Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Robin Hood, silent movie style

Many thanks to Nat for posting this wonderful, hilarious video on her blog. Personally I think the end of season 2 and then season 3 of Robin Hood would've been much improved if the storyline had been a little more similar to the one set forth in this video. Though poor Jonas Armstrong doesn't fare too well in this revisionist filmmaking exercise, Richard Armitage comes off spendidly! :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tomorrow on Masterpiece!

Tomorrow night on Masterpiece Mystery, Miss Marple concludes with a new adaptation of the story The Blue Geranium. Here's a bit about the tale (and the exciting guest stars!):
Miss Marple concludes this Sunday, June 27, 2010, with a brand-new episode on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! In The Blue Geranium, Mary Pritchard is found dead, reportedly from the shock of seeing the pink flower in her wallpaper turn blue. The tension and accusations in Pritchard's small village blossom wildly. Can Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) untangle this case rooted in desire and greed? Sharon Small (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries) also stars in this adaptation of an Agatha Christie short story.  
What this summary doesn't mention is that this film also features TOBY STEPHENS!! And the world rejoiced. ;-)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (Theodosia Throckmorton #1)
By: R. L. LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 978-0-618-99976-7

About the book:

“Frankly, I’m not fond of surprises, as the ones around here tend to be rather wicked.”

For poor Theodosia, however, surprises abound. She spends most of her time at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. There, all the artifacts her parents dig up around the world are put on display and studied. But what her parents can’t see – and what Theodosia can – is the curses and black magic still attached to the ancient pieces. And it’s up to Theo to keep it all under control. Quite a task for an eleven-year-old girl.

Then Theo’s mother brings home the Heart of Egypt – a legendary amulet belonging to an ancient tomb. Theodosia’s skills will certainly be put to the test, for the curse attached to it is so vile and so black, it threatens to bring down the entire British Empire! Theodosia will have to call upon everything she’s ever learned in order to prevent the rising chaos from destroying her country – and herself!


Theodosia Throckmorton is not your average eleven-year-old girl. Gifted with intelligence well beyond her years, Theo practically lives at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities, run by her parents and used as the venue for displaying their archaeological discoveries. But what her parents don’t realize – and what only Theodosia can see – are the ancient curses swirling around the finds that her parents bring back to London. Theo determines to educate herself about the ancient magic so she can neutralize the threats her parents unwittingly awaken when the artifacts are removed from their Egyptian tombs. It’s a thankless job, since her parents – indeed, every adult she encounters – constantly make the mistake of underestimating her capabilities. When her mother returns from her latest expedition with the legendary Heart of Egypt – her most priceless (and dangerous) find yet – Theodosia is thrust into the middle of a web of international conspiracy, warring secret societies, and ancient curses bent on destroying England and unleashing worldwide chaos.

I’ve always loved stories involving Egypt and archaeological digs set during the first half of the 20th century – what can I say, blame Agatha Christie and Indiana Jones. Between Indy’s adventures (and I’m recalling the Young Indiana Jones made-for-TV films) and Christie’s Egyptian-set mysteries, tales about ancient discoveries have never failed to intrigue me. I decided to check out this series when I noticed a friend reading one of the books on GoodReads – with a delightfully named heroine, I knew I had to investigate the series. The Serpents of Chaos is a rollicking, fast-paced introduction to Theodosia’s dangerous, magic-filled world. There’s some merit to likening Theo to Harry Potter – both start out as eleven-year-olds with abilities no one in their families understand. However, Rowling does a better job of fleshing out Potter’s universe in my view. LaFevers dives right into the action and doesn’t let up until the final pages, which makes for a quick read. The pace is only occasionally slowed by a few rather longish descriptions of Egyptian magic or curse “antidotes.” I would’ve liked a little more context to Theo’s life, more of an introduction to her unique skill set and how she came to know so much about magic at such a young age.

Theo’s voice is definitely the highlight of the novel. Impossibly worldly-wise, mature, and funny, Theodosia is an engaging heroine. LaFevers is careful to balance Theo’s extraordinary knowledge with a relatable, heartfelt desire for her to be affirmed and valued by her parents. Theo’s efforts to impress her parents and the scenes between her and her younger brother, Henry, were some of my favorite sections of the book. She’s also a cat lover, which I deeply appreciated. I also loved how Theodosia manages to impress the clandestine organization tasked with protecting England. I can easily see Theo and company playing an important role in magical world events, perhaps leading up to the outbreak of World War I. This novel is sure to appeal to fans of Indiana Jones or the Mummy films, and to anyone who’s ever been enthralled by a museum exhibit. I look forward to seeing how Theodosia juggles appearing to be an average girl with the responsibility of protecting the nation from dark magic threats. It should be a fun ride.

I just love this!

Zachary Levi (a.k.a. Chuck) sings "Terrified" with Katharine McPhee. This one's for you, Lori. ;-)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rubicon - 1st episode sneak peek!

I stumbled across the first episode of AMC's upcoming series Rubicon when surfing through Comcast's On Demand options. Thoroughly enjoyed the 1st ep, here's hoping the rest of the series can live up to the pilot!

The Homecoming Blog Tour Stop!

First, I must start this post by offering my apologies - I'd really hoped (and expected) to have a full review of The Homecoming by Dan Walsh posted by yesterday. Unpacking and finding places for stuff since the move is still taking up most of my time (books are the worst offenders, LOL!). The Homecoming is Walsh's sequel to The Unfinished Gift, a sweet story I reviewed back in December (you can read that review here). So far this second offering is an equally heartwarming tale, sure to be enjoyed by fans of the first book. And I have to say, I love getting to know Shawn. :)

Here's a bit about the story to "tide you over" till I can get a full review up:

A reluctant war hero returns home and encounters a new chance at love.

No sooner has Shawn Collins returned home from the fighting in Europe than he is called upon to serve his country in another way--as a speaker on the war bond tour. While other men might jump at the chance to travel around the country with attractive Hollywood starlets, Shawn just wants to stay home with his son Patrick and his aging father, and grieve the loss of his wife in private. When Shawn asks Katherine Townsend to be Patrick's nanny while he's on the road, he has no idea how this decision will impact his life. Could it be the key to his future happiness and the mending of his heart? Or will the war once again threaten his chances for a new start?

Dan Walsh does not disappoint in this tender story of family ties and the healing of a broken heart.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ten meets Ol' Blue Eyes

As my friend Ruth said when she shared this video with me on Facebook, it's got my name written all over it. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. :)

I miss ya, David Tennant.

Tomorrow on Masterpiece Mystery...

Tomorrow Masterpiece Mystery continues with a brand-new Miss Marple film, an adaptation of The Secret of Chimneys. Here's a bit about the story:
An all-new episode of Miss Marple premieres this Sunday, June 20, 2010, on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! In The Secret of Chimneys, a decades-old murder may be connected to a mysterious diamond theft. Can Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie, Return to Cranford) sort through the smokescreen of perplexing clues at the stately Chimneys estate? Stephen Dillane (God on Trial) and Edward Fox (Oliver Twist) guest star.
What this summary doesn't mention is that this film features the one and only Jonas Armstrong, a.k.a. ROBIN HOOD from the lately lamented BBC television series. Woo-hoo, can't wait! :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer!

Just in case you haven't seen this yet (or we aren't friends on Facebook, where I shared this trailer a few days ago) - the trailer for the third Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, FINALLY debuted this week. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The A-Team

After the big push to get everything out of the old apartment was finally (FINALLY!) completed last Thursday, I took Friday to recover a bit & begin the settling in process. Then Saturday I left all thoughts of the disaster area that is my new abode behind and went to see The A-Team movie with my friend Kaye. I should probably give you a little bit of context here…I absolutely adore the television show, so this film had A LOT to live up to. Hannibal, B.A., Face, and Murdock are pop culture ICONS, for goodness’ sake! Could the hilarious, wonderful “buddy” chemistry between the new team of actors even come close to the combination of George Peppard, Mr. T, Dirk Benedict, and Dwight Schultz? More importantly, could ANYONE make me forget, even momentarily, my long-standing infatuation with Dwight Schultz’s Murdock?! Critical questions people, critical questions…

I’m THRILLED to report that the essence of the A-Team remains intact, and in a few instances I daresay improved, in this new movie. If you’re in the mood for a fun summer action flick, The A-Team delivers in spades. It’s every bit the insane, improbable, escapist brand of entertainment that defined the TV show, with explosions and action amped up to make an appropriate big screen spectacle. Story or logic (for me, anyway) isn’t really the point of The A-Team, so I’m going to talk about the characters for a bit and how the new actors measure up to their classic small-screen counterparts.

First up, there are the brains of the A-Team, Hannibal. Now I love and adore George Peppard (Breakfast at Tiffany’s anyone? Hello? Oooh, or even better, Home From the Hill? Excuse me while I swoon…I should blog about Home, if you are in the mood for something epic about wildly dysfunctional people it fits the bill). No one will ever be able to match his unique brand of swagger and the way he says “I love it when a plan comes together.” However, Liam Neeson was surprisingly successful as Hannibal. I am a huge fan of his work and think he’s a fantastic actor, but I had some reservations about whether or not he could pull off balance between action and comedy that makes Hannibal & team so much fun. Neeson just seemed like he was having a blast making this movie, and he brings all of the bravado and humor one could wish for to the role, while being rather more believable as an intense, action hero type.

If I had to guess, I’d say Mr. T’s portrayal of B.A. Baracus is probably the most well-known and memorable character to come out of the TV show. I’ve got to say, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson did his homework and brings his own spin to all of B.A.’s memorable quirks, from his fear of flying to his obsession with that black van. The script here adds a smidgen of extra depth to B.A.'s character, and Jackson plays the role really well.

Jackson played off Sharlto Copley’s Murdock beautifully. That pair of characters has always cracked me up, and thankfully this movie doesn’t lose any of that entertainment value (I just loved the moments when Murdock would bribe B.A. with his favorite foods, too funny!). Murdock is the character that concerned me most when I heard about an A-Team movie. I adore Dwight Schultz in that role, and Murdock has always been far and away my absolutely favorite member of the team. Murdock’s hot people, I’ll just go ahead and say it. If you don’t believe me, watch my all-time favorite Murdock-centric episode, “The Spy Who Mugged Me” sometime (it’s from season 5). In fact, here is a link to the episode (not that I'm trying to push the issue or anything, haha!!). Before I get too distracted and turn this post into a Dwight Schultz lovefest, let me refocus on Copley’s Murdock. He is thoroughly entertaining, and definitely brought an extra level of crazy to the character that makes the television Murdock seem almost sane(r).

I’ve never really given Bradley Cooper much thought as an actor, but he really worked for me as Face. Most fans of the TV show that I know loved Dirk Benedict as Face first and foremost, and I get that – I mean what’s not to love, the guy is gorgeous! But I’ve always been a Murdock fangirl, which is just another indication of how weird I am, as if anyone reading this blog needed any more reasons to thinks so (HA!!!) – all that to say, I never had as much invested into Face’s character as other fans of the show, so I feel like I could come to Cooper’s portrayal with a relatively open perspective. Cooper’s take on Face is a bit more angsty than I can ever remember the character getting from the TV show. Here the filmmakers go to some pains to show that Templeton Peck isn’t “just another pretty face” (sorry, couldn’t resist!), but he has some relationship baggage dangit (thanks to Jessica Biel’s character, the “one” girlfriend Face was apparently willing to get serious with a couple years ago). I did like how the film matures Face a bit and allows him to develop his own insane schemes.

There are a couple of nods to the original show scattered through the film that I really appreciated and want to mention, starting with how the team first meets in Mexico, perhaps hearkening back to the first episode of the show which also takes place there (it’s the little things, right?). Jessica Biel’s character, Charisa Sosa, is, all things considered, pretty unbelievable (I’ve never seen a female member of the Army where such spiked heels while on duty, but whatever), but I didn’t mind her. In the right role I really like Biel’s performances (especially in The Illusionist and Easy Virtue), and I sort of felt the Sosa character was a nod to Amy (Melinda Culea) and Tawnia (Marla Heasley), female sidekicks with extended episode runs on the television show. I also loved the fact that Colonel Morrison (played in the movie by Gerald McRaney) shows up in this movie, since it’s also a Morrison who authorized the mission that gets the team in so much trouble in the show. My favorite twist on a TV show character, though, has to be Lynch, played here by Patrick Wilson. In the television show, Lynch was simply an officer obsessed with capturing the A-Team, while in this movie Lynch becomes the latest in a succession of smarmy CIA agents*. The recurring jokes about “knowing a Lynch” back in the day cracked me up. It was a lot of fun watching Patrick Wilson fall apart by the end of the movie, and it was REALLY fun watching Liam Neeson beat up on him, I cannot lie.

*Note: This movie doesn’t require a sequel, but the door is definitely left open to the possibility. I’d like to state for the record that they NEED to make a sequel, since at the end of this movie Jon Hamm is the new Lynch, and I’m dying to see how that plays out.

The A-Team pretty well covers all of my requirements for a summer popcorn flick. It’s action-packed, fun, escapist entertainment at its best. Suspend your disbelief at the door and enjoy the ride, know what I mean? Oh, before I forget, I have to mention that I loved Alan Silvestri's score for this movie. The original theme music of the show makes a couple of welcome appearances, but beyond that it's just a really fun action show that complements the action on-screen nicely. So, any fans of the show want to share your thoughts? :)

And just because I darling Murdock. Isn't he PRECIOUS?! :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm back!!!!!

I'm moved (though far from what you'd call unpacked and "settled") and I HAVE INTERNET AND CABLE AGAIN!!! Let the world rejoice. :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review: Italia by Chris Botti

I originally reviewed Chris Botti's Italia album in November 2007. This project is available in two formats - a single CD and a CD/DVD digipak. This review is for the digipak edition.

With Italia, Chris Botti has once again delivered a lushly orchestrated album of astonishing beauty, full of memorable, breath-taking performances. He not only proves there's wisdom in the old adage, if it ain't broke, don't fix it - but instead of resting simply on his laurels, with each successive album he's succeeded in making his "formula" of richly orchestrated, romantic standards better. Where To Love Again focused on duets, Italia focuses on Botti's trumpet playing with only a handful of vocal tracks (similar to his break-out album, When I Fall In Love). The inspiration of the album is, of course, the music of Italy, and in keeping with that theme Botti interprets two compositions by master film composer Ennio Morricone - the hauntingly beautiful "Deborah's Theme" from Once Upon a Time in America and "Gabriel's Oboe" from The Mission. The lushly orchestrated, David Foster-penned "Italia" pairs Botti with one of contemporary Italy's most famous voices, Andrea Bocelli. "Estaté" is Botti's gorgeous solo version of the track that he accompanied Bocelli on for the tenor's Under the Desert Sky project. Three of the tracks on Italia mine the realm of classic popular song, evocative of Italy because of their close association with interpretations by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. "The Very Thought of You" is a sublime duet with Paula Cole - her voice, featured on When I Fall In Love and To Love Again, once again proves to be an ideal complement to Botti's trumpet. With her whisper-soft vocal and Botti's velvety-smooth trumpet playing, it's a seductively dreamy performance. "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" pairs Botti with Dean Martin (this track also appears on the Forever Cool duets album). The arrangement is swinging and playful, and Botti's trumpet effortlessly plays off of Martin's smooth vocals. As he proved with To Love Again, Botti is an expert at complementing a vocal, and the fact that the duet with Martin sounds so real, so convincing, is a testament to his skill as a performer. The trio of up tempo numbers is rounded out with "The Way You Look Tonight," the Fields-Kern classic featuring a sparkling arrangement that I can easily imagine Sinatra swinging to in his prime. The album ends with a stunner - Botti's jaw-droppingly gorgeous rendition of "Nessun Dorma," the highlight of the instrumental tracks. As some other reviews have noted, there's not much improvisation on this disc. However in my opinion the lack of improvisation highlights Botti's skill as a trumpeter -- there's no room for error in a song like "Nessun Dorma," and he delivers a spine-tingling, spot-on accurate performance. The control he exhibits on such tracks is quite frankly awe-inspiring.

The deluxe edition features a DVD with four bonus audio tracks. The short DVD (it's about twenty minutes) features some behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the album, the highlights being Bocelli in the studio with Botti recording "Italia" and Botti talking about his inspiration for making the album. What makes this edition really worthwhile, though, are the four bonus tracks - "Emmanuel," "Flamenco Sketches," "If I Loved You," and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." "If I Loved You" is another superb duet with Paula Cole, her vocal perfect for the song's romantic, wistful tone (incidentally in the DVD portion Botti states that Cole records all of her vocals for his projects in one take). "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is what I like to think of as a Casablanca song - the arrangement and delivery evoke all the romance of that film and others like it - it's classy and timeless. Italia is another wonderfully addictive offering from Chris Botti's seemingly endless reservoir of creativity and talent. I had the thrill of seeing him perform live earlier this year - if you ever get the chance, GO. When you see him perform live and cut loose with his band, and then contrast that with the beautifully orchestrated, soaring trumpet playing he exhibits on an album like Italia, one's respect for the scope of his talent increases tenfold.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review: Live With Orchestra & Special Guests by Chris Botti

I originally reviewed this Chris Botti project in September 2006. This review is for the DVD/CD package, which to my knowledge is no longer available. But the DVD is, and I link to it below:

Two words to describe Chris Botti's latest release: ear candy. Or maybe auditory bliss would be a more accurate description? Either way, you get my point - I love this DVD. There are no gimmicks here - this is a beautiful, slickly produced concert that first and foremost showcases Botti's virtuosic trumpet playing (which is heavenly!). Most of the musical selections are culled from his latest studio album, the duets-heavy disc To Love Again (read my review of that album on Amazon). The duets are truly duets in every sense of the word - Botti's playing partners with each vocalist perfectly, and the two work to compliment each other, resulting in first-class performances. My favorite duets performances are Paul Cole singing "My One and Only Love," Renee Olstead singing "Pennies from Heaven" (amazing vocalist!), and Gladys Knight singing "Lover Man" (a fantastic performance, very classy). The weakest vocal is Jill Scott's on "Good Morning Heartache" - I love the studio version, but her vocal improvisation here is somewhat jarring, to say the least - but the song is still a great vehicle for Botti's playing and I love the lyric. Sting also appears for two songs - "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" and "My Funny Valentine" (it's a nice touch when Botti serenades Sting's wife sitting in the audience during the latter number). The program also features some swoon-worthy solos from Botti, especially "Someone to Watch Over Me," "When I Fall In Love," and "One For My Baby." His improvisation on these tracks is absolutely stunning, and the songs provide the perfect showcase for Botti's tremendous talent. The arrangements for all of the tracks sparkle, and it's fun to see and hear Botti and the band cut loose and have some fun with the music. This DVD comes packaged with a bonus CD featuring all the songs from the concert. This is an excellent live recording and a great document of Botti's skill with the trumpet. Now...not to sound (too) impatient or anything, but I am so ready for a new studio album!

Review: To Love Again by Chris Botti

Day one of the great move of 2010 is over, and my brain is mush. But I don't want things to get too stale on the ol' blog until I'm back up and running in the new apartment (and hopefully saner, LOL!), so I thought I'd pull a couple of old music reviews from the "archives" that I've never shared on this blog. First up is a couple of Chris Botti album reviews (a.k.a. Ruth's Future Husband, LOL!). I originally reviewed To Love Again in December 2005.

To Love Again is Botti's follow-up to last year's collection of romantic standards, When I Fall In Love. That album was primarily a collection of lushly orchestrated instrumentals that showcased Botti's breathtaking skill with the trumpet, supplemented by select duets with Paula Cole and Sting. In contrast, To Love Again features vocalists from across the musical spectrum duetting with Botti on nine of the disc's thirteen tracks. My favorite duet tracks include Michael Buble' singing "Let There Be Love" and Renee Olstead singing "Pennies from Heaven." The arrangements of both songs positively sparkle and give Botti a chance to really cut loose and swing with his trumpet. Botti's trumpet playing is often likened to Chet Baker's mellow sounds, but on these tracks I found the collaborations reminiscent of the type of recording Harry James and Tommy Dorsey used to do with their bands...the vocalists (stars in their own rights) complemented the music, and vice-versa. Olstead's performance is particularly noteworthy...her outstanding vocal skill has grown by leaps and bounds since the release of her self-titled jazz album last year. Each of the duets on this disc are perfect examples of an ideal give-and-take relationship between the vocal and the never seeks to overwhelm the other, which makes the listening experience absolutely intoxicating (some of Sinatra's concept albums that he recorded for Capitol Records - particularly ones arranged by Nelson Riddle - are excellent examples of this effect). To Love Again is a brilliantly executed album and I cannot wait to see the artistic heights Chris Botti takes his listeners to with his next offering!

Friday, June 4, 2010

This Sunday on Masterpiece Mystery...

This Sunday Masterpiece Mystery will be airing an encore presentation of Agatha Christie's A Pocket Full of Rye, starring Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple. Here's a bit about the story:
Revisit a favorite case this Sunday, June 6, 2010, on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! In an encore presentation of A Pocket Full of Rye, the murders are following the themes of a nursery rhyme, but the case is anything but child's play for Miss Marple. Julia McKenzie (Cranford) stars as Miss Marple with a guest appearance by Matthew Macfadyen (Little Dorrit) in this adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel.
If you missed this film last year, it's worth checking out as it's one of the strongest entries from Julia McKenzie's debut season as Miss Marple (plus it features Matthew Macfadyen, so how can you go wrong?).

Click here to read my review of the film.
Click here to read my review of the novel and a book/film comparison.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blogging note...

Hello all...sorry things have been rather quiet on the blog front. Even though I'm waiting for the "official" go date to begin to move into the new apartment, I decided to go ahead and get a jump on packing this weekend - so that's taken up a good chunk of my spare time and energy. Please bear with me this month as there will be times when posts don't appear as regularly as I'd like. :) So much to blog about, so little time.

Speaking of too much to blog about, I hope Masterpiece Mystery fans are enjoying the Miss Marple episodes (both new and encore presentations). I am going to put blogging about the latest series of Foyle's War on hold for now. Since I've never blogged about Foyle's War, and since the series can be best appreciated when viewed chronologically, I plan on doing a Foyle's series *hopefully* later this summer. But you can expect posts on the new Miss Marple films to appear intermittently throughout the coming weeks. :)

Hope everyone is doing well!!