BOOK: Double Indemnity (1936)

Double Indemnity Year: 1936 Author: James M. Cain Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours This classic piece of noir does what some might consider impossible: making an insurance salesman interesting. Of course, planning to commit insurance fraud makes the scenario much more interesting, even if it follows some of the basic tropes of the genre. Because the story is so short, only lasting just over three hours of audiobook reading, I feel the movie adaptation was able to include everything that made this story so engaging. I do think the ending was improved in the film, though, as the story’s ending felt a little disjointed from the narrative. What made Double Indemnity so enjoyable was how the main characters were so sure they’d get away with the crime they were about to commit. The details of the fraud were so thorough that the reader is almost convinced that nothing could go wrong. When the aftermath starts to unravel, that’s when the story began to get...
Read More

BOOK: Chasing Hindy (2017)

Chasing Hindy Year: 2017 Author: Darin Gibby Length: 285 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** I’ve read a few legal thrillers over the years. From John Grisham’s Runaway Jury to Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, the excitement of the case is usually matched by the excitement surrounding the legal proceedings. Darin Gibby’s Chasing Hindy certainly fits the bill for a legal thriller, but perhaps with a little less polish than the big hitters in the genre. Even so, this book certainly kept me engaged and interested throughout, which is the mark of a good thriller, no matter what sub-genre it belongs to. Plus, even if the subject matter could have trended into “preachy” territory, Gibby manages to put the opinions about the environment in the subtext, and not in the reader’s face. While I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys this genre, I do have a few problems with it. First, the main character, Addy, is an interesting character, but I kept...
Read More

BOOK: The Brothers Karamazov (1880)

The Brothers Karamazov Year: 1880 Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky Length: 2,239 minutes / 37.32 hours As is usually the case with Russian literature, The Brothers Karamazov is a daunting read. These thick tomes are usually on lists of books you should read, but picking up such a large volume and consuming its contents can be quite intimidating. Even the audiobook version (which I used for this review) clocks in at almost a full work-week of listening to get through it all. Still, those who manage to take on this herculean task are likely to be rewarded with an engaging story that covers a wide variety of topics to include (but not limited to) religion, marriage, communism, fatherhood, and (of course) brotherhood. Having already read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I found The Brothers Karamazov to be more along the lines of Law & Order. His former book was a tight and well-paced examination of guilt, even in the face of necessity and wealth distribution. The Brothers Karamazov,...
Read More

MOVIE: Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man Year: 2015 Rating: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours In the never-ending array of superheroes feeding into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to support such franchises like Captain America and The Avengers, it can be difficult to make some of the B-tier and C-tier heroes seem interesting enough to devote a whole movie to them. To ensure each movie feels different from its predecessors, certain unique attributes must be applied. Whether it’s the sci-fi-themed Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) or the mind-bending visuals of Doctor Strange (2016), each film requires a gimmick to make it work. For Ant-Man (2015), it’s comedy. If you approach Ant-Man as a standard superhero film, you’re likely to be disappointed. There are almost too many off-hand references to much of the MCU to make anyone not familiar with the vast array of movies lost and confused. Plus, the hero’s “origin story” in Ant-Man is almost par for the course. However, if you watch this film with the understanding that it’s more similar to comedy/caper/heist films than a superhero film, you’re likely...
Read More

MOVIE: The Post (2017)

The Post Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours At this point, I just wonder if every movie Steven Spielberg makes that has anything to do with war (Schindler’s List (1994), Saving Private Ryan (1999), War Horse (2012), Lincoln (2013), Bridge of Spies (2015)) is just automatically given a Best Picture nomination. Don’t get me wrong, Spielberg has made a lot of quality movies that should be recognized and awarded. The question is more about the state of Hollywood films. Is there nothing else out there by up-and-coming filmmakers that would supplant a Spielberg film in the nominee list? Don’t even get me started on Meryl Streep’s nominations, either. Of course, in part due to the all-star power of Spielberg, and the leading roles filled by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, The Post (2017) is a movie that builds its tension right until the very end. Despite a somewhat slow start, the stakes are never higher when the ambiguity of publishing classified documents is taken all the way to its logical conclusion. The...
Read More

BOOK: The Infinet (2017)

The Infinet Year: 2017 Author: John Akers Length: 410 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** After reading plenty of sub-par first novels from aspiring authors, The Infinet was a breath of fresh air. I was also pleasantly surprised that this book was written during a National Novel Writing Month, thus proving how useful the NaNoWriMo challenge is for people to get their stories out there. In the five years between the writing and publishing of this book, it looks like a lot of care went into polishing it into the entertaining and brilliant book that exists today. There are plenty of things that The Infinet gets right when it comes to speculative science fiction. First, it doesn’t dwell on the details of the “hard science,” but it does mention the concepts in passing. As far as I can tell, the ideas presented here are accurate, which is key for this genre. Secondly, so many authors put their personal biases into their narratives, which can sour the experience...
Read More

BOOK: Don Quixote (1605)

Don Quixote Year: 1605 Author: Miguel De Cervantes Length: 344 minutes / 5.73 hours Aside from the “Cliff’s notes” version presented on the TV show, Wishbone, I knew enough about Don Quixote to be dangerous without having actually read it. After all, this book has spawned such words and phrases as “tilting at windmills” and “quixotic,” as well as a Broadway musical. But how does this 17th-century classic hold up in today’s world? One would argue that chivalry was already dead by the time it was written, so it’s not likely to be an examination of chivalrous attitudes and how they’d benefit society. As far as I see it, Don Quixote is a bit like a romantic comedy in the vein of William Shakespeare’s plays. Probably the first-ever recorded instance of a dedicated live action role player (LARPer), the character Don Quixote borders on that line between comedy and tragedy. If I were to give a medical explanation for his actions, it’s either severe delusion...
Read More

BOOK: The Body Snatchers

The Body Snatchers Year: 1955 Author: Jack Finney Length: 400 minutes / 6.67 hours Most people know this book by its numerous film adaptations, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978), Body Snatchers (1993), and The Invasion (2007). In fact, I like to think that many facets of this story have become a part of popular culture, including the replication “pods” and Donald Sutherland’s scream in the 1978 film version. While the source material is inherently pulpy, a result of the genre and the era in which it was published, there is an entertaining quality to the story that has allowed it to survive for so long. Simple in its execution, but brilliant in its reveal, The Body Snatchers builds up an inherent distrust of the people surrounding the main characters as they investigate why everyone seems “off” in this small, California town. While the full explanation of the aliens’ presence and purpose is relegated to an enormous information dump more than half-way through the book, it nevertheless contains some interesting ideas...
Read More

MOVIE: Blade Runner – 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner: 2049 Year: 2017 Rating: R Length: 164 minutes / 2.73 hours Back when I first heard about a Blade Runner (1982) sequel, I was skeptical about its quality. Sure, the ending was a little open-ended, but it stood by itself quite well. A Blade Runner sequel coming out mere years away from the original’s futuristic timeline of 2019 seemed just as ridiculous. The one redeeming factor that eventually led me to think this sequel would be any good was that Denis Villeneuve was tapped to direct it. While I’ve liked Villeneuve’s films as far back as Prisoners (2013), I’ve really become a fan since his Best Picture-nominated Arrival (2016) revealed how well he can do science fiction. Of course, Blade Runner isn’t really science fiction. Sure, it has the trappings of a futuristic society, but at its core, the movie is a noir. The plot and aesthetic of noir is considerably different than that of sci-fi, but Villeneuve manages to merge the two...
Read More

MOVIE: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours After the success of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), director Rian Johnson had to strike a fine balance in the following sequel, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017). Since The Force Awakens was essentially a flashy, rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), The Last Jedi needed to separate itself from the predictable path already laid out in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Unfortunately, the formula employed in Empire Strikes Back has become so integral to sequels that deviating from it could prove to be disastrous. While I’m curious where Episode IX will go from here, I hope it builds upon what Johnson has done here. The tensions of war helped drive the characters into interesting moments of growth, defiance, and desperation, but much of the story was well wrapped up by the time the credits rolled. The real balance of this film came from paying homage...
Read More