Archive for August, 2012

I love a good series. Of anything. World Series, Cheers, JustifiedSeinfeld, Mad About You, The Travis McGee series, you name it. I especially enjoy reading a good series, and Back In The Day when I did a lot of reading on long nights at sea or in the field, I had the time to read a lot of them. The aforementioned Travis McGee is still my all-time favorite, but I also enjoyed Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series (though Pitt is no McGee — let the debate begin). W.E.B. Griffin’s series about a group of Army officers whose careers spanned three wars, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam (The Lieutenants, The Captains, etc.) was addictive — not literary greatness by any means, but a hell of a fun read.

One of those series I read back then was Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels. A gold mine of thriller action. I’m talking about the first three — Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum. Especially #1. I could not stop turning pages. The whole, “Cain is for Charlie and Charlie is for Carlos. Kill Carlos!” thing was riveting. Breathtaking. I quickly devoured all three books.

So, when the movies came out, I was thrilled as hell … then a little apprehensive, even though several of Ludlum’s novels have weathered the transition from book to movie. But the Bourne novels are incredibly complex — too complex to recreate for the screen without extensive adaptations (read: omissions). So I passed on all three movies in the theater. I have since watched them at home, several times, and have come to enjoy them as movies in their own rights, not as reflections of some of the best thriller novels out there. Yeah, Matt Damon actually does pull off playing the Ultimate Badass Jason Bourne. And from a movie-making standpoint, they’re all great. Solid cast, plenty of action, tight story, it’s all there.

So, I actually looked forward to The Bourne Legacy. Mainly because I like Jeremy Renner, ever since The Hurt Locker. No matter the role, Renner always manages to humanize the character without necessarily appealing to your emotions. Hell, I even liked  him in the small role he had in The Avengers.

But after watching Legacy, I walked away thinking, “That was ok.” And it was. Just a great big bowl of OK. I won’t give much away here (not that there’s much to give away), but I didn’t feel that way simply because Matt Damon wasn’t in it. I’m not particularly a fan of Damon, anyway. It had all the prerequisites: action, breathless stunts, the boy-girl thing, good actors. Never a dull moment. But it just felt like the movie tried to do way too much in one sitting (one 2 hour, 15 minute sitting at that). If the intent is to continue the Bourne series, there was enough material hinted at and alluded to cover 5 movies. Why cram it all into this one? Especially when the premise is pretty straightforward — maybe even too straightforward and something of a mixed message in the first place: do drugs or die.

A couple things on the cast. Rachel Weisz is still excellent in a lead role. Ed Norton is stil one of my favorite actors and can handle any role given to him. Even the supporting cast was good, even if one female character bore a mildly disconcerting resemblance to Hillary Clinton. But when did Scott Glenn (The Right Stuff, Urban Cowboy) suddenly turn into a leather-skinned old man? And when did Stacy Keach turn into something larger than your average kitchen appliance? Both of those appearances threatened to take me out of the movie.

The Bourne Legacy is required viewing for the hard-core fans of the movie series, and I’m sure most will walk away satisfied. For me, I think somebody ought to just let Jason Bourne disappear like the ass-kicking, super-spy wraith that he is.

Bonus trailer: Caught the trailer for Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt ‘s upcoming Loopers. Looks interesting, but, man, it’s hard to believe Willis is 57 (unlike Glenn and Keach). He looks more badass now than John McClane did 24 years ago (yes, it really has been that long).

It’s been a busy month or so. Mostly in a good way, with a chance to return to my roots for a couple of weeks and spend some much-needed time with Southern friends, family and food.

There were several highlights – actually, I could call the whole two weeks in Mississippi a highlight. Besides being back in the place that I call home and my real inspiration to write (next novel Deep Blood is set in Lowndes County — check out the link at the top of the page), the first Thompson Cuzapalooza took place, with nearly all of said cousins in attendance. We could have fed a small Central American country with the amount of food brought in (Ed’s “Pigg Shack” barbecue from Tuscaloosa being the centerpiece of the feast) and we spent hours under the same roof laughing and telling stories (including a side-splitting telling of The Redneck Christmas Throw-Down by brother-sister team Edward and Terrie) and smiling at the kids playing in the sprinkler in the front yard. When we did go outside, it was to practice our 2nd Amendment rights right there in the back yard. Every male in the house (and one female) was carrying a gun, so it was merely a matter of setting up targets and letting the trash talk begin. Mind you, this was no irresponsible busting of caps. There were four military-trained shooters (myself included) on the firing line. Proper firearm safety was practiced at all times and no alcohol was involved. I won’t say who the best shot was, but he has been known to write about things in a blog. There are photos of the shootout, but as I’m relying on a teenage nephew to produce them, we may see them by 2025 or so.

Speaking of nephews, I got to spend some quality time with my sister’s boys. Fishing a nearby lake and a tour of Brice’s Crossroads battlefield (which, actually, I think I enjoyed more than they did). But since it was the first time I’d seen them in a couple of years, it was fun to just sit back and watch them be themselves. It was also the first time I’d been back to the battlefield in at least 15 years or so – back when I was freelancing pieces to Civil War magazine. I wrote a piece on Gen. Nathan Bedford’s Forrest’s extraordinary victory at Brice’s Crossroads that happened to appear in time for an annual reenactment (to which I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend as a guest). It’s an unassuming little battlefield, in an unassuming corner of the state; maybe that’s what makes Forrest’s astonishing thumping of the Union army so, well, astonishing. If you’re ever in the area …

Also got a chance to attend a meeting of the Tupelo Film Alliance, which is pretty much what it sounds like. A confederation of sorts of Mississippi indie filmmakers, writers, actors, directors, etc. I picked up a lot of information on the subject of independent filmmaking, which can be summed up thusly, “You need a bunch of money.” So I’m not ready to declare either of my scripts (a short titled “The Things They Shouldn’t Do” and an adaptation of Enemy Within) a “project” yet, but it was definitely food for thought. Oh, and Elvis Bonus: the meeting was held at the Tupelo Visitor and Convention Bureau, which holds – in a glass case – two of Elvis’s jumpsuits (the blue one and the white one). No, not replicas. The Real Deal. I have to admit, it was pretty cool to be that close to The Real Deal. Through the TFA, I’ve also become recently acquainted with two Mississippi filmmakers, Glenn Payne and Michael Williams, from Tupelo and West Point, respectively. They just finished wrapping their latest project, “Genrevolt.” Check back for more on their Dead Leaf Productions in a later post. And check out the trailer right here.

Meanwhile, through all this I managed to eat my way up and down east Mississippi. My hometown, Columbus, has seen a resurgence in the downtown area and restaurants are a key part of it. Killer lunches of real Southern food and cute waitresses who don’t even have to ask if you want sweet or unsweet tea. Café au Main was jammed for lunch when I went with yet another cousin (from my mother’s side), Joe Studdard, and I ate more at lunch than I usually do in a day. Down the street, Huck’s Place served up an equally tasty lunch, which I enjoyed amidst the company of the “Witches of Eastwick” (they know who they are) and it was cool to know that I went to school with the brother/sister crew that runs the place (thanks Huckaby clan). If you ever get a chance to stop in Columbus around lunchtime, don’t miss either.

And in case you’re wondering, of course I went to Shipley’s for the world’s best doughnuts. I’m not going to tell you how many times I went, though.

Yeah, I hated to leave, but like the former governor of California likes to say, “I’ll be back.”