Friday, August 26, 2011


Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh (screenplay)


Brendan Gleeson ... Sergeant Gerry Boyle
Don Cheadle ... FBI agent Wendell Everett
Liam Cunningham ... Francis Sheehy
David Wilmot ... Liam O'Leary
Rory Keenan ... Garda Aidan McBride
Mark Strong ... Clive Cornell
Fionnula Flanagan ... Eileen Boyle
Dominique McElligott ... Aoife O'Carroll
Sarah Greene ... Sinead Mulligan
Katarina Cas ... Gabriela McBride
Pat Shortt ... Colum Hennessey
Darren Healy ... Jimmy Moody
Laurence Kinlan ... Photographer
Gary Lydon ... Garda Inspector Gerry Stanton

Rated: R

Gard Sergeant Gerry Boyle lives a more or less quiet life, caring for his dying mother, having a drink at the local, and occasionally hiring a pair of hookers for a wild night of debauchery. When an international drug smuggling ring hits his section of the Irish Coast, he's not particularly impressed by the FBI. Truth be told, the feeling's mutual.

This is definitely one of the oddest and funniest odd-couple cop pairing I have ever encountered. I don't recommend buying a drink in this film--not because you might have to take a break but you just don't want to have anything in your mouth for about half of the film or you might choke laughing, particularly if you enjoy British comedies such as Waking Ned Devine or The Full Monty. This is not a film for young children or those with delicate sensibilities. Violence is not a problem, but politically incorrect language and the occasional bit of sexual content is.

The Guard was money well-spent even at full price. The film was definitely a good ending for a long and over-tense week. I'm not sure I'll purchase the DVD, but I will definitely recommend that my friends who enjoy UK-based films give it a watch.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Bite Club--Rachel Caine

When you get into serial fiction, you really begin to bond with the characters. Author Rachel Caine established her heroine, Claire Danvers, as a sympathetic character from the beginning. She's been picked on by a gang of mean girls, nearly killed by some of the worst monsters around and yet she's somehow survived with her dreams and hope intact.

That's not easy in Morganville, Texas. This is a small town, which most passersby don't even notice. That's meant to be. You see, Morganville's run by vampires. When people joke about giving an arm and a leg to the taxman they aren't far wrong in Morganville. But you can keep the limbs -- the vamps just want your blood.

There's a new pair of vampires in town, Vasily and Gloriana. And, they've opened a gym, with the Founder's permission, of course. The human residents are going to learn self-defense. That sounds like a really good idea, only the gym is not what it seems. It's a cover for "Bite Club" a cage fighting pay-per-view program that pits vampires against regular mortals.

Shane Collins, Claire's boyfriend, is one of the first to sign up. He's had a lot of experience fighting vampires and he's more than willing to buff up and learn some more. When he gets offered enough money to get him and Claire out of Morganville, he's more than willing to sign up to fight on the show.

Of course, there's even more to the fighting than just the program. One of the Founder Amelie's old enemies is back in town. It's her father, Bishop, and he's ready to take back Morganville.

This is the first book where Shane's had a point of view. It's different to have an additional narrator after nine books, but Ms. Caine does a splendid job of articulating what this reader has always gathered from Shane's descriptions. He's a powerful addition to the Morganville narrators and one I'll miss if she ever chooses to silence him for whatever reason.

As always, Bite Club was a hard book to put down. Both character and action were strong. I personally was surprised to discover that cage fighting made me uncomfortable. It's not a topic I've read before, but the fights were handled well and not a huge part of the book.

With every series, I answer the question--can this book be the first book I read? The answer here is "Yes." Rachel Caine does a great job of integrating the backstory in without too many hitches. Fair warning: after I read the book, I'd probably want the first nine.

For your reference, here are the Morganville Vampire books in order:

Glass House
The Dead Girls Dance
Midnight Alley
Feast of Fools
Lord of Misrule
Carpe Corpus
Fade Out
Kiss of Death
Ghost Town
Bite Club

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel)


Emma Stone ... Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan
Viola Davis ... Aibileen Clark
Bryce Dallas Howard ... Hilly Holbrook
Octavia Spencer ... Minny Jackson
Jessica Chastain ... Celia Foote
Ahna O'Reilly ... Elizabeth Leefolt
Allison Janney ... Charlotte Phelan
Anna Camp ... Jolene French
Eleanor Henry ... Mae Mobley
Emma Henry ... Mae Mobley
Chris Lowell ... Stuart Whitworth
Cicely Tyson ... Constantine Jefferson
Mike Vogel ... Johnny Foote
Sissy Spacek ... Missus Walters
Brian Kerwin ... Robert Phelan

Rated: PG 13 (for language, racial expletive, and violence)

The Help is based upon the debut novel of Kathryn Stockett. Ms. Stockett is herself a Southerner and in part wrote the story about her own relationship with the family help.

Skeeter Phelan's just finished her degree in journalism at "Ole Miss" and she's back home with her parents trying to begin a new life. She's an outcast already among her society girls, because she didn't attend college with the strict goal of finding a husband. She's never even dated.

What Skeeter wants to do is be a writer, maybe histories, maybe a novelist. Despite her mother's concerns, she gets a job with the local paper doing the Aunt Myrna column.

Unfortunately, Skeeter doesn't know a thing about keeping house. So she asks her friend, Elizabeth if she can get help from her maid Aibileen with the questions people send in to Aunt Myrna. Aibileen's the perfect person to ask. She's been working as a domestic since she was fourteen, that's forty plus years and seventeen White babies she's raised. Aibileen's a good mama, a lot better than her employer, Elizabeth is. Every day, she teaches her charge, Mae Mobley, that she's a good and worthwhile person. That's one thing Elizabeth just does not have time to do.

Conversations between Skeeter and Aibileen begins innocently enough. Then Skeeter ups the stakes. She needs something to write about -- and what better topic than the relationship between Blacks and Whites in Jackson, Mississippi, 1963.

That kind of research in the Jim Crow South is like sitting on a powder keg and lighting matches. Nationally, Dr. Martin Luther King is preaching civil rights. Locally, Medgar Evers is encouraging the Blacks to get active. Blacks can't go to the White side of town after dark and Whites like Skeeter are suspect as agitators if they're seen in Black homes. Even researching the Mississippi laws relating to "nonwhites" is enough to get Skeeter in trouble if the wrong people find out.

Meanwhile, the "League", Skeeter's women's club, has started an initiative, the Home Health Safety Initiative, sponsored by Skeeter's friend, Hilly Holbrook. This initiative would require all homes that hired colored help to have separate bathrooms for Whites and Blacks.

As the story progresses, tensions heat up even further. The relationship between employer and employee in a lot of cases deteriorates. Participants in Skeeter's interviews wonder if it's going to be safe to go through with the project.

The Help is painfully real. It's the kind of movie every person who doesn't think racial relations matter should see. It's a harsh reminder of our past and a warning for what we could be if we ever become complacent and allow our civil conscience to slip. In my opinion, the White community in this film were a sad bunch sending money to starving children in Africa while their own servants hadn't a shot at a better life. They were cruel and thoughtless for the most part and treated people who'd raised them, their children, and cleaned up their messes with singular ingratitude.

I think the book and film came at an excellent time because of the increased racial tensions we're experiencing in the United States right now which science fiction author and physicist, David Brin, likens to the third civil war in this country.

My husband and I paid full price for The Help and it was worth every penny. I'm not sure that I will purchase the film, but I may well see it again. I'll definitely be recommending The Help to friends who teach history of the period because it contains powerful lessons about humanity and race.

The burning question all of you who read the book may want to ask is, was the film better than the book? I finished The Help in one sitting about six weeks ago and it's up there with To Kill a Mockingbird for me. One of my favorite scenes from the book is not in the film (maybe it'll end up in a director's cut). For me, most films do not quite live up to the written promise, but this one was very close. I could not have cast many of the characters better had I tried and some choices were far better to the people I saw in my head.


There are two sides to every story and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Black viewers' feelings on this film may be a whole lot different than mine. Here's an excellent review of the film from Black author, Valerie Boyd, who also teaches journalism at the University of Georgia.

Part of the sum-up for Ms. Boyd's review was:

"‎....Aibileen is now an unemployed maid, Skeeter is moving forward in her life of white privilege — and the filmmakers expect viewers to feel good about this."

My response is -- this depends on whether you're a glass half full - half empty kind of person. Every good film leaves something to the viewer's imagination. My hope was that Aibileen was going to go out and write the best-seller that was in her and set the world on fire. (And keep in mind, Aibileen had different connections with Minny working for the Foote family, so she may not be unemployed after all)

Minny had left that abusive man she was married to and her children were going to have a better shot at a decent life, particularly since she now worked for people who did appreciate her and realize the contribution she'd made to their lives.

Skeeter was going to see that Blacks could have a better/different life in New York. Yes, she was going to have a better job in New York, but she would use that position to start really working in the Civil Rights movement and make a true difference in race relations.

Mae Mobley (who would not have had a chance had it not been for Aibileen) was going to become a strong, competent woman who was different and better than her Mom.

Hilly was going to have a nervous breakdown and end up totally disempowered in Jackson society--she could never look at chocolate again without screaming.

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

COMMENTARY: Fail to the Chief

Today marks the thirty-seventh anniversary of President Richard Nixon's resignation. I originally watched this speech from my Aunt Marjie's living room in Colorado Springs with my Mom, my grandparents, Aunt Marjie and Uncle IJ.

I wasn't sure what to expect when we heard there'd be a special report. We didn't usually have the television on at Aunt Marjie and Uncle IJ's except for the news.

The sound of this announcement was ominous. President Nixon was going to be speaking to the nation. Trouble had been brewing over Watergate for the past two years. The first we'd heard of anything was in 1972--the break-in of the Democratic Headquarters during the previous presidential election campaign.

Then, we heard that more break-ins had happened at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. For those of you who don't know, Ellsberg was the Defense Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1972. Those papers incriminated a lot of politicians regarding the war in Vietnam.

For those of you who weren't even born yet, here's an excellent chronology of the events from The Washington Post.

I was angry sitting there in that little living room with that great big television set. I didn't support the Vietnam War and I wasn't happy with the direction our country had taken.

It was also the first time I'd felt betrayed by a politician. Yeah, I worked on Nixon's campaign in 1968. I was eleven and my best friend at the time had an aunt with the State Republican Headquarters in Oklahoma. There was free pizza, what can I say? Truthfully, Nixon would not cut it in Today's GOP. He wanted socialized medicine at one time.

We all knew Congress was gathering votes for an impeachment. I knew some of my family did not believe that Nixon himself was guilty. Nobody really knew what the President was going to say.

Here's what Nixon said.


I went outside to the garden to cheer. Yeah, finally. We could stop hearing about the impeachment and move on to have a trial. That would answer the questions about Watergate for good. Nixon would get whatever he deserved. Justice would be served.

Yeah, right. A month later on Sunday morning, Gerald Ford pardoned his former boss. His thoughts on the matter: "It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must."

A lot of people said that the country needed to move on after two years of trauma over the Watergate incidents. A lot more people were angry and believed that Ford sold out to Nixon on a pardon deal. Ultimately, even Ford admitted that the decision to pardon Nixon cost him the election to Jimmy Carter.

My husband Tony, who was of the first camp, argued with me about this for literally years. I think he finally gave up when evidence continued to mount post mortem that Nixon was guilty. The fact that I am still tenacious as a bulldog about the argument surely has nothing to do with it.

But, I wonder. If Richard M. Nixon had gotten his just desserts, would those following him to office have been so free with their illegal activities? Think of the Presidential scandals since: Iran Contra under Bush I, Monica Lewinsky under Clinton, and finally "W" with the lies that began the Iraq War.

Admittedly, Nixon would have been in a White Collar facility, but wouldn't his presence there have quelled some of the megalomania that engendered the above incidents? And wouldn't his presence in jail mean to the American people that justice does get served to both the high and the low?

We're never going to know that. But I personally believe that knowing there are consequences to your illegal actions and seeing someone has gotten those consequences served up to them fairly is a good deterrent.

What I didn't know until today was that Gerald Ford carried a piece of paper around in his wallet listing the US Supreme Court decision Burdick v. United States, which stated that the acceptance of a pardon indicated the presumption of guilt.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills

Ewan McGregor -- Oliver
Christopher Plummer -- Hal
Mélanie Laurent -- Anna
Goran Visnjic -- Andy
Kai Lennox -- Elliot
Mary Page Keller -- Georgia
Keegan Boos -- Young Oliver

Rated: R

What do you do when your Mom dies and your Dad announces he's gay?

If you're Oliver, you do your best to keep up. But your Dad's making up for forty years of lost time in the closet. That's not going to be easy to handle, particularly when you are still trying to reconcile the truth with your memories of the past. Worse, his father's got cancer and is in denial about how much time he has left.

Oliver's also struggling with his own life. Unlike his parents, he's having serious commitment issues. When a French actress with similar problems appears on the scene, he wants to try love again.

Beginners is a huge bite from a slice of life that's a mix of bittersweet and the pain you get when you've accidentally chomped down on a piece of tinfoil. All of us know our parents aren't quite truthful and most of us really don't want to think of what happens behind the bedroom doors. It's particularly rough when Hal is doing his darnedest just to conform in a world that has not accepted him. This is a heartbreaking story and one far too common in a society that remorseless demands conformity.

The story's told in a series of flash-backs that give us a clue about both Oliver and Hal's younger lives. Kudos to casting and Keegan Boos who has done a commendable job as young Oliver.

The film was definitely worth the matinee price I paid. I doubt I would see Beginners again; however, I would strongly recommend it to anyone who's interested in strong, real-life drama that's well-acted all around.

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Page One: Inside the New York Times

Director: Andrew Rossi
Writers: Kate Novack, Andrew Rossi
Stars: David Carr, Carl Bernstein and Bruce Headlam
Rated: R

People talk about freedom of information, but information really isn't free. Someone's got to pay for the gathering of that information, producing the information into stories that your Grandma can understand, formatting the stories for print or the web, publishing that information.

Over the past forty years, we've had a revolution in the transfer of information. Back in 1971, when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, it took him several months to get these documents to the various press outlets. He had to deal with the cost of copying, then mailing the documents around to the chosen outlets. After the New York Times received those documents, their reporting staff had to verify the information contained within them as bad they could.

Last year, when Julian Assange of Wikileaks released even more information about governments, diplomats, etc, the release of the information was nearly instant. All the material was digital and could be sent to the New York Times via computer. The only delay in reporting this information came from the paper's staff doing the best they could to censor so they could protect people in sensitive positions.

Originally, advertisements paid for the all the preparation of news materials. Now many Internet sites such as Monsterboard, Edmonds, and direct retailer sites have thinned down the ads even in the Sunday editions.

So, are newspapers dead? The staff of the New York Times explores this thesis in a fascinating documentary that's well worth a watch for anyone who's intrigued by media. On-the-street reporter, David Carr, took the lead in this story. Carr's a middle-aged man who's a former cocaine addict and single parent on Welfare. He also managed to defy the odds by getting his job at the Times at 52, when most reporters are burned out.

Filming of Page One began before any one of the paper's staff knew that there would be massive layoffs. The film covered this event in heartbreaking detail. What they reveal about the newspaper business is fascinating and still very newsworthy.

I am not a fan of most documentaries, but I'd be glad to see Front Page again. The information presented was done in a compelling manner and the cast kept me watching.

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Where Things Come Back -- John Corey Whaley

Thanks to Charlaine Harris and the duo of Cami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Creatures) the modern Southern Gothic novels are going to have a nice bit of space on our bookshelves.

John Corey Whaley's debut novel Where Things Come Back is an excellent addition to this tradition. While the story occurs in Arkansas, Charlaine Harris's neck of the woods, there's still the element of the slow boil, religious element, and strong family that you often see in Southern stories.

About the only feature Lily, Arkansas has in abundance is trees. So seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks. Everything changes when a reclusive ornithologist named Dr. John Barling comes to town and discovers the long-dead Lazarus woodpecker living in those trees.

Next thing you know, the name "Lazarus" is applied to everything in Lily from burgers to a carnival. And Cullen's praying that the Lazarus miracle will happen for his missing brother, Gabriel, who looks eerily like him, but Cullen believes is the better person.

Cullen's life is having a carnival ride life, experiencing love for the first time while seeing his own family deteriorate over the loss of two young men. The story's dark and yet has that odd Arkansas humor that creeps up and makes you laugh at odd moments.

Where Things Come Back reminds me somewhat of Stand by Me probably because the story begins with Cullen and his family viewing the body of his cousin, Oslo, who died due to drugs. It's a grisly beginning and the inevitable end for a young man who wasted his chance. But there's also the bonding of friends and family evidenced by Cullen's brotherly love for Gabriel and his friendship with Lucas Cader, who keeps him going through the roughest times.

This book is for the sophisticated young adult reader who's a bit tougher, with a bit of a dark sense of humor, and can appreciate the nuances of a textured life. There's some strong language and adult content within the pages. In my opinion, the content is probably not worse than many kids younger than Cullen's seventeen years have experienced from the media.

My one issue with the book is that I really wish the chapters had been dated. I found myself having to stop and sort out timelines for myself while I was reading. In the end, I would still strongly suggest Where Things Come Back to the audience I listed above. I actually wish I could have read the story when I was Cullen's age.

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

COMMENTARY: Someone's going to get hurt

Yesterday, a meme went around Facebook that I found intriguing. I don't like memes much. I see a whole line of the same thing copied and pasted and my brain just turns off. Maybe it's the "color outside the lines" part of my personality, but if I like the idea I'll try to re-write the meme and post it in my own words.

This was one time where I didn't follow my rule. The experience provided an interesting issue for me.

I copied the following meme and posted it on my wall listing the names of my Top Five friends.

Say you were a serial killer. What would your facebook friends do? Here are the rules: Go to your profile and look at your friends on the left.

1 turns you in:
2 knows but doesn't tell anyone:
3 is your partner in crime:
4 is your first victim:
5 tries to kill you:

#4 was a huge ouch. I nearly stopped there because the first victim was a very dear friend and the mother of three boys. But it was all a joke.

Everyone was taking the post as a joke until I had a question from a friend I do not know very well: "Becky, not for nothing, but has anyone you know ever been killed for sport?"

I replied I had not and I hoped I never did.

His answer: "Then can you imagine how this thread might appear to people who HAVE known such a murder victim?"

Well, that chilled me to the bone. One thing I do have is an overabundance of imagination and that question gave me chills, causing me to recall Deliverance and The Most Dangerous Game right off the top of my head.

I promptly apologized and removed the thread. But, that got me thinking. What do friends and families of murder victims think of mystery novels that are similar to what happened to them?

I've come to dislike the mystery authors who are working in a certain profession, such as detective, lawyer, etc. and write stories based "loosely" on the cases they've worked. That's always felt too close to the bone, like they're taking advantage of their experiences. Well, and what they're writing can hardly be called fiction, can it when the character's just a thin veil over themselves?

I've purposely made my stories up not based on anything I've encountered in my research, but you know how stories are. Art imitates life. Sooner or later, there's going to be someone like my killer or victims that others can relate to.

I comfort myself by the fact that this is just fiction. Some of the greatest most inspiring tales have come from the suffering of fictional characters. Heck, you really cannot tell a good, page turner without making your Main Character suffer. As super agent Donald Maass says: "As authors we like our protagonists. We are tempted to protect them from trouble. That temptation must be resisted." For the sake of the reader and our own story, we've got to stir the pot even if it means our 'babies' suffer in the process. “If there is one single principle that is central to making any story more powerful, it is simply this: Raise the stakes.”

The most reader suffering I'd ever considered was my occasional twisted reasoning and sentence structure. Okay, I hoped they would empathize with my characters, but never to the point of PTSD type memories.

I know I cannot control another person's reaction to my work, but I still have questions. I guess the big ones are these:

Should fiction writers avoid rehashing 'real' stories? True, there is nothing new under the sun, but is it a good idea to take a real case and mash it up for your story?

What would you do if some real criminal copied your fictional character's actions?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Ghost Story -- Jim Butcher

Last year, Jim Butcher left Harry Dresden fans with the mother of all cliffhangers. Our favorite wizard, Harry Dresden, was critically wounded by a gunshot, bleeding copiously, and falling into the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan. This ending was worse than the infamous Dallas cliffhanger because readers cared deeply about Harry Dresden.

Ghost Story, the thirteenth Dresden Files book, opens with ghostly Harry in an alternate version of Chicago. He's given a choice: to move on or to return as a ghost and solve his murder. Of course, there's a catch. If he doesn't solve his murder, at least three people he cares about will be badly hurt.

Knowing Harry as we all do, this really isn't much of a choice. When people he loves are at risk, he'll do whatever it takes to make sure they're safe. In the last novel, Changes, he risked many of his friends' lives, sacrificed the woman he once loved, and killed an entire race of evil vampires just to keep his daughter, Maggie, from being sacrificed. Now it's time to see the consequences.

When Harry returns to this world, he realizes those choices have changed Chicago in ways he'd never have imagined. It's May and the city's locked in a monstrous blizzard. But there's more, Karrin Murphy, who still does not believe Harry is dead is forced into a mutual-aid agreement with crime-boss Marcone to prevent a new evil, the Fomor, from taking over, the Grey Ghost is wandering the streets, and the Corpsetaker is back.

Many of Harry's old allies are almost unrecognizable. Molly Carpenter, his Padawan-wizard, is now a vigilante who people on both sides fear. Dr. Butters, the ME who figured out vampires were real, is back and he's got a new sidekick. Karrin's hard-edged with grief over losing him just as the two of them were about to discover each other.

New characters are coming into the fore. "Fitz" an Oliver-Twist type young man with magical powers and his gang to be rescued from an evil sorcerer. An interesting name choice, since "Fitz" means illegitimate child.

Ghost Story isn't entirely classic Harry Dresden. Harry's engaged in a lot more introspection than the usual fast and furious action. Butcher manages to make those thought processes real to the reader so we get to see some dimensions to the character that have heretofore been masked in movement.

What sets Jim Butcher apart from many of his contemporaries in urban fantasy is that his characters do develop and change over time. Butcher's worked diligently through the years to build a coherent and believable world. Actions have their consequences and there's no better example than what we are reading in this portion of the series.Ghost Story provides an excellent bridge between his earlier work and what will follow.

I can't honestly say it is possible to pick up this thirteenth book without at least having read Changes. I'd suggest you start from the beginning and read all the Dresden Files books. They're well worth the effort:

1. Storm Front
2. Fool Moon
3. Grave Peril
4. Summer Knight
5. Death Masks
6. Blood Rites
7. Dead Beat
8. Proven Guilty
9. White Knight
10. Small Favor
11. Turncoat
12. Changes

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011