Eyes of Laura Mars

(1978, R) Faye Dunaway (Laura Mars), Tommy Lee Jones (Lt. John Neville), Brad Dourif (Tommy Ludlow), René Auberjonois (Donald Phelps), Raul Julia (Michael Reisler, listed as R.J. in the opening credits), Frank Adonis (Sal Volpe), Bill Boggs (himself). Music: Roy Budd. Screenplay: John Carpenter and David Zelag Goodman (story by John Carpenter). Director: Irvin Kirshner. 103 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Suspense, Psychic

Notable: John Carpenter after Halloween but before The Fog; title song, “Prisoner,” sung by Barbara Streisand; if you look quick, you can see UMP on a building in the apparently low-rent district!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Fashion and artistic photographer Laura Mars discovers that she has been seeing visions of violence and murder and, without knowing it, recreating authentic reproductions of crime scenes in her work. Police Lieutenant John Neville thinks that Laura may actually have committed the murders in a form of split-personality fugue state. Her claim is that she witnesses the crimes, not as an outside observer, but through the eyes of the killer. The killings become personal as her publisher, her publicist, and two of her models are hideously murdered. How many more must die before she can discover the gruesome secret behind the murderer’s connection to her? Continue reading “Eyes of Laura Mars”

The Taking

By Dean Koontz
ISBN-13 978-0553593501

Publication Year: 2004

Tags: Horror, Suspense

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

From the book cover: On the morning that marks the end of the world they have known, Molly and Neil Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain on their roof. A luminous silvery downpour is drenching their small California mountain town. It has haunted their sleep, invaded their dreams, and now, in the moody purple dawn, the young couple cannot shake the sense of something terribly wrong. As the hours pass, Molly and Neil listen to disturbing news of extreme weather phenomena across the globe. By nightfall, their little town loses all contact with the outside world. A thick fog transforms the once-friendly village into a ghostly labyrinth. And soon the Sloans and their neighbors will be forced to draw on reserves of courage and humanity they never knew they had. For within the misty gloom they will encounter something that reveals in a shattering instant what is happening to their world—something that is hunting them with ruthless efficiency. Continue reading “The Taking”

Raising a Ruckus Over Resumés

Getting a job is a full-time job in itself, one that requires not merely dedication but also education — not in the sense of a university degree, but rather in the sense of learning an entirely new and largely deceitful vocabulary. It begins with words and phrases that eliminate anything personal. Companies don’t want people; people are inconvenient. If they could get the job done by a machine, they would. Sometimes, though, they have to have those pesky parasites known as “employees,” and they send out a call for resumés. (Oh wait… “resumes”, since that é is just too French for business to deal with.) Let’s have a look at what that actually means these days. Continue reading “Raising a Ruckus Over Resumés”

Nightflyers

(1987, Rated R) Catherine Mary Stewart (Miranda), Michael Praed (Royd), John Standing (Dr. D’Branin), Lisa Blount (Audrey), Glenn Withrow (Keelor), James Avery (Darryl), Hélene Udy (Lilly), Annabel Brooks (Eliza Scott), Michael Des Barres (Jon Winderman). Music: Doug Timm. Screenplay: Robert Jaffe (based on the novella by George R. R. Martin). Director: T. C. Blake. 90 minutes.

Tags: Science Fiction, Horror, Suspense

Notable: Dark sci-fi long before George R. R. Martin became Game of Thrones; comparatively low-budget film makes good use of atmosphere and suspense to supplant glitzy special effects.

Rating: ★★★★☆

In hope of finding an alien life form known as the Volcryn, a research professor is granted a small crew for a deep-space journey. The limited budget leads to the hiring of a computer-operated freighter called the Nightflyer, whose sole crew is Royd, the captain, who appears only as a hologram. Following a trail of weak psychic energy which may be the wake of the Volcryn’s journey through the galaxy, events on-board the ship lead the research team to wonder if the greater mystery lies within the ship itself. Continue reading “Nightflyers”

The Crêpes of Wrath

By Sarah Fox
ISBN: 042528509X

Tags: Mystery, Cozy

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

When Marley McKinney’s aging cousin, Jimmy, is hospitalized with pneumonia, she agrees to help run his pancake house while he recovers. With its rustic interior and syrupy scent, the Flip Side Pancake House is just as she pictured it—and the surly chef is a wizard with crêpes. Marley expects to spend a leisurely week or two in Wildwood Cove, the quaint, coastal community where she used to spend her summers. Then Cousin Jimmy is found murdered, sprawled on the rocks beneath a nearby cliff, and Marley finds herself up to her short-orders in figuring out whodunit. Continue reading “The Crêpes of Wrath”

Crucifying Cruciverbalists

Cruciverbalist (krew-sih-VER-bull-ist, noun) — someone skilled in creating and/or solving crossword puzzles.

I’ve loved crossword puzzles for many years. They make wonderful vocabulary-building exercises, as well as being a great excuse to get away from whatever else you’re doing, thus performing the 7th Habit that Stephen Covey calls “Sharpening the Saw” (see — if you can stomach it — his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). It can be an entertaining and mind-stretching exercise to wrestle down a good clue and line up the letters in that challenging grid. Cruciverbalists, however, don’t always play fair. I’ve discovered over the years that, essentially, there are four types of crossword puzzle clue: Direct, Clever, Deceitful, and Irrelevant. Continue reading “Crucifying Cruciverbalists”

Days of Future Passed

The Moody Blues

Tracks: 1—The Day Begins; 2—Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling; 3—The Morning: Another Morning; 4—Lunch Break: Peak Hour; 5—The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?) and (Evening) Time to Get Away; 6—Evening: The Sunset and Twilight Time; 7—The Night: Nights in White Satin and Late Lament.

Tags: Progressive Rock, Concept Album, Rock

Release Date: November 10, 1967

Rating: ★★★★☆

Only the second album released by the “Moodies” (as they were familiarly known), this exemplary mix of ballads, poetry, and rock orchestra remains one of the defining collections for both the group and the genesis of what became known as progressive rock. Both singles from this album, “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)” and “Nights in White Satin”, became anthems of their time that are still covered and re-covered fifty years later. Recorded in what was called “Deramic Sound” (created by the Deram record label), this album was one of the first released in true stereo. Continue reading “Days of Future Passed”

The Shadow

(1994, rated PG-13) Alec Baldwin (Lamont Cranston), John Lone (Shiwan Khan), Penelope Ann Miller (Margo Lane), Peter Boyle (Moses “Mo” Shrevniz), Ian McKellen (Dr. Reinhardt Lane), Tim Curry (Farley Claymore), Johnathan Winters (Wainright Barth), Sab Shimono (Dr. Roy Tam), James Hong (Li Peng), Ethan Phillips (Nelson). Music: Jerry Goldsmith. Screenplay: David Koepp. Director: Russell Mulcahy. 107 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Golden Age Hero, Campy, Comic Book Character

Notable: Ethan Phillips, before he was Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager; Johnathan Winters in a non-comedic role (at least, not intentionally comedic).

Rating: ★★★★☆

From the old radio dramas of Orson Wells and the pulp fiction and comics of the Golden Age comes this popcorn treat of a guilty pleasure. Lamont Cranston, wealthy playboy-about-town, returns after a seven-year disappearance, now possessing the power to cloud men’s minds so that they cannot see anything but that which he cannot conceal: His shadow. Unknown to most, he was a ruthless ruler of an Eastern drug cartel, until he was called to redeem himself by learning to train his mind and use his knowledge of man’s darkness to capture and turn those who are yet redeemable. Continue reading “The Shadow”

50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know

By Mickey Z
ISBN 1-932857-18-4

Publication Year: 2005

Tags: Political, History

Rating: ★★★☆☆

In this small volume, “professional iconoclast” (Newsweek) Mickey Z presents fifty of what he considers to be American revolutions — actions and events that were considered to be dangerous precedents of social protest and rebellions against the status quo. Among these is Thomas Paine’s creation of Common Sense; Eugene Debs campaigning for President from his prison cell; Muhammad Ali refusing to be drafted into the military; and American Indians occupying Alcatraz Island. Presented in brief articles of perhaps a thousand words each, the information here is often glossed over or even go unmentioned in modern history texts. Continue reading “50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know”

Flexing Your Writing Muscles

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour

Few things in the world get me more angry than someone saying, “You mean you just write? What kind of job is that?” In one sense, they are correct. As Robert Wilensky observed, “We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.” If all it took to be a writer is to throw words together, any idiot could do it, and as you can tell from various comments on various sites, an extraordinary number of idiots have done just that. Let’s talk a bit about how we, as writers, can do better than that. Continue reading “Flexing Your Writing Muscles”