Thursday, February 16, 2012

77 Shadow Street

This is an okay book written by Dean Koontz. The Pendleton stands on the summit of Shadow Hill at the highest point of an old heartland city, a Gilded Age palace built in the late 1800s as a tycoon’s dream home. Almost from the beginning, its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder, and whispers of things far worse. But since its rechristening in the 1970s as a luxury apartment building, the Pendleton has been at peace. For its fortunate residents – a successful songwriter and her young son, a disgraced ex-senator, a widowed attorney, and a driven money manager among them – the Pendleton’s magnificent quarters are a sanctuary, its dark past all but forgotten.

Terminator Salvation (2009)

This is a solid movie. In 2003, Doctor Kogan convinces death row inmate Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) to sign his body over for medical research. In 2018, John Connor (Christian Bale) is the leader of the human resistance against the machines. He has discovered a radio frequency that can disable the robots. John hopes to find his father Kyle Reese who has been kidnapped. Marcus rescues a downed pilot and she leads him to the resistance headquarters. John discovers that Marcus is a cyborg and he must decide whether to trust him.

It is the fourth installment in the Terminator film series and the only one to be rated PG-13. It was the first film in the series not to open at number 1 at the box office. Arnold Schwarzenegger's facial likeness was utilized via CGI, with a mold of his face made in 1984 scanned to create the digital makeup. Terminator Salvation had a $200 million budget, making it the most expensive independent production in history. Danny Elfman composed the film score.

Air Force One (1997)

This is a solid movie. Posing as journalists to board the airplane, a group of Russian neo-nationalists hijacks Air Force One. President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) is rushed to the escape pod, but when it lands on the ground nobody is inside. The passengers are taken to a conference room and locked inside. The hijackers contact the Vice President and demand the release of a dictator. They threaten to kill the First Lady and her daughter Alice (Liesel Pritzker). The President, who had stayed inside the airplane, contacts the White House and is given instructions in his attempt to save the passengers on board.

A large part of the crew took a tour of the real Air Force One before filming. The character of Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell was based largely on their real life tour guide. President Bill Clinton saw the film twice and noted that certain elements of the film's plane, such as the escape pod and the rear parachute ramp, were not authentic.

Safe House (2012)

This is a solid movie. Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a low-level agent who lives in Cape Town, South Africa with his girlfriend Ana. He feels frustrated that he hasn't been able to earn a more significant job. Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is an ex-CIA agent turned international criminal who is in possession of secret files critical of several intelligence agencies. During his interrogation, the building is attacked and Weston decides to get him out to safety. He is then ordered to take the criminal to another location.

The film was Denzel Washington's second-biggest opener behind American Gangster (2007).

I am Legend (2007)

This is a noteworthy movie. In 2009 a virus was developed that is able to cure cancer, but it quickly changes into a deadly disease. The new virus has a kill ratio of 90% and only 1% of people are immune, but most of the survivors turn into violent mutants afraid of sunlight. After three years, military virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) believes he is the only healthy person still alive in New York City. His only companion is a female German Shepherd named Samantha. He maintains a lab in the basement of his home where he performs experiments hoping to find a cure to the destructive illness.

A $5 million scene at the Brooklyn Bridge was the most expensive ever filmed in New York City at the time. The scene had to meet requirements from fourteen government agencies. The film opened to the largest ever box office (not adjusted for inflation) for a non-Christmas film released in December. It is the third feature film adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name, following The Last Man on Earth (1964) and The Omega Man (1971). Abbey and Kona, both three-year-old German Shepherd Dogs, played Neville's dog Sam. Willow Smith, Will Smith's daughter, makes her film debut as Marley, Neville's daughter.

Popular Mechanics wrote an article about the film: I Am Legend's Junk Science: Hollywood Sci-Fi vs. Reality


This is an okay book written by Robert Crais. When Nita Morales hires Elvis Cole to find her missing adult daughter, she isn’t afraid, even though she’s gotten a phone call asking for ransom. She knows it’s a fake, that her daughter is off with the guy Nita will call only “that boy,” and that they need money: “even smart girls do stupid things when they think a boy loves them.” But she is wrong. The girl and her boyfriend have been taken by bajadores – bandits who prey on other bandits, border professionals who prey not only on innocent victims, but on one another. They steal drugs, guns, and people – buying and selling victims like commodities, and killing the ones they can’t get a price for.

This is the 15th novel in the series.

Roman Holiday (1953)

This is an okay movie. Crown princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) is on a widely publicized tour of European capitals. Feeling overwhelmed by the stress of her duties, she is given a sedative by her doctor to help her sleep. She decides to sneak out of the embassy and experience the nightlife of Rome. She falls asleep on a bench and is discovered by an American reporter (Gregory Peck) living in Rome who doesn't recognize the royal woman. He takes her back to his apartment so she can sleep. The next morning he wakes up and is late for work. He picks up the newspaper and realizes that the woman in his apartment is actually the princess, and he hopes for an exclusive story from her.

The film was remade as a television movie in 1987 starring Catherine Oxenberg, daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia. Rome Daily American was an English language daily newspaper published in Rome, Italy which operated from 1946 to 1984. The film won three Academy Awards: Best Actress, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, and Writing. The film inspired the lyrics of Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast at Tiffany's." The Mouth of Truth scene was shown in the 2006 film You, Me and Dupree.

Hold Tight

This is an okay book written by Harlan Coben. Tia and Mike Baye never imagined they’d become the type of overprotective parents who spy on their kids. But their 16-year-old son Adam has been unusually distant lately, and after the suicide of his classmate Spencer Hill – the latest in a string of issues at school – they can’t help but worry. They install a sophisticated spy program on Adam’s computer, and within days they are jolted by a message from an unknown correspondent addressed to their son: “just stay quiet and all safe.”

Addams Family Values (1993)

This is an okay movie. Gomez (Raúl Juliá) and Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston) welcome the birth of their third child, Pubert. Wednesday and Pugsley do not like their new baby brother and try several schemes to maim him. Their parents decide they need a nanny to keep the children safe. Most of the applicants are immediately scared off by the family, but finally Debbie is hired. Her real intention is to marry the wealthy Fester and steal all of his money. She convinces the family to send the two older children away for summer camp.

This is the sequel to the The Addams Family (1991). The baby Pubert Addams was actually played by two sisters.

Gone for Good

This is an okay book written by Harlan Coben. Growing up, Will Klein had a hero: his brother Ken. But when Will’s former girlfriend was found raped and murdered in her family’s basement, Ken is considered the prime suspect, and disappears. Ken’s disappearance has lasted for ten years, defying an international manhunt. He has been presumed dead. Now, Will’s mother, on her deathbed, tells Will that Ken is still alive. At the same time, Will’s current girlfriend disappears, and Will finds that she is not all that she seemed.

Chronicle (2012)

This is an okay movie. Three high school boys are at a rave when they decide to go into an underground cave in the forest. Some mysterious crystals inside bestow superhuman traits on them. Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a loner, with a very ill mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. He decides that he is going to carry around a camera and film everything happening in his life. His cousin Matt is his best friend who tries to stay out of trouble. The third teenager is a popular black boy named Steve (Michael B. Jordan) who is running for class president. With their newfound abilities, the three of them start to become very close and spend time developing their gifts.

The film had the fourth highest debut ever for a Super Bowl weekend release.

Iron Man (2008)

This is a solid movie. Billionaire industrialist and genius inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is kidnapped while demonstrating a new weapon for the military in Afghanistan. His captors demand that he build the same device for them and they provide the necessary equipment. As a means to escape he instead decides to build an iron suit that he can use to shoot and fly. An electromagnet built by fellow captive Dr. Yinsen keeps the shrapnel in his chest from reaching his heart. Tony’s father's old partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) decides to build his own weaponized suit of armor and he attacks Stark and removes the arc reactor from his chest.

The film is based on the Marvel Comics character. Sega released a video game based on the film. A 30-second spot for the film aired during Super Bowl XLII. Iron Man had the second-best premiere for a non-sequel, behind Spider-Man. It had the fourth-biggest opening for a superhero movie.

Jedi Meditations recommended that I watch this.

The Woods

This is an okay book written by Harlan Coben. Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. For Paul Copeland, the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, mourning the loss of his sister has only recently begun to subside. Cope, as he is known, is now dealing with raising his six-year-old daughter as a single father after his wife died of cancer. Balancing family life and a rapidly ascending career distracts him from his past traumas, but only for so long. When a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the prosecutor’s family are threatened.

The Matrix (1999)

This is a solid movie. Computer programmer Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is secretly a hacker who uses the alias Neo. An infamous female hacker named Trinity tells him that a man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) would like to talk to him. Neo is then arrested by some agents who want him to ignore the messages. Neo learns that it is actually about 200 years later than he had thought and that intelligent computers have nearly destroyed the planet after a deadly war with humans. The computers now use the humans as energy and wire them into a fictional system that they believe is the real world. Outside of the Matrix a small group of humans is trying to stop the computers and restore life on Earth.

The name Nebuchadnezzar is a Biblical reference to Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, from the Book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar ('the Great') was famous for his conquests of Israel (specifically Judah and Jerusalem). He also built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (one of the lost Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). He has a dream he can't remember but keeps searching for an answer (Daniel 2:1-49). The green Matrix code includes some Japanese writing. The 1995 animated Japanese film Ghost in the Shell uses a similar computer coding sequence. The Matrix popularized the visual effect known as bullet time, where a moment in a scene is slowed down, but the camera appears to remain at normal speed.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

This is a solid movie. In 1941 Nazi-occupied France, Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) attacks a Jewish family, but allows a teenage girl named Shosanna Dreyfus to escape. She goes to Paris and starts up a new life working at a movie theater. American Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to get revenge on the Nazis. They work with German actress Bridget Von Hammersmark for an undercover mission to wipe out the top leadership of The Third Reich. When Shosanna learns that the Nazis plan to premiere a film at her theater, she devises a plan to get revenge.

This is director Tarantino's highest-grossing film to date. There is a 1978 Italian film called The Inglorious Bastards about five American soldiers who try to steal some military equipment from a Nazi train and deliver it to the Allies. Nitrate film was used for motion picture film until 1951, when it was replaced with safety film. The fire in the theater burned at a much higher temperature than anticipated. Universal Pictures censored the film's German publicity website, as the display of Nazi iconography is restricted in Germany, but the film itself was acceptable due to it being a work of art. Samuel L. Jackson provided his voice as the narrator. Waltz won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Long Lost

This is an okay book written by Harlan Coben. Myron Bolitar hasn’t heard from Terese Collins since their torrid affair ended ten years ago, so her desperate phone call from Paris catches him completely off guard. In a shattering admission, Terese reveals the tragic story behind her disappearance – her struggles to get pregnant, the greatest moment of her life when her baby was born, and the fatal accident that robbed her of it all: her marriage, her happiness, and her beloved only daughter. Now a suspect in the murder of her ex-husband in Paris, Terese has nowhere else to turn for help. Myron heeds the call.

This is the 9th novel in the series.

Armageddon (1998)

This is a noteworthy movie. In eighteen days an asteroid the size of Texas will hit the Earth and destroy all life. NASA determines that the best solution is to drill down and drop a nuclear bomb in the center of it. Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), one of the best deep-sea oil drillers, and his crew are hired for the mission. They go through a shortened Astronaut training program to make sure they can handle the conditions of space. They dock at a Russian space station to refuel and finally reach the asteroid for their dangerous and important mission.

The film was released two-and-a-half months after the similar themed Deep Impact. Astronomers described Deep Impact as being more scientifically accurate, but Armageddon was the highest grossing film of 1998, even surpassing Saving Private Ryan. The film was advertised in Super Bowl XXXII at a cost of $2.6 million. Taj Mahal is an Islamic monument and Hindus would not pray there. Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux is an attraction located at Disneyland Paris which simulates the Russian Space Station being destroyed.

Drop Shot

This is an okay book written by Harlan Coben. Sports agent Myron Bolitar is thrilled when young tennis ace Valerie Simpson asks him to manage her as she begins her big comeback. Myron already handles the hot men’s tennis champ Duane Richwood, and it looks like things are only going to get better. However, when Valerie is found dead, Duane becomes the prime suspect. As Myron tries to clear the name of his top client, he opens up a Pandora’s Box filled with secrets, lies, stalkers, murders, a high ranking Senator, and mob connections.

This is the second novel in the series.

Maverick (1994)

This is a solid movie. Gambler Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson) is going to a poker tournament to win the $500,000 prize and prove that he is the best player, but he hasn't yet reached the tournament entry fee of $25,000. He enters Crystal River hoping to get back some of the money that is owed to him. While there he meets young con-artist Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster). While traveling they meet a group of Christian settlers whose money was stolen by some ruffians. They agree to go in search of the lost money in exchange for a reward. Eventually they both get enough money to play in the poker game.

The film is based on the television series that ran on ABC from 1957 to 1962. There are cameo appearances by many actors and singers including: Danny Glover, Corey Feldman, Denver Pyle, Margot Kidder, Waylon Jennings, Reba McEntire, and Johnny Cash.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Christmas Wedding

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo. The tree is decorated, the cookies are baked, and the packages are wrapped, but the biggest cause for celebration this Christmas is Gaby Summerhill's wedding. Since her husband died three years ago, Gaby’s four children have drifted apart, consumed by the turbulence of their own lives. They haven’t celebrated Christmas together since their father’s death, but when Gaby announces that she’s getting married – and that the identity of the groom will remain a secret until the wedding day – she may finally be able to bring them home for the holidays.

This is the second collaboration between Patterson and DiLallo.

Deal Breaker

This is an okay book written by Harlan Coben. Sports agent Myron Bolitar is about to hit the big time thanks to his client Christian Steele, a quarterback and rising star in football. When Christian receives a phone call from a former girlfriend things go bad. For one, this former girlfriend is believed to be dead. Soon Myron finds himself trying to weave through a web of family tragedy, a terrible secret, and one big lie. Myron’s in a tough spot, and finding the truth could lead to his own demise.

This is the first novel in the series.

Just One Look

I liked this book written by Harlan Coben. An ordinary snapshot causes a suburban mother’s world to unravel in an instant. When Grace Lawson picks up a newly developed set of family photographs, there is a picture that doesn’t belong – a photo from at least twenty years ago. In the photo are five people; four Grace can’t recognize and one that looks strikingly like her husband, Jack. When Jack sees the photo, he denies he’s the man in it. But later that night, he drives away in the family’s minivan without an explanation, taking the photograph with him. In the days that follow, Grace struggles alone to shield her children from Jack’s absence.