Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll - Sitcom Review

The new FX comedy is out with Dennis Leary, taking a great title from rock and roll music and turning it into a sitcom.  Leary plays a rock star who was big at one time in the band called the Heatheans, only to be washed up years later because of too much drugs.

           Things change for Leary as he is reunited with his daughter at her request.  She has a proposal: write songs for me so I can be successful.  Leary, who is out of options on his life, decides that this is the best thing for him so he agrees to his daughter’s terms.  

           Part of the proposal with Leary is that he will have to get back to the band members.  Leary is worried about one member since he thinks that he will sleep with his daughter.  This is one of several conflicts that come up between the band members.  

            Leary seems great as a rock star, mentioning all the popular groups of the 70’s and 80’s such as The Rolling Stones and Pat Benatar.  Leary also feels that he can’t write songs for his daughter unless he’s high or drunk.  Leary’s daughter feels that he can write songs without being high or drunk.  

             Leary’s character doesn’t seem that believable to me since we have to rely on his knowledge of music, which comes from popular bands like the Rolling Stones, The Doors, or Pat Benatar.  If Leary wants to seem more believable to me and people of the 60’s to 80’s generation, then I would think he would have to mention other great bands such as Grateful Dead or Hot Tuna. 

              Leary’s daughter in the show plays a young rock star, taking on the role of getting the younger generation interested.  Explicit language in the show seems somewhat excessive but in the end, I felt that the characters pull off a goo job. 

              As far as a rating would go, I would give this show 4 stars. 

Phantom Instinct by Meg Gardiner - Book Review

       Phantom Instinct by Meg Gardiner is a great psychological thriller which focuses on two characters, Harper Flynn and Aiden Garrison.  One thing that makes this book a great thriller are the main characters, since the story builds around them, making them memorable. 

        The story starts out fast paced, with Harper Flynn working in a popular L.A. Club as a bartender.  This night would change her life and others as there men would invade the bar.  Shots would be fired, causing terror in the crowd.  As a result, Flynn’s boyfriend, Drew, is shot and killed.  

         Harper would try and rebuild her life a year later, only to find out that the third man involved in the shooting is still out there.  The police don’t buy her story and her only hope is that she can get Aiden Garrison to help her since he was the only other person who saw a third shooter that night at the club. 

          As Harper and Aiden go after the killer, they discover that this person is from Harper’s past, bringing a whole new character out in Harper that I didn’t expect.  The story only became even more intriguing for me when I learned about Aden Garrison’s traumatic brain injury, which was called Fregoli Syndrome.  

          This would more than help in developing the story further as Harper and Aiden go after the killer, only to find that the killer has a plan for both of them which would take the story to a new level.  I found myself on the edge of my couch as the story rocketed along, turning the pages over and over again, wondering what was going to happen to Harper and Aiden. 

          As a result, there were a lot of surprises in Phantom Instinct, which led to a great ending that was more than exciting.   This book was considered a great summer read by Oprah.  Once I read Phantom Instinct, I understood the reasons why and I would be happy to rate this book more than five stars. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

City Hunter - South Korean Drama

      If you’re into a action packed martial arts drama with romance and comedy, then you may be interested in watching City Hunter, which is on Hulu.  It’s a 20 part series that takes place in South Korea.  

      The show begins when the South Korean President is visiting Burma along with some delegates.  A bomb explodes, killing some of the delegates.  South Korean officials want to strike back so they create a covert operation called the sweep mission called Operation Cleansweep.  The five men who plan this mission would send send a team of 21 men into North Korea to kill some of their delegates.  This team would be led by Lee Jin-pyo and Park Moo-yul.  

        At the last minute, the five officials decide to abort their plan because they’re concerned that the United States will withdraw their nuclear protection if the mission is made public.  When the mission is aborted, the officials decide that the men must be killed as well.  All the men would be killed by snipers except Lee Jin-pyo - also known as the General - who is saved by Park as he sacrificed his life.  

        Lee wants revenge on the men who killed his comrades so he would kidnap Park Moo-yul’s infant son, go to the Golden Triangle, and raise the child as his own and train him in the martial arts.  He would name Park’s son Lee Yoon-sung.  

         This is the plot which leads to City Hunter as Lee Yoon-sung grows up, looking to help Lee with his revenge on the 5 men who betrayed him.  The conflict though is that Lee Yoon-sung does not want to kill the men.  Instead, since the five men hold high levels of position in the government, Lee feels that he wants to bring them to jail for their corruption of the government.   In order for Lee to do this, he would have a secret identity as City Hunter.  

           Lee is also becoming involved with a woman named Kim Na Na, creating further conflict as the General doesn’t want to risk Lee revealing his identity to her.  This creates even more battles as Lee will have to use his martial arts skills to protect Kim Na na from the 5 men in the government as well as the General, who has his own agenda for the 5 men that ordered him to be killed. 

            There are some attempts at humor with other characters in the story as well as Kim Na-Na, since she is in a love hate relationship with Lee Yoon sung, who is a player in the drama as well.  Not knowing the truth about being kidnapped creates more tension between the General and Lee, especially when Lee wants to know what happened to his mother.  

             The conflict of Lee not wanting to kill the five men in office is intriguing, especially when he says that he doesn’t want to kill the men because he would never be the same again.  This conflict for Lee would be difficult to continue since the General is determined to have his own revenge, even if it means killing Lee in the process.  

              The drama is slow moving in the beginning until it picks up in the middle of the story.  As far as the ending goes, my feeling was that it was flat and unexpected, bringing it down a star for me.  Still, with all the martial arts action and the conflict and romance in City Hunter, I would still give it 4 stars.  

Underwater by Julia McDermott

If you’re into reading a story that is purely character driven, then this would be a book to read since the conflict is between two characters, Candice Morgan, a wealthy entrepreneur, and her brother Monty. Much of the conflict is based on the death of their mother, which has driven a wedge between the two, causing them to blame each other for their mother’s death since it happened during a car accident which involved all of these characters. 

Julie McDermott does a great job of portraying Candace as a business woman, covering all the bases that include what a business goes through with social media. It creates a great conflict with Julie and Monty since there is a lot at stake for Candace if she loses her business. 

The book works well as a page turner since Monty is portrayed as a vile character to say the least. He is the type of character that will cause the reader to grind their teeth, shake their head, and even throw something against the wall, hoping that Monty will face the worst kind of death at the very end of the story. 

Underwater does have problems though since the point of view switches to different characters in the story. At times, I lost count and it does make the book harder to follow since there are a lot of characters introduced during the story, which makes it more difficult since you may not remember the roles the characters play in the story. 

In addition, Monty is a vile character and there may be times when you might question if he is a believable character. Since this is a story about a dysfunctional relationship based on manipulation and guilt, I had to wonder many times if Monty’s character was a little too overwhelming to be believed and if Candice was believable in her reactions to Monty, especially towards the end of the story.
As far as the ending was concerned, I had to wonder in the back of my mind if that was close to believable since it involved Monty and his wife. The climax leading up to it was riveting but the ending just left me shaking my head even more. With all this said, I would give this book 3 stars. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Everly - DVD Review


         If you like a movie with a lot action, some suspense, and no plot, then I would say that you would probably enjoy Everly more than I did.   Salma Hayek is the star of this movie that was previewed as an exclusive on TIme Warner Cable as a movie that may have been released to the theaters.  

         The movie, which is more than confusing, is about Everly, who is supposed to face down assassins who are invading her home on the orders of a mob boss to kill her.  Evidently, he owns the police as well since they won’t get involved with all the gunfights that this movie has.  

         As you watch the movie, you learn that Everly is a victim of human trafficking since she came into this country and was put into this apartment as a sex slave, something that I did not expect to see as part of this movie.  If anything, the movie does make a mockery of this subject since all you see is Salma Hayek shooting up men and women like you would see in Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

          Of course, if that isn’t enough, you can also throw in a torture scene where Hayek is locked in a cage.  My feeling was that if this movie was in the theater, then it would be the time for me to walk out of the movie and demand my money back.  I would probably be on line with all the other people who would probably do the same thing.  

          Yes, there is suspense and some drama, and quite a few scenes where I cringed.  Maybe people who saw this movie would argue that Hayek is not a action star although she did have some one liners that did make me laugh a few times in the movie.  

          I could not believed that I did manage to watch this until the end and of course, it was predictable.  If you want to put your imagination at the door and say that it’s believable that someone would be trapped in their apartment with no help by the police, only to shoot assassins and have a brutal fight with a leader of a triad group, then that’s fine.  

           Salma Hayek is a very talented actress and it showed in movies like Fools Rushed In.  The problem in Hollywood is that the writing standards are much lower than the books that we read and it shows when a movie like Everly is done.  If these are the types of movies that Time Warner is proud to say are exclusive to them before they go on Netflix, then my answer would be that Time Warner is in a lot of trouble since this movie isn’t worth more than 1 star.  

Ron Hummer 


The Dark Tide by Andrew Gross - Book Review

         This is the first book in a series by Andrew Gross about Ty Hauck, a homicide detective. It’s not your typical police procedural novel since the story switches at times between Ty Hauck and Karen Friedman, a woman who is a victim in the story since she loses her husband due to an explosion in Grand Central Station. 
         Of course, everything isn’t as it seems as she crosses paths with Ty Hauck since he is investigating a murder that happened the same day and that seems related to what happened to Karen’s husband’s death. The story builds further since Karen’s husband, Charles, works in the financial industry and there seems to be problems regarding the hedge funds he was involved with. 
        The story does build nicely but it seems long and drawn out at times since it is building over several years. Usually in stories of this nature, it would build over several days, not weeks or years. As the mystery builds regarding Charlie Friedman’s death, clues are revealed but since the story is switching to Karen Friedman, it doesn’t seem to be necessary since more facts are coming out about what really happened to Charlie. 
          You could say that this story is a combination of a murder mystery and a psychological thriller at times since Karen is going through a lot of problems from men who seemed to be threatening her and her family about Charlie’s financial dealings. Then the story would switch to minor characters just to build the story up further. My thought was that at times, this didn’t make the story as fast-paced as it could have been since you had to keep track of so many characters in the story. 
          At times, you could say that the main characters in the story - Ty Hauck and Karen Friedman - would be in a story that someone like Harlan Coben would write. It does rank up there but I have to say that the difference is that Coben will write around one character in the story and build it up at a better pace than The Dark Tide. 
          I would say that this is a good read but 15 Seconds was much better since it centered around one character throughout the story. It made the story easier to follow without the distractions of having additional characters in the story which to me slowed the pace of the story down. Still, I would not have a problem giving this book 4 stars. 

Ron Hummer

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Equalizer - DVD Review

          Usually, I’m the first to say that Denzel Washington is always in a great movie but in the Equalizer, although he does give a great performance, the script for the movie is just too predictable and gritty.   

           Washington plays Robert McCall, a man who wants to put his mysterious past behind him in order to work at Home Depot.  By day, he helps people such as an employee who wants to become a security guard  At night, he hangs around a diner and becomes friendly with a prostitute named Teri.  

            Of course, Teri would have trouble with a client which means that she would also have trouble with her pimp, who would be a vicious thug named Slavi.   McCall would get involved which of course would lead to a confrontation with a bigger thug who was Slavi’s boss.  

            The action and suspense is great although most of it is gun fights.  It wasn’t hard to predict how the movie would end.  At times, you could say that the violence was a little too excessive and gritty, bringing the suspense down a notch.  We do learn more about McCall’s past as the movie goes along but it’s hard to blend his background in a story like this which if anything, is somewhat like an old Mickey Spillane novel called Kiss Me Deadly.  

            Since this movie involves Russian gangsters, there is a lot of stereotyping, which doesn’t help the movie, but this is common in Hollywood since this is a world where many people seem to have trouble speaking English.  It’s a great argument against freedom of expression since the writers in Hollywood don’t get it right and if anything offend bright and intelligent Russian men and women who live in this country and have no trouble speaking English.  

             As I said before, Denzel Washington finds a way to put on a good performance even though he can’t save this movie.  Can’t give it more than 3 stars.  

Ron Hummer 

I'll Find You By Nancy Bush - Book Review

        I guess you can say that this book is a blend of romantic suspense along with being a psychological thriller.  Depending on the writer, I think it can be tough to follow a book with multiple viewpoints but in this case, Nancy Bush does a great job in I’ll Find You. 

         The major character in the book is Callie Cantrell, who has distant memories of a car accident that her son and husband didn’t survive.  It is then that she is confronted by West Laughlin, a former LA cop, who thinks she is someone else.   Little does Callie know that Tucker may hold the answers to the other woman’s identity.  

          The book does switch in point of views at that point and we’re introduced to Andre, the leader of a cult of women.  His character does add a lot of suspense to the book but what I really liked about the switch in points of view was that it all made me wonder what the hell was going on here, which in this case was a good thing.  

           Andre as a character brought out a lot of ill feelings of the women who were in the cult and in many ways, made the story believable, considering the fact that the idea would be tough to go along with.  Bush does a good job with this since you have to wonder why people would want to be part of a cult in the first place but my thoughts were that all of it was believable, which would be a challenge to any author.  

            If there was one thing that put me off about I’ll Find You, it was the excessive use of certain parts of the male anatomy.  I have read other books in the romantic suspense genre where the same thing was done so I really can’t fault the author for this since other writers have been successful in doing the same thing.  Nothing wrong with that because not everyone will feel the same way that I do.  

            I’ll Find You has memorable characters, a tremendous amount of suspense that did keep me on the edge of my couch, along with a lot of twists and turns that made for a great ending.  I have no trouble giving this book four stars.  

Ron Hummer 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Heatstroke - Netflix Streaming Review

        In Heatstroke, Stephen Dorf is a professor at a school where he is an expert on Hyena’s.  He is planning to go on a trip with his girlfriend to the African Desert to study them.  His ex-wife is demanding that he take his daughter with him because she is out of control.  

        That is the story in Heatstroke where Dorf is able to watch Hyena’s without being attacked.  Unfortunately, his daughter is not very happy about this trip.  Then again, what parent would want to have their teenage daughter on a trip of this nature.   After a few days, Dorf would take his daughter back to the airport, leaving his girlfriend behind for some unknown reason.   

            You could say that things took a turn for the worst for the Dorf and the movie when he is killed by two men who are arms dealers.  The story becomes a battle for survival as the ex-girlfriend and the daughter team up to try and get away from these men.  How they teamed up was not believable since the girlfriend walked for days in the desert without any food but somehow managed to find Dorf and his daughter by their car.  

           If you like a movie where people are battling the elements of nature such as Hyena’s and snakes and other creatures, then that’s one thing.  Yes, these men are on their trail and the story may seem to have suspense but my feeling was that I was ready just to turn the movie off out of sheer boredom.   

           It wasn’t so much that the movie was predictable as it was more depressing than anything else.  Killing off Dorf seemed to make the movie even worse.  Maybe if he managed to stay alive and was with the daughter and his girlfriend, then it could have been somewhat believable.  

            The only thing I could say about this movie that wasn’t more than an hour and a half and I wanted to turn it off before that.  In any case, I sat through it and felt it didn’t deserve more than one star.  

Ron Hummer 

The Shadow Hunter by Michael Prescott - Book Review

          As a story, you can say that the Shadow Hunter by Michael Prescott starts out with a very disturbing and real since it’s about stalking someone.   The story seems right out of the headlines when you meet Raymond Hinkle, a stalker, who is obsessed with a beautiful local TV news reporter named Kris Barwood.  

          The other part of the story is about Abby Sinclair, who works for an agency that protects people.  In her last job, she was unable to protect an actor named Corbal, who was also shot by a female stalker outside a bar.  It was tough for Abby to get over this but at the same time, the head of her agency felt that she was the best person to help Kris Barwood. 

           While the story does have a lot of action and suspense, my feeling was that there were some problems that made the story convoluted and difficult to believe.  Yes, there are times that you can enjoy a story but certain parts of the story just distracted me because it made it less credible.  

           There was one scene early on where Hinkle was leaving messages for Kris Barwood.  One of the messages was so disturbing that it was hard to believe that no action couldn’t be taken against Hinkle for leaving that type of message.  If the author did not come on so strong with that message, I felt that the rest of the story could have been more credible but considering the fact that this was a threat against a TV News reporter, leaving messages of this type should have been enough to bring charges against a stalker like Hinkle.  

            The shifting viewpoint didn’t help the story either.  I can understand if it’s done with major characters but it seemed to me that there were at least six different view points and it wasn’t consistent.  Having viewpoints not only on Kris, her husband, Abby, and members of her team, didn’t do much for the story other than make it more disjointed.  

             Yes, there were some plot twists but of course, it took the story away from Hinkle and the issue of stalking.  As a result, there wasn’t much of a plot or a mystery.  With the shifting viewpoint, there were no surprises either.  

             While I do enjoy a lot of action and suspense in a story, I also would like to read a story that has a good plot and a compelling theme.  The theme didn’t work well with the story and that’s the reason I can only give the book three stars.  

Ron Hummer