By James Lynch

The movie Serenity proves that a film can stay firmly rooted in conventions of a genre and still be entertaining and original. Writer/director Joss Whedon continues his “cowboys in space” story, begun with his TV series Firefly, to create a story that is exciting and surprising.

In the far future, the Alliance government seeks to spread enlightenment through the universe – through force to those who don’t submit to them. Starship captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) uses his ship Serenity to commit burglary jobs, stealing from the Alliance while keeping his crew paid and his ship running. If his ship barely holds together, the same is true of the crew. There is tough, violent Jayne (Adam Baldwin) who’s only out for himself; doctor Simon (Sean Maher), concerned with protecting his psychic, sometimes psychotic sister River (Summer Glau); perky engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite), who has a crush on Simon; nervous pilot Walsh (Adam Tudyk) and his wife, first officer Zoe (Gina Torres). They are an uneasy family, supporting and fighting in equal amounts, as they take on work to keep going.

The stakes are raised with the introduction of the Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor). He is an Alliance captain determined to capture or kill River before she can reveal the secrets she was accidentally exposed to while under Alliance training. The Operative is polite, a true believer in the future and goals of the Alliance, and willing to do anything to reach River. Matters are further complicated by the Reavers, a barbaric race of starfarers who rape, murder, and butcher any non-Reavers they come across. And River herself turns out to be capable of extreme unpredictable violence, making her a threat to her enemies – and the crew of Serenity.

Ragtag rebels fighting an oppressive government are not new, and the Western influence – from six-shooters to dialogue (“Come a day there won't be room for naughty men like us to slip about at all. This job goes south, there well may not be another. So here is us, on the raggedy edge.”) – does not automatically make for a great movie. What does is writing and pacing. Serenity opens with a seamless introduction to this whole universe and doesn’t slow down from there. Fans of Firefly will enjoy appearances by several regulars from that series, while those entering this universe for the first time will have no problem following the developments. The characters are all believable, the action is intense and works in perfect sync with the ideas behind the action. And far from being predictable, the movie has several twists and turns, including a few very surprising deaths.

Science fiction fans have kept supporting mediocre movies or shows based on once-great franchises like Star Wars or Star Trek. Joss Whedon’s Firefly lasted only one season, and Serenity didn’t fare too well at the box office. This is a pity, as Serenity is that rarest of beasts: an intelligent and exciting action movie. If you’re looking for something great, check out Serenity.

Grade: A-


The Constant Gardener

Based on the John LeCarre novel, The Constant Gardener is billed as thriller. Quite frankly it's not quite of that genre, but doesn't fit nicely into anything else. At various points, it is about a lost romance between Justin and Tessa Quayle, which are played well by Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. The thriller component focuses on Fiennes' quest to get to the bottom of a corporate corruption that seems as deep and wide as the African continent. In the end, the West is just as much to blame as anyone else for Africa's problems. The film is quite disjointed at times, heavily pasted together with extended scenes of African everyday life, and local music. There is also a fair amount of dialogue in foreign tongues with no subtitles; I felt like I was dropped off in a foreign country with no translator at many points and simply left out. In the end, this belongs more in a National Geographic documentary, and contributes nothing more than some interesting scenery and background sounds. The plot drags on at points, and the ending is quite unsatisfying. If the goal is to raise awareness of Africa's challenges including AIDS, corruption, and Western dominance, the film accomplishes this quite well. However, the journey was far more frustating than enjoyable, and had poor entertainment value. Those looking for a "spy thriller" should clearly look elsewhere.

Overall Grade: B-


Two For the Money

Inspired by a true story, Two For The Money features the acting prowess of Al Pacino, and Matthew McCounaghey in a great dramatic film. Al Pacino plays the mentor with Matthew as his protege in the high stakes world of sports betting. Overall, it has the feel of similar movies such as Wall Street, Boiler Room, or even The Color of Money.

Matthew McCounaghey plays Brandon Lang, who starts as a 900 number voice man in Vegas while he desperately attempts to restart his college football career which is rapidly becoming a dim memory. Subconsciously, Matthew needs a father figure. Pacino discovers him when McCounaghey starts picking football games with amazing accuracy. In a whirlwind blink, McCounaghey is in the "big city" of NY and quickly moves up the ranks to Pacino's right hand man. Soon they are on the desperate edge, while millions of dollars change hands over the score picks that McCounaghey gives to his growing clientele.

The pace of this movie is just about right, with no sagging parts, or weak moments. A dramatic subplot also develops with Pacino's wife, Toni, played by the competent Rene Russo. The movie is also supported by dramatic views of the Manhattan skyline, and the Brooklyn Bridge. I also enjoyed such snappy dialogue as "We're selling certainty in an uncertain world."

Overall, it is a compelling drama, with strong performances by all. If you want a glimpse into the world of sports betting, and consulting, Two For The Money is just the ticket.

Overall Grade: A

Popdex Citations


Amy Speace and the Tearjerks/Swamp Cabbage at the Goldhawk Lounge, Hoboken NJ, January 19, 2006

On Thursday January 19, Amy Speace and the Tearjerks played a double bill with Swamp Cabbage at the Goldhawk Lounge in Hoboken, New Jersey. Baltimore native Amy Speace had first come to my attention when a song of hers called "Not The Heartless Kind" appeared on a sampler CD in an issue of Paste magazine. That particular song was one of many she played Thursday night from her forthcoming CD Songs for Bright Street, due out in April. Amy and the Tearjerks perform a very straightforward style of no-frills country rock; Amy plays acoustic guitar, Rich Feridun plays lead guitar, Matt Lindsay plays bass, and Jagoda plays drums. There may not be anything new or noteworthy about their style of playing, but Speace wins over her audiences by combining a strong voice with some down-to-earth charm and witty and often humorous lyrics. For example, in "Not the Heartless Kind," Speace recites a litany of unpleasant things she could inflict on an ex-lover -- if she was the kind of person who'd do that. "Double Wide Trailer" is a love story that good-heartedly pokes some fun at southern country stereotypes. Her best chance for a hit, though, appears to be the defiant take-me-as-I-come-or-else anthem "The Real Thing," several lines of which elicited shouts of approval from the audience. Speace and the Tearjerks also threw in one cover, a disturbingly effective Texas two-step arrangement of Blondie's "Dreaming."

Conveniently, Matt Lindsay and Jagoda also make up two thirds of the second act Swamp Cabbage. The trio is completed by guitarist and vocalist Walter Parks. Swamp Cabbage play the same kind of down and dirty guitar boogie popularized by ZZ Top. Parks even plays and sings like Billy Gibbons, so if you like ZZ Top's sound you'll have no difficulty getting into Swamp Cabbage. Like Amy Speace, Swamp Cabbage threw one cover into the mix, opening with a rendition of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein." Their set was entertaining not just for the music, but also for Parks' amusing anecdotes about growing up in northern Florida. For what it's worth, I now know what "grunting for worms" is, although I can't say I have any immediate plans to try it.

The double bill turned out to be a pretty good two hours of music for a minimal price in a nice setting. The Goldhawk Lounge has a decent-sized lounge room with an assortment of chairs, tables, booths, and couches to choose from, making the overall atmosphere quite warm and cozy. (And it should only get warmer and cozier once the smoking ban takes effect.) Both acts play a lot in the metropolitan area, and I'd particularly recommend checking out Amy Speace if you get the chance. Her songs are good enough that she should hopefully soon earn a place of high distinction among the legion of female singer-songwriters armed with acoustic guitars. And if not, well, at least you can still catch some good music around town for the price of a drink or two plus $5 in the tip jar.

Also Reviewed:

Songs For Bright Street


Dead CCG Site

Greetings! I just started a group for those who remember and love/loved the old collectable card games that were so prevalent in the mid/late '90s. It's a group on Yahoo! called Dead_CCG · Dead CCG Collectable Card Game Site, dedicated to those great old card games that were discontinued or had nothing else released. If you remember a world after tapping land for mana and before Japanese fighting critters, join me at:

Dead CCG Yahoo Group

You shuffle, I'll deal.

Jim Lynch


Wilson Pickett, 1941-2006

Soul music lost one of its legendary pioneers when Wilson Pickett died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 64. Pickett was born in Prattville, Alabama, and cut his musical teeth singing in gospel choirs. While his recording career began in Detroit, it didn't take off until Pickett relocated to the Stax studios in Memphis in the mid-60's. With Booker T. and the MG's backing him up, Pickett belted out a string of classic songs. "In the Midnight Hour" and "Land of 1,000 Dances" became his biggest hits. In later years, interest in Wilson Pickett's music received a couple of boosts from music-inspired movies; "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" was the concert number in The Blues Brothers, and "Mustang Sally" was the standout song in The Committments. Pickett continued to perform regularly until his health failed him in the last year of his life. He leaves behind a solid catalogue of memorable soul tunes which hold up forty years later, and I'd recommend picking up any of the compilation albums available by him.


The 2006 Zlatne Uste Golden Festival

Once again a small army of amateur and semi-professional folk musicians, mostly from the New York City metropolitan area, converged for the 21st annual edition of Goldenfest in Manhattan this past weekend. Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band created this event, a two-day celebration of the music of the Balkans and beyond, to raise money for relief efforts in the Balkan region. As usual, this year's festival consisted of two events, with the smaller event taking place on Friday January 13 at Jan Hus Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the large event, involving over fifty different acts, taking place the following day at the Good Shepherd School in Inwood on the northern tip of Manhattan. The Saturday event featured three floors of music starting at 6 pm and running several hours past midnight, with food and drink included in the price of admission. I attended the Saturday show; it has been the best party of the year for me for six years running, not just because it's great to be a spectator but because I've also had the pleasure to perform at it as well. This year's version featured the usual assortment of quality performances in a myriad of styles, but I was never truly blown away by anything I saw at Goldenfest until last Saturday.

The group I play with is called the NY Spelmanslag; spelmanslag is Swedish for "fiddler's group." My group is the house band for Scandia NY, an organization that promotes the traditional music and dance of Sweden and meets on Wednesdays in the East Village. I provide accompaniment on guitar and bouzouki. This year we were the first act in the "Golden Room" on the middle level, generally reserved for the quieter performances. We were worried that the early slot would kill our attendance, but happily we had a good-sized crowd and things went well. Naturally, the upside of performing early is that we had the rest of the night to enjoy all the other music going on.

Once I packed up the instruments after the set, I headed upstairs to the main floor and caught a fine set by the Bosco Stompers Cajun Band, from that region of the Balkans known as the Bayou. Goldenfest has always included several non-Balkan bands, actually, but this was the first time I had seen any American folk music performed at the festival. Judging by the number of attendees who were filing in and quickly taking to the dance floor, nobody had any complaints. Most of the rest of the music I caught originated in the Balkans and Asia Minor. Bogomila plays Balkan café music, Seido Salifoski's Romski Boji plays Macedonian and Turkish gypsy music, Hazmat plays Turkish classical music, and the Yasna Voices specialize in Bulgarian women's songs. Despite the close regional proximity, the styles differ significantly from each other, but each of them has something to recommend it.

The festival organizers have included an increasing amount of Middle Eastern performers over the years, and my girlfriend Donna's attention was drawn to a group listed in the program as playing "Middle Eastern Music heavy on the drumming." The band in question was Raquy and the Cavemen. Their 2:15 am time slot was prohibitive, but we noticed that Raquy would be performing twice with other groups. The first time was with the Dolomites, a cross-cultural group fronted by Romashka's half-Romanian, half-Japanese Brooklynite accordionist Stephen Iancu but also including Raquy and Aaron Goldsmith on guitarron (the giant mariachi bass guitar). I've seen Romashka on several occasions, but I had no idea that Iancu could "sing;" what his voice lacked in tonal quality, he made up for with personality and delivery. (Apparently Dolomites shows usually involve cooking and fire as well, but I guess I'll have to wait another day for that part of the Dolomites experience.)

Still, Iancu's performance was overshadowed by Raquy's innovative percussion, making Donna and I really look forward to her performance with the Messengers, consisting of Raquy and her drumming students. We weren't disappointed; in fact, they put on the most electric performance I've seen in my six years of going to Goldenfest. Few things can excite a crowd the way that great percussion can, and Raquy won over the festival crowd in a really big way. The response to Raquy's performance in the "quiet" Golden Room became steadily louder and more ecstatic as the set wore on, and people who had been on the other floors were lured in by the rapturous applause and increased the volume further. By the end of the set the Golden Room, normally a classroom in a Catholic elementary school, had taken on the atmosphere of a rock concert at a large arena.

Unfortunately, with so much going on, it was impossible to see everything. The Messengers' set overlapped with that of the host band Zlatne Uste (shown above from last year's festival), whose energetic Balkan brass music has always been a huge crowd pleaser. Romashka came on later than I could stay for, but they've been a great live band since their inception and I'm sure I'll catch them around town again pretty soon. Likewise, I won't have to wait long to catch Raquy and the Cavemen, who are playing this Saturday at something called the Jam4Peace, to be held at Martin Luther King Jr. High School on Amsterdam Ave. between 65th and 66th St. It's always good to have something new to look forward to.

By Order Of The President

W.E.B. Griffin has long been revered for his gritty military novels full of insider tales and technical detail of World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War. He paints his characters in fine strokes, and has more believable characters than most Hollywood movies. I have enjoyed his novels previously, including the “Brotherhood Of War” series.

In By Order of the President, Griffin takes his somewhat formulaic approach to military history fiction into the modern age of post 9/11 America. Whereas in his previous works there is no central protagonist, in this novel, there is. Major Charley Castillo is one complicated hero. He is the son of a Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient on his father’s side, with Tex-Mex roots that go back to the Alamo. On his mother’s side, his roots are strongly German. Is it any wonder the kid speaks five languages? Also, Major Castillo is a gentleman soldier, one who does it for patriotism, as he is independently wealthy. Just to make the Major one more step complex, he’s working for Army Intelligence the Department of Homeland Security, and has Secret Service credentials. This larger than life hero can also pilot both helicopters, and airplanes. This is one talented hero we want on our side!

In this first novel of his latest series, the plot focuses on a missing 727 aircraft in Africa. What follows is a harrowing “goose chase” by the US with efforts by various departments coming up short of finding the airplane. The President summons Castillo to cut through the red tape, unite the agencies, and most importantly, find the plane. In short, Castillo’s mission is to prevent “9/11 Part II.” The plot takes us across four continents in search of the 727, and we meet plenty of forgettable characters along the way.

Overall, I wanted to enjoy this novel, but it comes up short. The over 500 page tome, has enough plot only for about 300 pages. A fair chunk of the background gets revealed through long, and expansive flashbacks that sometimes get confusing. The characters are a little less real and believable than in his previous efforts. The novel starts and finishes well, but there is a long, and rather significant lull in the action, where nothing really gets developed. I honestly felt like the book needed some further work to bring it up to Griffin’s previous standards.

All right, enough procrastination for now, what’s the bottom line? If you’re a Griffin fan, and you want something more modern, give it a try, but be prepared to skim along for some of the slower chapters. If you haven’t read this author before, try some of his earlier works first, they are significantly better in this reviewers opinion.

Overall Grade: B-

Also reviewed by W.E.B. Griffin.


By James Lynch

Movies are (in)famous for having justified violence as revenge -- you did something horrible to me, now I’m coming after you – but Munich takes a more thoughtful approach to the issue of an eye for an eye.

Munich uses a horrifying real-life event event -- the assassination of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September – to explore a fictional consequence of revenge. Faced with the enormity of the Olympic murder, Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen) decides that air strikes against Palestinian targets aren’t enough of a response. She authorizes the assassination of eleven Black September leaders that planned the Munich massacre.

The head of the team that will carry out this assignment is Avner (Eric Bana), a former bodyguard and soldier. His assignment is made as clean as possible: no direct ties to Israel, a list of names and massive amounts of money in anonymous safe deposit boxes, kill the people on the list with no civilian casualties, no actions outside of Europe. Avner has a four-person team to carry out the assignment, from a bomb maker to a clean-up man to erase proof that they were there. So Avner says goodbye to his pregnant wife Daphna (Avelet Zorer) and sets out to kill these enemies of Israel.

Avner is the focus of Munich, a man who is very ordinary until his mission begins. While other team members think of their assignment with everything from enthusiasm to regret, Avner tries to consider it just another assignment. He gets information on the whereabouts of his targets from Louis (Mathieu Amalric), a smooth information broker willing to deal with anyone he doesn’t consider affiliated with a government. Avner’s team kills their targets with bombs whenever possible (deciding that bombs get bigger headlines), and the initial attacks are very successful. Soon there are reciprocal attacks against Israel, and the team finds much more collateral damage happening from their attacks. Team members die, Avner wonders if they accomplish anything since those killed are simply replaced, and paranoia begins to set in when the team may be targeted as they targeted others.

Given the grim nature of this material director Steven Spielberg avoids the excess sentimentalism that mars many of his other movies. He focuses on Avner and the effects this violence wreaks on him. Munich avoids any easy answers – there are as many people praising Avner and his team for their actions as there are doubts on its results – though there is a very clear 9/11 reference at the end. The movie is a little long, and some of the assignments become repetitive, but Munich is an intriguing, thoughtful look at the repercussions of violence, no matter how justified it may seem.

Overall Grade: B+


Four Minutes

Back in the 1950's, two great challenges remained for mankind: to summit Mt. Everest, and to run a mile in under four minutes. From the title, you can probably tell, that this film chronicles the latter goal, and its eventual achievement. What is intriguing, in retrospect, was that "the four minute mile" was as much of a psychological challenge, as it was a physical one.

The unlikely hero is Roger Bannister, played by Jamie MacLachlan. Roger is a full time medical student with an interest in neurology. While his passion is the track, he barely has any time to devote to it. While others on the campus see, and encourage his special talent to run, he is content to simply put it on the backburner, and pursue his medical studies.

What follows is a moving tale of an unlikely hero, pursuing, and ultimately achieving one of mankind's great goals. Never mind that his record pace was surpassed a few weeks later, or that his career was short lived as he went on to pursue his career in medicine. This film shows a man going giving a goal 100% and fulfilling a dream. The story is supported by period costumes, and authentic locations on both sides of the Atlantic. I wholeheartedly recommend this for families as well.

Overall Grade: A-

You can see the official movie site here.


Upcoming Events in New York City

Saturday January 14 will be a good day to be a gaming geek or a world music geek if you live in the New York City area. (If you happen to be both, you have five days to figure out how to be in two places at once.)

Nerdnyc.com is putting on Recess VII: This Is How We Roll, an all-day gaming extravaganza to be held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center on 13th St. There will be plenty of board games and role-playing adventures to choose from, and all are welcome.

Saturday night is also the 21st annual edition of Goldenfest, an ethnic music festival sponsored by Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band and held at the Good Shepherd School in Inwood, on the northern tip of Manhattan. $30 gets you 10 hours of music (the party starts at 6 and winds down around 4 in the morning), plus all you can eat and drink. Goldenfest is wall-to-wall music on three levels, performed by the best amateur and semi-professional folk musicians in the Northeast. Most of the music is Balkan in nature, but the rest of Europe and the Middle East are also represented. In addition to Zlatne Uste, another certain highlight is Romashka, a Brooklyn-based gypsy party band who've put on great shows every time I've seen them.

(On the self-promotion front, I wrote a detailed review of the 2003 edition of Goldenfest. And if you wish to catch the New York Spelmanslag this year, make sure to arrive early.)


The Longest Yard

In this remake of the 1974 film of the same name, Adam Sandler stars with Chris Rock and Burt Reynolds. Sandler is a washed up former NFL quarterback who lands himself in jail. The warden decides to have an exhibition "tune up" game for his team of guards, against the inmates. This wacky scenario did hold my attention, and there are plenty of humorous moments, many of them involving racial, and gender humor (you've been warned).

The whole movie builds to a final game between the prisoners, and their guards. Nice touches include a field fenced in with barbed wire, and Texas Rangers with high power rifles to prevent the escape. Of course, the game uses "prison rules" which amounts to there aren't any!

In conclusion, the whole movie is a put your feet up, and check your brain at the door, relax away type of affair. It is entertaining, and is the perfect movie to "vedge out" with as long as you understand up front that this is the only purpose.
Overall Grade: B


Top 10 CD's of 2005

Hello and Happy New Year everybody. The birth of the Armchair Critic site gives me the opportunity to revive an old annual tradition of posting my 10 favorite albums of the year. I had a pretty good selection to choose from this year, and as usual the list adds some new faces to the fold to go alongside return efforts from recently-made acquaintances and old stand-bys alike.

10. Hurdy Gurdy, "Prototyp": Garmarna's Stefan Brisland-Ferner and Hedningarna's Totte Mattson take two Swedish hurdy-gurdies and a smattering of electronics and produce one of the most groundbreaking albums you're going to hear from anybody in any genre.

9. Richard Thompson, "Front Parlour Ballads": An average album by Richard Thompson's standards will never have any difficulty cracking my top 10 lists. A mere thirty-eight years removed from his first LP with Fairport Convention, he's still as good a songwriter and guitarist as you'll find.

8. Porcupine Tree, "Deadwing": What started as Steven Wilson's one-man-in-his-basement project has evolved over the past decade into a full-fledged, first-rate band bringing modernized art rock to the masses, or at least to their cult following.

7. Frigg, "Oasis": Folk fiddles from Finland and Norway. Their self-titled debut would have made last year's list if I had a chance to post one, and the follow-up is even better.

6. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Howl": Grunge band with strong Jesus and Mary Chain influence does about-face with third record and puts out rootsy, mostly acoustic, gospel-tinged effort. Somehow, it still works.

5. The New Pornographers, "Twin Cinema": Formed from the remnants of a couple of popular Vancouver bands, with a helping of (mostly backing) vocals from alt-country goddess Neko Case thrown in for good measure, The New Pornographers spent their first two albums bringing retro power pop into the 21st century. Their third album finds them aiming for a bit more depth and generally finding it. (I'm still partial to Neko Case's solo work, though; she put on a fabulous show in town on Valentine's Day and will have a new CD "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" out on March 7.)

4. "Brandi Carlile": The year's best debut comes from a singer in her early twenties who looks like a teenager but sings with the voice of a woman whose seen enough for several lifetimes. "Closer To You" and "Thrown It All Away" are absolute gems.

3. Paul McCartney, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard": Paul keeps things simple and straightforward, adopting the same approach that makes his 1970 debut still his best post-Beatles effort, and the result is arguably his strongest album since then, or at the very least matched only by 1989's "Flowers in the Dirt" and maybe one or two others. It's hard to believe that an album from a Beatle could sneak up on people, but here you go.

2. The Soundtrack of Our Lives, "Origin Vol. 1": When I saw them play at the Bowery Ballroom in March, a woman at my table said she described them to a friend as "stoner prog, but in a good way." That's a better description of TSOOL than anything I could come up with, so I'm going with it. They're fun and they rock, so why sweat the details?

1. Pina, "Guess You Got It": I've already reviewed this album in detail elsewhere, so I'll just say that Pina is wonderfully creative and distinct and has my two favorite CD's of the 00's to date. And she was also an extremely cooperative and fascinating interview subject to boot, for which I remain quite grateful.

Check out any and all of these performers if you get the chance. 2006 should get off to a flying start, with the Neko Case CD in March and the return of Värttinä, a Finnish band who've found themselves at or near the top of a lot of my year-end lists in the past, coming up on January 24. I plan on keeping quite busy. In the meantime, peace and good will to everybody everywhere.

Related Post:

The Top 10 CD's of 2006



Stealth stars Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, and Jamie Foxx in the attempt at the proverbial summer blockbuster. This try fizzles despite a bold premise, and stunning visual effects. In the end, the plot is about as thin as the carbon fiber skin of one of their high tech fighter airplanes.

The plot is centered around an ultra secret squad of US Navy fighter-bomber scram jets based on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The three main characters are the pilots, in this high tech version of Top Gun. Despite some excellent visual effects (including footage shot on the aircraft carrier), the plot is barely passable and not quite worthy of two hours of attention. A runaway robotic plane that joins the squadron and makes for the most disloyal robot since HAL in 2001. A strong soundtrack attempts to save this poorly cohesive film, and partally glues it together. In the end, it needed some better plot development, and some more depth to its characters. Fans of action blockbusters may enjoy it, but a well balanced film it clearly is not.

Overall Grade: B-


The Shark Mutiny

The Shark Mutiny is author Patrick Robinson’s fifth foray into the inner workings of the US Navy. With expert advice, the story is very rich in technical details, and realism. The plot unfolds as the Chinese and their Iranian allies lay a minefield across the Strait of Hormuz, which shuts down the flow of all Persian Gulf oil. As in his other books in this series, Vice Admiral Arnold Morgan (National Security Adviser) is the President’s right hand man in orchestrating the US’ response to this dire situation.

What follows is well told story, with hardly any lapse in the breakneck speed of action. Of course, the US Navy makes a large show of force, including the USS Shark, a submarine on her last tour of duty. SEAL teams get dispatched, including some familiar players including Commander Rick Hunter, and “Rattlesnake” Davies, which have appeared in some of Robinson’s previous novels. The SEAL’s live up to their official motto of “most of the world’s problems can be solved with high impact explosives.”

In my opinion, this is one of the stronger novels in the series, although I have enjoyed them all. The geopolitical realism is great, and there is enough grit inserted to make this believable. While the novel follows a formula, each one introduces some new twists that keep us coming back for more. In The Shark Mutiny, this includes a Naval Court of Inquiry at the end (somewhat reminiscent of Poyer’s The Circle). For readers looking for the naval version of Tom Clancy, Patrick Robinson and The Shark Mutiny is it. If you’re new to this series, clicking on the link above will take you to the author’s website where you can get the order of the novels (there is a loose progression, but purists should read them in order).

Overall Grade: A

Also by Robinson:
Scimitar SL-2
Hunter Killer