Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

HollywoodI think Cathryn and I may have felt this way about the last Quentin Tarantino movie we went to see; it sucked and was one of the worst movies we’ve ever seen. The best part of the movie was the soundtrack – lots of great songs from the 60’s and 70’s. Those responsible for set locations and wardrobe did a great job in reviving memorabilia and the fashion of the time.

To be fair we enjoyed some of the acting and the interaction between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Small parts or cameos by other big names weren’t enough to make this movie enjoyable. It started out slow and continued to painfully drag along right up until the explosive ending that was completely different than the real life events it mimicked.

Two other people in the audience left about half way through the yawner and we both considered following suit. I almost nodded off twice. Cathryn finally bailed about fifteen minutes before the ending which I thought was completely ridiculous. The whole movie was too long and drawn out.

In considering the little things we liked about the movie we’re each generously giving this flick a 2 out of 10.

Rocketman

rocketmanI had to think about this movie for a couple days to let it sink in. Given that time to mull it over I have to say I was not impressed by Rocketman – the story of Elton John. Cathryn loved the movie so this review will give you both perspectives. She liked the music selection and thought the actors playing John as a child and adult (Taron Egerton) did a fabulous job.

The film accurately mimicked many of the rock star’s wild and crazy outfits, but made no attempt to play his music in the order the songs were released. Theatrical creativity must have been the point since the song lyrics were used to describe the events of the artist’s stage in life. Oddly enough, it was Bernie Taupin who wrote the lyrics and Elton added the music.

For me the story dwells too long on Reg Dwight’s (Elton John) woe is me childhood. They show us how he came up with his stage name – the second half taken from John Lennon, but that fact in not true. Granted, John was executive producer of the movie, but he obviously decided to portray his life as he perceived it and not as how it actually happened. Thus there are other historical inaccuracies.

I was also unimpressed with the movie being a fantasy musical. I thought it took away from many of the great songs that I love. Nothing in the reviews I read said anything about the format. Overall the movie was still entertaining with a couple of zen moments to put you in the zone.

I rated it a 5 and Cathryn a 10 out of 10.

John Wick – 300 (Parabellum)

parabellumI use the number 300 instead of 3 – for the third installment of the John Wick, the master assassin. Seeing the film with an action-appreciating buddy, we couldn’t keep track of the bad guys killed by Wick. He commented later that it was the highest body count he’d ever seen in a movie, a bold statement considering other slaughter movies we’d seen, like Rambo 3 or Hacksaw Ridge.

I’ve always liked Keanu Reeves and that includes his John Wick character, but I started to chuckle after his first 30 or 40 kills. The man deserves credit for the way he handles himself in the action sequences – basically a two hour long chase and fight scene. He masterfully handles an assortment of weapons that must have taken hours of practice to successfully operate.

If you don’t mind a few dozen blood-spattering head shots and an overly violent plot, this movie could be for you. I do find it odd though, in this day and age, how movie makers can present us with such mindless slaughter, and add a dry touch of humor to make the film more entertaining. In a way this movie reminded me of the Walking Dead – the bad guys weren’t dead until you shot them in the head, in many cases more than once.

Enough about the violence. The movie has a highly paid all-star cast, perhaps to give the flick some credibility with movie buffs. I have to say I was shocked at the other online reviews I read from sites like Roger Ebert and company. So maybe it was just me…and my buddy, who thought there was enough carnage to call the John Wick movies a trilogy and leave it at that.

Cathryn could never have sat through this movie with her eyes open. I don’t think my buddy was too impressed. For the sake of mindless entertainment I give it 5 out of 10.

The Guardian -Nicholas Sparks

the guardianThe Guardian 
by Nicholas Sparks (Goodreads Author)

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Edmond Gagnon‘s reviewMar 07, 2019

 

First of all, this is not the type of book I normally read, but it was either this novel or choosing one written in Russian or German. My choices were limited while on the island of Zanzibar.
I recognized the authors name and his award-winning novel The Notebook. Maybe it was the movie that won all the awards, either way I knew it as what I call a ‘chick flick.’
I sucked it up and started flipping pages, literally, right off the bat I found the plot sappy and the characters predictable. But I carried on, thinking I needed to broaden my genre horizons.
It may have been a bit painful at times, but one of the characters was a Great Dane who captured my attention. I guess the story was okay, but the interaction between characters and the resulting relationships reminded me of high school. Are there really that many simple-minded and gullible people out there?
I trudged on and managed to finish the book, but wasn’t happy with the ending. Without spoiling it I’ll leave it at that.
I’m sure many women readers will love the book. What can I say, I’m a guy.

NYPD Red 3 – James Patterson & MarshallKarp

nypd redNYPD Red 3 (NYPD Red, #3) 
by

James Patterson (Goodreads Author),
Marshall Karp (Goodreads Author)

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Edmond Gagnon‘s review

Feb 26, 2019  
I can’t remember if it was 1 or 2 of the NYPD Red series that I read, but I enjoyed it more than this installment. Of Patterson’s stable of underwriters, I like Marshall Karp and his stories. As was the last, this one is fast paced with colorful and interesting characters. The police drama and content is believable, but like a Hollywood movie, a bit over the top and too familiar at times. The plot delivers an antagonist who is easy to hate from the first sentence written about him. The banter is fun between the cop partners, and references to their personal lives giving the story it’s sense of humanity. It was a good and easy read.

Die Trying – Lee Child

die tryingDie Trying (Jack Reacher, #2) 
by

Lee Child (Goodreads Author)

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Edmond Gagnon‘s review

Feb 23, 2019  

 

I’ve read several of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels now and I can easily say this was my least favorite. It wasn’t anything in particular that stopped me from a better review and adding a star to the rating. I guess it comes down to personal taste and this story didn’t have the right flavor for me. It’s only the 2nd book in the Reacher series so perhaps it didn’t contain the ingredients I usually find palatable in Child’s writing.
The story is descent, with good characters, but the plot seemed too familiar, maybe lacking enough spice to make a great dish. It was an entertaining read that I ripped through quickly, but only because I had nothing better to do.

Origin – Dan Brown

originOrigin (Robert Langdon, #5) 
by Dan Brown (Goodreads Author)

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Edmond Gagnon‘s review

Feb 21, 2019  

 

I generally liked this novel and was leaning toward a fourth star, but I think it fell short of the great stories that preceded this Robert Langdon novel. As usual, Dan Brown weaves an interesting tale of intrigue, but he added a bit too much fluff and back story for my liking. His detailed descriptions of religious sites and places in Spain gave me the impression I was reading from a Wikipedia post or even a travelogue.
The plot was good and the author keeps you guessing for more than half the novel. It didn’t move as quick as other Langdon stories, but as usual the story and characters were realistic, making for a good read.

The Narrows – Michael Connelly

the narrowsThe Narrows (Harry Bosch, #10; Harry Bosch Universe, #13) 
by

Michael Connelly (Goodreads Author)

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Edmond Gagnon‘s review

Feb 17, 2019  

 

What crime fiction reader doesn’t like Harry Bosch? He’s my kind of cop with an attitude similar to mine when I was on the job, but I surely didn’t take it home with me or let it keep me up at night.
Having read several books in the series I wish I’d stated from the beginning, but I stumble across them while I’m travelling and trade them up as I go.
Michael Connelly knows how to tell a good copy story, his characters and police procedures are spot on. He makes it easy to love the good guys and hate the bad ones.
In this novel Bosch teams up with FBI agent Rachel Walling, after they discover they’re both working the same case from different perspectives. I enjoyed the crossover with the Terry McCaleb story.
The plot builds speed quickly and it kept me flipping pages quick enough to act as a paper fan to keep me cool in the extreme heat here in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
What crime fiction reader doesn’t like Michael Connelly?

East of Desolation – Jack Higgins

east of desolationEast of Desolation 
by Jack Higgins

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Edmond Gagnon‘s review

Feb 15, 2019  

 

This book is a re-write of the original 1968 novel, which the author and publisher decided to bring back to life. I think it was a good decision. The story-line could easily fit into any 19th or 20th century decade. It’s got drama, suspense, intrigue, action, a bit of romance, and even a couple twists to keep you thinking.
I found the setting interesting, the far north, beyond what most of us call the civilized world. The characters are strong, some likable and some not. The plot involves a bit of a treasure hunt with the usual alliances and double-crosses to see who will end up with the booty.
The author, Jack Higgins, gained notoriety with his war/spy thriller ‘The Eagle has Landed.” East of Desolation is just as well-written and I have no problem recommending the read to anyone who enjoys those types of novels.

Rage – Jonathan Kellerman

rageRage (Alex Delaware, #19) 
by Jonathan Kellerman

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Edmond Gagnon‘s review

Feb 12, 2019

 

I like Johnathan Kellerman’s voice and main characters in the Alex Delaware series. Being a former Police Detective I find the Milo Sturgis character spot on for my kind of sleuth. I’m a bit skeptical about the amount of involvement with Dr. Delaware but the work is fiction.
I’ve enjoyed a couple other novels in this series, but in my opinion this one fell flat about half way through. The back and forth interaction between the protagonists was loaded with a lot of opinions and guesswork and conjecture that seems to go in circles, slowing the pace and confusing the plot.
The story was descent but I found the ending anti-climatic.