Tag Archives: Movies

Ten Great Crime Stories Set During the Holidays

For The Strand Magazine, I wrote about Ten Great Crime Stories Set During the Holidays. Have a read, and see why It’s a Wonderful Life is noir to the core and How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a classic heist story.

Yes, Die Hard is on the list. OF COURSE.

2014 favorites: Movies, books, TV

The year is winding down. How about a list of some of my favorites from 2014?

Favorite movies of 2014:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
A Most Wanted Man

Books — these are my favorite books from outside my own genre:

Command and Control, Eric Schlosser
The Southern Reach Trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer
Revival, Stephen King


True Detective
The Colbert Report

How about everybody else?

What’s everybody watching this summer?

The world continues to be its messed up self. How’s everybody taking a break from the news? Aside from reading, I mean. Reading is assumed.

Here’s what I’ve been watching this summer.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Edge of Tomorrow
Into the Storm


Game of Thrones
House of Cards
The Strain

You may notice a thick thread of SF/F escapism, overlaid with Machiavellian politics. That’s my summer* fun. What’s yours?

*If you live in the southern hemisphere, please tell us how you’re staying toasty warm in these winter days.

Me, talking. About movies, books, and who I’d trade places with for 24 hours

I’ve been shooting my mouth off.


First, to Suspense Magazine, which asked me about the thrillers I’m reading. International Thriller Writers Reader’s Corner: Book recommendations by Meg Gardiner.

The Fever, Megan Abbott. Abbott could scribble a grocery list and it would be lyrical and frightening. In The Fever, a mysterious contagion sweeps through a suburban high school, sending girls into seizures. What’s causing it? What secrets will it force into the daylight, with awful consequences?

I have more recommendations at the link.


Second, for its annual Pop Culture Issue, the American Bar Association Journal asked some law types to talk about movies: 12 Pivotal Movie Scenes with Lessons for Lawyers. Here’s how my contribution opens:

True Grit (2010)

Hailee Steinfeld stars as Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old Arkansas farm girl who sets out to “avenge her father’s blood” after he’s murdered. To track and capture the killer, Mattie needs to hire U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). But all her cash has gone to pay the undertaker. Unless she can raise money, the murderer will escape. So Mattie goes to an auctioneer who did business with her father shortly before his death, and she conducts a negotiation that reduces the man to pudding.

Finally, at Jen’s Book Thoughts, I answer five questions for her Five on Friday feature.

1. The most bizarre question I was ever asked in an interview was: At a bookstore event, an audience member approached me. “I want to write a bestseller,” he said. “But I hear that to be an author, you need to be mentally unstable. Are you?” While I was gaping at that, my husband walked up. The man turned to him and asked, “Is your wife crazy?” I think I said something like, “Only on the full moon.” The man didn’t buy any books.

Read the rest if you want to know my favorite movies, whose life I’d like to live for 24 hours, the most beautiful place I’ve visited, and what’s on my bucket list.

Rules of Magic: the Chart

For all fantasy fans.

The Rules of Magic, According to the Greatest Fantasy Sagas of All Time.

Read, watch, listen?

This week’s going to be head-down time, as I dig into my novel in progress. So help me out. What are you reading, watching, listening to?

I’ll start:


  • The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross
  • Star Island, Carl Hiaasen


  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Super 8


  • Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2
  • Florence and the Machine: Lungs

In the meantime… seen any good movies lately?

Contest 2010 winners will be announced imminently. Meanwhile, I’m revising The Nightmare Thief and laying traps for the phone company engineer O2 has — supposedly — dispatched to repair our DSL line and end the Broadband Death-match. If this guy actually shows, he isn’t getting out of here until the problem is solved. I need me my broadband. Bad. Oh, and I have a contract that requires O2 to provide it.

In the meantime, what’s the best movie everybody’s seen lately? I saw The Town last week and thought it was terrific — suspenseful, compelling, gritty, and believable. Still, the best film I’ve seen this year is Inception.


Get out of there

From “mysterious video editor hh” at pajiba:

NSFW, because in action movies the phrase frequently gets embellished with a predictable adjective. And yes, I’ve checked my own work for this phrase, which from now on will stick in my throat like… like something I need to get out of there.

(Via Neatorama.)

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Movie mania: Clash of the Titans vs. Birdemic

Last night I saw the new Clash of the Titans. I got everything I hoped for: popcorn, a month’s worth of cheese, and a screenful of fine, lean beef. Classic Greek myth it ain’t. But it’s a great-looking romp. Who cares that the ancients didn’t wear buzz-cuts or speak with Irish, Danish, and Australian accents? Mads Mikkelsen has sheer, charismatic presence as Draco, and I find Sam Worthington irresistibly adorable. You cheeky Aussie Perseus, you.

Granted, when Ralph Fiennes manifested onscreen in a swirl of black smoke, I wondered what Lord Voldemort was doing in ancient Argos. But I loved the scene where Jake Sully rides the Pegasus. I shouted, “Do not look in her eye!” until the Husband reminded me that in this flick, it’s Medusa, not the banshees, that’ll kill you for that. And every time Perseus shook his head and said he was only a man, I heard Mad Max, and expected him to add, “I’m just here for the gasoline.” I kept waiting for him to call Pegasus the Last of the V-8 Interceptors and to insist, “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll drive that tanker.” But by the end, I surrendered to the whole Avatar/300/Road Warrior vibe. The only thing that could make the story better, in its crazy way, would be to have Jake Mad Max Perseus kill the Kraken, and then cry, “Bring on the Humungus!”

And for critics, doubters, and those who don’t know what a truly epic bad movie looks like in comparison, I offer Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

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Favorite movies: Avatar or Mega Shark?

A couple of days ago we took the kids to see Avatar. I’m a huge science fiction fan and have been looking forward to this movie for months — with trepidation. As I told a friend beforehand, I didn’t know which James Cameron would show up to write and direct: T2 Cameron, or The Abyss Cameron. I managed my expectations about the movie, even after Manohla Dargis raved about it in the New York Times.

I didn’t need to worry. Avatar blew me away. It’s fantastically entertaining. The cast is terrific, the 3D makes it an immersive experience, and the world Cameron creates is jaw-droppingly beautiful. I found the story gripping and at points deeply emotional. It has elements of Quest, Rebirth… okay, the action sequences are awesome.

I walked out of the theater thunderstruck. Then my daughter said, “Well, that was Fern Gully on crack.”

Further wisecracks from the kids and the Husband ensued, referencing Ewok battles, Pearl Harbor, Titanic, Mel Gibson, and Dances With Wolves. Maybe other jokes as well, but at that point I drove off without them.

Well, now the snarking has stopped, thanks to our stumbling on the most awesomely awful science fiction movie of all time: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

It features hideous, stilted acting, bad sex, a battleship firing guns in the wrong direction as a sixty-foot shark fin bears down on it, and former ’80s teen singing sensation Debbie Gibson, looking bizarrely like Birther-Queen/lawyer/dentist Orly Taitz.

And it has the most off-the-wall shark attack — poorly executed, badly acted, implausible in the extreme — ever put on screen. It was so amazing that the Daughter gaped in wonder at the screen and said, like a child discovering Santa’s gifts under the tree on Christmas morning, “Can we see that again? Please?”

Here you go, honey.

UPDATE: A big thank you to WordPress.com for promoting this post to the WordPress.com homepage.

UPDATE 2: In the comments, Patti writes The Mega Shark Song.

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Favorite movies of 2009

Lists, glorious lists! How about my favorite movies of the year:

  • Star Trek
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • A Serious Man

And a few I saw on DVD:

  • In Bruges
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk

Two notes: (1) Mom, I’m sorry I suggested we continue our Coen Brothers marathon by watching No Country For Old Men right after A Serious Man; and (2) My daughter is about to disown me for failing to list 2012 among my top three flicks, so excuse me while I go offline to debate her.

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Scary stories

It’s Halloween. Stop reading those news stories about the economic implosion, rogue nukes, and the school of giant squid that has swum ashore and seized control of Malibu. Let’s talk real terror. Let’s talk fiction.

Which stories have scared you? My partial list:

  • The Stand, Stephen King.
  • The Dead Zone, Stephen King. (Bonus “cultural resonance” point: psycho presidential candidate!)
  • “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson.
  • The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty.
  • The entire Dr. Seuss catalogue. It seriously creeped me out as a child, especially Bartholomew and the Oobleck.

Which movies have made you scream?

  • Jaws.
  • Alien.
  • Deep Blue Sea.*

*Extra points for squealing, as I did, in the middle of a transcontinental airline flight. I’m a fan of Samuel L. Jackson, you can guess which scene made me shriek.

Best bad movies?

And now I’m going to destroy any pretense at intellectual credibility I may have gained by my previous post about the Nobel Prize for Literature. I’m switching topics. What are some of your favorite bad movies?

You know what I mean by “best bad.” Movies that are corny, crude, howlingly miscast, or otherwise flawed — but in some way that endears them to us. I ask because last night, at the urging of my teenage son, and after reading Laurie R. King’s post on bad movies she has loved, the Husband and I went to see Tropic Thunder. Laurie describes it as “Raunchy and offensive… and clever and ridiculous and, if you’re in the right mood, and have a strong stomach, just the thing.” Yep. That sums it up. I laughed a lot. Especially when that toddler jumps on Ben Stiller and stabs him, over and over. Granted, at that point the Husband became alarmed at my amusement. So your mileage may vary.

Some other favorite bad movies:

There’s Something About Mary.

Independence Day.

The Crawling Eye.

Your favorites?

UPDATE: Jeff Abbott calls me out over one of my choices. At his blog, I give it back.

Favorite movie lines

Last night at the dinner table, my boys got into a rapid-fire recital of their favorite movie lines. They took off with free-flow imitations of Mark Wahlberg, Sean Connery, Morgan Freeman, and Jack Nicholson sneering, “No tickie? No laundry!” The Husband and I just sat back and laughed.

Later, I caught one of my favorite movies on TV. Which got me thinking about writing one of those random, lightweight summertime posts that’s just for fun and eats up an hour of my time.

These are only a very few of my favorite lines. Can you name the movies?

  • “Round up the usual suspects.”
  • “The dude abides.”
  • “You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…” [Thunk.]
  • “How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Some day they may be scarce.”
  • “Put the spurs to her, Chuck.”
  • “Get away from her, you bitch.”

What are some of your favorites?