Friday, November 30, 2012

Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder

I really, really wanted to to like Voodoo Heart. I really did. But I didn't. I sometimes have this problem when I read short story collections - the writing feels one note and repetitive. With Voodoo Heart, it was that and the fact that none of the stories really ended. It's sort of like my first time reading a Philip K. Dick collection - all of the stories seemed to end on a sort of "da-dum!" sort of way. Men are on Mars looking for a future, possible Earth and...Da-Dum! Men came from Mars and already destroyed that planet!! Voodoo Heart was the same way - it felt like all of the stories had that sort of not really an ending, ending. Once, okay. Twice, okay. All 7 stories, not so much.

The tone of the stories was nice, in a sort of combination of Alice Hoffman-y whimsy and magic with a sort of Stewart O'Nan mix of characters, but overall it really wasn't enough to make me like the collection as a whole. For instance, I loved the idea of the story that the book takes it's title from, "Voodoo Heart." It's about a young couple that buy a dilapidated Florida mansion that is right next to a women's prison. The setting is lovely, and the story about a young man who ends up pushing every one a way and destroying all sorts of relationships is easy to find yourself sinking in to, but really the ending just doesn't exist. The story just stops, like the author couldn't decide what the answer was so he just didn't answer. I liked "Happy Fish, Plus Coin," about a young man on the run from his controlling, very wealthy family who meets a man who inspires him to reach for more. The character of Indestructible Gay Isabelle, the man who just can't seem to die is quite touching but again, the story just sort of ends with no real resolution, like Scott Snyder's seen one too many indie movies that decide to leave you not knowing what Bill Murray said to Scarlett Johannsen. When you do it too many times in a row it seems more like a cop out than an actual need of the story.

Maybe it's because I don't really care for the overabundance of indie films with that sickly sweet, coming of age, whimsy melodrama and this collection reminded me too much of that. Who knows. All I know is I really wanted to like it because it was so highly recommended, and there was something about the over tone and lack of resolution in every story that just turned me off.

Rating: Meh. I wanted to like it. I really, really did. But it just didn't capture y attention like so many other short story collections have. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

Let's just say this right up front. The Raid is hands down one of the most violent movies I think I have seen. There are machetes. There are machine guns. There is hand to hand combat. Non stop from almost the first five minutes, it's blood, explosions, and guts until the last few minutes of the film. I think the credits may have run longer than violence-free minutes in this movie. All that being said, I loved every blood-soaked second of it.

The plot of The Raid is pretty straight forward. In Jakarta, a run down apartment building is held in tight control by a ruthless drug lord. The police, other gangsters, no one enters willingly. Until an elite SWAT team enters under the cover of darkness to take out the drug lord and bring him to justice. Unfortunately, they have to make it up several floors of gangsters under his control, all very willing to kill, maim, and torture to protect their leader. You follow the exploits of our hero, whose wife is at home pregnant with their first son, as he fights his way to the top of the building, following an agenda of his own.

If this sounds familiar, you would be right. From the sound of it, DREDD borrowed heavily from this same idea. As you would expect, The Raid was more raw, less stylized. More martial arts and bright red blood squibs. DREDD used the same idea - slum apartment building held in sway by a ruthless drug lord, fighting up flights of stairs to the big boss. Really though, they are two very different movies, enjoyable in their own right.

The Raid: Redemption is a movie to watch if you love gritty, dirty, bloody fight movies. Seriously, so in to it expecting a whole lot of violence and not a whole lot of plot and you will be very happy.

Rating: 4 Purrrs for a blood-soaked jubilee of fun times

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


To be completely forthcoming, I really liked the Stallone Judge Dredd. I did. I'll admit it. I didn't mind the "I am the law"s or Rob Schneider, even as annoying as he was. Because I like comic book movies, even if they are horrible. What can I say?

DREDD on the other hand, was not a horrible comic book movie. DREDD was a Karl Urban kick your face off and you say thank you sort of movie. I loved it, even in 3D, which i normally attempt to avoid at all costs.  

DREDD sticks to the story you know . It's the future and society is run by all sorts of bad folks. The good people hide and struggle while the gangs and criminals run the streets. Enter the Judges - the new police force who are enforcer, judge, jury, and executioner all in one. They have the ability to enforce the law and pass down a sentence in the streets, removing the need for a lengthy trial and jury process. (Gotta love cost saving measures that take away civil liberties, yo.) Karl Urban is Judge Dredd, who is sent out for the day with a rookie Judge, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirby). It's her field test, and one mistake can cost her her badge and her future as a judge. As these things go, the two Judges are called to Peachtree tower to investigate a murder, only to stumble upon something even bigger - Ma-Ma (Lena Headley) , her ruthless gang of miscreants, and the center of the trade of a new, very popular drug called Slo-Mo. When Ma-Ma decides it would be easier to just kill the two of them than deal with the possibility of arrest, she locks down the tower, trapping the Judges in with innocent people and her gang members, who will stop at nothing to keep them from leaving the building alive, no matter what it takes.

What I liked:
  • Karl Urban played Dredd without campiness, and we know how easy that part can spiral in to camp. 
  • Lena Headley as Ma-Ma. Of course I could watch her read a phone book and I would be happy, but she was ruthless and ugly and cold - so much of what I don't associate with her. It was a nice change. 
  • The setting: Locking them in to this tower made the action and plot more tense and concise. It kept the audience from having to take in too much of the outside world. You could concentrate on the fact that this building exists rather than having to deal with a whole futuristic world. It really ratcheted up the tension and action. 
What was meh:
  • Almost too many Slo-Mo scenes. It was cool seeing everything bright and glittery like they did, especially during an explosion scene. They played really nicely in 3D, but I saw one more I would have been bored. 
  •  Olivia Thirby - I haven't seen her before really, so I don't have anything to really compare her to. She was a little blank at first, but warmed up in the end. She's really borderline to me. I could see other people playing the part, but not any one in particular. It's just that sort of part I guess. 
I'm glad we saw it in 3D, and I'm glad we caught it in the theater instead of waiting to watch it at home. I'm kind of a gotta see action on the big screen sort of gal, and this one was well worth it, instead of say, the Total Recall remake. This one was much, much better than that.

Rating: 4 1/2 Purrrs. Ma-Ma is not the law. I am the law.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

I really liked The Sherlockian. Once again, my paperback book club recommended a good one.

In The Sherlockian, Graham Moore brings us a new Sherlock Holmes mystery, but instead of Holmes being the hero we have Arthur Conan Doyle and Harold White. Moore tells us two tales - one of the past and one of the present. In the past, Moore asks what really happened to bring Conan Doyle back to write about Sherlock Holmes after killing him off in "The Final Problem." What brought him back to writing about the detective he was all too happy to kill off? Was it a new mystery he decided to help Scotland Yard solve? In the present, Harold White is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a Sherlock enthusiast society. At their yearly convention, one of their members has been murdered after he announces he has found the lost Arthur Conan Doyle diary that tells all - why Doyle resurrected Holmes in the first place. Harold takes it upon himself (with a little prodding from one of Doyle's living relatives) to discover why the member was killed and find the diary - the holy grail of sorts to his group. Who killed him? Was it one of his fellow Irregulars? Where did the diary go? What's in it?

Moore really does a nice job of leading the reader through both time lines, flipping back and forth between the two with ease. Doyle and his sidekick Bram Stoker parallel Harold and Sarah in the present day, both drawing on their knowledge of Holmes and how he would solve a mystery so that they can solve theirs. I love Sherlock Holmes, and this way I got one more story, sort of. I really liked Harold the amateur detective. Instead of asking "What would Jesus do?" Harold asks, "What would Sherlock do?" Sort of funny, but it works. I found myself much more interested in how he was going to solve the modern day mystery than Conan Doyle & Stoker in their suffrage/multiple female homicide mystery. It's just cute to imagine this scruffy, nerdy guy pining after his sidekick Sarah and seeking out clues like Sherlock Holmes does. (Even though I will confess to imagining Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock more often than not...)

The Sherlockian
is a quick, easy read, one that kept me turning the pages up until the somewhat bittersweet ending. I found it really enjoyable. If you like Sherlock Holmes mysteries, you might give The Sherlockian a whirl.

Rating: 4 1/2 purrs for a very enjoyable just this side of a beach read mystery

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Red Lights

I don't remember how I found Red Lights - probably on a list of horror movies coming out soon somewhere. It's a decent, if slow, thriller, and very European.

In Red Lights, Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her partner, Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) are paranormal investigators who spend their time visiting supposed paranormal phenomenon & locations to weed out frauds using what Matheson calls "Red Lights," or supernatural trickery. The story opens with them visiting a haunted home only to debunk it rather quickly after a seance and that leads to the main plot - is the psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) the real deal or not? He's been in hiding for years, and now has appeared to do a few shows before retirement. Buckley is anxious to investigate and Matheson is curiously not interested. There's a little bit of a break between the two as Buckley struggles with the whys and goes off on his own, only to be faced with many curious events - birds smashing in to windows, electronics going haywire, etc. Eventually, Silver consents to testing, and soon the truth comes out. I won't tell you what it is, because it was a surprise to me. (There could be reasons for that I had trouble keeping interested in the plot.)

This movie didn't really hold my attention until the end. I don't know if it was just too slow, or too disjointed, or what, but I really wasn't engrossed until it got into the last 30 minutes or so. Then I was riveted. So much so that I rewound the movie to catch something when JudoMaster started talking. Before that, it was sort of like blah blah, debunk, blah, Elizabeth Olsen, blah. Maybe I just expected a faster pace? Maybe they cut out too much in editing? I don't know. I'd like to say it was worth sitting through the first hour to get to the last 30 minutes, but I don't know that it was. It had its moments, but the revelation at the end wasn't terribly shocking. Although the special effects were good, and Hello - Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, and Elizabeth Olsen, well, it just wasn't enough.

I don't mean for you to not see it, but I don't know that I can recommend it as much as say, The Orphanage or House of Voices - two other European horror flicks that are spooky and able to keep my attention through out. It wasn't bad, but it really wasn't great either.

Rating: 3 Purrrs for all of that star power

Monday, October 29, 2012

Death at Pemberly by P.D. James

I really love P.D. James. I love British mystery writers and she's my favorite right after the good old reliable Agatha Christie. Every time this woman writes a book I scoop it up and devour it, and frankly I am going to be very, very sad when she is no longer a part of this world to keep putting out these devilish, complex mystery stories.

In Death at Pemberly, James decided to bring a murder mystery to the grounds of Mr. & Mrs. Darcy and brings along all of your favorite characters from Pride & Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy and happily married with children, Bingley and sister Jane live nearby. Lydia & Wickam are still causing havoc. Even more so as the big Lady Anne's ball in coming up at Pemberly and the Lydia shows up in a panic saying someone's been killed in the woods on the Pemberly grounds. Was it Darcy's worst nightmare - Wickam? Or was Wickam killed? What will Elizabeth & Darcy do now that Lydia is at Pemberly in hysterics? Will Darcy finally have to face Wickham and what he tried to do with Georgina? I won't say because I don't want to spoil the fun.

I'm not really sure she needed to write this. I mean I am just fine with Mr. Dagliesh in her usual works, but Death at Pemberly was an enjoyable little mystery nonetheless. Not quite up to her normal caliber, but I still couldn't put it down. Ms. James incorporates some of the history of the law and legal mores in that time period along with more of the usual etiquette and social expectations you find in an Austen book. Pride & Prejudice is one of my favorite Jane Austen stories, so I enjoyed visiting those characters again, even though this is very much a P. D. James book not a Jane Austen book. There none of the wit of an Austen novel, but there is some of the plotting from a James novel. It's a nice mix all in all, but not one of my favorite P. D. James books. I'd say if you like Austen or you like a good historical mystery, you might enjoy this book. If you are looking for a place to start in the P. D. James canon, I wouldn't start here. I'd start with Cover Her Face or An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.

Rating: 4 Purrrs because I can't rate a P. D. James novel any lower. She's just too clever.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pinata: Survival Island

I subjected poor JudoMaster to Pinata: Survival Island, one of my very favorite really bad horror movies, this past weekend. He survived, but just barely. He may be rethinking this whole marriage thing after it, but he's still here, so maybe I am in the clear.

Pinata: Survival Island is what it sounds like. A group of college kids are on an island for a Cinco de Mayo party to drink themselves silly and do what college kids do best. Unfortunately they come across a demon possessed pinata (yes, you read that right) that has other plans. Pretty soon, the crazed pinata is hunting them down, one by one, as they try to escape its wrath and make it to May 6th alive.

Why do I love this movie so much? Well, Jaime Pressley and Nicholas Brendon first of all. Yep. Buffy fans everywhere have to deal with Xander as a sexy college guy. A little bit of a leap, but he shows some nicely toned arms so...Second - Demon Possessed Pinata. How much better can it get than that? It's pretty freakin' fantastic and you know it. It's awful, really it is. Awful special effects, really bad acting, obvious backyard LA setting. But did you see that I said Demon Possessed Pinata? It's almost as if someone read my mind and pulled out my hopes & dreams and made a movie.

If you like really bad, really silly horror flicks you might give this one a whirl. I can't warn you enough that it really, truly is bad, but hell, I love it anyway. I mean, I did have demon possessed goats in my wedding vows, so that shouldn't surprise you too much.

Rating: 5 big old purrs