Saturday, September 30, 2023

New Nightwing Creators Remember Comics Can Be Fun Yet Deep

Scott D. Parker

That image. A single splash page is all it took for me to put the current Nightwing run over at DC Comics on my radar. And oh boy am I glad I did

A fellow writer posted it on Facebook about a month ago and I was captivated by the art, the simultaneous classic and modern style. The artist is Bruno Redondo and he has teamed up with writer Tom Taylor to have a run at Nightwing. And what a run (so far).

Comics Are Not Supposed To Make You Cry

Luckily, my local library has the first three volumes of the Taylor/Redondo Nightwing books and I eagerly checked them all out. Then I ended up reading only Taylor-scripted titles for something like three weeks (I read a comic a day, usually right before bed).

How much did I enjoy that first issue? So much that I actually read two in one night (and drank extra coffee the next morning).

Don’t worry about not knowing what’s going on in the Nightwing universe. I didn’t when I started and it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the books. There’s enough stuff in the stories themselves to fill in the gaps. Or, as in my case, I didn’t really care. I was reading this current story.

The major event in Dick Grayson’s life is the inheritance left to him by Alfred Pennyworth (who is somehow now dead?). It’s a sizable amount, a life-changing amount, but what actually made tears spring in my eyes is the letter Alfred wrote to Dick. It’s everything you, as a parent, would want to say to a child, and it’s everything, as a child, you’d want to hear from a parent. I’m a dad so it hit me pretty deep.

There Are Other Choices a Hero Can Make

Over the decades, one of the recurring lines of thought about Bruce Wayne is that if he really cared about Gotham, he’d stop dressing up as a bat and invest in the city itself. There’s probably some truth to that.

Another theme is that Dick Grayson is different than Batman. He’s able to make different choices, one of which is to have a life and a girlfriend. In fact, there’s some of that in Alfred’s letter. So when Dick actually decides what to do with Alfred’s money, he does something different. Something positive.

This Comic is Fun

But what about the rest of the story? Well, it’s still a comic book so you’ve got fights and derring-do and villains, but it is the banter between Dick and Barbara Gordon/Batgirl that really takes this comic to the next level. Evidentially, prior to these issues, there was some underlying romance budding between the two heroes and it’s on full display here.

What’s also on full display is a brightness, a joy, an excitement in reading a comic. Look, I’m fine with dark and grim stuff and Batman himself pretty much fits that bill, but it doesn’t always have to be gritty. You can still deal with serious subjects and still have a good time. Taylor’s writing digs deep into Nightwing’s character and the greater Bat-Family. Redondo’s art is fresh and vibrant with a heaping helping of whimsy.

You've also got interesting moments where characters just talk about things and they are, if I'm being honest, just as good as the action stuff. Nightwing seeks out none other than Superman to discuss the events of the book. When you learn Superman places a lot of faith and trust in Dick Grayson, the depth of what Dick means to the DC Universe just opened up.

Oh, and Barbara said quite possibly the best line when Dick announces his decision: "Go get them, boy wonder." There is so much history as well as joy in that line.

I thoroughly enjoyed this run as published in three trade volumes (officially, issues 78-96) and I eagerly await the next volume. In the meantime, I’ve already begun reading Taylor’s Superman: Son of Kal-el series…and then checked out nearly every other Taylor-written trade volume at the library.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Haunted Hotel (in Venice)

One assumes that Kenneth Branagh moved the setting of his new Agatha Christie adaptation from England to Venice for the city's atmospheric potential. With its canals and alleyways and beauty, it has served that function well numerous times. There's the great Don't Look Now (both the story and film) and right there with it for suspense and creepiness is Ian McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers, adapted so well into a film by Paul Schrader. The Aldo Lado film  Who Saw Her Die, from 1972, starring George Lazenby, is a distinctive and effective giallo set in Venice, and, of course, you've got the entire Donna Leon Commisssario Brunetti series that uses the city as its central locale. The list could go on, and that's just limiting ourselves to crime or horror-oriented works, though I can't talk about Venice stories without mentioning Death in Venice and Henry James' great The Aspern Papers, both of which, though they have nothing to do with criminal activity, have lots of tension and suspense.

One book set in Venice that I read years ago and enjoyed is from Wilkie Collins and called The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice. Serialized in 1878, this is a short work -- less than 200 pages -- and a relatively minor one for Collins. It's not nearly as complex in plot or rich in character as The Moonstone or The Woman in White, but it's still fun. The plot involves a decaying Venetian palace that gets refurbished as a luxury hotel, characters having nightmarish visions, a floating disembodied head, and a real head discovered decomposing in the hotel. Important too is a set of false teeth one character finds and that might prove a murder has occurred. Also, the hotel of the title may or may not be haunted (I don't want to give this away). It's a slightly overwrought and melodramatic concoction done in vintage Wilkie Collins fashion, though by this point in his career, he was not up to creating books as finely calibrated as his earlier classics. Maybe his years of taking laudanum had something to do with this? Nevertheless, if you're looking for a quick and diverting "sensational" read, with plenty of twists and turns and Victorian coincidences, all set against the watery and eerie backdrop of Venice, you could do much worse than this combination of mystery and (perhaps) ghost story. It's a book to add to that section of the library devoted to books set in a city that evokes the ominous and the uncanny like none other.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Dog Isn't Who He Really Is In Play Dead by David Rosenfelt

Scott D. Parker

Who doesn’t love comfort food? There’s a reason why we call pumpkin spice lattes, chocolate chip cookies, queso, ice cream, or McDonald’s French fries comfort food. When we eat these foods, we are comforted, usually by a past memory that soothes some current problem. Everyone loves and needs comfort food from time to time.

So when I call the Andy Carpenter novels by David Rosenfelt comfort reading, I am not dogging them (yes, pun intended). I love them, but my ADHD reading style usually prevents me from reading a lot by the same author back to back to back. When the clock turned to “fall” post Labor Day, I had a hankering for an Andy Carpenter novel. Thankfully, the Libby app reminded me where I left off: five books done, time for book 6 in the series.

Play Dead starts with a scene I, as a dog owner and lover, can easily relate to. Attorney Andy Carpenter visits the kennel he owns, he discovers that Yogi, a golden retriever, is on doggie death row. That is, about to be put down for biting its owner. But Carpender, like Rosenfelt, knows dogs—a key co-star in these books is Andy’s own golden retriever, Tara—and he doesn’t think Yogi is at fault. So he decides to represent the dog in court and earn the pooch his freedom.

It’s Andy Carpenter so he wins, but the victory is short lived. No sooner was Andy walking his new dog that it runs to a lady. She’s not the owner. It’s her brother’s, Richard. And he’s been in prison for five years for the murder of his fiancée. Oh, and the dog’s name is Reggie. Among the oddities of the case is the dog. It was not found on the boat where the murder supposedly took place. In fact, Reggie was reported dead five years ago.

But if Reggie survived being thrown overboard from the boat in the stormy sea when everyone said that he died, then maybe there’s something to the imprisoned man’s story. Maybe Richard really is innocent. Andy is skeptical at first, but what really turns him around is the gunman who opens fire on the New Jersey highway, trying to take out Andy.

That would do it for me, and Andy’s prodigious legal mind is on the case.

What makes an Andy Carpenter novel fun is his eccentricities that go along with his legal shenanigans. He’s got a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, Lorrie, and sometimes when Andy’s being his cowardly self, I couldn’t help but wonder what she sees in him. Likely it’s Andy propensity to take runs at windmills. Why else would he have initially represented a dog in court. BTW, that’s a fun sequence. Completely unreasonable, but remember: this is a novel, a comfort food novel, and we’ll let lots of things slide in a book like this.

Grover Gardner narrates the audiobook which is how I’ve consumed most of the Rosenfelt books so far. He’s great and add just a little bit extra snark to Andy’s first-person POV story. In fact, hearing Gardner as Andy is pretty much like an old friend telling yet another tall tale.

There are just so many books to read that I know I can’t get to all of them. But David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series is a gem and I always enjoy reading a new one every year. By the way, he’s written a number of Christmas-themed stories so if you want to start with one of those in the next few months, you’ll enjoy it. That’s how I started.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Beau delves into darkness and pain


This week, Beau takes a look at The Morass from Zachary Ashford

There is darkness. There is pain. And then there is The Morass. Full disclosure: Ashford has a banger here. Tread lightly.”—Beau Johnson, author of the Bishop Rider books

“The Morass combines the best of a Wolf Creek-style serial killer thriller with the most berserk creature feature you can possibly imagine, resulting in a lightning-fast horror novel you’ll never forget.”—Nick Kolakowski, author of Absolute Unit and Groundhog Slay

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Full Circle

One country that has not figured in many movies or TV series I've seen is Guyana. There have been the various dramatizations of the Jonestown massacre, and there was also Werner Herzog's documentary The White Diamond, about an aeronautical engineer who builds a teardrop-shaped airship to fly over the country's forest canopies. Besides these, I haven't seen anything set in or having to do with Guyana, at least not that I can recall off the top of my head. But Guyana plays a major part in the recent Steven Soderbergh six-part series on Max, Full Circle, even though nearly all the action in the show actually happens in New York City.

For Full Circle, Soderbergh reteams with writer Ed Solomon, with whom he collaborated on the murder mystery series Mosaic and the excellent No Sudden Move. This time, the focal point is a teenage boy's kidnapping, which the perpetrators, for a reason that is believable, completely botch. On the one hand we have the Guyanese kidnappers, led by a quietly sort of scary matriarch, played by CCH Pounder; on the other hand, we've got a family of affluent white New Yorkers. Sounds like the plot could be treading in a touchy area, but as things unfold and we see the connections between everybody and the reasons behind what is basically a criminal act of revenge for actions the family did in the past in Guyana, we understand that the matriarch and those working for her have a good reason to want vengeance. Not that the teenage boy deserves to be abducted or knows anything about what his parents and grandparents may have once done down in Guyana. His parents are played by Claire Danes and Timothy Olyphant and Danes' father by Dennis Quaid, and all carry secrets from each other that naturally, as the series progresses, come out into the open to everyone's discomfort. And through it all, you have an indefatigable investigator on the case, Zazie Betts, who here plays her character for maximum irascibility and arrogance, a bold choice, because even though you want her to get to the bottom of things, she rubs you the wrong way. Still, you can't entirely blame her for being as she is. She's clearly more intelligent and honest than her superior, a consummately bureaucratic Jim Gaffigan, who puts in a performance that shows, yet again, that when comedians get meaty dramatic parts, with no substantial comedy involved, they can be absolutely convincing. I really can't think of any Soderbergh production where the acting is weak, and Full Circle, from top to bottom, from the name actors to the less well-known ones who play the large assortment of Guyanese characters, is no exception.

Full Circle isn't perfect. The plot is compelling but there's a lot going on, and at times the maze-like story becomes a tad confusing. It actually could have been an episode longer, to hash out in more detail what happens to everyone. But the tension quotient through the series is high, the suspense strong. And as you would expect, you have Soderbergh's vigorous camera tracking and circling and peeking everywhere, sometimes in darkness, sometimes inside, sometimes through washes of blinding and beautiful natural light. And it all takes place in a New York City of right now, from Greenwich Village and specifically Washington Square Park (a key and central location for the action) to working-class residential Queens and the heart of a vibrant Guyanese community. Different cultures, contrasting social spheres, people striving for more in life and others hoping to keep what they have without having to face how they may have acquired it. Is it as good as its inspiration, Akira Kurasawa's High and Low? Of course it isn't, but there's not a moment in its six hours or so running time that drags or isn't in some way interesting. When at times the script gets a little cloudy, Soderbergh makes sure that he keeps the momentum going, holding you in the story's narrative grip.

As for the ending, the very ending? It's not exactly what I might have expected, the final note, something that at very first seems a touch anti-climatic, but it's been several days since I wrapped the series up and I find that the ending works. It resonates. As so often with Soderbergh, it comes down to follow the money. Just follow that money through thick and thin, and you may be able to track things back to the original crime that spawned the web of secrets and misunderstandings and revengeful deeds to follow.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The 1970s Come Alive in the Highly Entertaining Lowdown Road

Scott D. Parker

Look at that cover. Hard Case Crime might be the single publisher in this century who remembers how great painted covers used to be. This cover looks like a long-lost book you’d have found on the paperback spinner rack at the 7-Eleven in 1975 as you clutched a Slurpee in your hand, your favorite hero painted on the white, plastic cup. Or its the novelization to a 1970s movie you’d see at the drive-in.

The cover was pretty much all I needed to see to know this was a book I wanted to read. The plot was just icing on the cake. Let me see if I can boil it down for you.

Chuck and Dean are cousins. It’s August 1974. Dean operates a taco truck in San Marcos, Texas, for Antoine, the local boss who has a flourishing business selling weed. Chuck is less than six months out of prison when he “borrows” his cousin’s car and picks up a lady in a bar. She’s married to a local deputy who pulls them over for speeding. She shoots her husband, Chuck shoots her, and ditches the car. Now they have to get out of town.

But not before they hatch a plan: why not steal Antoine’s stash, valued at $1 million, drive it all the way to Idaho where Evel Knievel is set to jump the Snake River Canyon in his rocket cycle? I mean, that’s exactly what I’d do in their situation, right? What could possibly be the the problem?

Well, the sheriff is out to get the cousins. The more he has to travel, the angrier he gets and the more likely he won’t be satisfied just to arrest them. Then there’s Antoine. He’s majorly pissed at the theft and vows to hunt down Chuck and Dean, gets back what’s his, and make the boys pay for their misdeeds.

The chase is on.

I remember the Knievel jump but can’t remember if I saw it on Wide World of Sports during the actual weekend—49 years ago this month—but that was a nice moment at which to set this tale. In fact, in a bit of serendipitous timing, I listened to this audiobook during the actual anniversary weekend.

This book promised a fun time and man did it deliver. Narrator L. J. Ganser gives author Von Doviak’s words an little extra vibrancy, almost as if the story was being told a few years after the fact by a guy who saw it all happen. All the little things that bring the 1970s to life are here: the new book called Jaws, 8-track tapes, music cues, CB radios, Lone Star Beer, as well a peek into the culture of the era.

Von Doviak makes an interesting choice in how he ends this book. At first, it took me a little by surprise, but then I realized what he did and I thoroughly got it. And loved it. It’s a little inspired by a very famous movie released twenty years after the events of this book. (How’s that for cryptic?)

When Hard Case Crime started, they promised the return of old, out-of-print books that haven’t seen the light of day in decades. The newly written titles are the modern equivalent to those wonderful old books you could carry to the DMV in your back pocket and read when the line was too long.

Lowdown Road is exactly in that latter category. It is one of the most fun books I’ve read this year. If you lived through this time or just want a peek into life on the road during the late summer of 1974, this is book to get.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

New Beau up for pre-order


The newest from Beau Johnson is available October 2023.

Pre-Order here: The Abrum Files

The Abrum Files is more than just a collection. It’s a statement. The mission continues. The guilty must face their fate. Love and Blood are both spilled across the pages.” —S.A. Cosby, bestselling author of All The Sinners Bleed and Razorblade Tears

“If Andrew Vachss threw out his keyboard and somehow learned how to write on a chainsaw, then you get an idea of how Beau Johnson tells a tale. I don’t know if Grindhouse Noir is even a thing, but if it is, Johnson is the king.” —Todd Robinson, author of The Hard Bounce and Rough Trade

“Dark, bloody, and full of Hell, The Abrum Files is line after line of pure, uncut, chainsaw noir. I loved it!” —Paul J. Garth, author of The Low White Plain

“Violent though it may be, I’m chalking The Abrum Files up as one of my feel-good books of the year. In a world where this seems increasingly doubtful, we are reminded in these stories, time and again, that actions still have consequences. It’s not simply enjoyable fiction, it’s arguably vital. Beau Johnson is the poet laureate of vengeance and righteous anger.” —C. Matthew Smith, author of Twentymile

“Beau Johnson’s newest novel, The Abrum Files, is chock-full of Old Testament-style justice and picks up right where his Bishop Rider series left off. Jeramiah Abrum is one bad good dude!” —Eli Cranor, author of the Edgar Award-winning Don’t Know Tough and Ozark Dogs

“With every book, Beau Johnson continues to deliver the hardest-core noir out there. Call it Chainsaw Noir: funny, dark and bloody, but with a moral heart beating beneath it all.” —Nick Kolakowski, author of Love & Bullets and Payback Is Forever

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Invisible Ink

While on the plane ride from New York City to San Diego for the recently concluded Bouchercon, I read a Patrick Modiano novel, my seventh, called Invisible Ink. Like many of his books, it's in large part about memory and uses detective story tropes. 

The plot goes like this. It is years ago, and young narrator Jean Eyben works for the Hutte Detective Agency in Paris. He receives an assignment to locate a woman named Noelle Lefebvre. She's missing. Jean starts an investigation into her life, talking to people who know her, getting access to her apartment, but the case goes nowhere. Eyeben doesn't find Noelle Lefebvre. He does discover clues about her life, though, and these tidbits, for some reason not entirely defined, haunt him. They nag at his mind for decades. About thirty years later, fed up with the scraps of memory that bother him, he picks up the investigation for himself, revisiting old sites and tracking down people who knew Noelle Lefebvre or had dealings of any kind with her. In effect, for reasons he cannot fully articulate, he feels what amounts to a compulsion to find her and to understand once and for all the truth behind this compulsion.

Years ago, I remember reading a piece about how certain novels you get assigned to read in school -- middle school, high school -- great though they may be, are not books anyone of a young age is likely to fully appreciate. There could be several reasons you might not appreciate a novel you're assigned to read in school, but what this piece focused on was how certain novels require a depth of experience in the reader. Or, let's put it this way: there are particular books one will appreciate more the longer one has lived and the more one has experienced. This seems obvious, but I don't think it's always obvious in the most obvious way. Take Modiano, for example. He's not a writer who composes long, slow books. I don't think, among his 40-odd books, that he has one that's over 250 pages. And he uses very evocative but essentially straightforward language, eschewing linguistic games. His plots often revolve around a mystery or a series of enigmas, drawing upon not only crime fiction but also, at times, espionage fiction and other popular forms. He is, in a nutshell, extremely readable. And yet, I am glad I came to him relatively late in life, not when young, because I don't think I would have liked his work much if I'd read it when young.

In large part, this is because his obsessive focus in book after book is memory. Not nostalgia -- his books are not about that at all -- but memory itself, its workings and gaps, its illusions, how it can absorb so much of one's life, how it changes over time and influences a person in the present. If I like Modiano so much, it's obviously because I too, over time, have become more interested in memory and how it works and have come to comprehend how much of it is uncertain in your mind, even deceptive. He's a writer who, I think, despite how easy he is to read, has a richness that someone with an accumulation of experience will most appreciate. He fully comprehends how misty the past becomes the farther you get from it, and this is something you're not likely to fully grasp if you are, say, twenty years old.

Here's a passage from Invisible Ink that I like:

"I'm trying to set down in black and white, as precisely as possible, the words we exchanged that day. But many of them have vanished. All those lost words, some of which you spoke yourself, others that you heard but have forgotten, and still others that were addressed to you but to which you paid no attention...And sometimes, on waking, or very late at night, the memory of a sentence returns from the past, but you don't know who whispered it."

Memory itself becomes the mystery and you are the investigator of it, the better to, as Jean Eyben might say, understand yourself. Modiano is, as a blurb on the back of my copy of Invisible Ink says, "an excavator of memory", but what I have come to love about his writing, which I wouldn't have loved when much younger, is that he treads in an area full of questions and uncertainties where it's far from certain there will be definitive closure. He uses mystery tropes because (aside from clearly liking them) they suit the investigative nature of his plots, but also because they help him establish how much of life is made up of unresolved, or semi-resolved, mysteries. I'm sure I'll always enjoy a good mystery with a puzzle and a definitive solution. But as I've gotten older, I've come to find more and more true a notion in contrast to the idea of puzzle and solution. It's a notion that Modiano explores relentlessly. As another comment on the Invisible Ink book jacket puts it, Modiano's world is one where things for the most part must be inferred and precious little can be proved. I wouldn't have agreed with this notion when I was twenty; I do now.

Seven books read by Modiano, and I'm just glad he's been prolific. Plenty more of his books for me to read, when the mood strikes.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The Saturday Night Ghost Club and the Nature of Memory

Scott D. Parker

Sometimes the perfect arrives at the best possible time.

I love summer. I love the heat (yeah, really). I love rolling down the windows of my car and blasting loud music (well, I do that all year round...). I love the movies that are associated with summer.
But most of all, I love the looser vibe.

By the end of summer, however, while I may not be ready to shift into an autumnal mindset, it approaches nonetheless. I always take stock of seasons as they end, and I was in that mood during the last week of summer 2023 as I started to listen to Craig Davidson's Saturday Night Ghost Club.

It was a selection in my science fiction book club, but this book is not that. It is a coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stand by Me, It, or any given movie from the 1980s featuring a group of kids who can't yet drive and get around town on bikes. As I always do whenever one of my other three guys pick a book to read, I don't read the description. I just download the audiobook and pushed play.

And it was the perfect book for the end of summer.

Our narrator, Jake Baker, tells the story of the summer when he was twelve. He's got a small group of folks he hangs out with and that includes his odd Uncle Calvin. His uncle is a believer of all things found in the National Enquirer or future episodes of the X-Files. In the small Canadian town just north of the border with New York, Uncle Cal runs an store featuring all sorts of occult trinkets. It's for the tourists, you see.

But Cal also starts to tell Jake and his friends about local legends around town. After forming the club, Cal, Jake, and his friends set out on various evenings to investigate the house that burned down, the car that sank in the river one winter's night, or the graveyard.

The adult Jake is the narrator and he tells the story as it happened…or how he remembered it. The story is a fascinating study about the power of memory and how we shape it as we get older. As I mentioned, even though this book has echoes of every other coming-of-age story, that's fine, because there are common moments we all share as we grow up.

The big twist was one I didn't see coming and it really changed the nature of the a great way.

Davidson's writing style is fantastic, often quite vivid in his descriptions. All four of us in the club loved the book and all commented on Davidson's style. In fact, we all mentioned that this would not be the last Craig Davidson book we read.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Enforcement time with Beau


This week, Beau recommends KRAJ from Rusty Barnes.

These are interconnected stories of a Croatian war refugee Kraj and his climb up the criminal ladder in Elmira, NY. He starts off fighting in a church basement for money. Next up is low-level errand boy work for Tricky Ricky, a local kingpin. Kraj uses his wit and considerable size later as a successful debt collector aka leg-breaker. I really enjoyed Kraj and his resourcefulness in these tight punchy tales. I hope this was as much fun to write as it was to read.
-- Rob Smith


Saturday, September 2, 2023

How’d You Spend the 99 Days of Summer 2023 (Part 1)?

Scott D. Parker

I read at lot and watched a lot of movies.

There. End of post. See ya.

What did I see and read? I'll recap the reading next week. Here's what I watched...and hopefully you did, too.

Summer 2023 Movies Were Great

When was the last time we had a summer movie season like this? I think many of us earmarked certain dates on the calendar to get ourselves to the movie theater. I did that nearly every weekend this year. The end result was that, with the exception of the Pixar film, Elemental, I saw every movie I wanted to see this summer. And I enjoyed just about every one of them.

The nostalgia of seeing Michael Keaton as Batman was one of the highlights. The film was quite good and I seriously loved the cameos. Speaking of nostalgia, it was great to see Indiana Jones one last time in a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. Heck, it even prompted me to rematch Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls (and it’s not as bad and you or I remember).

And how visually stunning was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? Is that the best example of what you can do with animation to tell a rich, engrossing story like that? Asteroid City was another example of a visually interesting movie by local Houstonian, Wes Anderson.

Then there was Barbenheimer. Two great films, polar opposites, but the same weekend. The wife and I saw Oppenheimer on opening night. How stunning was it that a 3-hour movie largely consisting of people in rooms talking went by so fast? And that last line? Barbie was phenomenal. I found myself laughing one moment and tearing up the next. Such a bold, fresh, exuberant film. It’s probably the best of the summer.

But not my favorite. I only saw one movie twice in the theaters and that was Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part 1. It’s all there, in this film, everything you’ve come to love about M:I films, and this time, we get Henry Czerny back, chewing up scenery and dialogue. Hailey Atwell is a great addition to the franchise, and her chemistry with Tom Cruise is right there on the screen. And that final sequence…with the train? Fantastic. Just as breathless the second time as the first…and I knew what was coming. Love, love, love.

I saw an enjoyed other new films including Meg 2 (it’s exactly what you think it’ll be), Haunted Mansion, and, after watching the first one, Book Club 2. How frigging charming are those movies? More please.

I had the hankering to watch Mad Max: Fury Road (the fourth one) but after about 30 minutes, my wife suggested we go all the way back and start with the original. After the first two (which were interesting), she told me that I was going to feel compelled to watch Thunderdome but that I shouldn’t. She nailed it. What the heck was that? Fury Road was quite good.

There was some great TV as well. The finale of Ted Lasso! Season two of The Bear, especially that episode entitled “Forks.” A stunning hour of television. The old TV series “Brothers and Sisters” and our new favorite thing we’re catching up on: Parenthood. Oh, and on Netflix, there’s a spellbinding documentary called “Cave of Bones.”

Those are the highlights of what I watched this summer. Come back next week when I talk about what I read.