Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sabotage - Netflix Instant Review

        Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in Sabotage, which would be a different kind of role for him than you may be used to seeing in movies like Last Action Hero or Commando.   He may have needed this since his last movie, Last Stand, wasn’t that great.  

         In Sabotage, Schwarzenegger is Breacher, head of a nasty DEA team with agents who take care of any dirty jobs that come their way, such as infiltrating the drug cartel.  In addition, this unit doesn’t mind taking money for themselves, such as $10 million dollars in their latest takedown.  

          Unfortunately for them, the money that they took has disappeared and no one knows what happened to it.  The unit has also been accused of taking the money and went under investigation.  No charges were brought since there was no evidence that anything was taken.  

          Breacher’s problem is that people in his unit are getting killed.  The killing seems to go on during the police investigation and there seem to be no clues to this other than $10 million dollars that has disappeared, making the agents turn on each other.  In the meantime, Breacher is still trying to cope with the loss of his wife and son who were murdered by the drug cartel. 

           All this leads to a lot of action and suspense as Breacher wants to find out who the people are that are killing his agents.  The answers are surprising and it only makes the movie better, right down to the final scene.  

           If there was one movie that I could think of that was similar to this, I would say it was Copland with Sylvester Stallone.  Schwarzenegger performance is great, along with the agents, who are edgy characters who you would not want to have a run in with.  All of them are memorable and I would say that this movie is worth five stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay Book Review

         It was a nice summer afternoon and David Harwood decided to take his wife and son to an amusement park.  Then two things happened.  First, Ethan, their four year old son had disappeared when Jan Harwood came back, telling her husband that she just turned her back for a second and he was gone.  

         David and Jan went looking for Ethan and after a few minutes, David found Ethan in his stroller.  Relieved, he called Jan and only got her voicemail.  After several more attempts, he still got her voicemail.  Eventually, he would report this to the police because Jan had disappeared from the park and didn’t go home.  

          This is where Linwood Barclay’s psychological thriller, Never Look Away begins.  Unlike his other novels, I would say that there is a blend of comedy and shades of Elmore Leonard based on vicious and stupid criminals that you would see in early novels from Leonard such as 52 Pickup and Stick.

           Barclay does a great job of capturing what it’s like to work in a newspaper and you see the problems that develop such as having some of these jobs in India.  It adds a lot of comedy to the novel along with the conflicts reporters have on doing stories that could create problems for the paper.  

            As far as the story goes, the tension only mounts as Harwood tries to find Jan, only to receive some surprises and revelations that he did not expect from a woman that he was married to for 4 years.  It’s the type of story that you would see in headlines on the news.  If that isn’t enough, he is also being accused of Jan’s disappearance since the husband is usually the first suspect to be looked at. 

             Barclay has put a cast of characters that you would not expect based on his other novels.  They are believable and only make the story more memorable as the story moves along with a great shifting point of view that kept me on the edge of my couch because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. 

              It’s impossible to say which novel is the best by Linwood Barclay but as far as I’m concerned, Never Look Away is again one of his best novels and I wish I can give it more than five stars.  

Ron Hummer

Monday, December 29, 2014

The November Man - DVD Review

          Based on the series of books by Bill Granger, Pierce Bronson comes back to play an Ex-CIA op who is involved in a personal mission that involves his ex-wife, a former protege, and a corrupt and dangerous Russian political figure.   Having the CIA come after Bronson only makes the movie even more exciting and riveting as well.  

          The movie is off to a tough start.  Bronson, who plays Devereaux, is on a mission with his protege when a child is murdered in the middle of a crowded street.  Devereaux blames his protege for this and the two are separated and never meet again until this mission comes up. 

          Devereaux is asked by his former boss to get someone out of Russia because she may have some secret information.  Devereaux is not told who the woman is and when he gets to Russia, he is very surprised to find out that this woman is his ex-wife. Her secret is a name of a woman who has witnessed war crimes that has involved a Russian political figure.  Fortunately, Devereaux manages to get the name before his wife is killed.  

            All this leads Devereaux on a chase to find the woman before she is killed with the CIA hot and other assassins on his heels.  One of the killers is his former protege, so Devereaux will be battling him and leading him on a game of cat and mouse, escalating it to be more personal as the plot in the movie thickens.  

            As far as performances go, Bronson is at his best as he drives the movie along with his meetings with his ex-boss and protege, making the movie exciting from start to finish.  There are some plot twists and when I reached the end, I was surprised by the outcome since the movie was unpredictable.  

            If you’re a fan of Robert Ludlum and Jason Bourne, then I would say that this is right up there as one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.  It’s certainly worth more than five stars and I will be reading more of Bill Granger’s books in the new year.  

Ron Hummer 

The Other Daughter by Lisa Gardner

            The Other Daughter starts off with the execution of a serial killer.  The subject is not very appealing to me, especially when it comes to killing children, but I have to say that Lisa Gardner comes up with a way to create some tremendous plot twists in this book that really show her at the top of her game.  

            Melanie Stokes is an event planner and she had heard about the execution of a serial killer but based on dreams she is having, she is wondering if there is any relevance to her family that had adopted her after their daughter Megan was kidnapped and never found.  Her worst fears seem to be confirmed when she meets a reporter who says that she may be related to the serial killer.  

             The story takes off from there as Melanie starts to investigate this mystery after the reporter is killed and attempts are made on her life.  The tension in the story only grows based on a rich family that is corrupt and dysfunctional.  Add an FBI agent who was a former baseball player who has to deal with bad back problems to a cast of memorable characters that you will not like only makes the story even better. 

             Issues such as Melanie’s father, who is a doctor, make the story very disturbing when you read about the healthcare industry and the corruption of doctors made the story more engrossing for me.  You can also include Melanie’s mother, who is an alcoholic, and an abusive ex-husband, to make the story seem even more disturbing and realistic. 

             With all that, you have a great plot and a mystery of who killed Megan Stokes.  There are a lot of suspects and I was drawn into each one of them, not knowing until the end who the killer was.  It lead to a great climax that kept me riveted until I was finished.  

              This is only the second book that I have read by Lisa Gardner and I look forward to reading more of them.  It’s certainly worthy of five stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Thieves - Netflix Streaming Review

         You might think that this is just another heist film that would be up there with Ocean Eleven but I would say that you’re in for a big surprise when you see the movie The Thieves.   This is a film where people from South Korea team up with a crew from Hong Kong to take a valuable diamond called The Tear Of The Sun from a Casino. 

          The movie opens with two woman posing as mother and daughter in order to rob an art gallery.  The mother, who goes by the name, Chewing Gum, along with a wire woman named Yenicall, who is prepared to go down an elevator shaft to grab some valuable art like you would see Parker in action in the TV show Leverage. 

            Once the job is done, the group, led by Popie, wants to move on to a bigger score which would be to grab a diamond at the Casino.  Popie would team up with his old partner, Macau Park, in order to do this.  There are a lot of questions though since Macau Park disappeared after their last heist four years ago where $68kg of gold had disappeared and Pepsee, Park’s partner in the heist, was arrested for it. 

           Of course, this is a dangerous heist since the diamond is owned by the mistress of Wei Hong, who is a gangster and has a past with Macau Park as well.  As the movie moves along from past to the present, you would see that several of the thieves have their own agenda, making for an unpredictable outcome for the heist.  

            During the movie, there will be a good blend of action, comedy, and suspense as the days draw closer to the heist.  I would say that you would never know what is going to happen next as the heist starts and there were a lot things that I did not expect to happen, making the movie even more gripping all the way to the end.  

             Yes, this is not your typical Ocean Eleven’s movie.  I would say that in many ways, it was a better movie. It is certainly worth more than five stars.   

Ron Hummer   

Judgment and Wrath by Matt Hilton - Book Review

         Joe Hunter is back for another action packed adventure as he is hired to bring Marianne Dean back to her father because her husband is accused of being abusive to her.  With the help of his friend Rink, Matt goes on the mission but finds out that an assassin named Dantelion has been hired to kill Marianne and her husband.  

          Like the previous book, Dead Man’s Dust, the book switches point of view from Joe Hunter to Dantelion as the two face off against each other while Hunter is protecting Marianne and her husband at the same time.  The action is non-stop and you never know what is going to happen next. 

           Of course, the mystery here is why Dantelion is hired to kill Marianne and her husband.  Joe will go out of his way to determine why this is happening and he’s in for some surprises as the story unfolds, making the story even more unpredictable.  

           Comparing this to Dead Man’s Dust, i would say that this is a much better story since the focus of the story is not on the serial killer and Joe’s brother.  We know more about Joe as the story continues and all this makes for a better story with a good blend of comedy, action and suspense.  

            Dantelion makes the story more gripping since he is determined to complete his job, killing anyone who gets in his way.  This makes the story even more intense as Joe and Rink are determined to stop Dantelion by any means, setting up for a great and unpredictable ending to this novel.  

             Is Lee Child in for some competition?  In many ways, I would say yes since Joe Hunter is a great protagonist who adds a good blend of humor, action, and snappy dialogue to the story, along with his partner, Rink.  He’s not only battling Dantelion but taking on the police and the FBI who want Joe to stay out of the way of the investigation.  

              I would say that you don’t have to read Dead Man’s Dust if you don’t want to.  While that is a good story, I would say that Judgment and Wrath is much better and I wish I could give it more than five stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wasabi - DVD Review

          If you want an unusual opening to a movie, then that’s the way Wasabi begins with Jean Reno.  Reno plays a French policeman who has some unique ways of dealing with criminals.  In this case, three men who are dressed as women are about to rob a bank and Reno goes in there, punching the men out in order to stop the crime from being committed.  

          Reno, who is Hubert Fiorentini, is on the brink of going on suspension for his actions in this case and other cases.  When his boss suspends him, he is told to look at it as a vacation in order to have some fun.  

           For Hubert, that would be difficult since he is still pining away for his girlfriend who is in Japan.  She had left him 19 years ago and he didn’t know why.  Right after his suspension, Reno receives a call from a lawyer who tells him that his girlfriend died and he is to come to Japan since she named him in her Will.  

            Once he arrives in Japan, he discovers that his girlfriend may have been murdered and if that isn’t enough, he finds out that he has a 19 year old daughter from his ex-girlfriend.  Their relationship would bring even more laughs to the movie since she is involved with social media and is always texting, which would be different for Hubert since he isn’t familiar with that. 

             Hubert plays the socially awkward who finds out that he is up against a mafia kingpin in Japan.  His favorite game is golf and he is so skilled that he manages to hit the golf balls exactly where he wants, even if the target includes people.  His antics of getting into fights that are quick brings a lot of suspense as well. 

             Other characters in the story also help to bring in a lot of laughs as well, whether it’s Hubert’s current girlfriend, his boss, or his former bumbling partner, who is even more awkward than Hubert if that’s possible.  

              Between the golf balls and the quick martial fights, there are some laughs in the movie, which make it a good blend of comedy and action.  Even with an ending that is predictable, I would give the movie four stars.  

Ron Hummer  

Ordinary Grace by WIlliam Kent Kruger - Book Review

The narrator is Frank Drum, who is reflecting back on the year 1961 when tragedy struck his hometown and family. Learning how to deal with several deaths when he was 13 years old was difficult, especially when one of them was his sister, who was murdered. 

Taking place in New Bremen, Minnesota, Frank and his family become ripped apart by these deaths, creating quite a conflict since Frank’s father is a minister. A lot of questions are raised regarding the death of Ariel and there are a variety of suspects which make the story even more absorbing. 

We also see throughout the story how the deaths in Minnesota bring out the worst in people when accusations are made and the feelings people have in the town. You could say that many of the characters have flaws which come out as the story moves from one death until the mystery of what happened to Ariel. 
There was some hype of scenes in the barber shop with hot stuff magazine and the first year of the Minnesota Twins but I would say that that was about 10% of the book. The other part of the book was the absorbing murder mystery and the suspects that Frank was gathering in relation to what happened to his sister. You never really knew who did it until the very end and Kruger was very skillful in having Frank being involved in everything along with the small town sheriff. 

You could also see how Frank is growing up from this while learning to have a relationship with his father even though he doesn’t want to tell him everything. Like many of the other characters in the book, there are secrets and they come out as the book moves along as well. 

I would say that this story is not predictable. Frank is a kid growing up and here he is during one summer facing death whether it was a suicide, an accident, or murder, yet somehow, he is becoming more mature, just like his brother. Even though his brother had a problem stuttering and was made fun of because of it, Frank found a way to go beyond that since he was the only person he could talk to. He would learn a lot from his brother as well. 

Like the other 973 people who gave this book five stars on Kindle, I would say that I would join them and wish that I could give it more than five stars. Great book that in many ways helped me to remember another author who wrote a great book called Grand Opening. The author was John Hassler and that took place in Minnesota as well. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

World War Z - DVD Review

          World War Z is a modern day horror thriller starring Brad Pitt about Zombies over running the entire world.  It seems to be a popular concept since The Walking Dead has done well on AMC.  I will say ahead of time that I am not one of those viewers. 

          I should say that I’m not a fan of this genre and have seen other movies in the past such as Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead.  I heard good things about this movie and decided I would give it a try since I can’t seem to find other good movies through Netflix. 

           I would say that if you’re looking for an intense thriller from start to finish, then this movie would be for you.  It’s not as gory as the other movies that I have mentioned which is a good thing although there are some graphic violent scenes that I did not care for but it’s to be expected for this type of movie. 

           The plot centers on Zombies taking over the world and Brad Pitt playing a UN worker as he tries to solve the mystery as to how this started.  Pitt doesn’t want to go but is forced since this is the only way that his wife and kids could stay on a ship.   

           We see him go to various parts of the world from North Korea to Israel.   All the scenes are terrifying as the Zombies run through the world killing people.  Special effects of car crashes and looting in drug stores in New Jersey only bring out more tension in the movie as well.  

            I would say that the movie is a step up from other movies in the past that I have mentioned.  My only hope is that I won’t have nightmares for the rest of my life after seeing a movie like this.  If you are looking for an intense movie with non-stop action, then you could take a chance on this one if you’re not too squeamish.

            As far as my rating goes, I would give it 3 stars.  I would like to remind hollywood  producers again that since this movie was made in 2013, then it would be important to say that Hispanic men and women can speak English now.  You deserve to lose a star from me for not realizing that.  

Ron Hummer 

The Neighbors Are Watching By Deborah Ginsberg - Book Review

The story begins when Joe Montana and his wife pull up in their car to their house in San Diego, seeing a Diana Jones, an African American teenager who is 17 years old and pregnant. Once Joe learns that Diana is his biological daughter, the story sets off a domino effect as everyone in the neighborhood feels the effects of the meeting. 

Ginsberg’s story is character driven without a plot as the point of view switches between several neighbors as they watch Diana and talk with her and about her. The neighbors seem to have their own problems as well as all of them become involved with her. 

The story is hard to follow because the point of view is switching between several characters in the novel. On one hand, you could say that the characters are powerful and memorable because of their actions in the story. On the other hand, the point of view switches along with the timeline, as we’re brought closer to Diana having her baby later on in the story. 

The years pass in the story and there are times that it seems frustrating to read this novel because it doesn’t follow any kind of sequence. In one scene for example, the police are about to question someone regarding Diana’s disappearance but the next chapter moves on to another subject, making the novel even more obscure. 

Much of the suspense in the book from there involves troubled relationships and Diana’s disappearance. It’s hard to say if the author was trying to send a message in the story since the baby that Diana had seems to bring people together. In any case, the characters drive the story without any kind of plot, making me wonder what will happen next. 

As far as the previews go, they don’t fit with the story. I’ve never watched Desperate Housewives but I’m sure that this book has no relation to it since there isn’t any fist fights with any of the women in the story. It’s not a novel with gritty nail biting suspense or a novel about gossiping between the neighbors. 

Regarding the mystery of Diana, there wasn’t much too it and I was surprised by that since the writer developed a character that should have been used towards Diana’s disappearance. If anything, the questions are answered and I found it to be very disappointing. 

Most of all, this is the kind of book where you would find that you won’t like most of the characters. The only characters that readers may like are Diana and her mother. Other than that, while the characters are powerful and fully developed, the point of view being switched and the timeline makes this book too obscure to follow. 

It’s not a great book but not a bad book either so I’ll give it three stars. 

Ron Hummer 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Beware Of Mr. Baker - DVD Review

         I guess the biggest question you could ask after this documentary was over is how does someone who is talented and gifted can throw their fame and fortune away even though he is given so many chances.  Maybe the bigger point is that you have to say that things could have been worse for him if it weren’t for the fact that he is so talented.  

          I didn’t know much about Ginger Baker other than the fact that he was a great drummer although I might disagree with his claim that he thought that he was better than Keith Moon of the Who or John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.  There was a huge difference in rock music between those groups and Cream and Blind Faith but I would go with Moon and Bohnam.  

          I thought it was interesting that Baker started out as a fan of jazz music and learned a lot from great artists like Charlie Parker.  There were other things as well such as the WWII footage or his days playing polo after he left the bands.

           I didn’t know about Baker’s early days, which included working with Jack Bruce and the Graham Bond Organisation.  Then I was caught off guard when Baker left the band after having several fights with Bruce, which led to Baker pulling a knife on him.  Somehow, that led to the two of them forming Cream with Eric Clapton.

            Of course, Baker’s self destructive path with drugs and arguments with Bruce led to the breakup of Cream only after two years, although he Baker would be back together with Clapton for Blind faith, which didn’t last that long either.  Eventually, Clapton would be off on his own making some of the greatest songs of all time.  

            Baker’s life outside the band was even worse, if that was possible, leaving his wife and children for an 18 year old girl.   This only hurt his family more when they lost the house since Baker was broke.  You could only wonder how he managed to have a good relationship with his son.  

            The DVD is unedited, catching Baker many times, cursing Jay Bulger, the person who was creating this report of Baker from Africa.  At one point, Baker would break Bulger’s nose but somehow, the video would go on.  

            Putting aside the fact that I would have liked to hear more music from Cream and Blind Faith on the video, the animation of Baker did make up for this and made the video even more entertaining at times.  Other than that, it was a sad story, seeing Baker on a self-destructive path that hurt a lot of people along the way.  The video is hard to watch at times, making me shake my head.  

            As a documentary about great music, I would say that I enjoyed it, seeing some band members who came out to express their thoughts about Baker from great rock groups like The Sex Pistols, The Grateful Dead, and the Police, just to name a few bands.  

            The story line is depressing at time, and that is the reason I can only give this video 4 stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Riddle Me This by Mike Roscoe - Pulp Fiction Review

It’s hard for me to say that this is a novel since it’s 141 pages so I’ll go with a novelette in this case. The name Mike Roscoe comes from two authors, Michael Ruso and John Roscoe. It’s a shame that they were only able to write five books. 

Here is the first paragraph of the book. It gives you an idea of what kind of writer Mike and John were and how creative they were with Johnny April. 

It was raining. Goddammit. It was raining. Long cables of wet lashed the sky and earth together. Thunder ricocheted off the heavy, gray clouds. Rain is romantic in San Francisco. In Miami, it’s conducive to a number of interesting things. In Kansas City, it’s a godawful mess. 

Riddle Me This is a detective series with Johnny April, a private investigator in Kansas City. If you want to define his character, you could say that he is really nasty, cold character, and may even be considered by some to be dumb but you can’t help but root for him as he investigates the murder of Paul Benson, an African American man who was a detective that asked him for advice when he got into the business. 
Here is some dialogue with his secretary, Sandy, that gives you an idea of what kind of character April is after he started his investigation. 

“Oh. Oh. Johnny, I’m sorry. I’m”

“Forget it. A man is born. He lives. He dies. Today they wanted Paul. Tomorrow some other guy will get his retirement papers.”

“Sorry,” Sandy said bitterly. “I forgot that this office was the abattoir of emotion.” 

“Shut up. Goddammit, shut up.” 

“All right. All right.” 

You could say from the start of his investigation that since this book took place in the 50’s, April was dealing with characters that were racists and he wasn’t pleased with their behavior. It didn’t help when the people that were suspects - whether it was the police or other people - used racial slurs. All that did was make April even angrier and you could say that he took manners into his own hands in dealing with people like that. 

April really drives his this book with his personality and dialogue which makes the story an unpredictable read that is filled with action and suspense. During the book, he is involved in a romance that made me wonder which way it will go since you never knew what April would do or say next. 

When April wasn’t working on the case, he was dealing with a very obnoxious client that only made him more angry. Somehow, he finds a way to make the client feel more embarrassed about his own behavior without yelling at the man. 

For me, the book was a satisfying read that never let up. I loved the way April went after the suspects and this only made the book even more fun for me to read. One of my favorite pulp fiction books that is worth more than five stars. 

Ron Hummer

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Family - Netflix Review

         You may hope that if you have Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones in a move, then the movie has a lot of potential to be a good one.  In this case, I guess you could say that the joke would be on us.  

          I’m not a big fan of mobster movies but at least, you could say that those movies and TV were believable.  In this case, the only thing you could do was check your brain at the door because nothing about this movie was believable or funny.  

          If anything, much of the movie is supposed to be about mobster humor with hopes that we can lure the audience in that is watching the hit show on Netflix called Lillyhammer.   The difference is that this family is moved to Normandy, France, since DeNiro was going under witness protection to testify against a big mobster. 

           Like Lillyhammer, the family needed to adjust to life in France and that would be difficult with this family.  Michelle Pfeiffer would blow up a small supermarket; De Niro would beat up a plumber for being late to an appointment; their daughter would beat up someone with a tennis racquet, and their son would beat up a bully after getting new students on his side in a mobster-like way. 

           Tommy Lee Jones has the smaller part, playing the parole officer who wants to keep De Niro out of trouble but that doesn’t seem possible when De Niro is asked to do a lecture on a movie called yes GoodFellas.  I would say that the laughs just didn’t exist even with that set-up.  

            As you would expect, there would be a showdown between the mobsters and De Niro’s family.  Not too hard to guess who won in an unbelievable way.  So, if you still want to try this movie out, then I would say, it’s fine with me since I’ll give it two stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Vanished by Joseph Finder

In the beginning, Lauren and Roger Heller are out for dinner when they are attacked by several men. Lauren wakes up in the hospital and finds out that her husband has vanished. 

This is the first novel in a series by Joseph Finder featuring Nick Heller, a private spy who has experience in the special forces. Lauren will ask Nick to track down her husband. With some clues, Nick will make every effort to find his brother and unravel the mystery of his disappearance. 

The story is more intriguing with Nick’s relationship with his brother and his father, who was arrested for bilking people out of their money. This will lead Nick into a fight with a powerful corporate as well. 

Finder does a good job of creating characters with flaws that make them more memorable, especially with Nick Heller’s relationship with his brother. As the mystery starts to unravel, Nick finds that there is a lot more to his brother’s disappearance and the answers lead to a lot more surprises.

The combination of action and suspense along with the point of views switching to Lauren make for a fast paced read. Finder manages to build other believable characters such as Lauren and Gabe and shows how a dysfunctional relationship builds even more tension in the story. 

Finder’s series seem like an attempt to compete with other action thrillers that include Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Barry Eisler, and Lee Child. I’m not quite ready to say that Nick is at this level but he’s close enough that I would give it five stars for a action packed story with memorable characters that have their flaws. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

St. Vincent - Movie Review

         I guess there are times when movie producers get together and say hey, wasn’t Clint Eastwood great in the movie Gran Torino?  Once there was an agreement, the thought was lets see if we can create that racist character again and have him help a student who is being bullied. 

         As a result, we have the movie St. Vincent, where Bill Murray locks down Eastwood’s character right away in the first scene when two Hispanic men who are working for a moving company accidentally knock down a tree that ruins his fence and damages his car.  

         Yes, we see these men arguing with each other by speaking Spanish and Murray goes out there and asks them if they can speak English.  Of course, the movie takes place in 2014 so the answer is yes, they can speak English which would be progressive in Hollywood yet Murray gets to call them Chico and the Man in front of Melissa McCarthy, who is the neighbor that has hired these men to move her stuff into her house next door. 

           Since this takes place in Brooklyn, let’s add a hooker and a dancer in a bar who is Russian and can’t speak English.  She is an underpaid hooker though who is also a dancer who for some reason is in love with Murray since she is carrying his child.   You have to wonder where Murray is getting his money since he is losing at the racetrack and is in debt to a bookie yet somehow, his wife is in a huge retirement home because she has Alzheimer’s.  

            Somehow, Murray will have a relationship with McCarthy’s son, with McCarthy being blind to all this because she is working late hours at a hospital due to a divorce from her husband who won’t pay her any alimony yet he is fighting for custody of her son.  I guess you can say that the only performances that were good in the movie were by Melissa McCarthy and her son Oliver, who is played by Jaeden Lieberher.  

             By the end of the movie, it was obvious that Murray wasn’t going to live up to the role that Eastwood played and if that wasn’t irritating enough, my favorite song by Bob Dylan - Shelter From The Storm - was being played as the movie ended.  I ran out as the song started and will say this movie was worth 1 star.  

Ron Hummer 

Immoral by Brian Freeman - Book Review

In Immoral, Detective Jonathan Stride is faced with a second case of a teenage girl named Rachel who may have been murdered by a serial killer. This was after another teenage girl may have been murdered as well named Kerry McGrath. While the premise of the story sounds compelling, the writer did a poor job of plotting the story, thus making it a mess. 
My feeling is that when you have a murder mystery, you have a homicide detective who is supposed to be solving these murders based on clues that he has that would lead him to the killer. Along the way, there would be suspects as well as a timeline that takes place in the present. Not doing that created a lot of problems.
You could start by saying that the point of view constantly changed throughout this novel. At times, the writer even went into the inner thoughts of suspects and people who had already died. Then during the last part of the story, more characters were introduced, making the novel more fractured. While it wasn’t confusing, the story would have been better if it started as a cold case in Vegas. Then the point of view could have stayed with Jonathan Stride for the entire time.
Instead, the story started in Minneapolis. Among other things, this created a three year time line which I have never seen in a murder mystery. If a murder is solved, it should be done in the present, making the story cleaner in any case since Stride will be going back in time along with his partner, Serena, to investigate the murder. Since that wasn’t done, the author introduced Serena towards the end of the novel, making her a major character in the story when this should have happened in the beginning if the story was done as a cold case. 
If the story took place in Vegas in the beginning, then this would have solved the other problems like seeing Stride in a relationship that was on a three year time line. Starting in the present in Vegas would have made the story better to follow since he could have going back in time to talk about his romance with Andrea. 
Putting these problems aside, it seemed to me that the author was making the impression that Stride and the DA were incompetent because it was questionable that there should have been a trial since the DA didn’t have enough evidence or a body. If the story started in Vegas, there could have been an examination of a trial and at the very least, evidence could have been used in the story and we would go back in time and make it look as though the case reached its proper conclusion and Stride would be the one showing how the trial reflected the problems that this created for Grame, one of the characters in the story. 
By the end of the story, we saw the author going into the inner thoughts of people who were already killed in order to piece all this together. Again, if the story started in Vegas, then all that could have been avoided since Stride could have been the one going back to link the murders based on the people that he questioned. 
Other problems on a more minor level if you want to call it that were having strangers find the evidence such as a bracelet rather than someone who worked for the police. Then we had drawn out scenes where strangers were finding bodies by urinating on them. I don’t think authors like Michael Connelly would do that. 
I should have stopped reading this story when the author made Rachel an evil character by being responsible for a dog being killed when it was hit by a car. Rachel’s character was already developed and the author didn’t need to do that. Instead I was foolish enough to read this fractured novel that had no structure or consistent point of view because the plot was written in a poor manner. A simple adjustment would have made this a better story to follow so that’s the major reason I’m giving this book one star. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Expendables 2 - DVD Review

         When it comes to movies, TV shows, or even a commercial, I have a list of three actors that I will not watch.   They are Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, and Richard Gere.  With that said, I will review Expendables 2  since the third part is on indemand today.  

          In Expendables 2, the super team lead by Sly Stallone and Jason Statham reunite on what would seem like a simple mission from Bruce Willis.  They are to retrieve an item from a plane that has crashed in Albania.  Once they arrive, they are ambushed by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who plays Jean Vilain, an international criminal and arms dealer.  

           During the ambush, one of the members of the Expendables, Billy the Kid, is captured by Vilain.  He tells the team members that he will let Ross go if they give him the item that they took from the plane.  Of course, after they get the item, they kill Billy, setting up a plot for the movie where Barney Ross, played by Sly Stallone, vows revenge and goes after Vilain and his men.  

            The rest of the movie is mixed with a great blend of action and comedy as Ross tracks down Vilain.  There are several battles with two surprise appearances by Chuck Norris, who gets Ross’ men out of a big jam.  Norris would say that he doesn’t work with  Ross’ team because he’s a lone wolf.    

             As far as performances go, Statham had some exciting moments with his speciality which was with knives, giving him an edge when it came to a scene where he seemed like he could take 100 men.  Stallone has some good moments as well, especially with his battle with Jean Claude Van Damme.  

             Schwarzenegger and Willis add a great blend of comedy to the movie as they join the team in another battle.  We get some good laughs out of their dialogue, especially when they exchange lines from their movies in Die Hard and The Terminator.  My only disappointment in the movie was that I didn’t get to see Jet Li.  I think he would have made a better choice than Dolph Lungren.  

             In any case, the movie leads to a predictable ending but along the way, there are a lot of laughs and action for everyone.  My feeling was that it was a much better movie than Expendables because I felt the plot in that movie was harder to follow.  

              I guess I’ll never know if Expendables 3 was better than Expendables 2, which is fine with me.  I wait for Expendables 4 and say that Expendables 2 is worth five stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards - Book Review

Andrew Summer has gotten though an operation that has restored his sight both eyes. His luck seems to get even better when he meets the woman of his dreams, not knowing that she could also give him nightmares as well. 

This is the conflict that Mark Edwards covers in his psychological thriller, Because She Loves Me. The book is about an intense relationship between Andrew and Charlie where it seems that Andrew has met the woman of his dreams. 

The story moves along with Andrew having a black cloud over his head since he met Charlie. His friends are meeting with problems that were unexpected and Andrew may be the victim of an accident. The problems only seem to get worse when one of his friends is murdered. 

The plot only thickens when Charlie is unhinged because she wants Andrew to herself, not wanting Andrew to have any life of his own. Andrew is tested throughout the story and feels conflicted about Charlie, wondering what to do since he is in love with her. What makes Charlie even more mysterious is that she has a dark past and doesn’t want Andrew to know about it. 

The author does a great job in building tension based on the feelings Andrew has for Charlie. The emotions are strong and anyone that has been in a relationship can see that Mark Edwards has done a great job in making the tension of Andrew’s feelings build and move the story so you can’t stop turning the pages. 

Most of the ratings on Kindle were very strong with 96 out of 132 giving Because She Loves Me four or five stars. There were some complaints about the ending. I don’t agree with that. A psychological thriller has to have an ending that isn’t obvious and Mark Edwards does a good job of giving the reader an unpredictable ending that is satisfying. 

I would say that this psychological thriller ranks up there with many of the best books I have read this year. I only wish I could give this book more than five stars.