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Time to repot for life indoors

Fall is the time to repot houseplants. During the short daylight hours of late fall, winter and early spring, most houseplants don’t produce much top growth. This rule is especially true of plants that live outdoors during the summer.
    For a plant to grow in a container, it needs room for new roots. Plants are root-bound when their roots fill the pot. Root-bound plants generally stop producing top growth, and they often start blooming profusely. If the roots are left undisturbed, the plants often develop mysterious symptoms. If you ignore the symptoms, the plants deteriorate.
    Repotting does not necessarily mean putting plants into larger containers. Most house plants can be repotted by simply removing the root ball from the container, shaking it to loosen the roots, cutting out some roots and cutting other roots in half to make room for more rooting medium. The freshened plant can be returned to the same container.
    What’s in that new medium makes a big difference in the health of the plant.
    Most commercial potting materials contain mostly peat moss, perlite or vermiculite and milled pine bark. These soilless rooting media should not be called potting soil. They are generally amended with commercial fertilizers sufficient to support plant growth for six to eight weeks. Unless you fertilize these plants after two months of growth, they often show nutrient-deficiency symptoms such as yellowing or dropping bottom leaves.
    Amending commercial medium by one-third volume of compost, such as LeafGro, improves them and reduces your need to fertilize.
    You can achieve better results by making your own potting soil or soilless rooting medium.
    For a good soilless mix, blend equal parts by volume of LeafGro, peat moss and perlite. For every gallon of peat moss, add two heaping tablespoons of dolomitic limestone. Peat moss is very dry; moisten it well during mixing. Store the unused rooting medium in a plastic bag so it will remain moist.
    To make potting soil, mix equal parts by volume garden soil, compost from your garden or commercial compost and perlite. Place the blend in a microwaveable container and microwave at full power for 15 minutes for each gallon of potting soil. Cool before using.
    If more than one-third of your potting soils comes from the garden, repot in porous clay pots rather than glazed or plastic one. Unless soil is very sandy, it holds water and can rot roots without good evaporation.
    Plants potted in mixes containing garden soil don’t need as much water or fertilizer as plants growning in soilless media.
    In porous clay pots, plants growing in soilless rooting media will dry out more rapidly, thus requiring more frequent watering. More frequent watering takes more frequent fertilizing.
    Your plants do better when you give them the pot that’s right for their rooting medium.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

The fish gods may just deliver

I was re-exploring some old territory higher up in one of our broader tributaries when the strike finally came. Working a quiet shoreline in the early morning, I cast out a half-ounce Saltwater Chug Bug near the broad entrance to a tidal pond.
    With just a soft twitch, the lure spit a bit of water, then sank from sight. I wasn’t sure it had been taken by a fish until my rod tip dipped and the line moved up current. Coming tight, I cinched the fish up, and the surface erupted, removing all doubt.
    Launching my skiff earlier that morning, I made a vague and silent promise of especially good personal behavior if the fish gods would only grant me a few rockfish. Later I realized I should have been a little more explicit.

Fickle Fall
    “It’s not all that difficult to catch a rockfish,” a friend of mine once opined. “What is difficult is catching them the way you want to catch them.” He was talking about top-water fishing in the shallows, and his words are ringing especially true this season.
    Surface fishing in the skinny water is a fall activity and generally best at high tides in early morning or evening. Rockfish don’t feel comfortable feeding around a shallow shoreline unless they have low light and a little extra water under their bellies.
    But my recent efforts had been complicated, and mostly thwarted, by wind, too much of it for comfort or consistently from the wrong direction. If the weather was fishable at all, the stiff autumn breezes tended to either hold up an incoming tide (leaving too little water), push it out too early (same effect) or thrash the area too much for working surface plugs.
    Additional complications were the wild temperature swings and the recent full moon. Those two forces seemed to scatter both the bait and the feeding game fish, making finding them difficult. All of these conditions combined for more or less the same results: very few fish, especially top-water types.

Answered Prayers
    This morning, luck seemed heading my direction. Playing the striper gently, I led it to the side of the boat, lifted it in and took its picture. It was my first landing in days, and I wanted solid proof.
    Throwing back out to the same place resulted in an immediate and enthusiastic reception, but I missed the hook set. Working back to the other side of the inlet, I let the area rest a few minutes before throwing another cast back into the sweet spot. It was rewarded by an instant attack and a fish much bigger than the first.
    This guy zigzagged all over the place, throwing water and raising a ruckus before I won. Then I gave the inlet a good 10 minutes to calm down. Suspecting a good gathering of fish, I didn’t want to flush them out with too much activity all at once.
    That proved wise, as after a decent interval I hooked another fat rockfish, then another. I spent a pleasant time on that one site, hooking a striper, fighting and landing it, then waiting until things calmed down before I resumed casting. Six fish landed and three lost seemed like an excellent return as well as one of the more productive outings I’ve had this fall.
    After the morning’s shallow-water bite died off, I kicked the boat up on plane and headed out to deeper water to find some channel edges to fish.
    In my early morning prayer, I had asked to catch rockfish, and indeed I did. The fish measured only 12 inches, the smallest five.

Temptation awaits at the Boat Show

We Americans love progress. We love to see how technology is surpassing all past inventions to create a new, better and brighter future. Even more than seeing it, we love hands-on exploration. Invite us to put our best foot forward and step right in, and here we come.
    No wonder we’re drawn like magnets by the U.S. Boat Shows — which for two weeks every October transform Annapolis into a world’s fair of marine technology.
    We not only see what’s new but touch it. We not only touch it but step aboard. We not only step aboard but sink into the cushions, inspect the engine, open the cupboards and even measure the comfort of the head. These boat shows are full sensory experiences.
    To the Sailboat Show last week or the Powerboat Show this Thursday through Sunday, we go hungry.
    With everything new under the sun before us, what we’ve already got pales. The millionaire owner of the Hinckley Talaria 43 will be eying the 52-foot upgrade this week.
    Every one of us who exchanges $18 for the wristband that allows passage into this expo will be in the same no-longer-quite-satisfactory boat. We’ll be checking out the next step up. Exhibitors feed our desire, typically offering a range of models in every brand so we can dream bigger.
    The fisherman committed to Parkers will find six models, ranging from 18 feet to 33. Not to be outdone, Grady White offers five fishing boats, from 23 to 33 feet. Prefer Sea Hunts? Six boats are coming to the show, from 19 to 25 feet.
    The stages of temptation are even worse for yachters: Beneteaus from 44 to 51 feet; Jeanneaus from 40 to 58 feet; Princess yachts from 46 to 72.
    Speed lovers will find eight Formulas, from 38 to 48 feet. Tug lovers who want to cruise through life’s waters encounter just as much temptation. From a 33-plus-foot Nordic starter tug, you can upgrade your cruising home to 39 or even 44 feet.
    Is a Nordic still your love boat? With brands strung out on floating docks for easy comparison, you’ll see the Nordic stacks up to American Tug and the Rangers. Maybe you’ll fall in love all over again.
    This show lures us to better as well as bigger. Bayliners are fine; SeaRays finer. Wouldn’t a Back Cove be more commodious than your Albin? Wouldn’t a Saber be better still?
    If you count covetousness a sin, the confessional had better be your next stop after the U.S. Boat Show.
    I’ll be sinning in all these occasions. But what I’m really looking for is the boat that calls me out of my ­pretty-good present into a bigger, better, bright future that’s beyond my imagining.
    A couple of years back, the Eco Trawler 33 nearly reeled me in; husband Bill had to take the checkbook out of my hand and lead me away.
    That boat’s back. Will I feel the same this year? I can’t wait to see.
    A rational decision-maker like Bob Melamud, who previews the Powerboat Show for you in this week’s paper, can enter these gates alone. He knows what he wants — luckily for him it isn’t a boat — and what he’s willing to pay.
    Me? I don’t dare go alone. If you’re impulsive, you had better not either.
    No matter who you are, I bet you leave the show with at least one wonder of technology, one hallmark of progress.
    Maybe you won’t be cruising home when the show ends Sunday in the boat of your dreams. But just maybe this weekend you’ll buy that smart fish finder that’s sure to improve your catch. Or the perfect mop you’ve been seeking all these years. Or the boat wax guaranteed to shine through a whole season.
    If you walk out empty handed, I want to know how you did it. If you don’t, I want to know what you bought. Send me your boat show experiences at editor@bayweekly.com.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Its far side is always dark to us

The dark hours at week’s end are still brightened by the glow of the waning Hunter’s Moon, which rises mid-evening and dominates the night sky until daybreak. On clear days this week, you may even see the moon in the west after sunrise.
    Over the weekend, the moon travels with the constellation Taurus. Friday it is 10 degrees to the right of the Pleiades star cluster while the bull’s red eye Aldebaran is a little farther below the moon. The brightests stars of the Pleiades form a small but distinct dipper, which makes up the bull’s back. Saturday the moon is much closer to Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster, which makes up the bull’s face. If the moonlight is too much to discern these stars, wait a day or two until the waning moon has shifted to the west.
    Just like here on earth, half the moon is always illuminated by the sun and the other half facing away from the sun. But as the angle between the sun, earth and moon changes, so does the portion of the moon’s illuminated face that we can see. With the moon waning, the angle is closing, obscuring more of the lunar surface behind earth’s shadow. This darkened section of the moon still faces earth and should not be confused with the so-called dark side of the moon. Better to think of that as the far side of the moon, which faces away from earth. The far side is still bathed in sunlight — we are just never in a position to witness it.
    The moon rotates on its own axis, with one side facing the sun for about two weeks and then facing away from the sun the next two weeks. Over billions of years, earth’s stronger gravitational pull has slowed the moon’s rotation to the point that it spins in synch with its pace around the earth. As a result, one side of the moon faces earth only during new phase, when it is between us and the sun, obscured by the light of day. So we never see the far side of the moon.
    Mars and Saturn pop into view in the wake of the setting sun. Saturn is sinking fast and is visible for less than an hour. Mars is well to the east of Saturn but not quite as bright. Don’t confuse it for the similarly hued star Antares, the heart of the Scorpion wriggling below.
    Jupiter rises around 2am and is high overhead in the east as morning approaches. Over the next month this gaseous giant climbs higher and grows brighter in our pre-dawn sky.

Dry fall following wet summer makes a good show

This year will bring spectacular fall foliage coloration — provided it stays dry.
    That’s what I told the Bay Weekly reader asking for my prediction.
    More rain means that more of the leaves will remain green for a longer period of time, thus reducing the intensity of the red, orange and yellow. If we have a dry fall, a higher percentage of the leaves will turn color at the same time. But because of drier conditions, the foliage will not last long.
    This prediction is made based on our abundance of rain that kept the foliage lush all summer long. Thus, the leaves of deciduous trees have generated an abundance of carotene and anthocyanins, the pigments that generate the red, yellow and orange colors in leaves. Those compounds are present in each leaf but masked by chlorophyll. That chlorophyll deteriorates as days cool and daylight hours shorten, and nitrogen — a major component of chlorophyll — migrates from the leaf tissues down the petiole to accumulate around the vegetative bud at the base of each leaf. 
    In years with a dry growing season, foliage is less lush, and deciduous trees have less foliage. If a dry growing season is followed by a dry fall, the foliage will be bright but of very short duration. If the growing season is dry and we have a wet fall, the foliage will be muted but slow dropping from the branches.
    Not all tree species generate the same colors. Maple trees are known for their bright red and orange colors, while the ash tree is easily recognized by its yellow fall color. A hill in New Hampshire is called Red Hill because most of the trees growing there are sugar and red maples. That hill is highly visible; many make a yearly pilgrimage to see it.
    In southern Maryland, we are lucky because we have an abundance of dogwoods that often begin showing their red colors in late summer. Near wetlands, we have sweet gum and black gum, which contribute red to purple-red colors and are most plentiful. Red maples provide a splash of red to orange-red in both wetlands and on hillsides.
    If we have a dry fall, the scarlet oaks should be spectacular with their deep red leaves. Most of the other oak species provide only a limited amount of yellowing before dropping their leaves. 
    Enjoy.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Exploring marriage and other horrors

Can you ever really know the person you’re married to? You can know their usual Chinese food order, maybe anticipate their tastes in art and music. But do you ever know what’s going on in your spouse’s head?
    Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck: Runner, Runner) meets his soul mate at a party in New York. Amy (Rosamund Pike: Hector and the Search for Happiness) is a catch: beautiful, brilliant and wealthy. After marriage, they remain the ideal couple. Even when the economy tanks, forcing them back to Nick’s Missouri home, they appear blissfully in love.
    Until Nick comes home to a house littered with broken glass and overturned tables — and Amy gone. Police find Nick very calm and the scene suspicious.
    Was Amy kidnapped? Or were there cracks in this perfect marriage?
    Obsessing over the missing wife, the media seek a story for their viewers. Amy emerges as an angel and Nick as Suspect Number One. He’s too polite, too smarmy, not worried enough. When Amy’s diary appears, it offers a damning portrayal of the man at the center of the mystery. Soon, the 24/7 news coverage has convinced Nick’s neighbors, the American viewing audience and the police that there’s something wrong with the way Nick Dunne searches for his wife.
    Is an innocent man a media scapegoat? Or is something sinister lurking beneath the shiny veneer of the Dunne union?
    Gone Girl is a domestic drama turned horror movie. Director David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) explores just how scary marriage can be in this adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel.
    A master of dark and mysterious visuals and horror movie tropes, Fincher creates a fascinating thriller from the twisting novel. He is at his best exploring media scrutiny. In a beautiful sequence that makes Nick look like the Frankenstein Monster running for the hills, Fincher turns a candlelight vigil into a torch-wielding mob scene.
    As the couple whose marriage curdles in its fifth year, Affleck and Pike are superb. Affleck, who endured heavy and often cruel media scrutiny over his relationships 10 years ago, seems born for the part of media-beleaguered Nick. His face is too perfect, his smile too bright and his reactions seem off. He’s exactly the kind of man who invites mistrust.
    Pike is the real find in this marital horror show. Fierce, beautiful and whip smart, she is a pillar of domestic bliss one moment and a tragic victim the next. Her large eyes remaining unreadable, Pike makes her Amy a woman obsessed with keeping up appearances. When the shell cracks, Pike revels in revealing the creature beneath.
    This movie will make you take a long hard look at your beloved.

Great Thriller • R • 149 mins.

It brings us boat shows for one; holds back flooding for another

Over the next two weeks, the U.S. Boat Shows flood the economy of Chesapeake Country with $50 million. In Annapolis, the shows create an autumnal wetland of value, invigorating much of the local economy. From Annapolis, the dollars flow outward in many rivulets to the boating world.
    Chesapeake Bay has brought the shows to Annapolis for four decades.
    The recreational dollars generated by these shows are one small part of the wealth the Bay brings us, which amounts to $107.2 billion annually, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Clean up the Bay, and the value will rise to $130 billion every year. That’s the conclusion of The Economic Benefits of Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, a “first-ever analysis” just released by CBF.
    All six Bay states, plus the District of Columbia, share in the bounty.
    Just how is that figured?
    It’s pretty deep economics. But basically, seven land uses — from forest to open water to agriculture — were first assigned baseline values of ecosystem health and productivity. Baseline figures were calculated and compared according to what we citizens choose — or don’t choose — to do to take care of Chesapeake Country waters and lands.
    The billions in benefits come to us in many forms, including agricultural and seafood production, recreation, property values, air and water filtration and protection from floods and hurricanes.
    Invest the $5 or $6 billion the big cleanup will cost Bay wide, and economic benefits soar to that big $130 billion figure.
    Make excuses for doing little or nothing, and the Bay gives us less in return. Received annual value drops from the 2009 baseline of $107.2 billion down to $101 billion.
    Billions are pretty hard to grasp. What those billions mean for us, our kids and our grandchildren are real economic benefits such as higher housing values and more productive soil and land.
    Drinking water is another real value, especially as water scarcity becomes an issue for the world, from California across the Southwest and on to drying wells in Chesapeake Country. Three-quarters of the 17 million people in the Bay watershed drink surface water, with many straws sucking from the Potomac.
    Short-term thinkers are trying to convince you that Bay restoration is a bottomless pit of spending and regulation.
    It’s true that cleaning up the Bay is a big and expensive job that demands each of us to do and pay our share.
    But it’s a job with big dividends.
    In our neck of the woods, a cleaner Bay translates directly into dollars-and-cents value.
    Take the tourists drawn by the Chesapeake, for example. Tourists — many arriving right now for this month’s boat shows — spent an eye-popping $58 billion in 2009. That money fed the economies of waterfront communities up and down the Bay and is distributed “among diverse industries, individuals and communities” throughout the watershed.
    Take flood control for another. High-tide floods may triple in 15 years and increase ten-fold in 30 years in many coastal towns, according to another report, this one just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The study stretched from Texas to Maine. In Atlantic Coast communities, increases in flooding are expected to be “pervasive.”
    In Annapolis, 2030 could bring 180 tidal floods a year. 2045 could bring 360 floods a year, 50 of them extensive. “Without substantial measures to defend against rising seas … parts of Annapolis could never be dry again.”
    The may in the Concerned Scientists’ study depends on what we do — or don’t do.
    That’s one more reason for us to stop complaining and get to work.
    The Bay Foundation study proves for the first time and without a doubt that Chesapeake restoration is far more than a government excuse to take your money and wrap you in red tape. It’s a vital economic issue for all of us in Chesapeake Country.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

The fishing is great; the ­dangers of hypothermia grave

Finally I had to face it; with morning temperatures in the low 50s, socks are a necessity. With regret, I moved my fishing shorts and warm-weather shirts into winter storage last week. Hauling my insulated long-sleeved undershirts and heavyweight long pants from the back of the closet broke the final link with summer. It’s going to be pretty much a cold-weather game from here on out.
    The good news is that the fishing is getting more exciting. With rockfish and bluefish gathering and feeding up for the winter, breaking schools are going to become more and more common. Tossing lures into a cauldron of feeding game fish always provides exciting memories to hold us over until next spring.
    However, there is a serious downside to the colder weather, especially on the water. Hypothermia is a medical term that describes the condition that occurs when your body begins losing heat faster than it can produce it. It’s a dangerous condition. About 1,000 people in the U.S. die from hypothermia every year.
    We are warm-blooded mammals, and our bodies operate under an optimal temperature of approximately 98.6 degrees. Our internal organs — particularly the heart, liver and blood vessels — generate and regulate heat. But if our core body temperature drops more than three degrees, we experience physical and mental dysfunction. From lethargy and confusion, eventual unconsciousness and even death can follow.
    The very old and the very young are at particular risk of hypothermia, the elderly because their bodies have lost some ability to regenerate and regulate heat, the very young because their small body mass can lose temperature rapidly. Extra care must be taken when they are on the water during cold weather.
    During summer months the spray blowing onto us from a moving boat is a refreshing way to cool off, but in the winter that experience invites trouble. The body loses heat much faster when it becomes wet, 25 times faster when immersed.
    A sudden rainsquall in October is no longer just inconvenient and uncomfortable. It now becomes dangerous. Worse is falling overboard. Immersion in 45-degree water can result in loss of dexterity and onset of confusion within five minutes, unconsciousness within 30 minutes and death within an hour — if the victim has not drowned first.
    Waterproof, windproof and heat-retentive clothing are our primary defenses against hypothermia. Foul-weather coats and pants are not only proof against rain and sleet; they are also protection from the wind and help retain body warmth. Fleece, synthetic insulators and wool are ideal heat retainers. Down should be avoided because once it becomes wet, it loses its insulating qualities.
    Don’t ignore gloves and footwear. Although our extremities are not critical to our inner core temperature, getting cold hands or feet is extremely uncomfortable. Both neoprene and wool are excellent materials in harsh marine environments. Always wear a warm hat. It is a myth that the body loses 90 percent of its heat through the head — but not if that’s your only unclothed part.
    Warm beverages give our inner core an extra shot of warmth. Hot cocoa, coffee, tea or plain hot water are effective antidotes to the onset of chill. Avoid or minimize alcohol intake. Alcohol actually promotes body cooling by dilating blood vessels, while giving the illusion of warmth.
    Bring extra clothing on board. When a person gets wet, get them immediately into warm, dry clothes. A Mylar or space blanket is an inexpensive, compact and effective item in your cold weather emergency kit. The blanket is waterproof and significantly reduces heat loss.
    Once ashore, the quickest way to restore the body’s core temperature is a warm (not hot) bath or shower. Avoid exposure to any form of extreme heat. The skin becomes very insensitive during episodes of hypothermia, and burn injuries are much more easily incurred than they would be otherwise.
    Cold-weather fishing on the Chesapeake is often fantastic, even better than in more temperate periods. Go prepared for good experiences and great stories. Ignore the accompanying danger at your own peril.

Find Lothian-grown pumpkins from around the world at Riva Farmers Market

Your search for the perfect pumpkin may end at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market, where Ray and Sonja Wood of Lothian, with grandson Brandon Myers, offer a bumper crop of heritage pumpkins from around the world.
    Some are huge: not pumpkin-catapulting huge, but pumpkin-carving-contest-worthy. As Jack-o’-lanterns or on uncarved display, they’re great.
    Decoration was the couple’s original pumpkin plan.
    Ray, who grew up on a dairy farm, took up pumpkin-growing about 15 years ago to ease into retirement after a career as an electronics engineer. “It keeps us active, but it doesn’t pay much,” he says from the tailgate of one of the two pickup trucks he uses to haul the pumpkins to market usually starting in late September.
    But customers wanted pumpkins they could eat, too. Specific pumpkins. One wanted a Long Island Cheese pumpkin. Others followed with requests for pumpkins they’d grown up with. That launched the Woods into growing heritage pumpkins from all over the world, including France, Thailand, Italy and Australia.
    The Woods also grow gourds, which are purely decorative.
    Every year, they harvest about three acres of winter squash and pumpkins, including the green and orange Fairy Tale, Blue Hubbard, long and appropriately named Pink Banana, and one of Sonja Wood’s favorites, Galeaux d’Eysines, a warty French pumpkin that’s good in pies, soups and pumpkin bread.
    All pumpkins are, technically, squashes, but there are differences. Winter squashes tend to have a stronger taste and hold their shape better, Sonja says. Pumpkins, which tend to be milder, don’t retain their shape as well. Some, like Pink Banana, offer both ­qualities.
    The tough skins of winter squash and pumpkins help to preserve them through winter. Their mild flavor means they can be used in a variety of ways: soups, stews, breads and pies, or cubed and baked with a little butter, maple syrup and balsamic for a side dish.
    Food historian and heritage grower William Woys Weaver says that the darker orange flesh around the seeds is the tastiest part of the pumpkin.
    “There’s nothing here I don’t eat,” Ray Wood says. “My wife finds some easier to prepare than others.”
    Washed, dried and kept in an unlighted, cool (50-degree) area, pumpkins and winter squash will last for months. Cooked pumpkin, roasted or steamed, can be peeled, cooled and frozen for later use.
    Seeds are also edible. Roast washed, seasoned seeds for a snack. Or save the seeds and try to grow your own. Cucurbits cross readily, so you might be surprised by what develops; allow plenty of space for these vining plants.
    Find your perfect pumpkin at the market through October 25.

Denzel Washington puts power tools to bloody good use in this action thriller

To the employees of HomeMart, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington: Two Guns) is a teddy bear. He shows off dance moves on breaks, helps an overweight employee train to become a security guard and has a kind word for all. His coworkers speculate on Bob’s former occupation: teacher or Wall Street tycoon gone broke?
    A widower, he lives like a monk in a sterile apartment with books and few modern conveniences. When the solitude gets to him, he visits the local diner to sip tea and read in the neon glare. Here he befriends Teri, a young prostitute for the Russian mob (Chloë Grace Moretz: If I Stay). They talk books, dreams and fate, while Bob proposes Teri consider a less fraught career path.
    When Teri’s pimp beats her into the ICU, Bob returns to his past as a CIA wetworker. The mob, in turn, must figure out who is massacring foot soldiers before losing the entire East Coast operation.
    This blood-soaked vengeance yarn based on a popular 1980s’ television show has more in common with Death Wish than with primetime television. Director Antoine Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen) takes his time unleashing Bob into stunning, tense and gory action sequences that have audiences cheering and gasping.
    Fuqua doesn’t waste time on script or subtle characterization. His love is action clichés. In his hands, you see how effective a rain-soaked, slow-motion showdown can be. He also mines all the violent potential of the HomeMart store. I’ll never look at yard clippers the same way again.
    Women do better than usual in this action film. Yes, Teri is brutalized. But she remains a daughter figure rather than becoming Bob’s girlfriend. For a feminist twist on the CIA handler, ­Melissa Leo is cast as a powerful ally.
    Washington’s range from charming to terrifying is a wonder. This is his movie. He fires a gun and wields a corkscrew believably, but it’s his acting that makes Bob compelling. When Bob lets loose his murderous talents, Washington transforms him up to his eyes, which go from lively to dead.
    The Equalizer is a classic action movie. Watching it, you’ll shovel popcorn into your mouth, cheer, scream and hope that if you’re ever in trouble, Denzel Washington has your back.

Great Action • R • 131 mins.