DVD Review: By the Will of Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan. Ruler of the Mongol Empire that stretched from China to Eastern Europe. His name alone evokes an image of scores of fierce horsemen working together to conquer most of the Eurasian continent in the 1200s. Even today, tales of his exploits are legendary.

The film By the Will of Genghis Khan follows the story from before his birth to his rise in power. Like many legendary figures, his story is one of heroic highs and tragic lows and this film shows it as such. I was struck by the parallels with other mythic characters in history. His trials present obstacles he must work around and learn from. But like the hero from Joseph Campbell‘s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, his life experiences show him as both being human and more than human with the gift to come back from each trial stronger than before.

When he gets married and his pregnant wife is stolen from him, he begins gathering the forces he will need to find her again. From that point on, he amasses power and friends into a massive force he uses to affect change everywhere he goes. Of course, not everyone is on board with his plans and both politics and ambition get in the way occasionally. Though he fights for peace, he must start and win a war.

Through it all, I felt a humility and a strong sense of honor. The old ways are followed, from sacrifices to the spirits, to marriage ceremonies and honoring the gods after the birth of a son. Rites, rituals, and laws guided the actions of these people from the steppes. The Mongols were a simple people who lived off the land and fiercely defended their way of life.

Directed by Andrei Borissov, the film stars Eduard Ondar, Gernot Grimm, Oleg Taktarov (National Trasure, Bad Boys II) and Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (TV’s Heroes, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Mortal Kombat).

Shot on location in Russia and Mongolia, the cinematography is simply breathtaking in places. All the seasons are represented beautifully and you can see why the Mongol people would fight for their land.

However, though I appreciate the artistry and intent behind the picture, I have to admit that it felt ultimately like a marketing campaign for Genghis Khan. I wanted to like By the Will of Genghis Khan more than I did, but I’d encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in learning more about this larger than life character from history.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. For more about the movie or Genghis Khan, see below:

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Oddities from Around the Net

Yes, it’s time for an “oddities” post… A few of the things I’ve hit upon this week that I think are cool. It’s been far too long since I did one of these…

This one from Russia was pretty awesome. This guy, Alexander Semenov took the actual footage for this in a couple of hours, then took a few weeks to edit it. It’s pretty simple to see why. And honestly, if the last Transformers movie from Michael Bay was like this I probably would have enjoyed it more…

Transformers from repey815 on Vimeo.

(Thanks go to Geekosystem.com for this one.)

If you love music, you’ll love this next one… The Shuffler. Sounds like something you’d hear about in a poker tournament… “And George ‘The Shuffler’ Jungleman has nothing worthwhile in his hand… but he keeps on shuffling the cards around waiting for inspiration to strike…” Okay, maybe not…

Anyway, the Shuffler is a new streaming music service that seems to be connected to the heartbeat of the indie music scene. It’s sort of a combination of StumbleUpon and Pandora, which is a great combo if you think about it. I love indie Folk music and have been jamming out for a couple of hours to this thing since I discovered it!

(Thanks go to TechCrunch for this one.)

And lastly, for those of you who are map geeks or Lord of the Rings fans, this one’s for you. An interactive map of Middle Earth has found its way onto the web at 3rin.gs (fitting URL, don’t you think?). This thing allows zoom, searching, and a cool crinkled paper look that makes you think you’re holding it in your hands (almost).

(This one comes from Geekosystem.com as well.)

Check these out and let me know if you’ve found anything cool in the corners of the web you want me to feature here!

–Fitz

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Book Review: The Thyssen Affair by Mozelle Richardson

Hi all…

In the mid-80s, I started reading quite a bit of spy novels set during the Cold War. The detente between Russia and the United States echoed in much of the literature of the time, from the stories of Ian Fleming‘s James Bond to the novels of Robert Ludlum, Ira Levin, Frederick Forsyth, and Ken Follett. Depending on where you turned, the Nazi legacy lived on around the world.

So when I saw the description of The Thyssen Affair by Mozelle Richardson, I was excited. Here was a story that brought together remnants of the WWII OSS, its successor agency the CIA, the Israeli Mossad, the Russian KGB, and echoes of Nazi Germany. Plus, it stars Canyon Elliot, a Colorado rancher and retired intelligence officer as the main character. How could I pass it up?

The story begins with Elliot being brought in on a CIA operation by a friend of his – Peter Landis. Peter, currently working at the CIA, was a good friend of his son before he was killed in Vietnam. Peter’s request is simple – take a skull to Munich, Germany, and figure out why the KGB went to the trouble to dig it up from a graveyard on the site of an old POW camp in Fort Reno, Oklahoma. Simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, as with most things, his trip is anything by simple. By the time he gets to New York to head across the Atlantic, he has to lose someone tailing him. But by the time he gets to Munich, he realizes there has to be more to the skull of this German officer, Major Von Stober…

The Thyssen Affair starts quickly and doesn’t let up to the end. And if you like your spy fiction with explosions, gunfire, and knife fights you shouldn’t be disappointed. It’s a chess game between Elliot and the people trying to keep him from the truth but when the lovely KGB agent Anya comes into the picture, she does more than ruffle his feathers as the two leapfrog around Europe.

Richardson’s style reminded me quite a bit of the Ludlum novels I read as a teenager. It’s a quick read with intricate twists and turns, but like with Ludlum, the conspiracies and intrigue are nothing without great characters. Ultimately it’s those characters and the way their backgrounds bubble up to explain their motivations that really made this story work. Sure there’s a great deal of spy vs. spy action as well, but the character details are the glue that holds everything together.

The other aspect of her style I absolutely loved is that this is set in 1980. There are no computers, no cellular phones, no James Bond Q-Branch gadgetry… Elliot and the rest of the gang have to rely on tried and true spy methods. Codebook stuffed in a hollowed out heel of a shoe? Check. Microdot copy of a map to Nazi treasure? Check. Standard hand to hand, knives, and guns? Check. And in most cases, Elliot is forced to use is brains to think his way out of problems more often than not.

As I read along, I couldn’t help but think the book would make a great movie in the style of the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s. I’m not sure who they’d get to play Elliot, but perhaps someone like Tommy Lee Jones could pull it off.

The Thyssen Affair was a fast, enjoyable read. If you’re looking for a good spy novel from the Cold War, be sure to check it out!

This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this book and other Cold War spy novels from Barnes & Noble below!

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