This isn’t an instructional video. It’s a comedy about an aging boy toy named Maximo, played by Mexican actor and comedian, Eugenio Derbez, who is tossed out by his much older sugar mama for a much younger man. Although Maximo has a friend, another aging trophy boy played by Rob Lowe and who lives with his own sugar mama in a mansion, the friend can’t put him up there because every room is a make-out place at any given moment. Maximo then seeks out his younger sister, played by Salma Hayek, whom he hasn’t contacted for years. She is a widow and single mom of a 10-year-old boy. Maximo’s attempt to use his somewhat antiquated notion of sexy skills to educate his impressionable nephew and charm a replacement wealthy dowager played by Raquel Welch is hilarious. The party scene with Maximo in the swimming pool is alone worth the price of admission. Get your sexy on and learn how to move those hips. Other stars joining this funny ensemble cast include Kristen Bell and Linda Lavin.
This is a heist movie directed by Steve Soderbergh, who also directed the well-known Ocean Trilogy heist films (Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen). Although there’s a formula to this genre, the characters, their situation, and the sprinklings of comedy are ingredients that make each one different. Set in West Virginia and Charlotte, North Carolina, this story is about two down-on-their-luck brothers played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver. Channing decides to plan a robbery soon after he is let go from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway because his limp from an old football injury is considered a liability at work. They bring in their hairdresser sister to help. To round out their crew, they recruit an imprisoned explosive expert, Joe Bang, played by Daniel Craig, whose British accent is replaced by a good ‘ole boy twang. As a condition of Joe Bang joining the group, he asks to have his two hilarious hillbilly brothers join the heist team. The film is enjoyable to watch as we see how the colorful characters plot, ply, and plow through such a convoluted, but clever undertaking. Although there are underlying tones of injustice within our society—think haves vs. have-nots mixed in with a bit of Robin Hood–there is nothing preachy about the movie. Just grab a box of popcorn and watch the story unfold amidst the rural settings and classic American stock car action.
The story immediately sets up to what will lead to a murder and a case of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Toward the end, I didn’t want to put the book down because I had to know if the wrongly accused will be vindicated against the odds. This is a debut book by a lawyer who not only writes expertly on courtroom scenes, but in a very compelling way, too. The main storyline, intriguing subplots, and R-rated sex scenes all come together into a cohesive and smooth read. Weaved in are some interesting facts about pearls, a quirky scientific cellular material, and a way to cheat using technology. Although this is the writer’s first novel, he has published a short story in a literary magazine. What’s even more inspirational to me is that several years back, the author and I were in a writing group together, along with four or five other aspiring scribes. Today, three in our group have had at least one work published, so I am fortunate to have been in the company of talented writers.
Recommend the book to your local library. To read it immediately, go to Amazon.com:
Every week I go to the library to pick up movies or books I’ve reserved. I also do a quick browsing around to see if anything interesting might catch my attention, and this book sure did. I decided to start reading it as soon as I got home and I finished it close to four hours and 284 pages later. A pleasant surprise was finding that the different settings in the book included Budapest of all places, among other European countries I that I recently visited; it was interesting to recognize so many places. However, the story was equally captivating. It’s about a highly regarded forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Lily Dominick, whose life takes a twisted turn after seeing an unusual patient, a criminal who claims not to be human. Rather, he says he was artificially created by an ambitious, but misguided scientist.
The patient’s claim is not so much what makes Lily sees him as different from all the heinous criminals New York delivers to her office. Rather, it’s his claim of being at the scene when her mother was murdered. At only six years of age, Lily witnessed her mother’s violent demise. As their conversation continues, the details he provides, and his startling claim of being her father, starts the story spinning into a suspense full of uncertainty and supernatural events. The story also explains how the legends of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula came to be told.
Well-written and engrossing, the book makes me want to read more of what Andrew Pyper has written. This is a beginning of a new readingship. I am listing the books below as I finish reading them.
I usually reserve films from my library, so I can watch them in the comfort of my home. When I came back from my vacation in Central Europe (Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary), I received notice that a couple of movies were ready for pick-up. One of them was Walking with the Enemy, which is based on true events, although the characters themselves are fictional. The hero is a young Hungarian Jewish man, Elek Cohen, who joins the Labor Force during World War II, thinking it would be a way to help serve his country even though the Force has only Jewish people serving. He soon realizes the work he and his fellow countrymen are providing is met with harsh punishment if they show any signs of physical weakness. He eventually escapes with a friend. When they go back to their village, they find their families gone and their non-Jewish countrymen living in the houses where their Jewish friends resided. Elek is determined to find his family, which soon leads him to Budapest. There he witnesses the terrible fate unfold on those of Jewish heritage that happened toward the end of the War and Hitler’s rule.
He soon goes underground with the help of an acquaintance, Hannah Schoen, with whom he had flirted at a social club many weeks before and has come across again while in Budapest. Hannah’s uncle turns out to be working for the Swiss Council, which agrees to give passports to a fixed number of Jewish people to emigrate legally to Switzerland. However, by making more than the allotted amount, the Council hopes to save even more Jews by secretly delivering them to the Hungarian Jewish citizens. In the middle of all this, the Nazi presence continues to dominate and a Hungarian fascist group, the Arrow Cross Party, allies with Hitler. Together they round up the Jewish people to get them out of the country and into a concentration camp.
One night, Elek ends up killing two drunk German SS soldiers, as they try to molest Hannah. He and his friends bury the dead soldiers in an unmarked grave. Later, the death of those two soldiers turns out to be fortuitous for Elek and his friends because of their uniforms. When one of Elek’s good friends gets captured by the Nazis, he decides to save him by digging up the dead Nazi soldiers and taking their uniforms. He disguises himself as a Nazi SS soldier and pretends to have orders to take into custody his friend. With the successful rescue, Elek wears the uniform again and again, successfully executing similar types of rescues, often saving many of his countrymen at a time. Tragically though, as history later tallied, from Hungary alone, 500,000 Jews were exterminated.
The film has suspense, romance, and historical highlights. It was good timing that I was able to see this movie after learning so much about Hungary’s history during pre- and post-Hitler times. The pictures below are some taken from my trip in Budapest. They depict how the Hungarian Jews had to flee immediately because of the evil that fell on their country, and the world.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, aka “Jackie,”has always fascinated me. She’s enigmatic. This recent film portrays the young widow’s perspective following the assassination of her husband on Nov. 22, 1963. The contrast of the shocking violence that unfolded against Jackie’s quiet demeanor reinforces the feeling of how painful it must be to endure such an unbelievable and unfair fate. For example, the charismatic and popular President John F. Kennedy’s brain matter splattered over Jackie’s lap is just one of the harrowing images showed in the film. The film’s focus on Jackie’s private moments in the first few days following the assassination gives us a new understanding that there was more behind her character than just a stylishly dressed woman, who appears stoic on TV. Natalie Portman plays Jackie’s character admirably, revealing the former first lady’s strength, intelligence, grace, and appreciation for history.
This book is the first of a series about an orphan who is raised and trained to be a lethal agent to handle covert missions for the U.S. government. After years of stealthily assassinating so-called dangerous people, our hero, Evan Smoak, starts to question if he’s really killing “the bad guys” and decides to leave the program. By doing so, he puts his handler, Jack Johns, into a precarious situation. An older man, turns out Johns is more than Smoak’s handler; he’s also the one who raised Smoak since childhood, growing fond of him along the way.
Smoak successfully escapes anyway and transforms himself into an undercover “fairy-tale godmother” by helping one desperate individual a year. Usually, the help involves ridding the bad forces that have made the individual’s life impossible. A bigger-than-life hero is what makes a thriller thrilling, and this story delivers such a character in spades. Prepare for all kinds of action and twists. The second book in the series is now available, The Nowhere Man, and I’m on it! (I just finished reading The Nowhere Man and it is even more action-packed than ever. Our hero finds himself close to being “no more man.”)
I must mention another book similar to this in many ways, and just as thrilling: Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri. For a full book review, read Bookidote. (This book is also the first of a new series.)
4/23/17: Subsequently, I’ve gone on to read more of Hurwitz’s books, as listed below.
Minutes to Burn
Don’t Look Back
The Crime Writer
Trust No One