American Sniper – Movie Review

I wanted to see American Sniper for a while but my bad, never got around to catching it in the theater. Or maybe I just knew that it was the kind of film I didn’t want to watch in public because certain stories are so gut wrenching.

I watched it last night and I’m still affected by it. Which I suppose is the mark of a good film – that you’d be thinking about it the next day.

Clint Eastwood approached the story in his usual understated style and treated it with respect and sensitivity. His depiction of war, military life on and off the battlefield, and our troops was real without the usual Hollywood romanticization or exploitation that so many of these types of films possess.

The film is the story of Chris Kyle, distinguished by having the highest number of recorded sniper shots of any soldier in American military history. His nickname was the Legend. But Kyle wasn’t the kind of man who cared about fame or flattering nicknames, he cared about his fellow soldiers and keeping them out of harm’s way. He cared about keeping our guys alive. And it’s what drove him to do four tours in Iraq.

The film chronicles Chris’s military life and family life in between his tours. And it’s hard to evaluate the story because it’s not a story, it’s what happened to one man. It’s his story. The story of a man who wanted to make a difference and did. The story of a man who put others before himself. The story of a man who lived his beliefs and principles. A man that most of us would’ve liked and been happy to share a beer with or call a friend. Sadly, his devotion and desire to help, ultimately led to his death. Not on the battlefield but at home.

I highly recommend this film not because it glorifies war but because it celebrates the perseverance of the human spirit. It shows that one man can make a difference and did. And it honors those who stand the watch so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy and take for granted every day.


I thank Chris Kyle for his service. I thank his family for their sacrifice.

Writer Chick

A Walk Among the Tombstone – Movie Review


Based on the novel A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block

This movie is based on an old Larry Block novel from the Matthew Scudder series. I’m not a huge Block fan but his books are solid and I do find the Scudder character appealing and likeable. So I was certain I would really enjoy the movie. Since I hadn’t read this particular book, I assumed that I wouldn’t have the usual hissy-fit about a poor adaptation that I have when I see movies based on books I know and love.

The story takes place after Scudder has left the police department and is working as a sort of free agent P.I. He’s sworn off alcohol and lives a quiet, albeit lonely life. He’s approached by the brother of a high level drug dealer whose wife was kidnapped and murdered.

Scudder goes to see the drug kingpin and they don’t hit it off, so Scudder passes on the job. Later on, the drug dealer shows up at his place and gives him the real story of what happened. And it’s grisly, cruel and inhuman what these men have done to this guy’s wife.

Scudder decides to take the case. But as he investigates, he discovers that there are other women who have suffered the same fate. All connected to drug dealers, all tortured, raped and killed in sadistic ways. Scudder now has a hard-on to find these degenerates and put an end to them.

For a little comic relief and human interest, we meet a young homeless boy named TJ, who Scudder befriends and helps. He’s a funny, smart alec kid with Sickle Cell Anemia with loads of attitude, some courage and a good heart. Probably the best scenes in the movie, in my opinion.

While I wouldn’t pan the movie – it’s definitely watchable – I don’t necessarily recommend it either. I don’t know if it was Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Scudder or the direction or both but the movie was too glum. And dark. And depressing. And I’ve never found Block’s novels to be that way so I’m assuming it’s the film makers that made that call. I realize it’s a murder mystery and not a musical comedy but the film lacked the humanity that Block writes so well. And for me, that has to be an element in a story like this – otherwise after you’re done watching it, you just want to blow your brains out.

Would I recommend it? Well, if it was a choice between watching this movie or watching reruns of Charlie’s Angels, I might opt for the movie. On the other hand, there are all those clothes and retro hairstyles. Maybe you’d enjoy the book more.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

The Equalizer – Movie Review


equalizer tv show

The_Equalizer_posterTypically, I’m not a big fan of movies based on old television shows (This one is based on the 1985 TV series The Equalizer, starring Edward Woodward). However, I am a big fan of Denzel Washington, so I thought I’d give this flick a look. I’m glad I did. When it comes to film adaptations of TV shows The Equalizer is probably one of the best I’ve seen.

Retired government agent (although they never name the agency, one assumes it’s the CIA) Robert McCall, has left his agent days behind and a lives a quiet, well-ordered life. He is a widower and most of his human contact is through his job at a local home improvement center. He is a mentor of sorts to a young kid named Ralphie who wants to become a security guard at the center and the other employees who are mostly younger men who call McCall Pops.

In the evenings he takes his book to a local coffee shop and reads while enjoying a cup of tea. At the coffee shop he befriends a young prostitute who aspires to be a singer. McCall takes a fatherly interest in the girl and treats her with kindness and intelligence – encouraging her to pursue her dreams.

Soon, we learn that the young prostitute, Teri, is under the thumb of the Teddy the pimp. A particularly sadistic jerk who works for the Russian mob. Teri defies her pimp and instead of taking a call, has a conversation with Robert in the coffee shop. Naturally, Teddy seeks her out, throws her in the car and the next thing we learn is that she was beaten up so badly that she was hospitalized.

McCall attempts to buy Teri’s freedom but is ridiculed by Teddy and his henchmen. Big mistake. CIA Agent mode kicks in on McCall and he becomes a one man wrecking crew determined to rid the earth of these scum suckers.

While the plot is pretty much the template for most action films, the actors, the writing and direction make it an above average watch. You care about these people. You care about McCall. And you want him to win. He’s like the ultimate bully fighter and does it with precision, calm and some serious creativity. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but in the final showdown sequence he does in some bad guys in some very MacGyver-like ways, that I loved. The film is fast-paced, with crisp dialogue and believable characters. And then of course there’s Denzel – who doesn’t love him?

At the end we see we’re set up for sequels (should the film do well, expect more Equalizer movies).

If you like fast-paced, sharp, tense action thrillers, I think you’ll like The Equalizer. It’s absolutely worth the price of a rental and even some popcorn too.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Movie Review – Before I Go to Sleep


before i go to sleep

Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth star is this above average thriller.

Kris Lucas (Kidman), wakes up every day but remembers nothing about her current life. We learn that she had a terrible accident years before and as her patient husband, Ben (Firth), explains to her she has no memories of her life any more recently than her mid-20s. In every room are pictures of Kris’s life to remind her of who she is, and significant life events she’s experienced. All put up by her husband Ben in an effort to help qualm her fears.

Understandably, Kris is frightened and not sure if she can trust Ben is telling her the truth. To further confuse things, Kris receives a call every morning from her psychiatrist, (whom she is seeing without her husband’s knowledge) to remind her of the video memory she is recording on a camera hidden in the back of her closet. Her therapy is to record everything that she learns one day and to play it back the next day in hopes that this process will somehow help her recover her lost memory.

As the story continues and Kris continues in her camera therapy, she begins to remember very small snatches of her memory. Some of these memories make Ben look like a liar and yet when confronted he provides a reasonable explanation. But the good thing about the therapy is that it emboldens Kris to go out into the world to look for answers rather than remaining a prisoner in her home, trapped by fears of not knowing who she is,

I don’t want to give any spoilers but there are plenty of twists and turns and this fast-paced mystery really draws you in. Like Kris, you find yourself wanting to know what the heck happened to this poor woman. Kidman and Firth turn in excellent and believable performances, as well as the supporting cast.

The writing is clean, clear and doesn’t get in the way of the story. Direction and production values very good and the premise believable.

As a mystery fan who is often disappointed with what movie makers release as mysteries, I’d give this movie 4 stars. If you like good solid mysteries, I believe you’ll like Before I Go to Sleep very much.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Movie Review – Gone Girl



I caught Gone Girl this weekend and I have mixed feelings about it. I thought the story was compelling but I hated the direction and cinematography. So I’m not sure if I can say I loved it.

The premise is that Nick Dunne comes home to find his wife, Amy, has disappeared on the day of their 5th anniversary. There are signs of a struggle in the living room and he can’t find his wife anywhere. He contacts the police, who are somewhat cold and stand-offish.

Nonetheless, Nick cooperates with the police in their investigation of his wife’s disappearance. He surrenders his house to allow the police to search and shortly the whole thing becomes a media parade. Is she dead? Has she been kidnapped? Did Nick have anything to do with it? The missing woman becomes a sort of folk hero and a larger than life symbol for oppressed women.

Naturally, things continually go south for Nick. It looks bad. It looks really, really bad for him and public opinion gets worse and worse.

I don’t want to provide any spoilers but I will say there are some very nice and well executed twists. The writing is excellent, dialogue and characterizations spot on. Very well done in that regard. And the story is better than most recent thriller/mysteries I’ve seen lately.

What I didn’t like was the grainy, faded cinematography that had the look of a student film in my opinion. I imagine that choice was made to give the story a texture of grit and a feeling of hopelessness, but for me it just made it hard to follow and in some case see what was going on. Also the transitioning from one scene to the next was done oddly. If you watch the film, you’ll see what I mean. I found that very distracting. And the story jockeyed back and forth from present day to the past, which if you looked away from the screen for a minute could be really confusing. And flashbacks, especially when there are a lot of them are hard to do well in a film because it makes you feel like you’re standing still.

Overall, I’d say the film was worth the price of admission and would give a three out of five on the viewing scale.

So, if you’re looking for a decent mystery that may surprise you in the end, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Movie Reviews – “Odd Thomas” and “About Time”

Odd Thomas

odd thomasI’m a huge Dean Koontz fan so imagine my delight when I saw that they’d made a movie based on the book Odd Thomas (also one of my favorite Koontz characters). Except for Anton Yeltchin and Willem DaFoe, I was unfamiliar with the other cast members and was a little worried I was going to hate it. Let’s be honest, we’ve all gone to see movies based on favorite books and have left the theater pissed as hell, right?

I’m happy to say that not only was the movie true to the book and the story but the casting was perfect. Yeltchin played a very believable and disarming Odd and Addison Timlin was fantastic as Odd’s true love, Stormy Llewellyn. The adapted screenplay was written by the director Stephen Sommers and I’m hoping there are plans for more Odd movies in the future.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Odd Thomas books – the story is about a humble 19 year old fry cook who lives in the tiny California town of Pico Mundo. He has two talents: he is an awesome fry cook and he communes with the dead. He can also see evil forebodings of death and destruction. He is a sort of unwilling psychic detective who reports his findings to the local police chief and together they work to stop crime and evil interlopers. In this movie Odd discovers that there will be a massive blood bath somewhere in town in 24 hours, that will leave hundreds of Pico Mundo-ians dead if he doesn’t figure it out and find a way to stop it.

In short, it’s a winner. Rent it, buy it, watch it on Amazon – but definitely see it.  ♥♥♥♥

About Time

At the age of 21 Tim discovers the men in his family can time travel – but only to the past and only in the past of their own lives. Naturally when his dad breaks the news to him, he doesn’t believe it. However, to humor dad and himself he tries it and by God, it’s true. Tim then decides that he will use his secret super power to find love. That is how he will make the world a better place.

The movie is produced by the same folks who produced Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually – so it has the same quirky, adorableness about it as the previous films have. It’s a simple story about a somewhat awkward young man who through trial and error (and a little correctional time travel) learns that indeed love does make the world a better place. He finds true love with a lot of bumps along the way, but it’s not perfect, it’s silly, and inconvenient, confusing and sometimes disappointing. But wonderful nonetheless.

This a sweet, feel-good movie that makes you a fan of the simple things in life.

Highly recommend.  ♥♥♥♥