Friday, September 23, 2016

The Magnificent Seven

I went to the movies at the local multiplex this morning to make the 10:00 showing of the latest version of The Magnificent Seven.

Okay, I know you may have read or heard some reviews of this remake which were mediocre at best. But you know me. I'm never about tearing down any one's creation. As a classical singer, an actor, a theatrical director, a voice-over artist, and a dancer (in my youth) as well as an author now, I appreciate just how hard everyone has to work to bring together a creation. The result may not be Shakespeare, but if it entertains, it serves it's purpose.

That being said I enjoyed this version, even though the original 1960s film is one of my all-time favorite westerns, right up there with My Darling Clementine, High Noon, and The Gunfight at the OK Corral. I'm not talking Lonesome Dove here...the saga of Texas remains first in my yellow rose Longhorn-loving heart.

This new version of The Magnificent Seven, like the first one, is based on the story lines of Kurosawa's masterpiece The Seven Samurai.

This version has a much more diverse cast than either of its predecessors. The main cast list is as follows:

Denzel Washington as Chisolm - licensed bounty hunter and law enforcement officer
Chris Pratt as Faraday - a card playing gunslinger/lover boy with very fast hands
Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux - the greatest sniper for the Confederacy, a legend
Vincent D'Onofrio as Jack Horne - a mountain of a man who is as efficient at killing as Bible quotations
Byung Hun Lee as Billy Rocks - an Asian adept at knives as well as guns (you may remember him as the master assassin in Red 2)
Martin Sensmeier as a Comanche named Red Harvest. (more about him in a bit.)
Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen - the young woman who hires the seven & in this one participates in the final battle
Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue - the wealthy villain of the piece

The cast makes a tight ensemble who work seamlessly together. Each individual fits in so well, they work as a cohesive unit.

The story in brief - A small town in the mountains of California has been overtaken by a robber baron who took over because of the gold in the surrounding mountains. He has built a mine and is reaping profits. Finally, he decides he wants the townsfolk gone. He and his men interrupt a church service. Surrounded by hired bad guys with guns, knives, etc. The town's citizens are mostly cowed. A few stand up to Bogue and are killed in cold blood for their defense of their rights. One of the victim's is Ellen Cullen's husband. The town was there first. Later upon witnessing Chisolm killing a wanted man in the saloon, Ellen Cullen comes to him and asks him to save their little town. He's not interested until she tells him the real villain's name. Chisolm, who has history with Bogue, decides to help her. With Ellen and her brother in tow, they go out and recruit "the seven." Quite a tale in itself.

The actors portraying members of  "the seven" do an excellent job creating their roles. You really root for them. Alas, as in the original script all but three of them are killed in the cataclysmic climax. So all is not happy in the end. Considering the size of the force attacking them, it's amazing any of them survive.

Vincent D'Onofrio, a favorite actor of mine - a method actor, who disappears into his roles, was a standout as a bear of a man.

Also newcomer Martin Sensmeier was a revelation. Descended from Alaskan and Northwestern Native Americans and Irish forefathers, he has a body like a Navy SEAL. In real life he is an advocate for fitness for young people of Native American heritage, as well as an ambassador for Boys and Girls Clubs of the USA. I heard the director interviewed on NPR yesterday. He said when he interviewed Sensmeier for the role of Red Harvest, the actor had long hair. But when he was cast he had cut his hair short. So the director looked up info on the Comanche people (the character he portrayed) and found the men sometimes wore a Mohawk style. So they shaved his head leaving the hair in a shortened version of the famous Mohawk. With his face painted fierce red, black, and white, he was a frightening spectacle, but an honorable man. Also, he was shirtless for the entire film...just sayin' girls.

The worst part of this film was the absurd number of horses thrown, flipped, or made to fall over in this one. Sigh...I don't approve, even if it's realistic, I'm an animal rights' advocate. I looked away from those scenes.

But other than that, this was a fast-moving entertaining film. The only thing missing for me was the incredible theme of the 1960s version.  Well guess what? That's the cover music for the end credits. As we Texans are known to say AWWWWWW RIIIIIGHT!!!

If you are fond of the original film, you'll enjoy this prepared to weep for some of the lost heroes.

Until next time...

Take Her Breath Away - The Lincolnville Mystery Series, Book 4 by Kathryn J. Bain

Romantic suspense noted author, Kathryn J. Bain has released her new novel, entitled Take Her Breath Away. This is the fourth book in her popular Lincolnville Mystery Series. She's done it again with a well-written novel of suspense and intrigue.

This is the story of Rayleene Davenport and her estranged husband, Ty who become embroiled in a world of drugs and danger.

When Ty is shot in the line of duty, Rayleene reluctantly offers to take care of him while he recuperates. Due to his status as an undercover cop, identity which is compromised after his injury, it is imperative for both of them to disappear.

They hide in small town Georgia where they have a cabin unknown to most of their friends. Rayleene takes care of him but doesn't warm to him. She's has evidence he broke the vows of their marriage and cheated on her. Rayleene has her own secret, one that could prove to be deadly for them both. They are each uncomfortable thrown together in such familiar and close quarters.

As they work their way through their damaged relationship, danger comes calling when shots are fired into the cabin. Later she is attacked on the street back in Atlanta and someone she loves is killed.

The peril builds to an exciting climax...

If you like a good mystery, this is the book for you. I devoured it, literally couldn't put it down. Ms. Bain gives us another memorable work, filled with intrigue, danger, and healing, a heady combination.

Check out this great story, available from today.

For the Kindle edition
For the paperback edition

Until next time...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Award Winning Author!!

First I have to apologize for not writing most of this month. My PC was acting up and then out of commission altogether. But it's back now and so am I.

Forgive me also for sounding my own horn, but I wanted to share with you my big news.

Swept Away, Book 2 in my Touch the Sky series won First Place in the Historical Romance category in the 2016 Heart of Excellence Readers Choice contest.

I am told I can now call myself an "Award Winning Author." Who'd-a-thunk-it?

A novelist's life is a solitary one, at least when we're writing. You sit before your computer in the place you are most comfortable writing and stare at the screen for awhile until you decide how to best say what you want to say...

We all work differently, according to our nature. Some authors plan everything to the last detail before they start writing. Some of us have a vague idea of where we're going with the story, then sit down and start the screen staring bit.

I'm definitely the latter type and my blog posts are completely extemporaneous (or off-the-cuff.) It's fun for me to work this way, keeps me alert and interested.

Oh, there are times when I have to research for the story. For Swept Away, my research included life in Norfolk, Virginia in 1837; Members of the Powatan tribe in those days; a bit of the Powatan language; and literally everything about wooden sailing ships design.  You see, there are several merchant ships figuring in the story, a pirate or two, and a British Royal Navy ship. I had to determine the route taken to Casablanca from London. On the way two of the ships stopped separately off the Iberian Peninsula by a Spanish village of fishermen. Fortunately, I speak passable Spanish, so no research was required there...

All of these things put the pictures of my story in my mind and hopefully in the minds of the readers. It makes the tale vivid. It makes it a movie. Now I grant you there are lots of historical mistakes in most movies, but hopefully not in my novels.

Just when I was confident about my knowledge of merchant ships in those days, steamships were created in 1838-1840. So my upcoming book 3 of the same series, His Wicked Lady has everybody traveling faster because they are traveling by steamships - no more following the prevailing winds and adding months to the trip. Foster Shipping is a most forward-thinking company!

I want to thank the readers of my blog who put up with my nonsense. My following isn't huge like some authors have.  But I am proud to announce I've got over 21,000 views over the life of the blog.

I hope you all keep coming back.

Have a good day, free of politics, and a warring cable company who turned everything on my tv pink today. Don't ask...

I watched dvds on which the color is perfect this morning...Just got season 4 of Longmire, one of my all-time favorite series AND Captain America: Civil War. HooHah!!

For some reason my usual political talk shows just aren't the same in pink...They're hysterical that way, but bother my eyes. I mean I like pink but not so much of it...

Thanks for letting me blather on.  Have a great day, free of tropical storms and pink Donald Trumps.

I need some coffee...

Take care.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Sea of Trees

Last night I survived Hurricane Hermine with my little dogs. It was the first Florida hurricane in my memory, although I did make it through at least two others in Miami as a small child.  Those storms were so long ago I have no memories of them.

Hermine turned out to be mostly bluster in my part of Jacksonville. We didn't lose power, didn't get much rain, but had lots of wind from midnight until about 10 this morning. Of course the aftermath of the storm still has us with intermittent winds of 20-30 mph with gusts of 45 mph.  Needless to say, I thought about getting out and going somewhere, but common sense prevailed. So I stayed in and searched for a movie to watch on pay-per-view.

Thus, I found "The Sea of Trees", an atmospheric, enigmatic film starring Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, and Naomi Watts. This one is also in limited release in theaters right now.

It's the story of Arthur Brennan (McConaughey) a science professor at a college in New England.  His wife Joan (Naomi Watts) is constantly sniping at him, disappointed in his lack of ambition. She is a successful realtor and pays most of the bills.

As the story begins, he parks in an airport parking lot, leaves his car unlocked with the keys on the seat, and shuffles into the terminal. Like an automaton he goes through the process of checking in for his flight to Japan. On the plane he refuses anything to eat or drink. On arrival, he takes a taxi to a train station and boards the bullet train. The older Japanese couple sitting across from him watch him with apprehension.  You see this train makes a stop near Aokigahara (The Sea of Trees) - also known as the Suicide Forest.

In case you've missed stories about The Sea of Trees, it is a forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji. For generations, Japanese citizens have gone to those woods to commit suicide. It is reported to be haunted with the souls of those who took their lives there.

When Brennan arrives at the forest entrance, he enters and begins trekking deeper into the woods. He runs across Takumi Nakamura (Watanabe) battered with cuts, bruises, and leaking wrists from a failed suicide attempt. Nakamura has apparently changed his mind. He asks Brennan to help him as he is lost and cannot find his way out. So Brennan bandages Nakamura's wrists and shows him the way.

But something is wrong, Brennan was certain he knew the way out, but he cannot find the path to the exit. While they stumble through the thick forest and the bodies of successful suicides in various states of decomposition, he has flashbacks of his recent life and what led him to The Sea of Trees.

Does this sound like a horror movie to you? I can see where it would, but it isn't. It's a journey of discovery born of loss.

The ending is lovely. What can I say? I'm a sucker for spirituality and the healing it can bring.

The biggest surprise for me in the film is that it was filmed in Massachusetts, even the scenes for The Sea of Trees. They had some long shots of Mt. Fuji, but the rest was made in New England.

I have always loved Ken Watanabe, he is a talented actor capable of playing any part. McConaughy has proven his talent, especially in recent years.  He was incredible in "Dallas Buyers Club." Naomi Watts is a talented actress who has played many different kinds of roles. They form a powerful triumvirate of actors who bring life to these characters.

Maybe I'm coming down off the high of surviving the hurricane with relative ease, who knows? This film affected me more than any film I've seen in the last few months, at least.

Available on pay-per-view, at least on Comcast, and in limited theatrical review, it's worth a bit of work to find it in your area.

This one will stay with you for a while.

Until next time, take care, and avoid big blowhards with fancy French names!!!