Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
I have a confession to make. I have a thing for Supergirl. I love the character, the concept, the costume...I even love the infamous 1984 film in all its overblown campy glory from the colorful production design to Jerry Goldsmith's magnificent score. To this day I still have a crush on Helen Slater.
This book is one of the strongest entries in the spectacular DC Comics relaunch, "The New 52".
"Supergirl" was the perfect title to resurrect with a brand new origin story and Micheal Green and Mike Johnson have delivered a compelling epic told in bold iconic strokes that pay proper homage to the comic book's mythology while creating a strong, young angst-ridden teen-age heroine that will resonate with contemporary readers. The new "Supergirl" is the perfect comic book for fans of YA fantasy adventure novels.
"Supergirl" had a great run during the 2000's under the creative team of writer Peter David and artist Ed Benes. The book became known for the outrageously complex and esoteric storylines, including a period of time when there were two Supergirls on earth from different dimensions. The "Supergirl" run of the 2000's also became known for the sexy and provocative way that Ed Benes drew the two Supergirls.
The artwork in the new book by Mahumud Asar is bold, stylish, and spectacular. But I do still prefer the Jim Lee style of realistic pencils used by Benes. As an added bonus this new book has a character design section on the back, including sketches by Jim Lee.
Bottom line, the new "Supergirl" is a blast and will be enjoyed by anyone who likes colorful and compelling YA fantasy adventure.
One of the great DC books of recent times was the early 2000s "Birds of Prey" written by Gail Simone and penciled by Ed Benes. This book had wonderful characterizations, intelligent plot-lines, and great artwork.
Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl and so is Gail Simone as the writer. The transition of the character from the wheelchair bound Oracle back to Batgirl is well-handled, the adversary she faces worthwhile, and the fast-moving story-line exciting as hell. Bottom line, Gail Simone can write and once again proves when it comes to delivering exciting, fluid story lines featuring young female heroes, she is the best.
This book is the first published collection of the New 52 "Batgirl" run and I am happy to report the book has continued to impress and entertain and now even features Ed Benes as one of the artists.
I really liked this book. I liked it so much, as soon as I finished it, I started reading it again. It is that good.
“Firefly Lane” is the epic story of a friendship between two very different girls—Tully and Kate— who meet in early adolescence and become best friends. The connection they form lasts throughout their teenage years and long into adulthood as both women— along with their friendship—become tested in ways neither of them could have ever imagined all those years ago when they first met and became forever bound to each other one magical night at a place called “Firefly Lane”.
The opening chapters set during adolescence of Tully and Kate are expertly paced and beautifully rendered. Kristin Hannah writes some of the best adolescent viewpoint material I have ever read. The atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest setting works amazing well and the author provides just the right amount of pop culture references to give us a feel of the time span as the story moves from the 70s to the 80s to the 90s and beyond.
But what makes this book special are the two main characters and the unique bond and special friendship they share. Tully and Kate are real people and everything they do and say feels genuine. This is a very easy book to get emotionally involved with.
The flaws in “Firefly” are minor. There is an odd (and unnecessary) plot device used that seems to infer the author has something against spotted owls and environmentalists. The secondary characters sometimes come across as flat stereotypes. And the male characters feel like—well—what male characters always feel like in romance books—a far cry from the all so real characters of Tully and Kate. But these are very minor quibbles. This book is about Tully and Kate and the author wisely keeps us there and in the moment from start to finish.
Kristin Hannah knows how to tell a story with a laser-like deep focus where every chapter, every scene, every paragraph moves the story forward. The writing is crisp, clean, and always clear. There are even moments—many of them actually—where the book flirts with true greatness and feels like a classic work of literature, not a genre novel read for escapism. This is a book that will draw you in. This is a story that will make you feel.
Bottom line: Forget about how this book is categorized. I am not one who actively seeks out what is referred to “Chick-lit”. This is literature—a focused, compelling character based novel with heart. It is about friendship and love and features two wonderfully realized characters that will win you over. This is a book that will take you on an emotional journey—and yes—you may shed a few tears along the way.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
“The Counselor” opens up with a magnificent scene of and sexual intimacy so skillfully acted by Michael Fassbender and Penélope Cruz, it makes us believe that not only will this movie live up to the promise of the trailer, it might even exceed it. And for the first intriguing hour, it does succeed in drawing us into the decadent and dangerous world of high-end money players in the illicit crime world of the drug trade. But then, just as the second act inciting incident occurs, instead of building on the narrative momentum established, the film falls completely flat, wallowing in its bleakness without any rhyme or reason.
“The Counselor” tells the story of high-powered attorney who decides to get involved in a one-time only illegal deal with some of the powerful and connected cliental he represents. Michael Fassbender plays the title character with a simmering charisma and makes an excellent guide for the audience as he navigates through a landscape of materialistic excesses and colorful criminals who spout philosophical soliloquies and confess about bizarre sexual adventures. And throughout the first half of the film, it all appears to be working as director Ridley Scott stages the scenes with the customary flair we have come to expect from the visual auteur.
The writer of the movie is a highly acclaimed novelist and screenwriter and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize. But when it comes to evaluating the story and the choices made by Cormac McCarthy (or whoever did whatever uncredited rewrites there may have been), there is no kind way to put it. The screenplay is a mess. Midway through the second act all the cinematic energy built up in the first act vanishes and the movie comes to a standstill both emotionally and from a narrative perspective. What is worse—what little action that does happen completely betrays what we learned earlier in the film.
Understand, this is not a terrible movie. The first half of the film is entertaining and the performances are memorable. There are even a few early scenes that could be called great. Still, this neo-noir Western material was covered with far better focus in Oliver Stone’s wickedly entertaining and criminally underrated “Savages” (2011).
This is a difficult film to rate. Under the old school four star system this would be a classic 2 ½ stars. Under the five star system I will give three stars and recommend it—with the strong reservations listed above—to hardcore fans of genre—and for the work of Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Horror and suspense soundtracks give composers an open canvas to compose music that breathes. The score must create a spooky atmosphere, convey the intensity of the action, and when it works it makes for an exciting stand-alone album. Here are five of the best ever—or at least the five favorite of this reviewer.
1) “Poltergeist” (1982) Jerry Goldsmith
An entire book can be written about just the Jerry Goldsmith horror and suspense soundtracks alone. There have been countless classics by the master over the last fifty years including the creepy “Magic” (1978) and the Oscar winning “The Omen” (1976) and its two sequels. But “Poltergeist” stands out as one of the most complete, varied, complex, muscular and entertaining works composed by Goldsmith at the peak of his great orchestral might.
The most famous piece of music is the beautiful lullaby-like “Carol Anne’s Theme”. It is the heart of the score and heard over the opening and closing credits. The rest of the score contains some of the most transformational and aggressive horror music ever composed.
“The Clown” takes a creepy hold, drawing the listener in as Goldsmith expertly builds into riveting suspense with cues like "Twisted Abduction" and "Contacting the Other Side" before unleashing an orgasmic orchestral explosion of quasi-spiritual beauty in the haunting "The Light".
2) “Body Double” (1984) Pino Donaggio
Given its Giallo style sexuality and excesses, Pino Donaggio was the perfect choice to score “Body Double”. The movie came along at a time when both De Palma and Donaggio were at the peak of their creative powers and had a string of successful collaborations together including the popular scores for “Dressed to Kill” (1980) and “Blow Out” (1981). The love theme from “Blow Out” was licensed by Quentin Tarantino and used in “Death Proof”.
The soundtrack for “Body Double” is a blast. It is melodically rich and varied and like the film itself, a a glorious and excessive piece of iconic pop culture. A must own soundtrack for De Palma fans, lovers of '80s cinema and anyone who likes exciting film music drenched in scary, exciting suspense cues and wildly politically incorrect pop eroticism.
3) The Fury (1978) John Williams
You will always see a lot of De Palma on my best of soundtrack lists. He is one of the most astute filmmakers of all time when it comes to the use of film music.
There can no doubt that had De Palma’s career overlapped more with Bernard Herrmann’s, he would have forged a continuous partnership in much the same way Spielberg did with Williams. De Palma’s sinister and sexual sensibilities and his love of over the top melodrama and explosive violence found a perfect match with Herrmann’s music in the shocker "Sisters" (1974) and the "Vertigo" homage "Obsession" (1976).
But after Herrmann’s passing De Palma went to his friend Spielberg (and "The Fury" lead actress Amy Irving’s boyfriend) and called upon the services of John Williams. While Williams does pay the required homage by creating a moody score similar mode to what Hermann might have done, at the same time it is uniquely a John William's score. The music draws upon all things Williams, even his avant-garde music for "Lost in Space" to create the other worldly suspense and scares the picture required.
"The Fury" is a rich, varied, muscular score that shows off all sides of William's supernatural composing skills; there is somber mood music, the quiet buildup of suspense, explosive action cues, and the moving "Hester’s Theme". Even in a horror score John Williams can create deep sentiment.
But where the score really kicks in is track 13, "Descent", a hypnotic, lyrical, sensuous, dreamy, fluid sequence of brooding sonic delight the carries the listener on an irresistible journey into a world of dark wonders only hinted at by the on-screen paranormal mayhem in the film itself.
4) Friday the 13th (1980) Harry Manfredini
A true independent horror film in every sense of the word, the original “Friday the 13th” possesses an organic artistry woefully lacking in today’s high-stakes market of bland, forgettable, and completely unnecessary remakes.
“Friday the 13th” was—and still is—exciting as hell, and a huge part of that is the landmark suspenseful musical score by Harry Manfredini. Sure it is heavily influenced by Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho” (1960) and to a lesser extent John William’s “Jaws” (1975). But this tremendous and relentlessly scary score is innovative in the way it utilizes propulsive action material to ratchet up the suspense to unbearable levels. Listen to the La-La Land 2012 re-mastered album and experience just how much fun this wildly entertaining, expertly crafted score really is.
5) The Fourth Kind (2010) Atli Orvarsson
What makes Atli Orvarsson’s score to criminally underrated "The Fourth Kind" such a recent standout? It is an old school soundtrack—a mix of thematic and atonal material music that can be heard and felt in every cue. It is a score—and a film that stays with you. It is also scary as hell!
Ironically Atli Orvarsson’s came from the Team Zimmer culture that created the “droning wall of sound” trend that has been the scourge of film music fans. But as he proved in another overlooked movie, "Babylon A.D." (2008), he has a great feel for melody and bringing out the emotions on the screen. In the Fourth Kind he takes his game to a whole new level.
The hypnotic main theme is introduced right away in "Flight to Nome" with a captivating female vocal over a subtle building suspense line of strings, percussion and electronics. An emotional resonating main theme always goes a long way toward creating a great horror or suspense score because it draws us in. As the suspense and mystery build in cues like "Owolowa", "Hypnosis", and "The Owl", the listener is then moved by the brief but heartfelt rendition of the main theme in "Ashley", before being lead on a journey into the darkness.
The terror of the unknown is personified in the back half of the album with such creepy cues as "They’re Not From Here" and the explosive "Abduction".
Friday, October 18, 2013
Caitlin Star is our last hope.
After losing her foster parents at the age of thirteen, Caitlin is uprooted from the only home she had ever known. Heartbroken, she travels back to her birthplace––Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania––to live with a relative.
One night Caitlin is harassed by a carload of drunken fiends. Just as the would-be rapists prepare to move in on the teen-age girl––a muscle-bound rescuer steps out of the shadows and intercedes on Caitlin’s behalf––a mysterious and charismatic man named Gunner Star.
Gunner Star takes on Caitlin as his protégé and trains her in the ways of the Bull Mongoni, a mythic species of hominids that lived long ago. An exciting, brave new world opens up for Caitlin as she discovers a new philosophy, achieves an astonishing level of physical and mental focus, and begins to see the world around her from a new perspective.
Caitlin learns she is not alone as Gunner Star’s Bull Mongoni philosophy grows into a world-wide, cultural movement. But there are dark forces at work in a new right-wing extremist government. The separation of church and state is banished. The Supreme Court is eliminated. New laws are passed deeming that anyone who believes the earth is older than 6000 years is a criminal who must be hunted down by a government police force known as the Moral Authority.
Free thinking is considered dangerous to a government who has turned the National Parks over to the Big Oil Mafia and controls the bodies of all post-pubescent women via an inserted tracker probe. Soon the Moral Authority sets their sites on the Bull Mongoni and it falls upon Catlin Star to lead her fellow rebels, battle a sadistic enemy, save the very freedom of North America, and restore hope for the future of the planet itself.
Action, romance, satire, sex, suspense, political intrigue, and sword fights to the death—this book has it all. Caitlin Star is the femme fatale action hero of the new generation.
When a new television series arrives with the “Bad Robot” logo stamped onto the credits, the expectations are sky high. After all, “Bad Robot” is the production company of movie and television mogul J.J. Abrams, the creative visionary who launched “Lost” and “Fringe”, directed the outstanding “Super 8”, re-vitalized “Star Trek”, and is taking over the franchise helm of “Star Wars”.
So when “Revolution” premiered last fall on NBC, it had a lot to prove. Anchored by a charismatic cast and an irresistible high-concept premise, the show started out promising enough. But after the crushing disappointment of Amblin Entertainment’s “Terra Nova” and the disastrous NBC misfire “The Event”, genre fans were cautious.
As season one progressed, “Revolution” picked up story momentum, began to develop a core of great characters the audience came to care about, and even develop an intriguing mysterious conspiracy. In short, the show kept getting better and better. Revolution ended year one looking very much like it would be the next great network genre series.
Four episodes into year two “Revolution” has continued to develop into one of the most exciting and entertaining shows on television. The addition of veteran actor Stephen Collins an excellent pick-up. The pacing of the first three episodes has been brilliant. Not since “24’ have we seen a dramatic series so effectively milk very drop of excitement out of the action adventure format. Everything about the show from the fight choreography to Christopher Lennertz score keeps getting better. But the key to any dramatic series is the characters. We have to care to keep coming back each week. There is one particular character who had been the key to “Revolution’s” continued improvement.
Every show, especially every “Bad Robot” production, has that one special character who makes it all work. “Lost” had the enigmatic John Locke played by Terry O’Quinn. “Fringe” had the eccentric Walter Bishop played by John Noble. “Revolution” has the super scientist action hero Rachel Matheson played by Elizabeth Mitchell.
One of the weaknesses of “Revolution” during the first half of season one was the criminal underuse of the effervescent Elizabeth Mitchell and her head strong character. Once the producers and writers realized this and brought her into the forefront of the action, the “Lost” protégé began to find its focus.
Elizabeth Mitchell is a pleasure to watch. She owns the screen every time she is on it. The luminous actress brings a quiet, but fiery intensity to her brooding character. As season two begins to unfold, Mitchell’s Rachel Matheson is the truly the key to unlocking the secrets of the pre-power failure past, as well as a spark of hope for a post-dystopian future. Every event, every character connects back to her.
Bottom line: “Revolution” will most likely be in a “Fringe” like life and death struggle to stay on the air, thanks to NBC’s inane decision to stick it in the Wednesday night 8 PM time slot with almost no promotion. It deserves better. This is a great show with a fantastic cast. It is well written, breathlessly paced, addictive, entertaining, and jam-packed with pulpy thrills.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
A stand-alone sequel to the author's time-tripping erotic thriller "She", "Video Noir" is a page-turning YA science fiction thriller packed with action, romance and mind-altering sequences beyond imagination."
Welcome to Video Noir, the next-generation, video-sharing Web site where dreams (and nightmares) come to life with hyper-realism. Just released to the world, Video Noir lets you experience video like nothing you’ve ever seen before and nothing you could ever imagine. It quite literally alters the way you look at reality—and the way you remember it.
Private detective Rick Blazer and twenty-two-year-old Internet-video celebrity Caitlin Blue embark on a dark and dangerous journey to discover the true agenda of the mysterious men behind this sinister new technological wonder. The site’s creators have kidnapped at least one man—and have likely killed others—in their quest to develop flesh-to-flesh contact and memory creation and deletion via the Internet and video sharing.
The merger of science and technology could catapult society into risky, uncharted territory, where ethics and morals run riot, and no one knows who (or what) really holds the power. Rick and Caitlin must find the missing Harlan, kidnapped by those who seek control of the unrestrained new technological weapon. If Rick and Caitlin are successful, they may be able to prevent needless deaths and free society from an evil-minded quasi-government agency.
A chapter excerpt from the YA contemporary science fiction thriller Video Noir.
Caitlin could feel the change inside her skull the instant it happened.
It sort of felt the first time she had a new memory of Rick but this time it was much stronger and nowhere near as pleasant. This time it actually hurt. Caitlin felt a wave of physical pain engulf her.
It felt like someone had just stabbed her with a syringe full of flaming neurons and injected them directly into the base of her cerebral cortex.
They were new memories and Caitlin could feel them being created.
She could see the video cameras everywhere.
She could see all the food.
She could see Kathy and all the other guests.
But now she could something else too; and someone else.
It was the generic-suited creep with the goggle like glasses—the freaky man in black from American Bistro. He was the catalyst who had started it all. He had set everything in motion that night when he had handed Caitlin that business card with the words “Video Noir” on it.
Now, whenever Caitlin thought about Zeke’s graduation party, the freak in black was there on the patio alongside Caitlin, Kathy, the Scraggs clan, and Boca Raton’s finest.
A new memory had been created. A new reality had been forged.
Someone who’d been filming at the party must have already uploaded some footage to YouTube, LiveVideo or wherever. The sinister men behind Video Noir must have already gotten a hold of it and processed it with the Light Wave technology. Then the freak must have watched and became part of it.
A new past and a new reality had been created.
Caitlin had a new memory. She had literally felt it come alive like a new network of neurons searing to life inside her brain. She could still remember the original past—the one where Zeke’s party had been free of lurching, sinister, creepy, men-in-black types. But the original memory—the real reality—was already slightly faded. Maybe the brain could only handle one time line and one reality at a time.
A new reality had been created. The past had been changed.
Caitlin realized that Troy Matheson was right.
It was possible to travel back in time.
It was also possible to alter reality.
Caitlin knew her dark adventure was only beginning.
Video Noir available at bookstores everywhere