Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Best in Show (2000)

This is an okay movie. Five dogs are brought by their owners to Philadelphia for the annual breed show. Harlan is a ventriloquist who owns a fly-fishing shop and raises Bloodhounds. Gerry (Eugene Levy) and Cookie (Catherine O'Hara) is a couple from Florida with financial problems, who like to sing about their Terrier. Meg and Hamilton is a bickering yuppie couple who seem uncertain about the proper way to care for their Weimaraner. Sherri is married to a much older wealthy man who doesn’t talk very much, and she brings along handler Christy for her poodle. Scott and Stefan are gay men with a Shih Tzu.

Shock Wave

This is an okay book written by John Sandford. Superstore chain PyeMart has its sights set on a Minnesota river town, but two groups want to stop it: local merchants and environmentalists. The protests don’t seem to be slowing the project, though, until someone decides to take matters into his own hands. The first bomb goes off on the top floor of PyeMart’s headquarters. The second explodes at the construction site itself. Who’s behind the bombs, and how far will they go? It’s Virgil Flowers’s job to find out before more people get killed.

This is the fifth novel in the Virgil Flowers Series.

The Dentist (1996)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie. Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen) is an overworked and stressed dentist who feels pressure from the IRS about the financial records at his clinic. After catching his wife (Linda Hoffman) in an affair with the swimming pool repairman, he decides to get revenge on both of them. When he starts having hallucinations that prevent him from distinguishing between fantasy and reality, he unintentionally causes harm to his patients during oral exams and procedures.

A sequel to the film was released in 1998. Dr Glennon E. Engleman was a real life dentist turned serial killer. He murdered at least seven people and his methods included shooting, bludgeoning, and explosives.

Chasing the Darkness

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. It’s fire season, and the hills of Los Angeles are burning. When the police and fire department personnel rush door to door in a frenzied evacuation effort, they discover the week-old corpse of an apparent suicide. But the gunshot victim is less gruesome than what they find in his lap: a photo album of seven brutally murdered young women – one per year, for seven years. And when the suicide victim is identified as a former suspect in one of the murders, the news turns Elvis Cole’s world upside down. It was Cole’s eleventh-hour discovery of an exculpatory videotape that allowed Lionel Byrd to walk free.

This is the 12th novel in the series.

Stalking the Angel

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. Hired by a hotel magnate to locate a priceless Japanese manuscript, L.A. private eye Elvis Cole encounters the notorious Yakuza, the Japanese mob, and is drawn into a game of sexual obsession, amorality, and evil.

This is the second book in the series.

Voodoo River

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. L.A. private eye Elvis Cole is hired by popular television star Jodie Taylor to delve into her past and identify the biological parents who gave her up for adoption 36 years before. Cole’s assignment is to find out their medical history and report back. It seems all too clear cut. But when he gets to Louisiana and begins his search, he finds out there’s something much darker going on. Other people are also looking for Taylor’s parents; and some are ending up dead. And then Cole discovers that the actress knows more than she is admitting.

This is the fifth novel in the series.

The Forgotten Man

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. Elvis Cole receives the phone call he’s been waiting for since childhood. Responding to a gunshot, the LAPD has found an injured man in an alleyway. He has told the officer on the scene that he is looking for his son. Minutes later, the man is dead. Haunted throughout his life by a lack of knowledge about his father, Elvis turns to the one person who can help him navigate the minefield of his past – his longtime partner and confidant, Joe Pike. Together with hard-edged LAPD detective Carol Starkey, they launch a feverish search for the dead man’s identity – even as Elvis struggles between wanting to believe he’s found his father at last, and allowing his suspicions to hold him back.

This is the tenth novel to feature Elvis Cole.

Demolition Angel

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. Three years ago Carol Starkey was one of L.A.’s best bomb squad technicians. Then a freak accident while disarming a bomb left her scarred inside and out. Now a detective with the LAPD’s Criminal Conspiracy Section, she is struggling to rebuild her shattered world. When an explosion claims the life of a technician who was a colleague and friend, Carol is assigned to head up the investigation. With the help of an ATF agent, she discovers that a brilliant madman is designing bombs intended to kill the people whose job it is to disarm them.

Romeo Must Die (2000)

This is an okay movie. An ongoing race war in Oakland, California pits blacks against Asians. When Han Sing (Jet Li) learns of his brother’s murder, he breaks out of a Hong Kong prison and flies to the United States to find the perpetrators. Trish (Aaliyah) flees from her father's bodyguard and gets into a taxi cab which was stolen by Han. At his brother's apartment, Han learns that the last number dialed was to the store that Trish works at. He follows her home and is told that her brother Colin was probably involved with a deal that went awry.

Aaliyah was killed in an airplane crash 17 months after the film was released. The film was almost entirely shot in Vancouver, British Columbia. The movie helped Jet Li become widely known to American audiences. The soundtrack includes four songs by Aaliyah.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)

This is a solid movie. Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) and a crew of explorers discover Alexander the Great’s lost Luna Temple underneath the Aegean Sea. Inside she finds a golden orb, but it is stolen before she can take possession of it. According to legend, it contains a map showing the location of Pandora’s Box. A dangerous scientist, who creates biological weapons of terror, wants to sell the box to the highest bidder who will unwittingly release a deadly plague upon the planet. Lady Croft must seek the help of the traitor Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) to prevent the destruction of many lives.

This is the sequel to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The film was banned in China.

The Two Minute Rule

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. When ex-con Max Holman finally gets out of jail, freedom doesn’t taste too sweet. The only thing on his mind is reconciliation with his estranged son, who is, ironically, a cop. But then he hears the devastating news: his son and three other Los Angeles police officers were gunned down in cold blood the night before Holman’s release. When the hit is exposed as a revenge killing and the question of police corruption is raised, it becomes a father’s last duty to clear his son’s name and catch the killer.

Pi (1998)

This is a moderate movie. Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) is a psychotic and secluded mathematician who sees numerical patterns throughout nature. He is determined to develop a model that is able to accurately predict outcomes in the stock market. His work attracts the attention of a Kaballah sect hoping to unlock a code in their ancient texts that will usher in a new spiritual era. And a Wall Street firm tries to prevent him from taking unfair advantage of the financial system, though he doesn’t seem interested in using the numbers for monetary gain.

This film was Darren Aronofsky's directorial debut and was produced on a very low budget of $60,000. The film's duration is 1:23:45. In the Bible verse 1 Kings 7:23 the approximate value of 3 is used for the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Go, an ancient Chinese board game, is shown in the film. During play you try to surround a larger area of the board than your opponent.

The Lincoln Lawyer

This is an okay book written by Michael Connelly. Mickey Haller is a Lincoln Lawyer, a criminal defense attorney who operates out of the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car, traveling between the far-flung courthouses of Los Angeles to defend clients of every kind. For him, the law is rarely about guilt or innocence – it’s about negotiation and manipulation. Sometimes it’s even about justice. A Beverly Hills playboy arrested for attacking a woman he picked up in a bar chooses Haller to defend him, and Mickey has his first high-paying client in years. And as the evidence stacks up, Haller comes to believe this may be the easiest case of his career.

This is the first novel featuring attorney Mickey Haller. A film version starring Matthew McConaughey was released on March 18, 2011.

Billy Madison (1995)

This is a solid movie. Hotel magnate Brian Madison is about to retire and wants his son to manage the company, but there are concerns that he is not mature enough to handle the job. 27-year-old Billy Madison (Adam Sandler) is irresponsible and spends most of his time swimming in the pool, getting drunk, and playing pranks on the neighbors with his two best friends. To prove that he is smart enough to run the business, he is given a challenge by his father to repeat grades 1 through 12 in two week intervals. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford) tries to sabotage Billy’s chances so he can become the next CEO instead.

Indigo Slam

This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. When a 15-year-old girl shows up to plead with Elvis Cole to find her errant father, his first impulse is to hand the case over to Social Services. But he sees how hard the kid is working to keep her two siblings together and afloat. The father sounds like an angel; the case should be a cinch. But as Elvis investigates, he finds the dad seems to be a mover in the criminal underworld who is on the verge of a grand money counterfeiting scheme.

This is the seventh novel with Elvis Cole.

Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

This is a solid movie based on a true story. In 1939, Austrian Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) leaves his pregnant wife Ingrid to go on a climbing expedition in the Himalayas. When World War II breaks out, his group is taken to a prisoner of war camp in India. After a few years they are able to escape and Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis) decide to enter Tibet. Peter marries a Tibetan woman and Heinrich is hired to build a movie theater for the young Dalai Lama. Defying tradition they interact in a very informal manner and develop a close friendship. When the communists attack in 1950, Harrer encourages the young spiritual leader to flee to India.

The film is based on the 1952 autobiography written by Heinrich Harrer. The score was composed by John Williams. Harrer died in 2006 in Austria at the age of 93. Most of the film was shot in Argentina. Martin Scorsese directed Kundun which was also released in 1997 and is about the Dalai Lama.

Dream House (2011)

This is an okay movie. Publisher Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) leaves his job in New York City and moves to a small town to spend time with his family. His neighbors seem reluctant to accept him and strange activities start happening near the house. Will learns that a woman and her daughters were murdered there five years ago. He visits a psychiatric hospital and is shocked to see old footage of himself as a deranged man. As it becomes apparent that his house is actually empty and his family is deceased, he elicits the help of his neighbor Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts) to determine exactly happened in that deadly crime.

Enemy Mine (1985)

This is a solid movie. At the end of the 21st century spacefaring humans are at war with hermaphrodite reptilian aliens known as Dracs. During a battle, Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid) and alien Jeriba Shigan (Louis Gossett, Jr.) crash land on a desolate rocky planet with frequent meteorite storms. Initially they are very hostile towards each other, but soon realize that their only hope for survival is to work together and learn to communicate. Jeriba dies due to complications while giving birth to a baby Drac. Davidge names the creature Zammis and raises it until they are attacked by a group of human scavengers who use the aliens for slave labor.

The story is based on the 1979 novella written by Barry Longyear.

Cradle Will Rock (1999)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie based on true events. In 1935 at the height of the Great Depression, the federal government started a New Deal program called the Federal Theatre Project. The purpose was to create or save jobs for artists, writers, and directors and to entertain poor families. The plays would often portray a progressive stance on current issues. Orson Welles directed a musical about corporate greed called The Cradle Will Rock and it became a target of Congress due its controversial political message. When the show is canceled, the audience and crew travel to a different theater and the musical is performed without props or costumes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carte Blanche

This is an okay book written by Jeffery Deaver. After serving in the Afghan War, James Bond is assigned to a new agency that works independent of MI6 and the Ministry of Defense. Its mission is to protect British interests by any means necessary and its existence is top-secret. When a cryptic warning alerts Bond to a pending attack, Agent 007 is given unrestricted authority to protect the Realm.

This is the thirty-seventh original James Bond novel.

10th Anniversary

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Detective Lindsay Boxer's long-awaited wedding celebration becomes a distant memory when she is called to investigate a horrendous crime: a teenage girl is badly injured and left for dead, and her newborn baby is nowhere to be found. Lindsay discovers that not only is there no trace of the criminal – but the victim may be keeping secrets as well. At the same time, Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano is prosecuting the biggest case of her life – a woman who has been accused of murdering her husband in front of their two young children.

Contagion (2011)

This is a solid movie. Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) travels to Hong Kong for a business trip and catches a deadly infection. After she gets home, her husband rushes her to the hospital and is shocked when she suddenly passes away. Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) is put into quarantine for a few days, until it becomes apparent that he is immune to the disease. Worried about the safety of his teenage daughter, he forces her to stay inside the house for several months and won't even allow her to see her boyfriend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially suspects that the virus is a form of terrorism and they rush to find a cure for the illness.

Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law had previously worked together in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).