Friday, March 29, 2013
C. Hope Clark has the best opening line I have read in quite some time: "O-positive primer wasn't quite the color I had in mind for the small office, but Lucas Sherwood hadn't given the décor a second thought when he blew out the left side of his head with a .45." I was hooked.
Hope's descriptions don't end with that beautiful Tarantino-esque opening. In what sounds at first like the last thing I would ever read - an agricultural mystery in the Deep South - Hope delivers fast paced, easy reading, absolutely compelling prose. Her sense of place and people put you there, and the tension and twists don't let you put the book down. I read it in one sitting, and I don't do that often. I loved the characters, and the edge. And this is coming from someone for whom mysteries are just not in the wheelhouse.
Carolina Slade Bridges is a strong female protagonist, a good woman drawn from equal parts Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Cornwell, and Elmore Leonard. She's tough, she's harsh, she's by the book, and quite often, she's Hope Clark herself - or at least the woman, mentor, and friend I have come to know after a decade of interviewing her at The Writer's Chatroom. It's no secret the book is loosely based on real events, but how close, no one's talking. Any way you slice it, Slade (don't call her Carolina) rocks, and I can't wait for the next installment - TIDEWATER MURDER, due next month. Four stars out of four, highly recommended.
Buy the book here, and be sure to come by The Writer's Chatroom this Sunday evening for a chat/interview with the author.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Denmark - "Only Teardrops" by Emmelie de Forest
Hmmm… someone needs a new conditioner. Seriously, this one is a contender. Catchy tune, part ballad, lotsa drums, traditional flute, and a beautiful woman, and not too outrageous - if there was a formula for Eurovision, this would be it.
Estonia - "Et Uus Saaks Alguse" by Birgit
Estonia is usually a fierce competitor, but this year we just get a ballad.
Ireland - "Only Love Survives" by Ryan Dolan
No Jedward or Dustin the Turkey this year, Ireland gets a bit more serious about the competition with this Ryan Dolan entry that continues to grow on me every time I hear it.
Lithuania - "Something" by Andrius Pojavis
I'm not sure which is more bizarre, the background dancers, or the Abraham Lincoln drag… craziness in the Eurovision tradition, love it.
Moldova - "O Mie" by Aliona Moon
Wow, that is some outfit, and a lot of hairspray… pretty song though.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
"House of Cards" is based on the book(s) by Michael Dobbs, and the BBC miniseries that followed by Andrew Davies. Originally set in British Parliament, show developer and producer Beau Willimon adapted the concept to Washington DC and the US Capitol for American viewers. Spacey is an ambitious Congressman manipulating his way to the top with almost demonic precision and sly fourth wall breaking asides to the viewers at home. There are Emmy caliber performances by all involved, but I wonder if it will be eligible for the Emmys?
The compelling characters, I tense stories, and terrific performances will keep you coming back episode after episode. It also has the likes of David Fincher, James Foley, and Joel Schumacher in the director's chair. This is a series worthy of HBO, Showtime, or AMC, yeah, it's that good. I highly recommend it. I just don't know what I'll be doing until season two comes out...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Austria - "Shine!" by Natália Kelly
"Shine!" has a slow build, but it's got more energy than the usual Eurovision entry. I like this one, and in a year with so many beautiful and sexy women competing, Natália Kelly is no slouch.
Belarus - "Solayoh" by Alyona Lanskaya
Go, Belarus, pretty girls, drums, and dancing is what Eurovision is all about. Another strong entry - what did I say about this being a good year?
Belgium - "Love Kills" by Roberto
Not a happy song, but the music is upbeat, and he's cute.
Croatia - "Mižerja" by Klapa s Mora
Sort of a man band as opposed to a boy band. Zzzzz…
Cyprus - "An Me Thimase" by Despina Olympiou
I was surprised to see Cyprus competing this year, considering that nation's financial problems. Most likely, if they win, they would not be able to host the following year. Although, it's just another Eurovision ballad with little to differentiate it from the rest - I don't think they have to worry about winning…
You can see all the Eurovision entries for 2013 here.
Even with the terrific cast, a script based on the popular play The Honorable Mr. Wong, and the brilliant direction of William Wellman, there is much to shame this film by today's standards. Besides the non-code depictions of narcotics and adultery, the politically incorrect use if the word Oriental, and violence typical of this era, there's the fact that this is the equivalent of an Asian minstrel show - the majority of the actors are whites portraying Asians.
When the tongs go to war, it's not like a John Woo or Ringo Lam flick, but it does match up to the gangster films of its day, and you do get to see some fancy hatchet work. If you can get past the make-up and the stereotypes, this one's worth watching.
Friday, March 22, 2013
In the opening sequence, Helena corners her gangster father's lawyer in a strip club. She's looking for her father who's in an FBI safe house. In a nice touch, Helena is wearing a pseudo-stripper costume quite similar to one of the costumes the Huntress wore in the comics. And of course, she still has her crossbow. And like former flame Oliver, her taste for blood.
Also in that folder, Oliver's club is about to open, and he's getting more than serious about McKenna, sounds like the perfect time for psycho ex-girlfriend vigilantes to come calling. Oh yeah, and Mia ran into Roy again, and tried to get him employed at the club. Is there a romance between the two potential Speedies brewing? It's funny, but they'd be perfect for each other. They like all the same stuff...
Thursday, March 21, 2013
His books, The Fog (unrelated to the James Carpenter film), The Rats and its sequels, and especially The Dark were early influences on my writing just as much as King in that genre. He was extremely prolific, pumping out a book a year during the 1980s and slowing down as the years went on.
Author James Herbert passed away yesterday at the age of 69. The man will be missed, but his work will live on. If you're a fan of King, I urge you to seek out Herbert's books, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, and horrified.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
At the beginning of the Cold War, our greatest fear was nuclear attack from the Russians. This was a short subject shown in theaters to teach folks what to do in case the unthinkable happened - they dropped The Atomic Bomb. Talk about hysteria! They'd never do anything like today, it might upset someone's sensibilities. Thank goodness for political correctness. Sarcasm mode off.
This instructional film is definitely a product of its time, so filled with paranoia and hysteria that it probably was a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing as much paranoia and hysteria as it itself was filled with. Probably the scariest thing for me was how scared the kids in this film looked. Both an entertaining and frightening time capsule.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The other obstacle (or perhaps it's a good thing, for the new show at least) is the many folks who are watching who have no point of reference for Norman Bates. I know it's hard to believe, but it's a factor. After all, believe it or not, there were teenagers watching "Smallville" who didn't get the Superman (or Superboy) references and thought it was just a cross between "The X-Files" and "Beverly Hills 90210." Certainly that worked. Half the audience was there for the soap opera, and half for the pseudo-superhero stuff. Perhaps "Bates Motel" might just work as a show about a gawky kid with a overbearing mother who run a creepy motel, period.
On their latest 'start over,' they buy an old motel foreclosed on by the bank. When a even creepier neighbor starts to harass them because the motel and property had been in his family for decades, well, things escalate. He breaks in, rapes Norma, and Norman saves her, after which Mom finishes the job, killing the attacker. Don't call the police, we'll cover this up ourselves is Norma's battle cry. We kinda start to get the vibe maybe Dad's death wasn't quite what it seemed.
For a different view, be sure to check out my friend and fellow writer Marie Gilbert's review over at Biff Bam Pop!.
Monday, March 18, 2013
What immediately pulled me in about this documentary was that the narrator seems to think that as well. As a matter of fact, his perspective and sense of time and space were mine. That commonality made this doc somehow more personal.
By the time the documentarian is actually accepted by Paul Williams, I was hooked and in for the whole ride. Really I would have watched anything at this point, but man, what a treat that it was really good. Writer/director Stephen Kessler is that good, I would have watched a doc about squid if that's what it became.
The actual doc subject however is Paul Williams. The thing is, this isn't just a bio of an amazing songwriter, singer, and pop culture icon - it's also a tale of his fall and redemption. At the time if this doc, Williams was not only on tour, but also twenty years sober and a licensed drug rehab counselor. And it's also the story of the friendship between the filmmaker and his subject.
Whether you watch it as a Paul Williams fan, as a time capsule of the 1970s, or just as a darned good documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive is definitely worth watching. Check it out.
Friday, March 15, 2013
here, but it's just not the same.
This month at the Biff Bam Pop! pop culture website, it's Mighty Marvel Month, and to celebrate, I have jumped back onto the Avengers bandwagon with a vengeance.
Here's just a sampling of what you'll find:
Avengers NOW!, an overview of the Avengers franchise in the Marvel NOW! era.
Age of Ultron: Book One and Age of Ultron: Book Two, writer Brian Michael Bendis' final storyline for Earth's Mightiest Heroes as their greatest enemy finally wins and takes the Earth.
Avengers Assemble Annual #1, a special spotlight on classic Avenger, the Vision, and his return to greatness.
Avengers #7, and how the New Universe fits into writer Jonathan Hickman's plans for his eighteen member roster of Avengers.
And finally, there's the new trailer for Iron Man 3 right here.
Adam Ant and David Bowie, and of course, you can find all of my Biff Bam Pop! work here!
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Just a few day ago verification of rumors popped up with the announcement that "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" were coming back. Maybe not to their traditional ABC afternoon time slots, but to the internet. Beginning April 29th, at 12 PM, new half-hour episodes of "All My Children" will be available on iTunes, on Hulu, and on Prospect Park's The Online Network.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Sandler is a gawky cruise ship waiter with a bad jewfro who wants to be the ship's comedian after the real one drops dead. His routine is that of a bad Catskills comic from the sixties, and he acts like a whiny and unfunny Jerry Lewis clone when off stage.
Billy Zane, Milton Berle, Terry Moore and in an early cameo, Billy Bob Thornton all embarrass themselves in this mess that was filmed entirely on a cruise ship, with the wrong lenses. Thankfully for them, and unluckily for me, Sandler and Burt Young are on the screen the most. The 'heavy metal' band, I think called Croaker, that sings "I'm gonna slap your cat, upside his head" is probably the only real laugh in the whole movie.
Wow, this sucked. Now I remember why I hated Adam Sandler so much years ago.
Friday, March 08, 2013
elsewhere about why and how much I love the latest animated incarnation of Marvel Comics' the Avengers on Disney XD - "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes."
I loved this series, and now it's over. The word is it was shut down because it did not fit in with the continuity Jeph Loeb had set up with his later "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon. He had a mad Hulk, a teenage Power Man and Iron Fist, and other bits like that. Have I mentioned how much I hate the "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon? It has its merits, don't get me wrong, but it has more wrong with it than right with it. And maybe I'm just old, but the anime and videogame references annoy me.
So a silly teenaged version of the characters, or one based on the movies and the comics - guess which one gets jettisoned? Bingo, goodbye, "Earth's Mightiest Heroes." Mainly because one old man wants all the animated series under his hat to match? Yep, that's why. Do "Mike and Molly" and "The Big Bang Theory" exist in the same universe, and have to adhere to the same continuity rules? No, but if Loeb was in charge, they'd have to.
This is probably a good time to mention while Loeb has done some good work, like "Hush" and "The Long Halloween," he is also responsible for ruining "Heroes," The Ultimates, Superman, and the Challengers of the Unknown. And while he wrote Teen Wolf, any good will there was erased by Teen Wolf Too, which he also penned.
The new replacement series, "Avengers Assemble," might be a continuation of the "Earth's Mightiest Heroes," and then again, it might not. The voice cast is different, and it features new member, the Falcon, joining a team composed of the heroes from the 2012 hit movie, Marvel's The Avengers. Who wants to take bets that Hawkeye will be in his drab, unexciting, movie uniform? You'd win.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
It's that time of year again - Eurovision is coming. The United Kingdom just announced that Bonnie Tyler, of "Total Eclipse of the Heart," will represent them at Eurovision this year.
The song is "Believe in Me," and it's not bad. Hopefully it will be good for more than two points this year.
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
the third episode? Well, he's back. How exactly does one live through something like that anyway?
The episode begins with a bang. Guillermo Barrera, known to comics fans as Nightwing villain, the knife wielding Brutale, shows up in Starling City via helicopter only to be immediately confronted by The Hood. He's got his knives but no costume or bad guy codename. Maybe that's why he lasts less than a minute with our 'hero' before he takes an arrow in the chest.
More scenes with Tommy and Laurel interacting with Oliver and a date, in this case, McKenna - it works out better this time, even though Tommy's dad AKA Merlyn the Magician AKA Captain Jack shows up to spoil the fun. There's also a great bit where Laurel shows McKenna a photo of her sister as a little girl... with a black canary. Other shout outs to the comics this episode include Deadshot living at the Bludhaven apartments, and of course... the first appearance of Riversong herself, Alex Kingston, as Laurel's mom, Dinah Lance.
Back on the island, Slade and Oliver continue their Odd Couple routine, get a radio working and learn more about Fyers' Odyssey obsession. Next time on "Arrow, " three weeks from now, why does the Huntress return (groan), did Malcolm Merlyn meet Ras al Ghul in Nanda Parbat, and who doesn't know Oliver is the vigilante?
Monday, March 04, 2013
This weekend, The Bride and I saw Jack the Giant Slayer at the fabulously remodeled AMC Marlton 8 Theatre, and it wasn't just the great reclining lounger seats that made for a great movie experience - the flick was pretty good too. The big budget CGI send up of the 'Jack and the Beanstalk' story had adventure, horror, romance, and even comedy. I might go so far as to say it reminded me a bit of The Princess Bride. Now let me be clear, it's no Princess Bride, but it had all the hallmarks.
Bryan Singer's take on 'Jack and the Beanstalk' is filled with CGI giants all in need of serious dental care and repair, and a fabulous cast of character actors. Ian McShane from "Deadwood" is excellent as the King, and Ewan McGregor as the protagonist who's not the hero of this story is terrific. However, the leads are only adequate and the actors behind the CGI giants are pretty much unrecognizable. This doesn't stop the flick from being enjoyable, despite the story's simplicity and predictability. There are surprises, and that helps.
This is a great popcorn flick, moves quickly, never bores, and was the perfect film to test out a terrific new theater. Thumbs up all around.
Sunday, March 03, 2013
AMC Marlton Movie Theatre was going to jettison hundreds of seats in order to install new reclining loungers. I thought it was the last gasp of an already dying, perhaps on its last gasp, local theater. My friends and I called it literally 'the dead theater.' There was never anyone there, you always got a parking spot in front, and when the news came that they had finally closed, no one would be surprised. Not in the least.
Allow me to swallow those words.
There was a time, with the T.G.I.Fridays and the long forgotten ice cream parlor in the strip mall, every parking spot was taken and police had to direct traffic within the shopping center, sometimes blocking areas off to kids and other foot traffic. Three months ago, and as far back as maybe a decade ago however, the place was a ghost town. Business had moved elsewhere, into Voorhees with the Ritz, now Rave, and into Cherry Hill with the airport terminal sized and customer unfriendly AMC Loews with a whopping twenty-four theaters.
The lobby got a nice repaint and remodel as well. The refreshment area is a bit different too. Besides new menu items like chicken fingers, chicken sliders, pizza, and oh yes, French fries, there were also two Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. Color me impressed.
The new seats are incredible, reclining loungers that come in pairs where can pull up the arm between them and cuddle. They also come with three cup holders each and touch controls to go up and down. Sooo nice. I did notice the theater's current occupancy was now 115 where it used to be between 200 and 300.
This is an incredible risk for the theater financially, especially when you consider we paid a very reasonable price for two prime time 3D tickets, nearly a third less than we would have paid at the Rave or Loews. I hope it succeeds.
I loved this movie experience. I have a new favorite theater. I can't wait to go back.
Friday, March 01, 2013
Bonnie Franklin, former Tony Award winning Broadway star played the divorced mom raising her two teenaged daughters alone with occasional help from her building's super. It later got and held my attention a couple years later when my hormones refocused on a budding Valerie Bertinelli as one of the daughters.
"One Day at a Time" had a tumultuous nine year run filled with behind the scenes turmoil, but Bonnie Franklin stood tall through it all, winning multiple awards including the Emmy and the Golden Globe. Her portrayal of a single mom was a pioneering role of the time. Since then she has appeared rarely on television, her most recent gig was in an episode of Betty White's "Hot in Cleveland."
Bonnie Franklin passed away this afternoon at her home in Los Angeles from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 69. She will be missed.