The Hypnotist (2009) – Lars Kepler

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It’s been a while since I talked about something I’ve read, and i really want to start making that a regular habit, no matter what I read, and I read a lot!

This novel, The Hypnotist, did something a book hasn’t done for me in a long time, filled me with dread and I couldn’t stop reading.

To be clear though, I wasn’t hooked from the off. I was reading it on my Kindle and was ok with it, but not quite hooked, but right around the 30% mark, I realized I was totally wrapped up in the stories and characters and simply had to know what was going to happen next.

This is a brilliantly crafted and tense crime thriller, set in Sweden, and written by the husband and wife writing team of Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Ahndoril under the collaborative pen name Lars Kepler.

Homicide Detective Joona Linna is called in when a man`s body is found in one location, brutally murdered, while his family at home have been slaughtered. The only possible clue to track down a missing daughter is a sole survivor, the son, covered in lacerations and apparently suffering from shock, he is unable to provide any clues to aid in the case.

 

When doctor Erik Maria Bark is called in to help, he is ordered, breaking a decade old promise, to hypnotize the boy to hopefully find a clue as to where the missing girl is, and perhaps who committed this crime…

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The answers are terrifying, and simply a leaping off point for the rest of the novel, which once I was into it, was simply and completely engrossing. Everything becomes personal very quick, when Erik`s own son is kidnapped, and the hunt for the vicious and frightening murderer continues.

Joona, despite getting top billing as there is a trilogy of novels so far featuring the character, is not the main character of the book, Erik, the hypnotist, is very much center stage, foibles, flaws family problems and all.

The authors have crafted a novel that is frightening, incredibly dark, and completely (once you get to the real hook) enthralling. The pacing, the characters, the revelations, the red herrings, all of them combine to form a compulsive read that takes you, the reader, and the characters to some dark places in the human psyche and soul, and I am eager to find time to read the other two novels that make up the series so far.

With the subject matter that comes up in these books, they aren`t going to be for everyone, if however, you were a fan of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, this one may in fact be the next book you`ll want to read.

I was completely blown away by how much I enjoyed this book, and the characters at work within its pages.

I`m looking forward to sharing my other reads with you as I finish them…

Have you read this one? Will you be seeing the movies when they come out? What’s your favorite kind of thriller to read?

The Hypnotist, and its companion books in the series The Nightmare, and The Fire Witness are all available now!!

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Tim’s Tops of 2011

I’m gonna take a page from my creative partner, Sue, and give a run down of my favorite films of the year; though it appears that we do have a lot of the same films on our list.

1) The Muppets – This movie is sheer joy, and by far the best time at the theater I had all year. Sure you can blame that on nostalgia if you like, but I also believe it was a truly well written and well made film. Seeing my old friends on the big screen again made me laugh and smile. Call backs to the series made me teary-eyed and reminded me of how much fun these characters are. And that’s why we let them into our hearts in the first place.

 

2) The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard – This film is linked in my mind eternally with our site. Jeremy Lalonde the film’s director was kind enough to give us our first interview, and helped us launch our podcast format, and putt us in touch with some wonderful people. Thank you for that! But beyond that, this wonderful Canadian film is witty, fun, and has oh, so much heart. Even now, thinking about my favorite scenes makes me smile, and gives me shivers when I think about the performances. The longing for a DVD of this film may soon be fulfilled, and then everyone can share in it!

 

3) War Horse – A beautiful film made by one of my favorite directors. Spielberg works with an adaptation of the cherished children’s novel and brings to life the story of a horse named Joey who goes to war, and sees the good and the bad on both sides. Spielberg’s magic is on full display here and the film is touched with heart-touching and heart-breaking moments. Everything you’ve come to expect from a Spielberg film.

 

 

4) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – As stated yesterday in my review, I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed this film, being such a fan of the original novel and film. But Fincher showed a deft hand and delivered a tightly wrapped thriller that was incredibly faithful to the book, and Craig is likable as Blomkvist and Mara’s turn as Lisbeth, while not a carbon copy of Noomi Rapace’s original effort is fairly close and is exactly what you think Lisbeth would behave and act like. Though as a personal side note, I preferred Rapace’s dragon tattoo on her back than the shoulder one given to Mara.

 

5) The Adventures of Tintin – Enjoyable Spielberg fun for the whole family! This film was an enjoyable romp that gave Spielberg his first animated film, as well as his first 3D film. Based on the beloved French comic this film could launch a whole new tent pole series, as long as the big players remain involved, I’m on board. And where else can you see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as identical police officers? Brilliant!

 

 

6) Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part II – I just finished rewatching the entire series yesterday, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a wonderful cap to the entire series. In fact this time through it affected me even more emotionally that it had the first time through. It’s easy to brush these off as simple family movies, but from the beginning the books and the films have spoken to the important themes of friendship, loyalty, belief in oneself, and doing what is right. And of course, this film allows for Alan Rickman’s finest performance as Severus Snape, proving what an amazing actor he is.

 

7) Super 8 – The Goonies and Stand By Me meets E.T. and even that comparison does the film a disservice. Lovingly made by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, the film recalls moments from many Spielberg films, and took us back to a time when you didn’t have to lock your doors at night, and neighbors looked out for one another. Filled with a nostalgia that made me recall my own youth, and performances from children who seem able to act beyond their years, Super 8 was, for me, a magical film experience.

 

8) Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – I’ve been a huge fan of this series since its launch, and was very eager to see Brad Bird’s first live action film. I was delighted that it paid off as much as it did! What have you got next for me Brad? This is a highly enjoyable spy romp that embraces everything about the original series, updating it for today, and had some truly fantastic sequences. It also saw my favorite character, Simon Pegg’s Benji as a full field agent, hopefully to reappear in the potential sequels with Jeremy Renner.

 

9) Hugo – Martin Scorsese made a truly beautiful film about the love of movies and their origins. Wrapping it in a mystery for a young boy to solve, the film brought to life the early days of cinema. It showed us once again that if a movie is done right, it can transcend popcorn entertainment and revitalize the love of an art form that far too often gets shunt aside in the desire to make a fast buck.

 

 

10) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – An old school cold war thriller, the film is a slow burn that constantly ratchets up the tension as George Smiley attempts to flush out a Russian mole inside MI6. The film had a stellar cast rounded out by the always amazing Gary Oldman, a chameleon of an actor who buries himself in each and every role he takes on. It also didn’t play the viewer for a fool or pander to the audience. A smart spy thriller about an age seemingly long gone.

 

 

So there you have it, my top ten films of the year, I would be remiss however if I didn’t give a few honorable mentions to other films I loved this year…

-Hanna, young actress Saoirse Ronan looks to have a long and amazing career ahead of her.

-Paul, featuring the ever awesome Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two geeks on a cross-country road-trip who have a close encounter. I love these two guys working together, they are always a sheer delight, and I would love to go for a pint with the two of them anytime!

-Source Code, Duncan Jones’ follow-up to Moon, Code was a fun temporal tale featuring Jake Gyllenhaal.

-Thor & Captain America, ramping us up for next year’s Avengers these two Marvel adaptations expanded the growing comic book universe and were good popcorn entertainment.

and finally the surprising X-men: First Class, another comic book film that introduces us to Xavier and Magneto before they turned against each other, both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are top form in this movie and of course there’s January Jones, as Stan Lee might say… ‘Nuff Said

Sue’s Top Flick Picks of 2011

Now that 2011 is done and gone, and 2012 is finally upon us, I thought I’d take a bit of time to go through the plethora of flicks I saw in theatres throughout the course of the year.  I dug out as many ticket stubs as I could find – yes, I keep them…I am a nerd – and made little piles based solely on my enjoyment/experience of them.  I actually think I saw many more films than I can find the stubs for, but I can’t really remember anything specific, so we’ll just go with these!  I have a top four, and then several ties for what would be number five.  I just can’t choose between them, so I’ll mention them all.  ;)

1.  The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard

This one edged  my number two choice because I saw it twice in the theatre (and I believe it was the only film I did that with this year), and because it affected me so personally, and on so many levels.  The original motivations for seeing it was to support Lost Girl cast members, Kris Holden-Reid and Zoie Palmer, and to throw a bit of support toward Canadian indie filmmakers while we were at it.  Personally, I thought it looked funny, but I didn’t expect to frakking LOVE it as much as I did.  The whole experience – from getting the tickets in advance to watching the opening credits through the Q&A after – every single moment was a joy.  After that, it wouldn’t go away; wouldn’t leave me alone.  The freaking film got inside me and stirred me up, and only grew in strength once Mind Reels got to meet and podcast with director Jeremy Lalonde, producer Anthony Grani, and star Mary Krohnert – with even more to come!  We went back for a second viewing and I found I was even more affected by it the second time around.  Something shifted inside of me because of this movie, and though I can’t articulate exactly what it was, I can’t help but feel a little bit grateful.  I personally can’t wait for the DVD release, just so I can have it with me always.

2.  The Muppets

This only narrowly missed being my number one film of the year, and really only because it didn’t so much change me as it did sustain me.  I haven’t laughed that much in a movie – hell, I haven’t been that HAPPY – in a very long time.  I laughed, I got teary-eyed, I clapped and cheered, I missed my friends, I celebrated their return…everything.  I loved everything about this movie.  It turned me into a kid again, and for a little while, everything was a-okay.  Nothing in the world mattered but those fuzzy critters being back on the screen in front of me, doing what they were created to do.  That’s another one I can’t wait to have as part of my collection.  It just fills me up with smiles.  :)

3.  Young Adult

Here’s a film I deliberately knew as little about as possible going in, but it turned out to be as different from even my limited expectations as possible.  It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody combination, so I certainly knew it would be funny.  But I really didn’t expect Charlize Theron to be as funny as she was, and for my beloved Patton Oswalt to play more of the straight man.  Not that I don’t think that he’s a straight man…there’s…nothing wrong with that.  I just meant I thought he’d be more like the comic relief, or something.  Anyway.  I love how unconventional this movie was, and how much it gave me to think about, and – in a surprising twist – how completely awkward and uncomfortable it made me feel.  I left the theatre with the sense that this latest creation from one of my favourite teams was not yet done with me, and I look forward to our next encounter.

4.  You’re Next

I saw this twisted little home invasion treat as my first Midnight Madness screening of the Toronto International Film Festival.  I don’t know whether it was because it was my first of the year, or because there were so many friends in the revved up audience, or because the film itself managed to balance my internal terror of strangers hiding in my house with some absolute hilarity, but the combination had something right going for it, because that was more fun than should be allowed at a midnight screening.  There were creepy animal masks dotting the audience (to mimic the ones used in the film), there were signs and banners out on the street leading to the theatre, and a packed house ready for a good time.  And You’re Next did not disappoint.  An obnoxious family holds a long-overdue reunion in a massive house location at the corner of No and Where, and before you know it, people are dropping dead all over the place.  With one of the most brilliant kill scenes I’ve ever witnessed, a tale populated with absolutely absurd characters and completely unexpected moments of creative carnage, this film felt like a thrillride and then some.  Time will tell how much of that should be chalked up to a magic combination of one-time-only pieces, versus a truly twisted and fun flick, but for right now, my memory votes it in as one of my faves of the year.

And now for the several honourable mentions…movies I enjoyed that all have that something extra I look for whenever I go into a film:

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo:  I had no idea what to expect from this one, never having read the books nor seen the Swedish originals.  So while there were several things that confused me, or made parts of it difficult to follow plot-wise, for the most part, I was engaged and enjoyed this little investigated tale.  The government should either wish they had a Lisabeth Salander finding information for them…or be glad she doesn’t exist to foil their plans at every turn.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2:  I have a Kimie and and Ingrid to thank for really bringing the boy wizard into my world, and this final chapter did not disappoint.  It was a fitting finale to an awesome series.  I came at everything sort of backwards.  I’d seen some of the movies – with some gaps – before I’d read a page of any of the books.  But by the time DH Pt 1 hit the big screen, I’d read them all, and rewatched the movies all in order, so I felt like I at least managed to go into the final film on roughly thew same page as everyone else.  I just…didn’t start out that way.  ;)

X-Men First Class was better than expected, though I wasn’t a fan of the Wolverine cameo, because I felt it took me out of the movie enough that I found it difficult to get back in.  I love James McAvoy, though.  To me, he can do no wrong!

Super 8 was another film I didn’t know what to expect going in, but there was some initial hype that may have ruined some of it for me.  I didn’t have the same nostalgic love for it that most people had.  I actually wondered when I’d gotten so old as to worry about the kids running through a train wreck/explosion instead of thinking about how awesome it looked.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped being able to see kids in danger without being nervous for them instead of excited by their adventures.  BUT, that being said, I was truly impressed by each and every performance turned in by that stellar young cast…they were truly beautiful to watch, and I enjoyed that part of it very much.  I just prefered the moments when they weren’t in mortal danger, is all!

So that’s it…my top 5-8 films of 2011.  From what I remember.  And based on my personal enjoyment and experience of them.  I know there are several that I am looking forward to in 2012, but at the moment, all I can see is Dead Before Dawn 3D and The Hunger Games.  I am so unbelieveably looking forward to both of those that I honestly can’t even see past them to any other movies.  I’ll check back later once I’ve seen each of those in the theatre at least a handful of times!!!

Thank you, 2011 – and Happy New Year!!!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The last film I saw of 2011, and the first movie I’m reviewing of 2012 is the American remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

As stated in my rave about The Snowman, I flew through all three books in the trilogy in 2010, and bought the blu-rays for the Swedish sight unseen, and greatly enjoyed them.

So when I heard that there was a North American remake in the offing, I got a little upset…

Are North Americans as movie-goers so biased against foreign films, and reading sub-titles that this was a necessary thing?

Of course the answer is yes, which is too bad, cause there really are some wonderful foreign films out there, wanna-be cinephiles should not confine themselves to the borders of their country or continent.

Hearing that David Fincher (Se7en) was attached to the project and had tapped Daniel Craig to play reporter Mikael Blomkvist partially assuaged my fears.

So it was with a little hopeful and nervous excitement that I finally settled in to watch this film…

And learn that I was genuinely surprised with how much I enjoyed it.

Craig plays a recently libeled journalist who is hired by Henrik Vanger (after unknowingly being vetted by Lisbeth Salander(Ronney Mara)) to solve what is basically a locked-room mystery on an island, the murder of a young woman in 1966 that had never been solved.

Through his investigation, on which he is eventually joined by Lisbeth, Mikael finds the work of a serial killer stretching back years, across all of Sweden and a family with some very dark secrets.

I was glad that they didn’t update and change the locations of the film to America, in fact, the film is as close an adaptation of the book as the original film, as well as any adaptation of a book I’ve seen.

Snow swept grounds make the dark secrets hidden underneath that much more frightening.

I also like the fact that Fincher takes his time in telling the story, they could have jumped right into the mystery, and ignored the situations that got Blomkvist actually involved in it.

This also applies to the end of the film as well, once the case is resolved, there’s still resolutions (and set-ups for the potential sequels) for both Mikael and Lisbeth.

Much like in the fist novel, and original film, Lisbeth’s past, which is important for the rest of the series is hinted at just enough to raise questions, and also serve as nice nods to those of us who have read the books.

There isn’t anything that detracted from my experience of this film and I would be hard-pressed to find something I didn’t like about it.

Yes, some of the subject matter is dark, and downright brutal, but it’s done so well.

And I was very glad to see Lisbeth Salander on the big screen. I think she’s a fantastic hero, or perhaps anti-hero. She may not work and play well with others, but she has a very clear-cut definition of right and wrong, whether it’s illegal or not. She doesn’t give her trust willingly, and if you ever wrong her, she will make sure you pay.

I do hope they have the leads signed into the sequels, as now that I have seen the unnecessary remake, I would like to see what they do with the rest of the series, especially as we begin to learn more about Lisbeth, and why she is a ward of the state at the age of 23.

While probably not for everyone, considering the subject matter, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a perfect example of the modern mystery/thriller.

Enjoy!

The Snowman – Jo Nesbø


Last year I fell in love with Stieg Larsson’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and it’s two sequels. So much so that I bought all three of the original Swedish films when they were released, and enjoyed them immensely.
Larsson died shortly after delivery of the third book, which meant no more in the series. Sigh.
Now when it comes to mystery/thrillers they are few and far between on my book shelf, I like Sir Arthur, of course, and enjoy Ian Rankin’s work, as well as picking up he occasional Patterson, and as my next book post will show you, an affection for fictional author Richard Castle. So when an interest takes hold I tend to follow it through.
A friend at work suggested I read this book, and the cover proclaimed the author as the next Stieg Larsson I was sold.
And what a ride!
Someone is abducting and murdering wives and mothers, and a taunting letter is delivers to Inspector Harry Hole (not the best name I’ll grant you), and snowmen are left in the abducteds’ yard as a sign.
This book is engaging and captivating, giving you just enough facts mixed with suspicion to keep you guessing at who the serial killer is.
The writing still is crisp and sharp, keeping you in edge as Harry draws closer to the killer, even suspecting those around him.
The story is layered, the characters are intriguing, and the environment is chilly. The red herrings you expect to find in a mystery are here of course, but even those pay off. There is nothing left to chance or unexplained, and everything has its reason in the book, even if it’s just to raise your suspicions.
And the climax of the book had me turning pages as quickly as I could to find out what happens next!
And happily there will be a next as there are a whole series of novels featuring Inspector Hole.
I’ll be tracking them down soon, because The Snowman was a very enjoyable jaunt into mystery/thriller territory.
If you’re looking for something new to read and you like a good detective tale, this could be the one for you.
Happy reading!

Mission: Impossible 4 – Ghost Protocol (The IMAX Experience)

Brad Bird’s first live action film is a success. The Pixar director who was behind The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, and Warner’s The Iron Giant, brought his storytelling and action style to the big screen with the latest in the Mission: Impossible franchise.

Tom Cruise returns as IMF agent Ethan Hunt in what may be the best entry in the series to date. Joining him again is Simon Pegg as his techi Benji, also recruited this time around to join him on his mission is Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner.

I was happily surprised to see Michael Nyqvist in the credits as well, I loved his performance in the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and it’s sequels, and this time he’s the baddie. A Nuclear Endgame Theorist who is pushing the world to nuclear armageddon, unless Hunt and his team can stop him.

Bird keeps the action and the story moving, eschewing anything that doesn’t move the story forward, and the film still clocks in at just over two hours which flies along.

He is also the first director, in my opinion, that has made the best use of the IMAX cameras in a commercial film, yes The Dark Knight had some really good bits, and the giant shots of Gotham were cool, but Bird made sure that when he used theses cameras they were used to augment the story……

The best example of this is the stunning and dizzying Dubai sequence featuring the Burj Khalifa tower (Armani Hotel Dubai), and Ethan’s free climb up it’s exterior. Wow.

While we’re talking about the free climb sequence we should touch on the fact that no matter what you think of Cruise’s personal beliefs, and enough has been said about it, the man likes to do as much of his own stunt work and action scenes as he can, and rumor has it, he did the climb himself sans stunt double.

The IMAX cameras are used to show the heights and grandeur not only of Dubai, but of Russia and India, and each time it’s not done as a gimmick, but to simply enhance the experience of the film.

The script, by Alias veterans Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec makes sure that each of the characters gets there moments, and beats. They truly are a team. This is not the Ethan Hunt/Tom Cruise show, much like in M:I3 this is an actual team working towards a goal, a story point that actually gets touched on.

I liked the callbacks to the previous films, especially the same blonde guy from the first film showing up with another mask to put over Ethan’s head. I won’t mention others because they also fall into the realm of spoilers, but they made me smile.

And then… there was Josh Holloway Lost’s Sawyer in the opening sequence as well as the charming Léa Seydoux (Inglorious Basterds) who’s English speaking career is taking off, having worked with Tarantino and Woody Allen already.

There are little nods to Pixar as you would expect from someone long associated with them, the infamous A113 gets a mention.

J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk both return to act as producers on the film, and it seems that while J.J. is at Paramount, he can’t really do any wrong. – M:I3, Super 8, Star Trek. I do like his batting average.

Of course where Abrams goes, Michael Giacchino follows, and the composer turns out another fantastic score, reprising Lalo Schifrin’s memorable theme at key moments of the film.

There’s a suggestion towards the end of the film that Cruise is passing on the reins to someone else. I’m ok with a Mission:Impossible movie without Ethan Hunt, but I certainly hope that Abrams and co. remain involved.

While a movie like this may have gotten lost in the summer months, this type of film doesn’t have a lot of competition at this time of year, so it should do fairly well.

So…

You’re mission should you choose to accept it…

As a side note, the 6 minute preview from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises preceded the film, and… I’m a little divided. I hope the soundtrack is tweaked before release because a good portion of the time I couldn’t understand what Tom Hardy’s Bane was saying. The aerial cinematography (all shot in IMAX) on the other hand was fantastic!!

I guess we’ll know more when summer rolls around.

But for now, accept the mission, and light the fuse!