Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The 6th Target

I liked this book co-written by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. An unthinkable tragedy leaves one member of the Women’s Murder Club fighting for her life. Now the other women of the club must battle to keep the deranged man responsible for the attack locked away. Meanwhile, a series of mysterious kidnappings has law enforcement puzzled and the public in a state of panic. Children and their nannies are being abducted off the streets. Strangely no ransoms are being issued by the perpetrators.

The 5th Horseman

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. A young mother is recuperating in a San Francisco hospital when she is suddenly gasping for breath. The call button fails to bring help in time. The hospital’s doctors, some of the best in the nation, are completely mystified by her death. This is not the first such case at the hospital. Just as patients are about to be released with a clean bill of health, their conditions take a devastating turn for the worse. Accompanied by the newest member of the Women’s Murder Club, Yuki Castellano, Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer probes deeper into the incidents.

Blade: Trinity (2004)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie. In the media, Blade (Wesley Snipes) is portrayed as a delusional serial killer who uses a fantasy about a secret group of vampires to justify his murders. The vampire leaders have infiltrated the FBI and catch Blade in a raid. After escaping he teams up with the Nightstalkers, who are a group of humans trying to kill the vampires. Their blind scientist (Natasha Lyonne) develops an airborne virus that attacks vampire DNA that has evolved away from the pure line of Dracula.

Spike television ran a 12 episode series in 2006 that continued the story from the films. There are three version of the final scene: theatrical ending, unrated ending, and werewolf ending. The film's overall gross was less than what Blade II earned. This was the first film in the series to have the Marvel Studios logo at the beginning. Vampire enforcer Jarko Grimwood is played by wrestler Triple H. In the scene when Hedge (Patton Oswalt) is introduced, he is wearing a Fantastic Four t-shirt.

4th of July

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. In a late-night showdown after a near-fatal car chase, San Francisco police lieutenant Lindsay Boxer has to make an instantaneous decision: in self-defense, she fires her weapon – and sets off a chain of events that leaves a police force disgraced, an entire city divided, and a family destroyed. Was she being negligent or did she make the best out of a bad situation? Now everything she’s worked her entire life for hinges on the decision of twelve jurors. To escape scrutiny, she heads to the picturesque town of Half Moon Bay. Soon after her arrival, a string of grisly murders punches through the peaceful community.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Battle for Atlantis

This is an old computer game that was released in 1990 by Soleau Software. The game is similar to Risk, and a single player competes against three computer players. There are production centers that give you extra soldiers and you can also lose men through earthquakes and rebellions. I haven’t been able to play the game since I bought a Compaq computer with Vista in 2007. Recently, I discovered that I can now play it again with a DOS emulator. These are the steps to play a DOS game:

1) Download DOSBox version 0.74.
2) Download the game (this website has images of the game with an overview)
3) Create a new folder to save the file in. I chose c:\program files\atlantis
4) If you cannot unzip the file, then download 7-zip.
5) Mount the game's folder to DOSBox and make sure to put quotes around the pathway. For example, type mount c "c:\program files\atlantis\atlant22" The atlant22 folder was created by the game inside of my original Atlantis folder.
6) Mount your cdrom drive, since mine is letter E, I typed mount d: e:\ -t cdrom (with the spaces)
7) Type c: and hit enter, then dir/w and it should show the exe file. Type in the name of that exe file (for example, atlantis.exe) and the game should load.
8) Once the game is setup the quickest way to open it is to have a desktop shortcut to DOSBox and then drag the .exe file into the program each time you want to play. Push alt & enter for the game to be in a full screen.

The Constant Gardener (2005)

This is an okay British movie. After the death of his first wife, Justin, a low-level diplomat (Ralph Fiennes) is giving a speech when he is interrupted by peace activist Tessa (Rachel Weisz) who is upset by Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War. Even though they appear to be opposites, the pair fall in love and get married. The newlywed couple is sent to Kenya on assignment and Tessa becomes upset by the way poor Africans are being abused by a pharmaceutical company. When she is found murdered, Justin seeks to uncover the conspiracy behind her death.

It is based on the 2001 novel by John le Carré. The film was shot in Kenya. The crew was so upset by the poverty in the country that they set up a trust fund to provide freshwater, an extension to an elementary school, and a bridge for easier access to a nearby health clinic. Weisz won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1996, Pfizer conducted tests of an antibiotic on 100 children in Nigeria and five of them died. The children were already severely ill with meningitis. In February 2009, the company agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

Along Came a Spider

This is an okay book written by James Patterson. The daughter of a famous Hollywood actress and the young son of the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury have been kidnapped. Gary Soneji is a murderous serial kidnapper who wants to become famous for taking children and for the highest number of murders. Brilliant homicide detective Alex Cross is teamed with Jezzie Flanagan, the female supervisor of the Secret Service, to track down the killer and to discover if there are any remaining hostages.

This is the first novel in the series and was adapted into a 2001 film starring Morgan Freeman. The Lindbergh kidnappings refer to famous aviator Charles Lindbergh's toddler son who was abducted from the family home and found dead two months later with a skull facture. Almost three years later, Bruno Hauptmann was charged with the crime and was later executed by an electric chair. There have been disputes about whether he really was guilty, but according to a 2005 episode of Forensic Files there is enough physical evidence to suggest that he really did commit the murder.


This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Howard Roughan. The Dunne family was hoping for a fun getaway sailing through the Atlantic Ocean, but soon troubles arise. Carrie, the eldest child, throws herself off the boat in a bid for attention that almost leads to her death. Sixteen-year-old Mark goes below deck to smoke pot, and ten-year-old Ernie is nearly catatonic from boredom. The kids’ mother and their late father’s brother are also on board. The ship is exposed to stormy weather, flooding, and even a fire, as the family tries desperately to stay afloat.

3rd Degree

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Andrew Gross. Detective Lindsay Boxer is jogging along a beautiful San Francisco street when a fiery explosion rips through the neighborhood. A town house owned by an Internet millionaire is immediately engulfed in flames, and when Lindsay plunges inside to search for survivors, she finds three people dead. An infant who lived in the house cannot be found, and a mysterious message at the scene leaves Lindsay and the San Francisco Police Department completely baffled.

2nd Chance

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Andrew Gross. The sensational killings that have rocked San Francisco appear to be unrelated except in their brutality. But detective Lindsay Boxer senses there’s some thread connecting them all. She calls her friends in the Women’s Murder Club together to see if they can discover what it is. Each of the victims had a close relative in a particular profession, that sends a chill through Lindsay’s heart. Also, they are all of the same race suggesting that the killer is a racist.

Screamplay (1985)

This is a moderate movie. Edgar Allen (Rufus Seder) is an aspiring screenwriter who travels to Hollywood to find work. At a café he meets an agent who is desperate for a big contract. Edgar goes to an apartment complex and is hired as the janitor while boarding in the storage closet. During his free time he writes a script and uses his interactions with his neighbors as inspiration. One night his script is stolen and soon afterwards the other residents start dying off in the manner Edgar had described.

The film is produced in a style reminiscent of 1930s black and white horrors.

Monday, June 14, 2010

1st to Die

This is an okay book written by James Patterson. Four women share a determination to stop a killer who has been stalking newlyweds in San Francisco. Each one holds a piece of the puzzle: Lindsay is a homicide inspector in the San Francisco Police Department, Claire is a medical examiner, Jill is an assistant D.A., and Cindy is a reporter who just started working the crime desk of the San Francisco Chronicle. But the usual procedures aren’t bringing them any closer to stopping the killings. So these women form a Women’s Murder Club to collaborate outside the box and pursue the case by sidestepping their bosses. The main suspect is a famous writer, but he claims to have been set up.

A made for television film based on the book was released in 2003 and shown on NBC.

Three Colors: Blue (1993)

This is a solid French movie. A young family is in a car accident that kills their father and 5-year-old daughter. Julie (Juliette Binoche) is devastated by the loss of her family, and to cope she retreats from the life she is used to. She sells all of her belongings and moves into an apartment. Her husband was a famous composer, but there are rumors that it was actually Julie that wrote the music. She is surprised to see footage on the news of her husband’s mistress and decides to seek out the woman and talk to her.

The film explores the ideal of liberty through the main character trying to let go of her past to discover what she really wants.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Andrew Gross. Working as a lifeguard at a Florida resort, Ned Kelly meets a woman he is wild about, the woman of his dreams. It feels perfect in every way – except that she prefers caviar and Manolo Blahniks, and he is used to burgers and flip-flops. She is a guest at the luxurious hotel – he lives above a garage. So when Ned’s cousin offers to cut him in on a rich deal to steal some famous paintings, Ned can’t resist. However the heist goes terribly wrong when several people are murdered, and Ned is falsely accused of the crimes. Now he is on the run from the FBI while trying to prove his innocence.

Judge and Jury

I liked this book co-written by James Patterson and Andrew Gross. Andie DeGrasse, an aspiring actress and single mother of a 9-year-old boy, is not your typical juror. Hoping to get dismissed from the jury pool, she tells the judge that most of her legal knowledge comes from a small part in the television series The Sopranos, but later she decides to stay on. A mafia boss is on trial and several former mobs are brought in to testify against him. It soon becomes apparent that the jury might be in a danger and then an explosion hits the court house allowing the mafia don to escape. A FBI agent is determined to track down the mobster to any country he goes, even without the support of the legal system.

The Science of Sleep (2006)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable French movie. Young Mexican inventor Stephane (Gael García Bernal) has gone to France to visit his mother after the death of his father. He stays in an apartment and befriends two young women that live across the hall. He has a vivid imagination and is constantly confusing reality with fantasy. He becomes fond of his neighbor Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) because she is spontaneous and uses her hands to make crafts. He struggles to confess his feelings to her and resorts to playing out his desires in his dreams.

The film uses stop-motion animation during the dream sequences. The scene with large hands was based on a nightmare the director had as a child. The song "Instinct Blues" by The White Stripes is played in the film. This is the director's second film about dreaming after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This is an okay book co-written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. In 1946 just after the end of World War II, author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from someone on the British island of Guernsey. The island had been occupied by the Nazis who only allowed them to grow potatoes. Juliet is fascinated by their history and corresponds to several of the residents to get ideas for her next book. She is so moved by their experiences that she decides to go to the island to meet them in person.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Dogma (1999)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie. Two angels (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) have been kicked out of heaven and sent to Earth, but they discover a loophole that will allow them to get back in. A cardinal (George Carlin) thinks that the Catholic Church should become modern to gain converts and offers an indulgence that allows a person to be forgiven if they walk through an arch in front of a New Jersey church. A doubting, but still active, Catholic named Bethany is told that she is a scion of Mary and Joseph and is the best hope to stop the two angels from causing the destruction of the universe.

This is the fourth film set in the View Askew universe and most of it was shot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Metatron is considered the highest ranking angel in Judaism, but he is not mentioned in the Old Testament. Satan is not called Lucifer in the New Testament and the passage in Isaiah 14:12 is referring to a Babylonian King. Jason Mewes memorized all of the dialogue for the whole script to demonstrate that he was serious about the film. The film was controversial because of the treatment of religious beliefs. I enjoyed the parts about religion, but I thought the movie was poorly made.

Artemis Fowl

This is an okay book written by Eoin Colfer. 12-year-old boy genius Artemis Fowl wants to prove the existence of fairies. However, as the last living member of a notorious criminal family, he plans to restore honor to the family name by kidnapping a fairy and holding her for ransom. The series includes six books already, with a seventh book expected to be released soon. The author is Irish and his first name is pronounced as Owen.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Drowning Ruth

This is an okay book written by Christina Schwarz. In 1919, Amanda spends her days nursing soldiers wounded in the Great War. Finding herself suddenly overwhelmed, she flees Milwaukee and retreats to her family’s farm on Nagawaukee Lake in Wisconsin, seeking comfort with her younger sister, Mathilda, and three-year-old niece, Ruth. Almost one year later, Amanda loses nearly everything that is dearest to her when her sister disappears and is later found beneath the ice that covers the lake. When Mathilda’s husband comes home from the war, wounded and troubled himself, he finds that Amanda has taken charge of Ruth and the farm. Amanda has kept secret most of the details of that fateful night, but years later they finally come out.

The Shakespeare Stealer

I liked this book written by Gary Blackwood. 14-year-old Widge was orphaned as a baby during the late 16th century and has been apprenticed to different men of doubtful reputation. His most recent master is a cruel man named Falconer. He orders the boy to sit in on a performance of Hamlet and copy down the dialogue so he can sell the story. Widge is unable to capture the whole script during the first show and when he goes back again, is spotted. To avoid getting into trouble, he concocts a tale about how he has always wanted to act and they let him join the crew.

There are two sequels to the novel. Hamlet was first performed in 1607. The Globe Theatre in London was destroyed by fire in 1613, but was rebuilt the next year.

Saving Shiloh

I liked this book written by Phyllis Naylor. Judd Travers is physically on the mend from the truck accident that nearly took his life. He is a loner and the community still thinks he hasn’t given up his evil ways. 12-year-old Marty’s parents tell him that every person deserves a second chance. When a murder and some robberies strike the small West Virginia town, most people assume that Judd is involved. Marty, however, is unsure of what to think and continues to support him. This is the third and final book in the series and a film version was released in 2006.

Starship Troopers

I liked this book written by Robert Heinlein. In the future, individual rights are not a given. People born on Earth must earn their citizenship before they are entrusted with such important societal responsibilities. The quickest, surest route to citizenship is to serve in the military, which will eliminate those with no appreciation of duty and conviction. 18-year-old Filipino Juan Rico decides to join the military with his best friend even though his wealthy father discourages him from going through with it. Training is difficult, but there isn’t much too worry about until an alien species of bug-like creatures invades the Earth and starts a massive war.

Heinlein served in the Navy and used the novel to express his views in support of a nuclear weapons program. He also opposed conscription and preferred a voluntary military. The draft ended in 1973. Some of the actors in the 1986 film Aliens were required to read this novel to prepare for their roles. A 1997 film was made based on the book and starred Denise Richards and Neil Patrick Harris. Two sequel movies were also made, but by different directors. There was also an animated television show called Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles that aired on PAX and later the SciFi Channel.

Layer Cake (2004)

This is an okay British movie. A former mechanic (Daniel Craig) has been working for the mob as a go between, purchasing illegal drugs from black market wholesalers and then turning them over to street dealers for a profit. Now he wants to retire, but first he is given two final assignments by crime boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham). He must locate the drug addicted daughter of a powerful criminal (Michael Gambon) and then negotiate a large sale of ecstasy to a petty crook known as The Duke.

It is based on the 2000 novel by J.J. Connolly. The title refers to the social layers of the British crime underworld and to the multiple plots in the film.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Say You’re One of Them

I did not like this book written by Uwem Akpan. This is a collection of short stories about children in Africa. A family living in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya scurries to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday. A Rwandan girl relates her family’s struggles to maintain a façade of normalcy amid unspeakable acts. Through the eyes of childhood friends, the emotional toll of religious conflict in Ethiopia becomes viscerally clear.

Hattie Big Sky

This is an okay book written by Kirby Larson and based on true events. Hattie Brooks no longer has her parents and she has been shuttled from one relative to the next. At age 16 in 1918, she receives word that her uncle has passed away and left her some land. She has one year to cultivate the land and build a fence to take advantage of a homestead claim and keep ownership of the land. She is unprepared for the tasks, but thanks to her German neighbors she is able to make progress. An unforeseen death and mounting debt cause her to question her resolve.


This is an okay book written by Frank Herbert. The Galactic Emperor has transferred custody of the desert planet Arrakis over to the House of Atreides from the House of Harkonnen. However, the evil House of Harkonnen has other plans, and casts the young Duke Paul Atreides out into the desert to die. There, Paul comes into contact with the Fremen, the indigenous inhabitants of the planet, who can help him to regain his position. But Paul may be more than just a Duke; he may be the end-point of a genetic breeding program designed to create a messiah.

This is the best-selling science fiction novel and there are five sequels. David Lynch directed a film version in 1984. The SciFi Channel released a miniseries in 2000 and then a sequel in 2003. French director Pierre Morel is planning to make another film based on the book. Frank Herbert was inspired by the Oregon Dunes on the pacific coast. The novel reminded me of the desert planet Tatooine from Star Wars and the book Speaker for the Dead by Orson Card.

The Life Aquatic (2004)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie. Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is an expert oceanographer and an acclaimed film director of documentaries. On one of the voyages his friend is attacked and killed by a rare shark. Steve vows that he is going to track down the shark for revenge. During a celebration, pilot Ned (Owen Wilson) introduces himself as Steve’s illegitimate son. He then agrees to quit his job and join the sea faring team. A pregnant journalist (Cate Blanchett) shows up on a private island owned by Zissou expecting to write a story about him.

The film was shot in Italy and is in homage to French explorer Jacques Cousteau, who died in 1997. The characters were inspired by The Great Gatsby and The Magnificent Ambersons and the plot is similar to Moby Dick, but it also reminded me of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Both scenes involving aerial shots of character's feet (in the Hot Air Balloon as well as the shot before the helicopter crashes) are homages to Fellini's film . The line "I'm also a human being" appears in Casablanca. There is a small spotted shark called the chain catshark that only reaches a length of about 18 inches.


This is an okay book written by Jacqueline Woodson. Lonnie Collins Motion, nicknamed Locomotion after a song, lost his parents in a fire when he was only 7-years-old. He and his younger sister Lili were put into foster care. Four years later the siblings are living with different families and Lili’s foster mother isn’t very fond of Lonnie, but she still allows him to visit. His teacher challenges him to keep a journal and she requires him to use different styles of poetry. This gives him an outlet to express his emotions.

The Known World

I liked this book written by Edward Jones. Henry Townsend is a black farmer freed from slavery in the 1840s. He buys a farm and some slaves to care for it. Since Virginia forbids a free black man from buying slaves directly, he partners with a white man named William Robbins. Townsend manages his farm very carefully to make sure he never violates any laws. When he dies suddenly, his widow Caldonia takes over the estate, but she is unprepared for the role and chaos ensues.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

This is a solid movie. Dean falls asleep at a diner and his girlfriend hears him arguing with somebody and then he is killed. At his funeral several of his peers admit to having similar nightmares. Nancy (Rooney Mara) suspects that she and the others must have gone to school together as children. She discovers a photo with a bunch of students at a daycare center and she learns that her mother has been hiding something from her. There was a gardener at that school named Fred Krueger (Jackie Haley) who molested the students and now he is appearing in their dreams in order to kill them.

This is a remake of Wes Craven's 1984 film. In the first movie, Krueger was a killer and not just a child molester. The remake broke the record for midnight openings for a horror film, and was able to gross more in its opening weekend than the entire theatrical gross for four other Nightmare on Elm Street films. The film was shot in Illinois and Indiana.