Saturday, October 29, 2016

Inferno (Nik's Piks: Movie Review)

"Humanity is the disease, inferno is the cure." ~ Inferno

The only novel that ever gave me nightmares - which may sound dramatic, but it's true - was Dan Brown's Inferno. The fourth novel in the Robert Langdon series which included the very popular The Da Vinci Code, Inferno is the third book to be adapted to film. I am disappointed they skipped The Lost Symbol because it may have been my favorite of the novels, but let's talk about the film version of Inferno

The only way this story was going to be told in a two-hour movie was having the pace move fast - very FAST! And it did. From the opening scene, Inferno hits the ground running and moves at a pace that will have you on the edge of your seat the entire film. The story touches on Brown's most serious topic of all the novels - the very real issue of human overpopulation and the consequences we (and our planet) will suffer from that. The prominent theme is that Dante's Inferno is no longer a prophecy, but a reality. 

Bioengineer Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), having the goal of solving the world's overpopulation issue, creates a plague that will wipe out half of humankind. He has left clues to its whereabouts hidden in Boticelli's map of Dante's Inferno (hell) and a timetable to its release. It is the ultimate biological weapon and the clues can only be solved by symbol scholar and Harvard professor, Robert Langdon ,played by Tom Hanks.  

Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital and has no recollection of how he got there. He is bloody and confused and begins to experience visions of hell that he will need to piece together to solve an international crisis. But for some strange reason, everyone is now after Langdon - the Italian police, the World Health Organization, even the U.S. Consulate.  

"The greatest sins have been committed in the name of love." ~ Inferno

The film was exciting and followed the book quite well. However, the novel contains so much interesting history and academic explanations that the film leaves out due to time restraints. On this level, the film cannot compare to the novel. I couldn't help but wonder if those who did not read the novel could possibly follow along. I believe the answer is yes, especially for fans of thrillers. However, the adaptation really doesn't do the book justice. That is not to say I did not enjoy the film. I did! It's just a shame all the details couldn't be included, but no one is going to sit through a 6-hour film. 

I must caution fans of the book, however. Without giving anything away, the ending is changed dramatically. Not for time - but to better appeal to moviegoers who prefer a neatly concluded plot. While I understand that, it was a touch disappointing. 

Watch Official Trailer

Inferno is intense and contains beautiful footage of Florence, Venice, and Istanbul. I adore Hanks as Langdon and the entire cast did a great job. The film also stars Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, and Sidse Babett Knudsen. Inferno is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements, and brief sensuality. 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Nik's Piks: Movie Review)

Looks like I have a book-to-film mini-series going on in regards to recent and upcoming movie reviews. Last week, I reviewed The Girl on the Train film adaptation and have Me Before You coming soon. Plus, I cannot wait for the release on Inferno starring Tom Hanks. The difference between these films and this week's review of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, is that I read all these novels, but did not read any of the books in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. In fact, up until last night, I had no prior exposure to the series in any capacity, having also not seen the first movie released in 2012. 

For full disclosure, I must admit I was not planning on seeing Never Go Back when I went to the theater the other night. First, I am not a Tom Cruise fan and, secondly, I am generally very selective of which films I see in theaters. I do not typically rush off to see mere action dramas, preferring to wait for them to be released for home viewing. However, after being shut out of The Accountant, (based on the volume of moviegoers, I am not sure I believe the headlines that our economy is suffering) the latest Reacher installment was actually a fallback plan. 

You do not need to have been familiar with the novels or the first film to follow the story - it is rather simple. Although, now I wouldn't mind going back and seeing the first film just out of pure curiosity. Cruise plays Jack Reacher, a former Army Major, whose only way to adjust to civilian life is by continuing to work unofficially with the government to solve crimes. However, when his military contact, Major Turner, played by Cobie Smulders, is arrested for espionage, Reacher is determined to prove her innocence. The case is complicated by a 15-year-old teen girl, Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who claims Reacher is her father. Now, in addition to trying to uncover military crimes that led to the death of American soldiers in Afghanistan and exonerating Turner, Reacher must also keep Samantha alive from those trying to use her safety as leverage to get Reacher to back away. 

Watch Official Trailer

Although not a fan of Cruise, I didn't hate this film. It had some entertaining moments and was exactly what I expected it would be, but nothing more. The plot was straightforward with little to no complexity, and the majority of the film was glorified action. There were no major surprises, but there were some good lines and fight scenes. 

Personally, I prefer dramas that have more character-depth and intelligent plot twists. But, if you like action films, particularly military or spy type stories, I would recommend this film to you. I am not saying you need to run off to the theater to see it, unless you happen to be a huge Cruise fan. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements. 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Girl on the Train (Nik's Piks: Movie Review)

The Girl on the Train is a 2016 psychological thriller based on the very popular book by Paula Hawkins. Some of you may remember that it was named one of my favorite reads of 2015. Therefore, and mainly because I happen to love book-to-film adaptations even if they don't always turn out so well, I was very excited for its release. So, what did I think of the film? 

See my entire list of favorite novels of 2015.

The Girl on the Train is an intense human drama. However, while the novel was very detailed and really delved into the psyche of the characters, the movie (as all movies are) was on a time-crunch. For this reason, viewers of the film did not benefit from all the characters being fully developed, Anna in particular, and, at best, received  the Cliffsnotes' version of the story. There were moments I felt the plot was bombarding the audience with pertinent information just to squeeze it all in as opposed to allowing events to be divulged naturally. With that said, I truly believe that if you haven't read the book, these flaws will not be an issue for you. The person I saw it with hadn't read it and she loved the film. 

Read my book review of The Girl on the Train for more details on thematic elements. 

Besides the criticisms above and finding the beginning a bit slow, I did enjoy this film adaptation, especially the further into the film we got.  The end was true to the novel and very suspenseful. The change in setting from London suburbs to Croton-on-Hudson outside NYC was a bit of a surprise, but made sense for marketing purposes. 

The casting was well done and included Emily Blunt who did an amazing job as Rachel, the divorced alcoholic who's life is spiraling out of control even before she becomes obsessed with solving a local murder; Haley Bennett as Megan, a troubled woman trying to find peace with her past; and Rebecca Ferguson as Anna, a new wife and mother disenchanted with her life. 

Watch Official Trailer

In addition, Justin Theroux was excellent playing Tom, Rachel's narcissistic ex-husband. The film also stars Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, and Lisa Kudrow. The Girl on the Train is rated R for violence (mostly against women and some very graphic), sexual content, language, and nudity. If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, you will want to check this one out.  

I am curious to hear what others thought of this film - both those who did and those who did not read the book. 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Marriage Lie (Book Review)

NOTE: I received this book free from the author/publisher requesting an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's rules and guidelines.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Kimberly Belle's first two novels, The Last Breath and The Ones We Trust, to say I was elated when she asked if I would be interested in previewing an advanced copy of her latest novel is an understatement.  Due out in January 2017, The Marriage Lie, like Belle's first two books, is filled with suspense, excitement, and page-turning twists. 

Iris, a school psychologist, and Will, a computer scientist, have a fairy-tale marriage. They have recently moved into their dream home in an Atlanta suburb and are now trying for their first child. On the morning of their seven-year wedding anniversary, Will slips a Cartier ring on Iris' finger, a gift that is more than a little out of their budget, before she leaves for work and he heads to the airport to catch a plane to Orlando to attend a conference. It isn't until later that morning that Iris, along with the rest of the world, hears of a tragic plane crash. A Liberty Air flight to Seattle has crashed in a cornfield; there are no survivors. 

So why can't she reach Will? He should have landed by now. Then Iris' worst nightmare occurs. The phone call comes from Liberty Air declaring Will as one of the now deceased passengers from that morning's plane crash. However, Will was headed to Orlando, not Seattle! Iris calls Will's assistant and learns there was no conference in Orlando. From here the lies and betrayals are uncovered as Iris struggles to deal with the loss of her husband while getting answers to why he was even on that flight in the first place. One clue after another leads her to a truth that will destroy the memory of her entire marriage and that of the man she loves. 

"We see what we want to see. We gather information, use it or ignore it to shape our own beliefs, to make our own choices, to withhold love or give it freely." ~ The Marriage Lie

As also evident in Belle's other two novels, she is a master at creating unpredictable plots, ones that will keep the reader guessing right up until the final page. But rarely, if ever, is my mouth left agape after the very last line. Fans of thrillers will love this novel and will get lost in the search for answers along with Iris. Every time I thought I had something figured out, something in the plot would contradict my theory. Yet, despite the twists and turns, Belle carefully wraps up all loose ends leaving no holes in the story line.  

The Marriage Lie is a page-turner and, Iris, like Belle's other protagonists, is a strong character who keeps herself together even under the worst circumstances. I always relate to her heroines and think for this reason, along with Belle's well-written, suspenseful plots, I have not been disappointed in any of her novels. Readers can pre-order the novel now on Amazon or other platforms via Belle's website.

Read more of my Book Reviews

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Revenant (Nik's Piks: Movie Review)

I finally sat down and watched The Revenant, not because I wanted to - I have successfully avoided it this long - but because I succumbed to the pressure and felt almost obligated. After all, the 2015 film earned twelve Oscar nominations, winning for Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Director, and, most deserved, Best Cinematography, along with many other industry awards.

"I'm not afraid to die anymore. I done it already." ~ The Revenant

After watching the film, I really think critics and the Academy are simply suckers for big-budget, epic tales. In actuality, the film was too long, by about 40 minutes. It was also overly violent and gruesome, to the point it seemed almost for mere shock-effect. And, maybe this was just my mood, but, quite frankly, I wanted Glass (DiCaprio) to fall victim to his injuries, mainly so I could just go to bed. 

With all that said, the premise itself was riveting. In 1823, North American fur trapper Hugh Glass is brutally attacked by a bear who leaves him for dead. He is discovered by the rest of his hunting team and is left in the care of his son, Hawk, played by Forrest Goodluck, and two other trappers (Tom Hardy and Will Poulter) who are promised payment if they stay with Glass. However, when one deems Glass as a nuisance and threat to his and the others' own survival, he murders Hawk and leaves Glass to die in the wilderness. The remainder of the film is the dramatic fight for survival fueled by Glass's need for revenge. 

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The other thematic elements of determination, perseverance and the will to survive were conspicuous, to the point where I was detached from the character because I just didn't buy into it all, despite the fact the film is inspired by true events. Again, maybe that is my own baggage, LOL. 

Was the film beautifully shot? Yes! Perhaps, that alone makes it worth watching. Was the story captivating? Most of it. But, overall, this film was not one I would run out and see again and would be cautious as to who I recommend it to. The Revenant is rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a rape, language, and brief nudity. 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Remember (Nik's Piks: Movie Review)

"Living a lie is not a life." ~ Remember

How do you make peace with your unspeakable past if you can't remember it? Remember is a 2015 (released in U.S. in 2016)  film starring two of Hollywood's greats, Christopher Plummer (Zev) and Martin Landau (Max) as two gentlemen who befriend each other in a nursing home. Their bond and friendship is based on the fact that they are the last two survivors who can identify the face of the Nazi commander who killed their families in Auschwitz. 

After the death of his wife, Ruth, Zev sets out to fulfill a promise to Max, another Holocaust survivor now confined to a wheelchair who spent his life tracking down escaped Nazi war criminals, to find the man responsible for killing their families. However, Zev is suffering from dementia and must rely on detailed instructions written down by Max. His search for revenge takes him from city to city as he investigates and confronts former Nazi soldiers in search of the commander. 

"You've lived a lie so long, you've convinced yourself it's true." ~ Remember

Zev's unbelievable journey brings up the tragic events of his past that otherwise went forgotten. Remember is an intense human drama that contains some of the most gut-wrenching and shocking scenes I've seen on screen in a long time. Plus, it had one of the best endings to any film I've ever watched. 

Watch Official Trailer

The film has already received international recognition, and I hope to see it receive some nominations at the next Academy Awards.  It is a remarkably powerful film that should not be missed. World War II buffs in particular will want to be sure to watch it. Plummer is no less than outstanding. The film also stars Dean Norris and Henry Czerny. Remember is rated R for a sequence of violence and language. 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Hurricanes: The One Positive

Hi everyone. As I just returned from a walk around my neighborhood here in southeast Florida, I decided to write a quick post. At this point, with Hurricane Matthew expected to make landfall as a category 4 about an hour north of me in approximately 12 hours or so, people are getting settled in for a long night and an uncertain few days afterwards. With a hurricane warning in effect for my area along, the last 72 hours have been consumed with getting the house prepared. I am not new to Florida hurricanes, but it has been several years and the unpredictability of these monsters always seem to put everyone on edge. On Tuesday, I tweeted how gas stations were already seeing lines and running out of gas and grocery store shelves were empty. The uncertainty of it all just seems to make people panic, and with good reason. 

Yesterday the shutters went up and by last night all large items were already safely stored in the garage. My son and I decided to go for a walk to take it all in. Oddly enough, one positive is I have now met more of my neighbors than I have in the six years I've lived in this community. Florida is notorious for not being very neighborly, but one thing is for sure. When crisis hits, human nature takes over and we are there for each other. During our evening walk, my son and I saw people busy finalizing plans, and it was wonderful to see neighbors helping others with preparations.

One unexpected success was the capture of the only stray cat (kitten, really, at only 3 months) by some concerned residents and myself. I have the space and the supplies so guess where the little guy is waiting out the storm? Yep, my bathroom. I must be crazy, but you know what? I couldn't not try to keep him safe during such weather. I decided to call him Matty, short for Matthew. 

After finishing up last minute preparations this morning which included moving my tortoise inside, filling up pots of water, and dragging the last of the flower pots into the garage, I went on another walk. The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside, now with the sky already cloudy and outer rain bands fast approaching, I remembered that familiar feeling of years past. The quiet calm before the storm. This time, though, living on a preserve, something else caught my attention. Birds! The sound of more birds at than I have ever heard at one time in this area before. It was eerie to say the least. Not long thereafter I noticed something else. The forests fell silent as the first outer rain band (squall) came through. 

I checked on a couple of neighbors including the elderly gentleman a few doors down who was still putting up shutters. Luckily, he was on his last window. 

Now it is time for me to take a shower (it may be my last hot one for a while) and prepare some hot food, which will also become a novelty if we go without power for a while like we have in the past. 

To those of you in the path of Hurricane Matthew, please be safe and listen to official orders. 

Related article: 
Wine, Chocolate, and Naked Twister: Hurricane Readiness