Rizzoli & Isles: Listen to Me

Written By: Tess Gerritsen

Published By: Ballantine Books

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

I’m a big fan of the Rizzoli & Isles television series that used to air on TNT and now is available in syndication and on DVD.  In fact, I have every season on DVD.  Yet, I never have read any of the books this television series was based on.  I have read Tess Gerritsen’s work before, but nothing from the Rizzoli & Isles series.  When I was offered the opportunity to review Rizzoli & Isles: Listen to Me, I decided now was the time to start.

Boston Homicide Detectives Rizzoli and Frost, with the help of Medical Examiner Maura Isles, are investigating the seemingly senseless murder of Sofia Suarez.  A well-loved widow and nurse, Sofia didn’t appear to have any enemies and the only things missing from Sofia’s home are her laptop and her cellphone.  This could be a murder of convenience…a burglar caught in the middle of his/her crime by the homeowner.  But where was the blunt object that was used to kill her…and why keep striking her.  She was already knocked to the floor.  The burglar could have escaped easily.  Instead, they followed her and kept beating her over the head until she was dead.  The investigation leads the team to discover that Sofia was making phone calls to people that she knew at her former hospital, in a town where a young woman was murdered, and her child abducted.  What did Sofia learn that was worth murdering her over.

Meanwhile, Jane’s mother is caught in a mystery of her own.  Angela’s boyfriend, retired Boston police officer Vincent, is away helping his sister recover from surgery.  With Vincent away, Angela begins to focus more on the neighborhood she has lived in since she married her ex-husband.  A new neighbor has moved in across the street, a couple that doesn’t appear to want any interaction with their neighbors, especially Angela.  Of course, Angela finds this suspicious, especially when one of the neighbor teens goes missing.  Angela tries to bring the strange things she has been noticing to the local police department, but they don’t find her suspicions worth looking into, so of course, Angela goes to her daughter for help.  Unfortunately, Jane is so wrapped up in her own case, she isn’t really listening to her mother and her nosey neighbor observations.

Listen to Me is the latest book in the series.  There are quite a few books before this and I worried that I might be a tad lost joining things this far in, but I shouldn’t have.  The author doesn’t just assume that you already know the characters.  She gives you little bits and pieces of information about them throughout, so if this is your introduction to Rizzoli & Isles, you won’t be lost at all.  Sure, the characters are a bit different from the television series, but one character is the same in both – Angela.  I actually started smiling when Angela appeared in the book.  She’s the same quirky, fun, nosey character I remember from the television series and it isn’t surprising that she would be spying on her new neighbor…especially one that was doing his very best to avoid her at all costs.

I loved that there wasn’t just one mystery going on in this novel.  Jane, Frost and Maura had the mystery of Sofia’s murder to solve, while Angela had the new neighbors and the missing teenager to wonder about.  And we, the reader, were brought along for the ride, solving the mysteries along with our favorite characters.  Tess Gerritsen’s writing is so descriptive, you can picture the characters and the situations they find themselves in your mind’s eye perfectly.  Often times, just when you think you have things figured out, you are thrown for a loop by what is actually taking place.  For instance, I thought I had the new neighbor figured out, but the reason the teen was missing threw me for a loop.  And Sofia’s murderer?  I was completely thrown by that one! 

Listen to Me is a terrific read – fast and completely engaging.  In fact, it has inspired me to read all of the Rizzoli & Isles books I have missed.  Definitely a must read for Rizzoli & Isles fans and a good place to start for those who have never read any of the books in the series.

Check out Listen to Me at Amazon

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Nameless

Written By: Dean Koontz

Published By: Amazon Publishing

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               During the pandemic, I was looking for quick reads that I could download to my cleanable Kindle should I get stuck at work and have downtime to actually read.  I was directed to a series of short stories by Dean Koontz called Nameless.  Having loved Koontz’s previous works, I was quite happy to find them and I downloaded all six.  I waited until I finished every single one of the before writing a review.

               The series title actually describes a man – he has no memories of his past and believes this is by design.  The organization he works for has not only erased his memories, but also his fingerprints.  The better to perform their tasks without police interference.  You see, Nameless, under various aliases, is a pawn of revenge.  He takes to task people who have been above the law…or just under the radar of the law.  Nameless goes after serial offenders. 

His first task is to handle a serial sex offender who goes after young girls…often times making them disappear.  Nameless is also sent after serial killers and terrorists.  And the ways in which he “handles” them is quite unique.  Most of his targets are all about control, and Nameless makes certain he takes that control away.  The target will often meet their demise by their own hand, making Nameless’ job just a little easier, but the moments leading up to those endings are quite intense.

Nameless is given just about everything he needs to complete his jobs, including money, cars, planes…you name it (pardon the pun).  His only setback may be the visions that strike him at the most inopportune moments.  In the beginning, Nameless believes them to be premonitions, but as the series moves forward, he begins to believe his memories are coming back to him through these visions.

The series, as with all of Dean Koontz’s works, is captivating.  The author simply has a way of grabbing our attention early and making us care enough about the protagonist to want to keep reading.  In this case, not only does the reader want to know what new and interesting lengths Nameless will go to in order to punish his target, the reader also wants to know just what these visions he is having mean.  The ultimate reveal in the final book of the series was definitely worth the wait. 

Nameless is a well-written series that any fan of Dean Koontz thrillers will enjoy!

Find Nameless at Amazon

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You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey

Crazy Stories About Racism

Written By: Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

Published By: Grand Central Publishing

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               I have a terrific friend who challenges me to read books I might never have pursued on my own.  Recently, I received You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar.  The book’s subtitle is Crazy Stories About Racism.  Inside was a note from my friend which said, “because sometimes we need to laugh at the terrible things.”  I looked suspiciously at this book.  How could racism be funny?  Only one way to find out.

               As the book opens, we are introduced to Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar, two sisters.  Amber has long ago moved from Omaha, Nebraska and is a comedy writer living in New York City.  Lacey, however, still lives in the Midwest and, apparently, this area is ripe for racism.  According to Amber, there are many stories regarding what Lacey has to deal with daily in her working and personal life that prove racism is far from over in the Midwest.  But as I read these stories…and grew infuriated with some of them…I began to realize that much of the same could be said about the New England Coast, the South, the far west.  In fact, we really haven’t gotten away from racism, despite how educated or enlightened some claim to be.

               As one travels through this book, they will note that some of the things said to Lacey are built on pure ignorance of Blacks as a race, culture, human being.  Ignorance is not an excuse for racism, not something we should just poo-poo at, thinking these fools know not what they say.  As Lacey feels, this is a teachable moment in which we can inform ignorant people wo that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.  But other things, the pure racism taught by generations of people who don’t like anyone different from they are…well, those things are harder to stomach.  The idea that someone perusing items in a store should be judged by their race is racism at its prime and something I have had to deal with when working loss prevention years ago.  I would often argue with managers who would want me to follow the young Black individual who entered the store while the white male with the suitcase in Health and Beauty was stealing the store blind.  What was their reasoning regarding one person’s propensity to steal over the other, I would ask, but never would I get a satisfactory answer. 

               So, how can remarks about Black people’s hair, education, etc. be funny?  Well, you’re right, it simply isn’t funny to read some of the things that Amber and Lacey discuss.  But there are some instances when people are just so downright ignorant that the situation can’t help but be funny, especially the way Amber Ruffin writes them.  I did find myself laughing at some instances, but for the most part, especially when reading about how Amber and Lacey’s mother dealt with certain instances, You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism will piss you off. 

               You’re probably wondering why you should read this book if it will make you so mad, right?  Well, you should read this book for the education it imparts.  You may have your own ignorant views of Blacks that can be squashed by this book.  But for the most part, you should read this book so you remember that this stuff still goes on relatively unchecked, especially now that more than one of our government leaders has made it seem okay to speak and act a certain way toward races that are different from yours.  For no other reason than that, you should recommend this book to others.  The more people are shocked or infuriated with what they read in You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey, the more people will stand up and demand change…or at least try to effect change anyway.

Get You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism at Amazon!


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The Song of Achilles

Written By: Madeline Miller

Published By: Ecco

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               Being a rabid fan of all things mythology, it is no wonder that one of my Christmas presents would be a book based on mythology.  The story of the Trojan War has been told by many, most famously by Homer in The Iliad.  Thus, many have heard the tale of the great hero Achilles and his faithful companion Patroclus, but none have ever told the story quite like Madeline Miller in The Song of Achilles.

               The Song of Achilles is centered on Patroclus, a young boy who is seen by his father as more of a nuisance than an heir.  His lack of agility and grace is abhorrent to the King and thus, Patroclus is ignored by his father.  His mother has her own psychological issues and can’t truly do anything to help her son’s situation.  When Patroclus is bullied by the son of a nobleman, he fights back, accidentally killing the boy.  Patroclus is sentenced to be exiled and his father sends him to Phthia to be raised by King Peleus.  It is here that he meets the king’s son, Achilles.

               At first, Patroclus has difficulty settling in, but Achilles soon takes notice of his father’s new ward and decides to make him his companion.  This is not unusual for the times as young princes often take on another boy to be his mate and join him in schooling and various adventures.  But there is something about Achilles that is captivating to Patroclus.  Perhaps it is his birthright.  After all, Achilles is the son of the King of Phthia and the nymph Thetis, making Achilles a half-God as well as the heir to the Phthian throne.  But perhaps it was that Achilles was everything Patroclus was not: athletic, beautiful, relaxed, arrogant, beloved. 

               The two soon become more than just friends, much to the chagrin of Thetis who wants her son to complete the prophecy of greatness long foretold for Achilles.  Unfortunately, while that prophecy paints Achilles as a great hero of the Greeks, it also foretells his death.  Thetis worries that Achilles’ love for Patroclus will prevent him from meeting his destiny.  She may be right, for Achilles and Patroclus have devised a way to stall things, having no wish for their relationship to end so soon.  But none can delay what is destined for them and Patroclus must decide whether it is worth the pain to allow Greece to fall at the hands of the Trojans or to allow Achilles to achieve what he is destined to become.

               I’ve enjoyed many tales about the Trojan War, but The Song of Achilles is a new and rather inciteful version.  The earliest tales of Achilles and Patroclus describe their friendship in vague terms, but certain incidents described in The Iliad evoke the greatest emotion from each character, leading one to believe that they are more than friends.  In making them lovers, Madeline Miller brings incite into the actions of Patroclus and Achilles during the Trojan War that no other author truly has.  I loved that Miller fleshed out Patroclus’ character more than it has ever previously been before.  It made the reader more inclined to root for Patroclus and Achilles, despite whether or not they knew the outcome of the war. 

               The descriptiveness of the writing brings the world of Patroclus and Achilles to life for the reader.  Characters are well fleshed out and their locales are easily viewed in the mind’s eye of the reader.  The story has been told before, but never like this and it is utterly captivating.  Seeing things through the eyes of Patroclus is an entirely new experience and suits the story well.  I found The Song of Achilles to be a tremendously enjoyable read and have already recommended it to all of the fellow mythology lovers I know.

Get The Song of Achilles: A Novel at Amazon!

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March

Story By: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Art By: Nate Powell

Distributed By: Top Shelf Productions 

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I was recently offered an opportunity to check out the first in a trilogy of graphic novels documenting the Civil Rights Movement.  A comic book about some of the most important historic events in the history of the United States?  The history buff in me was definitely on board and so, I found myself downloading a copy of March: Book One.

                March: Book One begins with a flashback to the march on what is referred to as “Bloody Sunday.”  The march was to go from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, but was stopped on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were confronted by the Alabama State Police and were beaten and gassed.  Flash forward decades later to the Inauguration of President Barrack ObamaCongressman John Lewis is preparing to speak at the event.  As he does so, he thinks back on the events that led this country to the inauguration of its first black president and his role in the movement that made it all possible.

                March: Book One, written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, shows John Lewis’ upbringing, his early calling as a preacher and his move toward the defense of the rights of blacks to live in equality with whites.  It covers the initial moves to desegregate lunch counters, (the sit-ins, violence committed on the protesters and their arrests) the boycotting of buses and stores in an effort to desegregate both and the eventual march on City Hall in Nashville, Tennessee to confront Mayor West about the desegregation of lunch counters in his city.  It speaks about John Lewis’ relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. and his involvement with the SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known to its members as Snick). 

                The graphic novel, illustrated by Nate Powell, is entirely in black and white.  I think that this adds poignancy to the story.  Doing the comic book in color would only distract from the message it is trying to convey.  The artwork is spot on and the renditions of Lewis, King, Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, Fred Gray and more were very well done.  The landscape art was also excellent, proving that Powell is one helluvan artist, capable of portraying people and places in incredible detail with equal skill. 

                March: Book One is a graphic novel that speaks to very important times in our lives.  Knowing how the Civil Rights Movement made it possible for Barrack Obama to be President of the United States is extremely important and who better to tell it than someone who was so deeply involved in the movement?  March is an excellent graphic novel series and I highly recommend it to all!

Get March (Trilogy Slipcase Set) at Amazon!

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Rascal Sees A Therapist – Part 2

By Melissa Minners

Therapist: Nice to see you have decided on a return visit.

Rascal: As if I really wanna be here.

Therapist: I thought I left this second visit entirely up to you.

Rascal: Mreow!  Sure!  That was before I got locked up and sent to C.A.  I swear, I just don’t understand it! 

Therapist: No need to get loud.

Rascal: Mreow really?  Did you ever get locked up for having a couple of accidents on the floor? 

Therapist: (shakes head) …

Rascal: Yeah, that’s what I thought, sister!

Therapist: So, you had an accident?

Rascal: Mreow, don’t you go making a big deal out of it, too!  It was just an accident…mreow, two…one next to my human’s bed, and one in the hallway outside her room.  Okay, so they weren’t exactly accidents.  I had it all planned out, too.  Was gonna pin it on my sister, but got caught trying to wipe away the evidence in the hallway.  Damn!

Therapist: And why would you do such a thing?

Rascal: Attention, baby!  Pure, unadulterated attention!  My sister gets way too much attention from that woman.  My uncle is so cool.  Invites me into his room.  Lets me watch porn with him.  But not her.  And let’s not go into the fact that she stole my girlfriend right out from under my nose!  Right in front of me, man!  Like she was entitled or something!

Therapist: So this really has to do with your girlfriend?

Rascal: Well. Yeah.  I mean, the little hints I gave just didn’t seem to be enough –nipping, head-butting – they just weren’t getting the point across, so…

Therapist: So you urinated and defecated on the floor?

Rascal: Hey, what’s a cat to do?

Therapist: So why were you sent to C.A.?

Rascal: Oh man!  Mreow, my plan back-fired!  My human freaked out and imprisoned me with my uncle’s help.  She got MY buddy to help!  Ain’t that something?!  Then they lugged me to see the vet.  I hate going to the doctor!  She knows that!  Poking and prodding!  Yeesh!  But there was this one chick there who was having fun running her comb through my hair.  I digged her.  My human must have noticed – she shoved me back in my cage and took me home!  Bitch!

Therapist: And?

Rascal: Well, she just kept watching me.  No matter where I went, what I did, I could feel my human’s eyes on me – watching.  So I gave her something to watch – I barfed all over the floor.  Problem was, afterwards, I went to the living room to get high and she caught me. 

Therapist: Catnip?

Rascal: Hey man, what’s a cat to do?  She cut off my balls, locked me in the house, laughed at me, stole my girlfriend and carted me off to the doctor.  I needed an escape.  Besides, it ain’t like Catnip is illegal or anything.  And it ain’t like I do it all the time.  I can stop whenever I want to!

Therapist: And so you’re here because….?

Rascal: She sent me to CATNIP ANONYMOUS!!!!  I am not sitting in that circle at the meetings so I can listen to a bunch of sad dorks caterwauling about their addiction to the stuff.  I used to be top cat of the neighborhood.  I’ve got nothing in common with these losers.  Besides, I can stop whenever I want to!

Therapist: Is that so?  May I ask you what it is that you are laying on?  I don’t remember having a pillow on my couch.

Rascal: Pillow? (tosses the pillow under the couch)  What pillow?

The therapist reaches under the couch, but recoils as Rascal draws out his claws.

Rascal: You don’t wanna do that, sister.  That’s some of my best stuff!  Don’t do it!  I’m warning you!

Therapist: And you don’t have a problem?  No addiction whatsoever.

Rascal: Hey, are you gonna deprive a nutless, girlfriendless cat from the only pleasure he’s got left?


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Rascal Sees A Therapist

By Melissa Minners

Rascal: Mreow, you see, I’ve been rather depressed lately.

Therapist: And why do you think that is?

Rascal: Mreow, you see, lately I’ve gained quite a few pounds.  It’s been affecting my arthritis…I can’t run as fast anymore.  Can’t catch mice like I used to.  Waterbugs are out of the question.  It’s…mreow….

Therapist: Go on.

Rascal: It’s depressing.

Therapist: How so?

Rascal: I used to be king of the neighborhood.  I was the phat cat.  All the ladies loved me.  And then…

Therapist: Yes?

Rascal: That damn woman – she had me snipped!  Ever since that damn operation, I’ve been gaining weight!  And mreow….mreow I can’t even get p***y anymore! 

Therapist: Who? 

Rascal:  My mother!!!!  She did this to me!!! 

Therapist: I see.

Rascal: But then, this cool dude – my uncle – moved in with us.  And we moved to a bigger place.  Was really cool there.  And me and my uncle got along really well. 

Therapist: Really?

Rascal: He watches TV with me and talks to me…shares his magazines with me….lots of hot babes in there!  MREOW MREOW!

Therapist: I see.

Rascal: But today…today…

Therapist: Yes?

Rascal: Today I…I fell through a chair!!!! 

Therapist: What?!

Rascal: I fell through a chair!  I was jumping onto the chair and it fell apart, okay?!

Therapist: (speaking behind a raised legal pad): And how did that make you feel?

Rascal: Mreow did I feel?!  With my mother sitting there laughing at me?  And my sister watching.  And…and…

Therapist: Mhm?

Rascal: And my uncle was there and saw the whole thing! 

Therapist: Well, I…I….I can’t hold it in any longer!   MWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!! 

Rascal: And here I was pouring out my kitty heart and soul. 

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Written By: Rae Carson

Published By: Del Rey

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               It’s no secret to most G-POP fans that I am not completely impressed with the recent Star Wars trilogy of films.  That being said, I am a loyal Star Wars fan and have seen them all.  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was the final film in the trilogy, and I did make certain that I saw it, but in the end, I felt somewhat disappointed.  Sometimes, as they say, the book is better, so I decided to check out the novelization of the film by Rae Carson.

               In The Rise of Skywalker, our heroes are trying to rebuild in a new hiding place, a rain forest moon known as Ajan Kloss.  Sort of a cross between Endor and Dagobah, it is here that Rey has been training to become a Jedi under Leia’s tutelage.  But the going has been frustrating.  Rey has just come into her powers and at this late stage of the game, there are quite a few distractions.  Her visions have left her perplexed and wondering whether she should continue with her training. 

Leia senses her student’s indecision, but she has some issues of her own.  The injuries she received when she was ejected from her command ship are starting to catch up with her.  Leia senses she doesn’t have much time left, so she pushes herself to train Rey to become a Jedi and Poe to become the leader she knows he can be. 

Everything is thrown into disarray when the leaders of the Rebellion learn that the Emperor may not be dead.  While seeking the truth as to whether he is alive or dead, they soon discover that there is an armada of Imperial Star Destroyers in the Unknown Regions, centering around the planet Exegol.  Kylo Ren is on his way there – to meet up with the Emperor and to take control of the armada that will put an end to the Rebellion once and for all.  It will be up to our heroes to stop him and put an end to the Emperor, but with their lack of support, will they be up to the task?

While I wasn’t over-enthused by the movie version of The Rise of Skywalker, I felt that Rae Carson did a great job with the novelization.  Her writing offers us insight into the minds of the main characters, giving us a better idea as to why they do the things they do.  Thus, we get a better understanding of Leia’s actions, of Finn’s sudden realization regarding Rey, of Poe’s feelings about his leadership abilities, about Rey’s relationship with Kylo and her worries about the dark side.  I still don’t like the revelation regarding her parentage.  I really think the writers could have gone in a different direction.  That being said, I felt that Carson did a great job explaining her parentage and the reasons the Emperor wanted her destroyed.

Quite honestly, after not being very happy with the film, I was surprised to find myself enjoying the book.  I enjoyed it so much I was done with it in a couple of days.  Now, armed with the new knowledge imparted on me by Rae Carson, I want to watch the film again.  Perhaps I needed to read the novelization to realize the full potential of The Rise of Skywalker.  Well done, Rae Carson, well done.

Get The Rise of Skywalker: Expanded Edition (Star Wars) at Amazon!

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The Remake-Prequel-Sequel Syndrome

Has The Movie Industry Run Out Of Ideas?

by Melissa Minners

            There has been a trend in the movie industry; a trend that may have begun long ago in a galaxy far, far away…or even further back than that.  Once upon a time there was a thing called the serial movie.  Basically, the powers that be would release chapters of a full-length movie – usually an action / adventure film – over a long period of time.  Week after week, each chapter would end in a cliffhanger, virtually ensuring that the audience would return to find out what had happened to their favorite characters.

            Eventually, film makers realized that the idea of serial films could work just as well for full-length features.  When George Lucas created Star Wars, he had no idea that the movie would be such an unprecedented success.  The film attracted a huge fan base.  These fans begged to know more about the characters.  What had happened to their heroes?  Had they eventually defeated the Empire?  Did Darth Vader come back and destroy them all?  Enquiring fans wanted to know and George Lucas was more than happy to provide them with that information in the form of a sequel.  The success of The Empire Strikes Back begged another sequel. 

            Film makers everywhere began to jump on the bandwagon.  After all, look at how much success Lucas had enjoyed.  The problem with this newly emerging trend is that some movies should just end when the credits roll.  However, blinded by dollar signs, many in the industry decided to try their hand at the sequel trade.  Some were successful, some bombed, and some just didn’t know when enough is enough.  Perhaps the audience can buy the idea that the town of Amity is just a shark haven.  It’s easy to believe that the Brody’s, living in Amity for much of their lives, would run into a shark or two.  However, when things start to get personal, we’re getting out of hand.  Can we honestly believe that every great white shark is on the hunt for a Brody family member?  And what about the Halloween movies?  How many times can we watch Michael Myers be killed and come back to life? 

            The creators of the Home Alone franchise realized that they couldn’t keep allowing Kevin to accidentally slip away from his parents, so when they came up with Home Alone 3, there was a different character as the smartass kid who always managed to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.  Yet, there was really nothing different about the movies.  Even some of the pranks the kids pulled were the same.  They just repeated the premise of the original movie, made a couple of tweaks and inserted a new character in a new location.  Basically, it’s the same movie over and over again.

            But this wasn’t the end of the movie industry’s bid to make more money by extending the story of a successful film.  Welcome to the land of the prequel, where the film industry brings you back in time, back before your favorite movie was born, and shows you how your favorite characters came to be.  Why did the house in Amityville become haunted?  Who was the man that had killed his entire family and why did he do it?  That was the idea behind The Amityville Horror 2.  The original movie was a hit.  It was scary as hell!  The prequel was a joke and the scariest thing about it was how horribly it tanked. 

            Enter George Lucas once again with his version of the prequel.  Let’s find out why Darth Vader became the ultimate galactic bad guy.  Not to say that this wasn’t a good idea, but Lucas forgot that he had already allowed several authors to explain much of the tale behind Vader’s descent into evil.  At times, the movie prequels he created conflicted with approved accounts of Vader’s past.  Inconsistency often causes the greatest fans to grumble.

            However, the most annoying trend of all has to be the remake.  What is with the remake trend of late?! True, the film industry has always been big on remakes, but lately it seems that there are just NO original ideas out there. Even George Lucas remade his own films by tweaking what he already had and releasing them as Special Editions. Why is it that these particular film makers tend to think that they can do it better? Often times, they destroy classics; movies we’ve grown up with and can’t imagine any other way. Many people try to keep an open mind about these things, but how many remakes of TV shows like The Dukes of Hazard, Charlie’s Angels and the Brady Bunch can we stand.

            Let’s not even mention all of the science fiction horror classics being remade.  Just how many versions of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers are out there?  Why do we need to see three different clones of a movie about a creature from the swamp?  Wait!  Let’s make a sequel as well – Return of the Swamp Thing.  They remade The Amityville Horror.  Are they going to stop with the first film, or are they going to make a remake of Amityville Horror 2.  Quite honestly, now that they’ve completed the first one, why stop there.  After all, the sequel was such a bomb, they can’t help but do a better job this time around. 

            There is even a trend within the remake trend – the foreign movie remake.  First there was The Ring, a movie based on the Japanese box office smash hit, Ringu.  (Guess what?  There’s a sequel, too!)  Then came The Grudge, which is based on another Japanese film, Jun-on.  Now, rumor has it that Tom Cruise is looking to produce a remake of the Chinese film, Jian gui, otherwise known as The Eye.  Judging from the way the movie industry has basically butchered the foreign movies they’ve been trying to remake, it might be a good idea for Cruise to stick to his remakes (Mission: Impossible and War of the Worlds) and sequels (Mission: Impossible 2).

            It would seem that Hollywood is suffering from a horrible disease – a strange, yet serious malady known the world over as lack-of-new-idea-itis.  The cure for this illness?  Perhaps the movie industry should ask the hundreds of independent film makers out there – the folks they scoff at because their films don’t contain big names or because they are “too artsy”.  At least one thing is for certain – the independent film industry is not over-run by prequels, sequels and remakes.


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The Wonder Years (2021)

Airs On: ABC

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               First, I would like to go on record as someone who is not a fan of remakes or reboots.  In fact, when I heard that The Wonder Years, a show that I watched faithfully from the late 1980s into the early 1990s, was being “rebooted,” I was annoyed.  I didn’t plan to watch it, but then I noticed that Fred Savage, a star from the original series was one of the producers, it got me thinking.  If this was a total remake, would someone who took part in the original want to be a part of the new one?  Then I learned just what this reboot would be about and I relented.  I tuned in to ABC on September 22, 2021 to check out the debut of the new Wonder Years.

               Initial reports that this series was to be a reboot of the original series were completely wrong in my opinion.  This new version of The Wonder Years is something of a companion to the old version.  In the old version, we followed Kevin Arnold, a member of a white, middle-class suburban family, and his experiences growing up in the late 1960-early 1970s.  These years were a source of great turmoil and change in the United States and the show gave us one perspective of what that was like for a young boy growing into a man in that time period.  That being said, what this era was like for a white, middle-class, suburban family would be different in many ways from what a black, middle-class family might experience.

               Thus, we have, The Wonder Years (2021) in which we meet the Williams family.  Like the Arnold family, we have a family unit made up of a mother and father, two sons and a daughter, but there are some differences.  The family lives in Birmingham, Alabama – the deep south – for one thing.  The show is narrated by an adult Dean Williams (Don Cheadle), the youngest son in the Williams family.  As a twelve-year-old boy in this tumultuous era, young Dean (Elisha Williams) is navigating the political and social atmosphere while still trying to figure out his place in the world, friendships and girls.  Older brother Bruce (Spencer Moore II) is already with the military in Vietnam when we meet the family.  Older sister Kim (Laura Kiriuki) is an intelligent, precocious teenager who is interested in civil rights movements and change.  Father Bill (Dule Hill) is a jazz musician and teacher, while mother Lillian (Seycon Sengbloh) is an accountant with a Master’s Degree

               The pilot episode of The Wonder Years (2021) deals with civil rights and segregation, a topic very hard for twelve-year-old Dean to get his head around as he tries to organize an integrated baseball game.  As we move on in the series, we see Dean dealing with various historical events and movements, like the assassination of assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, Vietnam, the moon landing and more.  But we also see him dealing with puberty, fitting in, bullying, friendships put to the test, the social importance of barbershops, and more. 

               Is this new version of The Wonder Years on par with the old version.  In my opinion it is that and more.  This new version has all of the elements of the older one.  It just shows us a different perspective of what it was like to grow up in this era.  The actors that portray the Williams family have that chemistry that makes you believe they truly are a family.  The  events in the show are realistic and often touch the heartstrings as we think back on our own struggles at Dean’s age.  Music was a big deal that worked towards defining the era in the original version of The Wonder Years and it is a huge part of this version as well.  Fans of music from the era will love hearing old favorites by Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, The Turtles and more.

               So, what do I think about this new version of the classic favorite.  I wouldn’t call this a reboot, but an addition.  The Wonder Years (2021) is a must watch for people who want the full experience of what it was like to be a middle-class family growing up in the late 1960s-early 1970s.  The cast is great, the writing is funny when it needs to be and serious when it needs to be, the storylines are believable and on par with the times, the music is terrific, and I haven’t found too many visual eras like cars or clothing that might not be from the era…then again, I’ve been too engrossed in the story to be bothered with all that.  This new version of The Wonder Years is definitely worth watching.

Check out The Wonder Years at Amazon!


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