Saturday, March 29, 2008
Prepare To Be Scorched!
If you haven't seen USA Network's breakout action series, you've missed out on a great show. Burn Notice features slam-bang action, violence, quirky characters, the absurd, crackerjack one-liners, and Bruce Campbell. Yep, this one has it all.
And it's coming out on DVD June 17th. This is a series you'll want to own if any of the above interest you.
Jeffrey Donovan plays Michael Westen, a CIA operative who's been burned (declared untrustworthy) and put on ice down in Miami instead of killed. All his assets (money and former contacts) are cut off from him. He's literally homeless.
In order to find out what happened to him, he has to set up business as an unlicensed private eye and only gets bottom-of-the-barrel cases no one else will touch. And clients that lie to him.
He reluctantly enlists his ex-girlfriend Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) to help him. Unfortunately, they have a bad history together, she's an ex-IRA member, and violence is foreplay for her.
Bruce Campell plays Sam Axe, an ex-Navy SEAL, who did a lot espionage work himself.
The Burn Notice DVDs are supposed to have commentary by cast, creators, and crew on every disc. That alone is going to be worth the buy-in on this set.
The series is also the basis for at least three novels that will start hitting the shelves in August '08.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Jordan Dane Launches Career With A Heartstopper!
My good friend Jordan Dane has her first book out on the shelves this month. Look for it.
Here's what reviewers are saying:
From Publishers Weekly
In a dynamite debut from Dane, San Antonio Det. Rebecca Montgomery fears the worst when her little sister, Danielle, is abducted during summer break on the Texas Gulf's South Padre Island. Five months later, the discovery of a crime scene saturated with Dani's blood indicates she's been murdered. As more college co-eds go missing, Becca wants to stay on the case, but the department hands her a puzzler involving a young woman's remains found within a wall of the torched Imperial Theater. They belong to Isabel Marquez, who's been missing for almost seven years. Becca finds a surprising ally, and mutual attraction, in Diego Galvan, who works for slimy Hunter Cavanaugh, former owner of the Imperial and a prime suspect. Dane's smooth style, believable characters and intense pacing will remind readers of Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner and Tami Hoag. While Dane's debut is being marketed as romantic suspense, it crosses over into plain thriller country: the tight plotting and the male characters are exceptional, bad guys and good. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Great 1970s Gene Hackman Film!
I’m a big fan of private eye movies and television series. I’m glad The Rockford Files is finally coming out on DVD, but I’m still waiting for Marlowe, starring James Garner and Bruce Lee.
However, I don’t have an excuse for not having already seen Night Moves. It’s been out for over thirty years, and I bought the DVD a year ago. I did finally get around to watching it, though, and it was as good as I’d hoped it would be.
The story is pure 1970s, as evidenced by the cars, clothing, and some of the language. But it also tells a timeless story of confusion and betrayal, and the layers of secrets that add to those.
Gene Hackman stars as Harry Moseby, an ex-football player rather than an ex-cop. Moseby has been broken down by family problems and the loss of his career, and seems to be barely hanging onto life by a thread. Only the occasional missing persons case appears to keep him financially afloat and emotionally anchored.
Hackman has always been a personal favorite of mine. He can pull off any kind of role and look good doing it, even if the film is total cheese. He’s just a guy I look at and immediately respect. His everyman stance and his charm just oozes from every pore. As Moseby, he was a well-known football hero, and a lot of his friends still see him as a standup guy, but he doesn’t let anyone in too close.
Unfortunately, that same inability for closeness is what ultimately undermines his relationship with his wife, Ellen (Susan Clark). When he first gets handed the case of the little runaway rich girl, Moseby isn’t too interested. Then he catches his wife cheating on him and tries to lose himself in the investigation.
I liked the way the movie dovetailed back into the movie industry the way some of the old 1940s movies did. Some of the best cinematic detectives have their roots in the twisted and sordid tales that came out of Hollywood. This one has stuntmen and used up actors to season the tale, and it adds more credibility to it.
The Florida footage on the case was extremely well done as well. Director Arthur Penn (Litte Big Man, Bonnie and Clyde) manages the Hollywood and LA scenes well, then zips the viewer down for a peak at what was then Travis McGee’s tramping grounds as John D. MacDonald wrote his adventures. I liked the rough and tumble atmosphere of the land, the characters, and the twists and turns the plot took while down there. Jennifer Warren plays femme fatale Paula in a haunting and sexy scene.
Some of the most fun was watching a very young James Woods and Melanie Griffith taking their places on the stage. Woods hasn’t changed much, but his presence on the screen is intense these days. He’s another one of my favorites. Melanie Griffith, young and hot and nude in several scenes, just burns up the celluloid.
I really enjoyed Hackman’s work in this movie. As I said, I own it and intend to watch it again. I’d really advise picking up Twilight, with Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, James Garner, and Hackman to really round out a double feature private eye/noir night. Hollywood seldom makes films like these any more and it’s a shame.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Terrific Insight To Bipolar Disorder!
Having suffered from BPD (often part of the ADHD genetic cocktail) off and on throughout my life, I thought I'd like to hear how a successful person in a creative industry dealt with the disease.
Cheney's look at her life is unflinching and revealing. I read the book in a single sitting, and gained some insight into the twists and turns of my own perspective.
Read my Bookhound review here.
Ghost Whisperer Is A 5-Issue Series From IDW Publishing!
For those of you that can't get enough of the hit television series, a new comics series is now haunting the local comic shops. The first issue of a five-issue run by show scripters Carrie Smith and Becca Smith has arrived on the racks.
Art is by Elena Casagrande, the artist for "Star Trek Alien Spotlight: The Orions."
Monday, March 17, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
I Loved Dennis Lehane's Series, And I Love The Movie!
I’ve been a fan of Dennis Lehane’s private eye novels about Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro for years. I keep wishing Lehane would write another book about them. Instead, he’s written a couple of stand-alone books that have become a movie (Mystic River) and one that will become a movie (Shutter Island).
Gone, Baby, Gone stands out not only as the first Kenzie/Gennaro book to become a film, but is also Ben Affleck’s first turn as a director. His brother Casey (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) stars as Patrick Kenzie.
Both the Afflecks grew up in Boston, and the choice to use Lehane’s background for the series, Dorchester, was a no-brainer. Ben Affleck, when drawn to the project, stated that he wanted to make that microcosm of Boston come to life on the screen, and he used several people from the neighborhood in roles. In my opinion, he succeeds admirably. The background has a unique feel and rhythm to it that he couldn’t have gotten while shooting somewhere else.
Another thing that really rings too is the language. The dialogue is coarse and explosive, the way it tends to be in crowded metropolitan areas. And no matter where you put them, areas of cities that are in disrepair always stand out and offer their own views of the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small town or a large town, people tend to be desperate, trapped, and unhappy while living there. Since they’re not strong enough, mobile enough, or brave enough to take on people outside their neighborhood, the bad ones tend to prey on people inside the local environment.
I liked the motivation for Patrick and Angie to get involved, the fact that Patrick knew the mother whose child was kidnapped. They’d gone to high school together, and no one gets out of high school without a history and usually scars to show for it. Angie is reluctant to get involved with the case because she doesn’t want to find a dead kid, which is how things like this normally work out.
If you’ve only watched the movie, you should really read the book as well. Patrick and Angie’s relationship means a lot to the book series, and in particular to this novel. The movie can’t pull in all the history or the emotional angst that is in the pages of the novel. There’s just not enough room.
Patrick’s investigation immediately puts him in harm’s way of the police and the bad guys – which is exactly how a private eye story should operate. The PI is always the man or woman outside of the world that needs to be investigated. In this case, Patrick belongs to that world but he’s stepped outside certain aspects of it.
Although I knew the story and what was going to happen, it was great seeing Ben Affleck’s vision of it and Casey Affleck’s portrayal of Patrick. The city seems almost to close in on the viewer, especially during the scenes where Bubba leads Patrick to the house where the kidnapped boy is being held by drug addicts and a child molester.
Ed Harris turns in a fantastic performance as Remy Bressard. I love watching Harris work anyway, but seeing him in this role was a pleasure. Morgan Freeman, solid as ever, wasn’t given too much to do, but he always shines. Michelle Monaghan plays Angie Gennaro, but the focus is so much on Patrick that she almost gets eclipsed in everything. She’s so strong, though, that she seizes moments and makes them her own.
I really enjoyed this film. I liked the look and the pacing, though some people may find it a little slow in places. I was just glad to see this world come to life, and I think Ben Affleck did a marvelous job of doing that. Hopefully other novels in the series will be developed as well.
The plot twists and turns, but by the time everything gets sorted, there are hard choices to be made. The great thing is that the viewer is forced to make those choices as well. The subject matter is powerful and moving.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Great Start To An Old Favorite!
D. C. Fontana wrote some of the best Star Trek: The Original Series scripts. The show only lasted 3 years of its projected 5-year mission. IDW Publishing has secured the rights to produce a fourth year.
Fontana and co-writer Derek Chester have chosen to tell the tale of further Star Fleet investigation of the Romulan cloaking device Kirk stole in "The Enterprise Incident."
Fans of the series are going to love this arc. See my review of the first issue here.
Fantastic and Compelling Movie!
Tommy Lee Jones delivers an outstanding performance as a father searching for his missing son in the movie In the Valley of Elah. I was pulled into the mystery of what happened to Hank Deerfield’s son from that first phone call at the beginning of the movie. As a father myself, I’ve occasionally wondered how my grown children were and if they were all right. With the Iraq War going on and so many soldiers over there, that phone call from the military is the last thing any of them want to deal with.
As it turns out, Deerfield’s son Michael is AWOL, away without leave. The military is looking for him. Deerfield says that if his son was in the United States, he would have known about it.
The calm, cool, collected way the movie goes about introducing the characters and the problem in the opening minutes of the film are amazing. Everything is understated. Jones shows his concern through his actions, quiet and controlled, rather than with further dialogue with anyone. Susan Sarandon portrays Deerfield’s wife, and their relationship’s deepness and emotional complexity is played out in a few short scenes and sparse, meaningful dialogue that never overstates the worry. You can see it in the characters, and that’s the best way on film.
From the beginning, Deerfield comes across as Joe American. He stops on the way out of town to help a school janitor to properly display the American flag. His simple gesture, in the presence of his own crisis, really touched me. And the movie continues to do that all the way through.
At Fort Rudd, the viewer learns that Deerfield isn’t just an ex-military guy. He was Army CID, part of the criminal investigation division. That caught my attention immediately and amped up the interest. Deerfield wasn’t going to be easily taken advantage of. You can almost feel the storm looming on the horizon.
I was thoroughly irritated at how quickly the military blew Deerfield’s concern off. However, I can see how this can sometimes be the case. Still, Deerfield is slyer than anyone thinks, and quickly manages to get his son’s cell phone from his things when the sergeant isn’t looking.
I enjoyed how Deerfield, though at least fifteen years away from his past as CID and technologically challenged, picked up the reins on his own investigation so quickly. Everything started falling back into place for him, and his insight into the military mind was great to watch. Especially after the interaction with the local police began.
Charlize Theron enters the story when Deerfield goes to the police for help. She plays Emily Sanders, the only female detective on the squad, and takes a lot of crap about her gender and her relationship with their boss. She’s a single mom trying to find her way, and the last thing she needs is to get tied up with Deerfield’s problems – especially with the US Army waiting to shut the investigation down at any moment.
The movie took some surprising twists and turns along the way to the solution of Michael’s disappearance and who was actually involved. I loved the way Deerfield broke his “cover” as a quiet, concerned father and became a crusading investigator, and I also feared for him when he lost control and endangered the case and their pursuit of the truth.
Throughout the film, no one ever loses sight of the characters. As much time is given to the development of the characters as to the development of the investigation. Deerfield’s character was great, and Jones played him to a T. There’s one scene in the laundry where Deerfield is washing his clothes that my wife didn’t understand. Deerfield was sitting in his undershirt waiting for his clothes to dry and spots Emily coming to talk to him. He hurriedly gets up and pulls a wet shirt out of the dryer and puts it on. I had to explain to my wife that the kind of man Deerfield was wouldn’t allow himself to be seen in his undershirt by a woman not his wife.
The Blu-ray disc is packed full of extras relating to the movie as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). If you’ve got loved ones overseas, this movie can be hard to view on several levels. However, it might also give you a deep appreciation for what they’re doing and what the real cost of the war is going to be.
One of the best scenes in the movie is when Deerfield is telling Emily’s son the story of David and Goliath, to let him know where his name came from. Later, at the end of the movie, Emily is telling her son the same story because he wants to hear it again. This time her son asks her why all the soldiers let a boy go fight their war for them. After everything that’s been revealed in the movie, that question resonates for a long time.
This is a fantastic film and has tremendous acting. Paul Haggis (Crash, Flags of Our Fathers, Casino Royale) wrote and directed.
A New Vision of the Justice League's Origin!
Comics scripter and artist, Darwyn Cooke, created quite a splash when he wrote the mini-series, Justice League: The New Frontier. Those issues have been gathered into a graphic novel.
When I first read the issues, I have to admit to being a little put off. The story seemed to meander a little and took too long to develop in some ways. But it was really interesting seeing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash during the paranoid times of McCarthyism. The art seemed a little too unfinished for my taste for the first couple issues, but it was the first time I’d ever seen any of Cooke’s work. His writing and his art grew on me. By the third issue, I was won over by the storyline and the different look of the characters.
Justice League: The New Frontier is the second of DC Comics’ and Warner’s direct-to-DVD efforts. The first was Superman: Doomsday. Hopefully there will be a lot more to come. The special editions have the trailer for the Batman animated feature that will be coming out soon.
The movie strikes the same tone as the graphic novel. The mid-1950s to 1960 are represented in a number of ways. The suspicion of anyone from outside the country – including of Superman – is well-defined. Hal Jordan (voiced by David Boreanaz, Angel, Bones) as a Korean Air Force fighter pilot is well done and sets up his eventual recruitment by the Green Lanterns.
The Martian Manhunter (voice by Miguel Ferrer, Crossing Jordan, The Bionic Woman) seizes a big part of the story as both an alien newly arrived to our planet, a detective, and an outsider viewing the strange and politically suspicious world of the 1950s. One of the best parts of the movie for my son and I was watching the Martian Manhunter change into various characters while he watched television. When he unexpectedly changed into Bugs Bunny, we both lost it.
I really missed the opening segments of the comic book where the Losers comics heroes took on the dinosaurs of Dinosaur Island. I didn’t like the ending the Losers experienced, but I really noticed them absent from the continuity.
Like the comic series, you have to watch the movie closely to figure out everything that’s going on. The original Justice League origin story featured an alien menace to the world. The retelling of that origin, in the Justice League series recently on television, features a threat from Mars. And this movie also features an otherworldly menace, although it takes a while to build to that threat.
I loved seeing so many of the lesser known heroes of the DC universe in action: the Challengers of the Unknown, the Blackhawks, the Metal Men, Adam Strange, and others. When Darwyn Cooke wrote the original comics, I knew that he loved the characters and was paying homage to so much of their roots. That same kind of care and consideration is evident in this DVD production.
The Blu-ray video was fantastic. The colors were bright and varied. King Faraday’s gray eyes were arctic and really distinguished him. The audio was just as impressive.
As for special features, the disc comes fully loaded. There are two different commentaries and several features regarding the making of the film. One of the best pieces was the preview of Batman: Gotham Knight that’s supposed to come out in July. The anime style artwork looks breathtaking. There are also three of director Bruce W. Timm’s favorite Justice League Unlimited episodes on the disc.
Although Justice League: The New Frontier is a cartoon and is about characters familiar to kids, parents need to know that the violence is at times very graphic and the language can be occasionally coarse. All in all, though, this is a great movie to own, especially in the high-def versions.
Gut-Wrenching Movie Experience!
Spanish actor, Javier Bardem, plays one of the most cold-blooded, unstoppable killers to ever grace the big screen. From the very first instant he steps into view in No Country For Old Men as Anton Chigurh, Bardem radiates menace. The captive bolt pistol he carries as a killing device and a one-size-fits-all door opener is grisly and awe-inspiring. When he’s initially introduced at the beginning of the film, gets arrested, then steps back through the handcuffs in the background while the deputy speaks to the sheriff in the foreground, a cold chill cycled through me until Chigurh killed the deputy. By that time I was mesmerized.
The Academy-award winning film is based on bestselling author Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Miller’s Crossing) wrote and directed the film, returning to the crime and cowboy feel they love in so much of their work.
The plot is relatively simple, but it provides a tightly-wound backdrop of tension and motivation for all concerned. Josh Brolin is absolutely amazing as ex-Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss, and most of the screen time the first half of the movie centers on him. The movie is so terse that I had no idea who or what Brolin was or what he was ultimately after for quite some time.
I loved the careful, contained way that Moss walks up on the killing ground where the two rival Mexican gangs shot it out and killed each other during a drug buy. Brolin portrays a competent and savvy hunter, and I was rooting for him the whole way – until I found out he wasn’t as good as I thought he was. Even then, I’d bought so heavily into the character that I was pulling for him the whole way. Especially after I saw that he was clearly out of his league.
The movie delves into character without playing up the backstory too much. It tells you just what you need to know about each person, and I found that amazing. The dialogue is kept terse and to the point, while at the same time being witty and true to character and life. Most of the time you’re just watching action, forming your own opinions about things, and being surprised. There isn’t even a musical score to draw your attention off the developing plot and ever-tightening chase.
With Chigurh and Moss both in motion, both trying to survive, the movie picks up with Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones) as he borrows his wife’s horse to go out to the crime scene. I loved Tommy Lee Jones. I think he’s one of the greatest actors to ever step into a movie, and he’s at his absolute best when he’s playing a character like Ed Tom Bell. Those characters are some of the best natural fits for Jones that I’ve ever seen. Bell is a man nearing retirement, but who’s also certain that the world is changing faster than he can keep up with it. Jones provides the voice-over at the beginning that won my heart before the last word floated out of the speakers.
Moss, with over two million dollars in his hands, is determined to hang onto it. Chigurh is determined to kill Moss and take it. Bell just wants to make sense of everything that’s happened and save whomever needs saving.
The Coens are noted for their camera work and angles, and both things are used to the best of their abilities in this film. The scenes move quickly. The background is absolutely stunning in the high definition presentation of the Blu-ray disc. The gunfights are exquisitely rendered, and violence smacks the viewer at regular intervals, often catching him off-guard.
Even though I was prepared for the film to be bloody, I was still blown away by Chigurh’s cold indifference. I loved how the killer moved so methodically, though, never showing any emotions. This is probably Brolin’s best role and best acting ever. Even though these actors are playing larger-than-life characters, never once is a scene overplayed, nor is the drama ever false.
If you haven’t seen No Country For Old Men, you’ve got a great film ahead of you. And if you have seen it, you’ll find that the Blu-ray version brings the audio and video quality of the theater into your home in a big way. Highly recommended.
Friday, March 07, 2008
New Teen Thriller Series!
I've read Ridley Pearson's adult thriller novels about Lou Boldt and his other characters, and his Disney products, including the Peter and the Starcatchers books he did with Dave Barry and the two spin-offs, and his stand-alone novel (until the sequel comes out!) The Kingdom Keepers. He's a quick, exciting read.
Steven "Steel" Trapp is a 14 year old with a science fetish that moves him into McGyver territory, and on top of that, he's got a photographic memory. This first book is chockful of adventure and nefarious deeds.
For a review, go here: http://bookhound.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/steel-trapp-the-challenge-by-ridley-pearson/
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Fantastic Adventure With Really Weird Twists!
For a review, please go here http://bookhound.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/the-somnambulist-by-jonathan-barnes/.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
I'm Looking for Writing Internships For My OU Students!
I've been teaching at the University of Oklahoma for the last year and a half. I'm looking for information regarding possible internships (paying and non-paying) in the fields of writing, editing, communication, and other skills writers will need in jobs after they leave college.
I'm open to ideas, people, so please don't hold back. I enjoy my students. They're bright and hardworking, and I'd really like to help them get some practical experience.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can offer any help.