A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Testing, testing...

Okay, there have been many, many technical issues with "Kindle Taproom" lately.  Honestly, it hasn't simply been me not taking the time to post (though there's been a little of that, too).  But lately some of the technical roadblocks have lifted, or else I've found ways to work around them, at least somewhat.  So, stay tuned, and we'll see what happens.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wonder and joy

Stephen King's Joyland was a rich and enjoyable summer reading experience.  Just don't expect the torrid crime novel the cover promises.  No, what you get here is a gentle tale, set during the summer of 1973, about a decent young man named Devin Jones- his heart recently broken- who takes a job at an amusement park during his summer break from college. The friends he makes at the park, his immersion into "carny" life, and some extra special friends he makes during his walk to and from the park every day via the beach, all fuel a gentle, involving slice-of-life tale about a young man confronting the joys and trials of growing up.

Yes, there is a crime story in the book- rooted in a years-old unsolved murder that took place in Joyland's sole dark, scary ride- but the investigation of the old crime by Devin and his friends only lightly peppers the bulk of the book, and only comes to dominate the story in the last thirty pages or so.  The crime story is a good one, filled with tension and danger as the old murder threatens to make way for a new one, but it's only a small part of a book that's pretty much dominated by those other, gentler elements I mentioned.  If you're okay with that you'll be fine.

And- oh, yes- there are some ghostly, supernatural elements, too- not surprising, given the author.  They're pretty well done, too.  But what you'll probably remember most about Joyland- which inexplicably is being marketed as an old-fashioned pulpy crime novel- is spending a gentle, wondrous, and- yes- often sad summer with Devin and his friends Erin, Tom, Annie, and Mike (the last a young boy you won't soon forget), and how they all made a deep, powerful impression on Devin just when he needed it most.   

Friday, June 21, 2013

Somewhat funny

On this fine Friday, I present for your amusement a few puns, gathered from around the internet, to help you make it through the workday...

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

She was only a whiskey maker, but her loved her still.

A rubber-band pistol was confiscated from an algebra class. It was determined to be a weapon of math disruption.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the side of the road and was cited for littering.

A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France resulted in Linoleum Blownapart.

In a democracy it's your vote that counts.  In feudalism it's your count that votes.

Two eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft.  Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.

Did you hear about the Buddist who refused Novocain during a root canal?  His goal:
transcend dental medication.

Atheism in a non-prophet organization.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's murder, darling

Lord knows where my original paperback copy of Max Allan Collins' Kill Your Darlings has disappeared to, so it was great rediscovering the book on Kindle (it's also back in regular ol' print, too). The third book in the Mallory series, our man Mallory is now a successful mystery writer, and spends the entire book at a real-life mystery convention, Bouchercon, hobnobbing with mystery fans and fellow writers.

The entertaining and well-drawn convention scenes (apparently, mystery conventions aren't all that different from other conventions, as evidenced by the many scenes set at the hotel bar) soon give way to an actual mystery, as a writer friend of Mal's is found dead in a bathtub. Accident or foul play? Mallory is going to find out.

Originally breezing through the book as a young man, this time there was an added level of richness: I know about mystery writers and mystery publishers now, and also know (via his website and other writings) what Max Allan Collins thinks of many of them. So I kept saying to myself (despite Mr. Collins' assurances in the beginning that none of the characters was based on anyone real), "Hmmmmm, this guy has got to be based, at least a little, on Robert B. Parker", and "Mallory's friendship with the murder victim, Roscoe Kane, has got to be strongly informed by Collins' own friendship with Mickey Spillane, even though Spillane himself is mentioned in other parts of the book." And finally, "That successful but somewhat shady bookseller, editor, and small-press mystery publisher has got to be a thinly-veiled version of...", well, let's be nice, but you get the idea. Of course, I could be wrong about any or all of this stuff, but it was fun to speculate as I was reading.

Anyway, the mystery plot is very good: clean, clear, and engaging, with a satisfying resolution that's unpredictable while playing fair with the facts. Also satisfying is a sweet little romance for Mallory, entertaining observations about Chicago and its attractions, and lots of good banter (aka trade-speak) between all the writer characters. A couple of tough-guy style fisticuffs, some involving Mallory getting attacked by thugs and some involving our hero losing his temper with fellow conventioneers, seemed a little broad and unnecessary, but that's a quibble. So what if Mr. Collins' current polish and subtlety isn't completely evidence in his earliest work?  And, to be fair about some of those scenes, Mallory himself later admits he acted like a boob during his confrontations with his colleagues. 

As I've said once or twice before, these past months it's been a lot of fun moving through this five-book series many years after originally encountering it. I only hope that when I'm done, more Mallory adventures will be on the way. Max Allan Collins has been quite prolific of late, so I'd say it's a definite possibility!

Kill Your Darlings is available on Kindle for $3.99. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Truly seeking justice?

Roger Donaldson's Seeking Justice didn't receive a lot of attention- from the media or audiences- when it was released in theaters not too long ago, but it's worth a look at home via disc, download, or streaming (so many options these days). The film reminded me a lot of Mr. Donaldson's old thriller with Kevin Costner, No Way Out. Like that earlier film, there's lots of tension and action, but all laced with an uncomfortable (and involving) paranoia as both audience members and the center-stage characters constantly wonder who is in on the big conspiracy.

The story in Seeking Justice involves a vigilante group that offers, well... justice to the Nicholas Cage character and his wife after the wife (played by January Jones) is brutally attacked by some weirdo creep. Though it rubs him the wrong way, the husband eventually takes the deal, but soon finds out that there's no free lunch. You see, Cage is all too quickly asked to return the favor and help the vigilante group exact vengeance against some other thug who supposedly did something horrible, this time to a little kid. The "supposedly" is what complicates the film, demonstrating that vigilante justice maybe isn't the simple, satisfying thing many believe it is.

In the end, this was a solid, well-crafted thriller about a topic- taking the law into one's own hands- that is usually relegated to exploitation films and other "crowd pleaser" type movies (the Neil Jordan/Jodie Foster movie The Brave One is the only other modern, A-list movie that comes to mind that tackled the subject, and that did a decent job, too). Anyway, a well-told, intelligent story and complex, understated performances by Nicholas Cage and his co-stars easily make Seeking Justice a good choice for home viewing.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Death-tainted treasure

The fifth novel in John D. MacDonald's classic Travis McGee series, A Deadly Shade of Gold, has boat bum, philosopher, and occasional (read: when he needs the money) investigator McGee chasing after ancient gold statuettes and clues to unravel who killed his friend Sam Taggart. Joining McGee in the adventure is Taggart's ex-fiancee Nora, who was on the cusp of renewing her romance with Taggart when his brutal murder put a damper on things.

Like the four books that preceded it, this travel-heavy fifth entry in the series (we spend time in Mexico, California, and New York, in addition to McGee's native Florida) is gritty, detailed, and enjoyable, but for my tastes things got a little bogged down with politics (particularly involving Cuba of the 50's and 60's), too-complicated plotting, and excessive philosophizing my our man McGee. Plusses include well-rounded women characters (pun sort of intended) and many tense confrontations and escapes.

While this slightly overlong tale is my least favorite among the first five books in this 21-book series (I'm finally discovering this series via reading each of its entries in order), all that means is that I enjoyed the book instead of really enjoyed it. The brisk and scary Nightmare in Pink (with its memorable psycho ward setting) is still my favorite so far. But this tale of the corrupt rich and their ethics-free pursuit of priceless antiquities, and the many violent deaths left in the wake of that pursuit, still largely kept me speeding through its chapters. This is rich, dark fun.

A Deadly Shade of Gold is available on Kindle for $7.99. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sure cure for boredom

Once again available to mystery readers via new print and e-book editions, Max Allan Collins' classic Mallory series continues to be a terrific rediscovery. In this second entry in the five-book series, our man Mallory rescues a pretty woman from a brutal assault in a bus station, which all too soon immerses him in a mystery involving dark family secrets, multiple conspiracies, greed, and a rich patriarch (perhaps) trying to atone for past sins. And- oh, yes- there's murder, too, quite a bit of it.

Is Mallory- basically a nice young man home from the Vietnam War and a couple of years of trying out different jobs around the U.S.- up to the task of unraveling a series of deaths that seem to be connected to the richest family in his moderately-sized midwestern town? The author's clean prose and no-nonsense storytelling keep the reader immersed and turning the pages to find out. In fact, if Mr. Collins didn't tell you (in a new introduction penned for this reissued edition), I don't think most readers would guess that this polished, immersive book was written more than forty years ago by a writer still learning his craft.

Oh, one more thing-- Mr. Collins also tells us in his introduction that No Cure For Death was intended to be the first book in the Mallory series, and The Baby Blue Rip-Off the second. However, for various reasons, The Baby Blue Rip-Off was released first and No Cure For Death second, establishing No Cure For Death as the official second entry in the series.  So, though it ultimately doesn't much matter, you might want to read No Cure For Death first, as it's chronologically Mallory's earliest adventure. One or two things happen in this book, including a personal tragedy for Mallory (I won't get more specific), that resonate later in The Baby Blue Rip-Off.

Well, I'm now off to grab book three in the series, Kill Your Darlings, to continue my delightful reacquaintance with a series I haven't read in decades. I had forgotten how much fun dark doings in the American Midwest could be.

No Cure For Death is available for $4.99 on Kindle, or is free to borrow for Amazon Prime members. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A dossier on Bond

Most James Bond fans have at least a rough idea that there was a man named Kevin McClory who established in court that he was a co-creator of the story that eventually became both the 1961 James Bond novel and 1965 film known as Thunderball. That particular claim seems reasonable to myself and many other Bond fans.

Of course, Mr. McClory took things a step further and also claimed that he was the father of the cinematic James Bond we all know and love, that Ian Fleming's original creation was just the same old stodgy spy character seen countless times before in countless thrillers before Mr. McClory shaped him up into the suave adventurer that lit up movie screens. That particular claim is more problematic to myself and many other Bond fans.

However one feels, Len Deighton's Kindle Single essay, James Bond: My Long and Eventful Search For His Father, is a fascinating look at that heady time when James Bond was first making the jump from reasonably popular novels to super popular films (which eventually lead to the novels becoming super popular, too). I especially enjoyed Mr. Deighton's colorful descriptions of Mr. McClory (who I now see as a real person with a passionate, real position, even if I largely don't agree with it), but I also liked learning a little more about the skills, charms, and personal foibles of Ian Fleming, Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, and other notable personalities peppering the James Bond literary and movie landscape.

The paragraphs are a little long and the writing a little dense for what should have been a breezier, lighter reading experience, but the interesting subject matter cut through the thick verbiage and assured that this long essay- which can be completed in one to three sittings depending on your personal reading habits- was never less than a compelling glimpse into a period (beginning in the swinging sixties and extending into the early eighties) when the ownership of James Bond was a hotly-debated topic.

James Bond: My Long and Eventful Search For His Father is available on Kindle for $1.99, or is free to borrow for Amazon Prime members.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spector of fear

Last night I watched the HBO Original Movie, "Phil Spector", about the famed record producer's arrest for murder in 2003.  Like most people, I can be easily drawn into a well-produced drama based on a real criminal case, and that's exactly what happened here.  I'll probably shortly file a few thoughts on the film. 

Anyway, the movie reminded me that I had already read a decent book about Phil Spector in general and the murder case in particular a few years ago.  It was Mick Brown's "Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector".  I thought readers would find my review of the book (originally posted on Amazon in 2007) interesting, so here it is:

Tearing Down the Wall of Sound is an engaging, informative, and very entertaining reading experience. This is in large part due to the fact that even if one gets a little tired of the endless personal antics of Mr. Spector, the book also functions as a pretty comprehensive examination of the evolution of popular music from the 50's to the present. But to also give the book's subject his due, it's also fascinating to learn exactly what a record producer does and how Mr. Spector, during several specific moments in history, did it better than anyone else.

Alas, the book also makes it pretty clear that the gun tragedy of a few years ago involving Mr. Spector was bound to happen sooner or later, as author Mick Brown recounts literally dozens of incidents of Mr. Spector waving a gun at someone in jest, in a bullying manner, or in jealousy or anger.

But it's the many musical stories and anecdotes that really stand out here. Reading all the behind-the-scenes stuff about The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Sonny and Cher (Sonny got his start taking down sandwich orders for Phil Spector and his technicians!), The Ronettes, The Teddy Bears, etc. is a blast, and also kind of reassuring: we see that, despite talent and often genius, our musical heroes often struggled to produce good work; usually relied on the guidance of a good producer or other technical person; and worried what people thought of them. In other words, we're reminded that those musical heroes, in at least some ways, weren't too different from the rest of us.

Okay, back to 2013.  "Tearing Down the Wall of Sound" is available for $13.99 on Kindle, which would be a bit of an extravagent purchase, I admit.  Good book, though.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hammer's back

Once again working from notes and fragments provided by the late Mickey Spillane, the always reliable Max Allan Collins has created a solidly entertaining mystery/thriller with Lady, Go Die!, the originally-envisioned follow up to the first Mike Hammer novel, I, The Jury.

The book starts out with Mike, still reeling from the events in that first famous novel, taking a short vacation in a sleepy seaside town to get his bearings back. But he soon learns, first hand, that the sleepy town isn't as sleepy as it first seemed. Before he knows it, Mike and his faithful secretary and sidekick Velda are knee deep in murder, crooked cops, organized crime, and ultimately, true evil.

Scary, puzzling, funny (I loved the way Hammer always referred to his car as "the heap"), Lady, Go Die! is another great Spillane/Collins collaboration. There hasn't been a bad one yet.

Lady, Go Die! is available on Kindle for $7.79. 

This is government?

Available on DVD or via download, 2008's In The Loop is a well done but depressing comedy/drama about the U.S. president and the British prime minister trying to sell a war to their respective legislative branches. It's pretty much a thinly-veiled commentary on the run-up to the Iraq war (or maybe it's exactly the Iraq war they're talking about, just not mentioning it by name), with every scene showing people screaming into phones, running through corridors with files, or engaging in paranoia-laced whispers about who knows what about what secret committee, back-room meeting, or other "inside" event.

The movie is depressing because its main message seems to be that everyone in government, from the most-seasoned legislator to the lowliest staffer, would immediately get behind anything, even a horribly-flawed war initiative, if it would help his or her career or stroke his ego (being offered a seat on the right advisory committee is a particular Holy Grail in the film). And what's truly depressing is that the film makes a convincing case that, too often, that is exactly what happens in situations like that.

But, if you can take the relentless cynicism and endless parade of self-serving characters, In The Loop will certainly entertain you with its sharp dialogue, dark humor, and overall intelligence.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Empire returns

While the next round of Star Wars films probably won't adapt Timothy Zahn's pretty well regarded Grand Admiral Thrawn trilogy of years past, they may make a few nods to some of the occurrences in the books (like the twins born to Han Solo and Princess Leia a few years after the events in Return of the Jedi, for example). For that reason,  I thought I'd finally give the first of the books, Heir to the Empire, a whirl after it's been available for so many years.

My thoughts? I enjoyed it, but maybe not as wildly as others. I missed the kind of swashbuckling action, dark drama, and sweeping romance of the original trilogy of films, finding the book a little heavy on nitty-gritty political intrigue and technical jargon. Make no mistake, the book had Star Wars-style action and drama, but it was often diluted by that other stuff. I mean, what's supposed to be an exciting escape scene in space doesn't necessarily benefit from pages and pages of description about how a tractor beam works.

I also found it strange that the Empire was now being run by an admiral (Thrawn) aboard a star destroyer. Shouldn't there be some kind of seat of government somewhere from which the admirals get their orders? That's kind of nit-picky, I admit, but it bothered me.

It was also weird to see iconic characters like Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia being given all kinds of new character traits and opinions about things. It's almost liked Timothy Zahn worked too hard on them, to the point where they didn't feel like good old Han, Luke, and Leia anymore. Again, another strange criticism, I know.

I'll probably continue on with the rest of Zahn's trilogy, as I got enough mild enjoyment out of the first book, I guess. I certainly didn't find it boring, which is the worse sin a story can commit.  And many people loved these novels when they first appeared in the 90's, after years of no new Star Wars stories after Return of the Jedi in 1983. I think the problem for me is that, in the end, the whole thing will probably turn out to be a very good science-fiction adventure, but not necessarily a very good Star Wars science-fiction adventure. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Buyer beware

This was recently offered for a cheap price on the Kindle, so I gave it a whirl. Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box is a scary, clever tale about an aging rock star named Jude who buys an actual ghost on an online auction site (the guy collects weird stuff), and soon discovers that he was manipulated into buying the ghost, which turns out to be not only real but quite malevolent, by someone who wants to get back at him for a past slight. Well, more than a slight, in the eyes of the sender.

Like I said, the book's clever. The initial revelations about the ghost and why it was sent were compelling and satisfying, but then we're given a second wave of revelations that add even more complexity and drama to the situation. Scary set pieces (reminding me a little of the kinds of things one sees in Japanese horror movies) and a nice dynamic between Jude and his girlfriend, who works with him to battle the ghost, nicely round things out.

Once could quibble and point out that the reason and motivation for every single supernatural event in the book is ultimately and completely explained from three different angles, instead of keeping a little mystery, ambiguity, and a "world of the unknown" flavor in place (we're talking about ghosts, after all). But again, that's a quibble; I guess I'd rather have too much explanation than not enough.

Anyway, Heart-Shaped Box is a solid little book, and I'll certainly check out some of Mr. Hill's other titles... even though he denied us regular online consumers a scene where Jude sits down and bangs out a review and star rating for his online ghost purchase! What a missed opportunity!

I just checked, and Heart-Shaped Box is still available on Kindle for the same $1.99 price that I paid for it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Snarky, I know

I finally caught up with Australia on DVD, after deliberately not making much of an effort to see it in theaters a few years back.

It's not all that bad, actually, especially when you watch it at home and can take breaks (to get another glass of wine) several times during the 2 hour and 45 minute (!) running time. Baz Luhrmann's manic directing style, which worked pretty well for Moulin Rouge!, is pretty distracting during the first half hour, but he eventually settles down and applies his crazy cuts and camera work more sparingly so we can get into the story.

Anyway, It's all big sweeping stuff about cattle and romance and endless vistas and (finally) World War II, and there are actually three or four moments when your emotions will swell when it all comes together. And the rest of the movie is tolerably watchable, if you take those breaks I mentioned.

It's funny, though. There's some solemn verbiage at the beginning of the movie about the issue of Aboriginal relocation (sort of Australia's version of how we treated our American Indian population, I think) and a little more verbiage about it at the end, as if the movie wants to convince us that it's really about this dark issue from Australia's past. It's funny because the very long movie that appears between those two moments of onscreen verbiage is 95% concerned with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman and whether they'll get together, with maybe six minutes (tops!) of the running time devoted to the Aboriginal relocation issue. I had to laugh.

I will say that the standard DVD I watched had spectacular picture and sound, so this sucker must look and sound really great on Blu-Ray. Hey, good presentation always helps with those types of long movies (like this one) that never quite make you forget you're watching a long movie.

In the end, let's just call Australia a tolerable, pretty good movie, no more and no less. Of course, that assessment might be a tad generous, because if someone told me I was never permitted to see this movie ever again, I have to honestly say that I wouldn't lose any sleep.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Welcome back, Mal

Finally back in print, and also now available on Kindle, Max Allan Collins' five-book mystery series featuring Vietnam Vet and fledging mystery writer Mallory is good, non-demanding fun, but with occasional depth that still resonates.

The war veteran and mystery writer angles don't really have much to do with Mallory in the series' initial adventure, The Baby Blue Rip-Off. Here he's basically just a decent young guy who starts looking into a rash of local burglaries aimed at senior citizens. One of the burglaries, you see, had resulted in the death of an old woman Mallory had befriended while doing some volunteer work, priming Mallory's interest in bringing the burglars (and now killers) to justice.

In my re-visit to the book, it was interesting to now notice that themes and interests that figure strongly into Collins' later work initially poked their heads up in small ways in this early series. For example, the world of the small-town antiques and collectibles business- the prime element of Collins and his wife's later Trash 'N Treasures mystery series- is a modest but crucial element of The Baby Blue Rip-Off. The title- at least in part- refers to some valuable collectible plates.

Anyway, this quick, entertaining read doesn't need a long review, so I'll just finish by saying that the book presents familiar mystery-novel elements (the gruff cop who doesn't want the brash young guy to get involved, the pretty blonde who maybe shouldn't be completely trusted, etc.) in fresh, involving ways. I really enjoyed reading this book again after many years and will continue right into the next four installments.

"The Baby Blue Rip-Off" is available on Kindle for $4.99, or free to borrow on the device if you're an Amazon Prime member (I did the latter).  The title is also available in brand spanking new print and audio editions.  The "Mallory" series is back with a vengeance, it seems! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

This and that

The Christmas and New Year's Day holidays, and the handful of additional full and half days off that nicely sprouted up around them, allowed for a generous amount of reading, audiobook, and movie-going time.  I'll probably write a few full-length reviews about some of the following, but for now here's a quick update on some things I've enjoyed lately.

Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is a crazy-nuts crime novel centering around the world's worst marriage and the mysterious disappearance of the wife in the story.  An absorbing premise (Where's the wife? Did the husband kill her?), terrific second and third act twists, and the first completely successful use of the "unreliable narrator" device I've seen in ages (in other words, it's not frustrating when we eventually learn it was used in a sizable portion of the narrative) are only a few of the great things about the book.  I'll be writing more about this sharp, scary, and often blackly funny thriller shortly.  But for now go pick it up.  I did this one on audio and the two narrators- Kirby Heyborne and Julia Whelan- are terrific, making the most of the great material at their disposal.  A special thanks to my friend Tom Archer (himself a terrific writer) for recommending Gone Girl to me!

Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice, a Jesse Stone novel by Michael Brandman (Don't you hate long titles like that?) was a pleasant, laid back good time, though nowhere near as ambitious as the Flynn book.  Brandman's second Jesse Stone novel after taking over the series from the late Robert B. Parker, this slow-burn thriller has police chief Jesse trying to protect a pretty movie star from her violent, estranged husband while she's shooting a movie in Jesse's town.  Okay subplots, about a spoiled kid who refuses to stop texting while driving and a scandal at the local water company, round out the proceedings.  The various plotlines could have used more tension and complication, but what's on hand gets the job done.  And to be fair, Brandman wasn't afraid to shock readers, about halfway into the book, with a major-league failure on the part of Jesse and his allies that I definitely didn't see coming.   I did this book on audio, too, and James Naughton's smoky voice and mildly cynical demeanor served the material well. 

Flee, by J.A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson, features gorgeous female spies battling each other for a small device that can blow up the world.  The first book in the Codename: Chandler series, this is not a slow-burn thriller or, for that matter, a slow-burn anything.  This is relentless action and violent confrontation, with a little sex thrown in.  We get just enough character stuff, squeezed in via internal thoughts and the occasional flashback, to make us care about the characters or, if they're villains, hate them.  But, to be clear, Flee is 90% action (chasing, fighting, grappling, killing), so you have to be in the mood for that.  I was, so I enjoyed it.  I also thought it was cool that the major protagonists were all beautiful women (though some just beautiful on the outside).  I used my Amazon Prime status to borrow this book for free on my Kindle, though you can also buy it pretty cheaply on the device.  Anyway, I'm on board for the second book in the series, Spree, so I guess that's a recommendation, right?  

At the theater, I enjoyed both Django Unchained and Jack Reacher.  The former has writer and director Quentin Tarantino firing on all cylinders, delivering terrific dramatic situations, memorable action sequences (with real consequences), and great performances. I particularly enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson's cast-against-type performance as a black man complicit in the agonies and injustices of his fellow slaves.  Jack Reacher was also good (though not in the other film's league), delivering a well-told mystery story and a fascinating investigator in the form of ex-military cop Reacher, played in an understated, effective manner by Tom Cruise.  Also fun was seeing Robert Duvall as a crusty gun range owner who helps Reacher, and famous film director Werner Herzog, just taking an acting job this time to play (and really well, too) the creepy main villain.

Like I said, there's more to come on some of this stuff, but for now I hope you enjoyed the broad overview of what I've been up to lately, entertainment wise.