Category Archives: review

Review: High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel

High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American ClassicGood films are a product of their time. And sometimes understanding not only what went into making a film but also the time in which it was made can lead to a deeper and richer viewing. That’s the case with one of the greatest films ever committed to celluloid as examined by Glenn Frankel in his latest book High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.

Frankel brings together many of the threads that led to the making of the film — from the events leading up to the infamous Blacklist and naming names to the casting decisions for the film. Walking away from the book, you’ll marvel at how many times things could have gone wrong for one of the iconic films of American cinema, but how they all lined up to produce a film that is as taut, entertaining and fascinating today as it was upon its initial release.

Picking up this book will give you a new respect for High Noon and also leave you wanting to view the film again with the new insights gained from Frankel’s thorough account about the making of this celebrated classic.

The story of Will Kaine, a man deserted by his supposed friends in his hour of need, becomes even more gripping knowing what the screenwriter and many of those behind the scenes were putting on the line to make this movie.

Frankel moves easily back and forth between giving us the micro and macro view of events unfolding to create this classic Western. If you’re a fan of cinema, this is an absolute must read. Think of it as a printed version of the best DVD extra features you’ve ever seen.

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Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians (The Magicians #1)For most of his life, Quentin Coldwater has used the Fillory (think Narnia) books to escape the doldrums of his everyday life. Now at the age of seventeen, Quentin has been given a chance he never dreamed he had — magic is real and he can become a magician.

Instead of heading to a mundane, normal college, he enlists at Brakebills, a university of magic and begins training. The one thing the books never included was that becoming a Magician is difficult, tedious work and nowhere nearly as exciting as depicted in the novels.

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians follows Quentin and a group of students during the course of their studies at Brakebill’s. Rather than having one book equal one year of Quentin’s life, we’re treated to the highlights of his magical training — from the semester spent in Antartica to the rather odd magical game played among his school and others. The episodic nature of Grossman’s novel ensures that Quentin and the reader never get entirely comfortable with how things are going, including when Quentin and his love interest Alice test out of some of the first year and are moved up to second year early. Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday: Hawkeye, Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon

Hawkeye, Volume 1: My Life as a WeaponMy first thought when I heard Marvel was producing a new series centering on Hawkeye was that it was a marketing thing to cash in on the heroes’ new-found popularity thanks to the cinematic universe.

But then I heard the buzz that there might be more to this than meets the eye. Add in that the new series is written by Matt Fraction, author of the brilliantly subversive Sex Criminals comic books and the series had my interest.

So when my local library got in the first collected edition of the new Hawkeye, I picked it up. Continue reading

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Review: Kept in the Dark by J. Ronald M. York

Kept in the DarkFor eight weeks in the fall of 1955, J. Ronald M. York’s father was held in a Miami jail on charges of sexual abuse of a minor. For those two months, York’s father and mother corresponded with each other with almost daily letters.

Close to sixty years later, York was cleaning out his parent’s garage after their passing and found a box with the letters and some press clippings about his father’s accusations and time in jail. York never knew about the time his father spent in jail and as he began to read the correspondence, he had some questions about that time in his family’s life.

Kept in the Dark is the story of that time in the life of the York family. York offers readers the context of the letters as well as the letters themselves. The book serves as an interesting memoir as well as the power of love, forgiveness, and understanding. It’s a powerful story that will not only make you think but also run the gamut of your emotions. Having this unique look into the heart and mind of York’s parents is what makes Kept in the Dark stand out from other memoirs on the market today.

In short, this is a compelling true story and one that is fully worth reading.

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Review: The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

The River at NightLooking for a different kind of vacation, Wini, Pia, Rachel, and Sandra book a whitewater rafting trip in an isolated region of Maine. Each of the women is seeking to escape an aspect of her life, whether it’s Wini coming to terms with the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her brother or Sandra never quite getting over how quickly Pia jumped into bed with one of her ex-boyfriends. Maybe a long weekend away from the modern world will help things.

Or everything could go horribly, horribly wrong.

What starts out as an adventure vacation soon becomes a fight for survival among the four friends.

Taking a page from Deliverance, Erica Ferencik’s The River at Night delivers a taut, page-turning tale of survival among the four friends (and their tour guide). Stuck out in the middle of no-where the group must overcome nature and each other to find their way home. And it won’t be easy because there are a number of obstacles along the path standing between them and civilization.

If I’m being a bit vague with this review, it’s for a reason. There are some nice surprises and turns of the story that you’re better off discovering for yourself. And like the bend of a river, it’s more fun to be surprised about what’s ahead than have every moment of the trip mapped out. The novel spends a good quarter of its length establishing the characters and the details of their lives before beginning to put them through an emotional and physical ringer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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TV Round-Up: 24 Legacy Noon to 4 p.m.

24legacy

The debut of 24: Legacy brings up a (semi)philosophical question.  Is the real-time format or Jack Bauer the star of the show?

Four episodes into the “worst day” of Eric Carter’s life and the answer still isn’t clear.  

It’s easy to forgive certain things Jack Bauer did or to accept them as simply part of the power of Baur because we’ve spent ten days together.  Seeing Carter act with a similar reckless abandon to what Jack used in order to get the job done and damn the consequences doesn’t necessarily feel earned yet.  In the first four hours, Carter has used a large concrete pipe as a shield to take on terrorists, got himself arrested in order to steal $2 million in cash from a police squad and, as hour four ends, is breaking out of CTU in order to try and get a list of potential terrorist cells back. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down by Jeff Kinney

Double Down (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, #11)Whether it’s believing he’s the subject of a reality TV show like The Truman Show or joining the school band to get invited to a big Halloween bash, Greg Hefley’s trials and tribulations never end. That’s good news to this reader, who despite being too old to be in the targeted demographic for the Wimpy Kid novels continues to enjoy them.

Listening to the audio version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, I chuckled and laughed out loud multiple times as Greg continues to grow up. Whether’s it’s conspiring to win a jar full of candy in his school’s annual balloon launch or using the Internet to convince his parents that he’s actually learning to play the French Horn, Greg’s antics never failed to amuse. And despite not having the benefit of the cartoon illustration in the printed version, I found the novel and its narration creating some hilarious moments in my head as I traveled to and from work.

I also discovered that I’ve missed a couple of releases in the series and any now eager to go back and catch up on what I’ve missed.

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