Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Too Late For Tears - Film Noir Review

            As the preview pointed out, through a fluke circumstance, a ruthless woman stumbles across a suitcase filled with $60,000, and she is determined to hold on to it.  

            What is the fluke circumstance?  Jane Palmer and Alan Palmer are driving one night and as they pass a car coming towards them in the opposite direction, a bag is thrown into their car.  They pull over and see that the bag contains $60,000.  

             Yes, this is the fluke circumstance.  The person had thrown the money into the wrong car.  There was another car coming and that’s where the bag was supposed to be.   You think it would be so hard just to say that they could have found the money while walking through a park.  At least the plot in Bruno Fischer’s last book, Evil Days, had the protagonist finding a bag of jewels in the train station. 

               It is interesting though when you see that the screenplay was adapted from Roy Huggins and he went on to be involved in creating many movies and TV shows.  Those shows include The Rockford Files, The Fugitive - the series with David Jansen -, Baretta, and Hunter with Fred Dryer.  

               If you can get past the fluke circumstance, you would find that the rest of the movie actually had a good plot.  The ruthless woman, Jane Palmer, would do anything to keep the $60,000 even though her husband said that he wanted to turn the money in to the police.  Jane would be come so desperate that she would kill her husband only to have trouble locating the ticket to a storage locker where the bag of money was.  

             This was a great plot device and add two characters to the plot -   Danny Fuller, the person who was supposed to get the money; and Don Blake, a man who seems to know a lot about Jane Palmer.   People might remember Don Blake - who is played by Don Defore  - as George Baxter,  the corporate lawyer in the TV show Hazel.  

             In any case, although there was another scene that seemed flawed, you could say that there was a lot of suspense.   Jane Palmer seemed like an unstable character and people will hope that she won’t get away with the money.  I would give this movie three stars.  

Creep By Jennifer Hiller

       I guess there are times when you read certain reviews and think that this should be a good book especially when you get recommendations from Jeffrey Deaver and Lisa Gardner.  If there was one way in which they described the book that was true, it was frightening.  Unfortunately, I did not feel this way once I finished the book. 

        Maybe you could say that the characters are engaging and are interesting to follow.  Dr. Sheila Tao being a brilliant psychologist but hiding the fact that she is a sex addict seems intriguing.  The rest of the characters seem intriguing as well.  That’s where the story ends for me. 

         Basically, I thought the story fell apart.  The biggest turnoff for me was the kidnapping and the hostage situation.  I thought the whole thing made me cringe and difficult to read through.  Nothing suspenseful about it.  A book like Snowbound by Blake Crouch is a good example of not having to use a hostage scene like that and why you don’t need it.   Barry Eisler’s book The Detachment was a great example of how to portray a scene like this. 

          The biggest flaw to me was the real protagonist of the novel coming out of left field.  Throughout the whole book, this person is never brought to life until the end and that seems to make the whole thing a better mystery.  I don’t think you’re playing fair with the readier by doing this.  Let the character be part of the story and they can still be a shock at the end of the story.  Otherwise, don’t do that. 

           Were there moments of suspense?  Yes.  There were quite a few and that was the only reason I was able to get through the book.  Other than that, once the story finished, it wasn’t much of an ending to me.  

            While the story has great character development, I would say that the story could of been better if the one character who was hidden throughout the story would have made it a better story if her character was developed.  I can only give this book two stars.  

Ron Hummer

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Black Moon Rising - Blast from the Past Netflix Instant Review

         I guess you can call this a High Tech thriller from the 1980’s since you see computers and a car that can go over 250 miles per hour.  Seeing these ancient computers is enough to make anyone smile as they watch the movie.  

         The movie opens with Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Quint, breaking into a corporate office to steal something very important - a cassette tape from a computer storage room.  Somehow Jones gets away from three men who have machine guns and of course they know who he is.  

          Once Quint escapes, he has to decide what to do with the tape.  Since he is in a gas station, he happens to see a black car with a cover on it and he decides to hide the tape behind the back of the license plate.  Just then, the three men who nearly tried to kill Quint show up at the gas station and of course, he gets away again.  

           Later in a restaurant, he sees Linda Hamilton, who plays Nina.  She’s a car thief and has a gang in the restaurant who will go and steal nearly all the cars in the parking lot.  Nina manages to swipe the car that goes 250 miles an hour and Quint is after her, somehow able to keep up with her while dodging cars on a one way street going the wrong way while Nina is going at top speed.  

            In any case, the cars are stored in a building with two towers and we meet the leader of the gang, Robert Vaughn, who plays Ed Ryland.  His sidekick is a viscous killer name Marvin Ringer, who plays Lee Ving.  Jones wants the car back so he can get the cassette tape and the only way he can do that is to work with Nina.  

             I never really knew what was on the cassette tape but it was very valuable to a lot of people such as Bubba Smith, who plays an FBI agent.  Of course, three bad guys are chasing Quint as well because they want the tape back also. 
             The movie has many flaws.  One of the three men who wanted the car back was murdered when Marvin ran him down with his car in the building.  The other men ran away, not going to the police.  

             With the flaws came a tense ending though.  Jones plays the part well and if there was one thing you could say about Black Moon Rising, it was unpredictable.   That is the reason I’ll give this movie 3-1/2 stars.  

Ron Hummer 

A Tap On The Window by Linwood Barclay - Book Review

       Two months ago, Cal Weaver’s son Scott, died in a tragic accident and since then, he and his wife are drifting apart.  Neither of them can’t get past their grief and now Cal’s judgment may be clouded.  Cal needs to have good judgement since he is a private detective.  

       One night, while driving home, Cal gets a tap on the window.  He sees a teenage girl that is the same age of Scott.  She even tells him that she knew his son and she needs a ride to a local restaurant.  Cal takes her there and he finds out that her name is Claire. 

        During a stop at the restaurant, something strange happens.  Claire switches places with another girl and suddenly, Cal is driving someone else home.  Once he realizes that he has been tricked, he lets the girl off at the next corner.  The problem after that is that the girl is murdered.   If that isn’t enough, Claire has disappeared and she is the mayor’s daughter.  The mayor would hire Cal to find her.

         Once again, Barclay is brilliant in bringing out his characters in a great story.  The characters again have flaws and that only add to the suspense.  There are times throughout the story where I wondered who Cal could trust.   In the end somehow, the story comes together with a lot of suspense and surprises.  It’s a hard book to put down and it’s a great, fast paced read as a result. 

          Fans like me can’t help but compare A Tap On The Window to Barclay’s other books like Trust Your Eyes and The Accident.  Some people thought that this was the weakest book that Barclay had done.  I would disagree and say that this book is just as good as the others, if not better.   

           I was also surprised that some people said that A Tap On The Window lacked humor in comparison to his other books.  I never saw anything funny in his other books so unless there are funny parts in other books besides Trust Your Eyes and The Accident, I can’t agree with those views either.  

            I think it’s great that Barclay can take ordinary people and put them in a novel that can be both a combination of contemporary literature and a thriller.  Barclay has a great gift and I have to say that A Tap On A Window is worth five stars to me and is just as good as Trust Your Eyes and The Accident.  

Ron Hummer 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Almost Human - Science Fiction TV Review

      Can we say that Fox is the best when it comes to science fiction shows?  First, there was the X-Files.  Then there was Fringe.  Now, the new hit, Almost Human. 

      Yes, there seems to be a relationship with movies in the 80’s like Robocop and Blade Runner.   Will that help it in gaining a huge audience?  

      The year is 2048.  As far as law enforcement is concerned, every cop that is human must be teamed up with an Android.  John Kennex doesn’t like Androids for partners because he feels that his last partner, who was an Android, was responsible for losing his leg.  

      What can you say about the lead character, Karl Urban.  He plays John Kennex and he is awake after a 17 year long coma coming from a brutal attack.  He has an ex girlfriend that hie doesn’t trust now.  Then there is his synthetic leg.  

      John’s new partner is a robot.  They didn’t hit it off because the partner said that he would report John for doing something wrong.  What does John do?  First chance he gets, he throws his partner out into traffic and the guy is flattened like a pancake. 

       Then there is the other lead character, Android Dorian, played by Michael Ealy.  There are times during the show that Dorian seems more human than John.  One scene was when John stabbed himself in his synthetic leg in order to impress some children but all he did was scare them way, only to get a tongue lashing from Dorian. 

        The bigger question after the first two episodes is whether John can trust Dorian, especially now that John found that his ex-girlfriend was behind his accident.  It seems like a good relationship even though Dorian may seem more human than John. 

         In the first episode, John and Dorian are battling the InSyndicate.  They have a weapon that can disable Androids.  As John and Dorian fight them off, Dorian helps John remember that night before he lost his leg and went into a coma.  

         In the second episode,  John and Dorian are involved in a missing persons case that involves robots.   Kennex will continue to deal with his troubled past while Dorian will continue to deal with the premise that he may have some human qualities.  This of course will be a problem since he sees that another robot needed to be destroyed because it possessed human qualities.  

           The show has has stiff competition from The Blacklist, The Voice, and Dancing With The Stars.  I can see this show coming through though and hopefully coming back next season.  I thought that all the episodes were great and enjoyed the relationship between John and Dorian.  

           To me, Almost Human deserves more than five stars.  One of the best shows on Fox besides Bones.  

Ron Hummer 

The Spiked Heel by RIchard Marsten

              I think when it comes to novels, there aren’t enough written on the corporate world and the problems employees have in the workplace. Maybe the only novel other than the Spiked Heel that comes to mind is The Jungle by Uptown Sinclair. 

              The Spiked Heel was written by Richard Marsten but that name was a pseudonym for Evan Hunter. As a writer, there is a huge difference in the way Hunter writes The Spiked Heel than his Ed McBain novels, which was full of so much dialogue and easy to read. His writing and style in The Spiked Heel is more dynamic. It’s hard for me to understand why he writes in a different style in the Spiked Heel than when he wrote the McBain books. It's as if there are two different writers who wrote the books. 

              As far as the book goes, much of it focuses on two characters point of views, Griff and Jeff McQuade. Both of them work in a show factory called Julien Kahn. The factory was taken over by a company called Titanic. The new manager who comes in to run things is Jeff McQuade. 

            From there, we see how McQuade abuses the employees and sexually harasses the woman in the company. McQuade is not only the boss but a dark character who is a former college football player. Hunter does a great job of creating a difficult boss who takes hold of power and abuses it in different ways in the workplace and instills fear in the employees. 

            Griff is the manager of the cost at the shoe factory. What drives the book is how these two characters are at odds over issues in the workplace as well as how the employees are treated. It’s a battle that seems to be in McQuade’s favor throughout the book and you find yourself shaking your head and hoping that Griff will come through somehow at the end of the story as McQuade continues to abuse his power. 

            It’s certainly a book that I can relate to regarding the workplace. I thought that since this novel takes place in the 60’s, it seemed to be a great portrayal of employers and how power is abused and how employees suffer as a result of this. 

           Hunter is somewhat evenhanded in the book when he talks about the problems that employees create as well so I give him credit for that. In any case, it’s a great story that shows that you can’t take the corporate world for granted and that there are problems that repeated themselves in many corporations over the years. This is a great book to see why this is happening. 

            If you ever wondered about corporate greed and how it has hurt employees at many companies over the years like Prudential Bache, Enron, AIG, The New York Times, or Sunbeam, then you can read this book and know the reasons why there are problems in the corporate world even today and that if anything, it is worse today than it was when Evan Hunter wrote this book. As far as I’m concerned, it’s worth five stars. 

Ron Hummer 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The President's Man - DVD Review

         This was a TV movie that was part of a series in early 2000.   Since Vince Flynn’s first book, Term Limits, came out in 1998, I would guess that this was Hollywood’s attempt to start a similiar series with Chuck Norris playing the lead part as Joshua McCord.  

         I remember that Norris was interviewed about this series and said that he did it because he wanted people to be aware of a possible terrorist attack.  Of course, no one thinks of the 1996 movie Executive Decision with Hale Berry and Kurt Russell where a group of terrorists would take a passenger plane and try to crash it into the White House.  

         If there was one thing you could say about this movie, it was that it had a lot of storylines.  In this case, McCord was on his last mission as the President’s man and he stopped the kidnapping of the President’s wife.  Now he’s looking for a new man to take over for him.  

         That man would be Sargent Deke Slater.  He had his own problems such as being in jail in the army for problems that he seemed to be set up for.  McCord felt that he was the best man to take over and soon, Slater was training with McCord to be on future missions.  

         There were at least three missions after a huge training program.  Slater would go on various missions that included getting a business man’s daughter away from a religious cult.  Then of course there was the most important mission that came out during the story.   It would be where McCord would square off against General Vinh Tran, the man who killed McCord’s wife. 

          The movie moved along from mission to mission, making you wonder if Slater can get though each mission, along with the training.  It seemed predictable that he would be questioning his own abilities, but in the end, it was only predictable that he would be successful in completing the training and the missions.  

           Since the movie was predictable and anti climatic, it’s hard to give the movie more than three stars.  There was a lot of action and martial arts scenes that still bring up the movie to three stars in the first place.  

Ron Hummer

The Various Haunts Of Men By Susan Hill - Book Review

           In the Various Haunts of Men, Susan Hill has created a town where several people have disappeared and the officer assigned to the case, Freya Graffham, is in charge of finding out what happened to them. The story of these people is told through either friends or relatives of the victims in the story. 

           I thought the book was dynamic since it was told through the point of view of several people throughout the story. While the story was character driven, I thought that the characters in the story weren’t memorable. The story seemed to focus more on the person who was involved in the disappearance of the characters. As a result, I thought that it took away from the story and made the plot weaker.
One example would be that the story wasn’t much of a mystery. It wasn’t a surprise when the perpetrator was revealed in the story. I thought more could have been done with this. At the very least, we could have had more than one suspect and the reader would have a hard time figuring out who caused the disappearance of the characters involved. 

             In addition, the story lacked suspense since you knew what happened to the characters that disappeared. While I was happy that much of it was left to the imagination of the reader, I thought that the story would have had more suspense if we knew at the end what happened to the people that disappeared.
As far as Freya was concerned, the only think you really knew about her was that she was interested in Simon Serrailer but again, not much is made of that in the story. Much of Freya’s feelings are short lived and again, more could have been made of this in the story. 

             In one way, I liked how the author was dynamic in writing the story through several points of view. The important part was what these people had in common and why they disappeared. While that was understood at the end, I thought that if fell flat because again, I thought more could have been done in connecting the people together. Freya, the key investigator, could have had some clues to work with that would have made this more of a mystery and pointed to different suspects in the story. 

             All in all, I would continue to read more books by Susan Hill but I could only give this book three stars. 

Ron Hummer
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Argo - DVD Review

      Well, I was glad to see Argo win the best picture at the Oscar’s.  Not that I watched it.  I still can’t believe that they nominated American Beauty to be the best picture in 2000.  

       Anyway, there was some pretty tough competition.  Zero Dark 30.  Silver Linings Playbook.  Lincoln.  And of course, The Expendables 2.  Only kidding on the last one.  I did enjoy that movie as well though. 

        I was in college when the hostage crisis happened.  I still remember following the news, seeing the protests, wondering what was going to happen next.  Then there was the helicopter rescue attempt that failed miserably.  

        I knew about that rescue attempt when it happened but didn’t know the details.  I thought that the most chilling part that I saw about the movie was seeing the children putting the shredded documents back together so they could identify the missing people from the embassy.  

         You can’t come up with a better plot for this movie.  Rescuing these people by saying that you’re going to have a science fiction movie filmed in the area and the missing people worked on the set.  

          Of course, it was based on a true story and that made the plot even better.  Would the people get their parts right?  Would the soldiers catch them before they get to the airport?  Would they catch them before they get on the plane. 

          Then there was the biggest question.  Would the mission even take off?  Was the play too risky?  

          If you saw the movie, you know the answers to those questions.  If you didn’t, go see the movie on cable TV.  It’s a great one.  See if you feel like cheering at the end. 

          Hats off to Tony Mendez for creating this plan and executing it even under the worst circumstances.  He was the real hero that day.  I’’m glad that I saw the movie and got the chance to experience it.  

Ron Hummer

The Accounting By William Lashner - Book Review

          The book begins when JJ Morretti goes to see his best friend, Auggie.  When he arrives at his home, he sees that Auggie has been murdered.  JJ knows that there there is no mystery as to the reason that he is murdered.  He knows who did it and he knows that he will be next. 

          From there, the story switches at times to Morretti’s childhood, with his two best friends, Auggie and Ben.  No, they weren’t geeky nerds although they were bullied in school by John Grubbins.  Derek Grubbins, John’s brother, was also a drug dealer who sold Morretti pot.  

           Morretti decided one night - along with his friends - to break into Grubbins house to steal some pot because he thought the quality of the pot that Grubbins sold him was terrible.  When they were in the house though, they also found over a million dollars in drug money stashed in garbage cans.   After little deliberation, the three decide to make the choice of stealing the money.  

           As I read through The Accounting, I thought that not only was it a thriller but it was a book that you might even think that would have been written by Elmore Leonard.  You have a lot of criminals throughout the book in the story that can be compared with early Leonard books such as 52 pickup. 

           Some of the characters include a motorcycle gang that is lead by foul mouth overweight woman.  Then there are of course the Grubbin’s, nasty characers who are thugs and drug dealers.   Then you have other thugs like Clevenger.  There is even a blend in the story of Morretti being a mortgage broker that can also take you back to some of Leonard’s other novels such as Stick.  

            Of course, you also have a very strong friendship between JJ, Ben and Auggie from the early days.  In one scene, you see the three of them getting high while listening and dancing to Bruce Springsteen.  It’s hard to have any empathy for any of them, especially JJ, since he is married now and has put his wife and children at risk since he stole the drug money in the first place.  

            With all that said, I’m really not giving anything away.  Lashner has written a great thriller in the spirt of Elmore Leonard.  The ratings on the book are high and it’s only $4.99 on Kindle.  The book is hard to put down and you have a lot of memorable characters, suspense, and an ending that you won’t forget anytime soon.   

            It’s easy for me to say that The Accounting is one of the best books that I have read this year.  If you’re a fan of Elmore Leonard, you should enjoy it as well.  It’s worth more than five stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Flight - DVD Review

        I think there was a time when you could say that you couldn’t go wrong when you saw a Tom Hanks movie.   I felt much differently after seeing Charlie Wilson’s War and have not seen a Tom Hanks movie since then. 

        If anything, I would say that today you can’t go wrong if you see a Denzel Washington movie.  Yes, I did not like Training Day but there have been so many movies since then.  Deja Vu, my all time favorite movie, then Unstoppable. 

        I would put Flight up there with those movies as well.  The special effects of seeing Denzel bringing the plane down safely when it was falling apart, even going upside down.  It was really incredible seeing it on the big screen like that.  

        Of course, the movie had a great plot.  Denzel Washington plays a pilot named Whip Whitaker who saves nearly a  hundered passengers but four did not survive so thee was a chance that he could spend the rest of his life in jail because he had been drinking and taking cocaine in the morning before he went on the plane.  

         From there, the tension built even more because Whip is an alcohic and he has to do everything he can not to bring attention to himself by getting drunk throughout the movie. Of course, I’m rooting for Whip but he seems to be his own worst enemy.  

         John Goodman played a great part as Whip’s friend and someone who would help him get drugs when he needed them, leading to a scene when he had to get high in order to get rid of a hangover so he can appear at the hearing.   As a result, the movie takes several twists and turns and you never know what will happen next along with a surprise ending. 

          Flight had a great supporting cast as well.   I would give this movie five stars and can’t wait to see Denzel Washington’ s next movie.  

Ron Hummer

Aftershock by Andrew Vachss - Book Review

          When I saw that Andrew Vachss came out with Aftershock, I was very excited to read it considering the fact that I am an Andrew Vachss fan who has enjoyed the PI Burke series which include some great books like Flood, Strega, Hard Candy, and Sacrifice, just to name a few. Now that Vachss has ended the series, my thought was that this book should be at the same level of suspense and have the edgy characters I’m used to reading in his books. 

             If you are a Vachss fan like I am, maybe the first thing to be concerned about was the cover which said Aftershock, A thriller. I think that it would have been fair to say that if you said legal thriller, then it would have given me a better perspective of what to expect to read in this book. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of legal thrillers and I avoid these books like the plague so I might have considered giving this book a pass if I knew that this would be the case. 

            The plot seems interesting and something that you would would expect from Vachss. There is a school shooting which is compared to what happened at Columbine but in this book, there was a twist since Mary Lou, who was involved in the school shooting, seemed to have some justification for this crime. Other reviewers didn’t find it to be believable but if you have read other Vachss books, this type of plot is expected and I thought that it was believable in any case. 

            The two main characters that come to the aid of Mary Lou are Dell and Dolly. Both characters have interesting backgrounds that only Vachss can create and while he does a great job on that front, I though that the characters felt flat and were not memorable like other characters Vachss has portrayed in his previous novels. Other reviewers may disagree with me but that was my feelings. 

             As far as the plot goes, much of it is done through legal maneuvering of how Mary Lou’s lawyer would get her crime thrown out of court with the advice of Dell. This may seem interesting and the courtroom scenes seem comic at times with the DA being referred to as Fat Face throughout the trial, which wasn’t very long in any case. Other than the trial, the book lacked suspense and I found myself just turning the last few pages, not really caring how the book would end. 

             Part of the problem I had with the book had to do with the fact that I’m not a fan of legal thrillers. I don’t watch Law and Order or other legal shows such as The Good Wife or any other legal shows for that matter. If you’re a fan of legal thrillers, then you may like this book. As for me, I was disappointed and find myself giving this book two stars. 

Ron Hummer