Monday, May 26, 2014

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry - Netflix Instant Review - Blast From The Past


            This movie was made back in 1974 in Seattle with big names like Peter Fonda and Susan George.   Fonda plays Larry, a former race car driver, along with his partner and mechanic, Deke Sommers, hatch a plan to rob a supermarket when Deke takes the wife and the daughter of the manager hostage in their home while Fonda goes in to collect $150,000 from the safe from the manager in the supermarket. 

             The robbery goes off without a hitch and Larry seems to be on his way when Mary - a woman he had a one night stand with - is in the car and wants to let him know how angry she is because he left her in her room without saying goodbye.  Eventually, the three of them somehow drive away with the cops on their tail. 

              Much of the movie after that is about the police chasing Larry and his crew.  The police are tenacious and many of the chases are good.  I think that the idea was similar to all the Burt Reynolds movies regarding Smokey and the Bandit in developing this movie. 

              The characters are poorly developed to say the least.  You really don’t know until 3/4 of the movie that Larry was a former race car driver and Deke was his mechanic who drank himself off the circuit.  Then there was Mary, who was in jail for shoplifting.  The reason this bothered me so much was because if you want watch this movie from the beginning, you had to wonder why these characters were together in the first place and that didn’t make the story believable to me.

              Since this movie took place in 1974, I thought it was fun to see old cars, rotary phones, reel to reel tape recorders, and police scanners.  The police seemed like clowns in the movie - again relating to Smokey And The Bandit - although there was a good sequence of the police making Larry think that he was going to get caught during the chase.  

              I think that part of the goal of the movie was to make you root for Larry and his crew but that was difficult since you couldn’t like the characters.  That, and having one of the worst endings in the movie, showed that the script was not very good in any case.  

              Not one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen but not a great movie either.  I would say 2-1/2 stars.  

Ron Hummer 

         

A Pitcher's Story by Roger Angell - Biography of David Cone


             This story is about the career of David Cone, a pitcher who was with the Royals, Mets, and Yankees Red Sox, and Blue Jays throughout his career.  Much of the book is about his declining years with the Yankees although the book opens talking about his no-hitter against the Expos.  

            Getting beyond that, you have flashes of games that David was in and it goes though the 1990’s when the Yankees were winning with Joe Torre at the helm.  If you’re a Yankee fan, you would like this but for others, it seemed to me like the author was just going through the motions.  

             Cone spent a lot of time with the Mets in his early years but that was after The Mets won the 86 world series.  His time came in 1988 when the Mets were battling the Dodgers in the playoffs and lost.  Even though Cone had his best season - 20-3 - he was overshadowed by Orel Hershiser who was considered the Bulldog for going for so many innings. 

              Of course, during the 80’s and early 90’s, this was the era where pitch counts didn’t mean that much.   I remember the Mets having all the momentum in the playoffs against the Dodgers until Gooden went into the 9th inning and let up the home run to Scioscia which was discussed in the book.   Maybe if Gooden was taken out of the game earlier, then the result could have been different although the author doesn’t get into that. 

             As far as pitch counts are concerned, Cone was someone who would go as much as 160 in a game against the Giants under Jeff Torborg in a season where both teams were at the bottom of their divisions.    This was after the championship years when the Mets started on the decline and even had a book written after them called The Worst Team That Money Could Buy.  Again, that era of the Mets wasn’t discussed in the book either. 

             As far as the pitch counts are concerned, I guess you could say that yes, Cone went deep into games many times but in those days, there were probably other pitchers that went just as deep so it was just taken for granted that these pitchers can go for so long and not have the injuries that many young pitchers have today.  It’s hard to understand why that is but it seems to me that older baseball fans say why can’t the young pitchers keep up with the pitchers of the past since they make so much money. 

             I thought it was interesting about Cone’s past with the minor leagues, the Royals,  and all the talk about cocaine.  His past about the rape and the groupie comments was just glossed over.  Nothing was mentioned in the book about steroids though.  

              It’s tough to write a biography when you want to include so much such as Cone’s role in the strike shortened season of 1994, along with Cone’s life and times in the minors.  At 286 pages, this all goes real quick, maybe too quick for me.  

              The one thing I liked about the book was that it gave me a perspective on Cone and the late years with the Yankees.  You really see the frustration the pitcher goes through, trying to hold on for 17 years.  Even when Cone was 4-14 in 2000 and a relief pitcher with the Yankees, he still went on for 3 more years, which wasn’t in the book. 

              In any case, I only give the book 3 stars. 

Ron Hummer

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bones - TV Review


         It’s funny the way the producers run this show.  For much of the season, we see gross images of dead bodies and skeletons yet somehow, there is always a way to off set with with comic relief. 

         It could be anyone on the staff such as the obnoxious intern, who rubs people the wrong way with anything he says.  And there is Angela telling him not to be a douche.  

          Hodges looking for the most outrageous experiment.  That could be him shooting a cannon or paddling a dummy.  
          Of course, you have the banter going on whether it’s Booth going telling Sweets to do some shrink stuff or Bones making insensitive remarks to people that she is questioning.  This goes on and on for nearly all the episodes until the season starts to close.  Then the show takes a serious turn. 

          It was quite a finale.  Booth getting into a gunfight with Delta Force people because he is trying to uncover a conspiracy in the FBI.  The battle was intense and I wondered if he was going to get out of it.  Naturally, you would think that he would but that was one of the best battles that I saw, especially when Bones came to his aid.  

           Of course, I don’t think that they needed to do this.  Bones has a loyal audience and it’s going into it’s 10 year.   Yes, this show started in 2005 and it’s still going strong.  Fox does need the show since they don’t have any other hits other than Almost Human and The Following, although I won’t watch that show after seeing the first episode. 

           In any case, I will say that this was a great finale, putting action shows like Hawaii Five 0 and NCIS LA to shame.  Great action on this one.  I’m more than happy to give it five stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Piece Of My Heart By Peter Robinson - Book Review


          This is my second time reading a novel by Peter Robinson and I have to say that after reading Piece Of My Heart, I’m more than hooked.  If there is anyone who can create a great story with so many memorable characters, it’s Peter Robinson. 

          In Piece of my heart, there are two murders.   One is Linda Lofthouse, who was found murdered in a sleeping bag during a rock and roll festival in September of 1969.  Then there was Nick Barber, who was found murdered in his home.  

          What made this novel more unique was that Robinson had two detectives investigating the murder.  Stanley Chadwick in 1969 and Alan Banks in the present. The point of views would switch throughout the book between Chadwick and Robinson, although there were times when other characters moved in to have their story told.  

           One of them was Yvonne Chadwick, the daughter of Stanley Chadwick.  I enjoyed this part of the book because since Yvonne was around in 1969 during a Rock Festival that included some of my favorite bands such as Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd.   Banks also brought in The Mad Hatters, a fictional band into the story which also led to some other references of other great names that included Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, and The Grateful Dead.   Being a fan of these groups only made this book more of a fun read for me. 

            The story moved along with the point of views switching, making me wonder what was the connection between the two murders since they took place over 30 years apart.  Of course, there were other suspects and Banks has a way of making the minor characters even more memorable whether it’s Annie Cabbot, or Winsome, or Banks’ supervisor.  

             The contrast between Chadwick and Banks really brings out the story even more, especially at the way it ended.  It’s the kind of story that really shows how Robinson is great at making a mystery like this into a work of art.  He is at the top of his game in this book.  Have to give credit to Robinson on this since writing a story like this that took place 30 years apart must have been a challenge but he makes it seem so easy in the story.  

             The real surprise is that there are only 63 reviews on kindle and 56 of them are either four or five stars.  For me, it’s no problem to say that this is one of my favorite books that I read this year and I would give this more than five stars.  

Ron Hummer
             

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saint George - TV Comedy Review


          I would be the first to say that one of my favorite shows of all time was The George Lopez show.  Part of the reason was that the show was funny since the show centered around George Lopez.  I was sad when the show was cancelled and hoped that he would be back again someday. 

          Unfortunately, my wish did come true because he is back in his new show, St. George, which is on FX.  This is a network that seems to have no boundaries in their shows since they have Charlie Sheen on a show.   In addition, I thought it was extremely outrageous that they started the new season on FX where there is a shooting by a teenager in a church.   

           Part of me wanted to watch the show because George Lopez is on it and I thought, how controversial would the show be?  Well, it’s not controversial, but I would say that it seemed like the writing of the scripts have been in poor taste to say the least. There are other members of the show who also make me cringe. 

            Yes, the show is built around George Lopez but in many of the episodes, he seems to be the one that comes out as the one who is abused.  His mother in the show, who locks a kid in a closet in one episode, is always calling him fat ass or telling people how he soiled his underwear.   Her character, Olga Meridez, only seems to get worse with each show. 

             Then there are the jokes which fall flat, especially the ethnic ones.   Lopez saying that all Latina women are crazy.  Then there are the maids in a room and George says don’t you have a kid to take care of and they run off, remembering that they do have to take care of someone.  Lopez really seems to struggle for laughs especially when he tries to say that it’s normal for a police helicopter to circle his home while doing a dance. 

               Danny Trejo and David Zayas bring some humor back to the show as two goofy characters.  Trejo appears in a show dressed as a wrestler, trying to do a back flip but falling straight to the ground.  Then there is the scene where Trejo and Zayas are in the bathroom during Lopez’ son’s party with the maids, drinking from a keg of beer while watching TV shows.  The jokes on the sweat from Trejo’s body being bottled as a cologne fall flat though. 

                There are some great moments in the shows, especially where George is a teacher, using that as a basis for jokes about is family.   Diane Maria Riva, who plays the Principal of the school, is great even though she is limited in her role.  She did bring a lot of great funny moments to one of my favorite shows called The Good Guys on Fox. 

                 George’s ex-wife, MacKenzie, doesn’t bring much to the show, playing the liberal wife where her jokes and her issues on the environment or with her son seem to fall flat most of the time. You can see her clash with George many times in the show but most of the lines go to Lopez, not her.  

                  I think the ethnic jokes are the biggest turnoff on the show for me.  If there was one show that did not have to go this route, I would say to look back on Sanford & Son.  Red Fox was amazing, playing the father to Lamont, the big dummy.  His bouts with Esther were more than funny when he closed his eyes, or with his wife where he held his chest saying Elizabeth, I’m coming to join you.   The writers never had to use ethnic jokes on that show and that was the reason it was a great show and Fox was a legend.  

                  I’m very disappointed in Saint. George.  I had hoped for better things for George Lopez and I really wanted to like this show.   I think it’s a disaster and for now, I give it two stars.  

Ron Hummer 

The Case Of The Laughing Virgin by Jonathan Craig Pulp Fiction Review


          I’ve read a lot of Jonathan Craig’s short stories in Manhunt and he is at his best in The Case Of The Laughing Virgin, even though this is a very quick read at 160 pages.  Unlike his short stories, he seems to bring out some humor when Detective Pete Selby and Stan Rayder question suspects. 

          In this case, the murder victim is Larry Yeager.   Selby and Rayder find him in a bathtub with several bullets to the chest.   Outside the apartment building is Doris Hagen, sunbathing in the nude.  

          Of course, the clues to Yeager’s death seem to lead to a lot of suspects.  In the story, Yeager is a con artist, a gigolo, a liar and someone who blackmails people for money.  Selby and Rayder have their work cut out for them as this leads to a lot of suspects, questions, and some difficult answers. 

          The point of view is always with Selby, since he is the one questioning suspects while Rayder is working on questioning others or doing some paperwork.  There were times when I didn’t believe in some of Selby’s reactions to questions from victims, especially when one of the victims said that he was stupid several times.   

           It was during that scene when Selby wanted to question the woman’s husband.  When the woman thought he was at the door, she screamed for him to run and even tackled Selby when he went to the door.   In any case, this lead to a great chase as Selby went after the husband.   I thought it was a great challenge for Craig to describe the chase but he came through in several pages.

           Craig is great at using Selby’s point of view because you really see how this is a police procedural story since Selby is referring to cases on the spike or using police jargon from the 1960’s during the investigation.   The only writer that I’ve read that has done this as well would be Dan Mahoney in his books about his homicide detective, Brian McKenna. 

            By the time I finished Craig’s story, I was pleasantly surprised by who the killer was.  Craig was great at leading me in a lot of directions, which included a stag film, but in the end, he managed to keep up the suspense and pick an unlikely suspect.  More than happy to give this book five stars.  


Ron Hummer 



Friday, May 23, 2014

Odd Thomas - Netflix Instant Review


           Odd Thomas is supposed to be a short order cook in a town in California town but he is a lot more than that.  He is clairvoyant and has special gifts such as seeing dead people and dark forces called the Bodachs.

           The dead people lead him in solving mysteries as to how they died and finding their killer which Thomas does in the beginning when he takes on Harlow.  He is chasing him through town which leads to a fight at a party.  

            The police chief, played by William Dafoe, the only big name in this movie, knows of Thomas’s gifts so when he, along with Thomas’s girlfriend Stormy, tells him that dark forces are about to come to the town and all hell will break loose on August 15, the chief takes him seriously and gets prepared. 

             The movie moved on the action with a good blend of comedy as Thomas drew closer to very suspicious characters.  There were some scenes that would make me turn away but it was worth it to see the movie.  Since there was a good story line as well, being the mystery of what was going to happen on August 15, I would say that the movie was extremely unpredictable, right down to the end, making this a tense thriller. 

              In addition, since you could say that Thomas’s power was paranormal, there were some scenes where I nearly jumped out of my seat.  I would usually expect that in a horror movie but that’s how evil and unpredictable the bad guys were in the movie.  

             This was my introduction to Dean Koontz.  If you’re a fan of fantasy books like this, then I would say that Koontz ranks up there at the top of his rivals.  

              If anything, I’ll start reading this series by Dean Koontz.  I really enjoyed the movie and it’s a great introduction to his work.   I would say that this movie is worth more than five stars. 

Ron Hummer

The Girl Next Door By Patricia MacDonald - Book Review


            In the town of Hoffman New Jersey, a high school student named Nina Avery came home after a date and found that her mother had been murdered.  The man in the room with her mother was her father, Dr. Duncan Avery.   He would be accused of the murder and be in jail for the next 15 years. 

            Throughout all that time in jail Duncan denied that he killed his wife even though the evidence was overwhelming.  Yet, after a parole hearing, Duncan was freed and Nina was there, ready to take him in and help him get his life together again.  This would not last long because a few nights later, Duncan was murdered as well. 

             The Girl Next Store is a great character driven story about Nina and her brother and the suspects in the murder of her mother and father.  The story moves along making the reader wonder who the killer was.  As the mystery grows deeper, there are a multitude of suspects and by the of the book, it was a surprise to me as to who the killer was. 

             MacDonald brought out some memorable characters in the story such as Patrick, Nina’s brother, who hated Duncan because for all those years, he believed that Duncan killed his mother.  Then there was Jimmy, an alcoholic and drug addict, who had his own demons to deal with.   Even minor characters like Lindsay came out in the story nicely, making me wonder what her involvement was.  

              Then there was Gemma, the skinny girl who was Patrick’s tutor in school before she turned out to be Patrick’s wife, the girl who was made fun of in school.  She worked at a University at the school before she married Patrick. 

              With a cast of characters like this, I would say that the story made for a good read.  I wouldn’t say it was a fun read but I couldn’t help but turn the page because I wondered throughout the whole book who the killer was. 

              If you’re a fan of authors like Harlan Coben who write mysteries about murders in the suburbs, then you should enjoy this book like I did, since this book takes place in New Jersey as well.   It’s a great character driven mystery.  

              There are about 30 reviews on Kindle and 16 of them are five stars.  I have to go along with that and will say that this book is worth five stars.   Looking forward to reading more books by Patricia MacDonald. 

Ron Hummer

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Castle - TV Review


          I was really enjoying the last episode of Castle.  I thought that in many ways, we had Elmore Leonard writing this one.  Kate not being able to get married because she married someone else when she was much younger and didn’t know the wedding was for real in Las Vegas. 

          The boyfriend seemed like a character in an Elmore Leonard novel.  He was blackmailing a priest because he stole the phone of a stripper who took pictures of her having sex with the priest.  In addition. there was a motorcycle gang after him for their money as well. 

          As far as the end goes, I was surprised.  More importantly, I didn’t see a point to having a cliffhanger where we don’t know what is going to happen to Castle after his car accident.  

         Castle has a loyal audience and I thought that it was great to see Kate solve the murder of her mother and put the Senator away in jail once and for all.  The action was intense, especially when she was captured.  

          If anything the so-called murder of Castle’s theme didn’t seem much different compared to The Glades where the detective gets shot before his wedding during the last scene of the show.  Hearing that this wasn’t that much different from Downtown Abbey only makes me wonder what the producers of the show were thinking. 

           Castle is one of my favorite shows and I felt that the audience is there and since there were other shows that had no cliffhanger.  You can look at Bones where the main characters got married, or Elementary, or The Mentalist.  All three of these shows have a good strong lead detective in the show. 

            If anything, I hope there would be much of a mystery to Castle.  I hope that this mystery will be solved soon so the show can continue to gain a better audience on the mysteries each week. 

Ron Hummer

The Guards By Ken Bruen - Book Review


           Jack Taylor was a member of The Guards - Ireland’s National Police Service - until he is kicked out for various infractions that included punching a member of the Parliament in the mouth.   Now that he is a private detective, he is hired by Ann Henderson to look into the death of her daughter, which police said was a suicide.  

            If you’re expecting a mystery where Taylor will solve this mystery, he does that but it doesn’t seem to take a lot of effort.  The Guards is not a mystery where we’ll be wondering what happened to Ann.  

            Much of the story is about Jack Taylor and his problem which is him being an alcoholic.  He has some friends that he is close to such as the owner of the bar but later on in the story, Jack’s friend dies and he feels even worse after this. 

             As far as the writing goes,  I liked the voice of Jack Taylor.  It was funny at times and quirky with a very unusual sentence structure.  Here is a good example.  

             “I read.  I read a lot.  Between bouts of booze, I get through some print.  Mostly Crime.” 

             The writing made the book a good read but I’m not sure I saw a comparison with pulp fiction writers.  The closest I saw to any pulp fiction writer would be Frank Kane, who would write sentences to portray a characters action without words like and or then.  This would be an example of Kane’s writing. 

              I went into the car, started the motor, put the car in drive, drove away from the curb.  

              I would have liked to see more suspense in this novel as well as Taylor having a difficult time solving a murder.  Lawrence Block portrays Matt Scudder as an alcoholic while he’s a detective solving murders and those stories are great.  I don’t know why Bruen could have been writing along those lines. 

              All in all, I was disappointed and will only give this book two stars.  

Ron Hummer 



Monday, May 19, 2014

24 - TV Review


           Just when you thought that 24 was finally over and Keifer Sutherland was retired from the role, 24 return after several years of hiatus.  I think it’s more than obvious as to the reasons why the show is back. 

            Yes, it was a hit and Fox needs a hit considering that the only shows that have been successful for them are Bones, Almost Human and The Following.   Fox also seemed to have high hopes on Touch doing well but this wasn’t a show for Sutherland or any other actor for that matter. 

             The pressure on TV shows is tremendous.   It has to be instant high ratings or the show is finished.  Yes, Fringe was a great show for many years on Fox but I felt that they gave up on some other good shows such as The Finder and Tru Calling.   

             Bringing back this show is a risk because fans of 24 that are like me have some great memories of it.  If the show flops, then the ratings go down and Sutherland doesn’t get to leave the series on top.  

              Based on the first two episodes, I don’t think that’s going to happen.   So far, the show hasn’t been predictable as we see Jack break Chloe out of the laboratory and create an explosion that helps him escape.  Then he’s on a chase with her to stop a programmer from controlling drone planes.  

               I kind of wonder if the appeal of having another series with terrorists will work for another 24 episodes.   We already had a nuclear disaster in a previous series of 24.  What else can be done to top that? 

                As far as the characters go, Chloe’s character seems on edge which might make the show interesting but having the President lose his memory.  Then there is Jack’s ex-girlfriend back in the picture again and her husband wants to make the effort to keep them apart.  
                I’m rooting for another great 24 hours on 24.  So far, it’s worth five stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Monster Hunt International by Larry Correia - Fantasy Book Review


           The first battle begins in an almost comic way. Owen Pitt hates his boss and he finds himself staying late one night only to watch as his boss turns into a werewolf. Pitt is in for the battle of his life after that and the book just takes off. 

           As the book continues, Pitt finds out that monsters are real. So are vampires and Zombies. It's up to Pitt and Monster Hunt International to save the world from the Cursed One. 

          Along the way, the book has a tremendous amount of action with constant battles between Monster Hunt International and Zombies and Vampires. I have to say that it's unpredictable and the books is fast paced. 

          The author faced a huge challenge on this book as well since it’s over 700 pages.  Keeping up the pace for that many pages is tough but the author was good at bringing out some great characters as well that fought alongside Owen.  

          Pitt is also in love with a woman in the book but the chances of him winning her over seem impossible since she has another boyfriend but Pitt is determined to change that.  Correia is great at bringing this relationship out with a wide range of great characters that work well in between the battles with the Zombies and Vampires.  

         Pitt's character as a street fighter bartender seems to link up to his problems as he is anxious to pursue a relationship while resolving his own problems from the past. The characters are developed nicely and with plenty of action makes this a fun book to read.  

         I'm glad that I discovered this book and look forward to reading more books by Larry Correia. I wish I could give this book more than five stars. 

Ron Hummer

NCIS LA - TV Review


          The finale of NCIS LA puts Sam and G on a submarine.  They’re trapped by three men with guns and we’re left wondering what is going to happen to them.  I happen to like this finale better than seeing Sam and Deeks tortured in the previous finale of the show. 

           Then there is Hetti leaving the office and we’re left wondering if she is going to be fired over the White Ghost incident.   I’m not sure exactly what Kensi did wrong but I guess that will have to wait until next season. 

            I really felt that NCIS LA has evolved after their first season.   The cast is really solid now and funnier than ever with some great lines between all the characters.  

            I’m not one to check the ratings but as far as I’m concerned, this show has surpassed NCIS.  I stopped watching NCIS when Ziva left the show but even before that, the show seemed to struggle and the one liners just didn’t seem to be there.  Ziva’s replacement didn’t do anything to make the show better either. 

             To me, in NCIS LA, the shows have been more memorable.  One show that stood out was where Sam and G were protecting a Senator’s daughter from terrorists and they weren’t able to communicate with the team.  That show, along with many of the others was fast paced with more action than I ever saw in NCIS.  

             If there is one complaint I have about the show, it would be the character of Owen Granger.   Miguel Ferrer had a great character in Crossing Jordan and it seems that since he joined the NCIS LA crew, he’s just being the same character that he was in Crossing Jordan.  It just doesn’t work in this show for me. 

            What really surprised me is that CBS will now spin another NCIS series now called NCIS New Orleans and the star will be Scott Backula, who starred in one of my all time favorite shows called Quantum Leap.  Maybe CBS likes him because of his age and the fact that he could be another Mark Harmon.   We’ll have to see if that is the case.  

             As far as NCIS LA is concerned, it’s worth more than five stars for me.  Looking forward to next season. 
            
Ron Hummer

Still Life By Louise Penny - Book Review


           This is the debut novel by Louise Penny. The story takes place in Canada and the sleuth is Armand Gamache. My question would be if Gamache would take his place with other great detectives like Poirot and Gideon Fell. 

            In the book, a 76 year old woman named Jane Neal was murdered when she was shot with an arrow. Was it an accident or murder? If it was an accident, then how come no one is coming forward. If it was murder, then it’s up to Gamache to decide who committed the murder. 

            It was tough for me to get out of the gate with this novel. In one of the earlier scenes, you found some kids in ski masks throwing feces at people. Maybe it was done to point to one of them as a suspect in the murder but I could have done without that. 

             I’m not sure that I should have had expectations that Gamache was going to be the next Poirot in this novel. Much of time, he’s arguing with one of his colleagues and eventually fires them. During the case, he makes a mistake and he seems devastated by it. Not that Poirot would have done that but I think he would have handled it differently. 

             Of course, my comparison may seem unfair on the surface and maybe Louise Penny would not want me to make a comparison. As a detective, Gamache doesn’t seem that brilliant and the story is hard to follow because the point of view changes in the story. 

              I had hoped that the tension of finding who killed a woman with an arrow would move the story along but that wasn’t happening. Of course, much of the story was questioning suspects and finding the murderer in between personality clashes that Gamache was having with his colleague which wasn’t much of a subplot. 

               I am a big fan of Agatha Christie and I had hoped that I would see a story like that here. That may seem unfair but in the end, I would like to try other novels by Louse Penny but I can’t give this one more than two stars. 

Ron Hummer


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Chef - Movie Review


          If you’re deciding to see this movie, maybe the first thing that you should be aware of is that if you’re expecting to see a movie with all these stars, then I would say that you will be disappointed.   Yes, this movie has an all star cast but the people who were in the movie at least 90% of the time are John Favreau, John Leguizamo, and Emjay Anthony.  

          Farveau plays John Casper, a Chef, who works for a restaurant, is acclaimed as one of the best chefs in the country, and he’s about to be reviewed by a major food blogger.   Farveau wants to make a good impression and decides to put some additional dinners on the menu.   Of course, the owner of the restaurant, Riva, played by Dustin Hoffman, doesn’t agree and demands that the same food be served every night since the customers are used to it. 

           The blogger, Ramsey Michael, played by Oliver Platt, gives Casper an obnoxious  two star review.  Casper is very upset and through the power of twitter, words are exchanged which lead to some very funny moments and a rematch where Casper wants a chance to prove Michael wrong.  

             The restaurant is packed but Riva, playing the stupid obnoxious owner, refuses to let Casper have his way, telling him to cook the same food or leave the restaurant.  So, he leaves.   

            Much of the story from there is Farveau’s relationship with his son, Percy, played by Emjay Anthony, along with Farveau’s plan to buy a food truck.  More hilarious moments are shared when Robert Downey Jr appears his only scene, playing an ex-husband to Sofia Vegara, which was funny since Vegara is Casper’s ex-wife as well.  

             Leguizamo is great in his role as Casper’s partner in the truck serving food to the customers and I really enjoyed how Percey used twitter to bring in all the customers as the three of them went on a road trip from Miami all the way back to Los Angeles in the food truck.   

              Vegara, who plays Inez, an event planner, and Casper’s ex- wife, does a great job in her performance even though you only see her for a few scenes.  Her role is still larger than the other actors and other actresses and it’s good to see that she’s getting away from her character on Modern Family and being in a more realistic portrayal, playing a bright, intelligent woman who had some hilarious scenes in the movie as well. 

               The story is a good one and by the time the movie was over, people in the audience were clapping, which doesn’t happen very often.   I joined the audience and felt that this movie was worthy of more than five stars.   

Ron Hummer 

The Lion The Lamb The Hunted By Andrew Kaufman - Book Review


          I would start out this review with a warning to the readers.   Don’t read the previews on Amazon or Goodreads for this book.   If anything, the preview gives the whole book away which is very surprising.  I’m glad that I didn’t read the preview and I’m very surprised that the author approved this preview on Amazon and Goodreads.  

          The book is actually about Patrick Bannister, his mother dying, and suddenly finding a connection between the death of a three year old boy named Nathan and his mother and uncle.    The book will shift between the memories that Patrick had about his mother to the mystery that he needs to solve. 

           The memories of Patrick’s mother are disturbing.   If you’re a mother who reads this book - or anyone for that matter - you’ll probably be shaking your head at all the abuse Patrick puts up with like I did.  It’s nothing physical and while we don’t like to think of a mother as someone who is abusive to her son, it does bring a lot of tension to the book since she is evil and you would want to see other mothers have a long talk with her if you know what I mean.  

            While the memories served as a great foundation for the story and the explanation for the abuse, I thought that some of the memories brought out flaws in the story.  One memory that Patrick has is that he is with his mother in the mall and she says that if they get separated for any reason, she would leave him stranded at the mall.  She does carry out that threat.  

             I thought that the challenge that the author needed to make was to convince me that there would be consequences for this.  Instead, the story moved back to the mystery and we were left to use our imagination to what happened to Patrick afterward.  This seemed strange since this needs to be dealt with since a child is being left stranded at the mall.  

              The other scene was when Patrick discovered that his mother was putting Valium in his food.  In this case, the author only explains this by saying his mother told the police that Patrick was on Valium for years and she would send him for drug rehabilitation.  Patrick said that he didn’t want to say anything about his mother because he had given up on her.   

              The memories would have been more believable to me if the author took Patrick away from his mother or if a employee from social services allowed Patrick to stay with her.   Of course, there were other ways that this could have gone but that seems like the simplest way to deal with this.  

               I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away by saying this since the heart of the story is the mystery where Patrick and CJ, two journalists, go on a quest to find out what happened to Nathan.  The truth is surprising, exciting, and makes this book difficult to put down.  It’s feels like a quick read but with the action and suspense being high and unpredictable, I never knew what was going to happen next.  That’s the reason it only took me three days to finish this book. 

               If the author dealt with the memories of Patrick’s mother in a more believable fashion, then I would have gone to five stars on this book.   Even with these flaws, I would say that the author did a great job in writing a great psychological thriller that is still worth four stars.  

Ron Hummer

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lilyhammer - Netflix Series Review



          If there was a TV series where you could say Tony Soprano goes to Norway, this may be the one.  The difference here is that Steve Van Zant is playing the mobster Frank Tagliano.   

           In Lilyhammer, Tagliano goes into witness protection in this series because he’s giving the Feds information on a mobster he was close with.   Given his choice of where to live, Tagliano decides that he wants to live in Norway of all places.  

           I have to say that Tagliano’s performance is great and it’s so hard for me to believe that he was once a member of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band.   I can still picture him on stage at a concert and see how he had really pulled this role off so well. 

           The culture shock is fun to watch as well when Frank finds out that’s illegal to kill Coyotes even though there is a Coyote out there killing animals.  Of course, Frank has a way to solve this problem just like Tony Soprano would.   The shows builds nicely on more culture shocks throughout the show.  

            The series is full of action with some great comedy blended in throughout the show.  Let’s face it, Tagliano is not working with experienced hit men anymore and all you can say is that many of his cohorts are goofy to say the least, making the show hilarious at times like in one episode when they total a Porsche after taking them out for a test drive. 

            The show reached some high levels of tension, especially when the mobsters that Frank testified against the mobsters, it lead to even more problems for Frank.  If that wasn’t enough, more aggravation was coming when the owner of the Porsche is the brother of another group of mobsters. 

             If there was one problem I had with the show, it was with the other characters that worked with Frank.   As I said before, many of them seemed goofy and there were times when I thought that they brought laughs to the show but there were other times when I thought that the jokes feel flat.  

              Somehow, Frank will find a way to prevail and meet the challenges that are thrown at him, making the show even more exciting and unpredictable.  Lilyhammer is a great series on Netflix and I’ll give it four stars.  

Ron Hummer

           

Dead Man’s Dust by Matt Hilton - Book Review


            In Dead Man’s Dust, Matt Hilton’s first book introduces Joe Hunter, a man in the military who has training in the martial arts.   A man who is a gun for hire, he is asked to track down the whereabouts of his brother, John, by his ex-wife. 
   
           John is a deadbeat who ran out on his second wife and kids because he is in debt to a mobster.   And if that isn’t enough, John’s problems only get worse when he crosses paths with a serial killer named Cain.   

           If there is one thing you could say about Hilton, he can develop his characters.  Besides John, there is the serial killer Cain, who adds a chill to the story.  I like the way Hilton put a twist into the character of Cain.  I thought it made him an even more dangerous character as a result.  

            Part of me felt that the meeting between John and Cain seemed convenient.  What followed after that was an interesting game of cat and mouse between the two characters.  I thought that as a result, Cain had taken over the story more than Joe Hunter.  I wasn’t happy about that since I was interested in Hunter’s character.  

            There are comparisons drawn between Jack Reacher and Joe Hunter.   I thought that since Hilton spent so much time with John and the serial killer, it took away from the story for me and I couldn’t see a comparison between Reacher and Hunter.  

              I’m not someone who is a fan of reading about serial killers and if anything, I was glad that Hilton allowed me to use my imagination when Cain had murdered people.   There were some chilling scenes with John and Cain but I thought it also built the tension and suspense even more. 

              Yes, there was a lot of action and the ending was very exciting and unpredictable since it’s expected that Hunter and Cain will have their confrontation.   Once we learn more about Cain, that confrontation seems even more exciting than ever. 

               If there was a problem with the book, it was the expectation that Hunter was as entertaining as Jack Reacher.  That didn’t come across in this story due to the fact that the point of views switched and much of the novel was more about Cain instead of Hunter and his sidekick, Rink.   

               All in all, I enjoyed this book and I’m anxious to read other books in this series, hoping to see more of Hunter.  More than half the reviews on Kindle gave this book 4 stars.  I agree and give this book four stars as well.  

Ron Hummer 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Friends With Better Lives - TV Sitcom Review


           This is the show that took over for How I Met Your Mother and there are many reasons why this is a great show.  The show his young, hip people who are friends just like they are on How I Met Your Mother.  

           It’s shows like these that blend great comedy from other great shows like Friends and Coupling.  I would say that Friends With Better Lives seem to have the same parallels although even in How I Met Your Mother, they all meet somewhere - whether it’s a bar or a coffee shop - and talk about any kind of subject whether it’s sex or one of the friends borrowing a coat from another.  

            Part of me seems to feel that shows like this have been recycled over and over again but somehow, the story is the same and it’s that formula that makes this show a hit.  I can go all the way back to Seinfeld and more recently, Rules Of Engagement for more examples.  

            The show focuses on six different people, including one of my favorites, Kevin Connelly from Entourage.  And like the other shows, the conversations take place in Connelly’s home or in a coffee shop.  Of course, Kate has a strong role as well on the show, especially when she sleeps with a male prostitute.  I thought her character seems to make the show even better when she’s on there since she seems like an obnoxious person which drives the show along even more. 

             Then you have the goofy antics of Will, who can’t get over his divorce and finds himself entangled in problems such as being tied up in bed with Christmas Lighting.  Then there was Connelly who said that he would drive the rats out of his home but created a big hole in the ceiling instead.  

              This is where the show works well which is much different than Friends and Coupling.  There are times that there are some fun conversation in the coffee shop but in general, the characters drive the show in their own way and produce a lot of laughs in the process. 

               Even though this show seems to be recycled from other hits, I still enjoy Friends With Better Lives and I’m happy to give it Five Stars 

Ron Hummer