Searching (2018)

DVD – How well does a parent really know their child? And to what lengths will a parent go to protect their child? These questions are answered in the thriller Searching.

David Kim is a widowed dad who thinks he has a very close relationship with his16-year-old daughter, Margot. She is in advanced classes in her high school and takes piano lessons. She takes her studies very seriously, frequently staying out late at a friend’s house for group study. David wakes one morning and finds that he had three missed calls from Margot. At first, he assumes that she got home late from her study group and left in the morning for school before he woke up. David keeps texting, leaving messages, calls the school, and Margot’s piano teacher. He realizes something is terribly wrong. Margot left the study group early, never went to school, and finds out she quit her piano lessons six months ago, apparently stashing away the money from the lessons. David calls the police only to realize that he doesn’t actually know who Margot’s friends are. Detective Rosemary Vick takes the case and encourages David to follow Margot’s digital footprints to get information about the people she knows and her interests. He manages to log into Margot’s laptop, which she left behind and learns some surprising things from her social media accounts and digital history.

Did she run away? Was she abducted? Is she still alive or dead? Searching is smart and suspenseful, with unexpected plot twists as dad and detective race to find the missing Margot.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Front CoverBook – At first glance, Vox‘s cover appears simplistic and unassuming – but this, dear reader, we would be wrong to presume.

Vox takes place in contemporary America and follows Dr. Jean McCellan, an acclaimed scientist and feminist. She, along with all women, must adhere to a strictly-enforced 100-word per day government decree or suffer punitive electric shocks if she goes over the allotment. In no small part due to the “Pure Movement,” women are not permitted to work outside of the home, nor girls taught to read or write. The author’s readable prose presents us with a thriller into which we are intimately drawn and a world which Dalcher deftly navigates.

Good Morning America lists Vox as one of their “Best books to bring to the beach this summer.” Wow…how shall I put this, uh – no. While Vox is significantly less voluminous than Margaret Atwood’s hefty The Handmaid’s Tale and is provocative and worthwhile reading on Fall, Spring, or Winter day, but one for a hot, forgettable, summer’s day? Not on your life.

 

Death Wish (2018)

DVD – Death Wish is a remake of the 1974 version, which I admit I have not seen. I saw this movie on the shelf and thought, “Hey, I love Bruce Willis and the Die Hard movie collection, so why not try this one?” This is a great action thriller movie about an emergency room doctor (Bruce Willis) who is unwittingly tasked with fixing up the bad guys of Chicago. A grave situation befalls his family, at which time he has a moment of awakening and plots his revenge. The police- overwhelmed with cases and coming up empty- starting with lowly purse snatchers, and moving up to carjackers, and eventually murderers – he doles out justice as he sees fit.

This was a great action movie for Bruce Willis. Not too much CGI and a plausible storyline. It felt honest and true to the types of mistakes one might make while learning to be an everyday superhero incognito. I am somewhat confused about the role his brother plays in the film, but not enough to discourage me from watching it a second time. I think this one hits home for the action lover of the family as well as the romance/story lover of the family.  An all-around A+ in my book!

The Commuter (2018)

DVD- Ex-Cop Michael takes the commuter train into the city Monday – Friday, to his ho-hum job selling life insurance. On what should be a regular day on the train, he is approached by another passenger Joanna, who makes him an offer.  In need of cash to continue his lifestyle and support his family, Michael must solve the ‘puzzle’ correctly and quickly in order to claim the reward.  He has to locate the commuter carrying a specific package and obtain it before arriving to stop “x.”  He has only a few stops to figure things out. Of course, Joanna tracks his movements at all times and in various ways throughout the trip. Will he solve the mystery, survive, and get the money?

Liam Neeson plays the lead, and is typecast for this role. The Commuter is quite similar to his other action movies. The preview looked amazing and set up the film to be exciting. Who doesn’t love Liam Neeson in action? This one, however, was more over the top than usual. There were plot holes aplenty and far too many action sequences. If you are looking for an action packed, just-for-the-heck-of-it movie, The Commuter fits the bill. Just don’t expect that “Wow, that was amazing!” feeling afterward.  I walked away saying to myself, “Okay…huh…I saw it. Now what?”

Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward

Book – When she was six years old, Lauren’s mother was murdered, her father arrested for the crime. Lauren’s brother Alex has always been convinced that their father is innocent, but Lauren doesn’t buy it. She remembers seeing something – she’s not sure what, but it was bad – and she trusts her memory. But when Alex disappears during a tour in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders, Lauren is forced to come to grips with her memories, her father, and her family’s history. Meanwhile, a pregnant young woman has left her boyfriend, hoping to reunite with her best friend — but she, too, has childhood memories that have yet to be resolved.

I enjoyed this psychological thriller about the unreliability of childhood memories. The characters are not always sympathetic, but they’re well-drawn and intriguing. This isn’t really a fast-paced thriller; the story moves from one point to another in the abrupt staccato way of memories itself. While the point of view shifts can be a little disorienting to start with, the whole story weaves itself together in the end in a most satisfying way.

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Books – A rogue SecUnit is one of the most terrifying things imaginable: a part-living, mostly-machine entity designed for security applications, without a working governor module, free to kill and destroy at will, and unstoppable by human agency.

The narrator of All Systems Red is technically a rogue SecUnit. It hacked its governor module, but instead of going on a murderous rampage, mostly it keeps doing its job and watches media in its downtime. (It particularly enjoys Sanctuary Moon.) That is, until a neighboring science mission goes dark and the humans SecUnit has been assigned to protect are threatened. SecUnit (who also calls itself Murderbot, although never out loud) doesn’t particularly like interacting with humans, but it doesn’t want them to die. After all, if all the humans died, who would make the media?

The Murderbot Diaries are short science-fiction thrillers, full of corporate espionage and underhanded dealings, but the real joy of them is watching Murderbot try to figure out how to be a person – because despite its continued insistence that it’s a bot, it’s one of the most intensely relateable characters I’ve ever met. (After all, who doesn’t want to spend long, boring shifts at work watching TV?) It struggles with human interaction, interactions with other bots, and how to handle personal responsibility, all while staying far enough under the radar to avoid being captured and reprogrammed. Artificial Condition follows Murderbot’s attempt to understand it’s own past (and its reluctant friendship with a science research transport). The series continues with Rogue Protocol in August and Exit Strategy in October.

Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren

Book- Troubled Waters is the fourth installment in the amazing, Montana Rescue Series.  The story starts out with a forest fire, which sends the PEAK rescue team into action. Through unfortunate events, the chopper is damaged and in need of help of former PEAK member, billionaire Ian Shaw. PEAK member Sierra convinces him to  have a fundraising junket on his yacht, the Montana Rose. Despite having been built on a steep budget, the luxurious yacht has never actually sailed.  During its first trip out to sea when a series of rogue waves rock the ship – everyone is hurled overboard. Who will survive, and if so, how? If given a new lease on life will opportunities be seized, and the perspective that life is too short for petty issues, be realized?

Susan May Warren strikes again with yet another winner. I found Troubled Waters somewhat more “churchy” than the others in the series, but nevertheless compelling. Her way of storytelling describes experiences with great detail, and to a such degree that readers feel as though they themselves experience what the characters do.I was chilled to the bone when the crew went overboard! I eagerly await the next book in the series, Storm Front, due out this June.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

Book–Amateur comic book artist and high school student Jess Wong is painfully, unhealthily in love with her best friend Angie. Jess is content to obsess over Angie secretly until Angie enters into a relationship with Margot Adams, a beautiful student from the nearby posh boarding school. Naturally, Jess thinks Margot is no good for Angie, but is this just sour grapes on Jess’s part or is Margot really bad news? When tragedy strikes at an off-campus party and everyone is a suspect, Jess must face up to what really happened that night. Or must she?

This is a dark, twisty thriller, like Pretty Little Liars meets Gone Girl meets The L Word. The book is split in two parts: the beginning is told in first person from Jess’ POV and the end is made up of police interviews and third person limited POV following multiple characters. This allows Lo to build up the tension without giving it all away too quickly. If you enjoy A Line in the Dark, you might also like twisty young adult books like We Were Liars and Last Seen Leaving.

Get Out (2017)

Movie–I don’t really like horror movies. But, I do like good movies, and I’m always motivated to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible. So, that’s how I found myself checking out and somewhat begrudgingly watching Get Out, a horror movie with serious racial themes.

Chris, an African American photographer, hesitantly goes to his white girlfriend Rose’s house for the weekend to meet her family. His best friend warns him that no good will come of this. In scenes reminiscent of The Stepford Wives, Chris notices that something is “off” about the African American groundskeeper and housekeeper. Then the family’s friends come for an annual party, and things get even weirder. Chris quickly realizes he needs to leave. But, will he be able to get out?

Written and directed by Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame), Get Out has been getting critical acclaim since its release in early 2017, so it was really no surprise when it earned nominations for four of the big categories at the Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for Daniel Kaluuya). Although it was outside my comfort zone, I’m glad I watched it (well, all except for the parts that got so violent that I covered my eyes). If you are interested in a well-made horror movie that also tackles race issues and might just win an Oscar, then this is for you.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (2017)

Movie – Valerian and Lauraline are a team of special agents assigned to keep order and peace throughout the human territories in space. They are sent on a mission to Alpha – the city of a thousand planets, where new experiences and evil await.

Valerian and The City of A Thousand Planets takes place in the distant future. Alpha, populated with a diverse species – inhabitants take the time to learn about each ones cultural background, and share knowledge, all of which contributed to building their amazing city. One of the most notable aspects of the film, is how one’s racial and genetic makeup did not get in the way of Alpha’s inhabitants from working together with one another in meaningful, peaceful, and constructive ways.

I chose to watch this movie based solely on the previews. The colors, animation, and creativity of the creatures caught my attention immediately. While that was my initial reason for picking this film, the storyline did not disappoint. I definitely recommend giving Valerian and The City of A Thousand Planets a shot!