Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review - The Racketeer By John Grisham - Review by Sierra Yost

The Racketeer by John Grisham is fast paced novel with cliff hangers at every turn. What happens when a federal judge is killed and only a prisoner in jail for racketeering knows who, how and why? The book started a little slow, and there wasn’t a really good hook, but if you hold on, you will end up reading a novel, about the witness protection program, lying, coercion, the FBI, lawyers, and convicts, that is fast-paced, exciting, and impossible to put down. 

Malcolm Bannister is the racketeer. A former lawyer, he is serving time in the Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, MD for a crime he did not commit. But he has information the FBI needs. This book follows him as he goes through the witness protection program, and the unfortunate events that lead to him leaving it. It follows Malcolm through his journey to survive before his trial, when his enemy knows that it was Malcolm who talked to the FBI. Readers will be at the edge of their seat wishing they could read faster in order to end the suspense of the book.

The intense plot combined with characters you can’t help but empathize with, and a mystery that keeps the reader questioning, this book is the recipe for a suspense novel. The book switches back and forth from Malcolm’s first-person perspective to a third-person view of other minor characters, teasing readers by allowing them to think they know what is going on. John Grisham lulls readers into a false sense of security by giving them enough information here and there so they feel informed and on the inside of the secrets and the lies. However, what he doesn’t let readers expect is one huge plot twist after another! Each one making readers rethink what they just read, and try to put the pieces together to explain what was just revealed. 

John Grisham’s stunning storytelling abilities make this story great. That is why Fox 2000, along with New Regency and Double Feature Films bought the rights to the story last year and are going to make it into a movie. Reading this book now will make you ahead of the game. Don’t wait until there is a waiting list at the library to get the book before the film comes out. Read this exciting novel now and beat the rush!

Remember, as my great-grandmother always said, “When you have a book, you are never alone!”
*this book is intense and makes some adult references

Monday, March 24, 2014

Movie Review of 300:Rise of an Empire - review by Daniel Kilgallon

300: Rise of Empire (R)
Run Time: 102 min

300: Rise of an Empire is a fantasy action film that follows its 2006 predecessor, 300. The first movie is an adaption of the same name 1998 comic series by Frank Miller while Rise of an Empire is based off his unreleased graphic novel, Xerxes. Director of the original film, Zack Snyder (Watchmen, Man of Steel) returned for this movie, this time as a producer. 

Partially due to Snyder’s distinctive style, I am a massive fan of the first film. I thought the ferocious fictionalized depiction of the Battle of Thermopylae made it an outstanding, visually striking movie. My expectations were very low for this sequel as I just didn’t think that it could compare with the experience of the original film. However, 300: Rise of an Empire completely shocked me as it visually managed to outmatch its groundbreaking predecessor. 

This sequel is quite unique as it is basically a parallel event of the first film. During the middle of this movie, we know that King Leonidas and 300 Spartan warriors are fighting to the death against the mortal-turned-god Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Then, Xerxes plans to assault the city of Athens as he continues his assault on Greece. This time Greek general Themistocles and his forces must defend Athens from a nautical invasion led by Artemisia (Eva Green), vengeful commander of the Persian navy. I must say that Green was the stand-outperformance of the film as she completely owned her villainous role. Anyways, the rest of this movie depicts the gruesome, all-out battle between the two naval forces. 

Overall, I found 300: Rise of an Empire to be an outstanding visual experience with cutting edge effects and plenty of the signature bloody violence established by 300. Similar to its predecessor, the film does a phenomenal job of faithfully adapting a graphic novel to the big screen through an intense mix of live action and CGI animation. I feel like some of the first film’s story and heart was lost, but the improved visual effects and action of this thrilling sequel makes this movie just as entertaining as the beloved 2006 film. The ridiculous amount of graphic violence is certainly not for everybody, but if consider yourself a fan of the original, do not miss out on this stunning experience. Early on in the year, 300: Rise of an Empire stands alone as the best movie of 2014.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Movie Review: The Lego Movie - Review by Josh Libby

Rated: PG
Running time: 100
The Lego Movie with my father. The movie is about a Lego minifigure named Emmett (voiced by Chris Pratt, Zero Dark Thirty) who is just like everyone else, but through a strange set of circumstances found himself to be on a mission to save the universe from the evil Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). Lord Business plans to release the Kragle and destroy the world. Emmett’s adventure takes him to the wild west, a sprawling city, the Medieval ages, and a massive office building. 

The characters are really enjoyable and they are from all of the different Lego licenses like Star Wars and Batman. I personally loved the movie even though I thought that it was aimed at younger kids. I believe that my father liked it as well and it had a great overarching moral, that no one should squander a great creative mind.

The way that the directors (Chris Miller and Phil Lord) incorporated the amazing animation with the traditional Lego stop motion was incredible and made the movie so much cooler. 

I have heard it called the new Toy Story and I wholeheartedly disagree. With Toy Story all of the love and enjoyment came after and because of the movie, but with Legos the fans are already there and in large numbers. This will just keep the fire burning and continue the love of Legos into the next generation. It was to quote the movie "awesome".

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Review: The 500: A novel By matthew Quirk - Review by Phil Baker

The International Thriller Writers have awarded Matthew Quirk with the Best First Novel of 2013for his debut The 500, published in 2012 by Little, Brown. The plot calls to mind another first, John Grisham’s The Firm. Like Grisham’s Mitch McDeere, Mike Ford is a hotshot at Harvard Law and is hired by a mysterious organization in a circumspect selection process. The principal of the Davies Group, Henry Davies, showers the rookie with money and perks too good to be legal or ethical. In fact the situation is too good not to be evil. Davies heaps so much praise and promotion on him, Ford starts to become suspicious. He even imagines Davies as a diabolical match-maker behind Ford’s new relationship with Annie Clark. 

Ford is the son of a small time, middle-class con-man and has learned enough of his Dad’s trade to get himself in and out of extralegal jams, at first doing Davies’s bidding and ultimately pursuing justice.
Davies and his enforcer, William Marcus, are fixers in the high-flying world of international politics. When they fix things for you, they own you. They own the 500 most influential people in Washington and therefore can get nearly anything done for their clients. Ford learns quickly. He catches a German manufacturer in a payoff scheme and a brothel-hopping congressman in the act. 

All this is minor-league stuff compared to the company’s next assignment. The Davies Group has been hired by mega-rich, ultra-dangerous, cannibalistic Radomir Dragovic who needs to avoid extradition and trial for crimes against humanity. The Serbian was a war criminal during the Serbo-Croatian conflict and lately has developed a taste for human hearts. He needs help with a Supreme Court justice who has inadvisably resisted Davies and is not under his influence. Davies must change this one way or another.  And Ford needs to keep his heart for himself and maybe Annie.

Quirk borrows plot material from Grisham and his wise guy voice evokes that of Nelson DeMille’s first-person narratives and, like DeMille, Quirk exercises a sharp sense of humor. The conversational narrative will put you firmly on Mike Ford’s side, and he needs all the help he can get.

Quirk’s plot is tight and resolves well and the action works. If you like Grisham and/or DeMille or you just like the thriller genre, I recommend The 500, 323 pages. You can find it at the Portland Public Library.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Movie Review - Robocop (PG-13) By Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 108 mins

Robocop is a sci-fi/action movie and a remake of the 1987 film of the same title. I never got a chance to see the original movie, so this was something totally new to me. That being said, I didn’t really expect much from this movie as most Hollywood remakes just don’t turn out to be very good. However, I now consider Robocop one of the rare exceptions as it actually surprised me with some fun action and solid acting from its strong cast. Even though the title role isn’t that complex of a character, I thought that Joel Kinnaman did a pretty good job playing the part. Samuel L. Jackson also got some screen time, adding some nice comic relief in his amusing performance.

In the year 2028, Omnicorp is the world’s leader in robot technology and they create robots to be used overseas by the US Military. Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) wants to use these robots domestically, particularly in the area of law enforcement. The only thing holding back the government from approving this plan is the fact that they want humane officers who have real emotion and truly care for human beings. In order to make this happen, Sellars hopes to create something that is part man and part machine. All he needs is someone to fill this spot. 

Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically injured on duty. The only way to save his life is to turn him into a cyborg crime fighter. With help from Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), Raymond Sellars makes this happen, creating the first Omnicorp “Robocop”. Throughout the movie, Norton and Sellars make a few upgrades to Alex but as they do this, he becomes more of a robot than a man, eventually becoming an emotionless machine. Thanks to Alex, the crime rate in Detroit is drastically reduced, but more importantly he has to find a way to regain his humanity. 

I thought that Robocop was a pretty good movie with fun action, impressive special effects and solid acting. However, the movie does have its flaws. It felt much longer than it needed to be as the middle portion of the film was slow at times. But at the same time, certain parts of the story felt quite rushed. Luckily, the exciting action sequences and cool training sequences made up for this, making Robocop a pretty enjoyable film.