Thursday, October 31, 2013

happy halloween!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

halloween marathon: sleepy hollow

Although the original Halloween challenge was to watch a scary movie a night, I have found myself drawn to television shows as much as movies this month. Thanks to switching from conventional digital cable to Apple TV and subscriptions with Hulu and Netflix I am, interestingly, seeing a lot more of the new fall television season than I have in the past. One of my favorite new shows is Sleepy Hollow, a spooky drama (very) loosely based on Washington Irving's 1820 short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Apart from the Headless Horseman, Sleepy Hollow the series bears little to no resemblance to Tim Burton's more miss than hit 1999 film of the same name. I can't be the only one enjoying the show, as it has already been renewed for a second season.

The good guys of Sleepy Hollow, L-R: Katia Winter, Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones

The show starts off with a bang when Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), a Revolutionary War soldier and special agent for General George Washington rises from the grave, waking up in the current Sleepy Hollow. But Ichabod is not alone — the Headless Horseman (and according to the show's mythology, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — Death) is also in town, and wastes no time, killing the town sheriff August Corbin (Clancy Brown). Corbin's protege, Lt. (pronounced the British way by Ichabod, "lef-tenant") Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), finds herself not only trying to solve her mentor's murder, but having to team up with Crane, a man from another time, to try and prevent the forces from evil from taking over Sleepy Hollow and the rest of the world.

The show has a nice balance of chills and humor, and the two leads have good chemistry. They also look great, as do the various sets and locations (the show is filmed in North Carolina). Sleepy Hollow can also laugh at itself. There has been a bit of internet chatter on why Ichabod is still sporting the same duds so many episodes into the season — can't Abbie or someone get the guy to a Gap? But that question was addressed finally in episode five, "John Doe," with Ichabod explaining that he felt more comfortable in his "old" clothes.

Apart from the two leads, some familiar faces are also on hand. Clancy Brown (Highlander, Carnivàle) may have lost his head in the first episode, but that doesn't rule out his returning to Sleepy Hollow at some point. John Cho (Star Trek Into Darkness, Harold & Kumar films), who is on Team Bad, has managed to hang around and cause trouble after his grisly end. Orlando Jones plays it mostly serious as Abbie's new boss, police chief Captain Frank Irving. In a rare television twist, Abbie doesn't try to keep her boss in the dark — Irving is aware of Ichabod's time traveling journey and even enlists his help, when necessary, such providing translation for a lost boy who only speaks Middle English ("John Doe").

Abbie and Ichabod in the woods
The Headless Horseman
The captain's endorsement allows Abbie and Ichabod to have some pretty free reign in their local investigations. Realistic? Not even a little bit. Sleepy Hollow, is at times, completely nuts. But entertaining? Absolutely. How else could they visit the original lost colony of Roanoke, or participate in an American Indian scorpion biting/mind bending ritual that allows the pair to enter the dream world of the Sandman (episode three, "For the Triumph of Evil")?

So far the only element of the show that isn't completely working for me is Ichabod's wife Katrina (Katia Winter), who, unbeknownst to him, was a witch, and helped pave the way for his resurrection. She can come to him in dreams, and at some point will undoubtedly show up in Sleepy Hollow. Potential love triangle? This show could go in many directions. But for now Ichabod and Abbie must concentrate on not letting the Four Horseman stage a reunion tour, and that's proving plenty of fun to watch.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

halloween marathon: grimm

Grimm has been one of my favorite shows for a while. I like its Buffy and Angel-esque quirky cast, and take on monsters. Showrunner David Greenwalt was co-executive producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and also worked with co-creator Jim Kouf on Angel, so they are no strangers to the weird and wonderful on television. Grimm's characters are constantly researching new ways to fight or kill a threat or to cure someone from a curse or attack. But mostly it's just plain fun. Its fairytale roots are not overplayed, like the boring and belabored Once Upon a Time.

I think Nick makes a pretty cute zombie — is that wrong?

The third season opener, "Ungrateful Dead," picked up right where last season left off, with our hero Nick (David Giuntoli) in a zombie-like state, his friends and colleagues trying to find and save him while trying to reverse the mass-zombie-fication of Portland, Oregon. In a sub-plot, former monster Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee) went through a series of gruesome trials with gypsy Stefania (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to once again become a Hexenbiest, Grimm's version of a very, very creepy witch. Grimm pushed its continuing plot threads to the forefront in this episode, ditching its monster-of-the week format for non-stop action. Or maybe Nick was the monster-of-the-week. Regardless, "Ungrateful Dead" was a great start to the season.

If you've never watched Grimm, it's a cop show-meets-the-darker-version-of-Grimm-fairy-tales. While on the job, Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt started seeing strange things — unusual people and creatures. He soon discovered that he is descended from a line of monster-hunters, "Grimms," whose job is to protect the human population from the supernatural or "Wesen" that share our world. He also soon learns that not all Wesen are evil or dangerous, as he befriends former Big Bad Wolf, or Blutbad, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and spice shop owner Rosalee (Bree Turner), who is a foxlike creature called a Fuchsbau. Nick tried, for a while, to keep his demon-hunting a secret from his partner Detective Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) and girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), but soon everyone in his inner circle joined him in his fight to protect Portland. The show has created its own mythology of Wesen creatures, introducing a new and interesting creature almost every episode.

Monroe and Rosalee face off with their fellow zombie citizens

"Ungrateful Dead" began with Monroe, Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), and Rosalee, who were tasked with figuring out how to use their one-on-one zombie potion cure on an ever-expanding population while Nick's boss Police Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz), Hank, and Sergeant Wu (Reggie Lee) tried to contain the invasion. Their solution was clever and the gang then shifted their focus to the walking dead Nick. Being a Grimm made Nick more than just your garden-variety zombie, which led to some interesting altercations with both baddies and innocent Portlandians.

Monroe and Rosalee are still the cutest Wesen couple on the planet, and Juliette was back and fierce as Nick's number one squeeze — and a formidable woman to have on anyone's team. Hank and Renard have an uneasy alliance, with Hank still unsure how much to trust his part-Hexenbiest captain. Will Wu ever get completely briefed on the creatures that live in his city? Does it matter? He's still a hoot, providing some of the best one-liners in the show, although that prize had to go this episode to Monroe. After they had administered their cure to all of the screaming and moaning zombies that they had rounded up and sealed in a large shipping container, one of the cops in riot gear asked how they would know if it was safe to open the door,
"It's like popcorn, when it stops making noise, it's done."
Nick's book of Wesen creatures provides lots of clues

Previews for the rest of the season already reveal that the gang will get Nick the required potion to end his zombie days, but that the experience has left him with a difference. He has always been more sympathetic to the Wesen world than any other Grimm before him, but maybe now being one of "them" may make him even more unique. We'll have to wait until next week to find out, but Grimm is already off to a great start. Plus, another plus for Angel and Buffy fans — Alexis Denisof (Wesley) has been cast as Renard's first cousin. Will he finally get to play a baddie?

Monday, October 28, 2013

halloween marathon: dracula

Friday night premiered a re-vamped (ha) Dracula, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the bloodthirsty count. Except he may not be a count in this version. Or reboot. Or mish-mash. Dracula was completely ridiculous, mixing vampire lore from previous movies, a Buffy-esque female slayer, Steampunk-inspired Victorian modernity, Tesla and Edison references, and some ninja-fighting on London rooftops. It was also a complete hoot, and I will definitely be tuning in for more vampy hijinks.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Dracula — let him in.

Fans of the Bram Stoker epistolary novel (like myself) will be happy that Victorian London is once again the main setting for the series, but they might want to let their familiarity with the rest of the original plot go and just sit back and enjoy the ride, as Dracula uses all the same major characters, but presents them in very different ways.

Warning: some spoilers abound if you haven't caught the first episode ...

Dracula (Rhys Meyers) is awakened from the dead and turns up in London in 1896 (a year before Stoker's novel was published — coincidence?), posing as a rich American named Alexander Grayson. Sporting an "Uhmuhrrican" accent, Grayson is on a mission to bring free electricity to the world, and crush a secret syndicate known as The Order of the Dragon, which makes its riches on petroleum. Note: "Dracul" means "Dragon." Sitting here in the modern still-petroleum-based world we may see Drac/Grayson as less of a visionary than a crazed idealist, especially when it is revealed that The Order has doing its bad deeds for centuries, and are responsible for the death of Drac's wife. Revenge is his main motivation, and throat ripping and blood-drinking aside, he is a sort of hero, so far.

Grayson holds a big party inviting all the rich snobs of London, where we meet the rest of the cast:
Renfield - Nonso Anozie (Xaro Xhoan Daxos from Game of Thrones) is impressive as Dracula’s handler and confidante. It's kind of nice to see a Renfield who isn't obsequious and constantly whining "Master, Master!" while trying to catch flies for lunch. But I wouldn't rule out a growing appetite for bugs as the series progresses.  
Mina Murray - In a nod to Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mina is the spitting image of Drac's long-lost love of his life. So far the actress (Jessica De Gouw) playing Mina is a little on the dull side. Paging Winona!  
Lucy Westenra - It took me a moment to recognize Katie McGrath (Morgana from Merlin) as a blonde. She is so far presented as Mina's outspoken friend, and very aware of Grayson's (so far unrequited) charms. She (the actress and character) has a lot more personality than Mina (sigh). Movies based on Stoker's book have mixed up the girls and their relation to Drac, so anything goes here.
The supporting cast, CW: Thomas Kretschmann, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Nonso Anozie, Victoria Smurfit, and Katie McGrath.
Jonathan Harker - Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is a journalist in this version, as well as Mina's insecure boyfriend. It's not clear if his being a journalist will have any payoff for the story yet, although it did offer the opportunity for a beautifully-lit daytime interview scene in Grayson's manse, where Rhys Meyers had to dodge enormous rays of sunlight. 
Lady Jayne Wetherby - Victoria Smurfit plays a vampire hunter (not from Stoker's novel, and where did those other London vamps come from if Dracula has been asleep for 400 years?) who likes to sport a lot of cleavage. She is immediately hot for Grayson (and who can blame her?), and not shy about turning thought into action.
Abraham Van Helsing - In the biggest twist of the night Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann), who also lectures at the medical school where Mina is a student, turns out to not be the ultimate Dracula foe, but the hooded figure who woke him up in the opening scene. If anything he, not Drac, may be the architect of the grand revenge quest, as he also has an axe to grind against The Order of the Dragon. We'll see how smoothly their partnership plays out in future.

Mina (Jessica De Gouw) and Dracula — hopefully their relationship (and she) will become more interesting as the series progresses.

Dracula looks great, as does Rhys Meyers. I'm not sure how long he will keep up the American accent. But then, switching to British (for this native-born Irishman) wouldn't be exactly right, either, would it? Will we get flashbacks in a Transylvanian accent? When I first heard that Rhys Meyers would play Dracula, I was both excited and disappointed for the actor. Here he was again, in a larger-than-life role, after his turn as Henry VIII in The Tudors. Is he destined to always play the outsiders, the weirdos? Maybe. He is clearly having fun with the part, focusing his smoldering gaze on every cast member, as a predator would his prey. There are also hints that like Angel and other more modern vamps, he might want to eventually shake off his vampiric existence and lead a "normal" life.

The filmed-in-Budapest Dracula has definitely taken the "throw everything into the pot" approach. So far, it's done with flair, color and humor, and a minimum of splatter. Just enough. We'll have to wait and see what rises to the surface, but I'm on board for this (so far 10-episode series) as long as the extremely watchable Rhys Meyers is involved. Invite him in.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

more halloween fun

Here are some more fun Halloween images from the recent party and travels:





Saturday, October 26, 2013

halloween party

Our local rec center held its annual Halloween bash last night, complete with haunted hose and lots of games of skill. The kid had to hold my hand in the haunted house (I screamed way more than she did) and was pretty amazing at the darts and bean bag tosses. Just a modicum of sugary treats were consumed, all in all a very successful night. My only regret is that I didn't get a photo of my favorite costume of the night, a young boy as Slash from Guns 'n' Roses, complete with (i hope) fake nose ring. Cool yet adorable.

Creepy decorations

Where to start ...

Inside the haunted house

Cotton Candy

Friday, October 25, 2013

favorite song friday: different strokes

So many people, so many different tastes and attitudes about music, life. My daughter told me about something that happened the other day when she was being given a ride somewhere by my cousin, who is staying with us for a while. A popular song that has been getting loads of airplay, "I Love It," by Icona Pop, came up on the car radio. It's irreverent, bouncy, and catchy as hell. My daughter started singing along, and my cousin abruptly (in the kid's view) turned it off. She didn't like "the message."

I got this feeling on the summer day when you were gone.
I crashed my car into the bridge. I watched, I let it burn.
I threw your sh** into a bag and pushed it down the stairs.
I crashed my car into the bridge.

I don't care, I love it.
I don't care.

Yes, it's a rant as much as a song, but sometimes you have to get your ya yas out. I  have no fears that my daughter will grow up and start crashing cars into bridges and watching them burn. If I had been driving, I would have turned it up.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

scary monsters and super creepy kids

After watching a bunch of scary and spooky movies in honor of this spooktacular Halloween season, especially The Awakening and The Haunting of Julia, it occurred to me that more often than not, especially in ghost movies, the chills are centered around a child, whether dead or alive. This most likely touches on all of our inner children, as that is what most reacts to the things that go bump in the night, what truly scares us. I tend to prefer such movies, which focus more on the psychological aspects of fear, as opposed to slash and gore-fests.

The kids from Village of the Damned

Some of the best horror movies are kid-centered. Here are some of my favorites:

Creepy kids from another world:

Village of the Damned (1960)

Rock-a-bye Rosemary's Baby

The Devil made them do it:

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
The Omen (1976)

Brother and sister in their haunted house with an uninvited guest

Hold that ghost:

The Uninvited (1944)
Don't Look Now (1973)
The Shining (1980)

Clowns never cease to be super-creepy: Poltergeist

Poltergeist (1982)
The Others (2001)
ParaNorman (2012)

Can you come out to play in 'Salem's Lot?

Vampires and Witches, oh my:

'Salem's Lot (1979)
Let Me In (2010)

There are plenty more, but ones that I don't really want to see again, like The Exorcist, Audrey Rose, and The Ring. Have I forgotten any of your favorite creepy spooky kids?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

poirot: series 7 & 8

Acorn Media has released on Blu-ray for the first time some titles only previously available on DVD: Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 7 & 8. For Agatha Christie and Poirot enthusiasts it is great to see these titles remastered for the precision of Blu-ray. The widescreen (aspect ratio: 1.77:1, 1080 resolution) images look great on a large-scale, high-definition television screen. The colors are vibrant; and details, such as the weave of Poirot's suit jacket or his incredibly waxed mustaches are stellar. Shadows may look a bit murky on some of the more highly-lit exterior scenes. The episodes were remastered from their original 16mm film prints.

David Suchet is as excellent as always as Hercule Poirot, the world's most brilliant and fastidious detective. His faithful friends and assistants also show up along the way - Hugh Fraser as Poirot's best friend and colleague, Captain Hastings, Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector Japp, and Pauline Moran as his personal secretary, the incomparable Miss Lemon. Poirot travels across England and beyond to solve the multiple murders in these mysteries. The Art Deco period settings and costumes look as fabulous as ever.

Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) basks in the glow of his client, the actress Jane Wilkinson (Helen Grace)

The two-disc Blu-ray includes four feature-length mysteries, presented in their original U.K. broadcast order:

"The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" (2000) —Poirot has retired to the countryside to raise vegetable marrows (squash). When his friend the wealthy industrialist Roger Ackroyd (Malcolm Terris) is found murdered in his home, Poirot can (happily) ditch his new gardening habit and throw himself back into the detection of crime. Poirot is assisted in his investigations by the local doctor, Dr. Sheppard (Oliver Ford Davies), and his busybody sister Caroline (Selina Cadell). This is one of Christie's more original twists on the locked room mystery.

"Lord Edgware Dies" (2000) — Back home at his London flat, Poirot is charmed by film actress Jane Wilkinson (Helen Grace), who asks his help - first to secure her divorce from her brute of a husband, Lord Edgware (John Castle) - then to find out who murdered the unpleasant nobleman. Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser), who has recently returned to England from Argentina after making some foolish investments, is thrilled by the milieu of the murder, which takes the pair backstage among theater folk, such as cabaret mimic Carlotta Adams (Fiona Allen).

"Murder in Mesopotamia" (2001) —Poirot accompanies Hastings to an archaeological dig in Iraq, which becomes the setting for multiple murders, antiquities theft, and a number of other mysteries that the great Belgian detective must unravel. The archaeological site of the Roman city of Oudhna, in Tunisia, provides a gorgeous and authentic backdrop for one of Christie's more compelling mysteries, but apparently was one of the most difficult ones to complete for Suchet as Poirot:
"It was undoubtedly the most difficult shoot of my entire career because of the extreme heat. The temperature reached 139 degrees, and my costume consists of a three-piece wool suit, leather gloves, a hat, a wing collar, bow tie, and full body padding. I had to drink four litres of water every day because I was sweating so much, but even so I nearly fainted on several occasions."
After meeting and marrying Archaeologist Max Mallowan, Christie set many of her mysteries at digs or other sites that her travels took her with Mallowan. "Murder in Mesopotamia" features an archaeologist, Dr. Erich Leidner (Ron Berglas), his high-strung American wife, Louise (Barbara Barnes), who believes that her life is in danger, and a string of suspects who are all attached in one way or another to the excavations, including Hastings's nephew Bill Coleman (Jeremy Turner-Welch).

Louise Leidner (Barbara Barnes) confesses her fears to Poirot and Hastings (Hugh Fraser) at her husband's dig in Mesopotamia.

"Evil Under the Sun" (2001) — Poirot has been told, to his horror, that he must lose weight after he suffers a fainting spell at a new Argentinian restaurant (another one of Hastings's investments). A forced vacation to a seaside resort in Devon, the Sandy Cove Hotel, is at first a nightmare for Poirot, who is on a strict food and exercise regimen. But as he turns his attention to his fellow hotel guests, he notices that something, more than the terrible food, is wrong at the the Sandy Cove Hotel. A glamorous former actress, Arlena Stuart (Louise Delamere), is blatantly flirting with Patrick Redfern (Michael Higgs), upsetting his decidedly unglamorous wife Christine (Tamzin Malleson), as well as her husband Kenneth Marshall (David Mallinson). The love triangle seems only the tip of the iceberg. Once Arlena is found dead, alone, on an isolated beach, Poirot must sift through the other guests' alibis, as they all seem to have their own jealousies and secrets.

SDH Subtitles in English are available, but there are unfortunately no other extras included in Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 7 & 8. But Poirot's "little grey cells" are as top-notch as ever, and die-hard Christie fans can now enjoy some of their favorite mysteries on Blu-ray.

Originally published on Blogcritics as: Blu-ray Review: ‘Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 7 & 8′

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

halloween marathon: the awakening

A friend recommended The Awakening, a 2011 horror movie that might be right up my alley, and I'm glad he did. It's spooky, a little creepy, and not gory at all, which I'm more than O.K. with. It's a rather traditional period ghost story, along the lines of The Innocents or the recent Daniel Radcliffe starrer The Woman in Black. It features a strong female lead, Rebecca Hall, as a 1920s-era ghostbuster.

The film opens with Florence Cathcart (Hall), an author who exposes supernatural fraud, helping the London police bust a phony séance. But after she has exposed the crooked medium and a young, child accomplice, she is wracked with — guilt? disappointment? Frances has her own ghosts, which include a lover she jilted after he left to fight in the Great War — and subsequently died. But back to work. A handsome boarding school teacher and World War I veteran, Robert Mallory (Dominic West), comes to seek her help in either explaining or debunking a series of sightings of a mysterious child at the school. The teachers, students, and their parents are all rattled, especially since the recent death of a student named Walter.

Florence (Rebecca Hall) has cool tools for ghostbusting
Robert (Dominic West) fishes Florence out of the lake after a ghostly hand tries to pull her under
Tom (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Maud the housekeeper (Imelda Staunton)
Florence has all sorts of cool gizmos and gadgets to help expose what she assumes is a clever prankster. But after she sorts out some of the more easily solved mysteries she once again is hit by a melancholy — and the determination to find out what is behind some happenings that she can't explain. After most of the students go home for the holidays, Florence stays on with a skeleton crew — Robert, the housekeeper Maud (Imelda Staunton), a creepy groundskeeper named Edward Judd (Joseph Mawle) who is known to have dodged military service, and Tom (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Bran from Game of Thrones), the one student who has stayed behind, as his parents are traveling in India. The amount of strange incidents increase, with Florence clearly the focus of a series of attacks.

The Awakening takes a few twists and turns in its final act which are the script equivalent of a scene of the ghost jumping out of the shadows. The twists are a bit far-fetched, but they also admittedly, work. The movie moves slowly, almost hypnotically, as Florence sorts out what is real, from the current demons haunting her, to the demons from her past which she must reconcile. Rebecca Hall (Please Give, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Prestige) has been a favorite actress for a while, and she really owns this movie. The camera loves her in close-up, watching her every move, as does her obsessed ghost, and the audience as well. Can a horror movie have a happy ending? Maybe, if the emphasis is on a woman truly coming into her own, on putting all of her ghosts behind her, and becoming truly independent of her fears and the past.

Monday, October 21, 2013

halloween marathon: the haunting of julia

Rosemary's Baby is still one of my all-time favorite movies, horror or otherwise, but before I re-watch it, I decided to try another Mia Farrow-starring horror movie which I had never seen before, The Haunting of Julia (originally released as Full Circle), a British film from 1977, directed by Richard Loncraine (Brimstone & Treacle, The Missionary, Wimbledon).

Based on the novel Julia by Peter Straub, The Haunting of Julia features Farrow as Julia, a wealthy woman who must start her life again after the tragic death of her young daughter Kate (Sophie Ward). The movie starts off with a bang when a seemingly innocent breakfast turns tragic when Julia can't save her daughter from choking on a piece of apple, as she desperately tries to perform an emergency tracheotomy (apparently pre-Heimlich maneuver) while her helpless, practically useless husband Magnus (Keir Dullea) looks on.

Julia understandably flips out for a while, and when she starts to come out of her funk she jettisons her avaricious husband and moves into a creaky, quirky London house. What she doesn't know is that the house is haunted. Or is it? Are the noises and strange happenings a ghost, her ex-husband stalking her, or all in her mind?

Mark (Tom Conti) brings a housewarming gift

Julia enlists the help of her friendly antique dealer, the skeptical Mark (Tom Conti), as well as her sister-in-law, a local medium, and neighbors to help explain why her new fully furnished house has some creepy childhood toys which apparently can't be photographed. The bodies start to pile up as Julia goes on her quest to resolve her grief and solve a past murder. Farrow is once again sporting her Rosemary pixie cut and researching the supernatural, this time at the British Museum Library.

Come to Mamma Mia: "Come ... everything's right now ... stay with me."

Although The Haunting of Julia shares similarities to The Haunting and Don't Look Now, it is spooky and involving in its own right. The soundtrack by Colin Towns is appropriately eerie and helps take the viewer down the rabbit hole with Julia. Mia Farrow is as fragile as she should be, but the movie also presents an interesting twist on the woman in peril. Yes, she may be going a little crazy, but she is also actively trying to make changes in her life, without needing her husband or the help of any man. The character of Mark is a friend, and a sounding board, but he is little help in her supernatural investigations, and not a true or typical romantic interest. What drives Julia and the movie, as it did in Rosemary's Baby, is Julia's identity as a mother. She will fight to help a child, real, imaginary, or ghost, whatever the consequences.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

vintage halloween cats

Saturday, October 19, 2013

some of our halloween decorations

This is only scratching the surface ...

Can you spot the artist inside?

Not your typical Florida fauna

Friday, October 18, 2013

favorite song friday: prince vs. bruno mars (and the rest of the world)

Prince, Prince Prince. He's once of those artists that I love, but ... I have to admit that sometimes he is just a bit too much. He recently released a sneak peek at his new song/video, "Breakfast Can Wait." Talk about a hit or miss. The hit part is Prince showing his sense of humor by having Dave Chappelle impersonate his tiny purple majesty on the cover art:

The song, unfortunately, was not quite so impressive. Much has been made of the video for the song being directed by 18 year-old Danielle Curiel, who also impersonates the singer. But unfortunately the rest of the video's visuals — synchronized dancing in '80s-era black spandex, a strangely sexist interaction between a couple "the morning after," — leaves more than a little bit to be desired. Plus, the song sounds a little dated and strange. Prince's falsetto sounds practically helium-enhanced near the end of the song.

Prince isn't the only one trying to recapture the magic of Prince these days. Robin Thicke tries to channel early Prince in his blatantly Prince-like "Give it 2 U". He even rips off Prince's spelling technique, which the Minneapolis musician perfected long before we all started texting. It's O.K. ... but for something fun and sexy I much prefer the real heir to Prince's throne, Prince-ier than Prince himself these days, the über-talented Bruno Mars and his latest song, "Gorilla."

All three videos are on the lame side, but the sexiness and catchiness of "Gorilla" is not to be denied. It's a great song. Check it out, Prince.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

spooky gifs

From Popsugar:


From Rebloggy:

Bride of Frankenstein

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

d' aulaire's norse gods and giants

I grew up with D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, a wonderful book full of fabulous interpretations of the wild lives of the gods, complete with illustrations by the talented husband and wife children's book team, Ingri and Parin D'Aulaire. I spent hours reading and re-reading these stories, trying to draw Aphrodite, Dionysus and the other gods and goddesses that the D'Aulaires portrayed in their distinctive lithographs.

I remember seeing their book on the Norse Gods when I was a kid. I must have taken it out of the library, but I frankly don't remember it at all. When I was with the kid at the library the other day and saw D'Aulaire's Norse Gods & Giants (reprinted recently as D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths) again I grabbed it, figuring it would be like my favorite Greek myth book. Well, sorta. The illustrations are as wonderful as one would expect. But the stories — they are so very, very different from the Greek myths. The Norse pantheon, although it shares a superficial resemblance to the Greeks, with creation stories and Odin as the head of the gods, is full of very distinct and different personalities from Zeus and his brother and sister gods and goddesses.

Battling a frost giant


Loki plans his next trick

The D'Aulaires seem to be having a great time telling stories about the world of the Norse gods, including the world tree, Ygdrassil, Valhalla, and the gods' ultimate destiny, Ragnarokk. Fans of comic books and recent superhero moves will recognize some of the main players — Odin the all father, hammer-wielding Thor, the god of thunder, and the shape shifting trickster, Loki, as well as the lovely Freya and the Valkyrie. The D'Aulaires' books are geared towards children, but their retelling of these classic stories are dense and layered and could be equally enjoyed by adults. I'm glad I got a chance to find this book again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


BBC Home Entertainment recently released Sinbad: Season One on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray includes the complete first season of the series on two discs, which includes 12 episodes with an approximate total running time of 450 minutes. Extras include three featurettes, “The Magic of Sinbad,” “The Magic of Malta” and “The Magical Costumes of Sinbad.”

Elliot Knight as Sinbad
The crew of the Providence, L-R: Gunnar, Anwar, Nala, Rina, and Cook

The show, which premiered on the British Sky television network, unfortunately only ran for one season, but there is still a lot to enjoy in Sinbad. In the style of other fantasy action series such as Merlin and even the science-fiction cult classic Farscape, Sinbad features a young, ethnically diverse cast who are thrown together, and have to go on the run, where they experience a series of magical adventures.

Sinbad (Elliot Knight) is on the lam from his home of Basra, after he inadvertently has caused the death of the only son of Lord Akbari (Naveen Andrews). In retaliation, Lord Akbari has had Sinbad's beloved brother Jamil (Devon Anderson) killed. But even that violent act doesn't seem enough for Akbari, who is consumed with revenge. With the help of the mage Taryn (Orla Brady), he tries to seek Sinbad across land and sea. Sinbad manages to stow away aboard the ship the Providence, where he meets his new traveling companions: thief Rina (Marama Corlett), Viking warrior Gunnar (Elliot Cowan), doctor Anwar (Dimitri Leonidas), noble woman Nala (Estella Daniels), and Cook (Junix Inocian). Sinbad isn't just pursued by Taryn and Akbari, but the wrath of his grandmother as well, who blames him for the death of his brother by cursing him — he must constantly roam the seas until he comes to terms with his responsibility for the crime — only able to be on land for a day at a time.

The 12 episodes include:

"Pilot" Sinbad loses his brother, gains two powerful enemies, and sets sail on the Providence with a very eclectic crew.

"Queen of the Water-Thieves" After the Providence crew lands on an island, Sinbad is (temporarily) favored by the Queen of the Water Thieves (Sophie Okonedo), who dallies with him while her tribe holds his crew hostage.

"House of Games" Always a gambler, Sinbad loses the Providence in a wager. He is given an opportunity to win back his ship at a dangerous mystical gambling den, the House of Games.

"Old Man of the Sea" The Providence is drifting, its water supply running low, when Sinbad sights a shipwreck. The crew rescues the lone survivor, Anicetus (Timothy Spall), whose presence begins to have adverse effects on the crew, especially Nala.

"Hunted" The crew learns a bit more about Gunnar and his Viking past while trying to escape from a creature created by Taryn's magic, a "Familiar."

"The Siren" The Providence moors offshore from an island where Sinbad finds solace in the arms of the lovely Roisin (Georgia King) — if he doesn't mind giving up all of his memories.

Lord Akbari

"Homecoming" Sinbad and the gang are back in Basra, to rescue his grandmother and to finally face Akbari and Taryn.

"Kuji" The gang discovers an ancient box. Hoping for gold or jewels, they manage to open the chest which reveals not treasure, but a self-proclaimed god named Kuji (Hannah Tointon). Only Anwar seems to believe in her, which may have disastrous consequences for the rest of the crew.

"Eye of the Tiger" Always in search of treasure, Sinbad and the crew are led to a magical red stone, which is also sought by a young man named Riff (Lee Ingleby). Further complicating matters is a bounty hunter sent by Taryn, Tiger (Tuppence Middleton), who forms an uneasy alliance/flirtation with Sinbad.

"For Whom the Egg Shatters" In a rather strange monster movie-like episode, the Providence crew takes on some paying cargo, a professor/mad scientist (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her giant egg, which seems like a good idea — until the egg hatches.

"Fiend or Friend?" Gunnar meets a lovely widow, named Lara (Miranda Raison), who also has a powerful admirer in a local priest, Father La Stessa (Dougray Scott). Sinbad must rescue his friend before a local monster called The Fiend attacks Gunnar and the rest of the town.

"Land of the Dead" Sinbad may finally get a chance to reunite with his brother Jamil, but at what cost? Evanna Lynch guest stars.

Sinbad aboard the Providence

Gunnar and the ram's head statue

The plots and some of the CGI-generated monsters verge on the silly side at times, but the mood of Sinbad is all good fun, and the rapport between the actors adds to the general light mood of the show. The setting of most of the series, which is filmed on location in Malta, looks simply spectacular, especially on a large-scale high-definition television screen (which shows off the 1080p resolution of  and aspect ratio of 1.78:1). Viewers will be enchanted by the gorgeous sea, sky, rocky hills, and ancient structures that serve as a backdrop for Sinbad's and his crew's adventures.

It's a shame that Sinbad only ran for one season, as we get to learn a bit more about each person on the Providence in each episode. There are some intriguing questions that come to mind after viewing the series, such as why Cook never leaves the Providence, and whether Sinbad will ever get to see his brother again. And why is there a giant statue of a ram's head on the ship? We may never know for sure, but there is still plenty for the entire family to enjoy in this attractive-looking series.

Originally published on Blogcritics: Blu-ray Review: ‘Sinbad: Season One’