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Jym Cherry "Writing Under The Influence of Rock 'n' Roll!" RSS Feed (Wheaton, IL United States)

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Mildred Pierce
Mildred Pierce
DVD ~ Kate Winslet
Offered by American_Standard
Price: $28.66
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Faithful to the Novel, April 11, 2011
This review is from: Mildred Pierce (DVD)
In Todd Haynes adaptation of "Mildred Pierce," gone is the noir drama of the 1945 movie of the same name with Joan Crawford, and some screenwriting from William Faulkner, and it's replaced with a more faithful to the James M Cain novel, which is a much more realistic portrayal of the times, and captures the bright realism of the novel which is plays more like a Edward Hopper painting than noir.

As in the novel, Mildred Pierce is a `grass widow,' which is depression era parlance for a divorced woman, needs to support her family of two children, Veda and Ray, because her husband Bert can't find a job and is carrying out an affair with a married woman. After Mildred throws Bert out she finds she only has skills enough for restaurant work and making pies. An employment agency sends her out on a job as a maid but pride won't allow her to take the job because she has to wear a uniform and defer to the lady of the house. Recuperating from the humiliation she felt at having to take a job as a maid in a diner she discovers they need a new waitress, and Mildred swallows her pride and takes the job. She quickly learns all the in's and out's of the restaurant business and opens her own, which in short order is successful. Her daughter Veda, who seems to have been born a snob, continually humiliates Mildred and those around her she considers of a lower social status (Why Veda feels that way we're never told, except from glimpses of Mildred behaving the same way such as kicking Bert only because she didn't get a winter fur coat) shows an interest in, and talent for playing the piano and as she grows older becomes an operatic singer. On the eve of opening her first restaurant Mildred meets, and has an affair with Monty Beragon, a faded aristocrat who's fortune's are in decline while Mildred's fortunes incline.

"Mildred Pierce" hangs squarely on Kate Winslet's shoulders as Mildred, not only does she turn in a strong performance she works in some nuances that inform the viewer of some of the texture of the novel.

Guy Pearce as Monty Beragon has another role, while not totally disappearing into the character gives a performance of the character that starts as a carefree playboy, to a rangy dissipate, while his appearance mirrors that change. His demeanor at first quite carefree but as time goes on, the elements that make Monty a charming aristocrat in decline darken and we see those same elements of him in a different light.

Rachael Evan Walker doesn't show up as the older Veda until part 4 and while she shows some very affected mannerisms for the snobbish Veda. Towards the end looks very vampiric as Veda takes everything Mildred has. Unfortunately, other than two very tempestuous scenes, that she makes the most of, Wood is mostly shown singing at various operatic venues. As the younger Veda, Morgan Turner is the snobbish, haughty child who you would like to slap her face off for her affrontery.

Mare Winningham as Ida is totally wasted in a part that could have been played by anyone. The two main male characters Bert (Brian F O'Byrne) and Wally Burgan (James LeGros) aren't given much to do except react to Mildred, especially Bert. But then they're weren't given a lot to do in the Cain novel either.

Since it follows the novel so closely it has some of the failings of the novel. There isn't a lot of action or inner drama. Some of the dialogue feels clunky pulled right from the novel, whether it's because some of the vernacular has become anachronistic since Cain wrote the novel in 1941, or it was clumsily written by Cain. An example, Veda's dialogue some times doesn't sound like a real person would say it, but a character in a book would.

HBO also has a half hour making of "Mildred Pierce" that I'm sure will make it to the DVD when they release it.

All Wood & Doors
All Wood & Doors
Price: $14.98
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Acoustic Tribute to The Doors, April 8, 2011
This review is from: All Wood & Doors (Audio CD)
The Doors have always been an alternative choice for fans. In their heyday in the 60's The Doors were the alternative to "Incense and Peppermint" and "All You Need is Love." Today The Doors are inspiring alternative explorations of their music.

All Wood and Doors is twelve of The Doors best known songs, Break on Through, Love Me Two Times, Take It As It Comes, Strange Days, Light My Fire, Touch Me, The Crystal Ship, Soul Kitchen, People Are Strange, Moonlight Drive, Riders on the Storm, and The End. Generally speaking the songs sound like if Jim Morrison had joined The Eagles. I make the comparison not as a shortcut to thinking, but as a reference point, a starting point for fans to climb on board.

James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt give The Doors songs a rough hewn, rustic feel, and at moments feel as if they've transcended into acoustic psychedelic. The songs included on All Wood and Doors, aren't really covers of The Doors songs they're acoustic interpretations, and explorations that Stanley and Eberhardt allowed themselves to go on. The songs, while sounding familiar, have mysterious and exotic twangings that open a new door into The Doors.

Stanley was inspired by Doors drummer John Densmore to create All Wood and Doors. Densmore had heard Stanley's All Wood and Stones and said that if he was ever going to do a CD on The Doors he'd be glad to play on it. Like any good idea it sparked Stanley to not only start working out Doors songs for acoustic guitars, but he asked a variety of musicians, some unexpected to play on All Wood and Doors. Among them John Densmore, Peter Tork, Timothy B. Schmit, Paul Barrere, and John Batdorf to name a few. As the project moved along Doors guitarist Robby Krieger heard about it and contacted Stanley letting him know he'd be interested in playing if Stanley "wanted him," and Robby joined them in the studio for an afternoon.

I'm not an audiophile so usually sound quality isn't a big issue to me, bit when it's outstanding it's worth mentioning. The sound quality on All Wood and Doors is so clear, and the clarity is so striking it impresses the ear as soon as you start to listen.

Because both John (Densmore) and Robby (Krieger) played on the CD, Stanley has decided to make a contest out of it. Starting on May 24th, 2011 people can e-mail their guesses on which songs John and Robby play on, at All Wood and Doors dot com. The contest will run one full year at the end of which, whomever comes closest to getting all the songs with John and Robby on it will receive an autographed CD with both James Stanley's and Cliff Eberhardt's signature, and perhaps John and Robby's as well.

Mildred Pierce (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
Mildred Pierce (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
by James M. Cain
Edition: Paperback
167 used & new from $0.01

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pies and Sex, April 4, 2011
Most of us know "Mildred Pierce" through the 1945 Joan Crawford movie of the same name, and HBO has produced their version of "Mildred Pierce," but many may not have realized both versions of "Mildred Pierce" are based on the novel by James M. Cain, I know I wasn't, so I took the opportunity to see what Cain's novel was like.

If you are familiar with the plot of the 1945 movie, the story is essentially the same, although the novel is more linear and doesn't have the noir elements of the movie. Mildred Pierce, a `grass widow,' which is depression era parlance for a divorced woman, needs to support her family of two children because her husband can't find a job and is carrying out an affair with a married woman. Mildred finds she only has skills enough for restaurant work and making pies. She quickly learns the restaurant business and opens her own restaurant, which in short order becomes very successful. Her daughter Veda, who seems to have been born a snob, continually humiliates Mildred and those around her she considers of a lower social status, (where or why Veda feels this way we're never told) shows an interest in and talent for playing the piano and as she grows older becomes an operatic singer. On the eve of opening her first restaurant Mildred meets, and has an affair with Monty Beragon, a faded aristocrat who's fortune's are in decline.

Cain who was a contemporary of Ernest Hemingway and like Hemingway worked as a journalist. Cain was obviously influenced by realism and a journalistic approach of who, what, where, and how to novel writing. A style that leads "Mildred Pierce" to a lot of shortcomings. With it's roots in realism "Mildred Pierce" can at times can read like a restaurant procedural. No dramatic tension is built up, there's not much action, and not much internal drama, denouement happens but without a real climax, it feels flat, like a painting without dimension.

There's no character development to speak of. Even though the novel is titled "Mildred Pierce" and centers on about 8 years of her life we learn nothing of Mildred beyond what happens in the story. Veda who is Mildred's major antagonist, literally as well as in the literary sense, the closest we come to being given an explanation of where Veda's snobbish attitude comes from is early in the novel when we're told Mildred considers Veda to have some great talent, something Mildred feels about herself, and something Mildred also has no evidence of, in either Veda or herself.

Cain's lack of character development leaves many of the characters a blank slate leaving the reader to draw conclusions about the characters with little or no backing support. And it makes one wonder if Cain intended them or if the reader is reading too much into the plot.

We can easily see where Veda gets her attitude from, Mildred. It is Mildred who throws Bert out because his business failed and he didn't deliver an anticipated fur coat. It is Mildred who, running out of money for her family, chafes at the prospect of having to take a job where she has to wear a uniform. After Mildred does take a job in a restaurant her pride won't allow her to acknowledge it and she hides her uniform from her children. When Veda does discover the uniform and the truth, she wields it as a complaint against Mildred. Did Cain intended for us to learn about Mildred through Veda? Is Veda supposed to be a mirror of Mildred? When Veda learns she isn't getting a piano for Christmas she rebels against Mildred, an echo of Mildred of throwing Bert out.

There's very little information, background or insight into Bert. We're told that he made a lot of money in real estate, developing the subdivision that they live in, and one of the streets bears the Pierce name. Why over the course of years does he remain available to Mildred? Yes, they have children and Bert does seem to have an enlightened attitude towards remaining in the children's lives, but he also makes himself emotionally available to Mildred. Could it be we don't know that much about Bert simply because Mildred wasn't that interested in Bert aside from what he could give her?

Is Monty sort of another mirror? What Veda could have been, a spoiled snob with a hedonistic attitude but essentially harmless. But that then begs the question what is the difference between Monty and Veda? What made Veda so venomous? Or is Monty just another ineffectual Cain male?

Part of the appeal and longevity of "Mildred Pierce," especially to women, is because of it's inferred proto-feminist elements. All the men seem incapable of finding work or engaging in constructive pursuits. Bert's fortunes have already been mentioned. Monty seems quite happy to take Mildred's money and be a kept man. Even Wally, who is the most employed male character in "Mildred Pierce", is a lawyer of questionable ethics. This reversal of stereotypes from a male writer of Cain's generation is highly unusual. The closest we come to male sexism is the music teacher, Treviso's assertion that Veda is the way she is because she's a coloratura soprano.

In various synopsis' of "Mildred Pierce" she is credited with ambition, creating her pie business and a string of restaurant's through hard work. But is Mildred ambitious? "Mildred Pierce" does depict scenes of Mildred succeeding through hard work and educating herself on the restaurant business. But her first idea to support after kicking Bert out, is to try and become a kept woman. Throughout the book at moments when Mildred needs something that Bert has, and while she may momentarily feel guilty about "picking Bert's bones", she goes ahead and takes what she wants.

Or is "Mildred Pierce" a post-depression/post-war morality tale? Mildred in the end discovers love may have been the answer to all her problems. That the avaricious pursuit of money and using it to try and control the men in her life, lead to where all morality tales have since Greek Tragedy, the downfall of the one trying to avert tragedy.

"Mildred Pierce" is a portrait, in the fine art sense. In something like the "Mona Lisa" or "Whistler's Mother," we see a portrait of a woman and while we may wonder at who the subject of the painting may have been, we still accept it at face value as a work of art. The tone and realism behind "Mildred Pierce" is reminiscent of an Edward Hopper painting.

Although, a lot of the shortcomings of "Mildred Pierce" and Cain's writing bothered me, and that may be because of the separation in time from the era and world in which "Mildred Pierce" was created, or some of the antique language Cain uses, I still found myself interested in the story and kept reading because it involved me to the point that I wanted to see what would happen next.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 19, 2013 11:40 AM PST

The Glass Teat
The Glass Teat
by Harlan Ellison
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
27 used & new from $1.22

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If You Watch TV You Need To Read This Book, March 31, 2011
"The Glass Teat" started life as a column by Harlan Ellison in the L.A. Free Press, about television and the media. It's a peek behind the screen that shows not a haggard showman pulling levers, but the slick manipulations of corporations pushing buttons, our buttons.

"The Glass Teat" looks behind the banality of the stories the shows presented and reveals the subliminal messages embedded in the television shows we watch daily and take for granted. Television is far from being the "vast wasteland" of Newton Minow and Ellison reveals the programs for what they are, a palimpsest of hidden ideas and messages meant to influence our views and outlook on life.

Written between 1968 and 1970, the "hip" vernacular the articles are written in seem dated, and the TV shows discussed in the book are all long gone except for reruns or nostalgia stations. But Ellison opens our eyes to how the messages are laced into the shows story line. Was a show like "The Mod Squad" just an appeal to the booming youth market of the late 60's? Under Ellison's microscope we're shown the subliminal message that being a "hippie" some how puts you on the wrong side of the law and the only way to reform yourself is to be an undercover police informant. But Ellison's approach isn't that of the dry academic, the articles are very entertaining and a few laugh out funny!

Reading "The Glass Teat" will give you a critical eye towards decoding the subliminal messages in your favorite TV shows and once we discover how to discern those messages we can apply them to the shows and even media we watch today. Anyone who watches TV should read "The Glass Teat," you'll never watch TV the same way again, and you'll be a little suspicious of your TV afterwards.

Fair Game [Blu-ray]
Fair Game [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Naomi Watts
Price: $19.99
35 used & new from $2.90

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spies Like Us, March 29, 2011
This review is from: Fair Game [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Valerie Plame could have stepped out of a spy novel or a Hollywood thriller. A beautiful wife and mother, married to a diplomat, she has a day job, and she's a CIA spy. It's a true life version of something like "True Lies."

It is a story we all saw unfold on the news and Sunday morning news shows in 2003. Plame's husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson is asked by Vice President Dick Cheney's office to go to Niger to investigate whether 50 tons of yellow cake uranium was secretly sold to Saddam Hussein. While at the CIA Valerie is involved the controversy of whether aluminum rods sold to Hussein are meant for the enrichment of uranium to make nuclear weapons. Both are discovered to be unfounded, both are answers the White House didn't want to invalidate their effort for a war with Iraq. The Bush administration sent Scooter Libby over to the CIA to try and intimidate the CIA into providing the answers they wanted about WMD. In response to President George Bush's State of the Union address in which he said Niger sold the yellow cake uranium to Iraq, Wilson writes an opinion piece that contradicts the President's assertion and the next thing they knew, Plame was outed as a CIA field agent, and it appeared the leak came from the White House in an attempt to discredit Wilson and Plame.

As Wilson, Sean Penn turns in a performance where he disappears into the role without totally disappearing. Being the consumate actor that he is, Penn doesn't offer an impersonation of Wilson but delivers the sense of Wilson through his mannerisms, and that's what really sells the believability of the character Penn has created. Naomi Watts looks like she could be Valerie Plame's younger sister, and turns in one of the better performances of her career. David Andrews as Scooter Libby conveys all the condescending arrogance, not only of the Bush administration but of power. Adam LeFevre does a good Karl Rove. Sam Shepard does a cameo as Plame's father and provides a nice moment as the voice of reason providing her character with sage advice and perspective. President George W. Bush is shown in news footage.

Director Doug Liman who directed "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" realistically shows the flip side of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" they could be bookends, one that shows a fantastical husband and wife spy team, and one that realistically portrays a couple in that situation. "Fair Game" is a low key antidote to the fantasy. Limon also shows the repercussions of Plame's outing not only in the Wilsons' relationship but in the bigger picture that with Plame's outing, U.S. officials knowingly exposed her contacts and they "disappeared."

In the end "Fair Game" is the story of a family withstanding the most divisive forces brought to bare to divide and conquer Plame and Wilson. In the beginning of "Fair Game" Plame and Wilson have to live their lives as a lie. But in the end it is the truth that saves them.

The only bonus feature is a commentary by Wilson and Plame which is good when the corroborate the factual in the film.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars New Way to Hear The Doors, March 27, 2011
The Doors always meant for their listeners to perceive the world differently through their music, and George Winston's, "Night Divides the Day", is a way for people to perceive The Doors differently through music.

"Night Divides the Day" is twelve Doors songs and one of Jim Morrison's poetry pieces ("Bird of Prey") that George Winston interprets. I was careful not to say covers because these aren't cover songs, a musician covering another artists work and presenting their rendition for their audience. Some of the songs covered you may not instantly recognize as a Doors song but that's not a bad thing, these are Winston's interpretation of The Doors. The Doors are a starting point and he lets the music take him where it may without doing a disservice to the original compositions.

I found most of the songs covered to have their own logic in the composition, as well as their own emotional content and evocative feel. A song like "Love Street" which at times seems like it was almost made to be turned into elevator music, in Winston's hands becomes something much more evocative and has a greater depth of feeling than the original. It sounds almost like it came out of the film score of "Love Story." "Spanish Caravan" which started life as an exercise from Doors guitarist Robby Krieger's flamenco practice book seems especially suited for Winston and his piano. "The Crystal Ship" has much more texture only hinted at in The Doors version, or by any other rock band. "Riders on the Storm" which uses piano heavily in the original, you would think Winston would have a version fairly close to the original, Winston has a totally different take on "Riders."

"Night Divides the Day" works as a two way street for music lovers. For Doors fans it's a new way to hear your old favorites and give them a new consideration. If you're coming from a more classical background and looking for a beachhead in popular or rock music this may be the way to bridge those worlds.

Jim writes The Doors Examiner.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
DVD ~ Michael Nyqvist
Price: $10.96
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low Key Thriller Ends Trilogy, March 20, 2011
"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is the film finish to Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy. While "Hornet's Nest" doesn't have some of the action of it's predecessors "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," and "The Girl Who Played With Fire" the unfolding drama and characters keep you hooked in for the finale.

"Hornet's Nest" picks up with Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) in the hospital after the show down with her father Soviet defector Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), and Frankensteinian half brother Ronald Niedermann (Micke Spreitz). As she convalesces, she is technically under arrest for the attempted murder of her father, and the system and people who have tried to keep her incarcerated make one final attempt to put her away for good claiming she's a paranoid schizophrenic. While all this is going on, Mikael is planning to run an issue of his Millenium magazine that will exonerate Lisbeth by exposing the secret agency within the Swedish government called "The Section" dedicated to keeping Zalachenko and his secrets forever hidden.

Most of "Hornet's Nest" is a legal procedural of Lisbeth's defense in court and her attorney, and Mikael's sister Annika Giannini (Annika Hallin). Due to the nature of the evidence presented and the way it's intercut with the other plot lines the movie keeps a fast pace as the intrigue is unraveled and as "The Section" tries to strike back at Mikael.

"Hornet's Nest" maintains the quality of the acting and the filmmaking at the same level as the previous films. The biggest shortcoming in "Hornet's Nest" is that it doesn't let Lisbeth do what she does best, be a hacker! Some of the coolest scenes in "Dragon Tattoo" where the scenes of Lisbeth fighting back against the system and people that mistreated her. In "Hornet's Nest" she is almost passive in her defense and lets others hack into computers for the information that can save her.

In the scenes with Mikael and Lisbeth there's a whole lot of subtext going on, sexual tension, and what they can't seem to say to each other but is exchanged in meaningful looks really doesn't go anywhere because the characters don't go anywhere with it. Maybe Larsson intended the relationship develop over a period of time and books, but it seems a distraction at the end.

Now it's on Hollywood for the Millenium trilogy to see how they handle the same material.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2011 7:19 AM PDT

The Petting Zoo: A Novel
The Petting Zoo: A Novel
by Jim Carroll
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $8.96
23 used & new from $1.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Poet's Look Back, March 12, 2011
"O great creator of being/grant us one more hour to/perform our art/& perfect our lives" An American Prayer, Jim Morrison

"The Petting Zoo" is a poet's look back, not only at his life, but the art, celebrity, and the ideas that guided him. "The Petting Zoo" was Jim Carroll's first and last novel, he died shortly before putting the finishing edits on the book. For those fans of Carroll's or books with a poetic bent, "The Petting Zoo" is a must read.

Most people are aware of Jim Carroll through "The Basketball Diaries" either the 1978 book or the 1995 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Carroll also fronted The Jim Carroll Band which released one album "Catholic Boy." But Carroll was foremost a poet, and had his poems published and lauded while still in his teens ("Living at the Movies"). I've been a fan of Carroll's work since The Jim Carroll Band, and have read most of his poetry. When I ran across "The Petting Zoo" I was a little hesitant because sometimes poets don't come across well when they move to the novel. The esoteric ideas that work well in poems just don't translate that well to fiction. But I over came that objection and let curiosity and my liking of Carroll's earlier work to sway me, and I bought it, and I was glad I did.

"The Petting Zoo" is an artists look backwards at his life. Carroll's character surrogate is Billy Wolfram a New York painter who at mid-life is suffering a crisis of just about every order from insecurity in his work, to women problems, and even the lack of spirituality in his work. During an opening, Billy is driven into the New York night by these newly manifested demons where he meets a crow that talks to him. Billy is then taken to a mental hospital for observation. Upon his release Billy reassess every area of his life with the occasional guiding insight from the crow, a crow that is older and has a much more complicated relationship with humanity than it at first seems. "The Petting Zoo" isn't "The Basketball Diaries" the middle aged years. If anything, it reminds me more of Patti Smith's "Just Kids," it has the same feel. Maybe that shouldn't be too surprising, New York as a locale is a highlight of both books, as well the artists looking back at their careers, Smith non-fictionally at the early, optimistic years she shared with Robert Mapplethorpe, and Carroll at the whole career of an artist and aspects of a career that Smith in "Just Kids" would have considered their wildest dreams.

Writers have cast themselves or their fictional alter egos as artists before, Hemingway and Vonnegut to name a couple. It seems a good simile for a writer especially a poet to identify with. Poets have to use words thickly like the painter's colors, words thick with meaning, and Carroll doesn't waste any words, each seems carefully chosen. I usually read fast but I found myself slowing down to enjoy the lyricism of Carroll's writing, enjoying the sensation of Carroll's words soaking in like a drug. There's almost a tactile feel to Carroll's imagery. He remembers sensations and translates that sense memory very ably to the reader. I rarely highlight passages in books or make annotations, but I found myself doing both throughout the book, finding passages either strikingly insightful or poetic. Such as the story of why a baby cries upon being born is mesmerizing and a beautiful perspective. This is a book I didn't want to finish, not because it was bad but because I wanted to savor, to maximize the ecstatic state the writing put me in.

I quoted Jim Morrison at the top of this review because that is how Jim Carroll lived his life, as an artist. He reportedly died at his desk writing until the end trying to get that "one more hour" to perform his art. You can look at "The Petting Zoo" as an attempt to perfect his life. I remember from his poems he wrote of wanting to be "pure" and the thought is the same as Morrison's to "perfect our lives" with "The Petting Zoo" being an attempt to find that purity or perfection, as if it were a literary ablution.

I wonder if Carroll was aware of his imminent mortality, a lot of "The Petting Zoo" seems valedictory. If anyone knows Carroll's earlier work they know he embraced and struggled with his Catholic upbringing, especially in light of the life he led. A lot of "The Petting Zoo" questions whether we're blind to our own problems that outsiders can easily see, faith and religion is one of the possible solutions he considered and continued to struggle with, the remnants of that early "Catholic Boy" faith remained with him longer than most and until the end.

I know a lot of people won't "get" this book, there are a few shortcomings like towards the end some of the dialogue all of the sudden comes at you in big chunks, maybe because Carroll died before he had a chance to polish it. There are discussions of aesthetics, I know that usually doesn't inspire the fiction reader towards a book but Carroll crafted this novel so well, the fluidity and lyricism of the writing is compelling. I hope people give this book a try. We've all played the game where we're asked if we had only one book, one movie, one anything on a deserted island what would that be? I think "The Petting Zoo" would be the book I choose.

God Complex
God Complex
by Trevor Hallam
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.29
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars God Complex, Genre Defying, March 8, 2011
This review is from: God Complex (Paperback)
In the last few years there's been an explosion of new horror novels and stories coming out. And like any explosion it seeks to expand its boundaries. So it is with the Horror genre, no longer content with H.P. Lovercraft's creatures that pull themselves out of the ground, or vampires whether sexy or not, horror has expanded itself to examine issues formerly relegated to other literary genres. Religion is being examined at all quarters of our lives and in literature, and that is true in horror. Horror can be a good genre to look at our beliefs systems in our lives and the excesses it can cause, when faith crosses the line to blind allegiance, and then over that line into a perverted form.

"God Complex" finds a married couple, Rachael and Darren in despair. Darren's younger brother killed himself, but his body was found in a roadside ditch obviously moved there, but by whom and why? Darren starts seeing a doppelganger of himself and dreaming of his brothers suicide, the weird thing is Darren's real life is in shades of black and white while his dreaming life is in color. Unknown to Darren his wife, Rachael is in thrall to a religious demagogue Luthor who is acting behind the scenes to give a direction to Darren's life, a direction that may not be in Darren's best interests. Also hounding Darren is Colson, a former acolyte of Luthors who believes he's the returned Jesus whose job he believes is to spread chaos to herald his return.

"God Complex" is a rough journey, we're taken into cult religions, Colson is good at spreading chaos, he commits some very graphic murders some on a whim, dead bodies almost literally pile up around Colson and Darren. Ghosts and near ghouls abound in Darren's world which overlaps from the dream to waking state. We're taken to a borderland of pedophilia. At times some of it may seem excessive but I think that's author Trevor Hallam's point, he's taking ideas and beliefs to the their farthest point to see if they break or survive the annealing process of his prose.

I don't know if Hallam would agree with me that "God Complex" is a horror novel maybe the genre defines it, or it could defy the limits of genre. Writers have been feeling free to combine genres and mix and match them, and "God Complex" feels like it may fall into that category or in-between genres.

Is the journey worth it? Despite a few weak points that are really minor discrepancies in the overall execution of "God Complex" I found myself wanting to continue reading to see how it all resolved itself, can Darren rid himself of the ghosts of his past? Is Rachael the deceived or the deceiver? Are the religious zealots taking religion too literally or are they on to something? Are just some of the questions Trevor Hallam brings up in "God Complex" and the plot asks the reader to answer.

No Title Available

126 of 140 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Was it Your Choice to Read This Review or Your Destiny?, March 5, 2011
There's a scene in "Citizen Kane" where one of the characters mentions seeing a beautiful girl on a trolley and he regrets not sitting next to her, and not one day goes by where he doesn't think of that girl. We all have experiences and memories like that, we wonder what our lives would have been like if we did sit next to that girl, or if we did talk to her, or get her number (undoubtedly, we lay more importance on these experiences than they may deserve. They're giant `what if' moments in our lives, the path not taken). But what if that moment of decision is the intrusion of destiny or fate? And we we're supposed to be with that person? That is the theme of "The Adjustment Bureau."

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a fast rising Congressman with a great political future. As he is set to win his race for the Senate, a revelation comes out that puts his whole political future in question. He goes into a men's room to rehearse his concession speech and meets Elise (Emily Blunt) and they feel that instant attraction of `knowing' they should be together. But circumstances pull them apart, or do they? The next day David catches an adjustment team, headed by Richardson (John Slattery) looking like he kept the wardrobe from "Mad Men." The only reason Norris witnesses this is because the adjuster assigned to him, Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie), was literally asleep on the job. Richardson convinces David that it's for the best that he forget he ever saw them and that he should forget ever meeting Elise or else his destiny won't be fulfilled. Of course David can't stop thinking of Elise and sets out to find her, and the right to choose the course of his life.

"The Adjustment Bureau" is based on a Philip K. Dick short story. For the past thirty years or so Hollywood has been availing themselves of the topsy-turvy worlds Dick created. Some of the more successful of those being "Blade Runner," "Total Recall," and "A Scanner Darkly." Where does "The Adjustment Bureau" fit in? Right in the middle with "Paycheck" Ben Affleck's Philip K. Dick based movie. Philip K. Dick's novels and short stories can really turn your head around. Dick turned reality on its head in his stories and usually turned that reality in on itself too. "The Adjustment Bureau" takes on the challenge of free will versus fate, and while it plays with it a bit it doesn't turn your head around, and leaves it a pretty simple discussion.

The acting in "The Adjustment Bureau" is fine. There are no emotional pyrotechnics or great ranges explored but the characters are believable, and the chemistry between Damon and Blunt is palpable. When they kiss at their first meeting you feel the intimacy and impulsiveness of the moment.

"The Adjustment Bureau" is a nice light movie to provoke a little post movie discussion or a nice adventure and peek behind reality's curtain. It just might be your destiny to see this movie if you make the choice to.
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