Book Reviews: Aliens, Sherlocks, and Rogues

Copywriting Made Simple: How to write powerful persuasive copy that sells
The title does not lie, as far as simplicity goes. The first graphic shows this perfectly: a man (reader) crossing a bridge at the urging of a woman (copywriter), exactly as the text just said. It’s kindergarten level. Thankfully it doesn’t continue this way, once your intelligence gets over feeling insulted.
The chapter on structure is amusing, because it perfectly mimics the steps I take to write a book, movie, or music review.
It’s a pretty big book, so there’s no surprise that there’s a few gems in here, mostly the examples of famous or just hilarious ads. I ended up making a lot more notes than I thought I would. At the same time, there are sections I skimmed through, with the thought that “If I ever need them, I’ll look them up then, but they won’t help me now.”
3/5

Dethroned
Of course Syl and Rouen can’t spend even a Christmas in peace, as the dark king decides this is the perfect time to take out the fair heir and his own daughter.
This is a novella that goes between the latest book and the upcoming one, with Ro basically facing the same choice Syl did last time. No surprise she makes the same decision. What I didn’t expect was for all kinds of fairie kids to be so instrumental. If there’s one low point, it’s that for such a short book there’s so many mentions of how Syl would have been dead from her injuries had she been merely human.
It’s tough keeping up with all the magic, new and also old, but then I’m here for the fun interactions, the snarky wordplay, and there’s plenty of that here.
3.5/5

Taking Flight
Recent widow thinks it’s time to get her life back, starting by returning to her speaker business. Flying to Vegas, the plane she’s in runs into a huge storm, necessitating a diversion to Denver. The pilot is a fan of hers, and his plan to woo her takes off (all pun intended). Though because of their schedules they don’t get much time together—plenty of time skips, which are not ideal—they do manage to have moments in Vegas and NY before he whisks her off to Hawaii for a week of relationship building.
Everything’s happy for the first half, but it can’t last, otherwise there’d be no story. Finally something happens to destroy their happiness. Some of it is a little obvious, like when a baby’s introduced; I instantly knew where he’d end up, and I’m pretty sure most readers did too.
I liked the writing well enough, but the plot was kinda clunky. At times felt by the numbers.
3/5

Killing Jane
Ugly murders are taking place in DC, with hints—especially the intro—that it’s a Jack the Ripper copycat. But this killer seems to have info on those famous slayings, including a theory I hadn’t heard: Jack might have actually been Jane.
This started slow, and I didn’t like the main character. Even though she’s just starting out as a detective, having been promoted from beat cop, you’d think she would have grown a thicker skin. Instead she’s very touchy, as well as insecure when she’s saddled up with a much more experienced investigator. I feel like there was too much of this: too often mentioned, too often shown. There’s only so many times you can read the same character flaws over and over. Likewise, her partner can be too forgiving.
The murder scene is horrific; I tried my best NOT to imagine it, unlike most books where I’m trying to find the killer before the fictional detective does. At least this allows a reaction from the protagonist that humanizes her. Turns out she’s still got PTSD from being raped, which she did not report. It’s made obvious that this is affecting her performance, or at least her mindset as she hunts for the killer.
Once I got over the goriness, I enjoyed the craftwork. Always good when an investigation is true to life and isn’t solved in 60 minutes (40 with commercials). The story itself was good, kept me guessing, though in my defense I don’t think there were enough breadcrumbs.
In a story with many brutal elements, there’s one near the end that’s even more so. And I can’t see any reason for it. Maybe it’ll pop up in a sequel, but it annoys me the way the author piles things on, almost like she doesn’t like her main character. And after that particular tidbit, it gets even worse for her. Sheesh.
Didn’t like the ending, came out of nowhere. Felt tacked on.
3/5

Marriage Under Fire
In a short novel that takes place in Seattle, two Marines who just worked an undercover case have to jump right into the next one, pretending to be married in order to infiltrate a spy ring.
She’d be absolutely fantastic if she could dump some of the testosterone she forces on herself to deal with the men. Him I simply didn’t like at all, but I can’t say he’s all that different from most Marines I’ve known.
The whole denouement hinges on him being so in love that he forgets his training and rushes in without waiting for backup. As a former Marine, I find that far-fetched. I would almost say it ruined the book for me, but the truth is I wasn’t feeling it anyway. It couldn’t decide whether it was a spy thriller or a romance, and those two parts didn’t mesh all that well.
2.5/5

Murder in Keswick: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
As often happened back when Sherlock took a vacation, another mystery finds him, in this case a grisly murder, followed by a break-in at the now-widow’s house.
Unlike most attempts at writing a Sherlock novel, I enjoyed this one right off the bat. It sounds authentic. For instance, there was a clue in the laundry that rang true to Arthur Conan Doyle, subtle but I got it. What happened after, and her aim with the shotgun, only strengthened my theory. (In the end I got it right. . . except for the actual murderer. Sigh.)
Read it in a couple of hours on a burning summer afternoon. Only problem is the next day I couldn’t remember any of it.
3.5/5

Stage Bound
A lady ostensibly in charge of a theatre company has to juggle her boyfriend, her boss, her friends, and a mysterious new act as they put on a show. She not great at handling the pressure, but she perseveres, mostly with the help of Pez dispensers. But when things go wrong. . .
Despite the shortness, it felt really long. A lot of times it seemed like I was making no progress at all. In particular, the mechanical explanations had me skipping.
On the plus side, there were some thoroughly funny moments, and the relationships were fun to see. A couple of well-crafted erotic scenes helped too. I wish I could up the score a notch, but the main plot could have been much better. I feel like I could have cut at least ten pages off and it would have been better.
2.5/5

The Sherlock Effect
A modern—or a few years ago, anyway—version of the great detective goes into that same business when his friend offers him start-up money. His father was such a fanatic that his middle name is Sherlock, but that’s about the only qualification he has as the two go around solving some relatively simple crimes.
Anyone familiar with Sherlock Holmes knew how the first story would end. The local cop in the second story is way too loose, telling civilians everything about the case. At least one of the characters notices, but a not very satisfactory answer is given. Basically it feels like a halfhearted attempt at recreating Arthur Conan Doyle, which is an impossible thing to attempt, let alone achieve. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it didn’t engage me; not even the inclusion of aliens managed to pull me in.
3/5

Devoted
A director and the manager—and sister—of a famous actress butt heads on a new film production. She’s trying to keep her sister from falling off various wagons while he completes his magnum opus. Turns out they knew each other growing up in a small Canadian town—odds of that?—and she’s always had a crush on him.
Really easy reading! Love it when it flows so well. I particularly like how the author doesn’t beat the audience over the head with how much the characters want each other. Yes, it’s there, but it’s not overdone like a lot of books in this genre I’ve read lately.
Everything about this was pretty standard, except for the enjoyable writing. Even the sad tragic moments felt lyrical. I might have given this a higher grade if the typical jumping to conclusions wasn’t present.
3.5/5

Lord of Secrets: Rogues to Riches
She’s lower class and working for a rich cousin, gathering more money by drawing caricatures of the twits she sees at various events. He’s upper class but works as a fixer. He can’t figure out who the artist is. She didn’t think he would care. But then it gets personal. There’s a puppy pug involved.
This has some finely written characters and plenty of humor, but every scene is stolen by the appropriately named Captain Pugboat. There’s a great part with the two trying to teach the puppy to heel, followed by an even better moment of them dancing. This is where the romance blossoms, and is worth the read in itself. Another hilarious scene occurs when she meets his sisters for the first time. This author could be writing for sitcoms.
The plot is easily established; the point is how to get to the inevitable end, and that’s what I enjoyed here. For once it wasn’t a by-the-numbers romance; it wasn’t about obstacles they put on themselves, but rather the crap the society of the time loads on them. This wouldn’t have worked in a modern setting; they had to go against the entire social structure of the time and country they lived in, which means they truly earned their happy ending.
This is how this genre should be written.
4.5/5

Summer Sizzle
Two people end up renting the same house and, though they can’t stand each other, can’t fight the attraction either. He’s got a doctorate in sociology, which he gave up when his little boy was killed. She’s an accountant building up money to get an advanced degree, and nothing will deviate her from that plan. . . so she thinks.
I wanted to like her, but except for sex and the kite lessons, she’s got a bug so far up her ass she’s just no fun. This is not someone I would want to know in real life, especially when she lets her cat do all the emotionally dirty work for her. Speaking of, this may be the first feline in history I’ve ever liked. (Gimme a break, I’m allergic.) But the cat giveth, and the cat taketh away; it was a silly way to cause the inevitable trouble in the relationship, but plausible, I suppose.
Points off for “orgasmic climax.”
Doesn’t matter how great they may be, because when it comes down to it, they’re both dumb as rocks, lacking in emotional intelligence. His PhD in sociology taught him nothing. Both invented stupid reasons for artificial roadblocks. Up to that point I’d liked this, but the last quarter was a mess.
Even worse, there’s a lot of loose ends. Her lost/stolen money issue is never resolved; she doesn’t even go to the police. With his reluctance to do just that, I thought the slimy lawyer was in on it.
And speaking of that character: what good was he? To make the main guy jealous? To make him look good in her eyes? Or did the author have someone in real life they couldn’t resist throwing in as vicarious revenge?
The ending, or next to ending, I hated. Brought down the score.
3/5

;o)

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Overview
This movie is what I wished Supergirl had been.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the series, but I don’t love it, feel so many things could have been done better from the outset. This movie gets them right.
One more thing: I’m not a fan of superhero movies. I watched the first two Avenger movies because of Joss Whedon, caught the first Thor on TV due to Natalie Portman, and one rainy afternoon when my plans were cancelled I saw the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Caught glimpses of an Iron Man on TV, but that’s basically it: never seen a Spiderman or Hulk, and the only Batman I ever saw was because Uma Thurman was in (boy, did that suck). So yeah, this was unusual, especially seeing it in the theater.
The day before this I mentally shrugged as I flicked on Doctor Strange on Netflix. Perhaps the fact that I couldn’t stand most of it inspires me to give Wonder Woman such a high grade, but that’s doubtful; even without that waste of time, The Wonderful Woman was superior in every way.

Writing
As always, this is where it starts. The plot goes back to World War One, and for the most part is a slice of life in the giant conflict until the two supernatural beings butt heads. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing groundbreaking either. And since the character had already been introduced in a previous movie, it was necessary to find a frame to set what is really a prequel, and the photo did the job perfectly.
Thankfully both the writing and directing are just as interested, if not more so, in the characters as the story and effects, especially but not limited to Diana. While most movies, even superhero ones, have humorous moments, they abound here, most of it coming from Diana not having the slightest idea how to behave with people who didn’t have the same idyllic upbringing as her on the Amazon island—when Steve first shows up, then amongst the crowds in London—particularly with men. My favorite was her trying to get through the revolving door at full charge. There isn’t that much humor after that, other than a few moments with the motley crew assisting them. But even more so, there’s some beautifully poignant instances within the ugliness of war, of which the most endearing is Diana telling an obviously shell-shocked Charlie to stay, because otherwise no one would sing for them. The acting is fantastic here, both their faces perfect, but it’s the words that make the moment memorable.
While most superheroes seem to have a personal motivation for doing what they do, be it vengeance or wanting to prove themselves, I very much like that the writers made Diana’s inspiration, as naïve as it is, simply wanting to do what’s right. And while it’s one thing to write a strong character who can also be romantic and funny, they gave her a special quality not often seen: kindness. There aren’t many superheroes who show compassion, but she has it in abundance.
It’s always hard to tell how much of the battle scenes is scripted, as writers usually throw in the kitchen sink and then see it whittled down due to safety or budgetary restraints. But if there’s one moment from the final battle that had to be in the original script, it’s her levitating over Ares, showing him she wasn’t the least bit bothered after all his attacks. He’s obviously disturbed by that, goaded into overplaying his hand, launching basically everything he had at her, never figuring it would rubber right back at him.

Directing
Like a referee in a sporting event, I’m of the belief that if I don’t remember much about what the director did, then it was a good job. I can’t think of any particular scene in this movie that stands out from that perspective. Of course I’ve seen Patty Jenkins’ other film—being a Charlize Theron completest—and while it was thoroughly deserving of the acting Oscar, some of that is always attributable to the directing.
In this case she shows a more than knowledgeable grasp of special effects and battle scenes, as well as comedy and sweet moments, some of them romantic but others not. Perhaps it’s the pacing that deserves the most merit, with enough respite given between the grittier moments for the audience to rest and reset. More to the point, this did not feel at all like 2 hours and 20 minutes.
If there’s one particular moment that deserves some mention, it would have to be when Diana finally realizes what Steve had said to her—she hadn’t understood him due to momentary loss of hearing—just before the plane blows up above her. The view of the explosion over her shoulder—even though she’s lying on the floor—followed by the quick cut to her face is perfect, as is leaving the camera on her for longer than usual so Gal could run through all the emotions of the moment, which are discussed in the next section.

Acting
There’s an easygoing rapport between Gal and Chris, but my favorite relationship, brief as it is, is between her and Lucy Jones. It’s easy to tell when Diana is appreciating Etta’s humor; it feels like they instantly became sisters. This is the first relationship she’s formed with a woman not from her island, and she seems happy to realize things won’t be that much different from that particular standpoint. The men, of course, are a different matter.
As I mentioned above, the moment when Diana tells Charlie he needs to stay because otherwise there’d be no one to sing for them is superb. It’s easy to see how much he needed that validation, especially after freezing during sniper duty. Gal’s face is so perfectly sweet, and you can see in his eyes that he’ll follow her anywhere from that moment on. There’s an earlier scene when Steve tells the boys that the money’s run out and they should go home, and they all refuse, partly because they’re enjoying themselves but mostly because Steve’s their guy and they’re loyal. But in this instant it becomes Diana’s gang, though it helps that Steve becomes her follower as well.
As for possibly Gal’s best acting moment, if it’s not the one I just mentioned, it would have to be the same as I wrote about in the directing section above. Right before her heroic second wind, when she’s seemingly trapped and out of the fight, she takes a sideways glance and sees Sameer, Charlie, and Chief huddled together, preparing to die, and feels like she let them down. Then the plane explodes above her, and there’s so much to see in her face—disbelief, sorrow, rage—all culminating in the moment when she realizes her destiny, even more so than her No Man’s Land trek.

Cinematography
Other than island of the Amazons, there’s surprisingly little in the way of landscapes, unless you count the trenches. Even the establishing shots are dark and moody. On the other hand, walking through the London of 100 years ago is always a pleasure; particularly enjoyable were the train station shots, reminding me of the similar scene from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
Though the colors aren’t as dark as the broodiness of other such films, there’s definitely a lot that’s muted. Every yellow, for instance, seems to comes out as an earth tone. That’s fair in the trenches and No Man’s Land, but there were other places where I would have wished something different. In fact, the only place I can remember being at all bright is the German reception, where she dances with the secondary big baddie while the sword is tucked down the back of the beautiful blue dress she stole from the rich matron outside. And though it’s a bit of a cliché, the fire they’re looking at as Steve tries to pseudo-romance Doctor Poison is gorgeous to watch.
The stuntwork, especially the battle on the island, is spectacular, with some tricks I don’t think I’ve ever seen. The firing-arrows-while-swinging moment, as well as the jump/flip with multiple arrows, are wonderfully realized, the latter all the better for the slow motion. Wonder Woman’s battles—the trenches, the town, inside the baddies’ base—are more imaginatively staged than expected, but of course it’s the final battle between the gods that takes the cake. Throwing cars around is always gonna look good, especially when you’re not Hulk-sized.
I don’t have individual sections for wardrobe, makeup, hair and the like, but as a photographer I have to take a moment to mention how incredible—even more so than usual—Gal looks in London once they’ve finally figured out her style. In the trenchcoat, with her hair back, her amazing facial bone structure is in perfect display. I’ve been photographing models for almost a quarter of a century, and I’m often baffled at how popular certain supermodels are, when I would never want to shoot them. This look shows exactly why she was so successful in her previous career.

Music
Unless it’s John Williams, it’s hard to differentiate—or perhaps it’s easy to write the style—between the music, especially the main themes, in superhero movies. Which is why the moment that stands out the most is Wonder Woman’s first battle, when she throws off her overclothes—finally revealing her costume—practically runs up the trench ladder into No Man’s Land, and singlehandedly attacks the German lines. Whereas most of the time you’d get the battle cry—think Indiana Jones—in this case it’s anything but; it’s so soft and heartfelt that at times it’s almost a dirge, which perhaps stands for a loss of innocence, but somehow adds to the enormity of the moment much more than bombastic horns and the like. Most times music supports a scene; this is one of the rare ones that adds to it. Something similar happens after the climactic scene, when it’s time to decompress before the celebration. And bringing in her theme from the Batman/Superman movie, with Tina Guo’s crazy cello, the moment she bursts into the enemy HQ was perfectly timed.
And Ares of course gets an appropriately evil-sounding theme.
In the end I would qualify this soundtrack as for the most part happily restrained.
As always I stay through the credits, not always looking for easter eggs, mostly enjoying the music. The full theme is appropriately heroic and triumphant, but then it changes to a song that in and of itself isn’t bad, except it completely confirms why I can’t stand Sia’s vocals. You do get that we’re supposed to understand what you’re saying, right?

“Feel”
This is what makes it more than just a great movie. Go online and look at all the photos of little girls dressing up as a superhero they can actually look up to. All that would have meant nothing if the film sucked, but in addition to not sucking, it had an undeniable spirit, not just good triumphing over evil, but the feeling that it’ll all work out if we pitch in together and do what’s right.
Whereas nowadays superheroes are written as jerks—I’m looking at you, Ironman, but Thor and Batman and others too—it’s a breath of fresh air to see an origin story that not only starts with innocent happiness but also ends with the hero not completely giving in to the cynicism caused by the trials she’s been through. Yes, she stops superheroing for a century, but in that time there’s no indication that her love for humanity has gone away. There’s something in the framing moments, when she receives the photo Bruce Wayne sent her, that shows she does still believe in the ideals she was brought up with, as confirmed by the one man who taught her most about humanity and she’s now staring at for the first time in a hundred years: Steve Trevor.
One last note, though not about the movie: this was the first time I’ve sat in the recliner seats at a movie theater, and though I’ve been to other movies where the whole place shakes when there’s a big explosion, I felt it a lot more here, and I am not a fan of it! So there. . .

Overall
8.5/10

;o)

Book Reviews: Movies, Bolivia, Alternate Universes, and Alcohol

Tookey’s Talkies
The first thing to know is that Tookey is the last name of the British film critic who wrote the reviews, and thus this collection of reviews. With that out of the way, if you’ve read Ebert’s or Kael’s or Maltin’s books there isn’t that much new here, though they are fun to read with a British accent. Some of his choices for best of the last 25 years are expected, but more are surprising; there are quite a few I’d never heard about, mostly British and European stuff that most likely didn’t make their way to the States. If even one of these hits the spot I’ll find this book well worth it. My favorite parts are when he’s deeply surprised when sequels are as good if not better than their progenitors, but mostly he makes me smile when his reason for liking a movie is the same as mine. 4/5

Tookey’s Turkeys
“Here is a movie that makes Dumb and Dumberer look threateningly intellectual.”
Here’s the other half of the movie-reviewing coin, Mr. Tookey’s worst films of the last 25 years. As one might think, this is tougher to read than those he praises. Most of the selections are expected, though his takedowns of several great/famous actors are worth the read alone. The revelations come when he selects some movies that most people would have on their best-of list, including Oscar winners; he particularly has it in for Michael Moore, and doesn’t like Dan Brown much more. Or Mel Gibson. . . 4/5
{Beeteedubya: in the leader quote he’s talking about Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.}

Senate Proof
Various levels of conspiracy fill this story about a bootlegging still for the modern age near D.C., involving rich people, politicians, and FBI agents. Internal strife threatens the entire operation, with some characters changing sides midstream.
The one note I made about halfway through was “This story is very uneven,” and that opinion did not change at the end. There are two main steams running through, one about a woman looking for clues to her father’s murder, the other about the still’s history and possible futures. At times they seemed to be written by different authors. The revelation at the end annoyed me, as there was no hint to it coming. It’s certainly not horrible, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it. 2.5/5

It’s the End of the World as We Know It
First of all, it has nothing to do with the song. With that out of the way, I can tell you it has some cute moments, but nothing more. Too much weirdness introduced too quickly to really keep up; I would like to see an outline of the author’s original intent, because it was hard to see a structure to all this, going all over the place as much as the characters.
The speech where they switched the first letters of every other word was cute for a while, but rapidly grew tiresome. And cats are terrifying enough without giving them this much power. . . 2/5

The Travel Writer
A woman goes missing in Bolivia, and a travel writer goes looking for her.
Not much happens. Nor is it a travelogue. It’s mostly the first person ramblings of a young travel writer who’s way too far inside his head to be of use to anyone. It’s okay when a character is amusingly annoying, but this one went way past that, almost making me give up on this. I would say I couldn’t stand the protagonist’s selfishness, but fact is every character is like that.
And I so hate it when a major character is killed off undeservedly. . . 2/5

;o)

Netflix report, part 2

Another round of stuff to watch–or not watch–albeit probably too late for the holiday break.

Shuttle Discovery’s Last Mission
While there’s a sense of propaganda–not for the country, but for Smithsonian, which received Discovery, and this was made for their TV channel–there are still moments that make you genuinely choke up. Had some stories I hadn’t heard, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from the techies and ground crew as well as the astronauts; even the conservation crew gets in the act here. To my shock, I was a little amused at myself for feeling slighted toward my hometown Endeavour. 4/5

MythBusters
Those who know it of course love it. Those who don’t and like science and/or special effects at all, or even comedy, you’d do well to watch this often wacky series that does exactly what it purports to do: takes famous myths and examines them for truth, usually to hilarious proportions. Tempered by the fact the Three Amigos were just kicked off the show, leaving only the two mains. 4.5/5

TED Talks
These are arranged by categories, from humor to space to psychology and everything in between, which makes it easier than randomly searching on the TED website. As you would expect the offerings are uneven; the worst problem is when the speaker thinks they’re lecturing in class and sound like it, but happily that’s not often. It’s worth looking through for the few gems, like “How to Use a Paper Towel.” It works! 4/5

The Fall
They really love to juxtapose ordinary actions–washing a kid’s hair, even having sex–with murders and the kinds of creepy things serial killers do with their victims after death. The first epi featured a long sequence shot from above, flying over an apartment–bedrooms, bathroom, etc.–which I found sinister but brilliant. Gillian Anderson is the lead, and forget everything about Scully; her character is so cold here, even during sex. 4/5

The Big Wedding
Not as bad as most people say, but not great either. There are two hilarious moments for us Katherine Heigl fans: one where she’s sitting on a diving board and just jumps into the pool fully dressed (don’t ruin it for me by saying it’s a stunt double), and most importantly when she’s walking out of the hospital with her brother and turns with her hands spread far apart to inform the astounded nurses about his size. . . 2.5/5

Ancient X-Files: The Holy Grail & The Labyrinth
Ugh. . . had they been the least bit humorous about this, it might have worked, but the deadly earnestness, the full-in conspiracy mode. . . ugh. 1/5

Discovery Atlas: Uncovering Earth
There are two separate parts to this small series, the best being the scenery porn; Hawaii and the Great Rift Valley of Africa are particularly at their stunning best. That part would get a 5/5 for being exactly what it says.
Unfortunately the last two episodes involved an obnoxious guy–he’s actually worse than Steve Irwin–claiming to “solve history,” though the offerings are incredibly different. One is a search for Atlantis, and his hysterical peppy manner does not help in making me take him seriously, even though I’ve done a lot of research on this very subject. The other is on Devil’s Island, which is a small land mass off Cayenne, French Guiana, in the northeast region of South America (learned that by reading Hardy Boys!). I couldn’t finish either one. This part was 1/5, so using what little math I remember from college I’m pretty sure this averages out to 3/5.

Wish Upon a Star
Probably the best work Katherine Heigl did as a teen. Even though it’s typical Disney nonsense about sisters changing bodies, there’s a lot of genuinely sweet moments, and the chemistry between Katie and Danielle Harris–whom I’m pretty sure was much older than her costar, despite being a foot shorter–is fantastic. There’s a scene where Katie’s making faces while being photographed for the school paper that’s nothing short of hilarious, but for me the best part is when she’s playing volleyball and hurts her hand; her reaction when asked if she’s okay reminds me that the best compliment you can give an actor is to say they don’t look like they’re acting at all. 3.5/5

The Tick: The Complete Series
Watched for Liz Vassey, never got that far. Hated it too much in the first 5 minutes. Warburton has always annoyed me but this time he aimed for the moon and hit it. I’ll be generous and give it an incomplete.

Hinterland
This show doesn’t know if it wants to be serious or Twin Peaks; the murders and motives are very dark, but there are some eerie/funny moments in every episode. And even though the detective is nothing like Coop or Truman, the scenery and especially the waterfall in the first epi can’t help but remind one of that epic show. The intro is much like Sherlock‘s, and I don’t ever need to see that collection of teeth–or any other–again. As I said, not quirky like Twin Peaks, but seriously, the people here are even more fucked up, and that’s saying a lot. And the sad-faced detective is as taciturn as Cooper was cheery. 4/5

;o)

Netflix reviews, part 1

Rather than doing reviews of current movies–which would be useless, since Guardians of the Galaxy is the only one I’ve seen this year (4.5/5 stars), I’m gonna tell ya what I think of stuff I’ve seen on Netflix recently. You’re welcome.

Space: Unraveling the Cosmos

Did not know the moon affects the earth THAT much, to a point where life might not be possible without it. Also did not know the famous Dr. Hubble made his discovery of another galaxy at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, which I can see from my window. . . the antennas, anyway. But that’s about all I learned. Thing had tons of CGI, beautiful visuals but mostly entry-level astronomy; if you’ve seen Nova or most specials on space you know all this stuff already. Ultimately fell asleep. . . 3/5

The Croods

Excellent voicework, particularly Emma Stone. Fantastic animation; loved the colors. The plot? Not so much, but what can you really expect? It did what it was supposed to do excellently. 4/5

The Bachelorette

Note: this is not about the not-so-reality show on TV; this is a rom-com movie, at least supposedly.

The discussion of blow jobs on the plane was surreal. . . and though I knew it was coming, it was still bitchy of her to play the poor guy like that, especially with that last lie that confirmed it was all a setup. . . (that got ya thinkin’, didn’t it?)

Let’s face it, the only reason I clicked on this was because of a certain redhead named Isla Fisher. Her best moment was when she blurted, “I took French?” in high school, but I’m tired of watching her play airheads. Finally gave up less than half an hour in. . . 1.5/5

Victim of Beauty

An incredibly typical suburban mystery, with one particularly great thing at the beginning: the credit “introducing Jeri Lynn Ryan!” Yep, 7 of 9’s first work. She’s competing in a beauty pageant and singing opera! Nice. Her sister is her manager, makeup person, hair, everything; they even snark about the hula hoop girl. Everything changes when the sister is kidnapped, and that’s where the movie goes for the rest of the time.

By far the best part is watching Jeri be the opposite of 7 of 9; she even has some crying scenes, which she did well. Call it a sign of things to come. She even sings Amazing Grace at the end. But that’s it. The movie itself, it bears repeating, is incredibly typical and quite a bit dated, not really worth watching except for the novelty of a young Jeri Ryan. 2/5

Hit and Run

After the slight disappointment of the Veronica Mars movie and the huge disappointment that was The Lifeguard, here’s a Kristen Bell movie I can wholeheartedly recommend. Written, co-directed, and co-starring her partner Dax Shepherd, you also get Tom Arnold (actually pretty good here), a cameo by Jason Bateman, and for all the Marshmallows an appearance by Ryan Hansen, who does his signature backflip right before getting whaled on by the one and only Beau Bridges. Some parts are tough to deal with–Dax’s character is not the best guy ever, even if he wrote it himself–but it’s surprisingly sweet. . . and there’s a lot of fast cars. 4.5/5

The Science of Sex Appeal

I can’t trust anyone who makes sex BORING! 1/5

Ceremony

Very uneven story about a young guy having an affair with an older woman who’s about to get married. Not nearly as good as it thinks it is, but. . . Uma Thurman is in it, so that’s that, watch it. And once again I didn’t recognize Lee Pace, after he was the baddie in Guardians of the Galaxy. Definitely not making pies. . . 2.5/5

When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions

Space exploration at its best, only helped by Gary Sinise’s wonderful narration. Told chronologically, each episode covers a specific time and/or program, leading to the best part, the moon missions, including the infamous Apollo 13. The interviews are fantastic; on the mission before Armstrong and Aldrin finally landed on the moon, the previous flight’s assignment was to orbit the moon, and NASA had to make sure not to include a way to lift off in case those astronauts got the urge to land against orders. Hilarious. The also didn’t whitewash the three disasters, especially Challenger. 5/5

Prophets of Science Fiction

A series about some of the grand masters of science-fiction writing; as you might expect, this aired on the Sci-Fi channel, or whatever it’s calling itself this week. Gets a little silly at times, with reenactments of their younger years; having to find actors that matched some of these nerdy guys couldn’t have been easy. There’s the ones you might expect like Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, but you also get Mary Shelly and George Lucas among others. Most of the time is taken up by interviewing various people about today’s state of the technology those authors proposed; my favorite was Clarke’s Space Elevator, since I’d just finished rereading The Fountains of Paradise. 4/5

A Bit of Fry and Laurie

Most people probably haven’t heard of this show, but if you’re at all a Monty Python or Benny Hill fan, you’ve got to see this. Stephen Fry isn’t that well known in the States, but I’ve never seen him be anything less than hilarious, and Hugh Laurie certainly wasn’t famous here before House. The “last name: lighter dropped on counter” sketch is right up there with Dead Parrot.  5/5

;o)

I am not a number. . .

Spent last night at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood–trying not to wonder what they hieroglyphs could possibly say–having a large tub of popcorn for dinner while watching clips from Dr. No, Mission Impossible, the Avengers, the Saint, Wild Wild West, and then most importantly two episodes of The Prisoner on a huge screen. It really does make a difference; for instance, I’d never noticed #6 had a tiger-skin rug in the entrance hall.

On the other hand, there’s yet another disturbance shutting down the subway. You’d think they’d figure out how to keep people from going into the tunnels, so that they don’t instantly think BOMB! and shut down the whole thing, even if you’re far away from that station. . .

;o)

Top 15 Hottest Nathan Fillion co-stars

So yeah, this is the kind of shit that comes out when I’m completely bored and not at all disciplined in my internet viewing. {Where’s all this porn people talk about. . .?}

So I watched Jane Espesen’s internet series Husbands all in one go, and playing the newscaster is none other than The Fillion. {kinda like we say “The Shatner,” which I think Nathan would like} Luckily his long list of credits includes a bunch of voiceover work, which simply does not count here and makes it tons easier for me to wade through. However, let’s not be disingenuous: this is a list of beauties who’ve been in the same movies as the guy, though not necessarily had any scenes with him; some I just don’t know, not having seen them. Others, as you’ll see below, I know they weren’t in the same scene, but I’m too damned tired to actually go hunting for the movie, or some info that would say one way or another.

15. Emmanuelle Vaugier {Water’s Edge}
Never heard of it, never saw it. . . doesn’t matter. Her ethereal beauty makes it worth watching.

14. Dana Delany {Castle, Desperate Housewives, Pasadena}
C’mon, it’s Dana Delany–what else is there to say?

13. Gina Torres {Firefly}
Zoeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

12. Stana Katic {Castle}
Uh-huh. . .

11. Charisma Carpenter {Miss Match}
If you can say no to {viewing} her, you’re a stronger man than I. . .

10. Paula Marshall {Miss Match}
Still the cutest who ever lived. . .

9. Eliza Dushku {Buffy}
And yes, she’s known as The Dushku around these here parts. . .

8. Christina Hendricks {Firefly}
Ah, Saffron. . . {The rest of this entry has been redacted to keep the author from embarrassing himself. . . again.}

7. Keri Russell {Waitress}
That WTF look in the middle of the movie, followed by a three-day perma-grin. . . visual bliss.

6. Mircea Monroe {Drive}
Back when she was even hotter as a redhead; no one has ever worn jeans better.

5. Jeri Ryan {Dracula 2000}
I finally saw this hilarious clunker, in which Nathan appears in exactly one scene. . . as a priest in a confessional! Make of that what you will. Immediately following this we go to a bayou where Dracula’s modern-day Demeter–this time a plane–has crashed, and we get a very sexy blonde reporter in front of the wreckage, asking the cameraman, “You getting the tits?” Oh yes, Jeri Ryan, everyone is. Quickly she’s turned into one of Dracula’s brides, where she gets to taunt our heroine and then play with the hero. . . until he sticks a wooden stake through her heart. Her look of surprise–and, I think, hurt that he would do such a mean thing to her–is priceless. . .

4. Malinda Clarke {Firefly}
Quite possibly the only prostitute character I would ever indeed pay for. . . (dammit, where’s that redactor when you need him?}

3. Darby Stanchfield {Castle, Waitress}
I don’t know how many ladies have had to play Nathan wife/ex-wife, but she’s got to be the only one who’s had to suffer through that twice. That second taste of deep-friend twinkie, when she’s coming down the stairs in her undies and lifts her shurt to rub her tummy. . .

2. Dina Meyer {Castle, Miss Match}
Excuse me, that should be Dina freakin’ Meyer!

1. Morena Baccarin
When asked what character I would like to be on Firefly, there was only one possible answer: one of Inara’s customers. . .

Also-rans
Ellen Page {Super}
Never thought I’d see her like that. . .

Angeline Ball {Outer Limits}
The best part of one of my favorite movies, The Commitments.

In an episode of something called Total Security, he had these three gorgeous ladies as co-stars: Tracey Needham, Kristin Bauer, and Lisa Boyle; hope he had fun. Similarly, in something called Hollywood Division, three beautiful actresses shared the camera: Moon Bloodgood, Tsianina Joelson, and Leighton Meester.

And then of course, the best for last: Felicia Day. . .

;o)

Concert Bookends

Haven’t gone to the movies in two years, now twice in one week. . . and possibly Much Ado About Nothing on Friday. My head hurts. . .
So, right before I left for Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro, I went to Natalie Gelman’s concert at Hotel Café–can’t believe it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been there–and last night found myself at Molly Malone’s for Riddle the Sphinx.
Here’s how it happened. . . (dramatic music sting)

A few Thursdays ago. . .
Most people probably couldn’t tell, but I remember enough of that training to know there’s heightened security going on around Union Station. Some overt signs, with cop SUVs on the outer circle, and a couple of K9 units, but to my delight I picked out a few undercover guys trying to meld into the crowd; nice to know my brain hasn’t atrophied that much. . . yet.
No big deal getting to Westwood, but after a cool cloudy morning it got sunny and humid in a hurry! Farmers’ Market is going on, but as usual I don’t find anything of interest. . . except the roasted corn! Mmmmm, so goooood! Ate it on the way to platelet donation, but because of the heat in my mouth and the day–sweating in my UCLA hoodie–I almost didn’t pass the thermometer test. Even worse, the music selection as I waited to be called in was. . . well past eclectic: there was one of the countless covers of Buckley’s Hallelujah, followed by heavy metal. . . and then mariachi! Couldn’t take it anymore, had to ask at the desk what kind of weird radio station this was. . . and the answer is. . . Pandora on shuffle! Ha!
Rather than watch a movie this time, I had my Kindle, but even then I ended up falling asleep. Still, this was the second time in a row where all went well, no cramps or bathroom issues, and I even caught a quick glimpse of the perpetually sunny Kirsten while in recovery, talking to an older lady about world travels. . .
The corn was so good I went back for another, almost getting run over by a tall blonde babe on a skateboard. That looked quite. . . funny.
Had no choice but to take the Sunset bus this time, but I was way early, so I ended up riding all the way to Freestyle Photo, just to shoot the breeze, though I told the guy I was compiling a wish list for my birthday so it wouldn’t be suspicious when I didn’t buy anything. But then fun petered out pretty early, so I crossed the street to go back, and found myself on the first bus I’ve ever ridden that had a new car smell. . .
Took the side alley, having to dodge some movers on the way, and quickly found myself inside Hotel Café for the 74th time–nothing much has changed, other than the waitress of course. No one will ever live up to the cuteness of Meiko, but this one had a very sweet smile; if history is any indication, I love waitresses. . .
Brooke Annabelle was the opening act, whom I liked but didn’t love; she’s great in concert, and while I liked the songs, I couldn’t tell them apart. She had drums and bass backing her, leading to a hard-rocking enjoying half-hour or so. Also noticed the waitress kneels to not be in the way; I like good girls. Plus the fact she called me honey and patted me on the shoulder. . . the world is such a better place with me not being born with the psychology of a stalker, huh? It was even cute when she said empanadas w/ a tilde on the N; I didn’t bother to correct her.
Okay, it’s one minute to eight and there’s no sign of Natalie, though her stuff is already on sale at the entrance. To my shock, the chicken actually smells pretty good. . . THERE she is! In a dress. . . no, a miniskirt and high heels, nothing at all like I’ve seen from her. Up on stage in the spotlight, she actually reminded me a bit of Jeri Ryan. . .
1 Streetlamp Musician
“I don’t want to die with a melody inside.” The previous act had ended with streetlight song, so of course I had to make note of it while trying not to giggle. I would have thought this would be her closer, as emotional as she gets with it.
2 Laugh so Hard You Cry
See, the hard-rockin’ one shoulda been first. She even invited everyone to boogie, then proceeds to hit all the high notes, spectacular considering her normal deeper voice. Her hair is flying all over her face, like in the photos I took that windy day in Century City. . .
3 The Lion
She talks a little too much between songs; bet she could have fit another song in there if she’d kept it brief. As expected, this got the crowd, especially the ladies, into it.
4 Most the While
She complains about there being no gag reel for the video she shot for this–too much cussing. That’s exactly the kind of thing I love to find out about, considering her sweet innocent face. . .
5 Long Stemmed Roses
Does a long story about how she wrote the song, ending with the almost-clueless ex wondering if the song was. . . “Yes, the song is about you, fuck you!”
6 Sundance in your eyes
She invites everyone to sing along. . . “and if you’ve had too much to drink, air sing.” classic line.
7 One more thing
First song tonight I was unfamiliar with; hope she doesn’t scream so much and make it so big on the studio version. It occurs to me that, between her innocent face and the way she was dressed, she could be anywhere between 17 and 35. . .
8 Crazy
Since I am so untragically unhip, I have no idea if this is actually a cover of the Gnarls Barkley tune. . . and I got nothing else here.
Somehow she–or more likely the howls from the audience—convinced the sound guy to let her do an encore, although for all I know this was supposed to be her closer and she ran out of time. Probably not, as she had to figure out which to do. She was just about to launch into Love Let Me Go when someone in the crowd changed her mind to the “Devil song.”
“Yes, the song is about me.” I think of it as a softer Lion.
She ends it with “I fuckin’ love you guys.”
Waited a long time for her, and even when she finally made it other people tried to cut in line or draw her away; guess my menacing snarl isn’t much good in the gloom at which they keep the lighting in this place. Finally got to playfully joust with her, forgot an air hug–virtual hug–this time and rushed to catch the subway, which came six minutes late anyway. At least the bus showed up in time, and I was entertained for far longer than I shoulda been while watching a young lady reading Sudoku for Dummies. . .

It occurs to me that the best $25 I ever spent was to see Daniela Ruah’s play. . . okay, it was $26.50, but that’s pretty cheap for a processing fee, dontcha think, Ticketmaster? Sad that it feels like the play was years ago. . .

Back in the Yoo Ess Ay. . . Yesterday
Why am I suddenly dreaming of Kate Beckensale as I wake up. . .?
As usual the shower ran long–no, not because of that–and I had to do a quick march to catch the bus, which I only made because of a timely red light. I really don’t like living this close to the edge. . . maybe a condo two blocks from the edge. . .
Hopped on the purple line, with all intention of getting off at Vermont as usual, especially when I saw an incredibly tall blonde there, but again, my stalker instincts at pretty nascent–or rather not born at all–so I stayed on to Western, thinking it was okay if I didn’t get a seat on the express because my destination was only two stops away. That was a mistake; the stop for the 20 has changed, so I didn’t have to cross street. . . which I only found out when the 20 zoomed by me. Had to cross back, and that cost me another 20–since when do they run so close together?–and another express. In all, I missed four buses and it made me late, and it was not helped by all the construction going on around Wilshire/La Brea.
On a brighter note, as always happens when I’ve got my player on alphabetical or shuffle, a song from tonight’s diva comes on–this time Riddle the Sphinx’s Shepherd’s Hill. I take that as a good luck sign, even though I’m not superstitious; I’m so complicated. . .
Finally there, I see plenty of people waiting for the La Brea bus. . . But by now I have to go to the restroom, and the only available place is Jack in the Box. Well, I have to admit the Oreo shake was divine, but I still missed the bus and ended up walking to 2nd Street–the cute blonde in the Trader Joe’s parking lot looking for signatures ignoring me, her loss–to finally get to Pix Cameras. So of course with all the crap that put me so late, the repair guy is out to lunch! He did come soon enough, so I left my digital camera with him and, since there was nowhere to sit and pass the time in the surprisingly small shop, I set my tired feet off to see what mischief I could find. Not much–La Brea and then Beverly were surprisingly high-toned for the neighborhood, no surprise there’s such a high turnover of these stores when they set such ridiculous prices. Found Blick’s Art Supplies, but looking through all the aisles only confirmed how overpriced everything is. . . plus Hall & Oates and Devo played on the overhead–thanks, I don’t feel old enough.
So of course by the time I went back for my camera it was far too late to catch the movie as I had programmed for the day. Luckily the La Brea bus turns east after heading north, right onto Hollywood Blvd, where I got off in front of the remodeled McDonald’s and as usual ignored Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Having crossed one street, I wait to cross the other while also ignoring the guy with the sign that read “Go Fuck Yourself!” Don’t know if he was going for humor or social satire, but considering how everyone ignored him, I don’t think he achieved his objective.
Now as I take the escalator into the Hollywood/Highland complex, the worst of all possible scenarios happens: the overhead plays “Call Me Maybe!” Arrrrrrgh! Immediately I had to go to the restroom again, but once I came out something far less annoying was on, so I retrace my steps to the Oakley store, where I instantly grab for a new pair of their Special Forces boots. Can’t believe I had my first pair for six years! No longer cost-efficient to keep repairing them, and I had a bonus from my last assignment, so yeah, plop down 200 bucks for hopefully another good six years. They didn’t have wide in the store, nor half sizes, and the laces feel horrible on the fingers, but it was still a good thirty dollars less than the previous pair, and they feel really good. The store, however, could do with some seating to try the shoes on; the pilot chairs from the ancient bomber just didn’t work. . .
Just as bad on the fingers was the straps of their bag, so I was muttering to myself a bit as I took the subway one stop to Vine station, then walked down that street to that McDonald’s–there are a lot more beggars than I remember. Tried to waste as much time as possible in the air conditioning, but soon enough I was back in the sun as I take the long way around–shoulda cut through the underground parking lot, dammit–to Arclight Hollywood, or maybe they still call it the Cinerama Dome. Just like Monday–last blog–I get there just in time for a long list of previews, though none of these were sci-fi like those others. Just as I’m realizing “Holy crap this is a giant screen!” on comes a preview for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing! Oh lordy, it’s not enough seeing Nathan Fillion as that buffoon Dogberry, but Amy Acker is playing Beatrice! Couldn’t tell who’s playing Hero, but this might subconsciously explain why I was dreaming of Kate Beckinsale earlier. . .
And just as yummy was the licorice. . .
This time I’m watching Before Midnight, the third part of the “Before” series that will hopefully be more than trilogy. I had absolutely no idea this was being made or had been made until I saw a commercial a couple of days ago, but if they targeted me, good job advertisers! For those who don’t know, almost 20 years ago there was a movie called “Before Sunrise,” with Ethan Hawke and the always luminous Julie Delpy wandering around Vienna for one magical night. Nine years after that was “Before Sunset,” where they basically did the same thing through Paris. This time they’re in Greece, on vacation with his son from the previous marriage–mentioned often in the previous movie–as well as the most adorable little curly blonde bilingual twins you’ve ever seen.
The first scene is his son saying goodbye to catch his flight back to the US, but the second, in which our two main characters are in a car with the twins sleeping in the back, brings us right back to the two previous movies, with its ten-minute takes; I always wonder how they can memorize so much dialogue at once, then I remember live theater goes on a lot longer. . . duh.
A few highlights for me. I didn’t hear any reaction from the crowd, and no one in the reviews has mentioned it, but the main musical theme–shows up right away–is the guitar piece from the previous movie that Julie Delpy herself composed, the waltz Celine wrote for him. She’s an amazing dramatic actress, but at the long dinner scene she does such an amazing comedic turn, doing a bimbo blonde act that’s simply hilarious. A similar scene is when they’re in a thousand-year-old church and she’s talking about blowjobs; she does the sign of the cross or whatever those hand gestures are, then puts her hands together and licks the edges like. . . well, you know. Damn, that woman is so sexy. . . and then she’s actually nude! The other movies got R ratings for a few F-bombs–stupid puritanical censors–but this one earned it, showing her off as a classic French MILF. . .
Wow, that was a fast two hours! It takes another of these movies to remind me how amazing and luminous Julie Delpy is . . .
Having been seated for most of the last three hours didn’t seem to help much, as I’m still tired as I struggle back to Hollywood Blvd, where I just miss the Fairfax bus. Two expresses pass by in the other direction as I wait in front of a strip club and tobacco shop, but if that was an omen it wasn’t a good one, having to stand there with my back quickly hurting for half an hour, having to listen to the oddly comical doormen–1 black, 1 Latino–hustling guys to go inside while trying to be charming to any ladies. At one point the Latino went right up to a tall blonde–fake, plus heels–and put on some amazingly corny moves, to which he later pontificated, “You can tell a lot about a woman by how she shakes hands.”
Finally the bus came, though as always there’s a ton of traffic at Hollywood/Highland. The guy with the “Go fuck yourself!” sign is still there, but it’s interesting taking in the human zoo from an elevated perspective. For instance, walking through the crowd I got glimpses of the people dressed up as characters, scrounging for money by posing for photos. From the bus I saw them all, and definitely remember a brunette Supergirl, or just about the opposite of what the character calls for. And then there’s the guy from Reno 911 with the short shorts. . . ugh, brain scrubber, please.
Got off a block before Wilshire–traffic getting by CBS TV City and Farmers’ Market/Grove, of course–and right into Molly Malone’s sight of tonight’s show. Right at the bar I see the mom and sister of tonight’s diva buying drinks, so no loneliness in the dark for me this time.
But even once we got inside we had to wait through the opener, a very attractive brunette named Christy Lynn Arvin who at first reminded me of Meiko, then Danica McKellar. . . lookswise, I mean, she certainly didn’t have the vocal personality of Meiko as she started with covers. Don’t know if any of them were original, but her “American Idol contestant” voice didn’t keep me interested for long. Guess I heard it all before, far too many times. The only fun part was when she mentioned, “Something smells good” and I instantly murmured, “It’s not me.” Luckily she didn’t hear me.
Sprite and leftover licorice do not go well together. . .
On to the Riddler of the half pharaoh half-lion!
1 Keep On Walkin’
I think the only people here to see her are at our table; not sure there’s anyone else in the joint. Never seen her sister rock out so much; it’s both funny and endearing.
2 Judgment Day
Her sister’s fave, which is even funnier. Christo the drummer is breaking off pieces of drumstick, he’s smacking the skins so hard! But mostly he’s back to using his hands, at one point missing a cymbal; you can see it in his face. Then he uses only his thumb when he wanted a soft cymbal. . .
3 Never Marry an Old Man
Totally hate this song, but it’s great when she forgets a line and cackles wildly. She’s reminding me of Delpy. . .
4 Hey You
Brings it all the way down. . . then all the way up again; never seen that from her. And I still call her scat as the closest she’ll ever come to rapping. . .
5 My Bonnie (something)
Her hair is flying in every direction, again as wild as I’ve ever seen her.
6 Funhouse
Mr. Kilt requested on stage, so of course Sean runs up there; luckily the kilt isn’t loose. He drops his rattle in the middle of the song just like the kid he is.
7 What’s Under the Scotsman’s Kilt?
Self-explan.
8 Lullaby
Usually the closer, but “we’re calling an audible.” Chris using football terminology is so weird. . . Christo hits a cymbal on the upswing!
9 (no idea)
Clap along–actually Christo starts this–don’t know it, no idea, not a fun way to end it, but end it did.
So, it looks like having a long day as soon as you’re back from another continent, then another two days later, totally works for curing jet lag. . . at least until I got to the bus stop and couldn’t stop yawning. Damn. . .

;o)

Short Reviews: Movies and TV

Four hours of Egyptology talk, then two hours of burlesque, with of course my fire-eating model from previous blogs. How was your Sunday?
On to the second part of me telling you what I think of certain media, like it matters. . .

Cake
I love Heather Graham, and will watch anything she’s in. Unfortunately, most of the movies she’s done, since Boogie nights at least, have sucked so much that I fast forward to just her parts or, more likely, watch without sound. . . and yes, let it be said she’s nude in most of them, or as Benny Hill put it, barefoot all over. Yet even when nude there’s only so much I can take. I did, however, find a delightful exception: Cake. She plays a hippie world traveler who rebels against her rich father, until he has a heart attack and she has to take over one of his magazines. . . a wedding magazine. Hilarity ensues for the vehemently anti-relationship one-night stand girl. . .

Thor
Not sure what I was expecting, but somehow I thought it was better than expected. Before I go any further, I gotta say I’m not a superhero fan; haven’t seen any spidermen, iron men, or any other kind of men in costumes, though I will eventually see the Avengers, and if I like whoever’s chosen as Wonder Woman. . .
Digressing as usual. I’m not much for the action scenes–which is probably why I usually don’t watch these kinds of movies–so my review is mostly about the rest of it, which I found surprisingly funny and at times even poignant. More to the point, I went in knowing there was a beautiful brunette actress I love–Natalie Portman–and a beautiful brunette actress I really like–Kat Dennings–only to find another beautiful brunette actress I’d never heard of, Jaimie Alexander, so it gets 5 stars just for that. {not really–4 stars} They did a good job with the mythology too, though I may have laughed a bit too hard as I watched the credits and saw the name of Stan Lee. . .

Avalon High
Surprisingly good acting by all the teens, even if once in a while an Australian/Kiwi accent turns up, and lovely use of mythology, much like Thor. Molly Quinn should always be braided; think of the lovely red rope-like braid on Fiona from Shrek and you’ll know what I mean. Steve Valentine, one of my fave actors, plays what might be his straightest role ever, which is weird for me because he’s such a comedic genius. Great twist at the end with Arthur being. . . someone not excepted (you thought I was gonna give it away, huh?)

Life Before Her Eyes
What do you–or I–get when there’s a movie with two of my favorite actress, both incredibly beautiful? Well, I was hoping for something a lot better than this. Not even Uma Thurman and Even Rachel Wood couldn’t keep me interested, and the topic–school shooting–didn’t help. It might be the first Uma Thurman movie I couldn’t finish since Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Conan the Barbarian
As mentioned earlier, I’m not much for fight scenes, especially when I see them so badly choreographed that I could have killed the opponent in three seconds, usually when he turns his back. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else here. I expected some light moments with the actor who was one of the best parts of Stargate: Atlantis, but. . . nope. Not even the lovely Rachel Nichols—whom I know is much better than her turn as Profiler Barbie on Criminal Minds–could save this drek that showed exactly why I’d rather watch at home than in the theater: I can stop watching and do something else without feeling ripped off

Craig Ferguson’s comedy specials
For those of you who only know him as a late night host, Craigy was on The Drew Carey Show for a few years, and before that had a guest starring appearance on Red Dwarf. Yeah, the guy is all about comedy, and he really brings it in these two specials. In one of them he only had one joke to tell, but he kept getting sidetracked so often that it filled and entire ninety-minute show. Very self-deprecating, especially when talking about being in a band in his teens, and his Sean Connery accent is the best ever. . .

Dollhouse
Even though it hasn’t been that long since the series was on the air, or off it, I’m finding so much more now that I’m perusing it again. Sometimes seeing a few episodes in a row makes a huge difference over having to wait a week; things are more easily remembered, for one. As an instance, it seemed strange to see the introduction of Mellie in one episode and go right through to her reveal in a few hours’ time. But the real takeaway here is the lovely Eliza Dushku showing off all her different looks, particularly the fetish gear that. . . um, I’ll be in my bunk. . .

One for the Money
In case you haven’t been here before, I LOVE KATHERINE HEIGL. Having said that, some of her recent movies haven’t been very good. The only dreadful one was The Ugly Truth, but even though I liked Killers, for example, I think it could have been better. One for the Money, thankfully, brings her back to excellent movie territory, her first since 27 Dresses. Based on the detective novel of the same name, it shows a very different character than the type she usually plays, and though it takes place in New Jersey, she doesn’t show much of an accent, certainly not like Janet Montgomery did in Made in Jersey. In a way that’s too bad; I still remember her doing a huge Noo Yawkah accent on Roswell. More importantly, the movie is very funny, and while a lot of the jokes are at her expense, the character doesn’t become a butt monkey, instead triumphing over everyone, even the love interest, in the end. This is a movie I’m gonna watch every few months. . .

Archer
Not since the days of Better Off Ted have I run through a whole season of a series, even a comedy half-hour, in one day. Think of a modern-day Get Smart, only much “worse” as far as sexual connotation and adult situations. The man character is as stupid a spy, but in a different way, not so much clueless as can’t get out of the way of his own ego and libido, especially considering his mother is his boss. The fact that it’s animated helps, making the most outlandish situations seem almost mundane, but the best point in its favor is the voice talent, especially H. Jon Benjamin in the lead but particularly the awesome Judy Greer–whom we still remember as the actress who got to “slap” Katherine Heigl–and Aisha Tyler.

Macbeth
Patrick Stewart was a famous Shakespearian actor long before he played Picard, but it’s always worth noting that film can do some things that theater can’t; doesn’t mean it’s better, just more versatile. Case in point: the imaginary dagger Macbeth “sees” isn’t imaginary here.
This version happens in almost-completely contemporary times; call it 1950s or 60s, and in some kind of Eastern European Stalinist/Fascist state. . . or at least it becomes one when Macbeth gets his hands on the realm. Since I suspect most of you know Shakespeare well enough for me not to dwell on it, I will simply comment on some of the modernistic touches that I thought worked well, like having the witches be nun nurses! I love it! Though not later when they were rapping; that’s toil and trouble in itself! And I’m guessing that in order not to scare their patients they were not costumed as black and midnight hags. . .
But to me the most important part was what is usually referred to as the “assassins’ scene” {Act III, scene 1}. This is where Macbeth is telling the boys to kill Banquo and his son. . . and Macbeth is making a sandwich! WTF? But after the movie there’s an interview with Patrick Stewart, where he says he told the director, “I wish I had an action” during this long, exposition-filled scene. And the director–who’s married to Lady Macbeth, it turns out–told him, “Why not make a sandwich?” And in fact Macbeth makes sandwiches for the assassins as well, gives them a hug while they’re munching. Stewart talks about how making it something so commonplace only makes it more horrible, and boy is he right; this scene is just chilling, and to me the most memorable.
And I always have to include some of my favorite quotes; it’s a rule.
My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white
Full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife.
Where silent sorrow seems a modern ecstasy
Let’s make us medicines of our great revenge, to cure this deadly grief.

Coming Up:
Rewatchings of Sherlock Season 2, along with all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars, now that the Kickstarter campaign reached epic proportions. . .

;o)