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H. Bala "Me Too Can Read" RSS Feed (Recently moved back to Carson, California, or as I call it... the center of the universe)

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The Player Season 1
The Player Season 1
Price: $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The House always wins? I don't know that NBC agrees with that..., October 5, 2015
So this sort of folderol falls right into my wheelhouse. I loves me the loony plotline. Set in Las Vegas, THE PLAYER posits that there exists a powerful, clandestine gambling organization called the House, composed of one-percenters who wager on the outcome of crimes. You must buy into that the House, thru its vast resources, has developed a computer system that is able to predict future crimes. There is the Pit Boss, as embodied by the enigmatic Mr. Johnson (Wesley Snipes), and there is the Dealer, a rather severe Englishwoman named Cassandra (Charity Wakefield) but with a suspicion of a twinkle in her eye.

The third key component is the Player, the catalyst who tries to prevent the crime and on whose person the ultra-rich bettors either back or wager against. The demise of the most recent Player triggers a search for a new one, and this is where Alex Kane (Philip Winchester) comes in. Alex is a security consultant who once was steeped in top secret government wetwork, but then he found the love of a good woman (don't you groan). He rejects the House's offer, aghast at what its members are up to. But this and that happens, and Alex reluctantly assumes the post of the Player after all. Ah, but he's got an ulterior motive. He's got an alarming conspiracy to unravel. Every one of these dang pilot episodes now requires a overarching mystery thread, and for this one, it revolves around Alex's determination to nose around the underpinnings of the House. And if he's able to foil a reprehensible crime or two along the way, well, let's call that a bonus.

If you go with the Nielsen ratings, THE PLAYER is already in trouble. It's ironic, but I wouldn't place odds on this show's having a lengthly shelf life. Me, I liked THE PLAYER. I'm a fan of Winchester and Snipes, and Wakefield is real easy on the eyes. Snipes settles for a supporting role, except every now and then he can't help but remind folks that, yep, he's still a bad mofo. The show hangs its hat on big action set pieces, and you'll kindly note that breakaway glass serves as a recurring supporting character. But this where rugged lead actor Winchester is in his element. In terms of sheer badassssery, Alex Kane is essentially Sgt. Stonebridge from STRIKE BACK, only minus the Brit accent and perhaps more flippant and certainly more likely to buck authority. Winchester oozes impressive physicality.

As much as I savored the pilot, I'm aware of the flaws. If you can get past the sheer absurdity of the premise, maybe you'll be daunted by the sheer cramming of worldbuilding in one episode. This is one time when the show would've benefited by a more leisurely-paced storytelling or maybe a two-hour premiere. As it is, there's too much info dump, interspersed with booming, frenetic shoot-'em-ups. I feel that other shows of its ilk - PERSON OF INTEREST, MINORITY REPORT, 7 DAYS, and even fellow newbie BLINDSPOT - exhibited a better pace, a better groove. Listen, I get a kick out of these mindless onscreen adrenalin rushes. I'm rooting for THE PLAYER to succeed. But Snipes has to be more involved. And the show had best get its, uh, house in order, there's much that's just too pat and too standard television (the grieving lead, a shadowy conspiracy, whether a dead loved one is actually deaders or not, the tired social satire about the ultra-rich and their ennui, etc.). And, hey, either tone down the silly or really, really go over the top and commit to it. As it is, I feel that the show is hedging its bet instead of doubling dow- oh, hell no, I almost went there.

Blindspot: Season 1
Blindspot: Season 1
Price: $29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memento on a bigger scale and as a police procedural, October 4, 2015
NBC has poached the two studly leads from Strike Back and plonked each in their own action thriller show. And as much as I resented Cinemax's cancelling Strike Back, I'm just as glad that Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester have landed on their feet. Between Stapleton's Blindspot and Winchester's The Player, it's Blindspot what seems destined for a longer burn, if you go by the initial ratings. It's certainly got the superior title. The Player, as much as I'm floored by the wonky premise, sounds like yet another dumb reality show that the unknowing remote control warrior may just choose to pass on.

Really, Blindspot is just another fresh twist in the cop drama genre. But, oh, man, the premise works so hard to hook you in: In New York, an amnesiac - and very nekkid - woman (Jaimie Alexander) covered in tattoos emerges from an abandoned duffel bag. FBI Special Agent Kurt Weller (Stapleton) and his team get very excited when, come to find, each tattoo on "Jane Doe" - and note that some unknown artist had inked those tats on her all at the same time - hints at a terrible crime yet to come. It gets even more interesting when Jane Doe begins exhibiting mad special forces skills.

It's a solid cast, and Stapleton once again camouflages his Aussieness to produce a passable American accent, and he's fine in the role and he's gruff and gritty and his neck beard impresses. But let's not front, the big get is Jaimie Alexander. I'd been waiting for her to step out of Lady Sif's shadow. This new role allows her to play in a (comparatively) more grounded genre. It allows her to test out her acting chops even as she preserves her asskicking creds.

I haven't had my system flooded with amnesia-inducing zeta interacting protein, so I can't say how thorough is Jane Doe's memory loss. But the mystery of her is one running thread that I promptly got invested in. It's neat that there's a systematic order to sussing out Jane's tats. "The first clue unlocks the second," crows the team's resident Abby Sciuto (Ashley Johnson). Now, I get it why Jane would be so all the time dour and broody, but I wish Agent Weller would lighten up some, would show more color to his personality (Stapleton's Sgt. Damien Scott in Strike Back so far is a stronger character). It would help if the dialogue were better. Thankfully, Ashley Johnson brings the levity. Anyway, I'm in it for now. Alexander and Stapleton make for compelling eye candy, and their past works have earned them enough latitude from me. And Jaimie Alexander simply looks stunning. The cynical part of me would like to point out that Blindspot is a very calculated show, that as intriguing as the premise is, the suits and showrunners hedge their bet by not ever passing up an opportunity to have Jaimie Alexander going nekkid to examine her tattoos for clues or the lab team examining her tattoos for clues. But I am a guy, so it works on me. I can't wait to see where Jane's quest of self-discovery would take her, and how she fills out the blank canvas that she is currently, and what other amazing knack she'll unveil. And I hope the overarching tattoo mystery and the two leads' rep for badassery are enough to surmount that creaky case-of-the-week formula. The blah second episode, "A Stray Howl," about killer drones and another goof who wants to teach the government a lesson, didn't exactly wow me, and now I'm a bit concerned that the show won't be able to maintain its steam. But the second ep did at least further the tattoo mystery and deliver a possible 'splanation for why Agent Weller's name is featured so prominently on Jane's back. If the network suits had been more cunning, they would've had the tat artist sneak in a plug for The Player on Jane somewhere. The former Sgt. Stonebridge could probably use the assist.

Her Alibi
Her Alibi
DVD ~ Tom Selleck
Offered by too many secrets
Price: $35.39
78 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars this is maybe not the way to cure writer's block - but it's a fun, dizzy, paranoid ride anyway, October 1, 2015
This review is from: Her Alibi (DVD)
Mystery novelist Philip Blackwood (Tom Selleck) is in a four-year funk. He's wallowing in a helluva writer's block, his series private eye Peter Swift twiddling his thumbs in literary purgatory. With his long-suffering editor Sam (William Daniels) prodding him and the publishing company threatening to drop him, Philip's taken to trolling the criminal courts in search of inspiration.

And maybe there should've been a heavenly chorus and a coruscant nimbus about her person when the lovely Romanian immigrant Nina (Paulina Porizkova) walked in the courtroom. Nina happens to be the prime suspect in a fatal stabbing. But, dammit, man, you just look at her! Philip is instantly smitten. And because this is one of those movies where rash decisions must be indulged, Philip arrives at the idea of providing an alibi for the murder suspect. He claims that Nina, during the time of the murder, was with him in a romantic tryst. The Assistant DA and the investigating copper don't really buy it, but they're willing to play out the string.

So off go Philip and his mystery woman to his sprawling Connecticut crib, there to try to pull off their big, fat lie. And there's Philip, suddenly equal parts smitten and paranoid. Because an odd series of accidents (or murder attempts?) starts befalling him. Nina is alluring. She's also a bit sinister. And she exhibits unerring aim with a knife and with a bow and arrow and showcases mad acrobatics. And is that the KGB lurking around corners? So maybe Her Alibi guy should be nervous after all.

But, at least, now Philip isn't lacking for ideas for his latest Peter Swift potboiler.

The objective critic will probably turn up his nose at Her Alibi. Really, it's a silly, screwball sort of movie, and I shouldn't have laughed so much at the dumb gags. But, man, it's Tom Selleck, him what's never ever less than gracious onscreen. There's such a good humor about him. And his mustache could beat up your mustache. His facial expressions and body language sell me to the comic beats when normally I'd groan at 'em. Supermodel Paulina Porizkova is a gorgeous creature, and Selleck works hard to elevate her stiff acting performance to something I found more credible. It's hard not to have chemistry with Tom Selleck.

Maybe I'm wrong, but other than Three Men and A Baby, I don't think Selleck's had a box office homerun. This is weird to me because I personally enjoy so much of his work (Quigley Down Under, Lassiter, High Road to China, Runaway, An Innocent Man, etc.). Maybe other folks simply typecast him as Magnum, PI and couldn't see him in other roles. Who knows? What I know is that I laughed at lot at Her Alibi, never mind Philip's awful detective prose or the lame absurdity of those Walter Mitty bits and that dinner party showcasing Nina's dodgy casserole and the denouement at the clown convention. And the construction crew must've worked serious overtime in order to have the film's final moments return our couple back to Philip's country home, never mind that it got blowed up real good, like, half an hour ago.

Unpacking "Chuck": The TV Series Interpreted
Unpacking "Chuck": The TV Series Interpreted
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars a must read if you're a Chuck fan, September 27, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
You gets your fix where you can, bro. It's been some years now since NBC axed Chuck, and I guess I'm not over it yet. I'm still jonesing for it. One reason I finally caved and got Netflix was so that I can binge watch Chuck whenever the urge hits me. Ain't much supplemental stuff out there about Chuck. I can't tell you how many times I've YouTubed the Chuck vs. the Podcast episodes. I'm quite thankful for G. Walter Bush's book, Unpacking Chuck, The TV Series Interpreted. It helped to feed my addiction. It's a short read, really, only Bush packs it with comprehensive and insightful literary analyses. Drawing from five seasons' worth of music and visual cues and symbolism and metaphors, he dissects the show and arrives at these thematic connections that I either completely missed out on or just wasn't able to cleanly articulate. But, perhaps most importantly to me, he makes me feel a whole lot better about the series finale's ambiguous ending (that scene at the beach left me so freaking frustrated). Whenever I'd binge watched Chuck in the past, I'd always lagged when it came to the final two episodes because they made me so sad and jittery. But Bush's interpretation of those two final episodes goes a long ways in reassuring me that everything did turn out okay for Chuck and for Sarah. About half of the book is devoted to Chuck and Sarah, and I ate those chapters up, boy. But the author doesn't neglect the rest of the core characters as other chapters break down Casey, Morgan, Ellie, Bryce Larkin, Orion, and Frost. Anyway, after reading this and the companion book, Unpacking "Chuck" 2.0: The Conversation Continues (if nothing else, read that for the chapter on Captain Awesome), I've launched another Chuck binge watch. Except now I can articulate why it's such an emotionally satisfying watch. I am alert to all the subtexts. I see you, water lilies.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (Color Special Edition)
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (Color Special Edition)
DVD ~ Hugh Marlowe
Price: $15.71
36 used & new from $10.15

4.0 out of 5 stars "When an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capitol, we don't meet it with tea and cookies.", September 27, 2015
Personally, I think it'd be rad were we to meet any armed and threatening power with tea and cookies. So I'm at odds with the military figure who dropped that above remark. Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers released in 1956, during an era redolent with sci-fi invasion flicks. A top shelf production, Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers is refreshing in that it shies away from the somber and message-y vibe of, say, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and It Came From Outer Space (1953). Sorry, but, most times, I prefer my extra-terrestrials to be incredibly nasty and ill-intentioned. Which they are in this one. You can keep your "Klaatu barada nikto," thanks. When the weird alien voice broadcasts in simultaneously multiple languages and repeats the same message over and over - "People of Earth, attention... look to your sun for a warning." - I get no sense of peaceful overtures.

What's Project Sky Hook? It's a scientific stab at addressing what man's bump of superstition has been long subjected to: the strange lights in the sky, be they St. Elmo's Fire or will-o'-the-wisps... Project Sky Hook is an ambitious endeavor by which man - or, specifically, Americans - embarks, on baby steps, on a mission to explore the outer reaches of space. Spearheaded by Dr. Russell A. Marvin (Hugh Marlowe), Project Sky Hook launches twelve unmanned probes in continuous orbit around Earth, their purpose to gather all manner of astronomical data. But, ominously, one after the other, the probes crash back down to earth. Soon, the terrifying culprit surfaces: flying saucers armed to the teeth with destructive energy rays. Can man's science and military might stave off extinction at the hands of an advanced and hostile alien race, these survivors of a disintegrated solar system? We have a deadline of 56 days.

This is a neat movie. The acting is serviceable and Joan Taylor as Dr. Marvin's bride of two hours sure is stunning to look at. The film acquires a feel of authenticity, of that documentary vibe, with its liberal usage of stock footage of military bases and rocket tests and such and by Paul Frees's dry, authoritative voiceover narration. But, all that aside, the primary hook - and the real star - is stop-motion animation wizard Ray Harryhausen whose brilliant technical effects lend these saucers sleek motion and a sense of predatory menace. Harryhausen's saucer design has become so iconic that it's the image we reflexively come up with whenever there's mention of spaceships or UFOs. But credit the man, too, for sculpting convincing miniatures of landmark structures like the Capitol Building and the Washington Momument. His fantastic attention to detail delivers that extra impactful frisson when the saucers swoop in to demolish them. But fret none. Thanks to our troops and to good ol' gumption and know-how and an outlandish destabilizing device and a power outage that allows our scientist hero to decipher the aliens' language, we come out on top. I'm gonna celebrate with tea and cookies.

The Invisible Woman
The Invisible Woman
DVD ~ John Howard
Offered by DaaVeeDee
Price: $27.69
4 used & new from $13.90

3.0 out of 5 stars this is a heck of a blind date, September 20, 2015
This review is from: The Invisible Woman (DVD)
As ads placed in the paper go, it doesn't get more curious than this one: "Wanted: A human being willing to become invisible. No remuneration. Box P19." It's an ad placed by crackpot scientist, Professor Gibbs (John Barrymore), who requires a guinea pig with which to test his invisibility machine. Fashion model Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce) responds to the ad, seeing it as a call to adventure. But Kitty may be nursing an ulterior motive. See, she and her fellow models have been chafing under the bullying of mean store manager Mr. Growley (Charles Lane), and, so, care to guess what the first thing is that Kitty does when the experiment proves a triumph? Yes, it's time for some impish revenge.

Elsewhere, the plot is beefed up by a racketeer (Oskar Homolka) what's been exiled to Mexico and is desperately pining for home. He thinks invisibility will help him evade capture back in the States. He deploys his goons to Prof. Gibb's laboratory.

Universal Pictures, back in the day, was home to a stable of classic horror franchises, very much including THE INVISIBLE MAN films. THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, third in the series, is notable in that it shuns the fright film formula and instead embraces the sensibilities of the screwball caper. Was never a day, I wager, when H.G. Wells thought his classic little thriller would play as farce. THE INVISIBLE WOMAN comes off a bit dated today, especially the special effects (keep an eye out for suspicious shadows on the wall being cast by a supposedly invisible woman). TOPPER did it better.

But there's fun to be had in the performances. Barrymore, the Great Profile himself, is down to his last few pictures as he would soon pass away a year and a half from this movie's release date. No surprise, he hams it up as the eccentric inventor. But I liked him here. Virginia Bruce sheds her second fiddle status to, for once, land the lead role, and she's fine and showcases her deft comic timing. But there's irony in that, in one of those seldom occasions in which she gets the big shine, she spends half the movie invisible. She ends up party to a negligible romance. John Howard is her leading man, in the role of a feckless scion of society (and the professor's longtime benefactor) who early in the movie learns that he's broke. So there's the clichéd, inaugural burst of acrimony between the guy and the gal, and the pissy banter. He disparages her looks (without having ever seen her). She observes that "He has a personality like a temporary filling" and disses his business acumen, referencing his nickname: "The patsy of the Pacific." Really, who are they foolin'?

So much ham onscreen, I'm surprised no one came down with swine flu. Shemp Howard mugs around as one of the racketeer's brutish, ahem, stooges. Maria Montez, the future "Queen of Technicolor," provides a cameo. Margaret Hamilton is the prissy housekeeper. Career scene-stealer Charles Ruggles buttles and applies pratfalls, swoons, and double takes to make his point. And maybe that's what sells the movie to me. It's such a goofy, good-natured film. Everyone onscreen seems to be having a good time. And maybe that rubs off. Despite the campiness and the now shoddy f/x and the screenplay's clichéd treatment and the absence of scares and that H.G. Wells would probably have a hissy fit, I enjoyed the movie.

For those who care, The Invisible Man series of movies at Universal:


Ronin Games (Wearing the Cape Book 5)
Ronin Games (Wearing the Cape Book 5)
Price: $7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The world is full of weeping. How can I go?", September 19, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Other superhero prose have inched close, but Mr. Harmon needn't fret. Wearing the Cape forever ranks as my favorite and my most anticipated. Ronin Games, I tore thru it like a chorizo & egg breakfast burrito at George's in Santa Monica. Ronin Games falls fifth in the series, and it's a bit of a swerve in that it plonks Hope and cohorts in Japan and straight into my wheelhouse.

Okay, maybe just a smidge of plot SPOILERS for this next paragraph:

The story picks up three months after the events in Small Town Heroes, and, again, this new storyline evidences Harmon's keen hand at keeping up continuity. 20-year-old Hope Corrigan - aka the pint-sized powerhouse codenamed Astra - is back home in Chicago, back to her grind of patrolling and crimefighting and representing the superhero community in a good light to public and media. Except that, night after night, she's been having dreams about this otherworldly place, courtesy perhaps of Kitsune's - that shapeshifting trickster fox spirit - past meddling. The fear is that the pull of this dream world may be so powerful that it will eventually suck Hope into it, never to be seen again. There's nothing for it but to track down Kitsune, and so off Hope and a small circle of her most trusted besties embark on a secret mission to Japan, Kitsune's stomping grounds. And because Japan won't tolerate unsanctioned visits from foreign capes, our gals will have to sneak in incognito... and pose as supervillains. Yeah!!

Marion G. Harmon's storytelling is again on point. Sure, he dabbles in familiar superhero tropes, and there's that inescapable Superman/Batman dichotomy between Astra and Artemis. But the guy lays in this irresistible myth-making element. And he is so inventive with how he introduces new story threads even as he references old plot beats. For one thing, the Teatime Anarchist and his future alternate histories keep on being relevant, and it's obvious that Astra hasn't forgotten Atlas. Mostly, the big fun lies in Astra and her friends' stirring sh-- up in the Land of the Rising Sun while masquerading as I won't say - but it's freaking brilliant. Harmon details how Japan has adapted, post-Event-wise, and so we get a wild tutorial on Japanese customs and pop culture. Harmon keeps it mostly lighthearted in tone but brings in the gravitas when required. His writing strengths make this another romp of a read. His deeply realized characters. The sweep and scope and grounding that come with meticulous and creative worldbuilding. And, overall, that sense of playfulness and wonder and grand adventuring.

A Wearing the Cape story ain't nothin' without Hope (who out-Supergirls Supergirl) and Jacky and Shell in it. But I'm gratified that Ozma gets more screen time. She acts as the Q of the crew, what with her stash of enchanted gadgets. But don't get it twisted - Ozma, who you may recall happens to be a century-old fugitive sovereign, serves a larger function than that. I am trying real hard not to drop any spoilers. And yet, in parting, I can't help but reference some of my favorite bits, and the hope is that the lack of context won't give things away. So what to make of the following: Comprehension drops; compass fish; bad fish; quantum ghost kitty; breakthrough yakuza; sharpish Clint Eastwood; and, most awesomely, the Three Remarkable Ronin and their three unforgettable deeds!!!

The Wearing the Cape series (Kindle format):

- Wearing the Cape
- Villains Inc. (Wearing the Cape Series Book 2)
- Young Sentinels (Wearing the Cape Series Book 3)
- Small Town Heroes (Wearing the Cape Series Book 4)
- Ronin Games (Wearing the Cape Series Book 5)
- And then there's Bite Me: Big Easy Nights (Wearing the Cape Series) which chronicles Artemis' adventures in New Orleans and is regarded as Wearing the Cape adjacent
- And also the short story Omega Night (Wearing the Cape Series)

Other recommended superhero prose:

- Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes
- Jim Bernheimer's Confessions of a D-List Supervillain
- Matthew Phillion's The Indestructibles
- Mur Lafferty's Playing for Keeps
- P.S. Power's Proxy (The Infected Book 1)
- Trey Dowell's The Protectors: A Thriller
- R S J Gregory's Cosmic Girl: Rising Up
- Blake M. Petit's Other People's Heroes
- Kirby Moore's Starfall City
- C.J. Carella's Armageddon Girl (New Olympus Saga, Book 1)
- Rob Rogers' Devil's Cape
- Joshua Guess' Next (The Next Chronicle Book 1)
- Blake Northcott's Arena Mode
- Emmie Mears' The Masked Songbird (Shrike Book 1)
- Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible
- George R.R. Martin's classic Wild Card anthologies
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 20, 2015 6:31 PM PDT

Luise Rainer Collection  (3 Disc)
Luise Rainer Collection (3 Disc)
DVD ~ Luise Rainer
Price: $25.09
12 used & new from $22.16

4.0 out of 5 stars "No, Countess, we're enemies. Let us be good enemies.", September 18, 2015
- The amorous proprietor, Prince Johan: "There's more to these candlesticks than meets the eye. They positively breathe intrigue."

Sorry, guys. This one's only about The Emperor's Candlesticks as I haven't seen the other two movies in this collection.

It's a cypher to me as to why The Emperor's Candlesticks was a flop when it released in 1937. It has so much going for it. It's a star-studded cast what's spearheaded by my favorite all-time actor in William Powell. MGM's lavish treatment ensures that the picture looks just great and gives off that decadent Old World gloss. It's sophisticated and witty and chock full of comic intrigue and diverting cat-and-mouse games between the two leads. It's based on a book by the Baroness Orczy, the author who created two remarkable characters in the dashing Sir Percy Blakeney and the mystery-solving Old Man in the Corner.

The plot serves up that classic chestnut about spy versus spy. Set across the breadth of pre-World War I Europe, it pits urbane Polish agent #14, Baron Stephan Wolensky (Powell), against the beauteous Countess Olga Mironova (Luise Rainer) of Russia's Secret Service. See them chase each other and trade in flirty banter and ply their spycraft against each other, all for the sake of obtaining an elusive pair of antique candlesticks, each of which boasts a cunning secret chamber that contains precious state documents. Rumor has it that Marie Antoinette herself conveyed her very last letter to Vienna by way of one of these candlesticks. The neat hook is that Wolensky and Mironova had each placed their respective documents in one candlestick and the other, each of them unaware that the other had done so similarly.

And what's at stake? What's the hubbub? Why, only the Grand Duke Peter (Robert Young), son of the Russian czar, held hostage by ardent Polish nationalists. Why, the fate of a Polish patriot what's been condemned to death. What's at risk? Why, the stone-cold hearts and professionalism of our two opposing spies. Throw in a pair of thieving servants to gum up the works, and the entire affair gets even more dicey.

It's so redundant to say that Powell is in top form because he's pretty much always in top form. I've reviewed enough of his pictures that I've run out of new things with which to laud him. So I'll rehash. Guy is dapper and clever and witty and just comes across as the ideal gent. Luise Rainer, I haven't seen much of her, but she certainly has a presence and I enjoyed her, even if, at times, her performance comes off just a tad too mannered. But she and he generate a fine romantic chemistry. There are many moments of them simply sparkling together. For a spy movie, there isn't much of a sense of jeopardy. It's not a heavy film. Instead, the plot takes its cues from the lighthearted tone and the romantic ambiance. It's a vibe that suits Powell eminently. A merry chase across Europe. Shenanigans on a train. Our spies habitually sneaking away from each other. Our spies trying to outbid each other at an auction. Tack on a bit part as a rueful femme fatale for the very comely Maureen O'Sullivan and even a cameo from an 18-year-old Carole Landis, and I'm still scratching my head as to why this thing flopped.

By the way, did those candlesticks ever end up at their intended destination, I wonder? Is old Prince Johan still mooning over that Russian princess? Maybe I should clarify. Or you could just watch the movie.

Fargo Kid
Fargo Kid

3.0 out of 5 stars Tim Holt has a strange notion of what constitutes a bank, September 14, 2015
This review is from: Fargo Kid (DVD)
Tim Holt, back in the '40s, was the star of many a B-western for RKO, although you'd perhaps remember him best for what he did in The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Holt was sturdily built - what you'd call strapping - and he came across as a stand-up guy, honest and square. He often had sidekicks for comic relief and there's frequently a cowboy in his pictures who broke out in song. That was how they did it back in the day. 1940's The Fargo Kid is a trifling sagebrush yarn that follows that formula to a T. In it, Holt - or the Fargo Kid - is mistaken for the notorious gunfighter Deuce Mallory, on account of the Kid's riding into the mining town of Micaville, AZ on the outlaw's signature copper-colored sorrel. There's a $1000 reward on Deuce Mallory's head. See? Notorious.

Someone in Micaville - namely, the dastardly assayer of precious metals (Cyrus W. Kendall) - has put the hit on an old prospector who doesn't know that his mining claim hides a rich vein of gold. So, there's the Fargo Kid getting compensated $5000 for that assassination gig. The Kid takes the money even as he gets his bearings and proceeds to nose around. But it isn't long before the real Deuce Mallory (Paul Fix), mean and murderous, comes to town.

If you've got an hour or so to spare, The Fargo Kid isn't a bad time-waster. There's no depth or nuance to it. It's a straight-forward, run-of-the-mill oater, the sort they rolled out with regularity in yesteryears to rake in the quick buck. The big bad, Cyrus W. Kendall, is straight out of some stock company, and he may as well have been in the silent movies, so exaggerrated were his villainy ways. Tim Holt is a steady presence and, every now and again, he flashes this cocky, sh--eating grin that lets you know he's not taking things too serious, and, so, you shouldn't, either. There's a girl in the picture, and our hero flirts with her some, but Tim Holt always was more comfortable when he's in the company of horses and cowhands and brutes. There's a novelty to how he stashes away his $5000, although one can instantly see the future dilemma in his method. In the end, the Fargo Kid saves the day, with some help from his sidekicks: that old coot and a band of crooning musicians. He also leaves the girl hanging. Told you he was awkward around womenfolk.

Falling for Max: Book Nine of The Kowalskis
Falling for Max: Book Nine of The Kowalskis
Offered by Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Max makes this book, September 13, 2015
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Ninth book in the series, and it just may be my favorite one, never mind that the Kowalski fam only figures in peripherally in the narrative. FALLING FOR MAX is Shannon Stacey's fun reverse nod to PYGMALION and MY FAIR LADY, and I had a blast reading it. The two leads are fantastic, with Max maybe being just a tad more so.

Max Crawford is the talk of the town: Whitford, Maine's own mystery man. Murmurs circulate about what he does for a living. It's pretty funny how there's this idle conjecture that he's perhaps a serial killer. How else to account for the cryptic doings in his basement that requires its own security system? Is that where he buries his murdered corpses? For sure there's something just a bit off about Max. He keeps to himself, although, okay, give him cred for opening up lately, what with his crib having become the most popular gathering place for the town's most avid sports fans (his having this gargantuan television plays a part).

Max has it all worked out. He is freakin' organized. He's got a plan and a timeline and a check-off list on life. For the month of October, what's next on that list is to get a wife. Except he's not exactly a social butterfly. He's awkward around people. And then there's Tori Burns.

Tori works in digital design and is a book cover designer and a part-time waitress at the Trailside diner. But maybe the best way to describe her is that she's a free spirit. Tori doesn't intend to be tied down. This is perfect. On a whim, Max hires her to be his dating coach. You know what happens.

The two lead characters are so much fun to read about, and I enjoyed the interplay between them. They're very cute together. Tori is bubbly and an extrovert but has deep-seated issues with committment. It's Max who surprised me with how likable he is, how funny he is. Max is a very literal person, and he knows this about himself. He's witty enough to turn that trait to his advantage, seeing as he doesn't shy from poking fun at himself. Love his sense of humor. He delivers a line that had me laughing so loud:

- Tori: "So, what do you do for a living?"
- Max: "I don't kill people in my basement."

Anyway, for admirers of the Kowalski clan, there are enough Kowalski sightings peppered in throughout the book, but they clearly only play supporting parts. Mostly, it's about Tori's doing her darndest to make Max dateable material and how that predictably leads to something else. Great read.

The Kowalski Family series:

- Book 1: Exclusively Yours (The Kowalskis) (Joe's story)
- Book 2: Undeniably Yours (Kowalskis) by Stacey, Shannon [24 January 2012] (Kevin's story)
- Book 3: Yours to Keep (The Kowalskis) (Sean's story)
- Book 4: All He Ever Needed (The Kowalskis) (Mitch's story)
- Book 5: All He Ever Desired (The Kowalskis) (Ryan's story)
- Book 6: All He Ever Dreamed (The Kowalskis) (Josh's story)
- Book 6.5: Alone with You: Book 6.5 of The Kowalskis (Darcy Vaughan/Jake Holland, Kindle novella)
- Book 7: Love a Little Sideways (The Kowalskis) (Liz Kowalski's story)
- Book 8: Taken with You (The Kowalskis) (Hailey Genest's story)
- Book 9: Falling for Max (Tori Burns/Max Crawford)

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