Friday, August 29, 2014

Jennifer Falls - TV Review

            I’m behind the times and thought that I would watch Jennifer Falls.  I had my reservations about tuning in since it’s a story about a woman being fired from her job and I was sure that the scriptwriter who wrote the show would show that he or she is clueless about corporate america like Hollywood is when it comes to making these television shows.  Not only did I find that I was right but it was worse than I ever imagined.  

           Jamie Pressly plays Jennifer Doyle, an executive at a company who is about to be fired from her job due to anger issues.  The attempt at having humor during this scene was poor since there is nothing funny about being fired at your job, especially since you’re making $250,000 a year.  Somehow, Pressly does manage to pull that off, playing the woman with anger issues by yelling at her boss for being fired. 

          You would think that there would be a conversation about her being on a non-compete agreement since executives who work at a very high level in a company would be on one, even though employees in thousands of companies are on a non-compete agreement at all levels of a company.  Of course, this wouldn’t happen since this does not exist in Hollywood because we have a scriptwriter who does not do his or her research on this subject.  

            The fantasy only carries further when Jennifer tells us the reason she can’t get another job in her industry.  The reason is because she is being blackballed by her former company.  Yes, blackballing is illegal and non-existent in the corporate world just like a reading of a will was in the movie Draft Day with Kevin Costner.  Yet, the person who wrote this show figures that his audience is too dumb to know this so why not just say that executives are blackballed from getting another job when the reality is that companies claim to protect themselves from former employees by having non-compete agreements which state that you can be fired at any time for any reason and you can’t go to work for a competitor from 2-5 years.  

             I found myself cringing when Jennifer was in the unemployment office and here were two women mocking her because she lost her $250,000 job and had to move back in with her mother.  Just another example of poor scriptwriting and being clueless about what goes on in the real world yet someone gets paid to see if people would actually laugh at this nonsense.  

              I have to say that once you get outside the amateurish script,  the show does get better because Pressly is talented and she does find ways to bring more laughs to the show.  You can say that’s the case because now she is working in a bar and you don’t have to worry about the scriptwriter being clueless about that since it’s not so hard to imagine what it’s like to work in a bar.  

              As a comedy, there were some laughs for me in Jennifer Falls.  Sure, people can say that this is a TV show but the fact is that the person who wrote the show demonstrates once again that Hollywood falls below the standards producing a show that is clueless to the reality of what goes on in the corporate world.  If anything, they missed a golden opportunity to create a show that could be funny and interesting if it was done right.  I only give it two stars because Jennifer Pressly somehow shines in this poorly done TV show.  

Ron Hummer 

Delirious by Daniel Palmer - Book Review

          Charlie Giles is a man who is on top of the world with a computer company that makes digital software for automobiles.  His company is growing in leaps and bounds and he is one of the top executives in corporate America.  

          Then one day, he meets a woman who tells him that there is a plot brewing in the board room to usurp his power.   What Charlie doesn’t know that this is the beginning of an elaborate setup to humiliate him during a big presentation.  

           Suddenly, everything is falling apart.  Charlie is accused of being delusional since the woman that he met never existed in the company.  By the end of the day, Charlie is out on the street without a job.  Only then would his troubles really begin. 

           This is how Daniel’s Palmer book, Delirious starts.  What happens next are nothing but twists and turns in this novel as Charlie Giles wonders if he is going crazy.  He thinks he is having blackouts and seeing notes that he doesn’t know that he has written.  Notes that say that he is going to kill people.  

            What really makes Palmer’s book move along is that I kept saying to my self that many of the things that are happening to Charlie Giles doesn’t make sense.  One example would be that Charlie thought that he murdered someone, then somehow the body disappears.  

            That was the beauty of this book.  Not only did you not know what was going to happen next but you were sure that there was no way that Palmer would be able to explain all the things in the book that didn’t make sense.  Yet somehow, Palmer did a masterful job of wrapping things up, making this high-tech thriller believable.    

              Palmer does a great job of capturing the arrogance of Charlie, making him a character that you wouldn’t like.  His research on the medical problems regarding Charlie’s brother Joe, is first rate, but I guess that is to be expected since he is the son of Michael Palmer, author of great medical thrillers like Coma.  

              As far as psychological thrillers go, this is one of the best books I’ve read this year.  I’m really surprised that it only has 63 reviews on Kindle.  This is a great psychological thriller and I’m happy to give it more than five stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Taxi Brooklyn - TV Review

         On one hand, it’s hard to believe the premise of Taxi Brooklyn on NBC.  Here, you have a homicide detective who isn’t allowed to drive a car because her boss thinks she’s a reckless driver.  As a result, she is supposed to be on foot patrol in Brooklyn.  Detective Cathy Sullivan doesn’t want to agree to this so she has her own personal taxi driver pick her up and drive her to murder scenes in each episode. 

          Yes, I’m sure this is hard to believe but I can’t help but like the show because Cathy Sullivan - who is played by Chyer Leigh - puts on a great performance as a feisty, tough detective who can give Kate Beckett of Castle a run for their money.  Her partner is a taxi driver named Leo Romba, who is played by Jacky Ido.  He’s from France and all he wants to do is to work in the US so he can send money back to his family.  

            The premise may be tough to take in but if you compare this to Castle where you have a writer who teams up with a police officer each week, then I think you can soften the blow on what’s believable when it comes to police shows.  Get some characters together that can blend action and comedy like Castle and you have a great show called Taxi Brooklyn. 

           The plot to the story is compelling.  Cathy’s father was a cop and she is after the person who killed him when he entered a car one night.  The suspect seems to be connected to a mobster.  Each episode brings her closer to the answers about what happened to her father and why he was killed.  

            The other side is the murders.  Like other homicide detective shows, there are clues that draw you into the story as to who the killer was.  So far, the show has done a good job of keeping the viewer guessing as to who the killer was in each episode.  

            Then there are the other characters that play a role in bringing more laughs o the show.   You have Eddie Esposito, who managed to get in a car with Cathy in the first episode only to have his nose broken in a car accident.  Then there is Cathy’s ex husband, who wants her back and she finds ways to manipulate him into helping her even though she won’t go back to him because she cheated on her. 

              Cathy’s mother plays a woman who seems like she wants to be 21 years old again now that she is a widow.  She is looking to meet men all the time, including Leo Romba, Cathy’s partner.  In the first episode, Leo is hiding under the sheets in Cathy’s mother’s bed while her ex-husband is looking for him. 

               Yes, the premise seems unbelievable but if Castle can be a hit with the same type of premise, then there isn’t a reason why NBC should try this out.  I’ve watched the first four episodes and thought that NBC could have a summer hit on their hands.  Might be interesting to see how it will do in the fall lineup.  Seems like a winner.  I would give it five stars. 

Ron Hummer 

Fallen Angel by Chuck Logan - Book Review

          During a mission in the Iraq war, Captain Jessie Kraig, a helicopter pilot, is shot down accidentally by a man name Morgan.  Morgan had been taking guns from a military base and killing people who got in his way.    Once the helicopter is down, Kraig is trapped in the vehicle while one of the crew members - a woman named Mary - leaves the helicopter only to be murdered by Morgan.  

          This is the beginning of Fallen Angel, a novel by Chuck Logan.  Much of the story is told from different viewpoints, whether it’s Jessie Kraig, Morgan, or Davis, another man who is in the CIA.  

           In the beginning of the novel, I would say that Logan really knew how to make you feel that you were in the military.  There was the jargon between the crew members and the take off, leading up to the crash.  Logan does a great job at keeping the excitement with Morgan, making you wonder if there is anyone that is going to be able to stop him.  

           The suspense does continue as Jessie is admitted to the hospital.  Once she is there though, you could say that a lot of the suspense disappears.  She’s in critical condition and Logan takes you through the therapy she is given, which does not add much to the book.  

          The story is supposed to be about someone with amnesia but you really don’t see any signs of it like you would since she is unconscious and on drugs that she shouldn’t be on.  That would change once her medication is lowered.  

            While there are some good action scenes with other characters such as Davis, the suspense is not there still.  Things will pick up though when Morgan realizes that he has to take care of Jessie and other people who are investigating the crash and the murder of the crew member.  

             Once that does happen, I would say that the level of suspense rose to a very high level, bringing out Jessie Kraig as a strong woman who would have to figure out who killed Mary and why it was done.  It lead to a very exciting ending that I haven’t read in many books in a long time.  

            This leads to the second complaint about the book though.  I never really knew why Morgan was killing all these people in order to cover up his crimes.  It would have been great for me to understand the mystery behind this since he was working for someone else but that was not clear, even by the end of the story. 

             With all that said, I have to say that to some extent, it’s hard for me to give this book 3 stars because in many ways, it was much better than other 3 star books that I have rated.  I can’t give this book 5 stars because of the lack of suspense and the mystery of Morgan’s crimes.  In any case, I’ll go with 4 stars.  

Ron Hummer           

Monday, August 11, 2014

Broadchurch vs. Gracepoint

         If you saw the movie Finding Forrester, you probably remember the scene where Jamal was having a hard time coming up with a story.  William decided to help him by letting him write a few of the same sentences in his story in order for him to get started in writing his own story.  Of course, this lead to questions of plagiarism by Jamal’s teacher but if you saw the movie, you know that William didn’t have a problem with this. 

         This brings me to a TV show on the BBC Network called Broadchurch.  It’s a story about the murder of a young boy in a small town and how there is a media frenzy because they want the murder to be solved by the police.  The show is slow moving, going through the people in the town to see who the suspects are while the media tries to get the scoop on who the suspect is.  

          This plot may sound familiar to you because in October, Fox will have their new show out called Gracepoint.  What may surprise you is that this show is also about the murder of a young boy in a small town and the media frenzy continues because they want the murder to be solved.  

          The similarities will be obvious.  The first two episodes of Gracepoint will be the same as Broadchurch.  If that isn’t enough, the police chief that leads the investigation in Broadchurch will play the same part in Gracepoint.  Yes, David Tennant, the star of Broadchurch, will play the exact same part in Gracepoint.  

           After the first two episodes, Fox says that the show will veer off on it’s own.  Yes, everything is supposed to remain the same as Broadchurch, from the murder on the beach, all the way to the press conference.  After that, the show will move in another direction.  Even the killer will be different in Broadchurch than in Gracepoint. 

           My thoughts on Broadchurch was that I enjoyed the series.  It was a slow moving  series which led you through twists and turns in determining who the suspects are and in many cases, in the wrong direction.  I didn’t get to see the last two episodes but if you’re a fan of a character driven mystery like I am, this is a series that you would enjoy. 

            It’s hard to say what Fox will do but to me, I don’t think that this is a good idea.  Yes, there have been other shows that have been ripped off such as The Office on NBC and House of Cards, which is on Netflix.  In this case though, the shows are more closely related. 

            Think about it.  If you’re a writer for example, do you pick up a book and write the first two chapters word for word, then go off on your own and say it’s my story?  No, you wouldn’t get away with it.  You would be accused of plagiarism.  Yet, it seems to me that the standards of writing on TV have gone even lower now.  

           Fox believes that a lot of people did not watch Broadchurch on their cable network so there should be a huge audience.   I won’t be one of those people since I have easy access to the BBC shows on my cable network through TIme Warner.  Contrary to what the Fox producers may think, I do watch Orphan Black, Luther, and Broadchurch.  Season 2 of Broadchurch will be on soon.  

            I would give Broadchurch five stars.  The producers were very creative in putting a lot of hard work into this series.  It’s a shame that there aren’t enough shows out there for Fox to bring out since they have to do this now. \

Ron Hummer

Underdog by WR Burnett - Pulp Fiction Review

        WR Burnett, probably best know for hit books like Little Caesar and High Sierra, also wrote Underdog, another crime drama about a man named Jerry Clinch, an ex-con trying to go straight. Unfortunately, he isn’t able to break free of his past because of a powerful city boss named Big Dan, Rhea, Dan’s beautiful wife, and Lola, who according to the book is a jail bait pro. This was the hype on the back cover of this book. 

        The book opens with Jerry in prison where he meet Dan. Jerry doesn’t seem to like Dan but he makes a good enough impression on Dan that he will offer Jerry a job as his chauffeur when both of them are out of jail. 

         From there, the book doesn’t have any kind of a plot. I didn’t see a reason why Clinch felt he had to go work for Dan. It just seemed like something he felt he had to do, as well as be with Lola, who comes off in the story as someone who is immature, and extremely childish in the story, so childish that it’s hard to believe that she could be written into this story. 

          In fact, Dan’s wife, Rhea, isn’t very happy that Clinch is working with Dan and there was at least two occasions where she recommended that Clinch be fired from his job but Dan wouldn’t do that. 

          Even though Dan is supposed to be a powerful mob boss, I didn’t see any indication of that until 3/4 into the story, and even then, the only think you knew was that Dan was in some sort of card game where he was winning. The only thing that may have moved the story for me was when Jerry was attracted to Rhea and he thought that she felt the same way about him but again, that wasn’t until 3/4 of the story and not much was made of that afterward. 

            You would think that since this was supposed to be a book about a mobster, you could at least have scenes where Jerry was collecting money for Dan in some way that was illegal or have one of his other men do it or have Dan involved in something that was illegal but other than the card game, which was much later in the story, much of the plot was based on how Dan was chauffeuring Dan and Rhea around the city. 

            As far as what happened with Dan towards the end and the fate of Jerry Clinch, much of it was predictable and while there was some action with another mob boss, the tension didn’t develop until the last 3/4 of the story, making the ending predictable and anti-climatic. 

            I’m not a big fan of mobster books and this wasn’t a good work of one. WR Burnett has done better stories in Little Caesar and High Sierra. As far as this book is concerned, I can’t give it more than two stars. 

Ron Hummer

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Numbers Station - DVD Review

          The movie opens with Emerson Kent, who is played by John Cusack, going into a house to kill someone.  Cusack doesn’t want to kill the daughter in the home so he backs out of the hit only to find that his partner, Grey, who is played by Liam Cunningham, completes the mission.   

          Kent isn’t sure if he is up to anymore missions so being the CIA black ops agent that he is, his next job is to be in a deserted warehouse.  His job is to protect Katherine, who is played by Malin Ackerman.  She broadcasts codes every morning through a short wave radio and it’s Cusack’s job to make sure that she is able to do her broadcast everyday.  

           This is how The Number Station takes off.  I wasn’t able to follow the importance of the broadcast everyday and there was no explanation at the end as to why this was going on.  My guess was that these broadcasts protect CIA Black Ops agents but it would have been nice to have some sort of explanation of this. 

           The movie had some suspense, especially when the warehouse was under attack by a group of people.  Of course, you never knew who the group of people were or why they were attacking the warehouse until the end.  Again, that didn’t seem like much of an explanation for the attack as well.  

            You would think that if the broadcasts were that important, then at the very least, this group of people would want to capture Kent and Katherine, rather than kill them, especially since this code that was being broadcasted everyday was so important.  Instead, the suspense was based on this group trying to kill Kent and Katherine rather than capturing them. 

             At the very least, my thought was that if there was a point where Kent and Katherine were captured, then we would have had a better explanation of why this code and broadcast was so important.  As a result, I was lost and I’m sure that other people would have been lost as well, leaving the viewer to use their imagination to figure out what this was all about. 

              In any case, I would say that there was a lot of suspense in this movie and you never knew what was going to happen next.  Still, I had a problem with the codes so it’s difficult to give this movie more than three stars. 

Ron Hummer

Graveyard of Memories by Barry Eisler - Book Review

           Normally when a series is written, it is always moving forward.  In this case, Barry Eisler decided to go back to the beginning with his character, John Rain, when he was 20 years old.  

           Rain is a Japanese hit man with a conscious when Barry Eisler wrote the first book, A Clean Kill In Tokyo.   In Graveyard of Memories, a younger, more immature version of Rain is in this book without a conscious.  

           A professional hitman doesn’t get into trouble so easily but that’s what happens when Rain ends up in a fight with two men.  Yes, those men started that fight, but they didn’t know who they were messing with.  During the fight, Rain kills one of the men.  What Rain doesn’t know that he has just killed the son of the leader of the Yakuza.  

           This is where the story begins for John Rain, trying to get away from these men by hiding out in a hotel where he meets a woman in a wheelchair named Sayaka.  Rain is attracted to this woman and now we have a subplot, a romance between Rain and Sayaka.  

           The book is fast paced with plenty of action as Rain tries to figure out how he is going to get out of the trouble that he got himself into.  Once he discusses this problem with his contact, McGraw, the answer seems to be to kill other people in order to get away from the Yakuza.  

           Eisler is at the top of the game as a result, leading Rain through various challenges that are unexpected as the story moves along.  The biggest surprise comes at the end where Eisler shows once again that he can wrap up a story in such a great way.  

            As far as the romance with Sayaka was concerned, I have to say that it wasn’t a strong part of the book.   The biggest reason for that was that happened between Rain and Sayaka that didn’t seem appropriate.  I’m not saying that it was anything violent but I have to say that it bothered me enough that I wish that Eisler had left that part of the story out.  Going for shock value never seems to work for me and I thought that this brought the romance down for me and made it very weak.  

             I was surprised that this was done considering that Eisler is so great at writing sex scenes with powerful relationships like the one Rain would have with Midori in A Clean Kill In Tokyo.  If anything this was the main reason that I would not give the book five stars but 4 stars instead.  

Ron Hummer

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Outsider - DVD Review

            Lex Walker is a mercernary who is recalled from Afghanistan to identify the remains of his daughter.  He arrives in Los Angeles at the morgue only to find that the woman who was killed was not his daughter.  

           This is how the stage is set for the movie, The Outsider, where Lex Walker, who is played by Craig Fairbrass, has a long list of roles in TV shows and B movies.   It probably explains the lack of dialogue in the movie or one liners that you would expect to see from Sly Stallone.    
            James Caan is in this movie also, although it’s only for 3 scenes.  He must have really needed the work since his last role with his son on Hawaii Five O.  

            Much of the movie is of course action and suspense with Walker searching for his daughter who really isn’t hard to find once he sets his mind to it.   The story is predictable as Walker fights and shoots his gun in order to find the answers to why his daughter is missing. 

            In one scene, Caan, who plays Schuster, is the person that Walker’s daughter is working for.   Caan doesn’t want to cooperate with Walker and this leads to a fight outside the office with two of his security guards.  

            The search for Walker’s daughter doesn’t take long and once he finds his daughter, he learns about an elaborate identifty theft scam that Schuster is involved with.  The scheme is so elaborate that it’s very hard to follow since it’s introduced so quickly. 

            The movie moves on and much of it is predictable with a plan to show what Schuster is involved with.  The plan to bring Schuster out into the open seems too risky at best but somehow, you know that they’re going to pull it off. 

             There is a lot of action and violence but much of it is predictable, briing down the suspense level since it’s pretty easy to predict what’s going to happen.  I can’t give this movie more than two stars.  

Ron Hummer 

My Cross To Bear by Greg Allman - Book Review

             My thought when I was going to read this book was to learn about the Allman Brothers.  Being that they were a southern rock band, I thought at the very least that I would hear stories about Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, or my favorite southern rock band, The Outlaws.   None of that happened.  It was one of the many reasons that I was disappointed in this book. 

             Much of the book was nothing more than Greg rambling with various quick stories about himself and his life with The Allman Brothers.  The book would get off to a sad start when I learned that his father was killed by a mugger.   Years later, the man who killed Greg Allman’s brother was in jail when he found out that he was th eone who killed his father.  He asked for forgiveness but never got it from Greg.  

              As you can expect, there were some stories about Allman’s life with drugs and some groupies.  In one example, he was in bed with one of the groupies when someone broke into the house and stole a lot of things while Greg and the woman were in the bedroom.  Onde the man was out of the house, they couple decided to resume having sex before calling the police later on that night.  
              Yes, there were some stories about some other popular rock bands.  In one case, Allman was with John Densmore’s girlfriend at her house when Densmore, Krieger, and Morrison appeared at the door.  The funny part of the story was that Densmore thought that Greg Allman was the houssitter.  

              Greg would also share some thoughts about the Grateful Deaad.  Bascially, both of them said that they didn’t get their music and that all the people do in the audience is get drunk or high or both and then do a Grateful Dead waltz which would mean spinning around while lsitening to their music in concert.  I saw an old interview in Rolling Stone and when the writer asked Allman about this, he said that he didn’t want to talk about it and to stop brining it up.  

               The rambling continued throughout the story.  Greg was married five times and he talked about Cher for maybe five pages.  Again, just his thoughts on their marriage as well as how he talked about his other wives as well as his bout with cancer.  

                If there was ont good thing that came out about this book, it was Greg Allman’s thoughts on racism.  Early on, he was performing in the deep south in the early 60’s and he met a lot of people who were racist.  His feelings wer ethat he didn’t get it and he didn’t like it even when his mother made remarks about African Americans.  Allman also liked Martin Luther King  JR. so much that he wrote a song about him after he was killed.   

                With all that said,  I would say that thsi book rambled from Chapter to Chapter just like their hit Rambling Man.  All in all, this was not a very good book and that’s the reason I would give it 2 stars.  

Ron Hummer