it’s this relationship that we want to see work, the coupling that makes this the perfect coming-of-age novel. Because that’s what this is, at the end of the day. It’s a social and political observation - the holiday camp, the members of the National Front and what it’ll mean to people like Nikki (and how she reacts, when she realises David has been duped into attending a meeting, a stigma that remains with him for the bulk of the novel) - but it’s also about spreading your wings, finding love (the first erotic interlude, with David and Nikki, is wonderfully erotic whilst being almost mundane) and loss and setting out onto the path of adulthood. There are supernatural elements - and the denouement of that particular plot strand is obvious but also heartbreakingly beautiful - but this isn’t a supernatural novel, it’s not a horror novel, it is instead a perfect drama about a young man, finding his way in 1970s Britain. It speaks to me on a couple of levels, in that I love coming-of-age stories and the east coast seaside (and follows my reading of the similarly themed (in terms of nostalgia and love) “Joyland”), but also because I was seven in 1976 and my family holidayed in Ingoldmells, a few miles north of Skegness and it’s a town that I still visit on occasion today. A truly beautiful work of art (that had me in tears towards the end), populated with characters that I grew to love (and I so desperately want to know that the central love story carried on beyond the seventies), this is an incredible read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2014 10:29 AM BST


Jackass 3.5 [DVD]
Jackass 3.5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Johnny Knoxville
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: £2.69

3.0 out of 5 stars Starting to scrape..., 4 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Jackass 3.5 [DVD] (DVD)
The bits that didn't fit into film 3 (and that's a stretch), this is similar in tone to 2.5 but feels all the more desperate, which is a shame. Still fun but it does make you wish they'd finished after the second film.


Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
by Archie Goodwin
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Wrapping up the trilogy, 4 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Completing my reading of the original trilogy Marvel adaptions, this suffers again with the issues that its siblings did, in that it was written and drawn from a shooting script with limited access to production stills. It also has some peculiar cuts (I don’t think this is an abridged version), with Leia killing Jabba removed completely (on one page he’s bellowing for Skywalker to be killed, the next Leia is trying to get away from his corpse) and she also doesn’t meet Wicket, instead appearing after the rest of the gang have been taken to the Ewok village. Some of the dialogue is off (Han refers to C3P0 as “Bright Eyes”, like he did in the “Empire” adaption) and some key sequences have been cut (Han & Leia in the Ewok village, plus her explaining to him that Luke is her brother). The strip moves at pace, though key sequences (the speeder bike sequence and the Death Star assault) are very truncated and some of the drawings are instantly recognisable from stills/production art of the film though I didn’t like the art style in general. Overall it’s good fun, like the others, but I wouldn’t call it a full adaption by any means. Worth a look.


The Making of Return of the Jedi: The Definitive Story Behind the Film
The Making of Return of the Jedi: The Definitive Story Behind the Film
by Brad Bird
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and invaluable, 4 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a big fan not only of the original Star Wars trilogy but also of behind-the-scenes books and so this was an absolute perfect fit for me. The third in Rinzler’s series - but the first I’ve read - this is an exhaustive account of making the third Star Wars film from preparing the script right through to the release. I thought I knew a lot about the production (last year I read Peecher’s “The Making If Return Of The Jedi” and although that is quoted frequently here, this book is markedly more in-depth) but Rinzler reveals several facts here I’m sure are appearing for the first time (I didn’t, for instance, realise Ralph McQuarrie left the film early, burned out from Star Wars and Empire), building the story from contemporary interviews (in 2011 and 2012), vintage ones (from Peecher and various magazines and journals) and also production reports in the Lucasfilm archives.

What I liked most about it is that even though this is clearly sanctioned by Lucasfilm, it is remarkably candid. Interviews are often frank - nobody liked the Ewoks apart from Lucas, Richard Marquand’s filming style annoyed several actors (Carrie Fisher accuses him of treating her badly, whilst fawning after Harrison Ford), the ILM supervisors often clashed heads over equipment and Fisher’s party-girl antics sometimes affected her performance - but all the better for that, as it shows how hard people worked in often trying circumstances.
I particularly found the transcripts of the story conferences fascinating, as Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan (who do most of the talking), Howard Kazanjian (the producer) and Marquand build the script up, piece by piece, often following paths that lead nowhere (an awful lot of design work went into the Imperial stronghold of Had Abaddon until they decided to put the Empreror on the Death Star), putting the story together. There’s talk of death and sacrifice (even before Harrison Ford signed on), as pretty much every aspect of the film was open to discussion.

Moving beyond pre-production, the book charts the progress as sets go up in England (designed by Norman Reynolds), Buttercup Valley in Yuma (the barge sequences - which cost millions and yet appear in the film so briefly that Lucas now regrets not filming it all at Elstree) and Crescent City in Northern California, where the crew got to take over a portion of logging forest. The actors add fresh angles to the story and, again, the frankness of some of them is refreshing, even if some of the behaviour (from the likes of Anthony Daniels and David Prowse) isn’t.

For me, the most interesting part was post-production, as ILM moves into gear and the deadline to release day counts down. Taking on an unprecedented number of effects shots and with a writer/producer who kept adding shots (with Lucas shooting most of the live action inserts himself as Marquand had moved on to his next project), the book captures well the frenzied atmosphere of a crew making ground-breaking discoveries whilst not really having the time to do so (especially since most of the crew were coming off other films, such as E.T., Dragonslayer and Poltergeist). It also does a good job catching everyone’s reaction on Black Friday, as Lucas threw out a load of shots as not being good enough. Ken Ralston (space battles), Dennis Muren (speeder bikes and the rancor) and Richard Edlund (everything else) are quoted extensively and clearly convey the scope of work they were dealing with. Phil Tippett, who designed the creatures with Stuart Freeborn, also lays claim to naming Salacious Crumb when, after a night on the sauce, he apparently said, “Wait a minute guys while I tie my soolacious.”

George Lucas casts a long shadow, involved in the process from the beginning and his comments on hiring Marquand since he didn’t want to do all the work himself quickly come back to haunt him. Although Marquand did direct the film - his wife and son are interviewed - and Lucas clearly had a great deal of respect for him, he had to be on set virtually every day as Marquand wasn’t experienced with special effects. The toll on Lucas’ home-life was devastating, with him hiding his impending divorce from most of his crew (both Lucas and Spielberg were involved in divorce during the pre-production of “Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom” (concurrent to this), with both of them blaming their ruptured personal lives for the darkness of that film). In a nice turn, for a modern book, Marcia Lucas’ role (though slimmed down with this film) is still acknowledged, even if she only makes a couple of appearances.

The final part of the book deals with the release and reception of the film, as it gobbled up box office records and delighted the paying public, whilst drawing mixed notices from the critics. There’s also an epilogue, charting what happened to most of the key players after the film wrapped and Lucasfilm went into a ‘two-year hibernation’ and as Lucas himself is quoted as saying, it’s good to see so many people going off and changing the way films are made and perceived. The ILM and Lucasfilm group from the early 80s, was probably the equivalent of the Corman outfit in the 60s and 70s).

The book is filled with beautifully reproduced photographs - designs, on-set, pretty much every aspect of the production - and Rinzler has done a great job, identifying most of the personnel captured in them.

If you’re a fan of Star Wars and/or Making Of books, then this is a superb read - informative, amusing, frank - and I was sad to finish it. Very highly recommended.


Star Wars: A New Hope
Star Wars: A New Hope
by Roy Thomas
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A nostalgic blast (and good fun!), 4 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Star Wars: A New Hope (Paperback)
One of my earliest encounters with comics (aside from the weekly adventures of Spider Man) was the Marvel comics adaptation of “Star Wars”, which appeared in the 1978 annual (that my folks got me in the summer, to read in the car on the way to Widmouth Bay). Having watched the original trilogy films over the Christmas period with Dude, I decided a re-read (after several years away) would be in order. Rather than the annual (which is abridged), I went for the Boxtree version, collected from the weekly comics, which was written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Howard Chaykin and Steve Leialoha. Clearly sourced from an earlier screenplay (Luke is part of Blue Squadron, for instance and Jabba The Hutt resembles something that stood at the bar in the cantina), this follows the film but also includes scenes that were never shown, such as Luke and his friends at Tosche Station, Luke seeing the battle at the beginning and pretty much all of Biggs’ part. As a light read (the editing works well, though some of the “meanwhile…” boxes do get monotonous), it’s generally good fun. The Chaykin artwork is more visceral and immediate (he’s not very good at drawing spaceships) but the Leialoha section, which starts at the encounter with the Tusken Raiders, is more detailed and defined (and, to my eye, better). With some peculiar dialogue choices - I can’t imagine Han Solo saying “hold on tight kiddies” as the Millennium Falcon blasts away from the Death Star - and some pruning - only the X-Wings make the run on the Death Star - this is faithful enough and conveys the immediacy and action of the film. Speaking as someone who doesn’t tend to read graphic novels, but loves “Star Wars”, I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it.


The Mystery of the Green Ghost
The Mystery of the Green Ghost
by Alfred Hitchcock
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent mystery, 23 Jan. 2014
Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw decide to investigate Green House, an old mansion in Rocky Beach that is being torn down. Hearing a ghastly scream, they bump into a group of men from the neighbourhood, who are also there to look at the house. Together, they investigate and see a green ghost moving through the old, dusty hallways. After they leave, the ghost is spotted around Rocky Beach by several eye-witnesses, one of whom happens to be Chief of Police Reynolds. When the house is investigated by the police the next day, with the Three Investigators and Bob's father in tow, a hidden room is discovered, which contains a skeleton - the remains of Matthias Green's wife - and a string of ghost pearls. Bob & Pete are then invited to the Verdant Valley winery, near San Francisco, which is run by Matthias Green's only living relative where, very soon, they encounter a mysterious aged Chinaman called Mr Won, people who aren't who they appear to be, scary caves and the re-appearance of the green ghost.

This has one of the better opening sequences on the series and manages to maintain the pace and intrigue well, with a good supporting cast and excellent use of location (the `haunted house', the desolate canyons, Chinatown). Splitting the team is a masterstroke, giving each character a chance to shine and show their strengths, right up to the climax and the interplay between the three lads is well handled.

Well told and constructed, this is one of the better Arthur novels and follows the timeline nicely (it mentions Bob having his brace removed just before the story begins and this is the book where the Investigators get their `Volunteer Junior Assistant Deputy' cards from Chief Reynolds). My only niggle is the final chapter, which can't seem to decide if it's part of the story or just a simple catch-up of action, though it does end on a high in Hitchcock's office.

Good fun, with a cracking pace, this is highly recommended.


Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the "Star Wars" Model Shop: Inside the "Star Wars" Model Shop
Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the "Star Wars" Model Shop: Inside the "Star Wars" Model Shop
by Lorne Peterson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic resource, 15 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As written by one of the chief modelmakers for the Star Wars trilogy (and, as a key part of ILM, most of the special effects classics we remember from the late 70s to date), this is an incredible book. Packed full of brilliantly reproduced images - you could lose yourself, poring over the prints - and with informative text, this is only let down by some poor proof-reading.

Covering the span of the Star Wars film series, this is both beautiful and essential reading.


Cemetery Girl
Cemetery Girl
by Charlaine Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling read, 10 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Cemetery Girl (Hardcover)
The book opens in dramatic fashion, with a young girl being attacked, drugged and left for dead in Dunhill Cemetery. Realising that someone has tried to kill her, but with no other memory of the past, she decides to hide out in the cemetery itself, living in a crypt and stealing food and items from local houses (and also from the caretaker). She calls herself Calexa Rose Dunhill - names she finds around her - and watching a funeral, sees a spirit escape from a tarpaulin covered grave. One night, she witnesses a group of teenagers carrying out an occult ritual, which doesn't work. Later, at another funeral, she recognises the fleeing spirit as part of that group (he was killed by a drunk driver) and when they come back for another go, she watches in horror as they murder Marla, the sister of their dead friend. But Marla doesn't ascend, instead transferring to Calexa, taking up the empty space and making her a "haunted house". As Marla settles in, her memories and visions overwhelm Calexa and she has a decision to make - to continue to hide to protect herslef or trying to bring justice to the sad spirit who needs her help.

I don't often read comics or graphic novels but this has such a great pedigree - and JF Books produce a great product - that I decided to give it a go and I'm glad I did. It's well written, immediate and smart, violent and poignant and although there are some small areas of repetition, it has a quick pace. The characters, especially Calexa, Marla and Lucinda Cameron, an old woman who spots her stealing and takes an interest in her (whilst bestowing her with the name `cemetery girl') are clear and defined and the cemetery makes a great location. The artwork, by Don Kramer who has worked with both Marvel and DC, is very detailed and captures the mood of the cemetery well (I like my art clear and defined so I thought his work complimented the words perfectly, though a graphic novel aficionado might disagree with me).

Firing on all cylinders, well presented and a beautiful object in itself (I read the hardback edition with glossy pages), I enjoyed the story and the artwork and would very much recommend it.


The Making of Star Wars Return of the Jedi (A Del Rey book)
The Making of Star Wars Return of the Jedi (A Del Rey book)
by John Peecher
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A good companion to the film, 10 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Published in 1983 to coincide with the release of the film, this is an old-school `making of', a chunky paperback with a photo section ("32 pages of fabulous behind-the-scenes photos") to accompany a thorough trek through the films production. Starting at the initial meetings in 1981, the book is laid out as a diary (though it's not made clear who the writers are) and goes right up to the release (on hundreds of screens, rather than the thousands which are typical today). Clearly sanctioned by Lucasfilm, this does occasionally present a raw view (Anthony Daniels doesn't come across particularly well and Harrison Ford, having taken the money, gives off an air of `can't-be-bothered') but it works well and the dynamic between Lucas and his director, Richard Marquand, is nicely played. Not skimping on special effects details, or the apparent boredom of working on such a big film, this is a great read for fans of behind the scenes volumes and I loved it. Highly recommended.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-14