Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Last night I went to see Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time with Kaye. Seeing movies based on videogames is so not normal for me, since I have never been into videogames, at all, but I was interested in seeing this movie for a couple of reasons.

1. It's produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Bruckheimer's summer blockbusters are generally very fun, especially some of the franchises he's developed in association with Disney (Pirates, National Treasure).

2. Bruckheimer is largely responsible (along with Johnny Depp, of course!) for creating a film franchise based on a theme park ride into some of my favorite movies. Say what you will about the second and third Pirates movies, I loved them for the simple fact that they gave me more screentime with Captain Jack Sparrow.

3. The trailers for Prince reminded me of Pirates, the Mummy movies, and Aladdin all rolled into one.

So, knowing next to nothing about the Prince of Persia videogames, I was pretty entertained. I'm rather curious to know what die-hard fans of the game will think of this movie - I suspect knowing nothing of the storyline or characters or point of the whole thing, I was probably better off. *wink*

If you can get past the utter ridiculousness of casting Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan, a Persian action hero, this movie is pretty fun. And actually I thought Gyllenhaal did a surprisingly decent job in the role. He succeeds magnificently in channeling his inner Aladdin here, with a healthy dose of incredible fighting skills added just for fun. Dastan's leading lady is played by British actress Gemma Arterton. I've liked her work in Lost in Austen, the latest adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and even her brief role in Quantum of Solace. As Kaye commented after the movie, Gemma's character - the Princess Tamina - is more than a little inept to be the latest in a long line of guardians who are supposed to protect mankind of from destroying itself with the fabled sands of time. But in this kind of movie things that make sense don't really matter (at least to me, LOL), and I thought Arterton did a pretty fair job of playing the feisty princess role.

There's a couple of other actors that I need to mention. Ben Kingsley was an interesting and rather fun choice, I thought, to play the bad guy. Gandhi to Nazim, a character in a movie based on a videogame...the man has done it all, hasn't he? :) The biggest and most entertaining surprise was Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar. The man had some of the best lines in the script and his delivery and comic timing was always pitch-perfect. It was worth going to see this movie for the ostrich races alone. On the slightly more obscure side of things, I was happy to see Richard Coyle as Dastan's older brother (even though I didn't put a name to his face until the credits started to roll). Coyle will be familiar to fans of costume dramas who've seen Wives and Daughters or Lorna Doone. I really liked his character in this film as well.

Story-wise there's not a whole lot I feel like discussing here. The main reason this movie is worth seeing on the big screen is the spectacle of it all. The special effects are, of course, eye-popping & fantastic. And I have to own I just loved the look of the movie - the costumes and sets are just gorgeous. Director Mike Newell and company have created a visually stunning world here, and they keep the action going at a fairly brisk pace. And film music junkie that I am, I have to acknowledge Harry Gregson-Williams' amazing score. It was simply gorgeous, full of great action cues and enough Middle Eastern flourishes to make the score stand out from the run-of-the-mill. Gregson-Williams' work continues to impress me as time goes on and I hear his new projects - he's fast on his way to becoming one of my favorite film composers.

So, the final verdict...Prince of Persia was a fun diversion, but I'm not going to be clamoring for Bruckheimer to turn this one into a franchise.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ondine trailer

My friend Kaye did her own upcoming movies post today, and shared the trailer for the upcoming Colin Farrell film Ondine. People, I don't know how I missed this one, but I must see it:

Incredible, no? :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: This Fine Life by Eva Marie Everson

This Fine Life
By: Eva Marie Everson
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3274-5

About the book:

It is the summer of 1959 and Mariette Puttnam has just graduated from boarding school. When she returns to her privileged life at home, she isn’t sure where life will take her. More schooling? A job? Marriage? Nothing feels right. How could she know that she would find the answer waiting for her in the narrow stairwell of her father’s apparel factory, exactly between the third and fourth floors?

In this unique and tender romance, popular author Eva Marie Everson takes you on a journey through the heart of a young woman bound for the unknown. Discover the joys of new love, the perseverance of deep friendship, and the gift of forgiveness that comes from a truly fine life.


When Mariette Puttnam graduates from an exclusive boarding school and returns to her family, she faces a future full of unknown and exciting possibilities. But if her parents have any say in the matter, her future will be carefully channeled – her father wants her to continue her education and join him in the family business, while her mother wants to find her a very proper Southern husband so she can begin the very proper occupation of raising a family. However, a chance meeting with Thayne Scott, a lowly mail clerk at her father’s factory, will change the course of Mariette’s life forever. Mariette and Thayne’s impetuous love affair will be sorely tested when Thayne is called into the ministry, a call Mariette isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to – or want to – understand. Thayne’s love for God and passion for spreading the gospel will impact Mariette’s life in ways she’d never dreamed possible. Through the early years of marriage and the pains of establishing a ministry, Mariette and Thayne’s marriage is severely tested. Through it all Mariette discovers that though she may not be living the life she’d planned, allowing God into the center of life wherever you find yourself can make this life very fine indeed.

Reading This Fine Life proved to be an unexpected joy. I don’t typically gravitate towards fiction set in the 1960s, but the exquisite promise that Mariette meets her future “in the narrow stairwell of her father’s apparel factory, exactly between the third and fourth floors” captured my imagination. Of course the fabulous, Mad Men-style cover didn’t hurt, either. From the first few chapters it would be easy to assume that this novel is a “typical” boy-meets-girl romance, but Everson gives readers something so much richer than that. More than just a romance between two impetuous teens on the cusp of adulthood, This Fine Life is about what it takes to make a life, what happens after the first blush of romance has settled and the “I do’s” have been spoken. It’s a rare thing (in my experience, anyway) to find fiction that is less about the initial romance and more about the romance of building a marriage and a life together, and the commitment it takes to work through the trials when it would be easier to walk away.

The pages of This Fine Life positively drip with Southern charm. Everson so excels at bringing this time period to life, I felt like I was seeing movies like Tammy Tell Me True or April Love come to life (the latter starring Pat Boone, which is wildly appropriate considering it’s Boone’s rendition of the song “Friendly Persuasion” that plays an important role in Thayne and Mariette’s first meeting). Every description, from Mariette’s clothing to the food, appliances, and shops she frequents fully immerse you in 1960s Georgia, and I loved every second of the time I spent in her world. While Everson does a superb job saturating her storytelling with colorful descriptions and rich characterizations that bring the people and places within the pages of This Fine Life vividly to life, it’s the journey Mariette and Thayne take as they grow and mature as individuals and in their marriage that will stick with you long after you finish the final pages. I applaud Everson for crafting such a memorable story about the power and beauty of commitment, and seeking and finding one’s place and purpose in this life. Mariette’s story is one that cannot fail, I think, to tug the heartstrings of anyone who’s searching, or remembers what it’s like, to embark on the often-painful, but ultimately rewarding, journey of self-discovery and finding one’s place in this world that makes up a life. This Fine Life is a story worth savoring, a powerful reminder of the fine life to be found when one trusts in the faithfulness of an unchanging God.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This Fine Life preview

For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you may recall seeing a discussion on my wall about a sudden change I'm making - namely, a move. Well let me tell you, that has thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into all my plans for the week as I'm in full-blown oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-I'm-moving-in-less-than-a-month-and-why-on-earth-do-I-have-so-much-STUFF mode.

Well, this has coincided with the Revell tour for Eva Marie Everson's latest novel, This Fine Life. I've never read any of Everson's other solo offerings or the popular Potluck Club series she co-authored with Linda Evans Shephard. So I wasn't sure  what to expect from This Fine Life - I only knew I had to read it because of the time period (1960s South), the fabulous, Mad Men-esque designed cover, and the exquisite, intriguing promise that young Mariette meets her future "between the third and fourth floors" of her father's apparel factory. Here's the entire back cover blurb:
It is the summer of 1959 and Mariette Puttnam has just graduated from boarding school. When she returns to her privileged life at home, she isn't sure where life will take her. More schooling? A job? Marriage? Nothing feels right. how could she know that she would find the answer waiting for her in the narrow stairwell of her father's apparel factory, exactly between the third and fourth floors?

In this unique and tender romance, popular author Eva Marie Everson takes you on a journey through the herat of a young woman bound for the unknown. Discover the joys of new love, the perseverance of deep friendship, and the gift of forgiveness that comes from a truly fine life.
This novel is absolutely exquisite, each page in Mariette's journey worth savoring. Everson excels at bringing the 1960s to life, saturating the novel with so much period detail from the food to the clothes that you feel as though Mariette and her family could step from the pages into real life, they are so well drawn. And the journey - wow. Everson has crafted a story that cannot fail to touch the heartstrings of anyone who is searching, or remembers what it's like, to embark on a journey of self-discovery, seeking one's place in the world.

I plan to post one of my full-blown, long reviews (*grin*) just as soon as I get rested enough to string my thougths together into more coherent sentences. Till then, bear with me on the blog front- the next few weeks are bound to be crazy. :)

Miss Marple Series V begins tomorrow

Tomorrow on Masterpiece Mystery, Series V of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple begins with a new adaptation of The Mirror Crac'd from Side to Side. Here's a bit about the story to whet your appetite:
A new series of Miss Marple premieres on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! this Sunday, May 23, 2010. In Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, a glamorous celebrity and her dashing husband have settled in St. Mary Mead, and everyone is excited for a party to welcome them. But the hospitality turns horrific when a guest is murdered, and the high drama is just beginning! Julia McKenzie stars as Miss Marple along with Joanna Lumley and Lindsay Duncan. (One episode; 90 minutes; TV-PG)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Upcoming movies...the summer edition, part one...

Well, sorry to spring another upcoming movies post on you so soon, but this is turning into quite a week. I'm in the middle of a few books (reviews to come of course!), I still haven't reviewed Iron Man 2 or Letters to Juliet (loved 'em both just in case you were wondering), and I finalized plans to move sometime within the next month. Let the packing frenzy commence!

Since May is already half over (can you believe it?!) the summer movie season is gong to be kicking into high gear. There's a handful of movies coming out in June that I'm interested in you go:

You all know I'm a sucker for a good historical epic. :) Princess Ka'iulani has already opened in limited release, mostly on the west coast (I think). There's no telling if it will ever make it's way to Tennessee, but if it does I definitely want to see it. Starring Q'orianka Kilcher, who played Pocahontas in the gorgeous film The New World.

Killers opens 6/4, starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher. Looks fun but it may end up being a rental:

The A-Team opens on 6/11, and people I can not WAIT for this one. I absolutely love the TV show. While no one can fully replace George Peppard as Hannibal, and no one can ever, EVER replace Dwight Schultz as Murdock (LOVE him!), this cast looks like it will do a decent job. :) Starring Liam Neeson as Hannibal, Bradley Cooper as Faceman, Sharlto Copley as Murdock, and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as B.A.

Last but certainly not least, Knight and Day opens 6/25 starring Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise. I am endlessly entertained by this trailer, which is really something if you know how long I've spent loathing Tom Cruise (I've mellowed on that somewhat...loved Valkyrie, bad accent & all). If it comes down to a choice between this movie & Killers, this one will win, no contest...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review: It Had to Be You by Janice Thompson

It Had to Be You (Weddings by Bella #3)
By: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3344-5

About the book:

Bella couldn’t be happier that two of her long-feuding relatives have finally admitted their love for one another and are getting married. Their forties-style wedding is sure to be a night to remember. But when the Rossi house begins to fill up with family from Italy – and an old mobster from New Jersey – life starts to get complicated. Will a friend from the past drive the happy couple apart once more? And will Bella ever have time to think of her own rapidly approaching wedding in the chaos?

Full of humor, plenty of Italian passion, and a bit of Texas gumption, It Had to Be You will have you laughing out loud and wiping a tear from your eye.


Bella and the rest of the Rossi clan return for a third outing of wedding-fueled hilarity in It Had to Be You, the final novel in Janice Thompson’s “Weddings by Bella” series. Bella’s beloved Aunt Rosa and Uncle Laz have finally foregone constant feuding in favor of marriage, and tasked Bella with planning an elaborate forties-themed wedding, complete with live swing music. Several long-distance members of the Rossi family descend on the household for the celebration, complicating the wedding preparations with their own personal drama and opinions. When a former mob boss is added to the mix who disapproves of the bride-to-be, Bella’s best friend disappears, and interest in Club Wed explodes, Bella wonders if plans for her own dream wedding to her cowboy fiancĂ© D.J. will be lost in the drama and busyness of everyone else’s lives. In order to make her own happily ever after come true, Bella has one final lesson to learn about trust and control in order to step fearlessly into her future, full of faith.

With It Had to Be You, Thompson brings Bella’s story full circle. There have been times when Bella’s character has been a bit frustrating, since she never seems to move past the insecurities that plague her perception of herself and her abilities. But she’s seen both personal and professional success on the wedding front, since Club Wed brought D.J. into her life and his support has been integral to both the business’s success and Bella’s growing confidence as a wedding planner. When it comes time to realize her own bridal dreams, Bella finally learns a valuable lesson – that receiving can be as much of a gift as giving, and true freedom can be found in relinquishing control to a God one can trust to guide your steps. But more than Bella’s story, this is a trilogy about family, and all of the ups, downs, drama and love that comes with the territory of belonging to a group of unique and varied personalities. The Rossis are truly the Italian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with all of the family love and drama grounded by a rock-solid Christian faith. While this installment feels a bit preachier than volumes one and two, fans of the series will not want to miss a third helping of Thompson’s trademark warmth and humor.

This is as breezy and fast-paced a read as the first two novels in the “Bella” series. It’s critical to read the series in order, since the events of each subsequent book follow closely on its predecessor. One of my favorite elements of this story is how the family’s love of pop standards takes center stage thanks to the theme of Rosa and Laz’s wedding. I loved reading about the planning involved in bringing my favorite time period to life for two characters who’ve been so much fun to read about throughout the series. Speaking of Rosa and Laz, I really appreciate how Thompson doesn’t limit love and marriage to the younger characters alone. In Bella’s life, people of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds fall in love left and right in this series, just one of the reasons that make this trilogy such a joy to read. A large part of the series’ appeal is the characters’ appreciation of classic song – and like the classics of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, the Rossi family virtues of unconditional love, forgiveness, and support endure and make you want to spend time with Bella and her whacky family. It Had to Be You is a satisfying conclusion to the frothy fun and heart of the “Weddings by Bella” series. Once you start reading, you won't want to stop - and I can promise you'll be craving Italian food. :)

Robin Hood

Random observation: I rather feel like the same people who designed the above poster also worked on this one...what do you think?

When I first heard that Ridley Scott was making a Robin Hood film, I was incredibly excited - especially when I heard that it would be somewhat similar - perhaps an unofficial sequel - to Kingdom of Heaven, which is my favorite Scott film. (Please, if you've never seen the director's cut of Kingdom, do so asap!) And then this teaser trailer came out, and my interest in the movie nose-dived. That has to be one of the worst teasers ever cobbled together for a major film. Thankfully for this movie I stumbled upon a much, much better trailer back in April when I was putting together this post - and my interest in the movie revived. :)

This is most definitley not your traditional Robin Hood story. It's a dark, intense origin story where Scott has attempted to place the character of Robin Hood in a very real historical context. Though not a true sequel to Kingdom of Heaven, it makes an excellent companion film (sort of the "homefront" to Kingdom's Crusade-set action). The film opens with Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) leading his weary army back home to England, sacking French castles on the way. If you're expecting a traditional Robin Hood storyline, Scott dispatches that notion pretty quickly as Richard kicks the proverbial bucket and dies enroute. Robin (Russell Crowe) and his men (Little John - Kevin Durand, Will Scarlet - Scott Grimes, and Allan A'Dayle - Alan Doyle) are lowly archers and men-at-arms in Richard's army. With the king dead, the four decide to strike out for home. But their plans change when the come upon Richard's loyal lieutenant, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge - almost didn't recognize him, he played Dr. Tertius Lydgate in Middlemarch), tasked with returning Richard's crown to England. Loxley and his men were ambushed and massacred, and he tasks a reluctant Robin with returning his sword to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) in - wait for it - Nottingham. :) Robin & company assume the identity of knights in order to make their way home easier - and of course Robin assumes Loxley's identity.

I'm going to stop with the story recap here (that's probably enough of an introduction, anyway) and delve into the characters and acting for a while. I'll save Robin and Marion for last. :) Back in England Richard left behind a very selfish, immature younger brother - John, played by Oscar Isaac - with serious mommy issues. Eleanor of Acquitaine is played superbly by Eileen Atkins. She's regal and powerful and has a wonderful screen presence - an unexpected jewel of a performance. John is, of course, a disaster in the making, and as soon as the crown settles on his head he goes full steam ahead with his plans to tax, tax, tax. Isaac's performance is interesting and makes you wonder how John would've turned out if he hadn't grown up knowing he was viewed as so obviously the lesser brother. William Hurt makes an interesting appearance as the loyal William Marshal, pushed aside by John for disagreeing with his taxation schemes. Marshal is a rather interesting "bridge" character - thorughly loyal to the crown, he also has a very realistic view of the crown's shortcomings when dealing with its subjects.

It's absolutely tragic that this is the only picture I could find of Mark Strong in character as the villainous Godfrey. It really doesn't do the man justice, just so you know. As I discussed with Lori and then some other friends on Facebook, if this movie couldn't feature Richard Armitage as Sir Guy, there's no one I'd rather see stand in the role of Robin's nemesis than Mark Strong. Ever since appearing as Septimus in Stardust, Strong has become the go-to guy to play villains and you can't turn around without seeing him in a new project - Sir John Conroy in The Young Victoria, Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes, and now upcoming appearances in new sci-fi franchises like the Green Lantern. While he makes a habit of playing evil, morally repulsive characters, can we just take a moment to appreciate this:

The man is gorgeous, no? Look at those soulful eyes. *swoon* Give me a second to scrape myself off the floor and we'll get back to the point of this post....okay, yeah, Godfrey. Excellent villain. Strong quite simply owns the screen every time he appears. Intense, magnetic, evil, and brilliant, Godfrey is a worthy villain in the tradition of all on-screen Gisbornes.

While Strong delivers in spades, I have to admit to being disappointed in Matthew Macfadyen's appearance as the Sheriff. Now I have a long history of loving Matthew's screen appearances (click to read my reviews of his performance in Little Dorrit), but in Robin Hood he appears nearly unrecognizable (the hair was gross people, I just need to say it) and for maybe, maybe all of about five minutes of screentime. REALLY?! It was a bit disappointing to say the least. However, I have got to give Matthew credit for giving this largely thankless role a slyly comic turn. In fact, if Ridley Scott ever decided to make a sequel - and frankly, the end of this movie begs for one - I think Matthew's take on the iconic Sheriff of Nottingham role would be a highlight.

Last but certainly not least, this brings us to Robin and Marion (Cate Blanchett). I had serious reservations about Crowe and Blanchett's casting in such iconic roles, but both performances blew me away. I've always been rather ambivalent about Russell Crowe - while I think he's inarguably talented, and I've enjoyed his performances in movies like Master and Commander, I've never been nuts about him like so many people I know. And I've never, EVER gotten the whole Crowe-is-a-dreamy-heartthrob thing until this movie. Oh my word. Excellent job playing the whole strong, man of few words, incredibly charismatic and intelligent type. Wowzers. :) I will say that I thought Robin's backstory and connection to Sir Walter was just a little too convenient, but all things considered it worked.

Here Robin's lady is no maid, rather the widow of Sir Robert Loxley. Married as a self-described "old maid" for only a week before Robert left for the Crusades, Marion has spent ten years trying to keep her father-in-law's estate going, which is a largely thankless job in the face of crippling taxes and thievery from what I'm going to call the "Lost Boys of Sherwood Forest." Like Marian in the lately lamented Robin Hood television show, Blanchett's Marion is a fighter, but infinitely more mature and seasoned by circumstances. I really loved Blanchett's portrayal of Marion, though I do think her fight scene at the end of the film was rather poorly thought out and generally unnecessary (though it did allow Crowe and Blanchett to enact their own version of the famous water kiss in From Here to Eternity, LOL!). Oh, and before I forget, the "Lost Boys" really, REALLY needed to be explained better. Their appearances felt rather random.

I wasn't expecting such a strong romance to develop in this movie. After all, it is a Ridley Scott film, chock-full of the requisite battle scenes and political intrigue. But Crowe and Blanchett have some crazy on-screen chemistry that I never expected to see and it works really, really well. When one brings together two actors of that caliber sparks are bound to fly, right? :) This film gives us the most mature, grounded, real Robin and Marion love story that I think I've ever seen brought to life. The relationship between these two characters grows as much or more with a look than dialogue, and I just loved that. Watching the two of them get to know each other and appreciate each other's character and strengths is absolutely wonderful to see, and the way Crowe looks at Blanchett can steal your breath - he's so. freaking. HOT. in those scenes.

I love Scott's ability to bring this time period to life. It's gritty and violent (though in keeping with the film's PG-13 rating miraculously bloodless), but there's a wild beauty to the scenery that you just want to lose yourself in. I also thought Marc Streitenfeld did a good job with the score - prior to this, I am not familiar with his work. Ridley Scott and company have crafted a fascinating exploration of Robin Hood's origins, but the last five minutes or so of the film will, if you're like me, leave you desperate for a sequel. That's when the storyline heads into more traditional Robin Hood territory. Given how Ridley Scott has set up this world, and the life Crowe and Blanchett have brought to the iconic Robin and Marion roles, I would love to see how this team would continue their version of the Robin Hood legends. After all, King John has to see sense and sign that pesky Magna Carta... ;-)

Foyle's War concludes tomorrow...

Tomorrow night series VI of Foyle's War will conclude with the Anthony Horowitz-penned episode "The Hide." Here's a short bit about the story:

Foyle's War concludes on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY this Sunday, May 16, 2010. In The Hide, Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) finally retires, but is inexplicably drawn into the case of well-connected man accused of treason. Is the doomed man hiding evidence that could exonerate him? Written by Foyle's War creator Anthony Horowitz, The Hide may be Foyle's most personal case of all. (One episode; 90 minutes; TV-PG)

For those (like myself) wondering (hoping and praying is more like it!) if Foyle's War will continue, here's some encouragement from a Q&A session PBS posted on their website with Anthony Horowitz (minor spoiler for the end of "The Hide":

The Future

Foyle in America

In the new series, Foyle mentions several times that he's going to America, and at the end of the third episode we see him boarding a ship. What's he up to?

If you go back to an episode called "Fifty Ships" [from Series II], you'll find that there's a character named Howard Paige, played by Henry Goodman, who was a murderer who got away. Foyle swore that after the war he would track him down.

So this is the "unfinished business" Foyle alludes to?

Unfinished business indeed. Yes. It is very much our hope that we will come to America next year and shoot it.

Possibility of a new series

Can we look forward to a new series?

It depends on the financing falling into place. Certainly there is a huge appetite for that next show, and we wouldn't just do one. We would take Foyle into the Cold War. 1946 is a fascinating time in Britain. A lot is happening. Stalin is a new enemy. You could think of Foyle as being a prototype Smiley.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thornton vs. Darcy, that is the question...

Thanks to Charleybrown for posting this video. Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, all to the soundtrack of Nat King Cole singing "L-O-V-E" - seriously, what more could a girl ask for? ;-)

Go ahead and swoon, you have my permission...

Update - I just went to YouTube and discovered Luciana is responsible for this video! LOVE IT!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Ghost of a Chance by Amy Patricia Meade

Ghost of a Chance (A Marjorie McClelland Mystery #2)
By: Amy Patricia Meade
Publisher: Midnight Ink
ISBN: 978-0-7387-1092-1

About the book:

When a man goes up the Ferris wheel very much alive, but comes down dead, local small-town police suspect a heart attack. But one person is calling it foul play, a Miss Marjorie McClelland, full-time mystery writer/part-time sleuth. In 1935, Depression-era Connecticut, Marjorie’s dogged determination and independence is a breath of fresh air to some, and a source of consternation for others.

Marjorie’s fiancĂ©, an achingly handsome police detective, wishes she’d just stay home and act a little more ladylike. Undeterred, blonde and lovely Marjorie charms her way into what becomes a full-scale murder investigation. But not without the maddening assistance of a bored, yet altruistic, millionaire, Creighton Ashcroft, who, when he’s not swapping barbs with Marjorie, tries to impress her by doing a bit of aristocratic snooping on his own.


Only a short time has passed since amateur sleuths Marjorie and Creighton closed their first “case” – a mystery surrounding a long-buried murder that was uncovered at Creighton’s newly-purchased home. Marjorie is hard at work turning their crime-solving caper into a true-crime novel while furthering a romantic relationship with Robert, the handsome local detective who wishes she was just a bit more conventional. Meanwhile, Creighton is still hopelessly in love with Marjorie and determined to win her affections, even though she views him as nothing more than a friend (and an often annoying one at that). At the annual carnival, a prime opportunity for Marjorie and Creighton to spend time together drops in their laps when a man begins a Ferris wheel ride very much alive and ends it quite dead. Before Creighton and Marjorie realize it, they find themselves caught up in a case involving bigamy, hidden identities, and industrial espionage. To top it off, much to Marjorie’s chagrin, Creighton may just be ready to move on when the case brings him into contact with an old flame. Marjorie finds herself investigating her own feelings as much as the murder, and the clock is ticking on her chance of finding the killer and making a very important decision about her future before it’s too late.

The first Marjorie mystery, Million Dollar Baby, was a delightful surprise all around, though a tad on the longish side. Ghost of a Chance takes everything that worked in the first book and improves on it. The characters are quirkier and more richly developed, the story is plotted with greater tightness and precision, and the pacing is more focused and keeps events flowing at a brisk pace. Meade peppers the storyline of Ghost of a Chance with enough red herrings to keep you guessing, giving the mystery several rich layers that are a great deal of fun to watch unfold on the page. I also love the 1930s setting. Meade mixes the small-town feel of a mystery show such as Murder, She Wrote and endows it with enough period charm to bring the Depression-era US to vivid life. But more than setting details, Meade anchors her characters in the time period. Meade crafts her characters with a cinematic touch, and for classic movie lovers it’s impossible not to imagine Marjorie’s adventures unfolding in black and white like the classic screwball comedies of the time period.

I didn’t think it would be possible to enjoy Creighton and Marjorie’s developing relationship more than I did during their introduction in Million Dollar Baby, but I’m happy to say Meade has outdone herself. More than ever, I can so easily visualize Myrna Loy and William Powell, of the Thin Man movie fame, bringing Creighton and Marjorie to life on the silver screen. Like their Old Hollywood counterparts Nick and Nora, it is so much fun watching Creighton and Marjorie needle and poke at each other, because you know their “fights” are rooted in affection and mutual attraction. Meade’s biggest strength is her characters – they are funny and memorable, very real and quirky people that you can’t help but fall in love with. With a stronger, more tightly plotted mystery, engaging characters, rapid-fire dialogue and loads of humor, Ghost of a Chance is a winner. I can’t wait to see what adventures Marjorie and Creighton encounter next!

A Woman Called Sage by DiAnn Mills

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing

A Woman Called Sage
Zondervan (April 1, 2010)

DiAnn Mills


Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million copies.
DiAnn believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels.

Six of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards 2003 – 2007, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005 and 2007. She was a Christy Awards finalist in 2008.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.


They took away everything she, she’s out for revenge.

Sage Morrow had it all: life on a beautiful Colorado ranch, a husband who adored her, and a baby on the way. Until five ruthless gunmen rode up to their ranch and changed her life forever. Now Sage is a bounty hunter bent on retribution.

Accompanied only by her majestic hawk, she travels throughout the Rocky Mountains in search of injustice, determined to stamp it out wherever it’s found. The stakes are raised when two young boys are kidnapped and Sage is forced to work with Marshall Parker Timmons to rescue them. But Sage may ultimately get more than she bargained for.

In this exciting historical romance set in the late 1800s, murder, intrigue, kidnapping, and questions of faith will keep you in suspense until the final pages.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Woman Called Sage, go HERE.

Watch the Video Book Trailer:

Small Island, part 2

Masterpiece Classic concluded for 2010 on an extraordinarily high note with this adaptation of Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island (which I now HAVE to read!). Small Island is, in many respects, a heart-wrenching story, but it’s made beautiful by the hope and picture of human resiliency and possibility that unfolds on-screen. Here’s the summary of episode two from the PBS website:

Small Island concludes Sunday, April 25, 2010 on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. Hortense (Naomie Harris) and her husband Gilbert (David Oyelowo) find life in England isn't what they dreamed, but discover much about each other in the process. Queenie (Ruth Wilson, Jane Eyre) witnesses firsthand the travails of her tenants, but is soon drawn into a life-altering situation that will force unthinkable sacrifices. Small Island is based on Andrea Levy's award-winning novel. (90 minutes, TV-MA, S)
My favorite aspect of this half of Small Island is following the developing relationship between Hortense (Naomie Harris) and Gilbert (David Oyelowo). The two were virtual strangers when they married for convenience’s sake, and when Hortense is finally able to join Gilbert in London the two face adjustments and strains to their relationship that neither could have foreseen. This part of the story is where Gilbert’s character really gets the chance to shine. Talk about a stand-up guy – Gilbert is a character who wants to better himself, simply wants the chance make something of himself and succeed – and in the face of overwhelming prejudice the man just refuses to quit. However, this resilience and strength of character doesn’t come without a price, and Oyelowo does a superb job of conveying the full range of Gilbert’s emotions and struggles on-screen.

My sympathy and understanding of Hortense’s character grew tenfold over the course of this episode. She’s a prickly character, with very definite ideas about the world and her place in it. But when she moves to London, and everything familiar is stripped away, you are smacked in the face with the heartbreaking reality that much of what makes Hortense a rather difficult character to like is a defense mechanism. I absolutely loved watching Hortense come to appreciate and care for the man she married, realizing that Gilbert was so much more than just a means to a end, that he was instead a man she could build a life with, who would support her dreams at the expense of his own. Naomie Harris does a brilliant job with her portrayal of Hortense, particularly in how Hortense grows and matures and opens up by the end of this film. The “never say die” spirit you see in both Hortense and Gilbert is truly an inspiration.

As I mentioned in my review of part one, Hortense and Queenie (Ruth Wilson) serve as the anchors of this story. Born in two very different cultures, with very different backgrounds, these two women are revealed to have more in common than either would have ever dreamed. Since her husband Bernard (Bernard Cumberbatch) never returned home when the war ended, Queenie has largely been able to live life on her own terms. Wonderfully free of the prejudices that people like Gilbert and Hortense encounter at every turn, Queenie has been able to cultivate rich friendships and remain rather immune and insulated to how her white neighbors view her interracial relationships. She just doesn’t care – but that starts to change when Michael (Ashley Walters), the black RAF airman whose attentions captivated her during the war, returns and rekindles their affair. When their last encounter results in pregnancy, followed by the unexpected return of Bernard, Queenie is faced with an unfathomable choice. In order to give the one she loves most a future filled with love, she has to come face-to-face with how the prejudices of those who surround her may force her to make an unthinkably difficult sacrifice. Ruth Wilson blew me away with her performance here. The depth of life, emotion, and pain that she brought to bear in the role of Queenie was breath-taking. As an actress she’s proven herself capable of more than I ever gave her credit for – this was a fantastic performance and I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.

A person could probably write a book on the different ways Michael – “the hurricane” – impacted Queenie and Hortense’s lives and changed them forever. In pondering this, I have to conclude that Hortense was definitely blessed by her early separation from Michael’s influence. The differences between Michael’s and Gilbert’s respective characters are like night and day as far as selflessness and consideration are concerned. Though both men faced the same prejudices and obstacles, there’s a lot to learn and digest by observing the way each man let those fires refine and form their characters. And then on the other end of the spectrum you have the button-up Bernard, who makes some tentative steps towards overcoming his prejudices, not because he believes they are inherently wrong, but more out of love for Queenie. Even so, that was a step that was in its own way beautiful to see – because if you make that first step in the right direction, the next can be easier, no? Whether he could have changed more, if given time, or if he was simply too set in his ways is a question that remains unanswered. That said, Cumberbatch plays the difficult role of Bernard very, very well. In a less capable actor’s hands I think it would be easy for Bernard to become a caricature, easily dismissed – but Cumberbatch succeeds, to my mind at any rate, in showing how Bernard is a product of his times, not entirely unsympathetic by any stretch.

Small Island is a beautifully constructed, well-made, thought-provoking film. The characters are the kind that stay with you - you can't help but mull over their situations and choices and responses to situations long after the film ends. I'm so, so glad Masterpiece introduced this powerful story. Small Island could have been a very dark and rather bleak story, but there's so much hope here, so much courage in these characters' lives that quite honestly I came away enriched by the story. Now to make time for the book... ;-)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Foyle's War continues tomorrow...

Just a reminder that Masterpiece Mystery continues tomorrow with a brand new episode of the always excellent Foyle's War. This episode is entitled "Killing Time" - here's a bit about the story:
All-new episodes of Foyle's War continue on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY this Sunday, May 9, 2010. In Killing Time, racial tensions are running high between black American GIs and Hastings locals. With tempers flaring, Christopher Foyle must get to the bottom of a vicious murder, bringing him into a confrontation with the U.S. Army. (One episode; 90 minutes; TV-PG)
Considering I'm in the middle of watching Small Island which is largely concerned with racial tensions in postwar England, I'd say this story is quite timely...

Small Island, part 1

I finally started watching Small Island, the final offering of the 2010 Masterpiece Classic season. Halfway through the program, I am incredibly impressed. Here's the brief summary from the PBS website:

"This island is too small if you have big dreams...Without dreams we are nothing."
Hortense in Small Island
Born into a broken home and an impoverished life in Jamaica, Hortense (Naomie Harris) longs for a fulfilling life in England; one with a fine house and a doorbell. The door of opportunity swings open, and Hortense is married and on her way to the promised land of post-war Britain. Steadfast dreams are soon tested by hard realities as Hortense and her husband Gilbert (David Oyelowo) face racism and poverty. In the small-minded country, their only saving grace is Queenie (Ruth Wilson, Jane Eyre). But Queenie faces her own disillusionment, married to the kind but dull Bernard (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Last Enemy). Bonded by high hopes and broken dreams, these four lives fuse together in a powerful and hopeful story of love and fulfillment. Small Island is based on the award-winning, bestselling novel by Andrea Levy. (Two episodes; 90 minutes each; TV-MA, S)
With an epic feel, and covering a nearly ten year time frame, Small Island is the fierce and passionate story of five individuals and how their lives intersect during and after World War II. It's an in-depth look at a period in English history that the mystery series Jericho first introduced to me a couple of years ago - Jamaican immigrants to England during the postwar years. England may not have had an official segregation policy like the United States, but prejudices were very much alive, only perhaps manifested in a different manner.

At the heart of this story are two women from opposite sides of the world, but not so different when it comes to the big dreams each cherished for their lives and how those dreams were often starkly different from reality. Naomie Harris plays the prim and proper Hortense, who dreams of becoming a teacher in the "Mother Country" and having the type of life she's always read about and dreamed of growing up in Jamaica. Harris is perhaps most recognizable as the character Tia Dalma from the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films. Hortense will do anything to keep her illegitmate origins a secret, and obsessed with the idea of living the English "dream" life she'll even marry a man she doesn't love in order to secure passage. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Queenie, played by the superb actress Ruth Wilson. I became a fan of hers when she debuted opposite Toby Stephens playing the title role in Jane Eyre. Wilson has a wonderfully expressive face and I think a great career ahead of her, especially with strong roles like Queenie on her resume. Queenie is an interesting character - she marries the generally kind but dull Bernard in order to escape having to return to her family's farm. While marriage has freed her from returning to her past, it presents another kind of cage as her husband is loathe to change anything and is very set in his ways. But when he enlists, Queenie begins to become more self-sufficient as the proprietress of her own boarding house. For the time period Queenie is remarkably free from prejudice and seems to have the gift of seeing people as they are, instead of in some limited "box" society tries to keep them in. Tied to other men, both Hortense and Queenie have no idea that both of their lives have been touched by the same man - the rebellious and strong-willed Michael, who grew up with Hortense on Jamaica.

Queenie's husband Bernard is played by a favorite of mine, actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch first came to my attention when he played William Pitt in the film Amazing Grace, and that was followed by a variety of roles in films like Atonement and series like Miss Marple last year. Later this year he'll be seen on Masterpiece Mystery in the new, modern-day Sherlock series (can't wait!). Bernard is pretty much the polar opposite of Queenie - quiet and repressed, but in spite of this he adores her. I found the scenes where Bernard was interacting with his shell-shocked World War I veteran father extremely insightful - one really gets the sense that Bernard is at least in part so buttoned-up because he fears turning into his father, whose wartime experiences left him permanently, emotionally volatile. David Oyelowo plays Hortense's eventual husband Gilbert. Oyelowo is perhaps most familiar to British television viewers for the years he played Danny on the show Spooks (known over here as MI-5). Gilbert's character really rather broke my heart in this episode. An extremely kind man, with dreams of a career in law, he joins the British RAF hoping to learn a trade and gain opportunities to further his education. The reality of his situation is far from ideal as all the Jamaican soldiers find themselves doing menial labor and not seeing the frontline action they were promised. But Gilbert doesn't let this prejudice completely sour him - I loved that he and Queenie were able to become friends and just see each other as people, instead of dwelling on their differences.

Michael, played by Ashley Walters, is the "hurricane" that blows through both Hortense's and Queenie's lives, changing them forever. He seems blessed by luck and is remarkably oblivious to the consequences he leaves in the wake of his actions. I can't wait to see how Hortense, Queenie, and their respective husbands come to terms with each other and how their lives have been touched by the dreams and passions brought to life by encounters with Michael.

The look of this film is just spectacular. Every frame is filled with rich color and shadows and possibilities. It's also saturated with the period detail I love to see, from the sets and household furnishings to each actor's costumes. The score is also absolutely lovely, a superb example of composer Martin Phipp's work (should be familiar to all fans of the show North & South and the oh so fabulous Richard Armitage *g*). Also, kudos to the filmmakers for the excellent direction and camera work and scripting that allows the viewer to flow effortlessly between the postwar "present" and the flashback scenes. Small Island isn't just lovely to look at, it's a wholly visual and emotionally engaging film experience. My review of part two is forthcoming - till then, if you're interested in another perspective please check out this excellent review of the series on Austenprose.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy belated Star Wars Day....

Friends, this just needed to be shared:

On a more reflective note, don't miss my review of the latest film version of The Diary of Anne Frank.

The Diary of Anne Frank

The backlog of programs on my DVR is absolutely out of control. The latest adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank aired almost a month ago on Masterpiece Classic, and I can't for the life of me believe I let this film sit, unwatched, on my DVR that long. Life happens, hmm? Friends, this is an extraordinary film, and if you missed it, or perhaps though I "know" the story, what can a new film possibly bring to the table - let me encourage you to set those thoughts aside and to make some time to watch this as soon as you can. If you need a "refresher," here's the film summary from the PBS website:

"When I write, all my sadness disappears."
Anne Frank in 'The Diary of Anne Frank'
For Jewish teenager Anne Frank (Ellie Kendrick), her diary is her one true friend and confidant. In it, she records the thoughts of a typical teen — only set against a backdrop of encroaching evil in Amsterdam during World War II. Stowed away behind a bookcase in a secret annex with her family and others to flee the Nazis, Anne experiences her time in hiding as an adventure. And, amidst closed quarters and random bomb blasts, Anne faces friction with family, a desire for independence and the first stirrings of young love. As Anne's identity solidifies, so does her resolve to be a writer — her diary a tangible and remarkable record of a young woman's first-hand observations of the Holocaust, and the innate goodness she still sees in people. Drawing on Anne Frank's own words in the most accurate-ever adaptation of the revered memoir, Masterpiece presents The Diary of Anne Frank on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2010.
The Franks
Ellie Kendrick is an absolute revelation as Anne Frank. Not only does she bear an almost eerie resemblance to the real Anne, she does an extraordinary job of capturing the many facets of Anne's character. She's wise and immature, kind and selfish, brilliant and dense - in other words, a typical, complicated teenager just trying to figure out her place in an upside-down world. It's been several years since I've seen any of the other film adaptations of Anne's memoir, so I have only vague recollections and impressions of the performances. But going by feeling alone, I have to say Kendrick's Anne is the most alive, passionate, memorable take on the character. It's as if Anne has leaped from the pages of her diary to full, brilliant life. This may seem like a little thing, but as a cat lover it jumped out to me - in other films I can't recall a scene where Anne is forced to leave behind her beloved pet when the family goes into hiding. As a fellow cat lover I could so relate to that moment, that sacrifice on Anne's part - and that "little" thing just broke my heart on Anne's behalf. As the centerpiece of the film, Kendrick anchors the story with unbelievable strength and conviction - very, very well done.

Anne's father, Otto, is played by Iain Glen who may be a familiar face to Masterpiece viewers - he played Mr. Preson in Wives and Daughters (and he has an upcoming two-episode appearance in Doctor Who!). Glen's Otto is a noble, tragic figure, and an incredibly kind man. I found myself trying to imagine what it must have been like to be the only member of his family to survive the camps - and just trying to fathom that heartbreak leaves me speechless. Glen and Kendrick have a wonderful on-screen father-daughter relationship. Anne was definitely a daddy's girl, but this movie doesn't shy away from the fireworks her teenage "growing pains" caused her parents. Anne's mother, Edith, is played by Tamsin Greig who was most recently seen on Masterpiece Classic in the latest production of Emma, playing Miss Bates. Greig does a fantastic job here, showing Edith's struggles to come to terms with life in hiding, and her heartache over coping with Anne who is just at a place in her life when she wants nothing to do with her mother. Knowing how the story ends, that's just one more aspect of the film that will break your heart - it really got me to thinking about how we humans do tend to think we'll live forever, that we'll always have another day to change our minds about something or to make things right with another, and that's not always the case, is it? Felicity Jones plays the final member of the Frank family - Anne's older sister, Margot. I confess I almost didn't recognize her - hidden behind large round glasses and wartime hand-me-down clothes, Margot is a far cry from the vivacious Catherine Morland Jones portrayed in Northanger Abbey. Though the role of Margot isn't as "flashy" as Anne's, I was quite impressed with the long-suffering quality Jones brought out in the role.

The Van Daans
When the Van Daans join the Franks in hiding, both families find their patience sorely tested. Hermann Van Daan is played by Ron Cook, who some of you Masterpiece Classic fans may remember as Chivery (Russell Tovey's dad!!) in Little Dorrit last year. His wife, Petronella, is played by another familiar face - Lesley Sharp. She's appeared in everything from Return to Cranford (playing the not-so-lovely Mrs. Bell) to the classic Doctor Who episode "Midnight." It's funny, but Petronella Van Daan is one character I distinctly remember from the classic 1959 film version of Anne Frank. Shelley Winters was so memorable in the role, but I have to say Sharp really measures up in comparison - she's every bit as loud, and funny, and occasionally obnoxious as Winters ever was. ;-) Their son, the quiet and introverted Peter, is played by Geoff Breton. Breton hasn't appeared in all that much, but he was apparently in the Inspector Lewis episode "The Quality of Mercy" last season on Masterpiece Mystery. Sadly I don't remember his performance. :-( But he does make up for that here. The crush that develops between Peter and Anne is just heartbreakingly adorable. The whole time I was watching their relationship develop, I kept thinking - if they had survived, would they have married eventually? What might they have become? So, so much potential cut off all too soon - but so thankful that Anne left that diary and had a knack for bringing her life and the people who inhabited it to life on the page.

Everyone else...
Nicholas Farrell is an old favorite of mine, and he plays Albert Dussel, the dentist who joins the Franks and Van Daans after the two families have been in hiding for a while. Farrell is such a great actor, capable of conveying so much emotion in his performances. Some of my favorites include his turn as Antonio in Twelfth Night, Horatio in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, Torchwood: Children of Earth, and Collision (from Masterpiece Contemporary last year). He's also appeared in various random episodes of mystery shows like Poirot and the stellar Robert Lindsay vehicle Jericho. It has been so long since I've watched this story I honestly don't remember Dussel's character at all. Farrell does a good job driving home how much of an outsider he must've felt like as a single man living with two complete family units.

And two final quick notes on the acting - the Franks' faithful friend and caretaker Miep Gies is played by actress Kate Ashfield, who incidently was also an alum of Collision. Also, friend Bep Voskuijl is played by Mariah Gale, who was just seen on Great Performances opposite David Tennant as Ophelia in Hamlet. More on that show, and her performance at a later date. :)

Kudos to the production team and director for delivering a fast-paced, thoroughly absorbing film. The way the movie is staged, you end up feeling clausterphobic as the attic's inhabitants must have felt. Close quarters with never a break - how could you not want to snap? Yet there was no other choice, and in the end I can't think that I would've been able to handle what these people did half so well. Gritty, realistic, inspiring, and incredibly moving, this adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank is not to be missed.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Foyle's War VI

Tomorrow night on Masterpiece Mystery, the 2010 season begins with the debut of the highly anticipated series VI of Foyle's War, starring Michael Kitchen as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle in his first post-World War II cases. I absolutely adore this show, everything about it from the acting, costumes and settings to the scripts and historical detail is top-notch. If you've never watched this show but love a good historical mystery, I highly recommend checking it out over the next three weeks - and if you find yourself intrigued, Netflix series I-V. Watching the characters develop over the course of the show is a fantastic experience. Kudos to creator and writer Anthony Horowitz for creating this program and for consistently delivering amazing stories - the man's a genius. Here's some info about the show's run this season on Masterpiece:

Now that the war is over in Europe, Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) finds he still has more battles to win in three gripping new 90-minute episodes. Tracking murderers, escapees and traitors, Foyle is joined by his former driver, Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), and his old sergeant, Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), recently promoted to detective inspector in nearby Brighton.

Episodes of Foyle's War: Series VI

May 2, 2010 at 9pm
The Russian House

In the war's aftermath, Hastings is a transit point for Russian POWs who changed sides to fight for the Nazis and now face an uncertain future. The War Office assigns Foyle to track down one escapee, and the reason for his flight becomes shockingly clear.

May 9, 2010 at 9pm
Killing Time

Black American GIs waiting to be shipped home from their camp near Hastings find themselves unwelcome by locals. Tensions are complicated by a mother and her mixed-race baby who live in a rooming house run by Foyle's former driver Sam and her friend Adam Wainwright. A brutal murder ensues, and Foyle must solve it.

May 16, 2010 at 9pm
The Hide

Newly retired, Foyle is drawn to the case of a well-connected local man who is condemned to death for aiding the Nazis during the war. Foyle suspects the doomed man is concealing evidence that will exonerate him. Meanwhile, Sam and Adam fight for the survival of their rooming house — and discover they make a great team.