[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link]

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This was one of Mrs. Salad's choices. Netflix predicted I wouldn't like it much. You can see the mediocre score from the IMDB raters. It was barely released in theaters back in 2011, and finally came out on DVD this summer. None of this screams "must-see".

But still: produced, written, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. How bad could it be?

Well, let's put it this way: Mr. Coppola knows infinitely more about making movies than I. So he probably did pretty much what he wanted here. Give him that. Okay, what I'm seeing is incoherent and uninteresting, but almost certainly that's what he was going for.

Val Kilmer—boy did he get fat, or what?—plays writer "Hall Baltimore", on a book tour to a dinky town named Swan Valley. There's no actual bookstore, he's informed: just a hardware store that sells some books. He's accosted by the local sheriff, played by Bruce Dern in full-weirdo mode: there's been a local murder with hints of vampirism, wouldn't that make a great book for us to collaborate on, huh?

Baltimore is intrigued enough to stick around, but he's bedeviled by (a) wacky dreams in which Edgar Allen Poe and a creepy girl named "V" appear, uttering loopy dialogue; (b) Skype calls from his shrewish wife (played, amusingly enough, by Val Kilmer's ex-wife Joanne Whalley); (c) guilt-ridden memories of his dear, decased daughter; (d) his publisher, who demands more of the same schlock.

It's a big mess, but there are some funny bits. Bruce Dern is always good when he's weird. And Val Kilmer does some impressions: Marlon Brando and James Mason. Yay, he can still be funny, but it made me wish we'd rented Top Secret or Real Genius instead.

I avoid learning too much about movies before I see them, but now I learn that Father Guido Sarducci himself, Don Novello, was in this. I totally missed that. But I'm not watching it again to catch his performance.

Last Modified 2024-01-27 10:59 AM EDT

Bad Luck and Trouble

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Another (number 11) in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. And, although I've liked all the ones I've read, this one struck me as clearly above average.

A brief opening chapter describes the bad guys disposing of a troublemaker by helicoptering him—still alive—out to the Mojave and dropping him from 3,000 feet. Ouch! Those bastards...

Days later, Reacher is nonplussed by the anonymous deposit of $1030 into his bank account. He recognizes this as a code sent by an ex-Army colleague, Frances Neagley, asking him to get in touch and provide assistance. (MPs use 10-30 as a "Request assistance" code, but I see a few that might have been more appropriate.)

It turns out that, like Neagley, the victim, Calvin Franz, used to be part of Reacher's investigative unit. It hardly needs be said that Reacher and Neagley take Franz's death personally, and begin to make plans to find the perpetrators and extract extralegal vengeance.

Neagley and Reacher attempt to reach out to the remaining members of the team. But they are unresponsive. Could they also be the victims of foul play? And who is in the cars following them around?

Eventually it all gets sorted out, but, in these books, the journey is the reward. Albeit a journey filled with violence, betrayal, gunplay, etc. Reacher is a stellar investigator, and it's a joy to watch him peel away the layers of the onion to reveal the nefarious plot that the evildoers are attempting to bring to fruition.

Last Modified 2024-01-27 10:59 AM EDT