Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Maze Runner

This is an okay book written by James Dashner. Thomas awakes on an elevator with no memory of anything except his own first name. The elevator leads Thomas to a glade surrounded by stone walls. There he’s greeted by a slew of other children, all of them also missing their memories and all of them boys. Every day stone doors open, revealing a complex maze that surrounds the glade, and every evening they close. Life seems fairly routine for Thomas and these children until the elevator delivers a young girl with a powerful message. This is the first book of a trilogy.

Trunk Music

I liked this book written by Michael Connelly. Back on the job after an involuntary leave of absence, LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch is ready for a challenge. But his first case is a little more than he bargained for. It starts with the body of a Hollywood producer in the trunk of a Rolls-Royce, shot twice in the head at close range – what looks like trunk music, a Mafia hit. But the LAPD’s organized crime unit is curiously uninterested, and when Harry follows a trail of gambling debts to Las Vegas, the case suddenly becomes more complex – and much more personal. This is the fifth book to feature Harry Bosch.


This is an okay book written by Jeffery Deaver. Detective Kessler is wishing for his mundane life back when he is targeted by a deadly identity thief. Now, as he tries to protect his wife and child from his newfound nemesis, the FBI races through Kessler’s previous cases in an attempt to identify the culprit.

Strategic Moves

This is an okay book written by Stuart Woods. Stone Barrington is enjoying his usual dinner at Elaine’s when his boss at Woodman & Weld, the law firm where Stone is of counsel, walks in, sits down, and hands Stone a check for one million dollars. It seems Stone’s undercover dealings with MI6 have brought in a big new client for the firm, and they’re willing to pay Stone a huge bonus to make him a partner. But almost as soon as he’s taken the deal, Stone gets wind of an impending scandal that might torpedo his big promotion. This is the 19th book in the Stone Barrington series.

Battle: Los Angeles

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie. Small objects that appear to be meteorites crash near the beaches of several major cities. Upon closer examination they are determined to be mechanical. Alien creatures, which look like a mixture between animals and robots, start walking out of the ocean and attacking the surrounding cities. A group of marines is sent into Camp Pendleton to defend Los Angeles. They are led in battle by Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), who had just applied for retirement.

The story is based on a false alarm that occurred on February 24 and 25, 1942, when mysterious objects fell over Los Angeles, inciting fears that they were being attacked by the Japanese. Director Jonathan Liebesman intended for this to be a military film. The actors went through three weeks of boot camp. Filming was shot in Shreveport and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Red Pyramid

This is an okay book written by Rick Riordan. Since his mother’s death six years ago, Carter Kane has been living out of a suitcase, traveling the globe with his father, the brilliant Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane. But while Carter’s been homeschooled, his younger sister, Sadie, has been living with their grandparents in London. On Christmas Eve, Sadie and Carter are reunited when their father brings them to the British Museum. But all does not go according to plan: Carter and Sadie watch as Julius summons a mysterious figure, who quickly banishes their father and causes a fiery explosion.

This is the first novel in The Kane Chronicles series. The idea of having a brother and sister who are multiracial came from two siblings that the author taught. The third largest Egyptian pyramid is known as the Red Pyramid.

Tick Tock

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. When a killer stars terrorizing New York City, Detective Michael Bennett is called away from his peaceful family vacation to investigate. With the help of FBI agent Emily Parker, Bennett discovers the killer is a copycat with terrifying plans. Knowing more innocent lives are at stake, Bennett and Parker are in a race against time to catch the culprit before it’s too late. This is the fourth book in the Michael Bennett series.

Deliver Us from Evil

This is an okay book written by David Baldacci. Evan Waller is a monster. He has built a fortune from his willingness to buy and sell anything and anyone. In search of new opportunities, Waller has just begun a new business venture: one that could lead to millions of deaths all over the globe. On Waller’s trail is Shaw, a mysterious operative who must prevent Waller from closing his latest deal. Shaw’s one chance to bring him down will come in the most unlikely of places: a serene, bucolic village in Provence, France.

The title is taken from the Lord's Prayer. This is the second book in the Shaw and Katie James series.

Chasing the Night

I liked this book written by Iris Johansen. A CIA agent’s two-year-old child was stolen in the night as a brutal act of vengeance. Nine years later, Catherine Ling’s instincts – maternal and professional – tell her that her son is still alive, but she needs the help of someone as driven and obsessed as she is to find him – and that person is Eve Duncan. Eve has walked this same path and shares Catherine’s nightmare, having endured the disappearance of her own daughter, Bonnie. This is the eleventh book to feature Eve Duncan and Joe Quinn.

Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison

I liked this book written by Brandon Mull. After many centuries of plotting, the Sphinx – the leader of the Society of the Evening Star – is after the final artifacts needed to open the great demon prison, Zzyxx. If the legendary prison is opened, a tide of evil is certain to usurp control of the world. In an effort to intercept the final artifacts, Kendra, Seth, and the Knights of the Dawn race to strange and exotic preserves across the globe. The stakes have never been higher. The risks have never been more deadly. This is the fifth and final installment in the series.


This is an okay book written by Charlie Fletcher. While on a school trip, outcast George Chapman accidently awoke an ancient evil. Now, the statues of London have come to life, and after his last adventure, young George discovers that his friends have been captured. However, when George notices stone, marble, and bronze veins growing out of his hands, he learns that unless he completes three ancient challenges, the veins will kill him. This is the second book in The Stoneheart Trilogy.

The Magic Thief

This is an okay book written by Sarah Prineas. When he’s caught pickpocketing one foul night, Conn – a young street urchin – becomes apprenticed to a down-on-his-luck wizard Nevery Flinglas. It seems that Nevery is just returning to the faraway and long ago land of Wellmet after a 20-year exile. Taking a muscle-bound minion and the lock-picking Conn with him, Nevery enters the terrifying lair of The Underlord. Following a secret meeting with this dreaded one, Nevery somehow emerges unscathed – with his lackeys in tow. His next visit is with the Duchess who banished him. Because he promises to rid her realm of the decay and decline caused by a lack of magic, she lets him re-enter Wellmet.

This is the first book in a trilogy. Prineas wrote the first chapter for Cricket, a literary magazine for young adults, and later decided to expand it into a novel.

Crescent Dawn

I liked this book co-written by Clive Cussler and his son Dirk Cussler. In A.D. 327, a Roman galley with extraordinary cargo barely escapes a pirate attack. In 1916, a British warship mysteriously explodes in the middle of the North Sea. In the present day, a cluster of important mosques in Turkey and Egypt are wracked by explosions. What ties them all together? National Underwater and Marine Agency director Dirk Pitt and his team are about to find out, as Roman artifacts discovered in Turkey and Israel unnervingly connect to the rise of a fundamentalist movement determined to restore the glory of the Ottoman Empire. This is the 21st book in the Dirk Pitt series.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

This is an okay book written by Trenton Lee Stewart. The four brilliant children are back with a new mission: to go on an international scavenger hunt designed to engage their individual talents. As they search for all the clues and riddles Mr. Benedict has hidden for them, Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance face an unexpected challenge that will reinforce the reasons they were brought together in the first place and require them to fight for the very namesake that united them. This is the second book in the series.

Unknown (2011)

This is an okay movie. While visiting Berlin for a biotechnology conference, Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) is in an automobile accident. Four days later he awakens in a German hospital, confused about his situation and lacking any form of identification. He is released and locates his wife at a hotel, but she does not seem to recognize him. He becomes irate and is hassled by hotel security. Suspecting a plot to discredit his identity, he hires a local detective to discover who he really is.

The film is based on the 2003 French novel Hors de moi written by Didier van Cauwelaert, and published in English as Out of My Head. Many German actors were cast for the movie.

I am Number Four (2011)

This is a solid movie. John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) was sent to Earth as a child with eight other aliens, to escape from the species that destroyed their home planet. He is accompanied by a guardian named Henri (Timothy Olyphant). John is constantly on the move to protect his identity and hide his superhuman abilities. The invading Mogadorians recently learned of the escapees on Earth and are trying to kill them. While living in Paradise, Ohio, John becomes friends with Sam, whose father was a conspiracy theorist. He also falls in love with Sarah (Dianna Agron). But now that he is being hunted, he'll have to protect himself and his new friends.

The film is based on a novel co-written by Jobie Hughes and James Frey. It was shot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the surrounding area.

100 Cupboards

I liked this book written by N.D. Wilson. Twelve-year-old Henry York is going to sleep one night when he hears a bump on the attic wall above his head. It’s an unfamiliar house – Henry is staying with his aunt, uncle, and three girl cousins – so he tries to ignore it. But the next night he wakes up with bits of plaster in his hair. Two knobs have broken through the wall, and one of them is slowing turning.

The book is followed by Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King. A film version is currently being made.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tangled (2010)

This is a solid movie. A magical healing flower is used to save the life of the queen and her newborn baby, whose beautiful hair retains those healing abilities as long as it is never cut. An elderly witch (Donna Murphy) who had guarded the secret flower for centuries, kidnaps the baby girl to steal the healing power of her hair and remain youthful. Every year as a reminder of her birth, the king and queen hold a ceremony where they release paper lanterns into the sky. The princess Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) dreams of seeing these lights in person, and finally gets the chance when she is rescued by the thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi).

This is the 50th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The story is largely based on the German fairy tale Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm. Tangled is the most expensive animated film ever made, and the second most expensive film of all time after Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. It is also became the second-highest grossing animated film worldwide in the Disney animated canon (unadjusted for inflation), behind The Lion King. The thief's name was changed from Bastion to Flynn, paying homage to actor Errol Flynn.

Sanctum (2011)

This is an okay Australian movie based on a true story. Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh), the leading expert on underwater caves has taken a team to the Esa'ala Cave in Papua New Guinea, one of the few unexplored areas left on Earth. His 17-year-old son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) also joins the expedition. Frank and another diver decide to explore an area known as Devil's Restriction, when her oxygen hose snaps, she drowns. Then a storm hits and starts flooding the cave, forcing the remaining survivors to search for an alternative path to the surface.

I enjoyed the interaction between the father and son. Stunt diver Agnes Milowka drowned in a cave on February 27, 2011 after the film had been released, when she reportedly ran out of air. The story is based on the experience of co-producer Andrew Wight. He was exploring a remote cave system underneath the Nullarbor Plain in Australia when a storm hit and they had to find a different path out. Miraculously, all fourteen members survived. A large tank was used for most of the underwater scenes. The entrance to the fictional cave is modeled after the Cave of Swallows in Mexico and the Nare cave in Papua New Guinea.

The Player (1992)

This is an okay movie. Film executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) listens to screenplay pitches from writers hoping their story will be sold. When he starts receiving disturbing and threatening postcards from an anonymous source, he suspects that a disgruntled writer is upset at having his idea rejected. One night Mill tracks down an angry man he believes is responsible. During a fight, the writer drowns in a puddle of water. Mill now worries he will be caught, and to cope he develops a relationship with the dead writer's girlfriend.

The story is based on screenwriter Michael Tolkin's 1988 novel. He also wrote a 2006 sequel novel called Return of the Player. The film criticizes the movie industry for its poor treatment of artists and the practice of sacrificing quality to earn commercial success. The opening sequence shot lasts 7 minutes and 47 seconds without a single camera break. Sixty-two actors had cameo appearances in the film and most of them were not compensated. The movie playing at the theater is The Bicycle Thief, a 1948 Italian film directed by Vittorio De Sica.

The Green Hornet (2011)

This is a solid movie. Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the son and heir of a Los Angeles newspaper magnate. He enjoys the luxurious lifestyle he is allowed and frequently attends parties and meets women. He has no real goals, but just lives in the pleasure of the moment. When his father suddenly dies from a bee sting, Britt unexpectedly inherits the newspaper business. He feels completely lost, but decides to re-hire his father's former assistant, Kato (Jay Chou), who makes excellent coffee and is an amazing mechanic. The two men team up and decide to tackle the city's crime in disguise.

Seth Rogen co-wrote the screenplay. The production modified 29 Imperial Crown sedans from model years 1964 to 1966 to portray the Green Hornet's luxurious supercar, the Black Beauty. On December 15, 2010, Mythbusters aired an episode known as the "Green Hornet Special" where they addressed two scenarios from the film: whether a buried car could throw off a bulldozer in an explosion and not hurt the passengers, and whether a car cut in half could still drive. The Green Hornet character was created by Fran Striker for the 1936 radio series. There was also a television show on ABC that ran from September 1966 through March 1967.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (2010)

This is a noteworthy movie. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is gaining strength and is even starting to worry the Ministry of Magic. At a meeting of the Death Eaters, Snape (Alan Rickman) informs the group that Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is planning to leave his aunt's home for protection. The Order of the Phoenix arrives at Harry's home and administers the Polyjuice Potion, so any enemies will not be able to detect the real boy. The plan is foiled and the group is attacked. Scrimgeour gives a few items from Albus Dumbledore to Ron, Hermione and Harry, and tells them that they need to find and destroy the remaining horcruxes.

During opening weekend, Part 1 grossed $125 million, breaking the record for the largest opening in the series. The film also became the second-highest November opening, the second-largest opening of 2010 (behind Iron Man 2), and the sixth-highest of all-time. Director Yates and co-producer Heyman said that the sixth film was written to anticipate events that would be appearing in the final story. Some of the footage was shot in Swinley Forest, a large woodland in Windlesham and Winkfield. Part 2 is expected to be released on July 15, 2011. Special effects, and not older actors, will be used to depict the cast members as adults in the file scene of the epilogue.