My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #2 Ghostbusters

In a movie with a ton of laughs it’s funny that one line in it so aptly describes almost the entire movie: “Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.”

Like many great comedy movies the script to Ghostbusters really was just a guideline as to what was supposed to happen. When you consider it was written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis that alone would likely have resulted in a pretty funny movie, but throw in the ad-libbed dialogue of Bill Murray and Rick Moranis and you’re destined to have a very funny movie. And such was the case with Ghostbusters.

Yes, I admit that the plot has a few holes in it, but the comedy itself is top notch with some of the best lines from the movie still being used as jokes 30 years after the film’s release. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is one of the great all time movie “monsters”. Its creation is also funny, as super-bad guy Gozer tells the Ghostbusters that the next thing they think of will be the form it will assume to destroy their world. Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) said he tried to think of the most harmless thing and that’s what popped into his head.

While there’s lots of easy jokes to get the script has lots of stuff that’s often missed that’s funny when you see it. Louis (Rick Moranis), the future “Keymaster,” gets locked out places two or three times in the movie. When the librarian was asked if anyone in her family had ever had any history of mental illness, she says her uncle thought he was St. Jerome. The patron saint of librarians is St. Jerome.

Ghostbusters is one of those comedies where watching it several times doesn’t diminish the humor. There’s lots of stuff going on in the movie and things are easy to miss with just one watching.

Oh, and yeah….I ain’t afraid of no ghost.

Directed by Ivan Reitman
Produced by Ivan Reitman
Written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis
Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, and William Atherton
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography by László Kovács
Edited by David E. Blewitt & Sheldon Kahn
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates June 7, 1984 (nationwide on June 8)
Running time 107 minutes
Budget $30 million
Box office $295.2 million

Random Review: The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry

This review contains no spoilers.

Book Name: The Lincoln Myth
Author: Steve Berry
Series: #9 in the ongoing series featuring “Cotton Malone”
Publisher(s): Ballantine Books
Format(s): Hardcover/Mass market paperback/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Historical fiction/Thriller
Release Date: May 20, 2014

Rating: 7/10

If you’re a student of history Steve Berry’s books might not be as enjoyable as they are to others as Berry uses actual places and events in his stories and then fictionalizes things to come up with his novels. Sometimes knowing what’s real and what’s been added takes away from the story, and that was an issue with The Lincoln Myth for me. I know a significant amount about the two main plot points in the story, being interested in the development of the US Constitution and while I’m not a Mormon I am very familiar with the tenants and history of the LDS church. As both play a huge role in The Lincoln Myth I had to several times stop and remind myself it was historical fiction and go back and reread sections with that in mind.

I’m also not a huge fan of the end game in The Lincoln Myth, which made little sense to me when compared to the rest of the story. Without giving anything away while Malone does what longtime readers would expect him to do during the final confrontation with the bad guys, everyone else’s action don’t really match what they’ve done in the past. There’s a new character in the book that looks like he’s about to become a regular to the series, but after 480-plus pages of acting one way at the end of the story does something that his previous actions make implausible. It’s glaring, and really causes issues in the ending.

As with all Berry novels The Lincoln Myth has a great Author’s Note section that indicates what he’s added and what’s real. Of course I knew most of those things in the book, but his notes are still a great addition to the books.

If you’re a fan of Berry’s previous books I’d say go ahead and continue on with The Lincoln Myth despite you likely being a tad disappointed. If you’ve not read anything by Berry don’t start with this one. Read them in order (including the non-Cotton Malone books) if you can and you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of them than not understanding some of the stuff in The Lincoln Myth.

Week in review, week ending 12/14/14

For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the posts from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s post.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I had A look back: Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony, and on Wednesday it was My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #3 Airplane!.

From the folks I follow…
The Credible Hulk has Annualization – The Downfall of Games. I used to by all the EA NHL games. I haven’t gotten one in some time.
Drunken Dragon Reviews with a review of Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. I’ve reposted so many reviews of this series I probably should grab them off my to-read shelf and start the books myself.
Thoughtfultomes has their list of Top 5 Time Travel Novels. She has three that I’ve read. I’d be hard pressed to think of another two to fill out such a list.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Views From My Room asks Should They?. I think they should. You’ll have to click the link to answer the question for yourself.
Kitty Lusby with a look at a cool book/comic shop called “Stories”. Great pics too. Unfortunately it’s a long way from where I am, although I do have some friends in that area.
The Quest For a Better Me with an interesting look at book goals with the simply titled On Books. I’m in complete agreement with their premise.
David Hansard shows us The neurotic’s guide to books. Is it bad that I laughed because I’ve been there?

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #3 Airplane!

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started a couple of Wednesdays ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We’re starting with my top five favorite comedy movies and counting up toward #1. Last week at #4 was The Jerk, and this week at #3 we have Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker’s Airplane!

What makes this film incredibly funny is that most of the well known actors appearing in Airplane! were at the time not considered not comedic actors. Robert Hays was just a TV character actor and Julie Hagerty was a stage actress who had a role in the film All That Jazz that ended up on the cutting room floor. The rest of the main cast of Airplane! were all “serious” actors with little or no comedy training. What sells the film is Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker have their cast playing the entire movie as if it was one of those schlocky thrillers that were popular at the time.

Every actor simply says their lines as if it’s being played as a straight thriller, with only Stephen Stucker (as air traffic controller Johnny Henshaw-Jacobs) purposefully making funny lines. In fact, his parts were not scripted. Stucker was only given the “straight line” before his and was allowed to throw in whatever struck him at the moment. Everything else, while written to be funny, was played totally straight.

There are few movies that have generated so many funny lines that are still repeated more than 30 years after its release. From Barbara Billingsley’s cameo performance where she tells the stewardess “I speak jive” to Leslie Nielsen repeating “and don’t call me Shirley” and Lloyd Bridges admitting “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop (insert drug use)”, there are so many memorable lines that still make people laugh despite hearing them over and over.

Airplane! is about as far from intellectual comedy as you can get, but it’s funny scenes and one-liners make it one of the best comedy movies ever made.

Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Produced by Jon Davison & Howard W. Koch
Written by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, and Robert Stack
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Edited by Patrick Kennedy
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates July 2, 1980
Running time 87 minutes
Budget $3.5 million (est.)
Box office $83,453,539

A look back: Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony

Warning: This contains spoilers of the books.

When people ask me why I read so much science fiction/fantasy stuff my immediate answer is the “Incarnations of Immortality” series by Piers Anthony. I’m sure I read some fantasy stuff before that series, but that’s the one that really opened the door for me in the fantasy genre. From the first moment of On A Pale Horse I was completely hooked. That book is about a young man named Zane, who kills the Incarnation of Death just a split second before Zane was about to kill himself. Killing Thanatos (the Incarnation of Death) is how one becomes that Incarnation, so Zane becomes the new Incarnation of Death. Like all the books in the series the early part of On A Pale Horse is about Zane taking the place of the previous Incarnation and all the issues he has doing it. The second part is about how Death interacts within the world.

I remember the second book, Bearing an Hourglass, really confusing me and I had to read it twice to totally understand it. That one is about Norton, the Incarnation of Time. What was confusing for me when I read it the first time was I didn’t get that Time was living his life backwards, that his past was everyone else’s future. It actually is a sad story because of the way Incarnation of Time works Norton is very lonely. The third book, With a Tangled Skein, was full of puzzles as it’s about the Incarnation of Fate, who is really three different people in one body. The book centers on Niobe, who at different points in her life is two of the three aspects of Fate. It’s in With a Tangled Skein that all the main character’s relationships with each other begins to be explored.

Wielding a Red Sword is the fourth book, and it’s really pretty straight forward, one of the only books in the series without some major plot twist. The book is about Mars, the Incarnation of War, who only leaves office when the entire Earth is at peace. Obviously that just about never takes place, but Satan makes sure it happens just so the inexperienced Mym can take over the office and hopefully be manipulated to do Satan’s bidding. As with the other Incarnations, Mym foils Satan and all is right with the world once again.

The fifth book is Being a Green Mother, and it’s about The Incarnation of Nature (AKA, Mother Nature). The whole book is about Orb trying desperately to not fulfill the prophecy that she marries Satan. But Satan tricks her and she falls in love with him and she does indeed marry him. The end of Being a Green Mother is their wedding, and after Orb sings a song about love to him Satan sings a song back, but one that is forbidden for him to sing. When he finishes he is no longer the Incarnation of Evil, having fallen in love with a good woman he is forced to abdicate.

I read the first five books in order and then had to wait for the sixth, and back then there was no internet so there wasn’t any way to know when the next book was going to be released. So once a week, usually on Friday, I walked the mile or so to the Tatnuck Bookseller to ask them if it had come out yet. I didn’t even know what the title was going to be, I just knew there had to be another one coming. I remember the folks there being so nice about it too. They’d know what was just released and what was coming in the next few weeks, but I’m sure they too were looking forward to the book coming out just so I would stop asking. The one good thing was that there were a couple of science fiction/fantasy fans working there so they were able to point out lots of good stuff I could read while I was waiting.

One week when I got there they were all smiling and told me the sixth book, For Love of Evil, was coming out in a few weeks. I remember them playing a joke on me when I got there on Friday after its release date, telling me they had sold out of it. I was stunned to silence for a few seconds until they let me off the hook and handed me a copy they had behind the counter for me. I went home and read that book all night, finishing in the wee hours of the morning. I was originally disappointed because while the early parts of For Love of Evil is Parry becoming the Incarnation of Evil the middle is essentially just Being a Green Mother told from Satan’s point of view. But the more I thought about it I thought it was a great story, because now everything was known about what had happened.

The last part of For Love of Evil was where the real action took place when Parry reassuming the office of the Incarnation of Evil after the other Incarnations help him remove his replacement, a sadist that has automatically assumed the position of the Incarnation of Evil when Parry abducted. It was, at least I thought at the time, a great ending to the series. Only it turns out there was one more book to go.

A couple of years later I happened into Waldenbooks and saw that a seventh book in the series had been released called And Eternity. I remember being shocked to see it, and was unfortunately broke at the time so I had to wait until payday to go get it. It was a great addition to the series, with the story being the Incarnation of Good being unable (or unwilling) to carry out the powers of his office so he is needed to be impeached. So instead of the battle of Good vs Evil being on the battlefield it is waged in Congress. Somehow Luna, the original girlfriend to Zane (Death) and granddaughter of Niobe (Fate) gets the vote for impeachment. Then came the hard part…the other Incarnations, including Satan, each nominate mortal to take over as the Incarnation of Good, but the vote on the successor must be unanimous.

There is only one real choice, Orlene; Nature and War’s daughter and Fate’s granddaughter, and Satan’s step-daughter. So she becomes the Incarnation of Good. Unlike the other books, And Eternity is entirely about how Orlene gets to the office. At no time does Anthony even hint at what God does in his office nor what the powers of the office are. It was an even greater ending to the series.

There is in fact another book in the series released a few years ago, Under a Velvet Cloak. It’s about the Incarnation of Night. I know this because I looked it up. I’ve not read Under a Velvet Cloak, nor will I ever buy a copy of it. For me my favorite series ended years ago, and I’m going to keep it that way. And based on the reviews I’ve read, Piers Anthony should have kept it that way too.

Week in review, week ending 12/7/14

For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the posts from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s post.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I had my monthly Random book thoughts for December, on Wednesday I had My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #4 The Jerk, and Friday saw my Random Review: The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly.

From the folks I follow…
Cheap thrills has a whole bunch of mini reviews, including one of my all-time favorite books, The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. We’ll have to agree to disagree on how good the book is.
Thoughtfultomes has a review of one of my favorite trilogies, “The Watergivers” by Glenda Larke (AKA: “The Stormlord Trilogy”). She doesn’t like it as much as I do. That’s OK, I love it enough for the both of us.
The Credible Hulk has Survivor (Nearly) Ruined Television. I’m not a watcher of reality TV, and listening to people talk about reality TV shows I’m happy I don’t watch.
The Fictional Reader reviewed both The Spirit Thief and The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron. I absolutely love that series.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Charliesfreedom has Why I Read…And Love It!.
Youngatheartbookclub posted a picture of a sign you should see and read.
Nerdy Book Girl with some advice on Selecting Which Book To Read. I covered that topic a short while ago, but this young lady’s list boils it down nicely.
Just reading says My eyes are bigger than my reading time… Welcome to my world…

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

Random Review: The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

This contains very mild spoilers, but nothing that gives away any part of the main plot.

Book Name: The Gods of Guilt
Author: Michael Connelly
Series: Book #4 in the ongoing “Lincoln Lawyer” series
Publisher(s): Little, Brown and Company/Vision
Format(s): Hardcover/Trade & mass market paperback/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Courtroom thriller
Release Date: December 2, 2013

Rating: 9/10

After 25 books one would think an author might lose a little bit off his fastball. Michael Connelly’s 26th novel, The Gods of Guilt, proves that he’s the Nolan Ryan of writers by building another faced paced story with a few twists and turns and an ending that leaves the reader satisfied and yet still wanting more.

In the previous “Lincoln Lawyer” novel, The Fifth Witness, Connelly has protagonist Mickey Haller novel running for District Attorney. In the only true bump in the story Connelly has Haller losing the election before the events of The Gods of Guilt begin due to a scandal involving a former client killing two people in a drunk driving accident. And, of course, Haller’s daughter was friends with both victims so that throws Haller’s relationship with his daughter into chaos. None of these events are really explained in The Gods of Guilt with any detail, and the fallout from them is only tangentially dealt with. It’s almost like a short story is missing from the timeline. Be that as it may, it’s the only real issue with the story.

The rest is classic Connelly, with well thought out twists and turns that move the plot along nicely without needing to resort to the phony cliffhangers many other mystery writers have to use. Twice I was certain I had figured out who the murderer was only to find myself wrong in the next couple of chapters. By the time the reader fully realizes who the real killer is the story comes down to how Haller will be able to prove it enough to get the jury, who he calls “The Gods of Guilt” because they determine guilt or innocence, to find his client not guilty. The two twists at the end close up the story nicely, but also gives the idea that there’s maybe more to this story to be dealt in the future.

I read the first 24 novels by Connelly in succession last summer, and the last two when they were released in paperback recently. I think it’s time I start buying the Connelly books in hardcover when they come out. That’s pretty much all you need to know about how good Connelly’s writing is.