Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Book and a Couple of Movies

Burn This
by Helen McCloy
1980 Nero Award
2 stars - just didn't grab me

Helen McCloy, an author I had not read before, was certainly prolific. I selected this volume from the Nero Award list for literary mysteries.

I'd classify it as a cozy mystery with warm, fuzzy characters and limited blood and gore.

Harriet Sutton, author, moves to Boston, buys a Beacon Hill fixer upper, fixes it up, rents the apartments out to other writers, goes about her life, until..... murder! Yup, dude is found right on her living room sofa with his throat torn out. Uh oh.

I can't fault the writing or the characters and I think that many (OK, both) of my followers might enjoy the book, but it just never really gripped me and had it been more than a scant 182 pages, I might not have finished it.

There is, however, a dog in the story. Ajax, the overly trained attack German Shepherd. Maybe I just finished to see what happened to him. I felt sorry for the poor chap, trained into total submission so that he wouldn't even eat a meatball without permission.

Let's move on to a couple of excellent, five star movies, shall we?

Hope Springs
starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones
5 stars - outstanding

I'm not sure that being middle aged in a marriage that has spanned more than one decade is a prerequisite for enjoying this movie, but it sure helps.

Where to begin? Short plot summary:

After thirty years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counseling session to work on their relationship.

Blech. If not for Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones I would have taken a pass. But I really enjoy both of them so I figured, why not? 

This is no chick flick. The pain and longing attendant with complacency in a relationship are so real that my husband and I were both squirming in our seats. I found plenty to identify with in both characters. I really appreciated how totally and unashamedly middle-aged the actors looked. None of the eternal youth taught face and six pack abs crab. Real people with a little paunch and questionable fashion sense. 

The marriage started out fine and they remain devoted to each other, but life events have pushed each away from the most important person in his or her life. Plenty to think about here. 

Warning! After the movie finishes and the credits run there is a segment that is quite disarming. In fact when it concluded, my husband and I exclaimed almost simultaneously "phew, glad that's over, I was going to cry if it went on any longer." Trust me, we are *not* the cry during movies types. 

In Bruges
starring Colin Farrell, Brenden Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes
5 stars - will watch again

Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hit man Ray and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place in the world Ray wants to be.

If you like dark "dramedies" like Fargo, this one is for you. Foul language, blood, but a very human story with characters one cares about. Colin Farrell is excellent as a conflicted man who is haunted by the act he has committed. His partner, Brenden Gleeson, gives us a believable portrait of a person who has reached the age where he is reconsidering his values and priorities. Ralph Fiennes is a total psycho.

The pacing is gentle and compelling, the scenery beautiful. Excellent dialog with supporting characters who come and go in curious ways to move things along.

Side note. Jordan Prentice really shows off his talent in a supporting role. Having just seen him in Game of Thrones on HBO, I was keen to see how stretchy his acting abilities are. Very stretchy. I look forward to seeing him in more movies.


  1. The movies have been added to the list! Will pass on the book...I just hope the german shepherd didn't do it!!

    I've recently gotten hooked on Tana French, an Irish author who writes murder mysteries. The writing is good, the characters human and flawed and the settings are wonderfully described in a way that the reader feels like they've been in the room. Quite compelling. I'm on the fourth one.

  2. I saw In Bruges, and liked it. Hope Springs is on my "to See" list, as well, and maybe I'll look into your book, if only to see Ajax (who sounds a little like Bear, the dog they brought into Person of Interest on TV this fall. He's my favorite character).

  3. Definitely want to see the movies. I'm a big fan of both Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Ralph Fiennes has made quite a career of playing total psychos - almost as if being so handsome is somehow an embarrassment to him. Not familiar with Helen McCloy, but I like cozies. Trust no GSD's were harmed in the writing of the book, although I infer Ajax was being set up in this book.

  4. We've seen both movies. Loved In Bruges, Hope Springs was good, but as you say, squirmable (is there such a word??). Have you seen any of Boardwalk Empire? Its really good. One more to watch is Perfect Sense with Ewan McGregor. It's a love story with a twist. There is a pandemic which robs the world's population of sensory perceptions. Part romance part apolcalyptic thriller.
    No worries, and love, Carol

  5. "In Bruges" is in our queue, but I would have to spend too much time explaining to my wife that "Hope Springs" is not the much-detested "Hope Floats" to enqueue that one!