Friday, November 28, 2014

St. Vincent - Movie Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Hummer 

Immoral by Brian Freeman - Book Review

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Expendables 2 - DVD Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Hummer 

Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards - Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cristela - ABC Comedy Review

           The preview of Cristela, a comedy on ABC, is enough to make people not want to watch the show.  Cristela meets a woman who thinks that she is a cleaning lady because she is throwing something away.  When the woman realizes that she is wrong, she asks if she could validate her parking ticket.  

            Why anyone would assume that Cristela is a cleaning lady or a parking attendant is beyond me.  She isn’t dressed for the part in a uniform.  She is supposed to be in a law firm and a woman thinks that is out of place because she’s Mexican.  Ridiculous.  

             Yet somehow, I decided to endure 20 minutes of the pilot of this show and couldn’t even do that.  The show is about Cristela, a woman who is completing her sixth year of law school and working as an unpaid intern in a law firm.  Since she can’t afford to have her own place, she has moved in with her sister who wants her to get a real job and her brother in-law, who thinks she is a freeloader.  

              Yes, this isn’t a very progressive show.  It would be more difficult to believe that Cristela could be a paralegal who is working for a law firm and is going to law school at night in order to try and become a lawyer, which is what a lot of lawyers have done.  That might make the show more realistic and even give people a few laughs since there isn’t anything to laugh at when I saw this show. 

            You would think that the setting of the show, which is Cristella living with her family and two children and the law firm would bring at least one laugh in 20 minutes.  Instead, the only laughter is from the canned audience as we watch Cristela give a cheer and spell the word regressive.  Then there is a line about the daughter’s hope to become a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys even though Cristela said that cheerleaders are bimbos.  

             It was a chore getting through the first part but I had to end it when the second part came on.  Cristela was in the office with a partner from the law firm and he said “if I don’t like you, I can always call the INS.”  I’m sure that there were a lot of other people that turned the show off after this.  I would have considered giving this show another chance but when I saw that someone would think that Cristela was a Nanny, I said why bother.  

             It seems sad that hollywood has taken such a departure from producing great shows like Ugly Betty and The George Lopez show.  Even though the critics bashed the TV show Rob for having inappropriate ethnic jokes, the producers have decided to ignore this by putting out St. George - which was already cancelled - and now Cristela.  Maybe what I find here is that the ethnic jokes on Cristela are more insulting to people like me who want to watch this show but can’t since none of it is realistic.  

             I cannot believe that the National Latino Media Council is backing this show and encouraging Hispanic men and women to watch it.  Based on conversations that I have had with my friends about this show who are Hispanic, I can assure you that they are not impressed and felt that Hollywood can do better than this.      

             No stars for this show from me.  I hope that at some point, hollywood producers will come to the conclusion that these ethnic jokes are not entertaining.  It’s just another good reason to see this show cancelled as soon as possible.  

Ron Hummer 

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

In Dear Daughter, Jane Jenkins was convicted of murdering her mother but through a technicality, she was freed from prison after 10 years. Now she is on the hunt to find the person who killed her mother. 

Unlike other books that I have read, what I enjoyed about this book was that all the characters were memorable but the kind of characters that you wouldn’t like to read about in a novel. Jane’s mom seems to come from a world of reality shows yet when Jane goes back to her mother’s hometown, there seems to be a past that she does not know about. 

Jane seems to be a sleuth in this story as she attempts to track down the killer although we are wondering if Jane did in fact kill her mother. She has to disguise herself in order to track down the killer since Jane is not the most popular woman in the world. I guess if you wanted to compare her to someone in Hollywood, then it would be Lindsey Lohan. 

The characters in the story seem to be built from a reality show series that I wouldn’t like to watch but it kept the story moving for me in any case. I thought it made the characters even more unlikeable as the story moved along. The movement was very slow in the beginning and the story seemed to move at a faster pace during the second part of the book. 

There were a lot of things that I liked about this book. I enjoyed the blogs and the newspaper articles on Jane and how it revealed her as a character that I didn’t like. I also enjoyed the way the author was able to sum up the relationship with Jane and her mother when Jane found the letter in the security box. 

As far as the writing is concerned, it was very dynamic and the characters were quirky which brought out comparisons with Lorrie Moore, one of my favorite short story writers. As far as the ending was concerned, I didn’t have a problem with it because I happen to think that you can never predict the outcome of a trial. I would rather that it was unpredictable in this case. 

I would have liked to have seen more suspense and tension in the beginning of the story instead of waiting until the middle of it. All in all, I would still give this novel four stars based on the unlikeable characters and a quirky unique story. 

Ron Hummer

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Good People - DVD Review

          James Franco and Kate Hudson are the stars of the movie Good People, which is about a beleaguered couple who are facing eviction from their home and can’t afford the repairs on the new home.  Their fate seems to change when the man that their renting the basement is found by them dead from a drug overdose.  

          Tom Wright, who is played by James Franco, discovers a suitcase full of money in the ceiling.  While Tom and his wife are excited by this, what they don’t know is that this man stole the money from a bar and killed one of the four people in the group.  

           While this is a great premise, much of the excitement is built on a gang of vicious criminals which of course would lead to a lot of gratuitous violence and some graphic scenes which bring this psychological thriller down.  The movie could have had some promise if there was some mystery behind the criminals and a good plot but all this lead to a huge mess of violence and a predictable ending.  

            Making the story even more unbelievable is that there is such a lack of conflict between Sarah and Tom.  You would think that Sara would want to leave Tom or argue with him once she discovered that a group of vicious killers was after him.  The conflict of the movie could have been built based on a the couple disagreeing on whether to give the money to the police but the lack of conflict didn’t add any suspense to the movie as a result. 

            Add to this an older police detective who seems to have a very easy time when he finds that Tom and Sarah are spending the money.  And when the detective knows that a gang leader attacked Tom, he couldn’t arrest him since many of the policeman on the force are corrupt and in the back pocket of this criminal.  

            The movie seems to get even more predictable when it leads to a final show down with Tom and Sarah pitted against the people who are after the money.  It makes for a terrible movie that is only worth two stars.  

Ron Hummer

Already Gone By John Rector - Book Review

When I saw the preview for this book, my thought was whether or not I wanted to read it since the first scene was about Jake Reese getting his finger cut off. Not a great way to start a book but when I checked the preview, I was happy that the author didn’t make it graphic. Instead, I was intrigued since the mystery was about why two people would want to do something so brutal to someone like that in the first place. 

From there, you could say that Already Gone by John Rector is a fast-paced psychological thriller that was on a high octane level from start all the way to the finish line. In this case, Jake Reese is living a nightmare that he may not get out of and I was wondering why this was happening to him. 

If that wasn’t enough, seeing his wife disappear only brought out even more tension in the book. If anything, all this kept me glued to the book and I just kept turning the pages not knowing what was going to happen next. Like other psychological thrillers, Jake Reese seems to be on his own in finding out what happened to his wife as the mystery continues to unravel. 

Rector kept me guessing throughout the novel as more characters were introduced. One of them was Gabby, a man from Jake’s past who may have the answers to why he was living in this nightmare. Being that Gabby was in the criminal underworld, Jake was reluctant to get in touch with him even after his wife demanded that he stay away from him. 

Add some international intrigue to this novel and you have all the makings of a psychological thriller that made me read this book and finish it in one day, which was a first for me. As far as the ending goes, I think that people will not only be surprised at how the book ended but will feel satisfied since the ending will not be open ended. 

If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers that have memorable characters like other great authors like Harlan Coben, Gregg Hurwitz, William Lashner, or Linwood Barclay, then I’m sure that you will enjoy Already Gone. It’s one of the best books that I have read this year and my only wish is that I can give it more than five stars. 

Ron Hummer