Ten Thoughts on Zero Dark Thirty

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Katheryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty was finally released nationwide today. I finally got to see it and I would say it was a good movie but it was not what I had anticipated. It’s kind of hard to explain but here are ten things I can say about the film without spoiling it for you.

1. Like most people, I was curious about the investigation that led to *UBL’s capture and death. I was happy when Bigelow decided to make a film of it.
2. Like The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty makes you feel as though you are actually there especially during the actual raid
3. The torture scenes were somewhat difficult for me to watch but they were not as bad I had feared however
4. This movie gives one a glimpse at the dangers associated with living in Pakistan; the hunt for UBL was not the only agenda of the CIA
5. It takes skill and determination to interrogate subjects, glean significant info and apply it to future strikes
6. The perilousness of life was keenly felt with the suicide bombs and such, lives lost to find UBL especially
7. The real intel gathering and chasing leads was probably the slowest part of the film
8. The studio touts that the film is based on first hand accounts yet it was attacked in the news by certain Senators as being “inaccurate.”
9. Did the film show too much of its interrogation procedures? validating undisclosed locations? revealing the dark side of the CIA operations?
10. Jessica Chastain was good in here. Her role was that of determination and steely confidence. She didn’t doubt that UBL was in Abbottabad

Overall, good movie. These are just observations, thoughts after two hours of reflection from seeing the movie. On another note, I had also bought Peter L. Bergen’s book, Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for  Bin Laden -from 9/11 to Abbottabad  last year and read about the first fourth of it. A good companion to the film I think.  I’m aware there are other books out there like No Easy Day that also tells of the raid. Bergen’s book is very readable, so I plan to stick to that. *Usama Bin Laden

Ten Thoughts on Django Unchained

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Just watched Quentin Taratino’s new film, Django Unchained (the D is silent) today. I don’t even know where to begin so here are my ten thoughts on Django Unchained for better or worse:

1. I’ve seen just about all of Quentin Taratino’s films with my least favorite being Reservoir Dogs and my favorite film being Pulp Fiction.
2. Easy observation: the look of the film was nice
3. The violence in Taratino’s films continues to escalate and I don’t know why he continues to emphasize it in his films. Totally unnecessary.
4. Much has been made of the N-word. It was plentiful and rolled off most tongues quite naturally. I didn’t have a problem with it since the film is set two years prior to the Civil War and was historically appropriate
5. Kerry Washington’s role as Django’s wife was rather small. I only noticed her because she stars in ABC’s Scandal
6. The ending was a dues ex machina. I’m sorry, it just was
7. For a sensitive subject like slavery, the movie didn’t enlighten me much for that time period
8. Samuel L. Jackson knows he can look very, very mean even in make-up *lol*
9. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in here was quite memorable
10. Overall feelings for the film? Kind of neutral. It’s not a movie I plan to gush about or run out to watch again

Pic swiped from Wikipedia

Obamacare and Its Unintended Consequences

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This isn’t a very contemplative article. More of an observation. Forgive me for stating the obvious but Obamacare seems to be generating what we all like to call unintended consequences.  Everywhere I read online  in a news report, some business is cutting hours at work or filing lawsuits to keep Obamacare far and away from them. Some are even spending gross amounts in the way of fines to avoid the law.  I think healthcare should be a right not a privilege just so you understand where I am coming from.  I can’t believe that as constituents and voters we allow Congress and other members of our government to have decent healthcare but we continue to vote people in office who try their hardest to keep universal healthcare from ever being a reality. The hypocrisy of all of this is enough to choke on quite honestly.  I realize there are no easy answers. Obamacare, flaws and all, is just the start of something that could actually work. There are popular items in the bill but like most people I haven’t read the entire bill and the popular items get more coverage than the unpopular ones (whatever those are).  How can we figure this out? I am willing to do my part. I’m sure you are too right? right?

TV: L.A. Noir

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Frank-Darabont-L.A.-Noir-TNTRecently read that Frank Darabont is starting another TV show on TNT called L.A. Noir. Just to share a little background, I love another show of his – The Walking Dead on AMC. But Darabont’s no longer there, in fact, it’s alleged that he was fired from the AMC network by idiots in suits.

Also? I hate zombies in all forms – books, movies, TV but The Walking Dead was different. It was character driven and had its share of angst. Now though? Who knows how much life is left in The Walking Dead since AMC has let go another showrunner. All of this is to say that I wish Frank Darabont success with L.A. Noir and I plan to see his new TV show when it airs on TNT.

 

Ten Thoughts on The Hurt Locker

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I finally watched The Hurt Locker, a 2008 film directed by Katheryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. My interest in watching it is mostly due to my anticipation of Zero Dark Thirty. The Hurt Locker has almost universal acclaim and picked up major awards including Best Picture Oscar. Here are my thoughts on the movie as a late-comer. Impressions and thoughts:

1) First, I’m a fan of military and war films
2) I’m a big Jeremy Renner fan of late
3) The director achieved what she wanted: an immersive film experience
4) The film’s suspense is driven by its characters
5) Jeremy Renner’s performance in the movie was memorable
6) Dismantling bombs, talk about an adrenalin rush! Scary and exciting
7) This movie made me curious about Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians (EOD) and the search results coughed up an old Reddit article that did an Q&A with a real one
8) While I enjoyed the movie and it has garnered critical acclaim, there is an vocal group of dissenters on Amazon decrying its accuracy (I know, who cares).
9) For all the criticisms of the film being inaccurate and unrealistic, at the end of the day this is a Hollywood movie
10) What I will take away after watching the movie? Off the top: Camaraderie, courage, team work, the tenacity of the human spirit

In Memory of Historical Novelist: Diana Norman

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Diana Norman, who died Jan 27th, was my favorite writer when it comes to historical fiction. She had a way with words that no one can ever emulate. Her research, from what I’ve read, was meticulous. The way she used that research to recreate the time period was awesome. I don’t know anyone who writes like that. Her peers considered her an “expert” on 12th Century history and she admired “Henry II.” I can vouch for the last part having read her Adelia Aguilar books that featured a woman pathologist working for King Henry II in 12th Century England.

She loved bringing Henry II to life for us. I anticipated every scene she put him in because he almost always stole every scene he was in. She’d made King Henry II this larger than life hero even while history says he was a villain. But, you couldn’t help falling in love with King Henry but then she had a way with creating the most memorable, quiet heroes. Henry King remains my favorite hero from The Vizard Mask alongside Archibald Cameron from Blood Royal. She wrote this great first line:

Pen­i­tance Hurd and the Plague arrived in Lon­don on the same day from The Vizard Mask

Why did I love Ms. Norman’s books? Well, first of all, I’m a history buff. Love reading about other time periods other than my own. Second, her books are fast paced and laced with time period details that engages readers. Her words transported you to that time period like no other writer I know. She knew how to assimilate information from her research into her stories without it feeling like an info dump. Her novels never felt like a lecture. Readers have complained about her using anachronistic language in her books but she’s often defended that with saying that it was done for better clarity. Her heroines were always smart, tough and well ahead of their time. Her heroes were memorable. Continue reading

REVIEW: One Crazy Summer written by Rita Williams-Garcia

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The year is 1968 and the novel follows three young black girls from Brooklyn, New York. Their father flies them out to Oakland, California to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile Johnson, who’s a poet. “One Crazy Summer” won the Coretta Scott King Award for 2011 because titles like this one “promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society.”

The story follows 11 year old Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta, named after jazz singer, Sarah Vaughan and Fern. Delphine narrates and tells us that their mother abandoned them and their father when Fern was just a baby. Their grandmother, Big Ma, left Alabama to help see to them. When the girls arrive in Oakland, their reception by their mother, upon seeing her three daughters for the first time in seven years is met with indifference. No hugs or tears at this reunion.

Their mother, Cecile Johnson is a poet who writers under the name, Nzila. When Delphine sees her for the first time, she says she looks like “Mata Hari” with her big shades covering her eyes. Delphine’s memories of her are fragmented. She remembers her writing her poetry on the walls, on cereal boxes. We learn a little about Cecile’s life in Oakland. She stays in a green stucco house. Just about everything in it is second hand. She occasionally does fliers and artwork for The Black Panthers, a black organization that rose to prominence in the U.S. during the 1960′s and 70′s, whose platform was mainly defending oppressed people. Her workspace is her kitchen where she keeps her printing press and supplies. She doesn’t allow the girls in there and she keeps to herself. Continue reading

Saved by the Monarch — Dana Marton (Harlequin Intrigue)

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Recently at Dear Author, Jane led an discussion about “arranged marriages” and questioned why there aren’t very many of them written in a more positive light. In the comments, Sally gave recommendations of some titles she thought best exemplified the trope. Out of the five titles she listed, Saved By the Monarch (2009) by Dana Marton was one of the titles I downloaded to my Sony Reader.

The hero, Prince Miklos of the House of Kerkay, is the second in line to the throne in Valtria. It’s a country currently being torn apart by civil war. Miklos, an army major, is also apart of the security detail protecting the royal family. He’s been given intelligence by the chancellor that someone’s trying to assassinate his eldest brother, Arpad. He’s the crown prince whose ascendancy to the throne is imminent. The Valtrian Queen is in ill health and she’s the true monarch of the family. Amid all of this, Miklos bride-to-be is set to arrive from America, in the middle of all this turmoil.

When the story opens, the royal palace has been infiltrated and two guards are found dead. There’s a traitor in the palace and this threat has Miklos moving his family to safety. The Freedom Council, comprised of a group of rebels described as “three businessmen” are against the crown prince changing their country to a “constitutional monarchy.” They’d like to create an ethnic divide in order to establish an individual republic. The country needs a strong marriage to provide political stability and Miklos is prepared to do his royal duty to achieve that goal. But there’s a problem. Continue reading

The Bellini Bride – Michelle Reid (Harlequin Presents)

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In “The Bellini Bride” by Michelle Reid (2001), you have a rich, sexy, Italian hero and his mistress, who’s a beautiful, penniless English “nobody” with a scandalous past. Can love transcend money, class and family expectations? Why, yes, it can. It was entertaining to see how this all came about, too.

Marco Bellini is a prideful, arrogant Italian male who is the sole heir of the Bellini fortune. He’s apart of the “elite.” His mistress is 25 year old Antonia Carson, a woman who’s beautiful yet infamous for posing nude in a painting and this has caused her some notoriety. Marco blithely admits that having Antonia as his mistress hasn’t exactly hurt his reputation. It’s secretly amusing to him that his friends are envious of the fact that he managed to snag her as his mistress.

Marco considers Antonia to be very beautiful and he finds himself “obsessed by her” but admits that he doesn’t love her. He loves being with her and enjoys her as his “mistress” but wife? No. You see, Marco is the only son and heir to the Bellini fortune. Family name, lineage and all of that is important to the Bellini family. Antonia’s past would reflect poorly on the Bellini name according to Marco but he’s not willing to let her go. Ohhhhh, no. With Marco’s father in ill health, there’s added pressure on Marco to marry and produce an heir. Continue reading

What's on my Buying List for 2011?

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Here are the books that I plan to read in 2011 and it’s not very many.

1) The Night Season by Chelsea Cain. This is an ongoing series that started with Heart Sick in 2007. Cain can write suspense really, really, really well so I am looking forward to reading this one. I’ve already received the arc for it so look for a review. The series features a female serial killer and is set in Portland.

2) The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta – listed this one to remind other readers that Marchetta has new book coming out in March 2011. I bought my copy from Australia. I think I prefer their cover as well. Anyway, the story centers around Thomas Mackee, one of the few memorable characters from Saving Francesca.

3) While everyone waits for The Snowman by Jo Nesbo in the U.S., I’ll be reading The Leopard that’s due out Jan 20th or around there in the UK. I don’t wait for his books to come to the U.S. because they take too long. According to Trisha, The Redeemer hasn’t even been released in the U.S. yet and I’ve already read it.

4) Colin Cotterill, a new author I discovered last year with The Coroner’s Lunch, has a new series that set to release in July, titled Killed At the Whim of a Hat. Description on the page says: When crime reporter Jimm Juree is forced to follow her family from Chiang Mai to a fishing village on the Gulf of Siam, she’s convinced her career is over. Her journalism will surely dwindle to reports on the annual monsoon-induced floods, for what crimes could possibly happen in such an out-of-the-way place? Answer: plenty. A local palm oil plantation owner and his worker are excavating a well. They dig down six feet and hit metal. It turns out to be the roof of an old Volkswagen combi, which, once unearthed, is found to contain two skeletons – one of them wearing a hat. A monk is murdered in Lang Suan, the nearest town. There is apparently no motive for the killing and no suspects are found. But there are odd connections between this killing and several others. Suddenly Jimm’s new life becomes somewhat more promising – and a great deal more dangerous

5) Last but not least, One Was A Soldier by Julia Spencer-Flemming which is I think the seventh book in the series featuring Rev. Clare Fergusson and her relationship with Russ Van Alstyne who is the police chief of Miller’s Kill. The last book left the couple at a crossroads so part of me is anxious to read this one.

His Son's Teacher – Kay Stockham (Harlequin Super Romance)

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All the talk about categories made me impulsively buy this one. I’d never heard of this author but I’m told she’s a popular author for this line. His Son’s Teacher by Kay Stockham (July 2008) has a rather interesting dedication that reads [to] “all the people out there who’ve struggled with their weight. Some of us have won the battle, some of us have lost it and some us are still fighting. It’s never too late to be healthy – and learn to be happy with ourselves. Good luck!”

I missed reading the dedication page (who reads it?) but it explains a lot. I didn’t know this book would include someone who would be fixated with their weight and constantly put themselves down. The story started off so promising so it is with regret that I didn’t get to finish this book because the heroine in here is a deal breaker. Here’s the back blurb:

Nick Tulane ordinarily won’t admit weakness in himself or in those he loves. But when he learns his son is about to fail in school, the single father is desperate to find a tutor. And Jennifer Rose is perfect. In fact, Jen might be too perfect. Nick’s starting to fall for the attractive teacher, and he can’t let that happen. Because opening up to Jen means sharing the secret that has always made him feel like an outsider in his own family. Still, with his son showing signs of following in his footsteps, Nick can’t keep the truth hidden. But once she knows, will Jen accept him…weakness and all? -

If you notice, the blurb describes more of the hero’s conflict, problems and not the heroine and I wonder why. Purposeful omission? If the blurb said anything about Jenn’s low self-esteem or her fixation on her losing weight, I wouldn’t have bought it. Simple as that but anyway, Jennifer Rose is a teacher at Beauty Elementary that’s located in the small, fictional town of Tennessee. She’s recently divorced after 5 years of marriage to a man she helped put through med-school. He eventually left her for his receptionist. Continue reading