Sunday, October 31, 2010

movie video review: Dear John

The movie Dear John is loosely based off of the best selling book written by Nichloaus Sparks.  It stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried.  The story is basically this:  a local guy named John Tyree meets a girl on spring break named Savannah Curtis and they fall inlove.  He is in the Army and has to go back, she also returns to school, but they stay in touch with a series of letters.  The last letter, of course, tells John that not only is she breaking up with him, but also is marrying someone else.  As with most of Spark's movies there are other circumstances and a reunion is in the works.
In all, the movie is bad.  It does have some very emotional scenes that surley will have the ladies breaking out the hankies.  The problem lies in the cast.  Amanda Seyfried, although, beautiful, just doesn't stand out in this role.  Her character comes off as almost to good to be true.  That is until the end where the viewer really would feel for the character of John, if he was not played by the stone faced Tatum.  Channing Tatum surely got this role on his physical appearance, he looks like what the part of John should.  But lets face it, the kid can't act at all.  He played the lug head in Step Up pretty well, but this is the second role in a row that he has just butchered (Duke in Gijoe was the other).  He was just awful in this movie.  There is one scene in which he is supposed to cry and it just comes off as comical.
I just can not get past his performance in this movie.  The delivery of his lines sound more like he is getting ready to rap battle in Eight Mile rather than win a southern belle's heart.  There is nothing good I can say about the video because his wooden performance ruins it for me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

movie review: The Karate Kid (Remake)

First off, could someone tell me why they remade the Karate Kid in China...and with Kung Fu?

Makes one wonder if the Chinese government didn't produce the movie as some sort of travel brochure, showing off the country to the west.  Anyone remember the Olympics...and yes they have a cameo.
It has been 26 years since the original was made, so I guess it was way over due for a remake.  The original movie is looked back on by my generation fondly more out of nostalgia than on the merit of the actual film itself.  If you don't believe that then go rent the video and try to sit through two hours of Daniel-San getting his wussy butt kicked.
The new film centers around young Dre ( Jaden Smith) and his mother (Taraji P. Henson).  They leave Detroit and move to Beijing for a better job opportunity at the car factory (I guess the film producers thought a communist country was preferable to the "red" states.)  From there it is pretty much color by the numbers film.  Dre has conflict with said bully Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), and falls for pretty chinese girl Meiyang (Wenwen Han).  In steps maintenance man and secret Kung Fu master Mr Han ( Jackie Chan) to teach the boy and mold him into a warrior.  The main problem with he film is it takes over an hour for it to finally get to any training scenes at all.  The characters aren't believable especially Dre's mom, who appears to be no more than a prop for the storyline.  Too much of the movie seems to be displaying the wonders and sites of the Chinese countryside rather than to actually progress the story.
But fear not, Jackie Chan saves the day and the film.  His performance alone makes this movie worth the price of rental.  Mr Han has one of the most heart felt scenes you will ever catch in a martial arts movie.  Jaden Smith also plays his role surprisingly well, and his fight  scenes at the end are far and away better than the original.  I must also say that the ending rivals the original film's flying crane scene. 
Although no one yells, "Sweep the leg!!!"  The Karate Kid is an entertaining (if sometimes drawn-out) remake of an 80's classic.

Monday, October 18, 2010

book review: Obedience by Will Lavender

"A devilishly inventive debut that reads like a house of mirrors." 

"A taut, clever puzzle, so artfully crafted and tightly wound that it springs open it trap door when you least expect it."

"Taut, twisty, and highly original: the pages turned themselves."

These are three of the the reviews printed on the book jacket of Will Lavender's debut novel.  I have to tell you...I was completely blown away by this book.  These three reviews are dead on.  This book leaves you guessing right up until the very end.

I just happened across this older novel the other day.  It perked my interest as I read the cover and so I took it home with me.  I sure am glad I did.  This is one of the very best surprises I have come across in a while.  Words really can't do this book justice.  Have you ever read a novel and just knew that it should be made into a movie?  This is one of those.

The whole idea behind the plot is just so original, nothing else has come close to giving me that, "wholly crap" feeling at the end of a book in a long time.  My hats off to the author.   I just hope Lavender's next offering will be able to live up to this original work.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

book review: The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch

The Thieves of Darkness is the third book in a series about retired thief, Micheal St Pierre.  I must admit that after reading the first two, The Thieves of Heaven, and The Thieves of Faith, that this, newest work from Doetsch, is the weakest of the three.  That is not to say, however, that it is not a thoroughly enjoyable read.  First time readers of the series will, find the novel an action-packed page turner. 
As with other books in the series, The Thieves of Darkness is chock-full of exotic locales.  The story moves from a desert torture prison to the streets of Istanbul, and even to the Himalayas.  Those familiar with the series will already note that the books are filled with religious references and artifacts.  Doetsch always does plenty of research for his novels, and it shows.  His technical jargon is always spot-on, and the fictitious historical relics are brought to life well making the situations very believable.
Where this book comes up a little short of the first two, is in the character development department.  One of the main protagonists in the series is a priest-for-hire, so to speak, named Simon.  Without giving too much away, I will say that he is taken out of the book about a third of the way through.  The story continues on without him, instead replacing his character, basically with Micheal's new gal pal, KC. While this doesn't take away from the story too bad, what doesn't sit well with me is the totally unbelievable way in which Simon is injured.  The reader may find it a little far fetched.  Speaking of far fetched is the antagonist, Iblis.  He is presented as an emotionless robot, who is all at once a scrawny dork and an unstoppable killing machine.  More than once in the book, Iblis narrowly escapes his demise.  However, for a terminator-esque thief-assassin, he is inexplicably scared too death of the other main antagonist, Venue.
Why this killing machine is so afraid of a sixty year old man is anyone's guess.  After reading the book I still am not quite sure.  Although a good portion of the story was entirely devoted to the development of the back story of these two characters, it was not even close to the amount needed for the reader to make an attachment to either one of these guys.  They need their own book.  The problem is that Doestch creates such intrigue with both of the baddies here that he can't seem to fit them neatly into this story.  What the reader is left with is alot of questions. Venue, in particular, was all at once explained and a total mystery. 
In the end what the reader doesn't do is fear him, the way the author would like, as the story unfolds.  And if the reader has no feeling toward the main bad guy, he starts to ask himself..."Why would the other characters?"  That is what I found myself doing by the end of the book.  I asked, "Why is Iblis afraid of this old fart?"  or "Why doesn't Micheal just shoot him in the head as he rambles on and on?"
Well, even though in the end, the book doesn't wrap up all of these questions nice and neat as I would like, it is still a fun ride and a thoroughly enjoyable read.  First time Doestch readers will, no doubt, be enthralled from the first page, and want to come back and read his previous works.

Monday, October 11, 2010

book review: The Shimmer by David Morrell

David Morrell is widely known as the father of the modern action thriller.  He has penned such best sellers as: Rambo, First Blood, Brotherhood of the Rose, and Creepers.  His latest work, however, doesn't seem to live up to some of his previous works.  With The Shimmer, Morrell seems to have almost veered over into SyFy territory.
Morrell can't be faulted for his commitment to this book.  He puts his own spin on what is known as the Marfa Lights, an odd occurance outside of the town of Marfa in Southwest Texas.  After reading about the even in a newspaper article back in 2004, Morrell learned that James Dean had been fascinated by these so called lights back when he as filming a movie called Giant nearby.  Morrell expertly incorporates that bit of info into the story.  What results is an superb mix of fact and fiction.
The story starts out with a lightning pace.  There is plenty of action right from the opening sequence.  Dan Page, a cop, witnesses, from his plane in the air, the fatal end to a police car chase.  Upon arriving home, he finds his wife Tori missing.  All she left behind was a cryptic letter.  This is the beginning of Page's quest to find his wife, which leads him to the Texas town of Rostov and, ultimately, to the lights.
Unfortunately, what starts out with such promise of action and adventure, fizzles out into just a hodgepodge of excessive violence.  Not that I am opposed to violence in books, just the opposite in fact.  However the killing and mayhem in The Shimmer do little to add to the overall story, and don't help move the plot along at all.  Lacking are the thought provoking explanations of the origin of the lights, or heartfelt histories of each character.  I often found myself not connecting with many of the main characters in the book, and more often than not, not really caring one way or the other if they made it through to the end.  Some of the questions with the protagonists and for that matter the overall antagonists, are answered in the end.  But there is still confusion, and the answers seemed to be a little predictable by that point in the book.
While maybe not the most shining example of the author's considerable talents for fiction, The Shimmer is overall an enjoyable and worthwhile read, especially to fans of David Morrell.