Sunday, January 31, 2010

Busy Busy

Sorry I've been away so much this last week. We have family visiting so we've been spending time with them-- and having a blast. We're off to Napa in the morning to taste some wine. Admit it, you wish you were me... Be back soon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book Review: "Hunting Memories" by Barb Hendee

It's not news that vampire novels are everywhere these days and the hardest thing for a fan of the genre is to find something unique. Barb Hendee is well known for co-authoring the Noble Dead series with her husband J.C. and if anyone knows her way around vampires-- it's her. The question is, has she succeeded in creating something distinctive with her Vampire Memories series? Well, yes and no. I wrote a very positive review of Blood Memories, the first book in this series, last year and was really looking forward to the sequel because Hendee did have a fresh take on the vampire myth. The standout part of Hendee's mythology is the way in which her vampires evolve after their mortal death. Whatever happens to be their strongest personality trait in life is amplified to an overpowering level when they make the transition to the living dead. "Blood Memories" introduced us to Elisha Clevon, a young woman who was so frail in life that her 'talent' is to appear so helpless that any mortal man she encounters immediately feels a desire to protect her. Elisha was solely created to be a caretaker for an elderly vampire teetering on the edge of sanity, but her world changes dramatically when she discovers she has telepathic abilities; and that terrifies her creator-- who has been hunting down and killing all the older vampires who display that particular skill. "Blood Memories" saw Elisha confronting her creator, Julian-- whose own particular talent is for instilling fear. Using her newfound telepathic talents Elisha fends off Julian and settles into a new life with another vampire and a human telepath. "Hunting Memories" is the start of the next chapter for Elisha. Believing that she has achieved an uneasy truce with Julian, she starts reaching out to the few vampires who have survived his relentless hunt. The significance of Elisha's telepathy comes into play as she meets new vampires. As she touches their minds she is able to see their past through their eyes and actually experience their transitions into immortality; and these are the most compelling moments of the story. A few new vampires are introduced into the small circle of characters and we see that it hasn't always been necessary for vampires to kill to survive. But Julian isn't as complacent as Elisha believes and as her group grows, he becomes increasingly agitated and certain they are going to eventually hunt him down. "Hunting Memories" is a good book in many ways. Hendee's strength clearly lies in creating characters that go beyond flat stereotypes. Her stories are populated by people who are very relatable with unique personalities. But what had seemed so new in "Blood Memories" begins to feel slightly tired this time around. What keeps "Hunting Memories" from fully succeeding is that it doesn't tread any new ground. New characters are brought in, but the story follows what now feels like an old formula. Julian is still the villain he always was and his motivations have not really changed. I had also hoped that Hendee was not going to allow her vampires to veer into the more non-threatening territory we see so often in modern paranormal fiction. And though she doesn't succumb to the temptation to make her vampires into pseudo-monsters from a romance novel, Hendee didn't allow the story to follow the darker path I thought it was going to go down. There were hints that some of her characters were going to heed their more sinister natures, but that part of the narrative wasn't really expanded and I was curiously disappointed. In the end, it felt as if the story had gone in a circular path and didn't gain any momentum. Ultimately "Hunting Memories" is a book for people who really liked the first book in the series and are willing to hang in there and see if the story evolves. I tend to think it will. If I'm reading Hendee correctly I think she is taking her time and using a more subtle method than most authors who write in this particular genre to move the story forward. Hopefully "Hunting Memories" is more of a sophomore slump than a trend.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Series Review: "Caprica"

**Spoilers Included** Human emotions are double edged swords at the best of times. Love can drive a man beyond his normal limits to provide for and protect his family; but it can also be twisted into a possessiveness that can lead to unreasoning violence. And then there's grief. Grief is an emotion that most of us would forgo because it's what we feel after a loss. It might be the loss of a relationship or the death of a loved one. It's an emotion so often suffered alone and mad with grief is an expression just about everyone can understand because we all know there are certain losses we're not sure we could survive. Trust the creators of "Battlestar Galactica" to choose such a heavy emotion on which to base their new series. Caprica is the prequel to "Battlestar Galactica and like its predecessor it's complicated and absorbing. Taking place 58 years before the original series "Caprica" follows the story of two families torn apart by a terrorist bombing. Daniel Graystone (Eric Stolz) is the owner of a large corporation and a technological genius. Still reeling over the death of his daughter he discovers that his daughter had managed, before her death, to create an avatar that exists in a holographic world that is more than just bits of data. The avatar has her memories, personality and a desire to exist beyond the world she lives in. But Daniel only has part of the technology he would need to download his daughter's avatar into a cybernetic body. So Graystone turns to the only other man who knows his grief, Joseph Adama (Esai Morales)--who lost his daughter and wife in the same attack-- and asks him to steal the technology needed to complete his newest obsession. Adama is tempted by the dream of being reunited with his family and agrees to help Graystone. But once the deed is done and he is confronted by the avatar of his own daughter, he turns away from the experiment convinced that the results will be an abomination. But Graystone is now in the grip of his overriding grief and the conviction that he can bring his daughter back to life; even as her own avatar begins to voice doubts about the plan. "Caprica" has many of the same themes that ran through "Battlestar Galactica" and questions about God and religion jump to the forefront right away. This may turn some viewers off as some have complained that the topic was dealt with in too heavy-handed a fashion in the original series. But given the Cylon fixation on a monotheistic God versus the pantheon of gods the Capricans worship it would be a glaring omission if "Caprica" didn't at least try to address a plot device that was so integral to the personalities of the Cylons. The way they work this in is by showing Graystone's daughter growing increasingly involved with a cult-like religion that sows the seeds of her own death and that dogma has been included in the personality of her avatar. The casting of "Caprica" is top tier, much like "Battlestar Galactica," and Eric Stoltz is very believable as a father teetering on the edge of sanity as he chases the dream of resurrecting his daughter. He's clearly a man who isn't thinking about moral considerations in the face of his grief. Esai Morales, as the father of a young William Adama, is a man torn between two worlds and often crosses ethical lines he'd rather avoid but is drawn to time and again by his familial ties. "Caprica" doesn't explode on the screen the way "BSG" did. It's no less intense, but it has a quieter vibe. Rather than the bleak world of need presented in "BSG," "Caprica" is a world riding high on prosperity and the excesses that brings. It's a perfect breeding ground for extremist religions as overly-pampered kids look for meaning in a world that has never required much of them. And it promises to explore these themes in depth. The good thing about the premier episode of "Caprica" is that you'll likely know right away whether or not you'll like the new series based on the religious themes included in the plot. If you were turned off by that aspect of "BSG" then "Caprica" may not be your thing. But if you don't mind following that thread and seeing where it goes, you might really enjoy "Caprica." It's not as flashy as "BSG," at least so far, but it has some decidedly eerie moments and promises to have the same dark genius as its sister series. There's also something really satisfying about seeing the inception of the Cylon race. For me, the show worked. And I'm very interested to see how the series, and the Cylons, evolve.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: "Burn Me Deadly" by Alex Bledsoe

Do you ever have those moments of disconnectedness where you wonder if you're marching out of step with the rest of the crowd? I had that feeling when I clicked on the Amazon link to Burn Me Deadly by Alex Bledsoe and saw that it had a 3 star rating. 3 stars? How is that possible? I know I certainly enjoyed the book more than that.

 But I'm getting ahead of myself. "Burn Me Deadly" is the second book in a new series by Alex Bledsoe that features private investigator Eddie LaCrosse. Bledsoe takes my two favorite genres, fantasy and detective fiction, and mixes them up with highly entertaining results.

 In my review of The Sword Edged Blonde, the first in the Eddie LaCrosse series, I likened the book to a Raymond Chandler novel, but "Burn Me Deadly" is a direct homage to Kiss Me Deadly by Mickey Spillane (the link goes to the description of the movie adaptation of the novel since it was the only full synopsis I could find).

When riding home one night Eddie almost runs down a woman who has been brutally beaten. While trying to get her to safety Eddie is ambushed by her captors; she ends up dead and Eddie barely survives. Seeking to avenge her death, and find out why she was killed, Eddie runs up against the leader of his town's most powerful criminal gang and a strange dragon-worshiping cult.

Already somewhat comfortable with the illegal underground that run through the seedy town he lives in, Eddie crosses paths with power brokers and the royal family as he tries to unravel the mystery behind what could have led to the torture and murder of a young woman. And in his typical style, Eddie cuts a path through anyone in his way; frequently with his sword.

Bledsoe has a really interesting style. It's definitely more noir fiction than fantasy, though the fantasy elements are substantial enough to appeal to fans of that genre. There are no over-bloated character names that are so common in fantasy. Instead you have names like Eddie, Laura and Liz. The dialog is also frequently in the fast-paced style of detective fiction and the action in unflinchingly direct and sometimes brutal.

My favorite description of an Eddie LaCrosse story is to say it's like a James Bond movie in a Midieval setting. But truthfully, Eddie is more like Bond after he's gotten the womanizing out of his system. He's settled but not afraid to take on pretty much anything. And the whole package really works.

Which brings me back to the Amazon rating. I was genuinely surprised when I saw the 3 star rating sitting there, though there are only 4 reviews in so far (and Harriet Klausner doesn't count). And I couldn't help think that the few who have reviewed the book so far didn't get the premise. One reviewer did bring up the violence of the book, and it can be somewhat graphic, but that wasn't an issue for me because I feel like Bledsoe made a stylistic choice and stuck with it. "Burn Me Deadly" is entirely consistent with the world created in "The Sword Edged Blonde" and one of the few books I read last year that I couldn't put down. I liked it so much I put it on my "best of" list for 2009. In my opinion Bledsoe has already solidified himself as a writer that can deliver a wry, action-oriented story that reliably entertains.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winners! & New Giveaway

I have selected the winners of two contests that I had running on my giveaway page ("The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny" by Simon R. Green and "Veracity" by Laura Bynum) and I have a copy of the newest Anita Blake novel by Laurell K. Hamilton added to end of the post announcing the winner. Head on over and take a look!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Hits

See this picture? It drives more traffic to my blog than anything else I have ever posted. Nothing I have written in the last three years, since I posted this picture in a post about female action heroes, has gotten a fraction of the attention this one picture has. That's right. Sigourney Weaver in underwear is more compelling than any movie trailer or picture of Angelina Jolie that I have posted. I get hundreds of hits on this picture every week. Google images has done more for this blog than anyone. I also believe that this picture has convinced a few people that I have some writing skills. I have gotten a few offers from other blogs to write articles for them and they always, always cite the "Female Action Hero" post. Do you suppose they stumbled on the blog by searching for Sigourney? Interestingly, another picture on that same post also drives a significant amount of traffic to my blog. Another old-school beauty in the form of Linda Carter as Wonder Woman. She is lovely isn't she? But who knew that so many people out there were still so interested in women who made their start in the 70's ("Alien" was released in 1979 and "Wonder Woman" aired from 1975-79)? Or is it just the costumes and not the particular women wearing them? Probably a combination of both. Anyway. Maybe I need to post more pictures of scantily clad women. Just thinking out loud.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Veracity by Laura Bynum

Thanks to Pocket Books’ generosity I’ve had the pleasure to read Veracity by Laura Bynum in a decent amount of time after its release [not years later as it happens with most titles I get to review]. I started reading as soon as possible and the sole act of turning the pages made me oblivious to time’s flow. Few books have that quality [quite commendable], but at the end of the day, when I put the book down there was no happy, contempt buzz that I reached the last page. But I am skipping over myself here. First get a whiff of what this is all about: Harper Adams was six years old in 2012 when an act of viral terrorism wiped out one-half of the country's population. Out of the ashes rose a new government, the Confederation of the Willing, dedicated to maintaining order at any cost. The populace is controlled via government-sanctioned sex and drugs, a brutal police force known as the Blue Coats, and a device called the slate, a mandatory implant that monitors every word a person speaks. To utter a Red-Listed, forbidden word is to risk physical punishment or even death. But there are those who resist. Guided by the fabled "Book of Noah," they are determined to shake the people from their apathy and ignorance, and are prepared to start a war in the name of freedom. The newest member of this resistance is Harper -- a woman driven by memories of a daughter lost, a daughter whose very name was erased by the Red List. And she possesses a power that could make her the underground warriors' ultimate weapon -- or the instrument of their destruction. Let’s focus on the positive and then move down to what did not create the divine spark, I’m in constant search of. First, there is that effortless prose, which comes as a scented breeze and is that essential juicy bite the voracious reader’s imagination has been looking for. Bynum has a special relationship with words and it reflects on her style. I felt engulfed and never looked at the clock to see whether my reading time is over or not [this January, I figured, I had to have an hour by hour schedule], which is invaluable quality for a writer to possess. It’s a hit or miss with plot and general idea, but when one wraps ideas in couture, a miss won’t turn into a train wreck. Not to say that this novel is anywhere close to that term. On the contrary, Veracity is a good story and a fantastic debut. I was won over by the choice of dystopia, upon which Bynum stopped her focus. The idea on its own, that a world without the freedom to express oneself verbally and instead gets death sentence is chilling and ingenious. I’ve yet to encounter a dystopian society built on the logic that a spoken word without distinction what it may be, has lethal potential for the community. Bynum explores this idea, expands it and engineers such a dystopia, with my disbelief firmly suspended. I think there are two more reasons to pick this exact model for her society. First, I believe that Bynum knows that dedicated [obsessive] veteran readers will exhibit stronger reactions due to their heightened adoration for words. I know I did and I’m not even a veteran in the slightest sense. Second, Bynum wants to acknowledge and underline that the spoken word has power and that people should not allow the language to be robbed of its abundance. This was the spectacular, but on the downside, I noted a few aspects that left me cold. I have yet to understand why whenever a story as one man and one woman, this should translate to undying or at least passionate love relationship. Saving society from tyranny and waiting for a war to come, while one’s hiding in a bunker does not even remotely comes close to acceptable circumstances to have the luxury and fall in love. It’s unrealistic and the story itself didn’t allow such a relationship to develop. So why push? Veracity is a well told story, but a story with strong roots in popular culture and one that has an established tradition. Dystopian literature [as awesome as it is] isn’t spacious enough to be able to produce much original material. So, tropes like the resistance [which wishes to pull the plug on the tyrannous regime], the protagonist [who sacrificed his/hers comfortable life for a cause] and the rebels [with questionable alliance] are common and the plot is run-of-the-mill. I haven’t read that many novels in this genre, but I have watched enough movies to get this all too familiar déjà vu. Verdict: I’m going for a solid B grade here. Yeah, sure, Veracity is not out of the box as far as its dependence on archetypical tropes is questioned, but a) it’s one hell of a convincing debut and b) Bynum’s prose is positively enchanting enough to avoid turning this story into a bore fest. Way to go, Laura Bynum. I wish you luck with your next project.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thinking About Comic Books

I don't know how to feel about the upcoming "Green Lantern". The issue is that a superhero is a hard sale. The ones who have made the best jump to screen are the ones who have the strongest grounding in reality and science fiction. Batman, Iron Man, The Hulk (in the most recent version) were strong because the writers and directors understood that the people want action, character, and to be able to suspend their disbelief. The adaptations of The Fantastic Four and Superman haven't fared as well. And why should they? Fox's "The Fantastic Four" was an absurd adventure, almost an apology to popular culture for its comic book roots. Warner's "Superman" hasn't been able to move past its origin episode, with "Superman Returns" being nothing more than a remake of the first film. And "Green Lantern"? Hey...this Cold War comic book managed to evolve into an intriguing story about intergalactic adventure, with a number of civilizations banding together to maintain order in the universe. Sort of a cosmic "Federation" without Spock and Kirk. However, like Spiderman III, this film has potential to be absurd. I pray the director focuses on the science fiction and avoids the pitfall that Fantastic Four succumbed to. Check out this fan made trailer...it presents both what the real director should reach for and at the same time some of the elements the director would do well to avoid. And hey....at least it's not Star Trek 90210 (or The Abomination, as I like to call it) And one last thing.....beware Zagreus

Friday, January 15, 2010

ARC Giveaway--"Unknown: Outcast Season Book Two" by Rachel Caine

I have two ARC copies of "Unknown: Outcast Season Book Two" by Rachel Caine for giveaway up on my giveaway page. CHECK IT OUT.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Damn Dirty Stereotypes

I go through phases when it comes to what I read. Sometimes I'll latch onto an author and read 10 of their books in a row. After that, I might not read a book by the same author for several years. In the case of Stephen King, I haven't read one of his books since 1994. I'm not sure I've been missing anything. I know King is the 800 pound gorilla of the horror genre. He's written some incredible stuff-- at least, that's my recollection-- after all, I haven't read anything authored by the man in over 15 years. But I seem to remember thinking that "The Shining" and "Misery" were pretty terrific. Or did I just like the movies? I also know that "The Shawshank Redemption," one of my favorite movies, was based on a short story by King. But when I tried to read his newest release, Under the Dome, I got about 100 pages in before setting it aside in disgust. I know Stephen King has certain political biases. He's famous for ripping on the military with his infamous quote... I don’t want to sound like an ad–a public service ad on TV–but the fact is that if you can read you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t then you got the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that. It’s not as bright. So that’s my little commercial for that. I also believe that his opinion is based on thin air because I married into a military family and my father-in-law-- career military with an undergraduate degree in science and an MBA-- is a living example that King probably doesn't have much first-hand experience on the subject. But that's not really the issue. King can take exception to the military if he wants, that's his prerogative. But it's also my prerogative to rip on his writing if I think it's crap. I don't expect every author to share my personal biases, and I don't choose authors based on that criteria. I read a lot of books that subtly explore controversial issues like religion and politics and enjoy some more than others. I like it when a writer approaches a topic in a new way and forces me to rethink my positions. That's great writing. Unfortunately, a lot of writers fall back on clichés; and "Under the Dome" is full of them. The most glaring cliché is King's handling of religion. I like stories that explore religion and appreciate when writers that take on the subject of religious hypocrisy. But how many times have we been presented with the stereotype of the bible-quoting hayseed with the porn addiction? King has the character, in all it's formulaic glory in his latest offering. (Petty tyrant with political aspirations and stash of bi-racial porn? Check, check and check. I didn't read far enough to see if he was gay too-- but I wouldn't be shocked) It is such a heavy-handed portrayal that I almost couldn't believe that it was written by a best-selling author. But I've had enough experience reading books by once-skilled authors who no longer think they need an editor; and I wonder if that's what's going on here. I can think of no other explanation. Add to that references to military personnel as "pod people" and quotes from Mao, and well, you've got a book that's left the storytelling behind and entered into political rant territory. It doesn't take a genius to realize that the main character, who so happens to be a former military man (with no love of the military of course) is probably going to closely resemble a character from an Oliver Stone movie; but I didn't get far enough to find out. 100 pages was all it took to drive me away... The thing that bothers me most is that there's a worthy story in "Under the Dome." I can recall what I liked about King's writing as I read the book. The man can tell a story. But when he falls back on cookie-cutter characterizations to tell that story, I'm disappointed. I know people are going to argue that stereotypes are there for a reason, the old they wouldn't be there if there wasn't some truth to them argument, and I get that. But isn't that for amateurs? Shouldn't King, as a seasoned writer, be held to a higher standard? I did wonder if my personal biases were getting in the way of being able to approach the story objectively, but after reading the reviews on the Amazon page for the book, I realize I'm not alone in my assessment. It makes me sad for some reason.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are "Avatar" Fans the New "Get a Life" Crowd?

Back in 1986 William Shatner did a hilarious bit on "Saturday Night Live" in which he told a bunch of Trekkies to "get a life." Will James Cameron be doing the same before long? I haven't seen "Avatar" but it is the phenomenon right now. I honestly haven't been that interested in seeing it because most of the reviews I have read say that while the movie is visually stunning, the script is fairly weak and cliché. However, virtually everyone I know has also told me that must see this movie on the big screen-- many of them people who are not particularly smitten with science fiction. It also appears that I have been completely disconnected from the impact "Avatar" is having on audiences. From CNN~ James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle "Avatar" may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora. On the fan forum site "Avatar Forums," a topic thread entitled "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible," has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope. The topic became so popular last month that forum administrator Philippe Baghdassarian had to create a second thread so people could continue to post their confused feelings about the movie. "I wasn't depressed myself. In fact the movie made me happy ," Baghdassarian said. "But I can understand why it made people depressed. The movie was so beautiful and it showed something we don't have here on Earth. I think people saw we could be living in a completely different world and that caused them to be depressed." A post by a user called Elequin expresses an almost obsessive relationship with the film. "That's all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about 'Avatar.' I guess that helps. It's so hard I can't force myself to think that it's just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na'vi will never happen. I think I need a rebound movie," Elequin posted. A user named Mike wrote on the fan Web site "Naviblue" that he contemplated suicide after seeing the movie. Read the rest of the article HERE I have to admit this kind of leaves me flummoxed. Suicidal? Over a movie? I wonder if this is a real phenomenon or something overblown by media hype. Because if this isn't hype, then it's just sad. Or am I just being judgmental? Star Trek TOS - William Shatner SNL - Get A Life - MyVideo

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

Despite the hoopla surrounding the release of Avatar, when I finally had the opportunity to see a movie in the theater, I really wanted to see Sherlock Holmes; and having now seen it, I'm pretty sure I made the right choice. I'm not sure what drew me to this film. I'm not a follower of the Holmes canon and I don't think I've read anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in over 20 years (that's a painful sentence to write) and most reviews I've read regarding this movie say that it isn't a faithful adaptation anyway. What this film is, is a buddy-film featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law; and that, frankly, was enough for me. Set in late 1800's London, Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" is gorgeously atmospheric in a calculatingly washed-out fashion. Holmes, as played by Robert Downey Jr., is the kind of genius that spends his time in the darkness of his wildly chaotic apartment when he is not working on a case. Killing time by devising dangerous experiments, Holmes doesn't venture out unless prompted by Dr. Watson (Jude Law) who is as much mother hen as best friend. In addition to being famously observant, Holmes is also an avid boxer and those skills are put to immediate use as the movie opens with Holmes and Watson closing in on Lord Blackwood, a deranged noble who believes in the occult and has been committing human sacrifices. Once caught, Lord Blackwood is quickly sentenced to death. But not long after he is hanged his tomb appears to be blown open from the inside and Holmes and Watson quickly discover the body in the coffin isn't Blackwood's and rumors of the man's resurrection quickly spread throughout the city. The plot gets ever more convoluted and it's clear that the story is intended to demonstrate Holmes' clear-eyed attention to detail and cool reasoning abilities in the face of evidence of supernatural activities. Vague plot elements are rapidly introduced, including a former flame of Holmes played by Rachel McAdams, and the audience has no choice but to watch the film skip along knowing that everything will be answered in the film's denouement; and we're not disappointed. Confusing plot aside, "Sherlock Holmes" is still a movie you can sink your teeth into. The action sequences are fabulous. Often gaining momentum and then slowing into a slow-motion display, they're just captivating to watch. While some critics like to compare Holmes' fight scenes to something out of "Fight Club," I thought they were cleverly done and nothing like the messy, brutal scenes of the Brad Pitt film and were an effective demonstration of the more practical uses of Holmes' peculiar wit. The score of the movie caught my attention more than once as well. Holmes' character often plays his violin during his experiments or to simply help him think, and the use of the violin as part of the background music added so much to the atmosphere of the movie and cemented the sense of being in a certain era. I loved it. But the real strength of the film is the casting of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson. Downey is one of those actors who is reliably terrific in everything he does and he doesn't disappoint here. Though his last high profile character, Tony Stark from "Iron Man," is also something of a mad genius, I didn't feel like I was watching a period piece featuring that character. Director Guy Ritchie had stated that he originally had intended to cast a younger actor in the role of Holmes in hopes of doing a foundation film in the mold of "Batman Begins," but I'm glad he went with the casting he did. Holmes and Watson leap onto the screen as fully fleshed-out characters with a well established partnership. Jude Law is very, very good as the quietly steady Dr. Watson. I don't know if Watson had originally been written as the man of action Law so ably plays, but he's convincing in his portrayal of a former soldier. In fact, I really find myself torn as to who I liked better, Law or Downey. But it should also be noted that the chemistry between the two makes the film and I doubt it would be nearly as good without either one. Overall, "Sherlock Holmes" is a solid piece of film making. The movie could have been trimmed a bit and perhaps the occult storyline was unnecessary, but it is an awful lot of fun. The story ended with the intention of a sequel and I certainly hope we get one.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Giveaway....

I have 5 COPIES of "Veracity" by Laura Bynum up for giveaway on my GIVEAWAY PAGE. Head on over to check it out. (U.S. entries only on this one)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

**NSFW** "Kick Ass" Hit Girl Trailer-- Disturbing?

**Language and violence warning** There's a trailer that has been making the rounds, though I've only become aware of it over the last day or so, for the April release of a movie called Kick Ass. Synopsis The plot of Kick-Ass concerns a teenage boy, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), who decides to become a real-life superhero after being inspired by the heroes of comic books. He soon encounters a mysterious vigilante called Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), and his daughter Hit-Girl (Chloë Moretz), who are working to bring down the local drug baron Frank D'Amico. That sounds harmless enough until you see the trailer, and then it hits you that this is kind of demented. Maybe I'm getting old, but seeing a little girl, not much older than my daughter, use really profane language and commit extreme violence is kind of cringe worthy. I bet this is how some parents felt when The Exorcist was released.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Insecure...

Have you ever read something so good that it made you question any aspirations you ever had to write? In some ways that's the price of falling in love with someone's work isn't it? I read a lot of good books, but seldom do I read something that makes me feel insecure. I know my weaknesses. I'm not a word-smith, though I wish I were. I write in a linear way-- the journalistic background no doubt-- and I'm intimidated by prose because I know mine will veer into purple territory all too easily. But I know good prose when I see it. I admire it and linger over the beautiful phrasing. It reminds me why language is important and how beautiful it can be in skilled hands. I wonder if the writer wrestles with words the way I do-- and I know intuitively that he does not. How could anything so lovely and natural fight its way out when it seems to flow off the page? But the story is calling and I must return to it no matter how inadequate it makes me feel.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My Most Anticipated Movies of 2010

Instead of making resolutions I'm pretty sure I'm not going to keep, I like looking at the entertainment I have to look forward to when a new year begins. Movies come most readily to mind because there's lots of fanfare with big budget films, and sci-fi/fantasy films generally have huge budgets--hence big advertising. This year appears to be big for my favorite genre. So big that I need a separate list for my must see/must reads of 2010. This is my movie wish list for the upcoming year-- I say "wish" list because it's doubtful I'll get to see them all in the theater. But here's hoping. 2010 looks like it might be the year that monsters, real monsters (not angsty teenage vampires) are going to make a comeback. Unless I'm falling prey to unrealistically high hopes, the grown-ups might show "Twilight" fans a thing or two about vampires and werewolves this year. Add to that a few action flicks, a dreamy fantasy or two, and a comic-book sequel that's sure to be good and I'm a happy camper. Let's hope they live up to my lofty (ha) expectations. Daybreakers has me moderately excited. It looks like the return of the good, old-fashioned scary vampire. (January 8th) (Starring Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill) In 2019, a major viral outburst transforms a majority of the world's population into vampires. With only a handful of humans left to provide blood for the starving population of vampires, extinction is a very real risk for the new dominant species of humanity. The vampires are depicted as being immortal, and possessing similar physical (including chemical makeup) appearances as regular humans; therefore, they are not easily distinguishable as traditional myths portray. It is impossible to discern vampires from regular humans, unless blood samples have been extracted. In response to the dwindling blood supply, the vampires seek to hunt and farm the remaining humans for their blood and to find a blood substitute to prolong their existence. If a vampire doesn't drink blood, then they will transform from having a recognizable human form into a violent, uncontrollable bat-like creature of the night. A secret team of once-human researchers try and uncover a way that would rescue the human race. At the same time, small factions of surviving humans wish to repopulate the species, often using violent means to retain their humanity. The Wolfman is the next in line to offer hope that monsters, this time werewolves, might return to their roots in horror and leave the emo, black-clad-crowd behind. (February 12, 2010) Set in the late 1880s, the film keeps the plotline of the original, with Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) reuniting with his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins) following the disappearance of his brother. Lawrence Talbot's childhood ended the night his mother died. After he left the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoore, he spent decades recovering and trying to forget. But when his brother's fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns home to join the search. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable blood lust has been killing the villagers, and that a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline (Hugo Weaving) has come to investigate. As he pieces together the gory puzzle, he hears of an ancient curse that turns the afflicted into werewolves when the moon is full. Now, if he has any chance at ending the slaughter and protecting the woman he has grown to love, Talbot must destroy the vicious creature in the woods surrounding Blackmoore. But as he hunts for the nightmarish beast, a simple man with a tortured past will uncover a primal side to himself... one he never imagined existed. While Alice in Wonderland has never been my favorite fairy tale (or Disney movie for that matter), Tim Burton's take on it is just loopy enough to pique my interest. Johnny Depp doesn't hurt either. (March 19, 2010) A sequel to Lewis Carroll's original stories, the movie has Alice Kingsley, now 19, attending a party at a Victorian estate, only to find she is about to be proposed to by a rich suitor in front of hundreds of snooty society types. She runs off, following a white rabbit into a hole and ending up in Wonderland, a place she visited many years before, though she doesn't remember it. The White Rabbit claims to have come back for Alice because she is the only one who can slay the Jabberwock, the beast who guards the Red Queen's empire. Alice remains completely unaware of why she is in Wonderland, and is confused about the fact that she had once visited Wonderland years before. She then embarks — assuming both large and small sizes — on an adventure of self discovery and to save Wonderland from the Red Queen's reign of terror with the help of her Wonderland friends. Clash of the Titans is a purely nostalgic pick since I watched it so many times as a kid. It could be a total cheese-fest, or a CGI nightmare. It does star Liam Neeson-- so that's a point in its favor. (March 26, 2010) Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is helpless to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes), vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing left to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth. Leading a daring band of warriors, Perseus sets off on a perilous journey deep into forbidden worlds. Battling unholy demons and fearsome beasts, he will only survive if he can accept his power as a god, defy his fate and create his own destiny. Iron Man 2-- this needs no explanation. With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, must forge new alliances -- and confront powerful enemies. Repo Men, starring Jude Law, Liev Schrieber and Forrest Whitaker, looks a little bloody for my taste, but has a concept and cast that could make this a good one. (April 2, 2010) In the futuristic action-thriller Repo Men, humans have extended and improved our lives through highly sophisticated and expensive mechanical organs created by a company called The Union. The dark side of these medical breakthroughs is that if you don’t pay your bill, The Union sends its highly skilled repo men to take back its property...with no concern for your comfort or survival. Jude Law plays Remy, one of the best organ repo men in the business. But when he suffers a cardiac failure on the job, he awakens to find himself fitted with the company’s top-of-the-line heart-replacement...as well as a hefty debt. But a side effect of the procedure is that his heart’s no longer in the job. When he can’t make the payments, The Union sends its toughest enforcer, Remy’s former partner Jake (Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker), to track him down. Now that the hunter has become the hunted, Remy joins Beth (Alice Braga), another debtor who teaches him how to vanish from the system. And as he and Jake embark on a chase across a landscape populated by maniacal friends and foes, one man will become a reluctant champion for thousands on the run. Because it's based on a video game, I tend to be slightly skeptical of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but then, I liked "Resident Evil," so there's hope. (May 26, 2010) Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a street urchin in 6th century Persia. After showing valor in battle, he is adopted by the king as his heir, so the king's two sons will not fight over the throne. He teams up with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) to rescue the Sands of Time, a gift from the gods that controls time, from the hands of the villainous nobleman, Nizam (Ben Kingsley). We saw the trailer to How to Train Your Dragon when we took our kids to see the latest "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movie (which was truly awful-- an hour and half of my life forever wasted) and it looks awfully cute. (March 26, 2010) The film is set in a mythical world of vikings and dragons. The story centers around a viking teenager named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who lives on the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. The teen’s smarts and offbeat sense of humor is disliked by his tribe and its chief, Hiccup’s father. However, when Hiccup is included in Dragon Training with the other viking teens, he sees his chance to prove he has what it takes to be a fighter. After he entangles a dragon with a bolas-shooting cannon, Hiccup releases and ends up befriending the dragon. This relationship flips his world upside down as he strives to convince his tribe that they do not need to be dragon-slayers. I'm letting my geek flag fly and openly admitting that I'm looking forward to seeing The A-Team. There isn't an official site for the movie yet, but judging by the movie stills being released so far, it's staying true to the old TV show. Even the character of B.A. Baracas has Mr. T's old haircut. (June 11, 2010) A group of Iraq War veterans looks to clear their name with the U.S. military, who suspect the four men of committing a crime for which they were framed. As I mentioned in my last full post, Inception is the newest creation of Christopher Nolan. Not much is known yet, but if Nolan is writing and directing, I'm in. (July 16, 2010) Corporations have developed a technology to enter dreams to extract information from certain peoples' heads. A CEO (Leonardo DiCaprio) enters dreams and things begin to escalate, taking a turn for the worst... The Sorcerer's Apprentice, starring Nicholas Cage, is just making the list because it has the potential to be interesting-- but it may just fall on the cheesy side. I'm not sure. (July 16, 2010) Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can't do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protege. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness. It'll take all the courage Dave can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice'. Salt is an espionage thriller starring Angelina Jolie. I'm not afraid to admit that I'm not that deep and just like watching the girl kick some butt. It also stars Liev Schreiber. (July 23, 2010) After CIA officer Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is accused by a defector of being a Russian sleeper agent planning to assassinate the President of the United States; she goes on the run to try and clear her name while attempting to prove someone else is the traitor and as a covert operative must escape captivity and protect her husband before the world's most powerful forces can erase all traces of her existence Sylvester Stallone directs The Expendables, and while it's not likely to be more than a shoot-'em-up bonanza, sometimes that's all I'm looking for in an action movie. Mostly this gets my attention due to an ensemble cast including Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts. (August 20, 2010) After years of unspeakable corruption that concludes with tragedies such as murder of American hostages and betrayal of foreign policies, and finally recognizing a way out of this terrible mess, the U.S. along with other Nations, equally seeking the end of this catastrophe, secretly put together a squad of its highest trained military personnel to finally over throw the dictator who has caused devastation in South America for over 20 years. The team sets out on its mission to complete the assassination, but with little help from the nations as they try to keep the mission secret. After they realize that there will be no outside help, they rely on their own sources to fight not only the dictator’s army but also the governments that set them up. The Mechanic is on my list for one reason; I have a weak spot for Jason Statham. Very little is known about this one yet. All I can tell you is that it is a remake of the 1972 film starring Charles Bronson. (Dec 15, 2010) Variety is reporting that Donald Sutherland and Ben Foster (Pandorum, X-Men: The Last Stand) are set to co-star with Statham in The Mechanic remake, which is set to be directed by Simon West (Con Air – one of my favorites, FYI ) from a screenplay by Karl Gajdusek. Foster is set to play Statham’s hitman apprentice, Steve McKenna (the original role was played by Jan-Michael Vincent), and Sutherland will play Foster’s father who’s also Statham’s handler. Tron Legacy. This is another nostalgia pick. Too soon to tell if this will be as groundbreaking visually as the original, but it's one to keep an eye on. (December 17, 2010) Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 25 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidante (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.

Contest Winner & Simon R. Green Giveaway...

I have picked the winner of my short story contest and I have the newest "Nightside" book by Simon R. Green up for giveaway. Head on over to GIVEAWAY PAGE to check it out...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Christopher Nolan's "Inception" Trailer Released....But Movie is Still a Mystery

Time will tell whether Christopher Nolan, the brilliant mind behind "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," will go down as my favorite director of all time. And this summer will be the true test of Nolan's talent and originality as he brings a new movie to the screen that may be entirely his own material. (The poster says "written and directed by Christopher Nolan" but I don't know if there is source material involved; and Nolan isn't saying) All we know is what can be gleaned from the movie posters, which proclaim "Your Mind is the Scene of the Crime," the trailers that have finally been released and the IMDb synopsis that gives the following brief description....Corporations have developed a technology to enter dreams to extract information from certain peoples' heads. A CEO (Leonardo DiCaprio) enters dreams and things begin to escalate, taking a turn for the worst... Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine, the cast is certainly intriguing. But truly, I'm mostly interested in seeing if Nolan can deliver on something that isn't based on Batman or co-written with his brother Jonathan. Go here to check out the trailers for "Inception" and tell me what you think.