Friday, June 30, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Deeper superhero movie with action and laughs
Cons: War movie underpinnings
The Bottom Line:
Finally on big screen
Diana shines with action
And plenty of heart

Wonder Woman Gets Her Big Screen Movie.  Finally

My first exposure to superheroes was a rerun of the 1970’s Wonder Woman TV show.  I immediately fell in love, and I’ve had a soft spot for Wonder Woman ever since.  Naturally, that meant I was following news and rumors for a big screen movie for years, and I had to see the final result in the theater.

Diana (Gal Gadot) is the daughter of the queen of the Amazons.  She is raised on an island hidden from the world of man and, against her mother’s wishes, is trained in the art of war.  But the outside world intrudes on her world when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane near the island.  As Diana hears about the War to End All Wars happening in the outside world, she knows she needs to leave with Steve.

You see, the Amazons were created for one purpose – to fight Ares, the god of war.  Diana believes he is highly involved in the current conflict.  Will she find him?  Will defeating him stop the war?

I haven’t been super impressed with DC Comic movies over the last few years, which did give me pause going into this film.  However, I found that this film had added depth the others didn’t.  While Diana is naïve at times, she is not the dark and brooding hero that DC thinks everyone needs to be today.  And there is actually quite a bit of humor scattered throughout the movie.

Having said that, this is a war movie, and that is driven home in the final act as things take some darker turns.  Even earlier than that, it is easy to forget you are watching a superhero movie since the film doesn’t shy away from the realities of war, both for the soldiers and the civilians caught in the crossfire.

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t action scenes.  Diana gets plenty of opportunity to show off her powers, and those scenes are, well, wonderful.  The action and special effects are believable and perfect because they help tell the story instead of overpowering it.

This definitely has more character development than many of the recent DC Comic superhero movies have had, and the actors really step up.  Overall, the actors do a great job of bouncing between the action, comedy, and the more serious moments.

I’m still puzzled by the decision to move her to World War I.  Wonder Woman has her origins in World War II, the time period when she was created.  I know the producers have said they felt because of the shifts in the world happening during that time, it created some unique storytelling opportunities.  Personally, I think the themes presented here would have been even deeper with a World War II backdrop.  But maybe that’s just me wanting to be a period purist.

And on a completely silly note, I have to take exception to Ares being the villain here.  You see, my ultimate Frisbee summer league has a Greek god and goddess theme this year, and I’m on team Ares.  It’s a matter of pride.

Wonder Woman manages to touch on deeper themes while still entertaining like a superhero movie should.  I wish it hadn’t gone quite so much into the serious war movie sub-genre, but it is still a huge step up for DC Comic movies, one I hope they follow going forward.

June 30th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's Friday, so time again for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is Death Crashes the Party by Vickie Fee.


It starts out with a very fun first line:

Monday was a scorching August day that had turned into hell for me when the Farrell brothers crashed a party that already had disaster written all over it.
And on page 56, we learn just what the stakes in this particular mystery are:

"I'm just afraid that before the cops get around to figuring it all out, the business that Larry Joe's grandfather started may be damaged beyond repair.  Not to mention Daddy Wayne's health."

I finished the book on Wednesday, and I really enjoyed it.  My full review will be up on Monday.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Review: Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames (Bodies of Art Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Engaging main characters in a fast paced caper
Cons: Ending a bit rushed
The Bottom Line:
A historic sword
Sends Laurel on adventure
Fun, fast moving read

What a Delightful Ride

There are a lot of books out there I haven’t read and series I haven’t started.  It has absolutely nothing to do with lack of interest on my part; it’s nothing but lack of time.  That’s why I am just now getting to Counterfeit Conspiracies.  Believe me, I wish I’d read this book sooner.

This book introduces us to Laurel Beacham, an art recovery expert who works for the Beacham Institute, founded by her grandfather.  Her job involves traveling all over the globe and retrieving pieces of art that have been stolen or lost to humanity.  Right now, after a job goes sideways in Italy, Laurel is looking forward to a week’s vacation in California.

But on her layover in London, she gets a call from her boss, Max, that puts her vacation plans on hold.  Someone has discovered a sword that might tie into the King Arthur legend and be a step toward proving he was real.  Laurel needs to delay her vacation for just two days to track it down and bring it in.

However, when she stops by to get some additional information from Simon, a co-worker and former boyfriend, she finds someone she’s never seen before searching his office.  Simon isn’t answering his phone.  And Laurel is being followed by a man who dogged her on the job in Italy.  Who can Laurel trust?  Where is Simon?  Can Laurel stay safe long enough to figure out what is going on?

Obviously, this is a caper rather than a traditional cozy.  I didn’t realize that when I picked the book up, but it is very easy to figure that out early on, and I don’t mind.  The change of pace was wonderful, and I got quickly drawn into the story.  The plot moves quickly, with several fun action scenes and plenty of twists and turns along the way.  I never wanted to put this book down.

Because of the nature of the plot, we only get to know Laurel and one other character super well.  The rest of the cast doesn’t get enough page time to be fully fleshed out, but since they don’t get that much page time, it’s really not that big a deal.  We certainly have Laurel’s impression of these characters, and that’s all we really need.  Even some of the characters who do have more page time remain mysteries on purpose because they are still mysteries to Laurel.

My only real complaint about the book (which is very minor) is the ending, which felt rushed.  A few of the plot points brought up earlier in the book are wrapped up in a final scene, meanwhile plenty of threads are left open.  Honestly, I was expecting the opened threads as I was reading.  This book has more of a feel of a TV show pilot than a traditional novel that would be wrapped up in these pages.  Just know that going in and you’ll be fine.  I certainly don’t mind since I enjoyed this book so much and am looking forward to finding out what happens next to Laurel.

With three more books (as of right now) to go in this series, I know I’ve got more great reads in front of me.  If you’ve missed Counterfeit Conspiracies, fix that today.

Once you've read this book, you'll want to read the rest of the Bodies of Art Mysteries.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ornament Review: North Pole Tree Trimmers #4 - Present Wrapper - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Cute elf ready to wrap presents
Cons: Blends in on tree, tips
The Bottom Line:
Elf ready to work
Making presents appealing
Can blend into tree

It’s the Wrapping Elf

Hallmark has many series that focus on Santa in one form or another, but the elves are finally getting their turn with the North Pole Tree Trimmers series.  Based on the series title, I thought it would be all about decorating, but they’ve proven me wrong, and the 2016 entry in the series continues that trend.

You see, this elf is part of the present wrapping crew.  He’s currently between presents, but he’s ready for the next one to roll off the assembly line.  While he waits, he’s holding his scissors and leaning on the tape dispenser.  Yes, the tape dispenser is not sized for elves, so he is able to lean on the top without bending over at all.  And his scissors are almost as big as he is.  The elf himself is dressed mainly in green with a reddish brown vest, hat, and shoes.

Elves wear green, I get it.  But the result with this ornament is that he tends to blend into the tree.  The fact that the tape dispenser is red does help him stand out.  The elves being green work well with the actual decoration elves since it is easy to imagine them sneaking through a tree and working to fix things, but on ornaments like this, it is a little disappointing.

That’s not to say the ornament isn’t cute.  This guy is very appealing, and it’s hard to imagine him wearing something other than green.  I think I find the decorating elves in the series more appealing overall since that’s what I expected based on the series name, so the fact that I don’t love this ornament is probably more me than the ornament itself.

Between the elf and the dispenser, there is a nice flat base, so you can set this ornament out.  Maybe you want him to keep you company while you wrap presents; he’d certainly work for that.  You’ll find the 4 in a Christmas tree on the bottom of the tape dispenser.

Of course, an ornament is supposed to be hung, and you’ll find the loop in the front of the elf’s hat.  The position might look weird, but it works because the ornament is almost balanced.  It tips slightly back and to the left toward the tape dispenser.  Given that, I don’t think it could be any straighter since I don’t know where else they’d put the loop.  The tip is certainly easily enough to hide with tree branches on your tree.

Despite my reservations, this is a fun addition to the North Pole Tree Trimmers series.  It might not be my favorite, but it is still cute.

Put more elves to work for you with the rest of the North Pole Tree Trimmers series.

Original Price: $15.95

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Book Review: A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy (Greek to Me Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun mystery and characters, new and old
Cons: A couple of niggles with the plot
The Bottom Line:
Quiet season is
Dangerous with a murder
In this fun third book

Somebody Gets Skewered

One of the areas where most amateur sleuth books fall apart is how much time the main character spends sleuthing when they supposedly have a business to run.  Do I care?  No, because if it were real life, I’d get bored very quickly.  But Susannah Hardy has a wonderful solution to this problem in A Killer Kebab.

You see, this book is set in November, and it is the slow season in northern New York because all the tourists have gone home.  Bonaparte House has closed for the season, leaving Georgie Nikolopatos with not much to do, especially since her family is out of time.  She has some friend’s recipes to go through and has hired a contractor to redo the restaurant’s bathrooms.

But before she can get too settled into the peace and quiet of winter, she finds the body of Jim MacNamara, her divorce lawyer, in one of the demolished bathrooms.  The police are quick to arrest Russ, a former employee of the restaurant and son of their head cook.  Russ is currently out on parole for lesser crimes and not a very nice man, but Georgie has a hard time believing that he’s a killer.  But who might have wanted the lawyer dead?

Obviously, with the restaurant closed and so many of Georgie’s family and even some friends out of the area, she has plenty of time to sleuth.  And what a fun trail of clues she follows here to reach the satisfying solution.  Oh, there are some red herrings and other distractions along the way, but there were plenty of twists that kept me glued to the page wanting to find out what happens next.  I do have a couple of niggles with the story, but they are minor overall.

Unfortunately, with everyone out of the picture, we don’t see that much of the series regulars.  Instead, a minor character from previous books steps into the sidekick role.  That wasn’t too much of an issue since I really liked getting to know Brenda better.  Georgie herself is still a strong, fun, and resourceful main character.

And we’ve got four new recipes.  There’s a recipe for Thousand Island dressing (which is named after the region where the series is set, something I didn’t know), Maple Walnut sandies, a Greek cheese pie, and Greek seasonings.  They all sound delicious.

There is an on-going story in this series that is part of this book again, so it is best to read these books in order.  They are so much fun, that this isn’t a big issue at all.

So take a trip to New York to visit Georgie.  You’ll enjoy A Killer Kebab.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Action and laughs
Cons: Thin characters
The Bottom Line:
Action, comedy
Overshadow characters
Mindless fun is all

Captain Jack Sparrow and the Search for Poseidon’s Trident

Among my complaints about the third movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was the ending.  I didn’t like how they left things for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s characters.  So when I realized that their son was going to be one of the new characters in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, I was cautiously optimistic.

The movie wastes no time on introducing us to a pre-teen Henry Turner (Lewis McGowan) who has become obsessed with breaking the curse on his father Will.  He’s determined that finding Poseidon’s Trident is the secret to break the curse and allow his father to come home.

It’s not until he becomes a young adult that Henry (now played by Brenton Thwaites) has a chance of finding the trident, however, and that’s because of a chance encounter with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a female scientist who has the map no man can read.  She’s figured out the secret of the map and can use it to find the trident’s resting place.  But the duo need a ship, which is how they find themselves teaming up with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).  However, they are being chased by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who was cursed years ago by Jack.  Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) has teamed up with Salazar since Salazar’s dead army is destroying everything on the sea.  Will anybody find the trident?  What will happen when Salazar catches up with Jack?

Okay, let’s be honest.  We watch these movies for preposterous action and Jack’s antics.  Here, the movie delivers in spades.  There are quite a few memorable action sequences and lots of funny lines and moments.  The mindless action and comedy portion of the film works.

Now this isn’t to say that the plot doesn’t hold together.  It’s a bit too busy and convoluted, but overall it works, and things come together well at the end.  There are elements of the plot that definitely have a been there/done that feel, but it is the fifth movie in the franchise, so that’s hardly surprising.

It’s the characters where this movie fails.  As you can see, we are really following a new bunch of main characters outside of Jack and Barbossa for the second film in the row.  We really don’t get to know them, so the moments that are supposed to mean something near the end don’t have the intended impact.

Now this isn’t a slight on the actors, who all turn in fine performances.  Instead, it’s a slight on the script, which emphasizes humor and action over anything else.

It wouldn’t be a Pirates movie without special effects, and this movie doesn’t disappoint in that department either.  They look absolutely amazing without taking over the film.

And there is a final scene at the end of the credits that might be setting up the next film in the franchise.  (Or could be easily completely ignored if they so choose.)

The franchise has never been more than mindless popcorn movies, but Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Men Tell No Tales is a bit more mindless than most.  It’s fun, but it’s forgettable.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ornament Review: Touchdown Mickey - Mickey's Movie Mousterpieces #5 - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great ornament based on a rare short
Cons: Naming a con would be a foul
The Bottom Line:
Mickey and football
Combine in fun ornament
Based on rare old short

Hallmark Scored a Touchdown with this Ornament

I have a secret.  Promise not to tell?  I’ve actually grown to enjoy football.  I know, I know, this non-sports guy enjoys football season.  Of course, my idea of watching football is having the TV on while I’m reading or doing something on my computer.  Sometimes, I’ll even have the volume on.  I’ll watch a play or two every quarter, and I certainly don’t follow any particular team.  It’s helped the last couple of years that I’ve been playing in a fantasy football league with some friends.  Heck, I even won this last year.  (And all I get is bragging rights, so that’s why this introduction is so incredibly long.)

So why am I spilling this secret right now?  Because football plays into the Hallmark ornament I’m here to review today – Touchdown Mickey.  Of course, I did buy it because it’s part of the Mickey’s Movie Mousterpieces series.  (I haven’t even thought about buying any of their football player ornaments, after all.)

This ornament is based on a 1932 short of the same name, which finds Mickey and a group of other characters (none of his regular named crew then or now) playing a hard fought football game.  The shenanigans they get into as they fight to come back and win are very funny if nowhere near the legal rules then or now.

This ornament is a first for the series – the first based on one of Mickey’s black and white shorts.  However, the ornament is in full color.  Okay, so Mickey is still mostly black and white like he should be, but his football shorts and the football he’s carrying in his left arm are both brown.  His right arm is out in front of him helping clear the way.  And he’s running across green grass with a white yard marker in it.  Heck, you can even see the spikes on his yellow shoes.

There are lots of shots of Mickey running in this short, but I have a feeling this ornament was based more on a poster advertising the short.  This ornament is a spitting image of Mickey on that old poster, including the spikes on his shoes, which he doesn’t have in the short.

If you are looking at this as an ornament from one of Mickey’s more obscure shorts, you’ll love it.  But if you are just looking at is as Mickey playing football and want it because you love both, you’ll also love this ornament.  It’s fun either way.

The grass Mickey is running across forms a nice roundish base, so you can easily set it out to be displayed year round, or just during football season.  You’ll also find the 5 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom.

But if you want to hang the ornament, you’ll be thrilled to find that Mickey is perfectly balanced.  But that’s no surprise.  After all, athletes much have good balance to be good athletes, right?  And it’s very impressive considering Mickey is in full on run here.

Touchdown Mickey may be one of his lesser known shorts, but that doesn’t mean the ornament is any less fantastic.  Any fan of the rarer Disney offerings will love it, as will any casual fan of Mickey and football.

Looking for more ornaments based on Mickey's movie career?  Here are the rest of Mickey's Movie Mousterpieces.

Original Price: $12.95

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 24's Weekly TV Thoughts

No ramblings this week.  Let's just get right to it.

America Ninja Warrior – Some of those stories early on were so amazing and heart tugging.  I was so impressed with the legally blind guy making it as far as he did.  That’s so impressive.  I was rooting for Kacy to make it to the end.  So disappointing that she didn’t get there.  That ring jump obstacles turned out to be tougher than it looked for sure.  Oh, and I was rooting for the twins to make it to the same obstacles, so I was bummed when that didn’t happen.

Spartan – I’m sure it is no surprise that I was rooting for the Ninja team.  I was a bit surprised by how much Meghan struggled, but they pulled together well.  And I found myself rooting for Saddle Up, too, so their win made me very happy.  Tough, tough obstacles.  I know it is designed for a team, but still.  I’m glad I’m just watching this run.

Team Ninja Warrior – Wow!  It was hard to know who to root for, and I honestly would have been okay with either of the teams that were in the finals winning tonight, so I’m thrilled with the outcome.  So many close races.  Great TV.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: Force of Habit by Alice Loweecey (Giulia Falcone #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong main character; decent mystery
Cons: Pacing a time or two; needlessly graphic details in second half
The Bottom Line:
A strong character
Faces interesting case
A bit too graphic

Giulia Debuts

Earlier this year, I read my first book by Alice Loweecey, and I completely enjoyed it.  I immediately wanted to back up and see where it all began for her characters with Force of Habit.

This is the book that introduced us to Giulia Falcone, a former nun who has left the convent and is now trying to figure out how to make her way in the world.  She’s 29, been out of the convent for 10 months, and been disowned by her family.  She’s landed a job working for PI Frank Driscoll.  Things appear to be going well, although she does have to fight her attraction to her boss.

Then they land the case of a stalker.  Someone is leaving notes for Blake Parker, a former high school friend of Frank’s.  Because Blake doesn’t want his reputation to suffer, he comes to Frank instead of going to the police.  Blake is getting notes with Bible quotes from Song of Solomon while his fiancée is getting threatening notes with quotes from the prophets.  As part of her job, Giulia interviews Blake’s ex-girlfriends since they are the most likely suspects.  She doesn’t get anywhere, but suddenly, she finds herself the target of the notes as well.  Can she and Frank figure out who the stalker is?

The first book I read to star Giulia was edging toward the darker side of the cozy genre, but it featured some very funny bantered that helped keep the book light.  This book does have the banter, although not nearly as much of it.  And it is definitely dark.  I definitely wouldn’t classify this book as a cozy since there is some language and quite a bit about sex here, both as Giulia struggles with her life outside the convent and because of this case.

Now, that’s not to say that this book is bad.  Far from it.  It’s just a warning before stepping into this book.  Having said that, I do feel that the book went too far in the second half.  I think we could have gotten the point without all the details that were provided, but maybe that’s just me.

Part of the content flows out of Giulia and where she is at this point in her life.  She is truly struggling with who she is after having left the convent.  It made her a very human character, and I identified with her even though I’ve never gone through anything similar myself.  That’s great writing and character development.  While this book is definitely Giulia’s story, we do get to know some series regulars here, and I like what I saw of them.

And the mystery?  It appears to get bogged down a time or two, but never for very long.  Still, things could be a bit tighter.  It’s a first mystery, and I know that Alice does get better with her plotting as things go along.

I wish this book hadn’t included the details it did, but I don’t regret reading Force of Habit.

Check out more of Giulia's cases.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

June 23rd's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's that time of the week again, time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56!

This week, I'm almost half way through Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames.


This is a fun caper as the main character is trying to track down a relic and everyone, it seems, is after her.

Here's how the book opens:
Clouds shrouded the moon.  The Dobermans, Zeus and Apollo, snoozed by the rose bushes after devouring the tasty treat I had offered.  Waves crashed in the distance and gave the crisp sea air a taste and smell of salt spray.  The estate's showplace lawn ended a hundred yards away at a private beach.

I'm cheating a little on the 56 this week.  You see, page 57 is the end of a chapter, and it ends like this:

"One last thing.  Have you ever seen this person before?"
She took the phone and stared for a moment at the screen.  Then she pointed toward the middle monitor.  "You mean that man?"

I just couldn't pass up that ending for my second teaser.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

TV Show Review: Murder, She Wrote - Season 1

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Angela Lansbury is a delight in these mysteries
Cons: Look at the number of stars for a clue
The Bottom Line:
Come meet Jessica
Famous writer solves murder
Still delightful show

"My Occasional Exploits Are Grossly Exaggerated, Believe Me."

Not too long after I got out of college, A&E started showing reruns of Murder, She Wrote.  Being the good mystery fan I am, I started recording and watching them, and I was quickly hooked.  But that’s been years, so I was curious to see what would happen when I sat down to rewatch season 1.  Within minutes, I was smiling and remembering just why I love this show so much.

In the pilot movie, we are introduced to Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury).  When her nephew Grady (guest star Michael Horton) finds a mystery she’s written for her own amusement and submits it, she finds herself an instant bestselling author.  By the next episode, she’s written another couple mysteries, all of which just increase her fame.

Unfortunately, her life as a mystery author isn’t all glamor and book signings.  It seems everywhere she goes, someone is murdered, and more often than not, a friend or relative is accused of the crime.  Between her sharp mind and her observation skills, Jessica winds up solving the mysteries.  Over the course of the season, she clears her nephew-in-law to be of killing his boss in San Francisco, solves the murder of a jazz musician down in New Orleans, figures out who killed a friend on his island off the Greek coast, and solves the murder of a movie producer who wants to turn her first book into a slasher.

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about Jessica’s home town of Cabot Cove, Maine.  In fact, this show is famous for what has been dubbed Cabot Cove syndrome, an impossibly small town that has more murders than your average large city.  I always maintain that the show gets a bad rap since most people forget how much Jessica travels.  Rewatching this season, I was actually surprised at how many episodes start with Jessica in town until she is called out for some reason.  However, there are really only two and a half episodes that truly focus on Cabot Cove in this season, and only one involved any citizens of Cabot Cove.

With all the traveling Jessica does, she really is the only main character on the show.  That means this is really Angela Lansbury’s show.  And she is fantastic.  I’d forgotten just how much fun she is to watch.  She is charming and delightful, everyone’s favorite aunt.  She has no problem with letting someone under estimate her.  She just keeps going and proves her point.  It really is a shame that Angela Lansbury’s 12 nominations for this role didn’t land her one Emmy.  Since she carried the show by herself, they were well deserved.

That’s not to say that we don’t have some recurring characters here.  Jessica’s nephew Grady appears in two episodes.  Back in Cabot Cove, we’ve got Tom Bosley as Sheriff Amos Tupper, and Jessica’s friend, captain Ethan Cragg (Claude Akins).  Longtime fans of the show will get a kick out of seeing William Windom, who would recur as Dr. Seth Hazlitt starting in season 2, and Ron Masak, who shows up as the new sheriff after Tom Bosley left the show at the end of season 4, playing different characters here.  Each episode features a long list of guest stars to play the suspects.  Among the famous faces that pop up here, we have Martin Landau, Lynn Redgrave, a very young Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Reed, Jo Anne Worley, Leslie Nielsen, and Linda Blair.

I have to highlight two episodes in particular – “Tough Guys Don’t Die” not only introduced Harry McGraw, a PI played by Jerry Orbach who would show up again and star in a short lived spin off, it is also an obvious tribute to The Maltese Falcon.  (And trivia fans will also note that Jerry was Lumiere to Angela’s Mrs. Potts in the original Beauty and the Beast.)  Meanwhile, “Murder Takes the Bus” feels the most like an Agatha Christie tribute as a passenger on a bus full of strangers is killed.  Slowly, Jessica pieces together just how most everyone is actually connected to the victim.

Some people say they can identify the killer as soon as they walk on screen.  I’m not that sharp and never have been.  Heck, I can’t remember who the killer is most of the time, and I usually can figure out what the important clue is, but I can’t piece together who it points to until Jessica reveals all.  Or, if I can remember the killer, I miss the clues.  Either way, I know this show influenced my take on mysteries since its fair play is exactly what I look for in the books I read today.

This season premiered in the fall of 1984, and it is definitely dated in a few references and fashion.  However, as long as you expect that going into the show, you’ll be fine.

Season one consisted of 21 regular one hour (less commercials) mysteries plus the two hour pilot.  They are all preserves here in their native full frame and stereo sound.  (Remember the date I just mentioned.)  You won’t find anything in the way of extras here, but the shows look and sound good for their age.

Okay, I’ll stop gushing now.  Obviously, I enjoy Murder, She Wrote just as much today as I did when I first started watching it.  If you haven’t seen the show or want to revisit an old friend, I highly recommend you catch up with season 1.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. The Murder of Sherlock Holmes (2 hour pilot)
2. Deadly Lady
3. Birds of a Feather
4. Hooray for Homicide
5. It’s a Dog’s Life
6. Lovers and Other Killers
7. Hit, Run, and Homicide
8. We’re Off to Kill the Wizard
9. Death Takes a Curtain Call
10. Death Casts a Spell
11. Capitol Offense
12. Broadway Malady
13. Murder to a Jazz Beat
14. My Johnny Lies Over the Ocean
15. Paint Me a Murder
16. Tough Guys Don’t Die
17. Sudden Death
18. Footnote to Murder
19. Murder Takes the Bus
20. Armed Response
21. Murder at the Oasis
22. Funeral at Fifty-Mile

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ornament Review: Cookie Cutter Summer - Cookie Cutter Through the Year #5 - 2017 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great scene in a fun shape
Cons: No summer blues here
The Bottom Line:
Great shaped ornament
Summer fun captured inside
Collectible smiles

It’s Fun in the Sun with this Summer Ornament

It’s officially summer!  This is my favorite season of the year.  Even as an adult with no ties to the school year, there is something relaxing about the season.  I feel like I have extra time for things.  If only my boss would agree with me, right?  That feeling is captures in Cookie Cutter Summer.

The cookie cutter this month is a butterfly.  Doesn’t that feel like summer right there?  And for the scene inside the butterfly frame, our mouse friend is riding a bike.  He’s just ridden past a tree.  There’s a fence behind him and the butterfly motif is carried through in the scene since there is a butterfly in front of him.  There are a few puffy white clouds in the blue sky in the background.

If you start looking closely, you’ll see some fun candy references in this ornament.  The wheels of the bike are obviously peppermints, and the red frame of the bike looks a bit like licorice to me.  The stones in the wall could be hard candies.  And the path he is riding on is soda crackers.  Maybe I’m reading too much into a couple of these objects, but that’s what I think of when I look at them.

Whether they are candy inspired or not, this whole ornament is fun.  While I haven’t ridden a bike in years, the freedom of riding a bike through a scene like this is irresistible.  I can’t help but smile when I look at it.  (I do that a lot with Hallmark ornaments, don’t I?)

Because of the depth of the cookie cutter shape, this ornament does actually stand up on its own, so you can display it that way if you want.  It’s staple enough that you’d have to be trying to knock it over.

If you want to hang the ornament, you’ll find that it tips forward ever so slightly.  This isn’t a huge issue, but it is something to note.  It’s a little odd since it seems like the ring could have been moved forward slightly and it would balance better.

On the back of the ornament, you’ll find the 5 in a Christmas tree series marker.

Cookie Cutter Summer captures those nostalgia feelings of carefree summer days, and it does it perfectly.  That makes it worth owning.

Enjoy more holidays with the rest of the Cookie Cutter Through the Year ornaments.

Original Price: $15.95

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book Review: First Degree Mudder by Kate Dyer-Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Series regulars shine, interesting developments in Meg’s life
Cons: This book’s mystery overshadowed by other developments
The Bottom Line:
Body in steam room
Meg’s life gets complicated
Series fans will like

Meg Faces a Muddy Mess

My love of mud runs has come full circle.  I first heard of them when a mystery author I read did one, and now I’ve read First Degree Mudder, set during the training for a mud run.  (And yes, I even timed it so that I was reading it the week between doing the Camp Pendleton Mud Run and the Irvine Lake Mud Run this month.)

Meg Reed’s newest assignment for Northwest Extreme magazine is to participate in Mud, Sweat, and Beers, a mud run coming to Portland in three weeks.  But before that, she’s signing up for Mind Over Mudder, a training course that meets every morning to whip people into shape for the run.  The drill instructor running the course is Billy, and he takes his job very seriously.  Some might even say too seriously, and after two weeks Meg is seriously questioning her decision to sign up.

The Saturday before the race is the first time Meg and her team actually crawl through the mud as part of their training.  It doesn’t go well, and Meg sneaks out early instead of completing the rest of the run.  However, when she arrives back at the barracks the company uses as their headquarters, she discovers Billy’s body in the steam room.  What is going on?

First, I’ve got to say that author Kate Dyer-Seeley is much nicer to Billy than I would have been.  When I heard mystery set at a mud run, I was expecting the dead body to show up in a mud pit.  But that’s completely beside the point.

This is now Meg’s fourth mystery, and I really don’t recommend you jump into the series here.  In fact, if you do, I think you’ll be disappointed.  The mystery of what happened to Billy and why is more of a sub-plot than the focus of the book.  Instead, we get stories of Meg’s life changing and some serious twists in the plot of her father’s murder, a series long plot thread.

Here’s the thing.  As someone who has been following this series since the beginning, I want to know this information.  I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened next.  But without that background, I don’t think I would have been as engrossed in this book.  Believe me, with the way this book ends, I’m already looking forward to finding out what happens to Meg next.  (Can we say cliffhangers?)

Given this, I’m sure it will be no surprise when I say that the characters introduced in this book are good, but not given enough page time to be fully developed.  However, the series regulars are more than up to the task of carrying this book.  Meg especially continues to grow as the book unfolds.

And at the end of the book, we get the usual adventure tips and tour guide if you’d like to go to some of the real places where this book is set.

If I sounded overly harsh earlier, let me be clear, the mystery here has some good twists and definitely holds together.  It’s just overshadowed by some other developments in Meg’s life that will only mean something to those who already care about Meg.

So if you are up to date on Meg’s adventures, you’ll definitely want to read First Degree Mudder.  If you are new to the series, I recommend backing up before you dive into these murky waters.

If you need to back up, here are the rest of the Pacific Northwest Mysteries.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Movie Review: Cars 3

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Heartwarming story
Cons: One inconsistency with the first film in one scene
The Bottom Line:
Lightning back on track
Sequel lives up to first film
Race out to watch it

“Race Cars Don’t Have Cell Phones.”

While I loved the original Cars, it took me a couple of viewings to warm up to Cars 2.  When they first announced Cars 3, I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or not.  Then came the preview with the cliffhanger, and I knew I had to see it.  I’m pleased to say that I also loved it.

Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is in the middle of another winning racing season when the unthinkable happens – he starts losing.  His new biggest competition is Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), a sleak newly designed race car that is not only younger but is more aerodynamic.  Jackson is breaking the 200 mph barrier, something that Lightning has never quite reached.

In the last race of the season, something even worse happens – Lightning is in an accident.  While he recovers during the off season, he has to wonder if it is even worth trying to come back.

Yes, I know.  I’m doing the exact same thing that preview I complained about did.  But there’s a reason that preview was so effective.  It really is worth it to watch this movie and let the story unfold.

What we get is another heartwarming story.  The focus is once again on Lightning.  In fact, most of the Radiator Springs crew have very small parts here.  Yes, that includes Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater.  While I missed those characters, many of them do get a moment or two to shine, and those moments are enough to make you smile.  They are just perfect.

With the focus once again on racing, this movie definitely feels like the first movie.  There’s no spy story or international intrigue.  Instead, it’s Lightning learning more about himself.  Don’t worry, this isn’t a repeat of the first film.  In fact, as much as I miss those Radiator Springs characters, seeing so little of them allows us to get a fresh story.  Okay, so it was predictable, but I was having so much fun I didn’t mind.

The movie is slow in parts, and the kids in the theater where I was watching it seemed to get bored a time or two.  Of course, those slow parts are the character development that makse this movie so good.  I’d argue that adults will appreciate those scenes even if kids don’t.

The voice cast is absolutely fabulous.  Yes, all the old characters are once again voiced by the same people.  The new cast member who gets the most screen time is Cristela Alonzo who voices Cruz Ramirez.  She and the other new cast members slip into this world seamlessly.

And the animation is outstanding.  Some of the nature shots in the original Cars are still among the best computer animation has to offer, but this movie has some shots that rival those.  You won’t be disappointed in that department.

However, I do have a nit to pick with them.  They forgot one things they established for Lightning in the very first film.  It’s only for a minute or two, and it doesn’t really matter, but it still bugged me.  This is especially true since it is the reason that Sally calls Lightning “Stickers,” somethings she still does here.

Before the film, we get a new short – “Lou.”  At first, this short seemed like it was going to be a retread of a scene from Toy Story, but it quickly grew into something more, and it became something really touching.  Definitely arrive in time to see it.

And if you stay through the credits, there is a fun throw away scene with Mater as well.

If you were disappointed with Cars 2, put that movie out of your mind and go see Cars 3.  If you were a fan of the first, I think you’ll find that this film is just as wonderful.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Book Review: The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #39)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: It’s Trixie
Cons: Few regular characters; mystery, while interesting, has weaknesses
The Bottom Line:
Final mystery
Finds Trixie facing a ghost
Weak, but kids will like

For Trixie’s Final Case, She Faces the Galloping Ghost

Sadly, all good things come to an end.  The thirty-ninth book in the Trixie Belden series would prove to be the last in the series.  Most fans hate The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost, but I must admit I enjoy it despite its issues.

This book finds fourteen-year-old Trixie Belden, her best friend Honey Wheeler, and the Wheeler’s groom Regan traveling to a horse ranch in Minnesota to observe their training techniques with the pure bread Arabian horses they own.

However, the first night they are there, Trixie sees a strange horse and rider out the window that then vanish.  It’s the next day she hears the local legend of the galloping ghost.  When she meets a ghost hunter and strange things start happening around the ranch, Trixie begins to think there might actually be a ghost haunting the place.  Can she figure out what is really happening?

As I said earlier, many fans of the series don’t like this book (or any of the final five).  They have some legitimate complaints, too.  This is the final book in the series, but the only regular characters we get are Trixie, Honey, and Regan.  Of course, when this book came out, it wasn’t supposed to be the final book in the series.  In fact, book forty was being written when the series was canceled.  (And it would have finally brought Trixie to California, too!)  They also complain about Honey’s crush on a character we meet in this book when it’s been established earlier in the series that Honey has a crush on Trixie’s older brother Brian.  Honestly, this one bothers me, but not too much.

One reason these issues stick out to people is that they read this book as an adult and as the final book in the series.  In fact, this book was in print for such a short amount of time that it can draw a large amount of money on the secondary market.  I think one reason I feel the way I do about this book is because I read it as a teen while I was reading the rest of the series, and I probably had about half the series still to go when I read it for the first time.  Additionally, I paid cover price.  I’m sure if I paid a much higher price for it and read it as an adult, I’d be disappointed in it as well.

Not to say that the book is perfect.  The mystery is flawed.  It didn’t bother me as a teen when I first read it, but now reading it as an adult, I can see some serious flaws with it.  It works, and I think kids won’t mind, so I’m willing to let it pass.  It certainly has some interesting elements to it.

I actually kind of like the characters in this book.  Trixie actually seems more aware of people’s feelings, something that is often missing in other books in the series.  Honey reverts to her fraidy cat persona at one point, but that’s actually understandable considering what is happening.  The characters aren’t as rich as they are in earlier books in the series overall, but they aren’t at their worst either.

I certainly don’t recommend paying a high price for this book, however.  It isn’t the worst in the series, in my opinion, but it isn’t worth paying much money to read, either.

With the right expectations, I still find The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost enjoyable.  While not Trixie’s best case, it is still a fun mystery for kids.

Here are the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June 17th's Weekly TV Thoughts

It's still proving to be a quite summer.  I'll have a little more TV starting up in the next month, but I'm enjoying the slower pace.  Not that I seem to have more time at home, but it is nice to have a less to watch when I am home.

American Ninja Warrior – Okay, I have to rant for a minute first.  (I promise I will only do this about this issue once all season.)  Right after talking about how women are really increasing their presence in the competition, they then announce that they are going to move five women on to the finals in each city automatically.  What?  If women are stepping up and making their presence known, they shouldn’t need the boost of getting in because they are women.  In fact, one thing I have always loved about the show is that the women advance because they earn a spot.  It showed true equality.  And my hat is off to the women who earned the spots tonight.  At least they are still having the same number of finishers plus however many they need to have five women in the finals, so they aren’t taking away spots from the top 30, they are adding on to the number of people going to the next round.

Okay, now let’s talk LA.  There were a couple of surprises, but they glossed over them.  Instead, we got to see the usual crowd finish the course.  This was definitely the course they used a couple of weeks ago for the celebrities, which was fun.  I really liked the football player and I hope he makes it to Vegas.  Always happy to see Flippy, I mean Flip, make it as well.

Spartan – I’m not as impressed with the set this year.  It’s all about the obstacles.  I much preferred the outdoor course from last year.  How could you not root for Heart of Texas?  What a story!  And Little Giants won, too.  Honestly, that surprised me since size is such an issue for some of the obstacles.  Looking forward to seeing what happens when these teams face off.

Angie Tribecca – I have a low standard when it comes to the mysteries on this show, but even by my standards this one just didn’t make sense.  It created a couple of great jokes, but with everything else that happened, I just truly don’t buy it.  Plus it feels like a cheat because everything that happened this season was a lie.  The cliffhanger is certainly interesting, however.  I wonder where they will go with that next season.

Team Ninja Warrior – Well, if the Superhero Squad is going to lose to anyone, it’s hard to argue with them losing to the godfather.  Seriously impressive second showdown there to top off a night of twists and surprises.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: Blood Work by Michael Connelly

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters; outstanding mystery
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Retired agent
Leads us through a twisty case
Hang on and enjoy

Pulls You in as Story Gets More Complicated

While I still have a long way to go to get caught up on Michael Connelly’s books, I’ve already learned to buckle up when I start one because you can never predict where the story will go based on how it starts.  There is no better example of that than Blood Work, a mostly standalone novel from the late 1990’s.

This book introduces us to Terry McCaleb, a former FBI agent who was forced to retire early due to heart problems.  Against all odds thanks to a rare blood type, he gets the heart transplant he needs.  The book opens two months after the procedure.  Things are looking good that his body will accept this heart.  Of course, it helps that he is taking it easy – spending his days fixing up the boat he inherited from his father.

Things change one day when he returns from his morning walk to find Graciela Rivers waiting for him.  She is there asking Terry to solve her sister’s murder.  Gloria was killed in a convenience store robbery.  Terry tries to explain that he isn’t interested until Graciela pulls him in with one final revelation – his new heart was Gloria’s heart.

Naturally, the police aren’t that interested in talking to an outsider, much less a former FBI agent.  Still, Terry manages to get enough information to start his own investigation.  Is there more to Gloria’s death than there first appears?  Can Terry figure out what happened?

Obviously, since this is a Michael Connelly book, there is much more to the case than it first appears.  If I told you where the book wound up (don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything), you’d probably never believe me.  Yet each piece of the puzzle leads logically into the next one.  In fact, my mind was blown a couple of times by where the book went and how it was set up.  The plotting is wonderful, and the pacing is superb.  The book held my attention the entire way through.

All of the characters in this book are brand new, but they are all strong.  By the time the book is over, I felt like we’d gotten to know them very well.  A couple of the supporting players come across as cliché, but I’m sure that’s a factor of how much page time they get, and if they’d gotten more, they would have been more fully fleshed out.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is pretty much still a standalone.  However, it still fits into the overall work that Michael Connelly is creating.  Since Terry is a former FBI agent, there is reference to The Poet, which involved that agency.  While he has yet to appear anywhere on page, we get another reference to Mickey Haller.  Terry McCaleb himself would pop up as a supporting characters in a Harry Bosch novel that would come out a few years later.  I can’t wait to get to that one for an update.  (At least I hope it’s a good update.)

I listened to the audio book while traveling over Memorial Day.  I was actually a bit disappointed when I saw that Dick Hill was the narrator since I find he can be annoying at times.  However, this time he behaved himself outside of one or two overly acted lines.  For the rest of the book, he did a fantastic job bringing the characters to life.

It really is easy to see why Michael Connelly has the reputation and fan base he does.  If you have missed Blood Work, fix that today.  This is an outstanding mystery that will keep you turning pages.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

June 16th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's another Friday, which means it is time again for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring Force of Habit by Alice Loweecey.


This is the book that introduced us to Alice's character.  I was going to tell you about her, but the opening does a good job of that.
Giulia Falcone - formerly Sister Mary Regina Coelis - popped a tangerine Life Saver in her mouth to stifle a curse.
No wonder the client was desperate.  She would be too if a stalker had sent her notes that escalated from adoring to obsessive.  Given the choice, she'd rather be chased by a rabid Doberman.

Yes, we have a former nun turned PI, and she's a wonderful character.

Jumping to page 56, we find:

Blake waved a hand in Giulia's direction.  "Fine.  Whatever it takes to get us out of this mess."

That's all for this week.  Hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

French Fried Winner

I am behind this week in pulling the winner for a copy of French Fried.  But I just took care of business, and the winner is...


I've sent you an e-mail, so please watch for it and get back to me as soon as you can.

Ornament Review: Snow Angel Memories - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute mini tie in to Making Memories
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Snowchild makes angel
Cute miniature ornament
Ties to large series

Snow Angel Fun

When Hallmark went big with their miniature ornaments in 2016, they tied several of them into some of their series.  Naturally, that encouraged those of us who are fans of the series to buy the ornament.  It certainly worked for me with Snow Angel Memories, and I’m glad it did.

This ornament ties in loosely to the Making Memories series.  Being a miniature ornament, it just features one of the snowpeople that the other series features, specifically, it features the snowchild.  And the child is flat on its back ready to create a snow angel.  You can help along by pulling the string on the bottom of the ornament, which makes the arms and legs go.  The child is wearing a blue hat, red scarf, and green shoes and is covered in glitter.

I called this a miniature ornament, and that’s how it is classified, but it looks just a little bigger than the rest of Hallmark’s mini line.  No, it’s not full size, and if you buy it expecting a full sized ornament, you’ll be disappointed, but it does have an extra inch over most of the other miniature ornaments.  It’s still half the size of a regular ornament, but it looks about the size of the showchild from the regular Making Memories ornaments, which makes it seem bigger to fans of the series.

Size aside, this is a fun ornament.  While the title is the only official tie in to the Making Memories series, it is easy to tell with how the snowchild looks that it ties in to the series.  And the grin on its face is certainly enough to make you smile.  The added action (rare for a mini ornament) adds to the fun, although you want a sturdy branch before you start pulling on it.  (Personally, I like to grab the hook through the top ring as well.)

You’ll definitely need to hang this ornament since there’s no way to make it stand.  But that’s no issue since you’ll find that it hangs straight.

I know that miniature ornaments are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve found I really enjoy them.  If you are like me, you’ll definitely enjoy Snow Angel Memories.

Enjoy more memories with the full size Making Memories series ornaments.

Original Price: $9.95

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review: Killer Cocktail by Tracy Kiely (Nic and Nigel Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs and a good mystery
Cons: Flashbacks slow things down a little at first
The Bottom Line:
Behind the scenes tapes
Lead to a modern day crime
Book filled with laughs, clues

Sip and Savor this Killer Cocktail

When I finally read the first Nic and Nigel Mystery earlier this year, I immediately fell in love.  It’s hard not to when you are laughing at the banter between the characters.  As a result, I was looking forward to revisiting the characters in Killer Cocktail, and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

If you’ve missed this series, Nic, short for Nichole, is a former NYPD detective who left her job when she fell in love and married Nigel Martini, an obscenely rich man who runs a video restoration business in Hollywood.  They have a large dog, a Bullmastiff named Skippy.  And if you are seeing connections to the classic The Thin Man, that is completely intentional.  While you don’t need to have read the book or seen the movies to completely enjoy this modern day set homage book, catching those in jokes and nods are tons of fun.  (And the original movies themselves are worth watching.)

As this book opens, Nic and Nigel have just found some home movies made during the filming of A Winter’s Night.  This movie from 20 years ago made the career of Christina Franklin, who stepped into the lead after the tragic death from an overdose of America’s Sweetheart, and the film’s original star, Melanie Summers.

Naturally, these tapes are the talk to the town during the Oscars, and Nigel is very willing to talk them up.  He and his company are working on editing them into a new behind the scenes documentary.  However, a break in during the Oscar after party makes Nic and Nigel wonder just what might be on those tapes that someone wants to keep hidden.  Can they figure it out?

This book cuts between the mystery today and excerpts from the tapes of 20 years ago.  Because the people involved in those tapes are the suspects of today, these flashbacks really do help us get to know the characters.  They do feel like they are slowing down the story in the beginning when there are more excerpts, but that’s a minor issue.

Once the modern day portion of the mystery kicks into high gear, things really take off.  I thought I knew where the book was going early on, but I turned out to be wrong.  However, when the villain was revealed, everything made perfect sense.

The only characters from the first book are Nic, Nigel, and Skippy.  They are still great characters, especially Skippy.  I’m not a dog person, but I find his antics funny.  The new characters we meet here are quite fun as well and fit perfectly into this book.  There are a couple we love to hate, but I found there scenes funny as a result.

If you enjoy comedy, you definitely should pick up this book.  Nic and Nigel banter their way through this book, and some of their exchanges are absolutely delightful.  Some of their lines push the boundaries of a PG rated book, but we are talking about a married couple here.  I don’t mind at all.

There are a few four letter words scattered through the book as well.  Yes, I could have done without them, but they are easy enough to ignore.

Killer Cocktail is a fast read, and I was done all too soon.  Fortunately, the third book is already out, so I will be able to revisit Nic, Nigel, and Skippy in the near future.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Movie Review: Pete's Dragon (2016)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good acting and effects; final act
Cons: Very slow first two acts
The Bottom Line:
Boy and his dragon
Story moves very slowly
Not original

Easily Skippable Remake

I seem to be one of the exceptions around, but I don’t necessarily mind a remake.  Yes, you have to go in with the right expectations, but if you do that, I quite often find the results to be fun.  So it was with guarded optimism that I finally sat down to watch last year’s remake of Pete’s Dragon.  Sadly, in this case, I was disappointed.

The movie tells the story of Pete (Oakes Fegley).  At a young age, he was orphaned in a car accident and lost in the woods where he finds a dragon who helps him survive.  He might have stayed in the woods forever if not for an encounter with Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard).  Grace is a forest ranger who is trying to stop some logging from happening in the area.

Grace is surprised to find Pete since she thought she knew everything that was in the woods.  She is even more surprised to hear that Pete has survived all these years thanks to a dragon.  However, Pete’s description matches a story that Grace’s father (Robert Redford) tells.  Is there really something out there?

Okay, let me start by saying I am a huge fan of the original movie.  Yes, it is filled with 70’s cheese and the animated dragon doesn’t fit in super well with the rest of the movies.  Yet, I watched it enough times as a kid that I just love it.  The songs are fun, and it gets me smiling.

If you are like me, you have to forget everything from that movie.  Heck, I kept looking for them to make any nod or reference to the original film.  They had several good times to slip in a fun reference without interrupting the new story they are creating, but they pass them all up.  Really, if they hadn’t used the names Pete and Elliot, they could have called this movie something else and we never would have known better.

However, even viewing this as a standalone movie it isn’t that good.  The first two thirds of the story are very slow.  We know where things are going to go, and we just have to wait for the movie to tell us that part of the story.  In fact, I was watching this with some friends and their four kids, and the kids were bored.  I’ve often said I don’t mind predictable stories if I am having fun along the way, but that wasn’t the case here.  The obvious environmental message didn’t help at all, either.

Things do pick up when we hit the final act of the movie, and the kids got engrossed in the movie at that point as well.  I even felt some emotion near the end of the film.  But it was so slow getting there that I barely cared.

Now I’m not faulting the actors.  With Robert Redford in the cast, you know the caliber of acting is going to great, and you wouldn’t be disappointed at all.  Everyone makes even the most obvious moments come to life.

Meanwhile, the special effects are outstanding.  No hokey dragon here.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was real.

There are a couple of moments that might frighten some children, so if your child is especially sensitive, you might want to preview it before you let them watch it.  Most kids should be fine, however.

Ultimately, this remake of Pete’s Dragon doesn’t work on its own, and if you have found memories of the original, you really won’t like it.  It’s not bad, but it’s really not good either.  Personally, I’ll be sticking with the original in this case.