Tag Archives: review

Winter of the World

I just finished the second part of Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, “Winter of the World.” I have been a big Follett fan since I read “Eye of the Needle” back in the 1970s. His two books on medieval England, “Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End,” are two of my favorites. Follett seems to write best when he tackles an “epic” that encompasses many characters and many years.

The latest book is a follow-up to “Fall of Giants.” In the trilogy, he tells the story of several families, American, English, Russian and German, from pre-World War I onwards. “Winter of the World” starts in the Great Depression and follows the families through World War II – through historical and personal crises. Follett writes a good story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t too difficult to keep track of the multitudinous characters and story-lines. A list of the cast of characters in the front of the book was a help.

You don’t have to read “Fall of Giants” first, but it might help. Both are very good, so by reading it first, you can double your pleasure.

“Hope Springs” fails to spring

Mrs. Poolman and I went to the movies last Saturday afternoon.  We don’t go to many movies at the theater, mostly because it seems most producers tend to target their films for an audience of middle-school age children.

Mrs. P really wanted to see “Hope Springs” with Tommie Lee Jones and Meryl Streep. This film was definitely not targeted at the adolescent set.  As a matter of fact, we were sitting in the front row, and when I got up to look at the audience when the movie ended, I think we were the youngest people there.

“Hope Springs” is the story of a 60-ish Omaha couple whose marriage has fallen into a stale, repetitive routine. They sleep in separate bedrooms and, as it comes out later, have not made love in four years. Streep drags her husband, Jones, kicking and screaming to Maine for a week of intensive marriage therapy.

The plot from there is predictable. I don’t need to lay it out. Much of the dialogue consisted of clichés you see in the marriage advice columns in women’s magazines.

Some of the scenes were fairly stupid when you think about it. In several scenes, the couple tries to reignite the sexual flame in their relationship, but they can’t seem to figure out how to take their clothes off. I appreciate the director saving us from the sight of pot-bellied Tommie Lee in the buff. But seriously! If you are trying to heat things up in front of the fire, don’t you think you would do it without all the clothes in the way? Oh, well. Maybe that’s just me.

Streep and Jones save the movie from being a total bust. They do a good job with their characters.  It was enjoyable watching them play back and forth with each other. But aside from their interplay, there is not a compelling reason to spend the time and money to see the movie in a theater. If I had the chance to do it again, I’d wait until it comes out on DVD. It’s less expensive, and I can read a book during the slow parts.

Teen love, cancer and an unfinished sentence

I stepped way outside my normal pleasure reading comfort zone with “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. However, it was a good trip and one I recommend.

The book is narrated in the first person by Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16 year old girl with thyroid cancer who is being kept alive by a new miracle drug. Her parents think she is depressed and  force her to attend a support group with other young cancer patients. That is where she meets Augustus, a bone cancer patient/amputee in remission. Initially, she doesn’t want to get involved, but (as you can probably guess) the inevitable happens and they become a couple.

Hazel is also obsessed with a fictional book “An Imperial Affliction,” about a girl with cancer. “An Imperial Affliction” ends in mid-sentence with many plots unresolved, because, it is assumed, that Anna either dies or becomes too sick to write. Hazel is determined to track down the reclusive author to find out how the various fictional stories played out.

The story is a little bit of a romance story and a little tragedy. Green does a good job telling  a story about a depressing subject without the story being depressing itself.

I thought it was a little odd for a middle-aged man to be writing a first-person account through the eyes of a 16 year old girl. His writing seemed very believable, but then again, I’m a middle-aged guy so I don’t have any real reference to judge it.

It’s not all giggles and fun, but “The Fault in Our Stars” is an interesting read and well worth the effort.

“The Debt” — A good choice!

Last week we watched a rental DVD that nearly passed under our radar, but I’m glad it didn’t.

“The Debt” is excellent!

I don’t want to give away the entire plot, but here are some broad brush strokes. The plot involves an Israeli Mossad snatch squad that is sent to East Berlin to capture a former concentration camp doctor. The three members of the team returned to Israel to a hero’s welcome. The movie flashes back and forth between the time of the kidnap in 1965 and 1995 when it appears something is not quite right. Two separate sets of actors play the three protagonists 30 years apart.

The story is interesting and engaging. The acting is also excellent. Helen Mirren is the biggest name-actor. She plays Rachel, the female member of the snatch squad in 1995. Jessica Chastain (The Help) plays her younger version.

The movie is definitely for adults, not because of sex and violence, but because of the sophisticated plot. It reminded me of a Fredrick Forsyth or John Le Carre novel set to a movie.

Sophisticated plot with a few surprises, and well acted. I’m really glad I watched it and give it a strong recommendation.