29 May 2010

Books: The Kane Chronicles: Book 1: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan


A few days before its release date, I was working at the bookstore when this guy asked me if The Red Pyramid, was going to different that Riordan’s previous five-book series Percy Jackson and The Olympians. I like being honest with my customers, as I’ve never been one to say James Patterson is a marvelous author and should be read by everyone. He’s a hack. Plain and simple.

No, I told him, I sensed with this new series, Riordan was not going to breakout of his well established formula that served Percy Jackson so well - a parent disappears, prompting introductions to ancient characters and travels to otherworldly places. There are to be battles with evil forces and a looming deadline by which the child must complete a mission, lest society descend into chaos. That’s gist of the this book and the gist of Percy Jackson. The question should have been whether it was going to be good as that other series (despite the last book being somewhat of a disappointment with its easy ending).

And to somewhat to my surprise, he’s succeeded with this new book. Instead of one, he’s got two protagonist in this new series, a brother and sister (who are bi-racial, which I found very interesting) who’ve been separated since the death of their mother, Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, while her brother Carter has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

While I was distracted by the alternate points of view chapters between Sadie and Carter at first (while Riordan has an ear for dialogue, he needs work creating a three dimensional female hero that does not sound like a boy), the book began to flow a bit better as it progressed. Riordan still has a habit of reminding readers the plot of the book every 20 or so pages which gets annoying after a while, and has outside characters explaining things to the kids instead of them figuring it out for themselves (which was what happened a lot on the final Percy Jackson novel), but its still a highly entertaining book for kids and adults. It is by far no Harry Potter, but Rick Riordan has done his homework on myths and legends of Egypt, making it also fun and educational at the same time.

26 May 2010

The shadow of Zac Efron forces Beastly out of its release date. Srsly.

Okay, so I’ve heard bizarre reasons for studios pulling films from already announced release dates, but even this one has to raise an eyebrow and a What?

On its Facebook page for the film adaptation of the young adult novel Beastly -in itself, a retelling of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast - CBS Films has pushed back the release date of said film from its original July 30th berth to an undisclosed date.

Why?

Because, apparently, the tween universe might have an early preview of the whole 2012 phenomenon. Okay, maybe not. Still, also opening that day is the Universal Film Charlie St. Cloud starring Zac Efron (who's 15 minutes of fame must be striking at 14). Now Beastly, starring a much hotter Alex Pettyfer, also stars Efron’s High School Musical co-star (and alleged girlfriend) Vanessa Hudgens. Theoretically, both films are geared towards the same demographic audience: tween girls (and probably their mothers). And, apparently, these same theoretical tweens, might face a huge “dilemma” when faced with which movie to see.

Thus came this statement from CBS: "We've been hearing from fans, so we know that having both Zac and Vanessa's movies opening on the same day could be a real dilemma for people, so we are moving Beastly."

Got to admit, it’s a pretty creative, and probably unintentionally hilarious, reason for pulling a film. Still, if Beastly is a bad film (which is the usual reason a film gets pulled), at least CBS got ahead of it and can try to save their investment by either retooling it, holding out for a better position later in the summer, or early fall or just wait until January or February 2011 when people will watch anything.

Too bad that could not work for Sex and the City 2.

24 May 2010

Final thoughts on LOST

I’ve become convinced now that last night’s series finale of LOST will leave many people a wondering just what it all meant -especially the “sideways-verse.”

It was never real, and only a creation of a dying Jack.

For me, Jack created the sideways universe in the seconds it took him to die. With what ever mysterious powers he was given when Jacob gave Jack the keys to the Island, I think he used that to bring everyone who survived Oceanic 815 together so all of them could leave this mortal coil whole and not the flawed creatures they were when they crashed on the Island in 2004. But in creating this sideways universe, Jack forgot to take care of himself, which was why he could never quite put all of the coincidences together.

The clue to all of this lies with Christian Shepard. He states that “you made this place so you could find each other," independent of the time at which they died, and move on to "the next phase" together, as in that place time had no meaning -i.e. the sideways universe. So Jack died in 2007, passing on the exact spot he woke up on after the crash (and who could not shed a tear as Vincent came by to make sure he did not die alone?). But before he did, he made sure that everyone -no matter when and where they died (because thanks to Hurley, who was now protector of the Island, is told by Ben that he was a “great number one” while Hurley says Ben was a “great number two.” How long that was is never given, but based on Jacob’s tenure on the Island, it could be hundreds of years)- could be together.

To me, there are not plot holes involving the real and the sideways world. Simple fact is that everything that happened, well...happened. The only thing unreal, was the sideways universe. LOST may have baited and switched a little bit, but at the end of the day, the series was about the people, and not about the plot. All the unanswered questions about the Island, about what it is, what it was, really was unimportant, in a sense it was the classic Hitchcockian McGuffian.

But, as always, its what we leave behind that is the most important. Who we leave, how we lived our lives was more important than any of the Island’s secrets.

20 May 2010

CBS "Hawaii Five-0" Fall 2010 Opening Credits

Five Years Later...

On Tuesday of this week, I past a milestone in this blog, five years. It was started mostly because I was bored. In January of 2005, I was let go from USG in Schiller Park, Illinois. By May 18, while getting unemployment and working a few hours at Borders to cover what that was covering, I started to write. It was mostly about nothing, really. My first couple of posts were about Star Trek, rants if you will, about the direction the old franchise was going in.

I also mentioned my worries about not finding a new job, as unemployment would run out in July. Eventually, of course, I would end up moving to California a few months later.

A lot of things have happened here in the past five years, with highlights being my association with Hidden Frontier and Frontier Guard. That would lead to what (hopefully) will lead to working on my friend JayTee and Carlos' first indie film.

What could endanger that, sadly now, is my job with Borders. I'm loosing more and more hours, and our new GM has proven not to be trustworthy (as if anyone of them could be really). Borders is a doomed company, and I need to leave before that company drags whats left of my soul with it.

Borders is erratic, conflicted and disorganized. Every decision is debated, every action is questioned. It lacks harmony, cohesion and greatness. It will be its undoing.

So, as I start year six, my goals are just to live, get a new job and find a partner. Simple goals, really. I just don't know how to do it.

Can anyone help?

The CW announces two new shows, confirms SMALLVILLE to end next May

Mini network The CW only has two new shows for the fall, and they’re giving them support by airing them after the networks two biggest hits.

Monday begins with returning 90210, followed by returning GOSSIP GIRLS.

Tuesday begins with the show that seems un-killable: ONE TREE HILL, followed by LIFE UNEXPECTED.

Wednesday starts with the networks biggest hit, AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL followed by the HELLCATS, produced by SMALLVILLE’s Tom Welling, and is a coming-of-age story about a young, pre-law student who’s world gets flipped upside down when she loses her scholarship, and realizes the only way she can stay in school is by reigniting her dormant teen gymnastic skills to win a place on her school’s legendary cheerleading team, The Hellcats.

Thursday brings back it’s other hit show, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, which then leads into the second TV incarnation of the motion picture LE FEMME NIKITA, now just called NIKITA, about a deeply troubled girl who was rescued from death row by a secret U.S. agency known only as Division, who then fake her death and tell her she's been given a second chance to start a new life and serve her country. What they didn’t tell her was that she was being trained as a spy and assassin.

Friday starts with the 10th and final season of SMALLVILLE, followed by season six of SUPERNATURAL with its new direction after its five year arc completed this May.

Only two shows have been announced for midseason, and both are reality programs. Expect some more down the line.

Canceled shows include: MELROSE PLACE, THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE, FLY GIRLS and HIGH SOCIETY.

19 May 2010

CBS unveils 5 new shows, cancels a bunch of others

After CBS announced the cancellations of a number of veteran shows, including GHOST WHISPERER, COLD CASE, NUMB3RS, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE, and GARY UNMARRIED along with a few 1st season shows as ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, THREE RIVERS and MIAMI MEDICAL, the #1 broadcast network unveiled a mere five new shows for 2010-11.

Starting on Sunday, the new CBS schedule looks this way:

Returning shows on that night include 60 MINUTES, AMAZING RACE, UNDERCOVER BOSS and the relocated CSI: MIAMI

Monday brings back the sitcoms HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, and TWO & HALF MEN. MIKE & MOLLY (from creator Chuck Lorrie) balances out their hit Monday night comedy block. The remake of HAWAII FIVE-O finishes out the first week night.

Tuesday remains stable, with returning shows NCIS, NCIS: LOS ANGELES and THE GOOD WIFE.

Wednesday has the relocated SURVIVOR, followed by returning CRIMINAL MINDS, and Tom Selleck returns to TV with the legal drama THE DEFENDERS.

Thursday launches with the returning BIG BANG THEORY followed by the new sitcom inspired by the popular blog SH*T MY DAD SAYS starring veteran actor William Shatner. The original CSI returns next followed by the returning THE MENTALIST .

Friday was a strong night for CBS, as they continued over the course of the season to win one of the most difficult nights on TV next to Saturdays. Granted they are one of the five networks to offer original programing when the rest have reality or just one hour of scripted shows, still with the cancellation of GHOST WHISPERER some wondered what was up. So, just as last season, the network offers three hours of programming, starting with the returning MEDIUM, followed by the returning CSI: NEW YORK and the lone new drama, a family cop show called BLUE BLOODS.

The only midseason show announced is the CRIMINAL MINDS spin-off that has no title but it does have Oscar winner Forrest Whitaker as its star.

18 May 2010

ABC announces 10 new shows, V held for midseason

ABC announces the arrival of 10 planned new shows for the 2010-11 TV season.

Sunday remains stable with returning shows AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS, EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and BROTHERS & SISTERS.

Monday also remains stable, with returning DANCING WITH THE STARS and CASTLE.

Tuesday starts the family superhero series NO ORDINARY FAMILY, followed by the DANCING WITH THE STARS results show. The new pseudo documentary crime drama DETROIT 1-8-7 rounds out the night

Wednesday begins with the returning THE MIDDLE, followed by the new sitcom about sisters called BETTER TOGETHER. The night continues with the returning MODERN FAMILY and COUGAR TOWN. The legal drama THE WHOLE TRUTH winds up the night.

Thursday begins with MY GENERATION, which centers on a group of former Austin-based high school students 10 years after graduation. GREY’S ANATOMY and PRIVATE PRACTICE both return with new seasons.

Friday starts with the new reality series SECRET MILLIONAIRE, followed by the Dana Delany, Jeri Ryan led medical drama BODY OF PROOF. 20/20 rounds out the night.

Midseason additions are the comedies MR. SUNSHINE, starring Matthew Perry, and HAPPY ENDINGS, starring Elisha Cuthbert. OFF THE MAP, is another medical drama from GREY’S ANATOMY creator Shonda Rhimes is also being held in reserve for midseason.

With a surprise pick-up, V will not return until midseason.

Canceled shows include: BETTER OFF TED, THE DEEP END, DEFYING GRAVITY, EASTWICK, FLASHFORWARD, THE FORGOTTEN, THE GOODE FAMILY, HANK, LOST, ROMANTICALLY CHALLENGED, SURVIVING SUBURBIA and UGLY BETTY

16 May 2010

Books: Drood by Dan Simmons (2009)


After his 2007 long novel The Terror, where author Dan Simmons took on a fictionalized look at what might have happened to the Franklin's lost expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror between 1845 - 1848, now takes on a fictionalized account of the last five years of Charles Dickens' life told from the view point of Dickens' friend and fellow author Wilkie Collins. The title comes from Dickens' unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

This is a well-researched novel, much like The Terror, which mixes factual biography from the lives of Dickens, Collins, and other literary and historical figures of the Victorian era with a complex plot, complicated even further by an unreliable narrator. Wilkie Collins, perhaps the first writer to pen a book in the genre known today as mystery and suspense, and Charles Dickens are friends first, rivals later, when it comes to writing. And from there, Simmons draws us readers into a deft plot of horror, mystery, drug addiction, and the enigmas of the mind.

The characters come off the page as real now as they were (hopefully) a hundred and fifty years ago. The story begins with the real-life train accident that Dickens was involved with (which also included his secret mistress) in June of 1865, which seems to change his life forever. It continues with Wilkie Collins assumption that the accident caused Dickens to begin a deadly second life, with trips to the underbelly of London, and his obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, and the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies.

Dickens claims its all research for his next novel, but is this mere research leading to something more terrifying?

So with Drood, Simmons (like many authors have tried since Dickens’ death in 1870), explores the unsolved mysteries of the author's last years and also may provide (again, as many have done over the years) the key to Dickens' final, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

It’s a chilling, staggering novel that shows us that there are still powerful writers in the world who can put out an impressive, totally original work of fiction that is also very entertaining.

NBC releases fall schedule

In an untraditional move, NBC has released its fall schedule on Sunday May 16 to the press before the official Upfronts begin on Monday, May 17.

After a disastrous 2009-10 TV season which saw the last place network placing all of its apples into one bag called Jay Leno, it returns for the 2010-11 season with a high amount of scripted programs.

Monday starts off with the returning CHUCK, followed by new shows THE EVENT, a conspiracy thriller that centers around a huge cover-up that even has the President (Blair Underwood) on a need-to-know basis. Meanwhile, as everyman Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) investigates the mysterious disappearance of his fiancee (Sarah Roemer), he stumbles across the truth behind the biggest cover-up in U.S. history. The night concludes with CHASE, a drama about a blonde Texas-based U.S. marshal Annie Frost (Kelli Giddish) and her team who track down fugitives.

Tuesday brings the two-hour edition of THE BIGGEST LOSER followed by the returning PARENTHOOD.

Wednesday starts with UNDERCOVERS, which comes from LOST creator J.J. Abrams and follows the adventures of a retired husband and wife spy team (Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who are suddenly thrust back into their former lives as CIA agents. LAW & ORDER: SVU returns for a new year, while the next series in the franchise, LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES begins.

Thursday starts with the returning COMMUNITY, 30 ROCK and THE OFFICE. They’ve added another comedy, OUTSOURCED, about an American transferred to India to supervise his Midwest novelty company’s new call center. The night finishes out with LOVE BITES, which is an hour-long romantic comedy anthology series, along the lines of the classic late 1960s series LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE, but will feature two single-gal recurring characters.

Friday begins with the returning WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?, followed by DATELINE NBC. The one scripted drama returns Jimmy Smits to TV as OUTLAW, which is about a justice who quits The Supreme Court to return to private law practice.

Waiting in the wings for midseason is the superhero drama THE CAPE, and the David E. Kelly lawyer drama HARRY’S LAW starring Oscar winner Kathy Bates. Sitcoms FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, PERFECT COUPLE and THE PAUL REISER SHOW are also waiting for midseason. Both returning shows PARKS & RECREATION and THE APPRENTICE will be back sometime in early 2011.

Canceled shows include: HEROES, KINGS, THE JAY LENO SHOW, LAW & ORDER, THE LISTENER, THE PHILANTHROPIST, SOUTHLAND (which moved to TNT), MERCY and TRAUMA

12 May 2010

Tyler Lambert, son of Diff'rent Strokes actress Dana Plato, dies at 25

The dark legacy left by the late 1970s TV series Diff'rent Strokes struck again on May 6 when Tyler Lambert, the only son of Dana Plato, took his own life at the age of 25. Plato married Lambert's father Lanny Lambert in 1984 and gave birth to their son a year later. The couple divorced in 1990, and boys father was given custody of Tyler. The Tulsa, Okla., office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that Lambert died from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.

Lambert was just 14 when his mother took her own life at age 34 with an overdose of prescription pills on May 8, 1999. Reports from his grandmother indicate that the young man never got over his mother's death.

The woes of the cast have played out over the years as a horrible example of what happens when child actors grow up and can't adapt with their new realities. When Diff'rent Strokes launched in 1978, it was a huge hit, but by 1984 Plato was being written out due to rumors of drugs and wild parties. She appeared nude in playboy in 1989, and starred in a string of B movies. Legal problems came to her in the 1991 when she was arrested for attempting to rob a video store at gunpoint, followed by an arrest for forging a prescription of Valium. She took her own life by overdosing on Vanadom and Vicodin.

Her two co-stars, Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman also faced legal and drug troubles as they grew. Bridges fought drug addiction, though now he is clean and sober with a new book out and tour on the dangers of drugs. Coleman has had well-publicized money problems along with scrapes with the law.

09 May 2010

Doctor Who: 05.06: Vampires of Venice

Following from last weeks episode where Amy tried to seduce the Doctor, the Time Lord crashes Rory’s bachelor party and whisks him and Amy off in the TARDIS on a romantic “date” to get their relationship back on course. They arrive in 1580 Venice, but as is with the Doctor, all is not well in the 16th Century. According to some citizens, plague is running rampant, and the city has been placed under quarantine at the order of the city's patron, Signora Rosanna Calvierri. Sensing things are wrong, the Doctor investigates Calvierri's palazzo and discovers vampires are running amok in the romantic city of Venice.

There is a lot to like about this episode, as Toby Whithouse’s (who also wrote season two’s School Reunion) script sparkles with great humor, the actors continue to make themselves appealing and the location work (Trogir, Croatia stands in for 16th Century Venice) is absolutely gorgeous.

But I did get a sense of deja vu with story. It resembles, in so many ways, School Reunion, down to the girl being taken to a higher authority to be helped, only to discover its an alien posing as a human. Its that device, the shapeshifting alien, we’ve see many times in Doctor Who, and I’ll venture an opinion that its becoming dull and overused (and beyond that episode, Whithouse used that same idea for an episode of Torchwood).

But beyond that, and a slight comparison to the Doctor/Amy/Rory triangle from season 1 and 2 (sad that neither Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill have chemistry), I enjoyed the episode, especially the bit of dialogue between Rory and the Doctor in which Rory tells the Doctor that he's dangerous because people want to impress him so, and then the stand-off between the Doctor and Rosanna Calvierri -where she tells the Doctor that her race “saw the silence, and the end of all things...”

As the episode ends, as Rory, Amy and the Doctor get in the TARDIS, everything falls silent. The look on the Doctor’s face seems to indicate he remember’s her words, and he seems a bit unnerved by it.

04 May 2010

Doctor Who: Season Five Rumors (SPOLIERS):

Rory, Amy's boyfriend, dies at the end of episode nine, Cold Blood. Amy, apparently, “forgets” Rory ever existed. .

Amy appears also not to remember him during Vincent and The Doctor, the Vincent Van Gogh story, which airs after Cold Blood.

Young Amelia Pond will reappear in the season finale, as she goes to visit the "Anomaly Exhibition" at the National Museum (another hint that there is some paradox going on). And rumor has it all sorts of baddies will turn up, including the Weeping Angels. Also in the finale: Chrissie Cotterill's character from the Van Gogh episode (speculation has it, the Pandoricum is a space where everything that's been swallowed by The Crack goes, and when it's opened, everything spills out).

Despite these paradoxes, Amy and Rory have to marry in the season finale, because time will go boom.

02 May 2010

Doctor Who: 05.05: Flesh and Stone (part 2 of 2)

As the two-parter concludes with Flesh and Stone, we are given the first detailed look at the fifth season’s arc. Since the start of the season, and every episode since, we’ve seen the mysterious cracks in time. What they represented was never explained, until this story. The Doctor realizes now that these cracks are causing time to be unwritten, which explains why Amy could not remember Daleks and the events of The Stolen Earth and Journey's End. The Doctor also mentions (as to what many fans asked when The Next Doctor aired) why the history records failed to record the Cyber-King rampaging over Victorian London.

The question is, how and who is doing this. We also get another mention of the Pandorica (which is part of the title of the penultimate episode of the season), but no clue as to what that means either -though a friend of mine suggests that River Song’s diary is the Pandorica (and did anyone else notice the giant Eye from The Eleventh Hour during the sequence where River and the Doctor are on the flight deck? There is a loud noise, and River turns away from the small view screen, which looks like its vertical hold has gone all crazy. The Eye pops up very quickly and then vanishes).

The episode builds on the tension from Time of Angels, though I found some of the Doctor explanations about the Angels a bit paper tigerish in the sense that he jumped to a lot of conclusions instead of actually figuring things out; especially when he says the Angels could not get Amy because she had her eyes close (and then River beams her out, which strikes me as a bit of deus ex machina, and makes me wonder why writer Steven Moffat had her separated from the others in the first place).

While River Song (and guest star Alex Kingston) gets a bit side lined in part two, we learn that she was in prison for a murder (did she come from the same place as Prisoner Number One from The Eleventh Hour?). While its never said whom she killed, Moffat seems to go out of the way to hint that it is the Doctor. And, there is a great part where the Doctor gets very angry at River, and she reacts as if she’s never seen him be that way. Besides, it was nice to see the Doctor show some anger.

The ending is also a bit odd. I’m unsure what it represents -Amy wanting a one night stand with the Doctor the night before her wedding. It seemed to come from nowhere, as she has showed no signs in the previous episodes that she fancied him. Then again, in conjunction with the cracks in time and the beam out River performed on Amy, could we be seeing an alternate version of Amy?