Saturday, March 23, 2019

My Thoughts On. . .

Illusion (Dark Musicals Book 5)

It’s been a while since I read any of Laura DeLuca’s work, the last time being the final book of the original “Dark Musicals” series.

The first Dark Musicals are a clever play on genres. Think of a murder-mystery-whodunnit based around the theme of well known theatrical productions; in particular, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, “Jekyll and Hyde”, and “A Christmas Carol”.
What makes them more appealing is that each story follows the lives of two high school sweethearts, Rebecca and Justyn as they meet, fall in love, and grow into accomplished performers in their own right. Of course, being a murder-mystery series, their life’s course is rather eventful – and entertaining – to say the least, and helps you involve yourself with the characters from the outset.
(I would recommend you try those earlier stories before delving into “Illusions”, as it will allow you to appreciate what this couple have been through together, and how they’ve ended up where they are.)

Now to the current book.

Rebecca and Justyn are married. Not only are they Broadway stars in their own right, but their eight-year old son, Erik, is a musical savant with prodigious talent. When they are invited to perform their new show, “Phantom Returns”, in Australia, Erik joins them, using the occasion to make his professional debut.
Alas, the rose-tinted tides of fate begin to stir, throwing up warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. For one, Erik suffers a nightmare – something far more powerful and profound than a simple bad dream. In it, he is snatched away from his mother and father. A premonition perhaps?
Lo and behold, the family arrives in Australia to find a young boy has gone missing. What’s more, the bodies of women who have been strangled to death are turning up in one place after another. Putting these events down to unhappy coincidence, the Hope-Patko family forge ahead, determined that the show must go on.
And it does, in the face of increasing danger that I won’t reveal in detail here. After all, you need to read the story yourselves. Suffice to say, you’ll be glad you did, for DeLuca skillfully entwines the lives of Broadway’s favorite couple into the exploits of the characters they play: betrayal and misunderstanding; sabotage and threats; revelations and tragedy. It’s all there, and more, in an adventure that also weaves YOU into the plot and holds you there until the final curtain falls.

An entertaining and enjoyable romp across the boards. Don’t miss it.

I first saw Unbreakable, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, over ten years ago and thought I’d treat myself again. The story is rather compelling, and revolves around the lives of two men: David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a down-on-his-luck married man from Philadelphia who, returning from a job interview in New York, becomes the sole survivor of a devastating train crash; and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a rather obsessive, comic book oriented individual suffering from a condition that makes his bones as fragile as glass, who contacts David and offers him a rather wacky explanation as to why it is he survived.
The thing is, as far out as Elijah’s theories are, they might just be right!
What we get is a superbly presented buildup, where a modest, self-depreciating guy comes to a gradual realization that – yes – he is different from other people. So different, that what he can do, what he can achieve, are feats well beyond what might be thought of as “normal”.
And the great thing about this M. Night Shyamalan film is, we’re not inundated by your usual crop of flashy, overly confident super heroes wearing figure-hugging suits. Oh no, our guy hides his identity by slipping on a plain green poncho.
However, I jump the gun a little, for the story arc is superbly crafted, tugging you along on the slow slide toward an inevitable revelation. Then, just when you think you can relax, you get an extra twist regarding a sickening link between the disaster that started it all and Elijah himself.
An excellent film that – despite its subject matter – is hauntingly believable. Treat yourself and see it as soon as you can (and definitely before “Split” and “Glass”)

Friday, March 8, 2019

This Week's Reviews Of. . .

Gilded Cage

In Gilded Cage, we are introduced to two British families living in an alternate timeline where society has become divided between those in the minority, who are magically skilled, and the vast majority who aren’t.

The thing is, the ‘Skilled’ retain all the rights and privileges and rule the country with an iron fist. The powerless serve them, and are not granted full citizenship until they complete ten years enforced labor in one of the many ‘slavetowns’ dotted throughout the country . . . IF they survive ten years, that is, for the rules are there to be bent, broken, and twisted to serve the ruling elite as they see fit.

In place for centuries, the ‘system’ is corrupt, inhumane, and unfair. It has to end.
The people want change. The Skilled, however, have every intention of keeping things the way they are.

Or do they?

As pressure grows in a boiling cauldron of dissatisfaction and dissent, it’s obvious something’s got to give. Secrets are uncovered. Schemes are plotted. Promises made and broken. Yes, hope and betrayal go hand in hand. You need to pick a side. But the consequences of choosing the wrong one could be disastrous.
“Gilded Cage” – a superbly written tale of magical misadventure that will have you rooting for the underdogs from the outset.

The Equalizer 2

Hailing as I do from the UK, I grew up with Edward Woodward’s portrayal of the original Equalizer. A guy who evens the score for those in desperate need of help, but who don’t have the resources or skills to manage themselves.

When the newer version came out, starring Denzel Washington, I was a little apprehensive of what we were going to get. No need to worry there, though! I was pleasantly surprised, and enjoyed his portrayal of Robert McCall in a more up to date setting.

Now to the sequel.

 I desperately wanted to enjoy it. I really did. However, I found my enjoyment spoilt by the fact that things got a little ridiculous. It misses the “believability” factor the first film captured so well. Yes, we’re talking about a work of fiction here. The portrayal of primitive justice meted out to much deserving bad guys. But the idea of a group of highly trained mercenaries running around a town – abandoned temporarily – during a storm, who kill anyone in their way to get at McCall . . . I don’t know. It just stretched it little too far to retain the credibility that the first film managed to achieve.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s great fun. Denzel delivers a robust performance that starts pulling you in the moment the action starts, But . . . well, you’d have to watch it for yourself to see what I mean. The film lets him down.