Sunday, January 26, 2014

Movie Review - Lone Survivor - By Jeffrey J. Thivierge

On Saturday afternoon, I ventured into Smitty’s Cinema for a viewing of “Lone Survivor”, which is the biopic story of Marcus Luttrell’s team from Navy SEAL Team 10 and their harrowing tale of Operation Red Wings. The movie, directed by Peter Berg, is adapted from Luttrell’s “Lone Survivor” memoir, which was co-authored by Patrick Robinson. 

The movie begins with a gaggle of Navy SEALs all hanging around, waiting for their next mission. It is here that we see that not only are these men warriors, but they are also human, with families, girlfriends, and a penchant for teasing the new guy on the team. Within a few minutes, the team is notified that Luttrell, portrayed by (Marky) Mark Wahlberg, LT Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), PO2 Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and PO2 Matthew “Axe” Axelson (Ben Foster) are going to be sent out into the mountains of Afghanistan to search for a suspected Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. 

After being dropped off via helicopter, the men navigate the treacherous terrain until they eventually arrive at a spot in which they can view their target. Their problems begin when they have difficulty establishing contact with their headquarters. They are then discovered by a group of goat herders that is sympathetic to the Taliban fighters at the bottom of the hillside. They capture the herders, only to argue over what should be done with them given their situation. LT Murphy makes the command decision to let them go and to retreat back to an area where their radio and satellite phone may work. Before they can make it away, however, a large group of Taliban fighters find them and pin the SEALs down before they can communicate their position.

From this event, Dietz, Axelson, and Luttrell were all awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy’s second highest award for valor. Dietz and Axelson’s awards were posthumous, as both men were killed in the assault. LT Michael Murphy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery that day, as he knowingly sacrificed his life by placing himself in an open position, exposed to the enemy, to make the call to higher command.

Following the deaths of his teammates, Luttrell, although terribly wounded, managed to make it to a point where peaceful villagers saved and protected him from the Taliban until United States forces rescued him.
This movie is, hands down, the best war movie since “Saving Private Ryan”. Personally, I can’t imagine how someone could live through such an event. Luttrell put it all out there for the common man to see, as if to say, “See, America? This is the type of stuff the military contends with!” I was fortunate enough during my service that I never had to go through any sort of ordeal like the SEALs of Operation Red Wings. I have seen the aftermath of the battles in war, however, and it is hell. There is no glamorization of war in this movie. 

The movie is rated R for language and violence. I almost brought my 14-year-old daughter to see this with me, but afterwards, I was glad I didn’t. Some kids can handle the type of brutal violence that this movie contains, but most can’t. This is a movie based on real events and sticks close enough to the story that Luttrell himself makes an appearance at the beginning of the film.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Movie Review - Paranormal Activity: The marked Ones - Rated R - By Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 84 mins

“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is the fifth chapter in the extremely popular and incredibly profitable supernatural horror film series. Even though it takes place after the events of “Paranormal Activity 4”, the subtitle of this movie goes to show that it is really more of a spinoff than a sequel. I loved the original film released in 2009, but the way I see it, the quality of the movies in this franchise steadily declined as the series continued. Unfortunately, this pattern is maintained with the release of yet another film in this seemingly never-ending saga.

“The Marked Ones” is centered on Jesse and Hector, two Latino teenagers living in Oxnard, California. Early on in the film at Jesse’s high school graduation party, the two use Hector’s new camera to investigate the mysterious death of their creepy neighbor, Anna. It doesn’t take them too long to discover that she was a witch as they find many items related to black magic and witchcraft while searching her house. 

When he wakes up the next morning, Jesse notices a large bite mark on his arm that looks like it came from some sort of animal. Suddenly, he has new supernatural abilities including inhumane strength and levitation skills. Despite how ridiculous it seemed, it was fairly entertaining to watch Jesse use his powers to pull off amazing tricks on his skateboard and even throw his enemies through the air like he was some sort of superhero. As time goes on, Jesse becomes even more powerful and dangerous, posing a potential threat to his friends and family.

“The Marked Ones” may be the most action packed film of the franchise, but it truly lacked the creepy factor of the earliest installments. The climax of this movie was basically an extended sequence of extremely predictable jump scares. In contrast, what I loved most about the first “Paranormal Activity” was the fact that it scared me far beyond the actual viewing of the movie. Despite its insanely low budget and simple special effects, the film stuck with me and made it incredibly difficult to fall asleep at night. “The Marked Ones” completely failed to do that; by the time I got home from the theater, I could hardly remember what I just saw. Don’t be expecting much more than some jump scares and a few good laughs from what is yet another forgettable “Paranormal Activity” movie.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Fireworks - The final chapter in this campfire circle story - By Judi Phillips

Thank you for reading our winter serial romance story by Limington resident Judi Phillips. The conclusion of “Winter Fireworks”.

Seeing her furrowed brow, Jack tried to lighten Karrie’s mood. "Guess we're having our own fireworks--early and inside."

When the corners of her rosy lips tilted, he was pleased.

"That's one way to look at it."

He stepped back and smothered the few live ashes that landed on the hearth rug, ignoring the twinge from his sore ankle. As good a diversion as any to keep from pulling her into his arms and kissing her. 

Gingerly, with the help of the broom, Karrie retrieved the carcass and wrapped it in a plastic bag. "I'll put this in the outside trash barrel."

He looked out the window. "It's dark and the fireworks-the outside ones-will start soon. How about this? I'll work on the fire. You prepare the food. 'Cause I'm a lousy cook."

"Based on my karma today, a lousy cook may be the better option."

Jack laughed. "Or make it even worse."

She sent a mock frown in his direction before going into the kitchen. Leaning against the doorjamb, he watched as she quickly blended the cream cheese and minced clams. After tasting the dip, she scooped it into a dish. Opening the jar of salsa, she poured that into another bowl.


She nodded. "Seems to be."

He heard voices as people began to gather outside. "Let's go." He slipped into his jacket and held Karrie's for her. Donning hats and scarves, they were ready to brave the falling snow.

* * *

Karrie paused on the front porch for a moment. A bonfire blazed in the circle of the cul-de-sac. The campfire ring had been there as long as the camps. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Brings back lots of memories."

Memories of New Year's Eve with Grammy Lou flooded her. "All happy ones."
She crossed to the table set to one side for food and deposited the dip and salsa. Jack set the bags of chips beside them.

Brenda Stanley, Grammy Lou's closest friend, walked over, wrapped her arms around Karrie, and hugged her. "I miss Lulu so much."

"Me, too." Tears flooded Karrie's eyes before she could squeeze them away. 

David Johnson came up and patted her on the back. "Glad to see you here, Karrie." His voice was gruff as if he was holding back his own tears.

Karrie swiped her eyes. "Tonight isn't a night for being sad. Let's make this a celebration. Gram always loved the winter fireworks."

"You are so right, dear." Brenda leaned close and whispered in Karrie's ear. "I'm so glad she left Birch Haven to you."

"Thanks. That means a lot to me."

Brenda strolled away, followed by David. Interesting.

"Hey, Parker." Jason Dinsmore joined them.

Jack turned. "Hi, Jason. I go by Jack."

"Good move."

"What are you doing now?"

Jason blew on his fingers to warm them. "I've just started my own architect firm. Going solo after the outfit I was with collapsed. The housing bubble burst the firm."

"Good luck with that."

Jason looked across the fire. "My sister and her family just arrived. Catch up with you later." He lifted a hand and walked away.

"I thought he was married,” Karrie said. “Wonder where his wife is?" 

"Maybe another casualty of the recession."

"Wouldn't be the first."

"Let's get something to eat," Karrie suggested.

They joined the group around the table.

Melissa Perkins stopped beside Karrie. Once upon a time Melissa and Karrie's mother had been friends. "Hi there. Haven't seen you in a while."

"Been away at college." No need to go into detail about her crappy family. "What about you?"

"Just got a promotion to purchase manager at Dad's construction firm."


"Not sure it's that great. I seem to have more work and not a lot more pay."

"I'm finishing up a B.S. in business administration at Colby-Sawyer."

"Give me a call when you graduate. If we don't have any openings, I may be able to help. For sure I'd love to talk with you."

"Thank you so much. I'll be in touch."

Melissa smiled and walked away.

"That's cool," Jack said.

Karrie spotted Taylor Winslow standing beside Brad Jennings, holding hands. She'd never seen them as a couple before this evening. His daughter, Faith, was perched on his shoulders.

Karrie slid her arm in Jack's. "C'mon. This way." 

"What for?"

"I want to try the clam dip."

Sounded bogus to him, but whatever.

She stopped further down the table. "Hi, Taylor. Do you know if anyone has lost a cat?"

Taylor looked at Brad, a knowing gleam in her eyes. "Not that I know of. Have you heard anything, Brad?"
"Nope. No missing Yorkies, either."

Taylor laughed. "Long story about my little dog escaping."

Brad gazed at her. "And how we were blown together."

Karrie smiled. "I'd love to hear it sometime. I seem to have acquired a cat with a taste for salmon--hence the clam dip."

"If we hear anything, I'll let you know."


"Okay, folks," Dave Johnson called out. "Time for the Campfire Circle Annual New Year's Eve fireworks."
By city standards, the display was small. Mostly roman candles. Some whistled, some crackled and some glittered. Around the fire, three-foot sparklers alternated with morning glory sparklers. At the end was a nice finale with a shower-burst.

The light snow made it even more magical. Everyone ooohed and aaahed.

As the falling snow thickened, people drifted away from the fire and back to their camps.

Back inside Birch Haven, curled on the rug in front of embers in the fireplace, the cat greeted them with a yawn and a meow.

"Looks like I have a new pet."

"What's her name--assuming it is a girl."

"I'm thinking Shadow, because that's how I saw her, the first couple of times."


"Works if it's a boy or girl."

"You are so practical. I never would have thought of that."

They settled in front of the fire on either side of the cat, facing each other. This was a much better New Year's Eve than she'd planned.

Karrie stroked Shadow's soft fur, not sure what she wanted to happen next. Well, sort of sure, to be perfectly honest. She smiled slightly.

Jack reached out and cupped her face with his hands. He studied her for a long moment.

Suddenly shy, Karrie glanced away.

He leaned forward and kissed her, slow and soft. She moaned, and he deepened the kiss. She forgot to breathe. Her blood heated as if fireworks blazed inside her.

He lifted his head and gazed at her. 

She smiled and shook her head. "This has been the craziest New Year's Eve ever."

He grinned. "And the best."


Here's a taste treat for all my Campfire Circle fans, the recipe that Karrie couldn't make, thanks to Shadow.

Salmon Cream Cheese Spread

1 pkg of frozen smoked salmon (4 oz.)
1 pkg of cream cheese (8 oz.)
Cream or milk
Prepared horseradish to taste (1/8+ tsp.)

Defrost the salmon and have the cream cheese at room temperature. Break the salmon into pieces and put in food processor. Whirl until minced. Add the cream cheese, 2-3 tablespoons of cream or milk (to aid blending), horseradish (I use between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon) and salt and pepper, if you wish. Whirl until blended. You may need to stop the food processor and stir in some of the unblended clumps.

Put the mixture in a covered dish (if you plan on hoarding it for yourself) or in a pretty bowl for a party. Absolutely delish when spread on Ritz crackers.


Ziploc is the registered trademark of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Ritz crackers are the registered trademark of Intercontinental Great Brands, LLC.

Book Review: "Hidden Order" By Brad Thor - Review by Phil Baker

Brad Thor is a NYT bestselling author because he knows how to construct a thriller. Thor avoids formulaic predictability in Hidden Order by weaving two imaginative plotlines, creating some depth and texture. In this novel, the 12th in the Scot Harvath series, Harvath mixes it up with two drop-dead beauties and a brilliant ex-CIA agent. Hidden Order, 374 pages, was published by Simon and Schuster in 2013 and lives up to the standards of Thor. It’s available at the Portland Public Library but currently has a waiting list. It’s worth the wait if you like a jaunty and fast-developing thriller. 

Former SEAL Harvath is now employed by a super-secret organization that is a private CIA/ FBI type of outfit and has fallen on hard times. Apparently the outfit is extremely capable in all departments except accounting. They might be saved by a contract with the Federal Bank that abhors publicity like a vampire shrinks from a cross. And nobody wants the kind of publicity they receive at the beginning of this tale. The five candidates for the open chairmanship are being knocked off systematically with spectacular cruelty and gruesome technique.

The simple-minded assassin is counter-intuitively creative and combines his murderous proclivities with an academic soft spot for history like an autistic savant. We are taken from a sick murder scene on the outer banks of Georgia to the blood spattered “Freedom Trail” of Boston. The killer focuses on the birth of the Fed and some colonial American personalities that helped develop US monetary policies. Harvath teams up with an ex-CIA genius, who has a grasp of the Fed’s sordid history, and a gorgeous Boston detective to try to bring the killings to an end. 

Meanwhile, along a parallel plotline, Lydia Ryan, current CIA agent and drop-dead beauty number two, works on a case involving an international plot to overthrow Middle Eastern governments. The two plots careen towards each other to combine for a satisfying climax.

Federal Reserve policy might sound like some heavy eyelids stuff, but Thor makes it work. He asks the reader to suspend belief which, in these days of Internet and TV driven hyper-reality, is a tall (if not hidden) order. And he brings on a well-paced, tightly constructed story built around enticing, if not believable, characters. I checked reality at the door and took a seat at the bar. I ordered a glass of entertainment and Thor delivered.