Dirty Book Club

DirtyBookClub

The Dirty Book Club

Written By: Lisi Harrison
Published: October 2017
Grade: B+

M.J. Stark thinks she has built the perfect life in the wake of losing her mother, father, and sister in a tragic accident. She has a gorgeous doctor boyfriend, a fantastic Manhattan apartment, and is a shoo-in to take over running New York’s City magazine when her boss retires. However, when her boss informs M.J. that, due to her asocial way working, she’ll have to share her promotion with another coworker, M.J. impulsively decides to take her boyfriend up on his offer to join him in California. After weeks of self-pity, M.J. decides to bring a thank you gift to a neighbor after Dan, M.J.’s boyfriend, borrows their patio furniture while they’re out of town. There she meets Gloria, a sassy older woman with a taste for strong martinis and juicy gossip. After Gloria’s husband dies suddenly, Gloria decides to pack up and move to Paris in honor of a decade-old pact with her friends, leaving M.J. alone and friendless. Then, shortly after Gloria leaves, M.J. is sent an invitation to a secret club, along with a date and time for her first meeting. When she arrives, M.J. meets the other members: Addie, a women’s clinic nurse with a healthy sexual appetite; Britt, an overworked mother of two who’s tired of husband’s lack of interest in her; and Jules, a hopeless romantic who’s blissfully ignorant of her husband’s affairs with other women. Together they learn the purpose for the club: to read quote/unquote dirty books and cultivate a lasting friendship. Intrigued, the four women decide to give the club a try for the summer before returning to their own, hectic lives. However, as the group begins reading the selections and the letters the original group wrote to accompany them, they find they have more in common than they originally though, and learn that sometimes the strongest friendships are forged in the most unusual circumstances.

While author Lisi Harrison usually write for the YA set, her adult novel debut is solid. Her characters are well-developed, including the original club members, whom we mostly learn about through the letters they wrote to accompany the books. While M.J. is clearly the main character, the book is written in the third person and rarely deviates from her, though it would have been interesting to read firsthand what we learn about as the information is being relayed to her.

Chick lit is usually a safe bet for authors, as there are many who enjoy a light, simple read. I was able to finish the novel in a little over a morning without missing any of the information. The plotline manages to hold your interest and doesn’t read like it was originally meant for teenagers.

Anyone looking for a fun, easy read who doesn’t mind books gear towards women should enjoy this. It’s a little jarring in the beginning to start with Gloria and her friends and then jump over to M.J. I spent a little time wondering if M.J. was somehow related to one of the original club members until I figured out that she wasn’t, but aside from that, the book is easy to follow.

Check your local library or bookstore for availability, or purchase through any participating on-line retailer.

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Incredibles 2

Incredibles2

Incredibles 2

Directed By: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Sophia Bush, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Eli Fucile, Michael Bird, Brad Bird, Isabella Rossellini, Phil LaMarr, Jonathan Banks, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: A

After failing to defeat the Underminer, who showed up at the end of the previous film, the Parr family and their friend, Lucius Best, are threatened with legal action for illegally partaking in super hero activities. After being released from government custody and sent to a motel while they await relocation, they’re approached by wealthy businessman Winston Deavor and his sister, Evelyn, who want their help in an endeavor to reverse the laws making super heroes illegal. Believing that the public will once again wish to embrace supers once they see how helpful they can be. Soon after agreeing to be the poster girl for their campaign, Elastigirl is encounters a new villain, the Screenslaver, who wants to destroy all supers.

This sequel to the beloved Pixar movie is carefully crafted to exude the same sense of adventure and fun that the first one gave. The storyline feels like a natural progression, instead of the forced stories that plague most sequels. Most of the voice actors from the first movie that have characters in this movie returned, with only a couple of exceptions, mainly with the voice actors for the younger children. The voices all seem to work well together, and from what I could tell, it seems like the actors had fun performing. It was nice to see Elastigirl get some time in the spotlight after being relegated to simple housewife in the first movie, and Bob being out of his element as the at-home parent was a fun change.

Pixar is well known for high-quality animation, and this movie is no different. The colors are vibrant without being too bright, and the blacks are dark and fuzz-free.

All in all, this is another great Disney/Pixar movie. The storyline is fast-paced and engaging and doesn’t pander to children, the characters are well-developed, and the villain’s motivations are believable. Despite there being nearly 15 years between the movies, this sequel doesn’t miss any steps. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, and something that everyone can watch.

Incredibles 2 isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Killer Elite

KillerElite

Killer Elite

Directed By: Gary McKendry
Starring: Jason Statham, Robert DeNiro, Clive Owen, Dominic Purcell, Yvonne Strahovsky, Aden Young, Ben Mendelsohn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Whiteley, Matt Nable, Lachy Hulme, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: C+

Loosely based on a true story, Killer Elite follows a group of four hitmen-for-hire several years after a job went wrong. After having retired to his native Australia when a hit went bad, Danny receives word that his friend and former partner Hunter has been taken hostage by a disgraced sheik wanting vengeance for his dead sons against the British SAS officers responsible for their deaths, Danny takes it upon himself to figure out how to kill the men. Recruiting his other old teammates and calling in favors from old contacts, Danny enters into an unwitting game of cat and mouse, as he soon learns that there is another killer protecting the SAS officers and threatening the success of Danny’s mission.

What little story exists in this movie seems to solely be a means to get to the next action/shootout scene, of which there are many. While the actors seem to have a decent chemistry, some of the accents are off. Jason Statham is supposed to play an Australian, but seems to maintain his natural, rough English accent, and Dominic Purcell is supposed to play a Welshman, but ends up sounding more like his native Australian instead. It’s usually not a good sign when my untrained ears can hear an accent that’s off, but I’ve stated in other reviews that, at the very least, Statham isn’t good at hiding his natural accent.

The effects are alright. There aren’t many effects-heavy scenes, with most of the CGI being used as background filler. There are also lost of explosions, but they seem to have been done well.

As stated before, despite being (somewhat) based on a true story, the movie itself uses as little plot as possible in order to get it from one action/shootout scene to the next. While the movie could have used a few scenes to show why DeNiro’s character is so important to Statham’s (and the other characters that were part of the crew), or even why they all decide to help, most of the interim scenes are basic setups for the next action sequence, which leaves you with characters you don’t actually care about taking on the rescue/assassination mission because… reasons.

Killer Elite can be streamed free through Netflix for now, and it can also be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Hotel Transylvania 3

HotelTransylvania3

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Directed By: Doug Murphy
Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Katherine Hahn, Kevin James, David Spade, Keegan Michael-Key, Steve Buschemi, Maya Rudolph, Fran Drescher, Chrissy Tiegen, Chris Parnell, Jim Gaffigan, Joe Jonas, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: C+

When Mavis, daughter of Dracula, the owner of the luxurious Hotel Transylvania, decides that her dad needs a vacation from planning other people’s vacations, she books the whole family on an exclusive cruise through the Bermuda Triangle with all their friends. Almost as soon as they arrive, Drac falls for the beautiful cruise director, Ericka, despite believing all his life that monsters only have one chance at true love. And although she’s developing feelings for Drac herself, Ericka fights against it in order to fulfill her family’s legacy and be the first Van Helsing to finally destroy all of monster kind.

The third movie in the Hotel Transylvania series, this is the first one to mostly take place away from the hotel itself. It’s nice to see Dracula attempting to relax, though he spends a good deal of the time complaining that they have the same amenities/activities at his hotel. Pretty much everyone from the first two movies is back, with no noticeable changes in voice actors, and they all seem to mesh well together, as with the first two movies.

The animation looks like it was hand-drawn, though it was likely done by computer, and the color timing is well done.

The storyline may have been a bit shallow, but all in all, the movie is still entertaining, and not just on a kids level. The franchise remains true to its core belief that monsters aren’t bad, just misunderstood. This is also the first time they’ve had an actual human as the antagonist, instead of another monster. The movie tends to dip down into the ridiculous, but that’s true for most children’s movies anymore, and it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Constantine City of Demons

CityOfDemons

Constantine: City of Demons

Directed By: Doug Murphy
Starring: Matt Ryan, Laura Bailey, Emily O’Brien, Damian O’Hare, Robin Atkin Downes, Rachel Kimsey, Jim Meskimen, Kevin Michael Richardson, Rick D. Wasserman, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

A decade after a tragic accident sent an innocent young girl to Hell, John Constantine is asked by his old friend, Chaz Chandler, to help save his daughter, Trish, from whatever dark force has put her into a mysterious coma. Tracing the demon responsible back to Los Angeles, Constantine travels there to try and strike a bargain with the beast to free Trish’s soul, but soon realizes he’s in over his head. Enlisting the help of both old friends and new, John does everything in his power to save Trish, even if it costs him nearly everything.

While this movie may or may not count as another official entry into DC’s Animated Universe, it still stands on par with the others that I’ve seen. Matt Ryan reprises his role of John Constantine, which he has played in several television series, as well as in the Justice League Dark movie, and he seems to still be fairly comfortable with the role. He also does a decent job with the voice work, as does everyone else involved. As I’ve stated before, it’s hard to tell chemistry through voice work, but the voices all seem to mesh well together.

The animation looks hand-drawn, though it was likely done by computer, and the color timing is well done.

Despite being cobbled together from digital shorts that originally aired on the CW Seed app, they managed to make a coherent, compelling, movie-length story. It fills in pieces of Constantine’s dark past for those who haven’t read the Hellblazer comics and shows how John became the antisocial antihero of the live-action series. While it may be a little bloody and violent for smaller children, fans of DC and DCAU movies should enjoy it.

Constantine: City of Demons can be streamed as digital shorts through CW Seed, and it can be rented as a feature-length movie from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Ocean’s 8

Oceans8

Ocean’s 8

Directed By: Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Richard Armitage, James Corden, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A-

When Debbie Ocean is released from prison after serving five years for insurance fraud, she has just two things on her mind: revenge on the man who sent her to prison and pulling off one of the greatest heists ever seen. With the help of Lou, her friend and former partner, Debbie recruits the best all-female team of criminals they can find to help them steal a multi-million dollar necklace off the neck of vapid starlet Daphne Kluger during the annual Met Gala. Starting with roping in a washed-up designer wanted for tax fraud to design the perfect dress for Daphne to wear, Debbie and Lou then seek out old colleagues Amita and Tammy, a jeweler and fence, and recruit Nine Ball and Constance, a hacker and pickpocket to round out their crew. As their deadline draws near, the group perfects their plan, and Debbie makes plans to place the blame for the theft on Claude Becker, the man who sent her to prison for fraud, all the while trying to keep both Daphne and the maker of the necklace in the dark about the scheme.

This latest sequel to Stephen Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of the 1960s film is a decent entry into the franchise. The overall story and planned may not be as grandiose or ambitious as any from the previous trilogy, but the smaller scale works in this instance. Instead of showing a big heist with lots of distractions and red herrings, this movie almost gives a long-con plan with regard to getting the necklace. The characters all work well together, and the actors all have good chemistry. Rihanna is slowly improving her acting skills, though she still has a ways to go.

There aren’t too many special effects beyond background filler, which is done well.

All in all, this is a pretty good movie. The story moves along quickly, and the characters have a decent amount of development. Anyone who liked Ocean’s Eleven should like this one, as should fans of a good caper movie, just so long as you don’t mind a fun, female-centric movie.

Ocean’s 8 isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Skyscraper

Skyscraper

Skyscraper

Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Hanna Quinlavin, Adrian Holmes, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B-

After losing a leg while on a rescue mission with the U.S. Military, Will Sawyer starts a security consultation firm specializing in designing and testing the security measures of large buildings. When assisting with the security layout of the Pearl, Hong Kong’s tallest structure, Will runs into his friend and former unit member Ben, who was also injured in the incident that took Will’s leg. After a thief attempts to steal a tablet Will was given that contains access to the Pearl’s entire security layout, Will quickly learns that his former friend is working for people who want to infiltrate the Pearl and cause enough damage to have it evacuated. After making his way back to the building, Will realizes that the police aren’t going to attempt to rescue those still trapped in the building, including his wife and children, and so he decides to take on the thieves, and the burning building, himself to rescue his family and Mr. Zhao, the man who designed the building, and also try and figure out why the Pearl was targeted in the first place.

The latest in Dwayne Johnson’s resumé of disaster-related action movies could probably be interchanged with just about any of his other ones, or any disaster-related action movie for that matter, almost unnoticeably. About the only thing that truly sets this one apart is the fact that Johnson is playing an amputee, and does so in a way that is both believable and respectful to actual amputees. That said, the movie is still enjoyable on an entertainment value-level. Johnson always seems to look like he’s enjoying making these types of films, and it was nice to see Neve Campbell in something outside the Scream franchise again, though the fight-back skills she picked up while making them was put to use. She and Johnson have decent chemistry, and make a believable couple. The story may be a little far-fetched at times, but most action movies are.

The special effects are all very well done. It looks like they used mostly practical effects for the fire, with the exception of wide-angle and long distance shots. The background filler is seamless.

Action/disaster movies all make good popcorn flicks, and are a fun way to relax and not have to think for 90 minutes or so, and this one is no different. With lots of explosions and fight scenes, you can shut your brain off for a while and enjoy watching Dwayne Johnson kick the crap out of bad guys. As stated before, there’s not a lot of substance plot-wise, but it’s typical for most action movies, whose main goal is to get to the fights and explosions.

Skyscraper isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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The Meg

TheMeg

The Meg

Directed By: Jon Turtletaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao, Sophia Cai, Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Jessica McNamee, Masi Oka, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

While on a rescue mission deep in the Pacific Ocean, Jonas Taylor encounters something large and unexplainable, which destroys the submarine he’s attending to and kills several people on board, including members of his rescue team. Years later, after his ex’s exploratory pod is attacked on the floor of the Mariana Trench, Jonas is brought to the Mana One Research Center, where two of his former coworkers now work, in order to rescue the people in the downed vessel. After reviewing the footage, Jonas discovers that the creature that attacked the research vessel is the same as the one that attacked the downed submarine, a prehistoric species of shark called a Megalodon, which was long believed to be extinct. Shortly after rescuing the research team, the Mana One station learns that the rescue pod didn’t leave the trench alone. Two of the Megalodons followed, and are now attacking vessels, civilians, and other marine life, and Jonas and the people of Mana One are the only ones who stand a chance of stopping them.

Despite being based on the Steve Alten novel of the same name, The Meg barely resembles its source material. The names and basic plot – Jonas and Company vs. Gigantic Ancient Shark – are the same, but pretty much everything else was changed. Surprisingly, though, the changes don’t actually detract from the enjoyment of the movie. The story used works just as well as the plot of the book, and the characters are mostly all the same (Suyin didn’t have a daughter in the original). The actors all work well together, and, for the most part, everyone looks to be enjoying themselves.

The special effects are all well done. The shark looks realistic enough, and the background filler is seamless.

Disaster movies, which is what I would categorize this movie as, all seem to have about the same amount of substance plot-wise, and this one is really no different. It’s all mostly a giant setup for a man vs. shark final battle, but it has decent dialogue ans a somewhat original story, and while it may not be true to the book, it’s still a fun watch. The plot doesn’t require your full attention, and there’s nothing too gory in the death scenes that would prevent it from being a date night/family movie night pick, though it may be a bit much for some kids under 10.

The Meg isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Ouija

Ouija

Ouija

Directed By: Stiles White
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Darren Kagasoff, Bianca A. Santos, Douglas Smith, Shelley Hennig, Sierra Heuermann, Lin Shaye, Vivis Colombetti, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C

After her best friend Debbie suddenly commits suicide, Laine Morris decides the best way to figure out what happened to her friend is to play with the Ouija board Debbie was playing with before she died. Having been asked to Debbie’s parents house after they leave to get away for awhile, Lanie invites over some of hers and Debbie’s mutual friends to play the game with her. As the group settles in, they soon realize that, not only are they actually contacting spirits, but the ones they’re contacting aren’t their friend. Initially believing that if they quit playing, the spirits will leave, the group heads home, but they soon realize that’s not the case after one of the group that played dies. As they try to learn more about the spirits they unleashed, Laine and her friends try to keep the entities from harming them so they can figure out a way to send them back to where they came from.

As far as teen paranormal thrillers go, this one is painfully average. The story is fairly straightforward, with little to no background given as to what made the board evil, and there’s little info about the mythos surrounding Ouija boards outside of a short Fact or Fiction-type video that Laine watches after first realizing they contacted an actual spirit. The acting is only so-so, and the chemistry between characters is stilted. Instead of developing character stories so we actually care when they start to get killed off, the movies jumps right to a sequence of haunted house scenes with jump scares and low lighting.

The special effects are okay. The ghost effects are decent, and I didn’t notice anything off about the background filler. The few practical effects used also seem to be done well.

As far as teen horrors go, there are definitely better choices out there, unless you prefer horror movies that aren’t very scary throughout most of the run-time. It would serve well as background noise when you’re too busy to pay attention to what you’re watching, and the plot is straightforward, so you won’t lose anything if you step out of the room for a minute.

Ouija isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Purge Election Year

PurgeElectionYear

The Purge: Election Year

Directed By: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Kyle Secor, Mykleti Williamson, Edwin Hodge, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Terry Serpico, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

Eighteen years after losing her family on Purge night, Senator Charlie Roan is running for president on a platform of eliminating the holiday. As the day approaches, the White House announces that, for the first time since its inception, there are no restrictions on who can be Purged, meaning that the Senator is in danger. After her home is attacked, she and her head of security, Leo Barnes, flee and attempt to find a safe place to lay low. They come across Joe and Marcos, who are protecting Joe’s store since his Purge insurance was raised at the last minute and he couldn’t afford to pay the higher premium. While there, a group of high school aged Purgers attack the store since Joe had thrown them out for shoplifting the day before. As the four of them are leaving, Joe calls his friend Laney, who is traveling in a triage van helping attacked by Purgers. While in the van, the group is attacked by the same people who infiltrated Charlie’s home, and Leo discovers that he’s been shot with a tracking bullet. Shortly after arriving at the triage center, the mercenaries track down Leo and Charlie again, resulting in the Senator being taken, and Leo appeals to Dante Bishop to help him rescue the Senator.

This is the third movie in the Purge series, and it continues the trend of adding to the universe without completely rewriting it. In the previous two films, high-ranking government officials were exempt from being Purged, but since this one takes place during an election year, and the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are in serious danger of losing the election for the first time in ages, they change that rule to revoke the protected status of the Senator, hoping that she’ll be killed. Again, the actors all work well together, and, like in Anarchy, Election Year is almost more of an action movie than a horror. Frank Grillo and Edwin Hodge reprise their roles from previous films, and are the only two actors to do so outside of archive footage.

The special effects here are on par with the previous movie. There are a few more explosions this time around, and the instances of near-future technology, as well as background filler, are well done.

If you enjoyed the first two movies in the franchise, you’ll probably enjoy this movie, too. Occasionally some of the acting gets a little ham-fisted, and some of the real life parallels aren’t exactly subtle, but the story remains interesting, and it shows what lengths some people will go to in order to remain in power.

The Purge: Election Year isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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