10 September 2016

Detective Story, starring Kirk Douglas - A Movie Review

Detective Story is an hour and forty-three minute film noir and police procedural released in 1951 starring Kirk Douglas that was adapted from the play by the same name by Sidney Kingsley. Set during one eight-hour shift entirely in a New York City precinct, the story centers around one detective and the random and oftentimes unruly characters that are arrested in that timeframe.

Kirk Douglas stars as Detective James McLeod, an officer of the law who grants no wiggle room and never lives in the gray area; it is either against the law or it is not. A man of complete principle with his beautiful new wife, McLeod is at the top of his game in all areas, and one shift isn't going to get in his way, no matter what happens.

But along the way in that one shift, life dramatically  and surprisingly changes, for all characters. It's about a solid 55 minutes before the quiet pace picks up and you start to see which direction the story will take, how the characters develop and become more than surface of the stereotypical cops, criminals and 1950s housewives, but it's a movement which is sensible and clearly defined, one that matches the personality and vision of the main character and overall story. There is the young woman who is nabbed for lifting a pocketbook from a department store, the young businessman who embezzles, and you can't be a police story in New York without an arrest of a low-life mobster, Charlie Gennini. Combined with the gruff cops, everyone is just trying to get by on this steamy hot day in the city.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this somewhat dark and quiet story. You can tell it was based on a play, as the majority of the scenes take place in one setting of the police precinct. The clever twists provided a scandalous feel and I can only imagine what it must have been like when first released. I recommend this film, but would remind you that it's slow-going for almost an hour before it kicks into gear.

Favorite Quote: When McLeod's partner tells him, "You've gotta bend with the wind - or break. Don't be such a monument." I love this quote.

Favorite Takeaway: Russell Evans is an African-American patrol officer who is in charge of managing the mob man. His character is dignified and key to the precinct and, honestly, it's pretty cool to see an early film with an African-American actor as a police officer. Like the blogger at Film Noir of the Week mentioned, I also really can't think of any other movies during that time that not only have a minority actor play a fairly decent-sized role in a movie, but also never once have anyone make a comment on race. It is refreshing, especially for that time. 

I'm participating in the RIP Challenge, which is in its eleventh year. Click here for my original post, and definitely click here to visit Stainless Steel Droppings' site for more details.


04 September 2016

Based on Charlotte Armstrong's 1951 novel, Mischief, "Don't Bother to Knock" was filmed shortly after publication. On a whim, I selected it based off the below description on Netflix and sat in wonder for the short 80-some minutes, musing about the sadness of Marilyn Monroe's life, that the legacy she left was so very different than who she was and who she likely would have become, if only she could have scraped herself out of the hole of being typecast as the very dumb, but very sexy, blonde stereotype.

The synopsis from Netflix is:
On the rebound after a break-up, Jed meets gorgeous Nell, but soon discovers that she harbors a dark past and is dangerously unstable.
The movie showcases Marilyn Monroe's brilliant acting talent, playing the part of Nell, a tortured young woman with a terrible secret which alters her judgment when she's asked to babysit a young girl in a hotel. The movie takes place entirely in the hotel, giving it an ominous and weighted air of claustrophobia. Shortly after meeting this man who recently was dumped, Nell begins to spiral downward as she tries to maintain a stable image for him. But with frequent interruptions from the young girl, or Nell's uncle (the hotel elevator operator), and more, Marilyn Monroe successfully delivers moments purely disturbing and unsettling, likely to have been viewed as scandalous in 1952. The performance sadly seems to have been forgotten and overshadowed when movies like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "How to Marry a Millionaire," and "The Seven-Year Itch" were released.

I seriously want everyone to see this movie. I disagree heartily with Bosley Crowther's review in the New York Times in 1952. It almost feels as though the expectation was that the movie was to be a comedy of some sort, and when it clearly was quite the opposite, reviews settled on it being a ridiculous film with subpar acting. How disappointing it must have been for Marilyn Monroe to read these reviews at the time. Had she lived just a little bit longer, she would have read many more reviews from those not swayed by sensuality, or expecting more of it, and found that there was much more appreciation for her work in later years. I mourn for the passing of a Hollywood legend who would never be able to achieve the true acting stardom that she sought, one that was never based on her sexuality.

You're in for a real treat with this movie, and most especially if you're looking for something to watch in order to take part in the RIP Challenge this year. It's available on Netflix, and I highly recommend it. 

Leading cast: Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Bancroft
Director: Roy Ward Baker

Side Note
It's clear by the posters above just how the movie studios banked so much on Marilyn Monroe's sexuality - never once does she appear this sensual in the film, and never once did she wear the red corset top in the first photo above. In fact, she's got little make-up on, and when she does dress up, she chooses a dress and jewelry that might have been more glamorous if the film were in color, but in black-and-white, it simply comes across muted and understated, allowing her acting to shine through, unblemished and unspoiled by the typically expected, lusted-after response.

This is what she looks like when she first graces the screen. Hardly what you'd imagine for the Marilyn Monroe icon, dressed in an unflattering dress, coming across as prison-attire of the day. She looks slight and quiet, unthreatening, and innocent.
During this movie, there were moments when I held my breath, wondering what this character was going to do next. Nell's eventual breakdown was easy to believe, and as the movie closed out, all I could think was (for the millionth time when I think of this actress), "she was a brilliant woman and everyone just thought she was some stupid girl." How terribly sad.

So if you were unaware, Marilyn Monroe was so much more than the infamous "flying skirt" photo of her and sexy body pin-up girl. Instead, remember that this was the woman who read incredibly difficult novels for fun and for her own education. Marilyn Monroe was a talented actress who had so much left to offer in her legacy, and we, as the audience, sadly never got a chance to witness more from her. It truly is our loss.

I'm participating in the RIP Challenge, which is in its eleventh year. Click here for my original post, and definitely click here to visit Stainless Steel Droppings' site for more details.


01 September 2016

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI

Oh, my wonderful book blogging and reading community, it is that time of year again. Pumpkin spice FOR LIFE. And one of the most eagerly anticipated online reading celebrations now begins!

I know, I know. Horrible, inconsistent blogging is my usual description over the past few years, but in my defense, there was quite a bit of personal craziness happening that is now officially in my rear view mirror! I appreciate everyone's support during that battle and now that all is well, I am loving life even more by spending every minute with my son, my husband, my work, my journal, my dreams, and of course, my books! And while I may be inconsistent with reading and blogging, this is the one event that is just different, one that always pulls me back in to this wonderful community of readers. In my six years of blogging I have always participated in one way or another. This is one that just can't be missed.

For those who are new to this reading celebration, Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings celebrates the coming of the autumn season, Halloween, and all things that go bump in the night by hosting the RIP (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) Challenge. Of course, a challenge it is not; instead, it's more like a literary festival of all things scary. For me, it more officially marks the change in seasons, and is just so much fun. Hot cocoa, the changing of the colors, shorter days, and darker nights are now beginning.

Fun fact
This year is the eleventh year for this event! ELEVEN.

All you have to do is take a look at the below links and just have fun. That's it!
  • Carl's overview
  • The review site
  • R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI takes place from September 1st, 2016 through October 31st, 2016. 
Reading and film subject matters would fall into some form of the following areas:
  • Mystery
  • Suspense
  • Thriller
  • Gothic
  • Horror
  • Dark Fantasy
There are only two expectations if you want to participate with us:
  • Have fun reading (and watching*).
  • Share that fun with others.
I will try to read at least one book and I will most definitely be bingewatching all the scary movies. A new level has just been created which is called Peril in Play, and that is definitely piquing my interest...

Fun Fact
Carl's been working with illustrator Abigail Larson and she is the creative designer of the banners and buttons for this event over the years. She recently won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist at the 74th WorldCon which was held in Kansas City, Missouri. Wha?? How cool is that?

What books do you plan to read to get into the autumn mood?


23 May 2016

When Domestic Abuse Hits Close to Home

If you live in New England, you may have already heard the stories. It's all over Facebook and on the local news. My husband's family, my family, has been touched by domestic violence.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that: 
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.
I hesitated to post anything. I wasn't planning on writing a word because I honestly didn't know if I could put into words what happened to my husband's cousin without crying. I didn't know if it was my "place" to write about it, to talk about it on social media. I was nervous that I wouldn't write it just the right way. But then I reminded myself that two young and very strong women didn't question themselves on whether or not they should be speaking about it. They reminded me through their actions that domestic abuse ALWAYS needs to be talked about and educated to all victims that they are NEVER at fault. After all, if we do nothing, if we don't try to teach each other, don't the abusers win?

My husband's cousin, Gina, is a beautiful, funny, smart, loyal, and sweet woman in Boston. She is a hair and make-up artist and is damn good at it. But just eight days ago, something happened. Something absolutely horrific.

When it happened, Gina's cousin Jen took immediate and consistent action. She posted a before-and-after photo of Gina on Facebook and it went viral. It's been searched over 62,000 times on Facebook, shared more than 4,000 times, and countless articles and news stories have been printed and broadcasted in just six days.

So what was it? What happened?
Gina was brutally assaulted in the early hours of Sunday morning, May 15, 2016 by her boyfriend. She was choked so badly and then so violently beaten with MMA-trained punches that he broke her eye socket and teeth.

Gina, the beautiful, sweet, smart, funny, tough and impressionable thirteen-year-old kid who I first met years ago on a bright and clear day on my father-in-law's boat in Boston Harbor, became the twenty-five-year-old adult victim of violent domestic abuse. It is unimaginable. The links below can provide you much more detail, including the "after" picture.

How could this have happened?
Only a few hours before, Gina was out with her friends to celebrate her birthday, but on their way home, when it was just the two of them together, they got into an argument. He choked Gina while she was driving, until she passed out and the car crashed. When she woke up, she was being punched in the face over and over again. She couldn't get away. When we saw the pictures, my husband and I were heartbroken. We felt angry. Helpless. My husband was devastated that he wasn't somehow there to protect his cousin. He, like everyone in the family and our friends, are numb with the shock of this terrifying moment. We still cannot believe this happened.

But then, I got so proud again. Of Jen, for doing something hard and taking action. For Gina, who so compassionately posted only days later that the issue is with this man, and not to seek revenge on his family, or threaten them in any way. For Gina to talk about it, to be public about it and who is already helping other victims. I am so impressed. These two cousin, these friends, are my new heroes.

Many times, domestic abuse is silent. You don't know who might be suffering from it. One of your Facebook friends is likely a victim of domestic abuse and you probably wouldn't know. Whenever a tragedy like this happens, we always say that we should be talking about it more. Let's please try. Please teach your children awareness, how to manage anger and conflict, frustration, and disappointment. If you're not sure, search out the answers. Stop yourself before you raise your hand. Stop to think. Stop to control yourself.

If you are, or know of someone who is, a victim of domestic abuse, please reach out. Say something. And if you're a victim of it, please remember that you have to protect yourself, but most importantly, you are NEVER responsible for helping the abuser to get better.

The criminal is behind bars, pending his next court date today, Monday, May 23, 2016. He's been arrested for doing this before to another girlfriend. He is not named in this post, and no need to. I'd rather put the spotlight on heroes like Gina and Jen.


05 March 2016

As many of you already know, I have been a fan of The X-Files since I was in college twenty-some years ago and I was one of many who excitedly watched when the series first premiered. I was heartbroken when the series concluded, and then ecstatic when the series returned for six episodes earlier this year after almost fifteen years since an original episode was filmed, and eight years since the last film. Suffice it to say that THERE BETTER BE MORE episodes.

I decided to give Gillian Anderson's EarthEnd Saga trilogy a try, especially since her voice is so distinct and frankly, I wanted to extend the series just a little bit more. I was expecting something that was a little X-File-ish, with a brainy twist, and that's exactly what I got. I'm not certain how much of this story is hers, or her co-author, but I'm going with the thought that Anderson had the concept, the idea, and the story is all hers, and Jeff Rovin helped her map it out and clean it up. That works for me.

I won't lie that I was a little surprised that the story was as interesting as it was. When a famous child psychologist is asked to help the young daughter of India's Ambassador to the UN, who begins to start speaking in tongues, I was immediately drawn in. Caitlin O'Hara does everything she can for Maanik, but it soon becomes evident that there is a larger crisis, one that connects people from all around the world in life-threatening situations. Caitlin has to track down the link, leaving her son behind with her father to find out what's happening. Caitlin was a character that I respected and liked, but it was her relationship to her hearing-challenged son that won it over for me. I loved how Anderson voiced Caitlin, and the description of the signing communication between them both was so very sweet and full of heart. There was something special there that extended beyond the actual story.

This was a good story, an adventure with a twisty road full of otherworldly moments and goosebump-inducing scenes. I'm looking forward to the second installment in the saga, and especially the audio version.

To listen to a sample of the audiobook, please click here.

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this book through my membership at Audible.com 

About the Author and Narrator
Gillian Anderson is an American actress, most notably for her work in The X-Files, Hannibal, The Fall, and one of my favorites, the film adaptation of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth

Jeff Rovin is an American magazine editor and freelance writer who has been on the New York Times Bestseller List, and has co-authored and authored more than twenty books.


25 January 2016

The Quick, by Lauren Owen

Many moons ago (er, last fall)... I signed up for the always fun annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) Challenge. The selected book for the readalong was The Quick by Lauren Owen and since I typically am amazing at signing up for challenges, but horrible in completing them, I surprised myself when I started the book and then COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I did succeed in my usual pattern, however, by inadvertently forgetting to post a final review about it, so my apologies to the wonderful Estella Society. I will do much better this year! (I've gotten into a bad habit of not posting as frequently as I used to because of the events in this post; but Thank God, I am all good now.)

I chose to participate in this group read because of one important detail that was included in the intro. "For fans of The Historian and The Night Circus." Yep, I was in. Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian will always be one of my favorite books, and I've read it twice in the past ten years, even hosting a group readalong at On the Ledge Readalongs. The Historian was such a visual experience, incorporating overseas locations and unique meals with an unnamed narrator, that it launched my own interest in researching and posting pictures relevant to the pages our group read together. That was a ride of an adventure that I am always looking to replicate with another story.

Since it's been a few months since I read it, I'm opting to go with the below Goodreads synopsis so I don't miss out on anything, or give away too much.
London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.
While The Quick was much more action-packed than The Historian, the setting and the atmosphere, was equally intense, creating an eerie and contemplative feel that I so appreciate in Victorian/Gothic tales. I loved it. The characters and overall quest fit snugly into the category of Victorian horror and Owen's debut creatively demonstrates the challenge of combining present events with the epistolary genre of letters and diary entries into a distinctly peculiar and thoughtful story of unexpected love, loyalty, and of course, vampires. This was an absolutely fantastic story. The key to it are the characters, who fit a range of the unexpected and curiously hopeful, banded together for the ultimate goal. This is a wonderful story filled with secrets and turns, and one that is perfect for you to put on the list of creepy tales to keep close on cold winter nights. I'm eagerly awaiting the next work from Lauren Owen.

Just as a side note: The Quick was also ranked as one of the best books of the year by Slate.

Here's the original button that The Estella Society created. My apologies to them again that I didn't participate like I intended! But, I did read the book, loved it and will try much harder for the next RIP Challenge!

About the Author (from Goodreads)
Lauren Owen studied English Literature at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2009 Curtis Brown prize for the best fiction dissertation. The Quick is her first novel. She lives in Durham, England.

Visit the author:


24 January 2016

The X-Files Returns. Tonight.

If you know me even a little bit, you'll know that I am an X-File fan, and have been since I was in college many moons ago. I can't imagine a year going by without watching at least one episode of partners Mulder and Scully, aided by the ever-dependable yet conflicted and awesome Assistant Director Skinner, take on the dark side of monsters and aliens to uncover the truth. Over the past few months, I took a trip down memory lane with each episode of the nine seasons through Netflix, catching up just in time to hunker down with the cold weather and watch the first new episode in sixteen years to premiere tonight. Has it really been that long?

The magic that was this show just doesn't seem to be captured in any other series that walks the line of the spooky and mythical. Even shows like "Fringe," or "Lost," both of which I completely enjoyed, still can't quite match the exact fervor, intensity and cult-like fandom that The X-Files produced. Having watched many shows of the same genre, and over the past few years especially, and then by binge-watching all nine seasons of The X-Files reminded me of just that. There's just nothing like science-fiction, or fantasy fiction, or paranormal fiction, like The X-Files created.

While I'm a complete Mulder and Scully fan, I'm still sad they couldn't extend the show a few more years with Agents Doggett and Reyes. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish really did those roles justice, without taking away anything from the original cast. They were honest to their own characters, finding the humility and goodness of their torn pasts to piece it together with each other, in a somewhat similar "maybe they'll get together" kind of hint to the fans.

Tonight will mark the show's return in a "hit-making" way, according to online rumors, but especially as even stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have admitted needed to be done, because of the way the 2008 film didn't seem to fit with the overall flow and spirit of the show. This is expected to be an incredible two-night premiere (tonight and tomorrow) for the show's return to the small screen. I'm one of the millions of thrilled fans who will be watching and falling in love with the show all over again. I'm hoping that it will spark many returns for as long as it can last.

Are you watching tonight? I'm planning to live tweet, but I don't want to be distracted too much from tweeting to not focus on the show. Throughout the day today, I just couldn't sit still, so I even made (or, tried to make) a cake in honor of tonight's festivities. Don't laugh.


15 January 2016

The Fold, by Peter Clines (Audio Review)

Nothing says "get swept up in a completely awesome and outrageous (and oftentimes hilarious) sci-fi story" like when you start any Peter Clines' novel, and The Fold is no different. I spent every single second I could listening to this book and within a day and a half over one weekend, I was finished.

Mike is just a regular high school teacher. Please keep it that way. Don't get into his life and rummage around in it and then get him wrapped up in some sort of drama he wants no part of. Just don't. He likes things the way they are, and that's just how it is.

When an old buddy of Mike's pulls him into a DARPA secret time travel government project called The Albuquerque Door whose team insists that it's safe to travel through it, Mike's true and intense intelligence finally comes out, whether he wants it to or not. After all, when you're talking about folding time and space so that you can travel hundreds of feet in an instant, how safe can it really be? With unending energy on each page, The Fold has become one of Peter Clines' best efforts of science fiction, time travel, alternate universes and more. This is an absolute ride of fun, and I have yet to be disappointed by any of his work. Peter Clines, one of my favorite authors, no doubt about it.

And oh by the way, Ray Porter was the narrator. We all know he's awesome because he also narrated 14 (also a Peter Clines' novel), and Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningClick here to listen to a sample from The Fold.

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this book through my Audible.com membership.

About the Author
Peter Clines is the author of numerous short stories, Ex-HeroesEx-Patriots–14–The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe. For a more perfect bio to read, click here.
Visit the author:

About the Narrator
Ray Porter is an actor and casting director, known for Almost Famous (2000), Argo (2012) and The Runaways (2010).