Tag Archives: army

Two entertaining flicks from the my hometown

In the midst of our busy social life (note: sarcasm), Mrs. Poolman and I recently watched two decent movies at home. A bit of a surprise in both cases was that they were both shot in my hometown of Pittsburgh.

Jack_Reacher_poster“Reacher,” starring Tom Cruise, was much better than I expected it to be. The biggest surprise was that Cruise absolutely nailed the character of Jack Reacher. This was a surprise, because he doesn’t come anywhere close to fitting the physical description of Jack Reacher in the series of novels by Lee Child. In the books, Reacher is 6’4”, and we all know Tom C is about a foot shorter.

Reacher is a former Army CID officer who turned his back on conventional society when he left the Army. He drifts around the country without a home or job, but always seems to find himself in some situation that needs fixing. Reacher is extremely smart, tough and resourceful. He is very cool, in the same way that Mark Harmon plays a cool Jethro Gibbs in NCIS.

In the movie, based on the Child novel, “One Shot,” Reacher arrives in Pittsburgh to help solve the mystery surrounding a former Army sniper who shot and killed several people, apparently without rhyme or reason. Of course it turns out there was a rhyme and reason; otherwise there wouldn’t be a story.

In any case, this isn’t a flick you are going to see around Academy Awards time, but for a Saturday night rental with a bowl of popcorn, this one was pretty good.

Abduction_PosterA real surprise was “Abduction” with Taylor Lautner (Twilight series) and Lily Collins (The Blind Side.) We picked it up on Netflix last night. The main character, Nathan, discovers his childhood picture on a missing children Web site. So, of course, he and his cute neighbor, Karen (Lily Collins,) pursue it. Rather than turning into a maudlin Lifetime-network chick-flick, which we expected, a hit team shows up at his house, and the chase is on. “Hey Mrs. Poolman, look at what just happened here!”

The plot and overall story is pretty good, but it misses on some of the small points. The acting is nothing to rave about (I understand Taylor was runner-up for a worst-actor award for this movie. I’m not surprised.) , despite a decent supporting cast including Maria Bello, Jason Issac (the evil British colonel in The Patriot), Signorney Weaver and Michael Nyqvist (the Swedish version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.) We were just amazed that after swimming across a river and sleeping in the woods overnight, Taylor and Lily looked like they just walked out of make-up. Abduction 3 w But if you overlook some of the little things, you’ll find that “Abduction” is a pretty entertaining movie.

A good book — The Capitol Game

I just finished a pretty good book, The Capitol Game, which is the latest from thriller author Brian Haig. The summary from the fly-leaf describes the plot as well as I can.

“It was the deal of the decade, if not the century. A small, insignificant company on the edge of bankruptcy had discovered an alchemist’s dream; a miraculous polymer, that when coated on any vehicle, was the equivalent of 30 inches of steel…Jack Wiley, a successful Wall Street banker, believes he has a found a dream come true when he mysteriously learns of this miraculous polymer. His plan: enlist the help of the Capitol Group, one of the country’s largest and most powerful corporations in a quick, bloodless takeover of the small company that developed the polymer. It seems like a partnership made in heaven…until the Pentagon’s investigative service begins nosing around, and the deal turns into a nightmare…”

I have been a Brian Haig fan since I read his first novel, Secret Sanction, several years ago. The Capitol Game is Haig’s eighth book. While he has never achieved the acclaim of a Nelson DeMille or John Grisham, his books are just as entertaining. The protagonist in his first several novels is an Army JAG lawyer, Sean Drummond. If you overlooked the books’ covers, you might have thought you were reading Nelson DeMille (who, by the way, is one of my favorites.) Drummond could just as easily have been one of DeMille’s frequent protagonists under a different name — Army CID investigator Paul Brenner (The General’s Daughter and Up Country) or former NYPD detective John Correy (Plum Island, The Lion’s Game, Nightfall, etc.)

In The Capitol Game, Haig breaks away from the Sean Drummond formula and creates an entirely different set of characters and a story type. This book reads an awfully lot like a Grisham novel. The somewhat mysterious main character is obviously working some kind of scheme, but the reader isn’t quite certain what it is. The protagonist, Jack Wiley, is a charismatic, young investment banker, but Haig only reveals his actions, not his inner thoughts. Not until the last few pages does the plot come to light and the motivation become known.

All told, The Capitol Game was a fun book and I recommend it. If you enjoy Grisham and DeMille, you should enjoy this and the rest of Haig’s books.

Clancy’s newest not up to expectations

I just finished Tom Clancy’s latest book, Dead or Alive. I have always been a Tom Clancy fan, but I have to confess, I was not impressed with this latest effort, which was co-authored by Grant Blackwood. Maybe that was the problem.

I have been a big Clancy fan ever since he came out with his first big one, The Hunt for Red October. I have read all his fiction thrillers, and most of his non-fiction. I love his stuff. Maybe that’s why I was disappointed at his latest effort.

Clancy returns to the plot line and characters of his earlier book Teeth of the Tiger. As a matter of fact, I re-read Teeth before starting Dead or Alive, just to bring myself up to speed. The second book simply picks up right where Teeth left off.

The main characters, Brian and Dominic Caruso and Jack Ryan Jr. are back, working for the secretive terrorist-hunting organization known as “The Campus.” They are joined by old friends, John Clark and Ding Chavez.

This time the bad guys are working a complex scheme to launch a series of attacks on the US, and it’s up to the guys at “The Campus” to stop them.

Clancy likes to weave together different story lines — seemingly unrelated, but we all know better. (After all, if they weren’t related, they wouldn’t be in the book.) Then they come together to create the plot. However, the biggest problem with the book is that there are so many plotlines that develop so slowly, it is difficult for the reader to keep track of them all.

At least a couple of plotlines never do develop and apparently were inserted just to introduce characters or set the scene for the next book in the series. In one, an Army ranger, is accused of murder for what he did on the battlefield. This premise could be the basis of an entire novel in itself. Instead, the legal issue is dropped and the character is assumed into The Campus team. There were a lot of pages of narrative, just to introduce a new and not advance the main plot of the novel.

In another, Jack Ryan Sr. decides to run for president once again. This also just sets the scene for the next book because after he makes his decision to run, the authors drop the plot line. Ryan is last seen working on his autobiography.

For a true Clancy fan, it’s a good, but lengthy effort. However, if you would like to read a book with a similar plot, but tighter plot development and more compelling characters, try “The Afghan” by Fredrick Forsyth. It is simply outstanding.

A battle lost in Iraq

Major General Tony Cucolo lost a battle in Iraq this week, but it didn’t involve guns and bullets. The victors weren’t the insurgents – they were a handful of liberal senators and our favorite, clear-thinking group, the National Organization for Women.

You probably heard about Cucolo’s effort to rule out pregnancies among the women in his command while they are deployed to a war-zone. If you missed the fuss, you can catch up here and here.

I wish the liberal senators and NOW had just shut up and looked for more important issues to become enraged over. Cuculo was right on target with his orders and he should not have been overruled.

You give up a lot if rights and freedoms when you join the military, even more when you are deployed to a war zone. Pregnant women are automatically sent home if they become pregnant. As Cuculo said, every soldier in his command, men and women, are vital to his mission and he can’t afford to ship them home. It isn’t too much to ask (order) his soldiers to put their family-building plans on hold until they finish the mission.

He didn’t say you couldn’t have a family when you are in the Army. All he was said was, (paraphrased) “Hey, we’re in a war here. I need every person we have to get the job done. Don’t let yourself get ‘knocked up’ and sent home until we finish the mission.”  The order applied equally to both the would-be mothers and fathers in his command so it was gender neutral.

Why is that so offensive?

There is always the other issue. A pregnancy can be a “get out jail, free” card to a female soldier who decides she doesn’t want to complete the deployment and wants an early trip home.

General Cucolo was on target with his order. It’s too bad knee-jerk politicians and activists can see the wisdom behind his policy.