Friday, May 31, 2019

When the Bough Breaks

When the Bough Breaks
by Jonathan Kellerman
Recommended Ages: 14+

I recently tried the waters of the Alex Delaware series of crime thrillers by plunging in at the deep end with Night Moves, the 33rd of soon to be 35 novels. I then sensibly paddled back to where I should have entered with this first book, alternately titled Shrunken Heads. Not that I would recommend taking it in this order, I learned one thing by doing so: that the crime-solving partnership between child psychologist Alex and Los Angeles police detective Milo Sturgis is going to last and last, as will Alex's relationship with (in this book) girlfriend Robin. They're going to solve a lot of crimes together. And though this book is only indirectly about the crime that brought them together, the repercussions of that case echo throughout their maiden voyage as unlikely co-sleuths.

How many ways are they an unlikely pair? To start with, one is gay and the other isn't. One of them dresses to kill and drives a Cadillac Seville, which was quite the thing back in 1985; the other always looks like he woke up in what he's wearing, and is lucky if he has a car at all. One is on the LAPD payroll, and the other is only an unpaid consultant. One of them has a master's degree in literature, while the other took early retirement from a career in clinical psychology after treating the victims of a child molester who chose Alex's office for the scene of his suicide. Their current case brings them together because a small girl seems to be the only witness to the vicious murder of a couple in the apartment across the way.

But then the trail of clues – including a third dead body – leads them to ask impertinent questions of a judge, a leading psychiatrist and a highly respected religious charity. Unsurprisingly, the Powers That Be take them off the case. Does that stop them? Of course not. In fact, Alex pursues his side of the investigation with an independence that I doubt Milo will allow in future installments. It puts him in terrible danger. It leads him to discover a network of monsters preying on children almost in plain sight, with a dark history dating back to an elite college and an even more elite island. They're the kind of places that seem to breed icky secrets, and this kind won't be exposed without the shedding of blood.

As an opening move in a long game, this is a pretty strong book. The psychological mystery is dark and disturbing. The crime thriller part is shockingly violent. Early Alex Delaware is a character full of potential for development, not just as a crime-solving partner but also as a complex individual with refined taste, keen intellect and interesting relationships. I'd like to say that if I had read this book in 1985, I would have foreseen what a strong series would grow out of it. But I was just 13 at the time, and I was more interested in Stephen King kind of stuff. The long wait gave me the pleasure of experiencing the world of 1985 again as a nostalgic tourist.

Also, the fact that I read it within weeks of a Clay Edison novel, co-authored by Jonathan Kellerman and his son Jesse, allowed me to detect a story shape that the two books (written decades apart) have in common – carnage in California leads to unsettling discoveries at an off-kilter school farther north. Maybe I'm weird to perceive a family resemblance there; I wonder what Alex Delaware would say about the sense of familiarity that led me to make that connection. Where those discoveries led, however, differed from one book to another. I'm intrigued, anyway, by the limitless possibilities of what Alex and Milo may find out in further installments of this series.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Ritual Bath

The Ritual Bath
by Faye Kellerman
Recommended Ages: 14+

This is the first of (currently) 25 Decker/Lazarus thrillers by the wife and mother (respectively) of fellow authors Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman. For a change, I decided to start reading this series at the beginning, and so I was plunged straight into the world of 1986, which I last saw when I was 14 years old. It's pretty much exactly like the world today, except nobody had cell phones and the Internet wasn't a thing. Headlining the mystery are a divorced Los Angeles homicide detective named Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, a devoutly religious, widowed mother of two boys who runs a mikvah (the ritual bath you've been waiting to hear about) in a yeshiva (sort of a Jewish Bible college/seminary campus) in a neighborhood widely known, in vintage 1986 political incorrectness, as Jewtown.

Fated eventually to get married and become sort of a crime-solving duo, Decker and Lazarus first meet when a woman is raped coming out of the mikvah at closing time. If she had been running on schedule, Rina might have been the victim. In spite of the immediate chemistry between them, their different backgrounds and values keep them from becoming a couple (for now) – but only by the exertion of considerable willpower. Meanwhile, Decker struggles to solve the rape case before Rina gets hurt. He has plenty of suspects: a gang of anti-Semitic punks, a former Torah learner who lost his mind and was kept on as a charity case, another learner who once dated Rina but didn't round as many bases as he wanted to, and the unknown perpetrator of a series of rapes in a neighboring community – but there are holes in all of these theories. Meanwhile, a rape case turns into a murder mystery, and as the apparent danger grows, Peter becomes convinced that Rina is the intended target.

In addition to being a police detective thriller, this novel provides an (in my experience) unusual immersion into the culture of strictly observant, orthodox Judaism. The narrative invites the reader to sympathize with Peter Decker's frustration, partly as an investigator, partly as a sexual animal but mainly as a guy who genuinely cares about a lady, while at the same time presenting Rina in a noble light as she walks the difficult path between the modern world (by 1986 standards) and an ancient religion. For religious Jews, I suppose, this book and the series it begins are an opportunity to imagine themselves as characters in a crime thriller. For most everyone else, it's a solid mystery with a curiously tantalizing romance and an immersive introduction to a seldom-visited culture and system of values. It's edutainment, with a degree of respect for a historic faith rarely seen in mass market fiction these days.

Other titles in the Decker/Lazarus series are listed here – among them, Sacred and Profane, Milk and Honey, Prayers for the Dead, Serpent's Tooth, Murder 101, and The Theory of Death.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

As You Wish

As You Wish
by Chelsea Sedoti
Recommended Ages: 14+

The Mojave desert town of Madison, Nevada, has a secret that explains everything weird about it. When we first meet good-looking athlete Eldon Wilkes, he is a month shy of his 18th birthday and his job, pumping gas at one of the few surviving full-service filling stations in the U.S., is really all about drawing visitors' attention away from that weirdness, and directing it toward the next town up the Extraterrestrial Highway, where they have Area 51 and whatnot. Personally, Eldon isn't all that excited about his upcoming birthday, which is to say his wish day. You see, every Madison native gets to make a wish on his or her 18th birthday, and provided they observe a few easily remembered rules, their wish always comes true.

Then they just have to live with the consequences. That's what Eldon is afraid of. He is all too aware that his dad wished to be the best football player in town, only to suffer a career-ending knee injury a month later. He has observed the unhappiness that resulted from his mom's wish – that her adolescent crush, Eldon's dad, would love her and her only for the rest of his life. As for the kid who ran over Eldon's little sister in the rush to make his wish – and then, by failing to wish to heal her, left her brain dead to this day – well, that kid's name is mud. Eldon knows his mom wants him to wish for money because it's her last hope to save Ebba, and he fears she'll never forgive him for not doing so.

Desperate to figure out what he wants to wish for, or even whether he wishes to wish at all, Eldon sets out on a quest to study how other people's wishes turned out. What he learns ends up reflecting mostly on how disappointing he is, not only to his parents but to his best friend, a couple of girls at his school, and pretty much everybody around him. Even as a narrator (except for a few third-person chapters reporting what he learned from other Madison residents about what they wished for), he doesn't sell himself as an altogether admirable or sympathetic guy. It makes the decision whether to root for him a complex one. But that doesn't stop his experience, and his final decision, from being exciting and emotionally powerful on multiple levels.

I spent a good part of this book silently predicting what Eldon's wish was going to be, but my guess wasn't quite on the mark. I can't say for certain whether I agree with his actual choice. By leaving that debate open, this book proves even more interesting in the end. Meantime, it touches on a variety of ethical issues, such as loyalty, gratitude, sexuality, suicide, and the pros and cons having what you want given to you versus earning it for yourself. I think readers on both the left and the right, politically, will find pages in this book that affirm their views and pages that challenge them. I think that's rather interesting, too.

This is Chelsea Sedoti's second novel for teens, following The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett. She hails from my native city, Las Vegas, Nev., which puts her in a good position to write fiction set in one of the strangest and loneliest landscapes in the country. That loneliness (alongside the strangeness) is another theme that leaves its mark on this book. I'm interested in seeing what else she's got.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect

Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect
by Michael Reisman
Recommended Ages: 12+

In the first book of the Simon Bloom trilogy, The Gravity Keeper, a boy from a New Jersey middle school becomes the keeper of the Teachers Guide to Physics, a book that controls the laws of space and time. It's a heavy responsibility for a kid, but he earns it by putting a stop to the villainous Sirabetta, who plans to seize all power in the universe by having key formulas inked on her skin. Sounds like cheating on an exam, right? Well, cheating is the least of her vices, but Simon dealt with her by turning her into a teenager (a horrible fate). Only, now she's back, and she has a team of traitors within the Order of Biology helping her out.

Together with his friends Owen and Alysha, plus some other allies (including the book's Narrator, who takes a whimsically personal interest in what's going on), Simon sets off in pursuit. Each time the two sides meet, a battle breaks out in which people fling powers derived from nature at each other – like the trio's mastery of gravity, friction and velocity, or the Octopus Powers they gain along the way. The result is some weird combat, with the outcome in doubt until the end.

Book 2 of the trilogy, this book is followed by Simon Bloom: The Order of Chaos. Since all three books came out over a three-year period about a decade ago, I guess they're all there is to the series. It's an interesting brew, bringing some of the off-the-wall goofiness of Lemony Snicket to a more mature audience, with lots of educational details sneaking in under the cover of fantasy action and cosmic danger. The large cast of characters seems unwieldy at times, and the book might perhaps suffer from just an eensy-weensy case of middle-of-a-trilogy-itis. However, it probably helps to read the books closer together than I have. Meantime, the author's bio claims that he gets paid for writing book reports. I would totally go for a job like that.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Pokémon Detective Pikachu – Yes, I actually saw this last night. I've never seen, read, or played anything to do with Pokémon before, unless you count reading Brandon Sanderson's Codex Alera which, fan lore has it, he created as a stunt to show that he could combine the two stupidest fantasy memes of all time (Pokémon and Lost Roman Legion) into a thrilling epic. I can definitely see the resemblance between the furies of Sanderson's conception and the Pokémon (which I believe is derived from an Engrish expression meaning "pocket monsters") that live alongside humans in the city depicted in this movie. Outside that city, Pokémon are hunted, captured, and trained to fight each other in cockfight-like combats in which each breed's unique abilities are exploited. In Ryme City, humans bond with their Pokémon partners to live as equals – although no one can understand the gibberish Pokémon speak.

Along comes Tim (played by Justice Smith of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), a young man from another city who was obsessed with Pokémon as a child, but who has a mysteriously tragic track record when it comes to partnering with them. His dad, a detective with the city police, has supposedly been killed in a car wreck, but his body is missing and Tim isn't sure he's really dead. Adding a blend of tension, laughs and cuteness to the picture is his dad's Pokémon partner, a Pikachu (you know, one of those adorable, fuzzy Pokémon that have a crooked tail and a talent for hurling lightning bolts), who has no memory of anything from the accident forward and whom Tim, for some reason, can understand even though nobody else can. Adding more tension, comedy and a touch of romance is an ambitious cub reporter (played by Kathryn Newton of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) who is after the truth. The picture also features Bill Nighy, Ryan Reynolds and Ken Watanabe.

Overall, I found this flick refreshingly lightweight and full of uncomplicated fun. It has good special effects, gorgeous scenery – the effects in the scenes depicting life in the streets of Ryme City must have cost an emperor's ransom – and the humor, action, and mystery hit all the right marks. As an introduction to the world of Pokémon, it gives me an idea of why so many people find the anime/video game/trading card creatures so engaging. But even understood as a free-standing fantasy film, it came across really well, I think.

Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Pikachu gets injured in an accident, and Tim's concern for him becomes quite tender. (2) Tim enters Pikachu in a fight against another creature in the hope of squeezing some information out of its trainer – but the little guy can't remember how to use his powers. (3) The hero group's visit to the creepy lab where Mewtwo (a clone of the Ur-Pokémon) escaped the night Tim's dad disappeared. Lots of weird creatures! Fantasy ideas stretching quirkiness to the edge of the bizarre! People blithely accepting the patently ludicrous going on all around them! What fun, eh?

Night Moves

Night Moves
by Jonathan Kellerman
Recommended Ages: 14+

Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis are an unusual crime-solving team. Delaware is a child psychologist who doesn't really have to work, if he doesn't want to, and at best an unpaid consultant with the Los Angeles Police Department. Sturgis is a full lieutenant who, partly due to homophobia and partly due to getting crosswise with LAPD politics, has his own airless closet of an office and the freedom from administrative responsibilities to actually work homicide cases. Anyway, the odd arrangement works; together, they have an awesome record of closing cases. And it's weird how often their specialties intersect. In this case, for instance, a dysfunctional family in an affluent neighborhood comes home from dining out to find a strange man dead in their den. As a family, and as individuals, they're a psychological case study. As witnesses, and potentially victims, they may have a connection to the killer – something to explain what brought the dead guy to their neighborhood and why the killer chose to leave him where he did.

While Alex tries to get the family at the crime scene to open up to him, Milo's gaze lingers on the creepy dude next door – an independently wealthy recluse with a history of creating disturbing comics, and who seems to have some kind of hold over a mentally challenged girl. A two-timing husband, a missing wife, a mysterious teenager, an altruistic risk-taker, and multiple people living multiple lives become pieces of a puzzle splashed, by the end, with the blood of multiple victims. And the key will turn out to have been right in front of Milo and Alex from the start. Funny how that happens, eh?

For the warm climate it's set in, this psychological murder mystery has some chilling moments. It showcases some solid police work, but even more interesting, it conjures believable characters whose personalities come so vividly to life that their faces and voices register in the reader's mind. For example, the retired musician who keeps making passes at Alex's instrument-maker wife Robin, right in front of him and while helping with his case, is an entertaining presence that lingers throughout the book in spite of the brevity of his part in it. Whatever else he was when he started out, Kellerman has become a novelist of character, who can make an entire street become a real place and the people in it our neighbors. This makes the monster altogether more threatening, and the work of people like Sturgis and Delaware that much more urgent. It's a class act.

This is the 33rd Alex Delaware novel out of, as of this writing, 34 and another on its way. It also happens to be the first book that I have read in this series of psychological thrillers. It's usually unlike me to start toward the end of a long series and work my way back, but sometimes needs must, etc. The series starts with When the Bough Breaks, a.k.a. Shrunken Heads (which I just put on request at the library), and includes such provocative titles as Devil's Waltz, Doctor Death and The Murder Book. Kellerman is also the author of the Petra Connor novels, one of which I have read, and the co-author with his son Jesse Kellerman of the Clay Edison novels, two of which ditto. I'm now planning to work my way through the lot of them.

Deep Storm

Deep Storm
by Lincoln Child
Recommended Ages: 14+

Lately, I've been doing a lot of that thing I've always tried to avoid – starting long series of books in the middle or toward the end. So, this first book in the Dr. Jeremy Logan series is actually the third installment that I've read. It was therefore interesting to discover that, while this is Book 1 of 5 featuring him, he only appears briefly and in a supporting role. Apparently, the idea of Jeremy, a Yale history prof who is so open-minded about unexplained phenomena that he's been stuck with the epithet "enigmalogist," caught fire in his creator's mind, and he got promoted to central protagonist of a whole series of books. So, for those like me who joined the storyline late and went backwards, it's a bit of a surprise to find out that the hero is a guy named Peter Crane, a medical doctor with experience dealing with the maladies of U.S. Navy personnel on highly classified submarine missions. You have to admit, though, that other than the bit where Jeremy's skill set comes in handy, this creepy, paranoid, otherworldly thriller set deep beneath the ocean is rather in Peter's wheelhouse.

No one will tell him what the job is really about when he arrives at the oil drilling platform off the coast of Iceland. After signing wads of paper swearing him to secrecy, Crane descends thousands of feet to a super-secret research facility where even the highly skilled scientific experts are only 50 percent trusted to know what's going on. Actually, that's probably a high figure. At first, even Peter isn't given much information about the medical mystery he has been hired to solve. Whatever is going on past the checkpoint where anyone without the proper clearance will be shot, it has some military guys seriously hot and bothered. Nevertheless, things seem to be falling apart, medically and psychologically, for a lot of people at once. Eventually, Peter learns that what the facility is excavating out of the sea floor isn't the lost city of Atlantis, as he was originally allowed to think, but something far deeper, far stranger – and, ironically, far less ancient. In fact, there is a written record of an eyewitness to its arrival (hence Jeremy's involvement). What could this technology from above the heavens, until now lying silently below the earth's crust, possibly do? Why has it awakened now? And what, the military guys wonder, could the U.S. of A. do with it?

Peter and the people he trusts grow increasingly certain that whatever it is must be left alone. But they're up against some dangerously loony folks, at least one of whom isn't above a little murder. What bubbles out is an intense chiller-thriller, haunted by an interesting combination of our oldest, darkest fears. If the thought of what came from above doesn't make you shudder, just think about what lies below in the crushing darkness, and what it might be used for, and what it would do if it were ever unleashed. And then consider this: because there is no Dr. Peter Crane series, how do you know the hero is going to make it? You don't, do you? Am I going to tell you? Nuh-uh. Enjoy your all-night cringe-fest, with a healthy-sized portion of heartbeat-quickening action and an ending that will leave you wondering whether you should call the President for a heart-to-heart, just on the off-chance it's all true. Ha, ha! I'm laughing at you. But also, I'm adding "deep sea exploration" to my list of experiences I hope never to check off. Because it pays to be mentally prepared.

In case you haven't read my other Lincoln Child reviews, he's the co-author with Douglas Preston of almost 20 "Agent Pendergast" novels. I believe I read the first book, The Relic, back when it was the only one (like, 1995), and found it super-creepy; I also remember seeing a movie based on it. Child's other Jeremy Logan books include Terminal Freeze, The Third Gate, The Forgotten Room and Full Wolf Moon, while his other solo titles are Utopia and Death Match. Books by the pair of them also include Gideon's Sword, Old Bones and The Ice Limit, among many others.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Killing Floor

Killing Floor
by Lee Child
Recommended Ages: 15+

Lee Child is the author of something like 24 Jack Reacher novels, of which this was the first, way back in 1997. The latest, Past Tense, is currently on the paperback rack at retail stores everywhere; another, Blue Moon, is scheduled for release Oct. 29, 2019. Because I didn't start reading this series at the beginning, I already had an idea of what Child was talking about in the preface to a recent re-release of this book, describing how he came to write it, and to create the character of Jack Reacher.

Before plugging this book, I'd like to plug that Author's Note as one of the clearest, most informative and most interesting statements of the intentions behind a well-established literary creation. The elevator summary of it goes something like this: Upon being fired from the BBC, the previously successful British TV writer moved to New York and decided to give novel writing a try. But he wasn't interested in the vulnerable, wounded hero type of protagonist that was then in vogue – the guy with a tortured conscience, an inadequacy complex and a piece of shrapnel lodged a quarter-inch from his heart. Rather, he wanted to read, and therefore he decided to write, about a man of superior strength and ability, with no emotional ties, beholden to no higher authority than his own sense of rightness, who sees the big man sticking it to the little guy and puts him down without remorse. He wanted a hero who always wins. And against all probability, against the advice virtually anyone would have given him had he asked, it worked. It works.

It all started with a first-person narrator walking 14 miles in the rain, after midnight, down a stretch of lonely Georgia highway. He arrives at a spruce little diner on the edge of a town called Margrave, orders coffee and a plate of eggs, and has only just been served when almost the whole local police force shows up waving guns and screaming at him. Jack Reacher is arrested for murder – funnily enough, he must have walked right by the victim's body in the rain.

Because it's the weekend, and because the local jail doesn't have overnight cells, he and another dubious suspect get bused to the nearby state penitentiary, supposedly to be stashed in the nice guest rooms reserved for guys who haven't been charged with anything. Somehow, for some reason, they get put in the same cell block as the really bad, bad guys. Attempts to rape and murder them follow as promptly as you please. The other guy has a theory about why this is happening to them, but he's so scared about it that he won't tell Reacher much. Only because Reacher is a tougher SOB than the really bad, bad guys do they live to catch the bus back to Margrave. It turns out their alibis stood up.

But then more bodies start to drop, including the corrupt local police chief. Also, the first victim's identity comes back and it's such a shock that I don't want to spoil it, although that's going to make writing the rest of this synopsis rather hard. Reacher decides to stay and help the chief of detectives (who isn't from around those parts) and an attractive lady cop, who are among the very few people in Margrave that he trusts. His motives differ from theirs a little bit. He has a personal stake, now, in busting the heads of the people who have been trying to either kill him or frame him for murder since he arrived in town. There is a criminal conspiracy afoot, involving too many people who should know better, and a few people who take a sick pleasure in torture and killing. There are innocent people who need protecting. And there is a certain person Reacher feels honor bound to back up, to the bitter end and beyond.

If you know what the phrase "killing floor" means, you will recognize the scene this book's title refers to when you come to it. Suffice it to say, this is an ultra-violent piece of entertainment in which the hero, when asked how he feels about all the people he just killed, says something like, "How do you feel when you put down cockroach powder?" He doesn't linger over their deaths, so if you're looking for those kinds of sick jollies, shop elsewhere. But he dispenses a kind of justice that strikes swiftly and efficiently, seldom leaving time for second thoughts. He protects the girl, even though the news that it doesn't work out between them comes as no surprise.

He passes over Marburg like an avenging angel, and passes on, leaving the town altered out of all recognition but – this is a spoiler only if you don't recall there are 23 more Jack Reacher books to go – he most assuredly leaves. Sure, there are close calls. There's plenty of conflict. There are scenes of gripping suspense and genuine horror. But in this thriller, a unique part of the thrill is knowing that the outcome is all but assured, and watching it come out just so. The directness, the toughness, the uncomplicatedness of Jack Reacher is, in a word, refreshing.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman – I saw this movie on DVD with my brother and sister-in-law, while visiting their house for the weekend. I had already seen some of Gal Gadot's portrayal of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in Justice League, and wouldn't have expected the movie to be so good after seeing the CGI battle extravaganza that is Aquaman. But in spite of some action sequences that I didn't find altogether visually convincing, I liked the heart of this movie – at bottom, the story of a young woman who leaves a very sheltered environment to seek adventure in a world full of dangers beyond her imagination, and who meets every challenge because she also has powers she never suspected. The reason she never suspected them may seem implausible to folks who are unacquainted with the inherent stupidity of comic book characters, who chronically keep secrets from each other, leading to conflict and alienation, because life apparently wouldn't be interesting enough if they learned from past mistakes. The reason she has the powers is another story, which I decline to tell you right now because it would spoil too many fun surprises.

Diana's adventure unfolds during World War II, which she only finds out is going on when an American pilot, working for British intelligence, crashes a German fighter off the coast of her hermetically sealed island. I forget the name of the island, except that when you hear it, you're tempted to say "Gesundheit." Everybody on it is female and, apparently, Greek, although they look and sound like they come from all kinds of places. Seeing a dude for the first time is quite an eye-opener for Diana, especially one who looks like Chris Pine, but then a bunch of German bad guys follow him through the dome of invisibility that protects Themiscyra (there it is, and thanks for the blessing), and suddenly Diana feels called to do battle against the ancient god of war, who she feels is behind everything that's going on in the outside world. If only she can get that guy, she reasons, the world will become a peaceful place. Meanwhile, Steve Trevor needs to get back to Whitehall to tell the war cabinet what he has discovered about the plans of a fiendish German general and the chemical warfare maven he keeps by him, a scary lady who covers her disfigured face with a partial mask.

Next thing you know, Steve and Diana are joined by a group of misfits on a mission that, from his point of view, is all about preventing the release of a weapon that could kill millions, while from her point of view, it's all about killing Ares. As they get closer to their goal, Diana kicks rapidly mounting quantities of ass, and the regard between the two grows into love. But they reach the limit of the amount of ass that can be productively kicked on an airfield where the god of war finally reveals himself, and the only way to move forward is – well, pretty sad, in an admirable and uplifting way.

So, it's altogether a pretty good superhero movie, maybe better in some ways than most of the ones I've seen in the last year or two. Besides the very attractive hero couple, the movie also features Robin Wright (The Princess Bride, Unbreakable), David Thewlis (Harry Potter 3, Timeline), Danny Huston (who has also played Poseidon and Viktor Frankstein), and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, One Hour Photo). Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Diana, openly staring at a very naked Steve, asks, "What is that?" He looks down for a split second, then realizes what she means and says, "Oh, that's a watch!" It's an adorably awkward moment, with a giggle-worthy shot of innuendo. (2) The hero couple's parting conversation being drowned out by background noise – then replayed, as a memory, with the dialogue audible. (3) A group of people running across no-man's land, protected from a hail of machine-gun fire by a couple of bulletproof bracelets. I think it was just before this scene when my brother turned toward me and said something like, "It's about to turn into a great movie."