Tag Archives: caper

Ocean’s Eight

The majority of plane trips beget a second plane trip, wherein you return to where you left from in the first place. As such, I watched a second movie on the way back from Chicago, and it was Ocean’s Eight. Pleasingly, this was a sequel to the Clooney Danny Ocean movies, rather than a remake. It picks up a few years after Gravity left off, with Danny Ocean dead saving his sister from a space walk gone horribly wrong and Sandra Bullock being released from prison (one presumes for an illegal landing?) with the perfect plan to steal a really expensive necklace at the annual Met gala, which is I guess an exclusive museum thing (fundraiser?) in New York that also happens in real life.

I think just to prove she can, Sandra (almost certainly not the character’s actual name) Ocean has decided to make her crew all ladies, and I cannot help thinking that was also the motive of whoever made this movie. Which is fine, because it was every bit as good as any of the previous sequels[1][2], and aside from saying she wants an all lady crew at the beginning of the movie, it’s never really brought up again[3].

After all the characters and marks are established, it’s, you know, a heist movie. I like them. You maybe incorrectly do not? It’s cool, tastes vary as they say. More importantly, it’s not a bad heist movie, so there you are.

[1] I maintain that the Ocean’s Eleven remake (I never saw the original with Sinatra and whoever) is in a class by itself.
[2] And let’s be honest, probably significantly better than 12
[3] I do not at all mind when movies are trying to make A Point, and I mind even less when it’s a point I agree with. I will, however, always mind when the movie is actually chanting to a drumbeat, “Look at this Point I’m Making.”

The Republic of Thieves

51yQAM+bCqLSometimes, I think I’m the easiest audience in the world. (The easiest mark? Okay, probably not that, at least.) Which is not to imply that The Republic of Thieves was less than good. It’s just that if I’m not stumbling over myself to spout reason after reason why it was great, it may be that my desire to claim it is great, by simple fiat, may not be entirely fair of me.

I mean, yes, I love the characters, and that could be the root of it. “I care about these characters beyond all reason”, while also an exaggeration, still fits the bill for an express train to Loss of Objectivity Township[1]. And yes, the book gave me everything I could have wanted out of this particular sequel: the long-referenced Sabetha not only finally given life, but given life and strength of character[2] well above and beyond the pale, purposed only for a string of villains to gain leverage over Locke Lamora, farcical reflection of an actual person that she could have become in the hands of, say, a comic book author; more information abut the Bondsmagi of Karthain, which I certainly craved; a new kind of con game for the Gentlemen Bastards to run; and especially the lack of a cliffhanger ending.

And on top of that, there were lots of little things I didn’t precisely know I’d wanted, but got anyway. Like enough information about the Eldren, however minimal, for me to believe they’ll be relevant before the series ends. (Which is cool, because ancient traces of civilization are inherently cool, and moreso if they eventually matter as more than set dressing.) And like the sense of a circle closing with these three books forming a trilogy within the larger sequence. And like the clinched certainty after said three books that if there’s one thing I can rely on in Lynch’s writing, it’s that whatever the characters and the reader think the game is, it’s always going to be something else[3]. And like that bitch of an after-the-credits scene. Because seriously, twelve pages of me shaking my head in less-than-mute denial over what I know in my bones is about to happen? Somewhere along the way, someone told a pretty good story if I care that much about, y’know, these characters.

It occurs to me that the structure of this review indicates a paragraph where I allowed for the book’s shortcomings, as a contrast to what had come before and fulfillment of my original desire to not falsely claim greatness. But over the course of putting this together, I’ve found that whatever flaws certainly did exist? I don’t care enough about them to dredge any up. So, there you go, I guess.

Also, there’s a fairly significant spoiler behind the cut.

[1] It’s a real place. In Montana. Look it up.
[2] In both the literary and… well, moral doesn’t seem to be the right term here, does it? So what I really meant for the second half was strength of personality, and now it’s not a clever, dual-purpose metaphor any longer. Luckily, nobody reads footnotes.
[3] If any of the characters actually learns that, in a meaningful way and where they can use the knowledge? It could be that they’ll finally win that big score they keep working toward. (Whether said score is physical or emotional in nature is left as an exercise for the author.)

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Red Seas under Red Skies revisited

sl_redseasuBefore I consider further my feelings upon my reread of Red Seas under Red Skies, first, an excerpt from my original review, in May of 2008: “[T]he third book […] is due out in January. I am now sad.” So, yeah, that estimate was off by nearly five years. Whee! (True story: I have indeed remained sad over that period of time.)

The downside of such a long gap is that my overflowing excitement for the series has definitely died back a little. It’s hard to unreservedly recommend a series, or maintain a high level of excitement, after a surprise six year absence. The upside of the delay is that I “had” to read the books again, and they really are so good. By and large, I stand by my assessment after all. These really are the most fun pair of books I’ve read. They may fall apart soon after (I really hope not and will find out by sometime in Februaryish), they may not be the strongest on the literary scale or the political scale or the sweeping history of humanity scale, but they are hilarious and heart-breaking and absolutely clever as can be, and I’m glad a third one came out, five years late or not.

As for the specific book? I am struck more and more by the religion. A secret 13th god, watching over thieves and pirates, who most people consider to be a heresy? Okay, that’s not the part I’m struck by, that’s just cool. What I’m struck by is how religious Locke is. Sure, he loses his path sometimes, and he questions, but he’s sincere in his beliefs and in his unwillingness to trample anyone else’s in pursuit of his goals. He’s an absolutely good man, which is an odd thing to say of a thief and murderer. Part of it is that it’s a dark world, and basically everyone is a thief and murderer (legitimized, perhaps, but nonetheless) or else a victim. Makes it a lot easier to judge a man by the content of his character without getting all wrapped up in his pesky actions. Another part of it is that the Bondsmagi of Karthain are just so horrible of a shadow across, well, everyone, that it would be pretty much impossible to look bad by comparison.

The next thing, being massively spoilery, is behind the cut. But it’s just speculation chatter, so if you haven’t read the book, there’s nothing else down there to miss. Also: you should read the book. …after you read the first book, of course.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora revisited

91Lq5qpHKxL._SL1500_A really cool thing happened a couple of months ago, which was that a new Locke Lamora book was released. Since I rather liked the first one a lot[1], this was naturally exciting to me. But then, I realized that it had been five years since I last read one of these books, and, well, I didn’t exactly remember what had happened. Broad strokes yes (and mostly accurately, as it happens), but fine character and plot details, not so much.

I won’t drag this out, both because I’ve already been here before and because I have plenty of things I’d like to be reading right now. First: yes, I still like this book a very great deal. With a five year veil, everything I didn’t remember took on the sheen of awesomeness, amusement, sick horror, and exhilaration that I’m sure it had the first time through. The one thing I did pick up on that I certainly missed before was Locke’s overwhelming pride in the first third of the book. It really stands out in sharp relief when you know just how hard the left turn is about to be.

Anyway, really cool story, stands alone, well worth the read. And I’ve been told that you don’t actually have to reread these to prepare for the new book in the series. While I’m sure that’s true and while I regret that I haven’t read the new one yet myself, I regret it in the way I regret the other dozen or so books that I want to read right this instant. In no way do I regret the reread.

[1] And also the second, but all in due time.

Red Seas under Red Skies

There was a point somewhere toward the end of Red Seas under Red Skies where I proclaimed by fiat that the Gentlemen Bastards sequence is my new favorite ongoing series. It might be that I’ll get back to Erikson’s series[1] or Martin’s series[2] and my loyalties will shift all around again, but I kind of doubt it. Because while all three series have comedy, tragedy, high drama, and empathetic characters to spare, only Scott Lynch’s series is this damn fun.

The continuing adventures of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen see them plotting an extraordinary casino heist, dabbling in politics that are really well above their comfort zone, enduring the attentions of old enemies, and taking to piracy on the high seas. And, as is quickly seeming to be the norm, almost none of it was something they saw coming.

What the book loses in sense of wonder from its predecessor and unadulterated glee over the coolness of the characters, it quickly gains back via the reader’s growing investment in the world and the changeable fortunes of the Gentlemen Bastards. The characters are (except when obviously intended otherwise, and sometimes even (a little bit) then) eminently likable, and Locke and Jean are guided by an intense and even laudable, if perhaps non-traditional, moral code. I felt equally involved in every success, no matter how minor or spectacular, and in every setback, no matter how fleeting or tragic; and there were a number of points were I perked up with certain foreknowledge of what was coming (not always correctly, mind you) and was a fair bit sad not to have someone with whom to discuss it excitedly. This is a book that just cries out to be read, from the first page to the last. And now that Lynch has done it twice, I think it’s fair to say that neither time was a fluke. I look forward with great excitement to the third book[3].

[1] which next book has been sitting on my couch for a number of months now, filling me with dread that I don’t really remember enough of the series to proceed and with equal or greater dread at the thought of re-reading the previous four or five giantastic doorstops of books. So you see.
[2] which next book is due out at the end of the summer, I hear, and that’s kind of an amusing coincidence. isn’t it?
[3] which is due out in January. I am now sad.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

I know it’s early yet, but this year is treating me excellently for books. I suppose the most important factor is the stack of recommendations I sift through these days, which in many ways has been a factor in the improvements my reading list has seen over the past year and more. But both of today’s book and Cryptonomicon have been more frequently and more widely recommended than the average, which I figure therefore makes a bit more difference than usual. In any event, if I read the best quality of books of my life in 2008, that’ll be awesome, and if I don’t, well, that’s probably fine too. The fact that they’re better is all to the good.

I’m holding my cards pretty close to the chest here, right? There you are, asking hopefully out into the void, “Chris, how did you feel about The Lies of Locke Lamora? If you’re just going to refuse to take a position, what good is any of this?” And I mean, yeah, you’re right, I really do need to learn to take a stand on these things. Anyway, one thing I liked about it was Locke Lamora himself. It’s been kind of a while since I’ve been so attached to a character. He’s like Danny Ocean without the inherent Clooney smugness, or maybe like Vlad Taltos without the deep and potentially unlikeable personality flaws. Another thing I liked was the last hundred or so pages of constant adrenaline. I cannot tell you the last time I was so excited at work. (Plus, the rest of the book was in no way boring, so make no mistake there.) Yet another thing I liked was the inherent lyricism of the title. I mean it, just try to say it out loud without feeling like you’re presenting poetry.

As for things I didn’t like… I’m really having a hard time. The only thing that springs out at me is a couple of times late in the book where expositional history of the city was presented just in time for it to be extremely relevant to the present plot. And even that seems like an unreasonable complaint; if he were a person telling me a story, I would expect him not to think of that kind of thing until he suddenly realized it was about to be relevant and that he hadn’t told me yet. Y’know? So there’s that, and it’s still pretty much all I have.

See, and all this talking about my feelings bullstuff has made me skip actually describing the book, in which Locke Lamora and his criminal gang wander around the grimy fantasy setting city running cons long and short on rich people and on their enemies, never suspecting the far longer and deeper con that they’ve been caught in the middle of. It’s really good stuff, and you should be sure to read it.

Ocean’s Thirteen

The plot of Ocean’s Thirteen is one that resonated strongly with me. Elliot Gould portrayed a man who was confined to his bed by a devastating illness. Initially hospitalized, he’s eventually released home, but even there he’s lost in a fugue state, catatonic to everything that is going on around him. It’s as if, in the midst of a whirlwind of life, he’s frozen and unable to interact in any meaningful way. It’s a bad way to be. Okay, admittedly I’ve merely been ill for a week while he lost millions of dollars and had a heart attack thanks to Al Pacino’s diabolical plotting; still, though, I feel like we shared a common bond throughout my watching the movie, Elliot Gould and I.

Danny Ocean et al, having learned of their friend’s dire straits, immediately embark on a masterful plan to shatter Pacino’s empire as well as his pride. Sure, a lot of money is there to be stolen, but the payout isn’t the point this time; it’s all about revenge. The only flaw this one can boast below the so-fine original is that the twists were somewhat more predictable; Ocean’s Twelve has been left in the dust. There’s not really much I can say here that’s not a spoiler, though. You know there’s a fiendishly complex plot to rob a casino, right? The rest is the nuts and bolts details, and that’s where the movie shines. You get to watch eleven twelve thirteen people who are far cooler than you personally will ever have a hope of being doing things that you would be arrested for merely thinking about. (Well, it’s more like five people who are cooler than you and a bunch of other people who fill niche positions. But the cool ones more than make up the slack.)

It is both awesome and hilarious is what I’m saying. Given that you enjoy the cinematic experience to any degree, why haven’t you seen this movie yet?

Ocean’s Twelve

Holidays are an excellent time for watching movies. And for gathering with families and friends, and for gifts and for snow and fireplaces (sadly, not so much for me personally, but I hear tell), and some people claim for football, and for celebrating your winter faith of choice (I prefer the one where the hot Wiccan chicks dance naked in the moonlight, could I but only find them). And, of course, for lots of empty calories.

Ocean’s Twelve
marks a good confluence of the first and last items on my list. Fun movie, devoid of any real content at all. Despite that, Soderbergh still managed to put a new spin on the heist caper, above and beyond the work of beauty that was the pure heist of his 2001 remake.

I say spin, but he basically turned it on his head. Danny Ocean’s merry band of thieves who steal from the rich and give to themselves are at it again, planning a heist that never seems to occur to stave off a vengeance that never quite materializes, and somehow it still works. It’s a little more jokey and a little less nuts and bolts, and every bit the cure for the end of the year Oscar-ridden wasteland.

A good time will be had by all who don’t think that Julia Roberts looks like a horse, and this time they also added in Catherine Zeta-Jones for those who (like my father) do. He stayed at home and slept through it, sure, but that’s not the point. Just the fact that he would have had an alternative proves my point.