Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ronn Torossian – For Immediate Release (BenBella Books)

Entire sections of book stores are dedicated to books on business and an endless array of theories on operations, sales and marketing. Ronn Torossian is the founder, president and CEO of 5W Public Relations, so it’s only natural that his first entry into the business book sweepstakes For Immediate Release would be centered on a public relations approach to building brands.

Torossian sites IBIS World, a media research firm when he rolls out the staggering fact that businesses spent an estimated $9.73 billion on public relations efforts in 2010, with forecasts having that spend increase to a projected $12.82 billion by 2015. While any dollar amount featuring the B-Word is impressive (at least outside the realm of government) those amounts pale in comparison to the estimated $210 billion that is spent on advertising.

Torossian makes a legitimate case that the impact that public relations efforts have on building brands and delivering bottom line results may be greater than that of straight brand advertising. The book is loaded with examples and case studies of how public relations strategies delivered positive measurable results.

In one glaring case, Torossian sites the BP Oil spill as an example of advertising as bad crisis management. The oil giant spent $50 million on an ad campaign to convince the public that the spill was really all that bad. While the spill was nowhere near the doomsday scenario that some in the media had painted, a well managed critical response public relations campaign featuring an expenditure in say the tens of millions in communities and with the people that were directly impacted by the spill would have had a much more positive impact than a bunch of TV commercials.

It’s nearly impossible for a small to mid-size enterprise to compete against the giants in a given business sector. With a concerted, focused, effort in the public relations realm, you can have an impact and improve bottom line results. I can’t imagine a more competitive business than the beverage industry; Torossian rolls out the case study of Hint Water, a bottled water company with $30 million in annual sales. When you think about the Dasani’s (Coca Cola), Aquafina (Pepsi) and the Perrier/Poland Springs’ (Nestle) of the world, who’s annual ad budgets dwarf Hint’s bottom line, how do they possibly compete? Any marketer worth their salt knows that it is impressions that count and Torossian was able to help Hint by garnering media coverage and significant profile features. It’s a whole lot easier to make a lasting impression when someone else, in many cases the media, are doing the heavy lifting for you.

Clearly Torossian makes the case that public relations needs to be a forethought rather than an afterthought. For Immediate Release makes me wonder how Torossian would have handled the Penn State mess; I would have to guess it would have been though a whole lot more proactive route than the one the University chose.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bill Bennett- The Book of Man- Readings on the Path to Manhood (Thomas Nelson Books)

The introduction of talk show host/commentator/former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett’s new book The Book of Man is as thought provoking a handful of pages as I have read lately. In it he makes the case that the state of manhood in America has gone through a dramatic and altogether not good transition over the course of the past couple of decades.

While it is not Bennett’s premise, I think the case can be made that we can trace the current malaise we find ourselves mired in, to the pussification of the American male. We have steadily erased some of the cornerstones of what made men, men. And Bennett’s book wants to put in place a framework, through the written word, to put manhood back into its rightful place, by changing the way we teach the next generation of males.

Think about it. We have erased from our society some of the most basic tenets of manhood. We whimpify boys by not allowing them to keep score in youth sports; going a step further when we actually allow scoring in scholastic sports, teams who win a lopsided victory are chastised for “running up the score.”

We have raised a generation of men not to seek knowledge and pursue critical thinking skills, but to merely get good grades. I recently took part in a discussion with a college professor who studies generational differences who spoke of the disturbing trend where college students are likely to have a parent call a professor about a bad grade or even go so far as to bring along a parent on job interviews!

We have taught a generation of men that they are inconsequential to the family unit; that women are strong and don’t really need them around. Is it any wonder that we have tragic divorce rates, scores of children being born and raised out of wedlock and where in the 1950s 96 percent of males between the ages of 25-54 worked; today that number stands at around 80 percent. Yes, a full 20 percent, one fifth of men do not get up and go to work each day!

Where once men took care of families, the government now plays the role of provider. No I am not a chauvinist, women are certainly a vital part of the work force and the family, but how can you read these numbers and not see that we have created an unsustainable and growing problem of dependency.

The Book Of Man is not a prescription to fix this problem, but gathers the writings of great thinkers on a variety of topics including; Man at Work, Man at Play, and Man with Women and Children, which can at the very least envision a different sort of path to manhood than we currently find ourselves on.

I can’t help but wonder if instead of government handouts if we might see a greater benefit in handing out copies of Mr. Bennett’s book. I also have to wonder if the maggot-infested flock of Wall Street Occupiers might benefit from a copy of the Book of Man…maybe we could enlist someone to read it to them, or better yet, we could set up a large PA system and blast them with the audio book version 24/7.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Simon Toyne- Sanctus (William Morrow)

Scott Turow and John Grisham weren’t the first writers to write a legal thriller, but they set the tone and spawned phalanx of legal writers that churned out a library full of court room drama.

Tom Clancy wasn’t the first writer to knock out a military techno thriller, but he did marshal an army of writers who battled the forces of evil on millions of pages.

And Dan Brown wasn’t the first author the juggle ancient conspiracies in a modern setting, but he did guide a legion of wordsmiths who put quill to parchment and conjured up countless religious warriors, who protect a vault full of secrets.

While these authors set the proverbial tone, what separates those who follow from the rest of the pack is the ability to take the genre in a new in a new direction. Simon Toyne has done that with his debut thriller Sanctus.

Set in modern day Turkey, Sanctus details a mysterious religious sect that remains separated from the world in a mountain stronghold, the Citadel; protecting an ancient relic, known as the sacrament and it’s secret. If the secret were revealed it would change the face of religious belief, so the secretive brotherhood does whatever it takes to guard the cipher.

The intrigue starts early and remains at a steady pitch as competing forces battle for control of the secret. Keep in mind, if you need a firm grip on reality, then you’ll find yourself questioning things nearly every step of the way; this one falls firmly in the realm of the suspension of disbelief.

But that’s what a thriller is all about and Toyne it’s the right tone at the intersection of the ancient and modern worlds.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mitch Daniels – Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans (Sentinel)

Usually politicians author lofty treatises on their ideas or plans for changing, transforming or fixing America when they aspire to higher office. These books tend to be one part biography, one part historical and one part multi-point road map to fixing a problem.

The fact the Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has already declared his non-candidacy for the President, makes his new book Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans more intriguing.

Daniels’ book is a guide book for American exceptionalism. He not only understands that the only way out of the country’s current financial mess is to get government out of the way of the American people, he advocates that the answer lies with the people. Daniels knows that the more that government tries to fix the problem (that more often than not they created) the worse the problem becomes.

Daniels outlines the sheer immensity of the problem we are facing and ties it directly to the growth of government in our lives. In the chapter entitled “Shrunken Citizens” Daniels addresses the reduction of freedoms tied to government growth. It brings to mind the analogy of the frog dropped into a pot of boiling water that hops back out versus the frog in the pot of warm water that slowly has the heat turned up until it is cooked alive. The government intrusion has come a slow, steady, pace.

Daniels drives home the point while outlining the damage done by the passage of Obamacare. He details how government wage and price controls lead to business offering healthcare coverage. This has created the mindset is that somebody else will pay the bill, which has turned into an “inefficient model that has allowed Americans to grow accustomed to the idea to the idea that when it comes to the most personal and important purchase of all, those affecting their health, they are sheep, bystanders to the process in which they have neither the competence to decide what services to buy nor the intelligence to determine for themselves what price is too high for the value they are likely to obtain.”

Amazingly, Daniels approached his job with the seemingly unique mindset that he shouldn’t spend more of the taxpayers money than he takes in. Daniels is an example, or should be, of the new American mindset when it comes to government overspending.

It’s easy to understand why big government, Democrats misread the American people, thinking Daniels would be an easy political target when he ran for re-election. It was Daniels taking a tough stance on spending that transformed his state deficit to a surplus and positioned Indiana in a way to better absorb the recession of 2008.

Daniels approach to governance would not only see him easily win a second term, but also serve as a guidepost to leaders like Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey, Rick Scott in Florida, John Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jerry Blavat – You Only Rock Once

Anyone who is an aficionado of music, the early days of rock ‘n’ roll radio or is just a fans of the 1950s will want to check out Jerry Blavat’s You Only Rock Once.

Blavat’s legend was made in the early days of rock radio and TV in the city that launched Dick Clark into the national spotlight with American Bandstand. Blavat’s story reads like a slice of the classic movie Bronx Tale; his Dad was Jewish numbers runner and mobster and his early life found him running the streets of Philadelphia.

An under-aged Blavat danced his way onto Bob Horn’s Bandstand (which would later find fill in host Clark taking the show national as American Bandstand.) Blavat’s tale is laced with his love of music, that remains in place to this day. He became a member of Horn’s music advisory panel, helping to pick the hits that would make it onto the TV show.

One of the early signs of Blavat’s rebellious side came when Horn ran into some legal troubles and Clark was brought into the host Bandstand and he launched an ill-fated protest to return the troubled Horn to host duties. This also was an early example of Blavat’s single-mindedness when it came to business.

Blavat runs down not only his wild-child approach to his teens; including colorful business and precocious sexual exploits. Before he was out of high school, Blavat became the road manager for early rockers Danny and the Juniors, later becoming a promo pitchman for record companies and then landing his first radio gig.

Blavat mingles great stories the book of his brushes with fame and the famous like a young start up comedian Don Rickles, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Avalon and Sammy Davis Jr. among many others. To call Blavat colorful is an understatement.

The most amazing thing about You Only rock Once is the absolute clarity of Blavat’s passion for the music that he promoted, played and lives right to this day. His is a truly fascinating story.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Joseph Finder – Buried Secrets

How do you mix an over-privileged socialite with a troubled past, Washington power brokers, high flying Wall Street hedge fund traders, Russian mobsters, a sadistic enforcer and a skilled former spy into one storyline? Start with a skilled storyteller like Joseph Finder and mix in a strong focal point character like Nick Heller and you’re off to the races.

Finder’s latest Nick Heller novel, Buried Secrets, is a classic beat the clock thriller. A troubled daughter of a billionaire disappears, an e-mailed link to a web cam lights the fuse and the race is on to get her back.

Finder does a masterful job of describing the claustrophobic terror that the kidnap victim experiences as she discovers that she is literally buried alive and her only connection to the outside world and reality is a web cam mounted in her underground coffin. You may find yourself gasping for air as he describes the waves of fear that overtake the victim.

Buried Secrets is the second, in what I hope will become a series, of Nick Heller novels. Heller is a private investigator with skillset more than a few pay grades above the average fictional PI. Heller is a former spy with a background in private, for hire, intelligence. As finder weaves the story, Heller showcases the ability to pick up threads that the average investigators might miss.

He also excels at dropping himself into dangerous situations and utilizing his training to escape unscathed. Along the way Heller mixes it up with Russian mobster, who’s bent on looking legitimate, a handful of hardcases and a particularly nasty enforcer who comes packaged with a psychotic killing streak and a stylish prison gang tattoo of an owl that gives him “eyes in the back of his head.”

Buried Secrets is terrific follow up to the first Heller adventure, Vanished; he is a character that can join the likes of Lee Child’s, Jack Reacher; Stephen Hunter’s, Bob Lee Swagger; Brad Thor’s, Scot Harvath; and Vince Flynn’s, Mitch Rapp.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

George Pelecanos – The Cut

Some writers have the ability to draw great characters; vivid portraits of the players who drive storylines. Others have the ability to paint great settings; the gritty underbellies of inner cities, the wide open spaces of suburban sprawl or even the tumbledown backwoods homestead.

Then there is the rare writer, who has the ability to capture not only great characters and locations but also the feel and the vibe that is the real heartbeat of the story. Think Elmore Leonard cool.

Or George Pelecanos.

His latest, The Cut, has its own cool vibe; a real, lived in, comfortable style. When Pelecanos writes about Washington, DC and surrounding communities, his economy of words reads as if he is leading you through a familiar, easy-going, but edgy hood.

Pelecanos’ characters, is this case, “investigator” Spero Lucas brings his own rhythm to the pacing of the story. The fact that the former Marine grooves to cool reggae and is even known to mix in a little percussive DC go go music and kick it old school, just seem to work with this complex, multi-layered character.

Lucas does his thing, working more like a modern day tracker, both people and things, more so than a typical fictional PI. The concept is simple; Lucas agrees to track down a clients stolen item in exchange for a 40% piece of the action…The Cut.

In this instance, the client is a drug dealer facing trial, the item are a series of missing FEDEXed drug shipments. Lucas tracks down the cash from the sale of the goods, takes his cuts and passes along the rest. And that’s where the story takes an interesting turn.

Pelecanos attracted a legion of new fans for his writing and producing of the HBO Series, The Wire; those fans and those of his Derek Strange series will want to submerge themselves in this very quick read.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Douglas Edwards – I’m Feeling Lucky- Confessions of Google Employee #59

Based on the title, it might be easy to have some misperceptions about Douglas Edwards book, I’m Feeling Lucky- Confessions of Google Employee #59.

I can tell you this about the book:

It is not a business book that pontificates about the way things ought to be done if you want to succeed in business.

It is not a biography of a dot com business insider who struck gold, bought a Gulfstream and now spends his days trying to solve the world’s problems.

Despite the word confessions being included in the title, it is not a hatchet job; tell all about Google’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, penned by a disgruntled former employee.

What it is, is and interesting and entertaining ride through the flying by the seat of their pants start up of what would become one of the true titans of the tech world.

Edwards background was more of a traditional marketer, focused on product development, market share and how to grow a business. I’m Feeling Lucky focuses a lot on how he had to learn a new approach to marketing that was counter to all he had learned and done previously.

Edwards offers some interesting insights that will be very relatable to anyone who has ever been involved in a start up. The long hours, the wearing of multiple hats, the silliness that can overtake a sleep deprived, caffeine fueled existence of the start up workplace.

Edwards sprinkles enough insider tales throughout the book to keep the pace moving forward at a steady clip. The only quibble is the fact that at times the book gets chronologically challenged; bouncing back and forth between dates and events rather than a steady build forward through the development and growth of the Google behemoth.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Are You Ready for Hurricane Irene?

 HuricaneThe Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home For A Disaster

With the 24 hour news channels and the Weather Channel bombarding us with non-stop coverage of the run up the East coast by Hurricane Irene and Mayors and Governors universally calling on residents to abandon ship and get out of their homes, it raises the question for a lot of people following the story, “What would I do in that situation?”

Author Bernie Carr has the answer, or actually 101 answers on how to prepare before disaster strikes in her new book The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home For A Disaster. Carr offers a wide array of tips ranging from the basics; decluttering your home, what to include in a 3 day survival kit and creating a family emergency plan, to addressing fresh water and food needs, financial planning, prepping your home, safety needs and when to get out in an emergency.

Many folks may view Carr as a nutty survivalist-type, but those are the people who would be the first to cry for help, likely from the government, when disaster actually strikes. The Prepper’s Pocket Guide offers common sense advice that anyone can follow and could save lives when professional help may not be available.

No Carr won’t make you the neighborhood MacGyvor, but he will help you to be better prepared for the challenges of weather related issues, acts of God and even some manmade disasters, as the Obama administration as dubbed terrorist acts, that could strike anyone, anywhere.

The Prepper’s Pocket Guide is laid out in an easy to use format that allows you to pick and choose the sections you want to use, you may not need them all, but you’ll be ahead of the game if you use this book to plan.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brad Thor – Full Black

When it comes to recommending authors who never disappoint, two names come to mind; Vince Flynn and Brad Thor. I have often, wholeheartedly, endorsed the works of these to guys to friends and co-workers.

I always find it interesting and often entertaining to gauge the reactions of those I pass the recommendations onto, when they make their first foray in the scary world of Flynn and Thor. They tend to range from enthusiastic fist pumping agreement to tight-assed, butt puckering comments like, “well I don’t know about the politics.”

If you are among the mind-numbed who think we need to “try to understand our enemies” or think that “we must have done something wrong for them to hate us” then don’t waste your time or hard earned money buying Flynn and Thor’s books. Oh and do me a favor, keep your opinions to yourself, I really don’t want to engage in the empty debate. If you are like me and think that there are evil people in the world who hate this country simply because we exist, then what are you waiting for?

Thor’s new book, his eleventh, Full Black features the latest installment in the ongoing Scot Harvath series. Full Black picks up the story thread where Foreign Influence left off. Thor once again exercises his ability to quickly grab you by the throat and set you off to the races. Think 24 on steroids without the short guy hero.

Full Black has a ripped from today’s headlines quality with characters that parallel many of today’s newsmakers; most notably the character James Standing, who seems similar to another famous, evil billionaire who seems bent on the destruction of the U.S. economic system and way of life. Sound familiar?

The thing that makes Thor’s wild storylines more believable is the “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” authenticity to his writing. He clearly has spent some time around and learning from the special operators of the U.S. Military. Stack the adventures and actions of Harvath up against the non-fiction accounts of Special Forces types and you’ll see a lot of similarities.

Here’s hoping that Thor continues to crank out engaging thrillers not only for my entertainment, but also for the butt puckering they cause for those folks who live in the land of the shades of gray.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dr. Tim Groseclose – Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind

You have to love the Liberals “do as I say, not as I do” approach to life.

When it comes to global warming, the “science is settled”; man made global warming exists and if you don’t believe it, then you are at best a denier, but more likely you are a flat-Earther, or have a room temperature IQ. We are talking science here!

If you don’t buy into Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, then clearly you are a mind-numbed dolt or worse some sort of Bible-thumping moron! We are talking science here!

Clearly you are George W. Bush stupid if you don’t think that stem cell research will help solve all of the world’s medical issues; Michael J. Fox will be cured of Parkinson’s, Christopher Reeve would have walked and heck we might have even been able to thaw out Walt Disney. We are talking science here!

Liberals wrap themselves in the cloak of science; adopting a look down my nose, I’m smarter than you world view, if you are too stupid to grasp the importance of what only they can understand.
That is until now. Dr. Tim Groseclose, an economics and political science guru at UCLA, has developed a methodology for measuring the political quotient (PQ) of news outlets and the impact it has on voters and even politicians. Methodology…yes we’re talking SCIENCE here!

Naturally Professor Groseclose’s book, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts The American Mind, has liberals sputtering mad. They denigrate Groseclose and his research making the usual claims that Groseclose has been bought and paid for by the right, that clearly he is a conservative wing nut and his research/book is biased and yada yada on the personal attack front. When it comes to Liberal, if you can’t respond with a valid argument, then a personal attack will do.

Groseclose based Left Turn on a journal article the he co-authored, and in the book he offers a snapshot of the reactions he encountered to the article from his colleagues in another liberal bastion, academia. The reaction was predictable, ranging from outrage to calls for him to be fired! Surprisingly, Groseclose actually earned a bump up to a full professorship and received offers for endowment positions along the way.

He also managed to at least convince a few of his academic skeptics that the science he used to develop the results; which show a strong left lean to much of the media and a more even handed fairness on the part of outlets like Fox News which are accused of a conservative bias, was scientifically sound.

While I didn’t find Left Turn to be as entertaining a read as say Freakanomics, fans of that book, and those who thought the media was liberally biased will enjoy this book. Liberals will likely hate it, attack it, and label it pseudo-science!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Ryan Blair - Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain

There are boat loads of business books, that espouse about an equal number of theories and ideas on how you should go about starting, running or growing your business.

I have read armfuls of these things and had my Linkedin connections suggest that many more. Along the way I have picked up tidbits about breaking all the rules with the right people on the bus, while I explored strategies in the blue ocean.

Don't get me wrong, I have liked alot of these books and have successfully used a number of the ideas/theories that I picked up along the way, but I haven't found one book where I found myself noding in agreement with what these business gurus had put forth.

That is until now. I didn't start out reading Ryan Blair's Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain as a business book as much as in interesting tale of a young guy who moved from the mean streets to the board room. What I ended up with was a book that not only endorsed a number of my business views, but also confirmed a number of suspicions.

One of the things that has always driven me crazy obout business is that it never moves a quickly as I'd like; thing take far too long to get done. Blair's books moves at a quick pace and instead flowery theories from some Harvard professor, you get actionable steps that you can get rolling with today.

Preparation. Planning. Heck yeah! Foot dragging. Panels and commitees...hell no!

Chapter 12 of Nothing To Lose... -  Million Dollar Mistakes, shows that Blair has earned a PhD in real world experience. This chapeter should be required reading at Wharton or any other bastion of business thinking...or by anyone who wants to get things done. Anyone who's been subjected to ass kissers not only hang around but get promoted will be able to relate to Blair's thoughts on employees selling you and not firing fast enough.

If your looking for a traditional business book, there are plenty around to choose from. Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain is a solid business book, wrapped in an interesting story.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Please Don't...

I suppose it's only natural given the circumstances of her death, and for that matter the way she lived her life, but please don't try to make comparisons to the death of Amy Winehouse and other members of the so-called 27 club...those musicians who passed at the all-to-young age of 27 years old.

While she was extremely talented, Winehouse really doesn't have the musical legacy to be compared to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and even Kurt Cobain, all members of "the club." Winehouse's death is more a sad statement about the current state of celebrity then it is about some great loss for music fans.

A quick scan of the news reports regarding Winehouse's death tells you all you need to know; with numerous reports of "celebrities" taking to Twitter to express their "grief" over her passing. Really?! Someone dies and I sum up my feelings in 140 characters or less? The pack includes among others; Kelly Osbourne (famous for being Ozzy's kid), AutoTune queens Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Demi Lovato, and TV host Carson Daly (will someone please tell me who this guy has photos of with farm animals? Could there be a less talented waste of space, who continues to get work?)

Yes Winehouse had talent...which she squandered and eventually threw away. Sorry if I'm not one of those bleeding hearts who think drug and alcohol addiction is a disease. Winehouse chose her lifestyle; many others have chosen to save their lives and their talent over their addiction. So her passing, while sad, really ends up being a waste.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Review: Robert B. Parker - Sixkill

For me, it was bittersweet to read Sixkill by Robert B. Parker. Since his passing in January of 2010, a handful of books that he had in the pipeline have been released, but Sixkill will be the final book in the series of novels featuring hardboiled, but tender, Boston P I, Spenser.

A friend introduced me to Parker/Spenser and I was hooked from the start. I quickly worked my way through the back catalog and continued to voraciously gobble up each new edition to the series. Along the way Parker added a couple of new denizens to the Boston ‘burbs, in the form of Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall, who joined the long list of colorful, quirky characters that filled the pages of his books.

Parker was a master at drawing compelling characters who while often habitually flawed; they almost uniformly do the right thing and make the honorable thing. Sixkill adds the character Zebulon Sixkill, a Cree Indian, who works as a body guard and ends up under Spenser’s sizable wing.

Parker does a masterful job of drawing Sixkill’s background from a child on the res, to the college football field and into the seedier side of Hollywood celebrity body guarding.

Along the way Spenser hones Sixkill’s skills and prepares him for the final showdown and crossing swords, or in this case a Bowie knife and .40 Smith and Wesson, with a sadistic hit man out to kill them.
It makes Parker’s passing all the more sad; Sixkill is a good fit to join the long list of hard men, skilled with hands and weapons, like: Hawk, Vinnie Morris, Chollo, Bobby Horse, Ty Bop, and Junior.

While I see that Michael Brandman, the television producer responsible for the Tom Selleck movie’s featuring Jesse Stone, is set to continue that series with the new book, Killing The Blues set for release this September, I’m not sure Parker’s estate should strike a similar deal to continue the Spenser series. Some things are better left the way they are.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Salt - DVD

Aside from her much talked about beauty, famous puffed up lips that launched a thousand fantasies, ongoing tabloid romance with Brad Pitt and serial adoptions, I can’t quite figure out why Angelina Jolie is famous. After watching the DVD release of her latest big-screen thriller, Salt, I had to go back through her filmography to see if she actually ever actually starred in a truly memorable or remarkable movie. The conclusion, is no, not really.

Salt does nothing to change that. While I am a big fan of books and movies that start quickly and get to the action quickly, Salt, the story of a CIA agent who turns out to be a Russian sleeper spy, gets off to a fast paced start that turns into a bang-bang shoot ‘em, car chase in search of a plot.

Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. Australian director Phillip Noyce (The Bone Collector/Clear and Present Danger) backfills the storyline with a seemingly endless string of flashbacks, filling in the blanks on Jolie’s character Evelyn Salt’s romance, marriage and even her childhood recruitment into a Russian sleeper spy school.

If you’re the type of person who likes to have at least one foot grounded in reality, then forget about Salt; which mixes some suspended reality, high-flying stunts with Jolie turned into a one women wrecking crew that slices through a stack of highly trained tough guys, like a hot knife through butter.

Even novice fiction detectives will be able to spot the obvious double-cross fairly early on in the action. What Noyce tries to pass off as plot twists to throw the viewer off track or to raise doubt about Salt’s conversion from the dark side end up being fairly transparent.

Try as they might with non-stop action, in the end, Evelyn Salt is no Jason Bourne and Angelina Jolie is still more famous for her plumped up kisser than her acting ability.