Child 44 (The Child 44 Trilogy) by Tom Rob Smith

Child 44 (The Child 44 Trilogy) by Tom Rob Smith

First sentence…

Since Maria had decided to die her cat would have to fend for itself.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

1953.  Soviet Russia. Leo Demidov, a young decorated war hero, now an idealistic security officer, is beginning to see the hypocrisy of the Soviet government.  Because all are equal there will be no crime.  Murder, especially is a symptom of Western corruption.  Soviet murderers like all criminals must be mentally ill.

When Leo looks into the case of a boy supposedly killed when struck by a train, he discovers the boy may have been murdered by a serial killer of children.  Told to back off, Leo refuses and finds himself at odds with not only his fellow officers but higher ranking Soviet officials.  Soon enough Leo and his wife are under investigation and from there the book really takes off.

To say more would deprive the reader of a great ride.  Child 44 has more twists and turns than any book in recent memory.  Tom Rob Smith has created a page turner that shocks, surprises and thrills.  I loved every page of it and look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

 

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Better Dead: A Nathan Heller Thriller by Max Allan Collins

Better Dead: A Nathan Heller Thriller by Max Allan Collins

Publisher: Mysterious Press

First sentence…

I was there when the Commies took over.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

 

Better Dead is actually two interconnected novellas.

In the first Nathan Heller is hired to find evidence to exonerate Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple sentenced to die for providing Russia with secret information on how to build nuclear bombs.  Senator Joe McCarthy, who is leading the hunt for American Commies, wants Heller to serve as a double agent and provide him with whatever information Heller learns about the Rosenbergs.  Before long Heller is on the wrong side of government agents and gangsters and a possible death sentence of his own.

In the second story, Heller learns about government-funded mind control experiments on unknowing subjects from a scientist who has a change of heart.  When the scientist turns up missing, Heller knows that he’s next up unless he can figure a way out.

I’m a huge fan of Max Allan Collins’ Nate Heller series.  Heller is a fictional detective who finds himself in the middle of real crimes.  Heller ages as the series progresses and fiction is mixed with extensive research and historical fact.  It’s fun watching Heller interact with famous (and infamous) folks right out of our history books.  Equally enjoyable is Collins’ take on the crimes and what may have really happened (if it is not as we’ve been taught).

In Better Dead Heller interacts with Joe McCarthy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Roy Cohen, Bettie Page, Bobby Kennedy and others.  I also like that Heller in these outings is a bit more hardboiled.  Perhaps it’s the decade.

Better Dead is another great addition to the Nate Heller legacy.  I’m hoping for more!

Rating:

Rabid (1977)

Rabid (1977)

Director: David Cronenberg

Screenplay: David Cronenberg

Stars: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore and Joe Silver

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make a low-budget horror movie!”

Tagline: You can’t trust your mother…your best friend…your neighbor next door…

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

In an effort to save Rose [Chambers], the victim of a motorcycle crash, a doctor performs experimental plastic surgery. Rose recovers with a taste for blood and her victims become zombies.

If you can survive the micro budget, bad acting and silly story then you might enjoy Rabid.

Rating:

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Director: Howard Hawks

Screenplay: Dudley Nichols & Hagar Wilde from a story by Hagar Wilde

Stars: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Charles Ruggles

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make a screwball romantic comedy!”

Tagline: And so begins the hilarious adventure of Professor David Huxley and Miss Susan Vance, a flutter-brained vixen with love in her heart!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

From the moment Susan [Hepburn] meets David Huxley [Grant], a mild mannered zoologist who is about to be married, she falls for him.   Hoping the opposites attract, the crazy, fun-loving Susan tricks David into a road trip.

Bringing Up Baby reminded me of an extended episode of I Love Lucy and that’s a good thing.

 

Rating:

Captain Blood (1935)

Captain Blood (1935)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Screenplay: Casey Robinson

Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill and Basil Rathbone

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make a swashbuckler!”

Tagline: THE MOST MAGNIFICENT & THRILLING SEA ADVENTURE EVER FILMED

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

After unjustly condemned to slavery for being a traitor against England, Dr. Peter Blood [Flynn] escapes and becomes a infamous pirate.

Most folks like this much better than me so be aware your mileage may vary greatly.

Rating:

Gilda (1946)

Gilda (1946)

Director: Charles Vidor

Screenplay: Marion Parsonnet and Ben Hecht (uncredited)

Stars: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford and George Macready

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make a Rita Hayworth movie!”

Tagline: There NEVER was a woman like Gilda!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Johnny Farrell [Ford] befriends the shady owner of an Argentine casino and quickly works his way to being the boss’ right-hand man.  Things are going swell until the boss returns from a short trip with a wife.  It turns out that the boss’ new bride had a prior relationship with Johnny… and they still have strong feelings for each other.

 

 

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Forbidden Planet (1956)

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Director: Fred McLeod Wilcox

Screenplay: Cyril Hume based on a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler

Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, James Drury, Gavin Macleod and Robby the Robot.


The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make a big budget sci-fi film!”

Tagline: IT’S OUT OF THIS WORLD!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

An interplanetary crew sent to a distant planet to discover what happened to the colony set up there years ago, are contacted as they enter the planet’s atmosphere and told to stay away.  Upon landing they meet the two remaining colony survivors, a doctor and his daughter — the rest were killed by a giant monster.

As the ship’s commander digs deeper he becomes aware that all is not as it seems.  He doubts the doctor’s story until the monster kills some of his crew.  Then he learns that the doctor is hiding even more information and things go really bad.

Forbidden Planet is a lot of fun.  I absolutely loved it as a kid and it still holds up pretty well.

Rating:

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Director: Chad Stahelski

Screenplay: Derek Kolstad

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan and David Patrick Kelly.


The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make a sequel!”

Tagline: None

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

John Wick [Reeves] is still grieving the death of his wife when Santino D’Antonio shows up. D’Antonio expects Wick to fulfill a blood oath made when Wick was still in the business.  Wick plans to complete the hit and once again leave the life.  Instead Wick learns that D’Antonio has placed an open contract on him!

If you liked John Wick, you’ll dig Chapter 2.  Bring on Chapter 3!

Rating:

John Wick (2014)

John Wick (2014)

Director: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch (uncredited)

Screenplay: Derek Kolstad

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Keith Jardine and Kevin Nash.


The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make an action movie that takes it to the next level!”

Tagline: Don’t Set Him Off!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

John Wick [Reeves] is grieving the death of his wife.  A chance meeting with Iosef Tarasov, the privileged son of a Russian mobster, leads to  Tarasov and some of his thugs breaking into Wick’s house, beating him badly, killing his dog and stealing his prized vintage Mustang.

Tarasov learns way to late that Wick is a legendary retired hit man.  And now Wick is coming for revenge.

Chad Stahelski, David Leitch, Derek Kolstad and Keanu Reeves have created a unique world that is just slightly different from the one we live in.  It feels real.  Each character has a backstory that is told without it feeling like backstory.  The action is amazing.  I loved this movie and want more!!

Rating:

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962)

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962)

Director: Vincente Minnelli

Screenplay: Robert Ardrey and John Gay based on the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez

Stars: Glenn Ford, Ingrid Thulin, Charles Boyer, Lee J. Cobb,  Yvette Mimieux and Paul Henreid.


The Pitch: “Hey, adapt the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez!”

Tagline: From Ibanez’ immortal classic, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents an unforgettable motion picture

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

As World War II rages, Julio [Ford] a playboy from Argentina is living in Paris.  Although not a fan of the Nazis, like his country, Julio is neutral… until he falls in love with a married woman [Thulin] whose French freedom-fighting husband is a prisoner of war.  Julio begs Marguerite to leave Paris before it is overrun by Germans, but she refuses.

The German take over Paris and Julio is not to surprised to learn that his cousin and uncle are high ranking Nazis.  When Julio discovers that Marguerite is a member of the French underground he knows that he will have to chose sides.

Vincent Minnelli has created a unique film.  I really enjoyed it but bet it won’t be for everyone.

Rating:

Action in the North Atlantic (1943)

Action in the North Atlantic (1943)

Director: Lloyd Bacon and Byron Haskin … (uncredited) and Raoul Walsh (uncredited)

Screenplay: John Howard Lawson

Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Alan Hale and Ruth Gordon.


The Pitch: “Hey, let’s put Bogie in a war picture to support the troops!”

Tagline: Warner Bros. thunderous story of the men of the merchant marine!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Survivors of an American transport ship sunk by a German sub and left lost at sea for nearly two weeks, decide to re-up on another ship joining an international convoy to take supplies to troops through waters patrolled by German sub wolf packs.  As luck would have it…

The opening scenes of the men dealing with their sinking ship is impressive!

Rating:

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Director: John Huston

Screenplay: Ben Maddow and John Huston from a novel by W.R. Burnett 

Stars: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, John McIntire, Marc Lawrence, Barry Kelley, Anthony Caruso and Marilyn Monroe.

The Pitch: “Hey, John Huston wants to make The Asphalt Jungle!”

Tagline: The City Under the City

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Ex-con,  “Doc” Riedenschneider (Jaffe) brings together a team for a $750,000 heist.  Even though the job goes sideways, they get away with the money.  Then the double-crosses start.

Marilyn Monroe has a bit part — she wasn’t even listed in movie poster credits on the film’s initial release — but she made such an impact future posters featured her prominently.  The Asphalt Jungle made Marilyn a star!

John Huston with another classic!

Rating:

Thinner (1996)

Thinner (1996)

Director: Tom Holland

Screenplay: Michael McDowell  and Tom Holland

Stars: Robert John Burke, Lucinda Jenney, Bethany Joy Lenz, Howard Erskine, Joe Mantegna and Stephen King.

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make a movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Thinner.”

Tagline: Let The Curse Fit The Crime.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When an obsese small town attorney accidentally runs over a gypsy woman, his friends (a judge and town cop) set things up to get him off without a charge.  The gypsy leader then places a curse on the three men that will leave them dead after suffering horribly.

My problem with Thinner is that there is no one to root for.  All of the leads are bad people. The lawyer, his wife, his friends — even the gypsies.   Also about three quarters in the film changes into an action/revenge movie with lots of shooting and blowing up things… but since you don’t know or care about the characters…

An somewhat interesting misfire…

Rating:

The Getaway (1972)

The Getaway (1972)

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Screenplay: Walter Hill

Stars: Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson, Sally Struthers, Al Lettieri, Slim Pickens, Dub Taylor, Jack Dodson and Bo Hopkins.

The Pitch: “Hey, Steve McQueen wants to star in an adaptation Jim Thompson’s The Getaway directed by Sam Peckinpah!”

Tagline: They’re Hot – McQueen/MacGraw

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

An ex-con (McQueen) and his wife are on the run after a bank robbery double-cross.

I saw this when I was 14 years old and it left an impression.  How could it not?  McQueen backed by a great cast, a Walter Hill adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel and directed by Sam Peckinpah!  It holds up.  If you like crime stories then this one is for you!

 

Rating:

In the Money (1958)

In the Money (1958)

Director: William Beaudine

Screenplay: Al Martin

Stars: Huntz Hall, Stanley Clements and Patricia Donahue

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make another Bowery Boys picture!”

Tagline: Nutnicks on the Loose in old London!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

Satch is hired to be a dog-sitter on a transatlantic cruise; but the reality is that he’s being used as a patsy to smuggle diamonds!

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