Friday, September 30, 2011

The First Rule

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. The organized criminal gangs of the former Soviet Union are bound by what they call the thieves’ code. The first rule is this: a thief must forsake his mother, father, brothers, and sisters. He must have no family – no wife, no children – because only other criminals are his family. If any of the rules are broken, it is punishable by death. Frank Meyer had the American dream – a wife and family he adored, a successful business – until the day a professional crew invaded his home and murdered everyone inside. The only thing out of the ordinary about Meyer was that – before the family and the business and the normal life – a younger Frank Meyer worked as a professional military contractor, a mercenary, with a man named Joe Pike. Frank was one of Pike’s guys, and they faced death together in every rotten hellhole around the world.

This is the 13th novel in the series.

The Monkey’s Raincoat

I liked this book written by Robert Crais. When Ellen Lang’s husband disappears with their son, she hires Elvis Cole to track him down. A quiet and seemingly submissive wife, Ellen can’t even write a check without him. All she wants is to get him and her son back – no questions asked. The search for Ellen’s errant husband leads Elvis into the seamier side of Hollywood. He soon learns that Mort Lang is a down-on-his-luck talent agent who associates with a schlocky movie producer, and the last place he was spotted was at a party thrown by a famous and very well-connected ex-Matador. But no one has seen him since – including his B-movie girlfriend.

This is the first novel about Elvis Cole. The title comes from a 17th century Japanese poet.

The Negotiator (1998)

This is a noteworthy movie. Hostage negotiator Danny Roman (Samuel L. Jackson) finds his colleague soon after he is shot in his car. Based on circumstantial evidence found at the scene, the police assume Roman is the killer. He suspects the department is involved in a conspiracy to cover up money embezzled from the disability fund, so he takes several hostages to expose the truth. Hoping that an outsider will be more trustworthy, he requests that negotiator Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey) is brought in to resolve the standoff.

J. T. Walsh who played Inspector Terence Niebaum died of a heart attack five months before the film was released. The building used for the internal affairs office is the headquarters of United Airlines.

Crime Beat

This is an okay book written by Michael Connelly. Before he became a novelist, Connelly was a crime reporter, covering the detectives who worked the homicide beat. In these articles, Connelly leads the reader past the yellow police tape as he follows the investigators, the victims, their families and friends – and, of course, the killers – to tell the real stories of murder and its aftermath. Connelly’s firsthand observations would lend inspiration to his novels. And the vital details of his best-known characters, both heroes and villains, would get their realism from the cops and killers he reported on: from loner detective Harry Bosch to the manipulative serial killer the Poet.

The Overlook

This is an okay book written by Michael Connelly. A body has been found on the overlook near Mulholland Drive. The victim, identified as Dr. Stanley Kent, has two bullet holes in the back of his head from what looks like an execution-style shooting. LAPD detective Harry Bosch is called out to investigate. It is the case he has been waiting for, his first since being recruited to the city’s Homicide Special Squad. As soon as Bosch begins retracing Dr. Kent’s steps, contradictions emerge. While Kent doesn’t seem to have had ties to organized crime, he did have access to dangerous radioactive substances from just about every hospital in Los Angeles County.

This is the thirteenth novel featuring Harry Bosch and originally appeared as sixteen installments in The New York Times Magazine.

The Last Detective

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. Elvis Cole’s relationship with attorney Lucy Chenier is strained. When she moved from Louisiana to join him in Los Angeles, she never dreamed that violence would so easily touch her life – but then the unthinkable happens. While Lucy is away on business and her ten-year-old son, Ben, is staying with Elvis, Ben disappears without a trace. Desperate to believe that the boy has run away, evidence soon mounts to suggest a much darker scenario. Joining forces with his enigmatic partner, Joe Pike, Elvis frantically searches for Ben with the help of LAPD Detective Carol Starkey, as Lucy’s wealthy, oil-industry ex-husband attempts to wrest control of the investigation.

This is the ninth book in the series.

The Doomsday Key

I liked this book written by James Rollins. When a famous geneticist, a Vatican archaeologist, and a Senator’s son are all found dead, the only similarity is the pagan cross seared into their flesh. As Commander Pierce and his team struggle to trace the connection, a trio of high-tech assassins aims to end their investigation. Forced to run, Pierce enlists the help of two women from his past – one of whom he’ll have to sacrifice in order to save the world.

This is the sixth book in the Sigma Force series.

City of Bones

This is an okay book written by Michael Connelly. Detective Harry Bosch is haunted by the memories of his tortured past. The bones of a twelve-year-old boy, scattered in the Hollywood hills, bring these memories to the foreground for him. Meticulously, Bosch reconstructs the history of the boy from the bones; that the boy died twenty years ago means nothing to him, for to Bosch, there’s no such thing as a cold case.

This is the eighth novel featuring Harry Bosch.

Jaws (1975)

This is a solid movie. When a young woman is killed by a shark, the new chief of police (Roy Scheider) decides that the beaches should be closed on Amity Island. However, the town mayor is concerned that any bad publicity will hurt the local economy so he convinces the medical examiner to alter his report and say that the girl's death was due to a boating accident. As the shark continues to attack, the townspeople realize the danger they are in. Marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) arrives to evaluate what is happening. He joins an expedition with the police chief and a local hunter to find and kill the deadly fish.

It is based on the 1974 novel written by Peter Benchley and he has a cameo appearance as a news reporter. The film was shot in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. The theme was performed by John williams. The film is credited for demonstrating that summer releases could be successful. There were three sequels, but none of those were directed by Spielberg. Three full-sized mechanical sharks were used during filming. Footage of real sharks was also used. The underwater scene was shot in a swimming pool. Jaws has similarities to Moby-Dick, including an obsessed character intent on killing an animal swimming in the ocean. Jaws won three Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Sound.

Last Man Standing

This is an okay book written by David Baldacci. A booby trap destroys an entire FBI Hostage Rescue Team on a drug raid in a Washington, D.C. alley. The only man to survive the blazing steel from the .50 calibers is Special Agent Web London, the team’s leader who mysteriously freezes up at a crucial moment. Now everyone in the Bureau is wondering how – or why – Web was the only man left alive. Soon, Web is on a mission to find out who’s responsible for the ambush. But first he needs to find a missing undercover operative and a small boy.

The author used former HRT sniper Chris Whitcomb, who was at Ruby Ridge and Waco, as a reference.

Dreamcatcher (2003)

This is a solid movie. Twenty years ago four boys rescued a mentally challenged kid who was being bullied, and they discovered that he was actually an alien with the ability to bestow psychic powers. As adults they take a camping trip to their favorite cabin in the woods. They see blood spots on many animals and a strange couple and soon realize that it’s because they have an alien inside of them. The military maintains a quarantine hoping to prevent the creatures from spreading throughout the country. Using their special gifts, the men try to figure out what is going on and how to stop it.

The film is adapted from the 2001 novel written by Stephen King. It was filmed around Prince George, British Columbia. An alien creature in the story is called The Ripley, referring to the character in the Alien films. The Quabbin Reservoir is the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts and was built in the 1930s. In the novel, Duddits is not an alien himself and he dies on the way to the reservoir.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Help (2011)

This is an okay movie. During the 1960s in Mississippi, black maids would often raise white children leaving little time for their own families. Miss Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) recently graduated from college with a major in journalism. She gets a job at her hometown newspaper writing an advice column about domestic chores. She decides to write a book about how the maids are being mistreated, but at first they refuse to talk to her. Minny (Octavia Spencer) and Aibileen (Viola Davis) are the only ones who agree to share their experiences, but after a civil rights activist is killed, a large group of maids arrive to explain their own stories.

It is based on the 2009 novel written by Kathryn Stockett. A maid filed a lawsuit against the author claiming that the book was about her, but the case was thrown own because of the statute of limitations. The film earned the fourth largest ever gross for a Labor-day weekend.

Dante’s Peak (1997)

This is a solid movie. Four years ago Dr. Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) and his fiancée were monitoring a volcano in Colombia, when she was killed by falling debris. Now he is tasked with investigating some unusual activity in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. Mayor Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton) agrees to show him around town. When they discover two naked teenagers burned to death while swimming in a hot spring, he concludes that another volcano is about to erupt. His colleagues think he is overreacting to the evidence, but they decide to join him for a few days to evaluate the situation.

The film was inspired by the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, Mount St. Helens in 1980, and Mount Pinatubo on an island in the Philippines in 1991. The film was primarily shot in Wallace, Idaho. It was released a few months before Volcano, was more successful, and was praised for being more scientifically accurate. The final scene uses footage from the eruption of Mount St. Helens. David Johnston, a young scientist who had predicted the volatility of Mount St. Helens, perished during that eruption.

Millions (2004)

This is a solid British movie. Seven-year-old Damian (Alex Etel) has visions of dead saints and he considers it a miracle when a bag full of cash lands near him one day. He wants to use the money to help the poor, but his brother Anthony thinks they should spend the money on themselves. They soon learn that the money was actually stolen and a robber breaks into their house trying to find it. Damien tells his father Ronnie (James Nesbitt) about the money, who in response to the damage done at his home, decides to take his family on a spending spree rather than turning it over to the police.

The film was adapted from the 2004 novel written by Frank Boyce. The United Kingdom still uses the pound sterling for its currency. Opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of citizens do not want to adopt the euro and opposition has been gradually increasing each year.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes

This is an okay book written by Brandon Mull. Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable – until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason transporting from the hippo tank into a strange, imperiled world. Lyrian is full of dangers and challenges unlike any place Jason has ever known. The people live in fear of their malicious wizard emperor, Maldor. The brave resistors who once opposed Maldor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

The sequel is expected to be released next year.

Flight of the Red Balloon (2007)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable French movie. Simon is a lonely young boy who enjoys playing pinball and the PlayStation and also takes piano lessons. His divorced mother Suzanne (Juliette Binoche) is a puppeteer and she hires a nanny to watch him during the day. Suzanne has an older daughter living in Brussels who plans to move back home to attend college. Another tenant is staying in the basement, but he is unreliable about paying his share of the rent.

This is Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's first Western film and was inspired by the 1956 short film The Red Balloon.

A Walk in the Clouds (1995)

This is a solid movie. Sgt. Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves) returns home after fighting four long years during World War II. He learns that his wife has not read the many letters he sent her and thus is not aware of his dreams and goals. While traveling back to his old job as a chocolate salesman, he meets a beautiful woman (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón) who was abandoned by her boyfriend and is afraid to admit to her father that she is pregnant. The two strangers decide that they will pretend to be married for a day to lessen the humiliation from her family. But while staying at her family’s vineyard, their chance encounter quickly turns into love.

It is a remake of the 1942 Italian film Four Steps in the Clouds.

Lost Light

This is an okay book written by Michael Connelly. Four years ago, LAPD detective Harry Bosch was on a movie set asking questions about the murder of a young production assistant when an armored car arrived with two million dollars cash for use in a heist scene. In a life-imitates-art firestorm, a gang of masked men converged on the delivery and robbed the armored car with guns blazing. Bosch got off a shot that struck one of the robbers as their van sped away, but the money was never recovered. And the young woman’s murder was in the stack of unsolved case files Bosch carried home the night he left the LAPD. Now Bosch moves full bore back into that case, determined to find justice for the young woman.

This is the ninth novel in Harry Bosch series, but is the first to be narrated in first person. The hardback edition included a CD with music by Art Pepper, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane.

The Electric Grandmother (1982)

This is an okay movie. A young family is trying to cope with the death of their mother. Aunt Clara arrives to provide support, but she doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. One day a helicopter drops a personalized message telling the family to visit a local warehouse. Upon arrival they meet a scientist who says he can create a robotic grandmother (Maureen Stapleton) to care for them. After being delivered in a sarcophagus she immediately becomes attached to the family and helps them to enjoy their time together. The only conflict arises when the young Agatha (Tara Kennedy) refuses to accept someone else as a mother.

The film is based on the short story "I Sing the Body Electric!" written by Ray Bradbury. The story was also adapted as the 100th episode of The Twilight Zone airing in 1962.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1995)

This is a solid movie. 11-year-old Claudia Kincaid (Jean Marie Barnwell) earns straight As in school but still does not feel appreciated by her parents. She convinces her younger brother Jamie to run away with her and they hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. When a statue of an angel is put on display, the kids decide they want to discover whether it was really created by Michelangelo. To find the truth, they will have to visit a wealthy recluse (Lauren Bacall) who is the likely donor of the statue.

This film is based on the 1967 novel written by E.L. Konigsburg. There is also a 1973 film version starring Ingrid Bergman.

Elizabethtown (2005)

This is an okay movie. The celebrated idea of designer Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) turns into a fiasco after the shoes are recalled. On that same night while he is feeling depressed, his sister informs him that their father has died from a heart attack and she asks him to fly out to Kentucky to take care of the funeral arrangements. He meets a very talkative flight attendant (Kirsten Dunst) who writes her number on a card for him. One night when he needs someone to talk to, he pulls out her number and their conversation blossoms into a close friendship.

My Morning Jacket was featured under the name Ruckus in the film. They contributed an original song "Where to Begin" and "Same In Any Language" written by Nancy Wilson. While Orlando Bloom is supposedly traveling to Elizabethtown by car, he is going the incorrect direction on the road. He is also pictured going through the Cherokee Park tunnel, which happens to be on I-64. Elizabethtown is on I-65, about 60 miles in the other direction. Most of the small town scenes were actually filmed in Versailles, Kentucky. Elizabethtown is the eleventh-largest city in Kentucky with a population of 28,531.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Narrows

I liked this book written by Michael Connelly. FBI agent Rachel Walling finally gets the call she’s dreaded for years: the one that tells her the Poet has returned. Years ago she worked on the famous case, tracking down the serial killer who wove lines of poetry into his hideous crimes. Rachel has never forgotten Robert Backus, the killer who called himself the Poet – and apparently he has not forgotten her either.

This is the tenth novel featuring Harry Bosch and also includes a cameo appearance by Cassie Black using her new name. It is considered the official sequel of The Poet.

Chasing the Dime

I liked this book written by Michael Connelly. The messages waiting for Henry Pierce when he plugs in his new telephone clearly aren’t intended for him. Pierce has just been thrown out by his girlfriend and moved into a new apartment, and the company he founded is headed into the most critical phase of fundraising. He’s been chasing the dime – doing all it takes to come out first in a technological battle whose victor will make millions. But he can’t get the messages for a woman named Lilly out of his head.

Void Moon

This is an okay book written by Michael Connelly. In L.A., Cassie Black is another beautiful woman in a Porsche; except Cassie just did six years in prison and still has outlaw juice flowing in her veins. Now Cassie is returning to her old profession, taking down a money man in Vegas. But the perfect heist goes very wrong, and suddenly Cassie is on the run – with a near-psychotic Vegas fixer killing everyone who knew about the job. Between Cassie and the man hunting her are a few last secrets: like who really set up the job, why Cassie had to take the chance, and how, in the end, it might all be a matter of the moon.

This is the first novel to feature Cassie Black.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

This is a noteworthy movie. Pharmaceutical company Gen-Sys has developed a potential cure for Alzheimer's disease, but first they decide to test it on some chimpanzees. One of the subjects becomes much smarter but she is shot in a fit of rage. Her newborn son is taken home by scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) and quickly shows signs of advanced intelligence. After a scuffle with a neighbor, he is taken away by animal control and put into a primate sanctuary. One night he steals a new drug from Will and takes it back to the sanctuary to share it with the others. As the primates become self-aware, they decide to break free from their cages and roam the city.

This is a reboot of the series with a new origin story, but it also has similarities to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972). Unlike the previous films, the apes were created digitally using performance capture technology. This film had the fourth highest-grossing August opening ever.

The Scarecrow

This is an okay book written by Michael Connelly. Jack McEvoy is at the end of the line as a crime reporter. Once a hotshot in the newsroom, Jack is now in the crosshairs of the latest set of layoffs at the Los Angeles Times. He decides to go out with a bang, using his final days at the paper to write the definitive murder story of his career. Jack focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a sixteen-year-old drug dealer in jail after confessing to the brutal murder of a young woman found strangled in the truck of her car. Jack plans to write about how societal dysfunction and neglect created a teenage killer. But as he delves into the story, Jack realizes that Winslow’s so-called confession is bogus. The kid might actually be innocent.

This is the second novel to feature both Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling and is a sequel to the events in The Poet.

The Broken Window

This is an okay book written by Jeffery Deaver. When Lincoln’s estranged cousin Arthur Rhyme is arrested on murder charges, the case is perfect – too perfect. Forensic evidence from Arthur’s home is found all over the scene of the crime, and it looks like the fate of Lincoln’s relative is sealed. At the behest of Arthur’s wife, Lincoln grudgingly agrees to investigate the case. Soon Lincoln and his partner Amelia Sachs uncover a string of similar murders and rapes with perpetrators claiming innocence and ignorance – despite ironclad evidence at the scenes of the crime. Rhyme’s team realizes this perfect evidence may actually be the result of masterful identity theft and manipulation.

This is the eighth book in the Lincoln Rhyme series.