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O. Parker "opark_77" (Bristol, UK)

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The Cut (Spero Lucas Book 1)
The Cut (Spero Lucas Book 1)
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another fine work by George Pelecanos, 3 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A little slow a little late with this review but I've just re-read The Cut in anticipation of the soon to be released follow-up (due out 7 November 2013 here in the UK). Pelecanos remains my favourite author of the moment. I am always suckered by his sense of place, detailed characterisation and the tight inevitability of his plotting. This book remains strong on all three of those fronts. I have to say that I enjoyed it a little more on re-reading. In part because I found it easier to get inside the mind of Spero Lucas the second time around. Spero is the protagonist of this one, and is set to be a recurring lead character in the vein of past Pelecanos leads Nick Stefanos, Karras and Clay and Strange and Quinn. I'm excited to see Pelecanos returning to serialised work after a run of excellent one off novels.

Spero is another slightly different take on the investigator. His day job is working for defence attorneys and his sideline is in recovering stolen goods for a 40% cut. He is a young army veteran still enamoured with the adrenaline rush of violent action. His career and his thrill seeking puts him in morally ambiguous territory that lends the book a modern noir edge. In this one Spero takes a side job recovering stolen marijuana shipments for an imprisoned dealer and finds himself going head to head with a group of gun runners who are moving in on the business.

Scattered amongst this investigative arc are Spero's relationships with his fellow veterans and his adoptive family. His grief at having lost his adoptive father and his close relationship with his brother are both affecting and well drawn. Pelecanos is the patriarch of an adoptive family himself and his insight translates well into his characterisation here.

I thoroughly recommend the audio book version which is read by The Wire alumni Dion Graham (he played recurring character Rupert Bond on the show) who has done fine work on several previous Pelecanos audio books. If you've not read any Pelecanos before then this is a fine place to start although one of the completed series might be more satisfying to burn through. If you already know the author then this is another fine work that is well worth your time.


0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cheap and unfortunately nasty, 11 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I know I am at the budget end of the market but I expected a product that would at least work. The controls are faulty on mine with fastforward and rewind not working. The sound quality is terrible with an intermittent hiss relating to the flashing red light. The USB connection to the computer also seems temperamental and often requires a reboot before the computer will recognize the stick. You have to take the battery out when plugging in to the computer. The cover for the battery was broken on arrival. The headphones work fine and the lanyard does at least look like it would hold the thing but the main product is awful.

by Warwick Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not a toilet book, 30 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Gents (Paperback)
Gents is a modern drama about toilet attendants. It is a success in taking a pointedly ignored profession and developing an involving story around them. The novel is fairly short and I finished it in a single read. It is not as funny as the blurb suggests. The involvement of casual homosexual liaisons in the plot and the attendants evolving attitude towards their visitors is engaging and sensitively handled enough that it would be appropriate for older teen readers.

Parker: The Outfit (Richard Stark's Parker)
Parker: The Outfit (Richard Stark's Parker)
by Darwyn Cooke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong second outing for Parker in graphic novels, 30 Dec. 2010
A very strong decond outing for Darwyn Cooke's graphic adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker series. The illustrator continues to work in shades of blue and a cartoonist style that fit the piece very well. The story is a slightly less personal one this time around but involves Parker's network of fellow independent thieves to good effect. A must read for fans of crime fiction. Joyfully ends with the promise that Parker will return in 2012.

The Way Home
The Way Home
by George Pelecanos
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great novel from Pelecanos, 5 Sept. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Way Home (Hardcover)
The Way Home is a strong follow-up to Pelecanos' previous effort The Turnaround. The author's excellent sense of the male psyche across a range of ages is more than up to the task of his latest book. The Way Home follows a father and son relationship across several years. The main character Chris is introduced as a troublesome, troubled teenager who argues with his father and acts out enough to wind up in a juvenile prison. The book jumps forward from Chris imprisonment to several years after his release and gives a nuanced insight into his difficult relationship with his father.

Pelecanos seems to write more in the area of character study than plot driven crime fiction these days. The Way Home, The Turnaround and the preceding book The Night Gardener are far more memorable for their characterisation than any peculiarities of plot. Pelecanos has developed his skill to the point where his plot no longer needs to support his characters. Of course the plot is still there but it no longer seems a crutch.

Fringe - Season 1 [DVD] [2009]
Fringe - Season 1 [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Anna Torv
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.10

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hamstrung but willing, 12 July 2009
Fringe was the follow-up to JJ Abrams hugely successful series Lost. Abrams used that show as a springboard to launch a career as a writer and director in film. He co-wrote the docu-horror Cloverfield with Drew Goddard. He co-wrote the reboot of the Star Trek franchise with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci are the co-creators of Fringe. The trio first worked together on Abrams earlier espionage based series Alias.

Fringe, despite the sci-fi trappings, probably has more in common with Alias than Lost. It features a female protagonist in a male dominated world and is far less serialised than Lost. All three shows retain their own distinct mythology and a fair amount of viewer involvement is engendered by the series continuing mystery. Fringe is the closest of the three to a traditional police procedural with a structure based largely around a case of the week pattern.

Anna Torv struggles to bring depth to the starring role of Agent Olivia Dunham throughout the first season. In particular she lacks chemistry with her compromised partner John Scott as played by Mark Valley. Valley is stuck in scenes with Torv only so it is hard to judge his performance.

While I was unsure about the lead I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the cast.

Joshua Jackson brings considerable charisma to the role of Peter Bishop and while it is easy to see him as a grifter some of the characters seedier history does not gel with the casting of the fresh faced actor; but perhaps that's just how he got away with it all. John Noble pulls the mad scientist role with Walter Bishop (Peter's father) and puts in an enjoyable, scenery chewing performance. The two work brilliantly together and Noble's quieter moments achieve poignancy off the back of their interplay. Jasika Nikole adds a little more chemistry to the lab based scenes and her reactions to Walter generate laughs all season long.

The starring cast is rounded out by HBO veterans Kirk Acevedo (Oz) and Lance Reddick (Oz, The Corner and The Wire) as Dunham's FBI supervisors. Reddick's patented simmering intensity is somewhat under-used as Phillip Broyles but his deeper knowledge of the mysterious pattern that links our investigators cases gives it the potential for expansion in later seasons (fingers crossed). Acevedo has more to do as Agent Charlie Francis because the character is situated as a frontline investigator but still received minimal development through the first season. Blair Brown is also somewhat sidelined as mysterious executive Nina Sharp. Again her character's ties into the ongoing mythology mean that she will likely appear more throughout the second season.

Chance Kelly (Generation Kill), Jared Harris and Michael Gaston all have memorable recurring guest roles in the first season. Kelly plays an old friend to Broyles who quickly becomes an antagonist. Harris is the menacing and mysterious season long baddy. Gaston plays a thorn is Dunham's side and his ability to mix bureaucrat and psychopath are used well.

The show is capably helmed by a range of regular directors and has a polished cop show sheen. The stylised place name captions take a page from the X-files and add a bit more flair. The series head writer is Jeff Pinkner, who jumped ship from Lost to show run Fringe. The writing staff has a few ties back to Buffy including Joss Whedon's brother Zack on staff and co-executive producer David H. Goodman.

I think Fringe was well worth watching, I'm not so certain I'd watch it again. I think the structure does it a disservice and that the mythology is strong enough to support a more serialised show if it were coupled with a stronger lead. I would recommend it to fans of Buffy, The X-Files, or indeed Lost but with a caution about its deficiencies. I am looking forward to a second season.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2010 9:44 AM BST

Bully: Scholarship Edition (Wii)
Bully: Scholarship Edition (Wii)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rockstar does academia well, 2 Aug. 2008
Bully scholarship edition was my first ever game rental. There's an opening that evokes nostalgia and expectations of childhood anecdotes. Unfortunately, having not been a console owner until last year means that my first game rental experience actually came just two short weeks ago, sorry to mislead.

Bully is the only rockstar port available on the wii and while I often felt that I'd rather be playing Grand Theft Auto IV it is actually a great game on its own terms. Bully takes the GTA IV formula and applies it to a boarding school. Its not the cavalcade of death and destruction that you might expect and the violence is toned down accordingly for the setting. The weapons range from ever-reliable fisticuffs to a surprisingly powerful spud gun but the most harm you'll inflict with any of them is to knock someone out. Vehicles are limited to bikes for the most part with a go-kart and a scooter appearing later in the game. It remains a slightly more adult title for the wii platform but is hardly the high school blood bath that the media backlash suggested. I think the title is slightly misleading, the game is named primarily for the institution (Bullworth Academy) and you are often battling against bullies to unite the school rather than picking on individuals.

As anyone who has played a GTA title would predict the voice acting is great and the soundtrack is good too. That said the music is completely instrumental and not drawn from pop music like the GTA series. The storyline is involving but its reliance on all the American high school clique clichés makes the progression somewhat predictable. For a game that came out a few years ago I think the graphics hold up pretty well. The controls on the wii are straightforward but fun, particularly the fighting. There are several interesting uses of the motion sensitivity that are each a joy to discover. I think the adaptation from PS2 gamepad to Wii-mote was well handled and that the port is very successful. All in all a great game that I almost wish I had bought rather than rented.

Star Wars Miniatures Starter Game Set: A Star Wars Miniatures Starter Game
Star Wars Miniatures Starter Game Set: A Star Wars Miniatures Starter Game

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent introductory product, 24 May 2008
Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Miniatures game is a turn based, tabletop wargame using pre-painted 25mm figures drawn from the Star Wars Universe. This introductory set nets you a detailed yet compact rulebook, 2 fold out maps (each with a grid) to play on, a 20 sided dice, some counters for damage and force points, and 6 non-random figures (Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, a heavy stormtrooper, an elite stormtrooper, a heavy rebel trooper and a rebel officer) along with reference stat cards. This is everything you need for a couple of short games. However, the product serves as an introduction to the larger game which revolves around buying packs of randomly selected miniatures and building bigger squads from your collection to use in the battles.

I like the maps and miniatures from this set and find them a useful adjunct to the Star Wars roleplaying game from Wizards of the Coast as well as enjoying the miniatures game in its own right. This is a compact and affordable starter set that serves as a decent introduction to the game and I recommend it to anyone who wants to try it out. The box says its for 2 players aged 12+ and I agree that the rules may be a little complex for younger children. It also provides some useful props (a known mixture of rebel and imperial miniatures along with the maps) to anyone involved in running a roleplaying campaign in the Star Wars universe.

The Tin Roof Blowdown
The Tin Roof Blowdown
by James Lee Burke
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written detective tale weaved through post Katrina Louisiana, 9 Dec. 2007
This review is from: The Tin Roof Blowdown (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have not read any James Lee Burke before but he has been working his way to the top of my authors to read list - particularly as I've been quite addicted to crime novels of late and often hear is name mentioned positively in comparison with the authors I have been checking out (George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly recently). This book continues his series with detective Dave Robicheaux as the protagonist. I was a little reluctant to start mid-series but couldn't say no when offered a free book from an author I'd planned to read anyway.

The novel focuses on veteran detective Dave Robicheaux; a hard-bitten cynic who is also surprisingly a family man. Robicheaux's depth of feeling for his family makes the character something more than the Vietnam veteran, recovering alcoholic and relentless pessimist that could be the creation of many crime writers and elevates him to a greater level of interest than many other detective protagonists I've encountered. Robicheaux's friend Clete Purcell continues to act as his partner despite being outside of the police institution and the man's faster temper and more straightforward thinking make a good foil and contrast for Robicheaux. I certainly plan to begin the series from the start on the strength of the protagonist alone.

I found the plot involving on its own merits but I'm a fan of the genre and think non-fans might be quickly bored or perhaps confused by it. It is made more difficult to follow by its secondary nature. As I've found while reading George Pelecanos the plot keeps the reader moving forwards but there is something more to be found in the pages. In this case the pleasure of the novel is in the fantastic prose and descriptions of the surroundings. New Orleans is obviously close to the author's heart and his working of the recent devastation wreaked by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita into the story expands the novel into something more weighty and tragic. The evocative writing makes the tragedy of the events and there subsequent mishandling clear to the reader. The subject matter makes for an interesting crime novel - usually the genre provides satisfaction to the reader by solving a problem and putting the world to rights but the backdrop to this tale is a tragedy that seems unlikely to be overcome.

As I said before, when much of the novel is consumed by this passionate depiction of a city and culture in ruins the plot is dwarfed by the larger story. I also felt that the characterisation suffered. Characters that I expect to have appeared in previous novels like Robicheaux and Purcell were well drawn but the antagonists and criminals were not so fully realised. In particular the journey of Bertrand Melancon, a small time criminal with a troubled childhood, was uninvolving and somewhat implausible.

Minor ciriticisms aside, I enjoyed the book and am glad I read it. I think it is a must read for fans of the author or the genre because of the brave approach to yet another difficult period in the history of the area. For anyone who enjoys well written prose it would be worth trying. For those with an interest in New Orleans particularly post-Katrina New Orleans the book has a lot to say.

Beowulf - 1 Disc Edition [2007] [DVD]
Beowulf - 1 Disc Edition [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ray Winstone
Price: £1.49

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular and entertaining film, 20 Nov. 2007
First of all I have to admit not having read the epic poem that the film is based upon. Apparently the writers (the unlikely pairing of Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary) have departed a bit from the original story - I read an interview where they explain the basis for their changes. They based their changes on the idea that when characters within the poem relate their own actions they could be acting as unreliable narrators. Thus Wrothgar and Beowulf's encounters with Grendel's mother are portrayed quite differently from the way I'm told they were in the book. However, I had none of this weighing on me when I first saw the film - just found it interesting afterwards!

I found the motion capture / digital enhancement effects quite captivating. I just wish I'd found a 3D showing as the visuals probably would have been even more spectacular. Zemeckis is bravely forging ahead with this new technology and it has come on leaps and bounds from the Polar Express. That said there are flaws - facial expressions sometimes appear blank and my companions viewing the film noticed this more often than I did. I think the photo-realistic re-creation of the actors faces is off-putting for many people because of the closeness of the resemblance but the nagging insistence in your mind that its not quite the same person - this could be solved by using unknowns for the faces but this would probably sacrifice some of the strength of the performances. I can't really fault the film for getting the likenesses as close as it does.

The upside of re-imaging the cast in the same style as everything else means that the spectacular effects seamlessly integrate into the film. The effects hold up well upon comparison to the green screen filming of real actors for 300, another recent fantastical historical epic. I can't choose which technique I preferred but I still think limiting CGI to the most necessary instances like The Lord of the Rings films is the best option.

The action sequences are brilliantly done and the key scenes of the fight with Grendel and the Dragon are both adrenaline pumping, engrossing, jaw-dropping sequences. I think the value of really good effects has diminished in the last few years and audiences tend to pick holes in CGI even when its done well.

Of course effects alone can't sustain a film. There are some good performances here but not everyone is on top form. Winstone's accent is out of place at times; that said the accents of the cast vary wildly. Hopkins is Welsh, Wright-Penn is occasionally Scottish etc. Apart from her accent Wright-Penn is excellent, particularly in the second half of the film. Brendan Gleason is as reliable as ever as Beowulf's trusted friend Wigluf. Angelina Jolie does brilliantly with the voice acting. Malkovich is a little over the top as the slimy advisor. Overall an enjoyable film with groundbreaking technology.

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