Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's a Dangerous Job but No One Else Can Do It

"Since the lightning snaked through the window of the trailer in Texarkana when I was fifteen, I've been able to locate corpses. Think about it. Caveman corpses, Native American corpses, the early settlers, the more recently deceased- that's a lot of dead people, and they all let me know where their earthly remains were interred..."

Hired to find a boy gone missing in Doraville, North Carolina, Harper Connelly and her stepbrother Tolliver head there- only to discover that the boy was only one of several who had disappeared over the previous five years. All of them teenagers. All unlikely runaways.

All calling to Harper.

Harper soon finds them- eight victims, buried in the half-frozen ground, all come to an unspeakable end. Afterwards, what she most wants to do is collect her fee and get out of town ahead of the media storm that's about to descend. But when she's attacked and prevented from leaving, she reluctantly becomes a part of the investigation as she learns more than she cares to about the dark mysteries and long- hidden secrets of Doraville- knowledge that makes her the next person likely to rest in an ice cold grave...

Title: An Ice Cold Grave
Author: Charlaine Harris
Series: Harper Connelly, Book 3
Start & Finished: 3/20/08
Published: 2007
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pages: 280
Genre: Mystery-Paranormal

After being struck by lightning, many people have claimed to be able to do things that aren’t considered exactly normal but Harper Connelly may have the most interesting ability of them all: she finds dead bodies. An Ice Cold Grave is the third book in this amazing series by one of the best paranormal mystery writers of today, Charlaine Harris.

Many mystery heroines find dead bodies and solve their murders but Charlaine Harris’ Harper Connelly is the only one who can actually not only locate the departed but also get a glimpse of their last moments and learn the cause of death too (just not who killed them if they were murdered). Because of this the Harper series is my second favorite series by Charlaine Harris (the first being her Sookie Stackhouse). You wouldn’t think the Harpers are her darkest series since there are vampires, weres, and other creatures in the Sookies but this is definitely the grittier of the two.

Harper’s love life takes an interesting turn in Ice Cold too. I personally find it a little icky, but I guess that’s what makes it even more real because you can’t choose who you love. It was remarkably clever of the author to let something good happen to her heroine since she is investigating her first mass grave (Harper empathizes with the victims) and has a serial killer after her. As long as Harper keeps doing what she does, I’ll keep reading this truly unique series.

The Harper Connelly Series: Grave Sight, Grave Surprise, & An Ice Cold Grave

Dr. Seuss Animated Adaptations

Poor Horton. Dr. Seuss's kindly elephant is persuaded to sit on an egg while its mother, the good-for-nothing bird lazy Mayzie, takes a break. Little does Horton know that Mayzie is setting off for a permanent vacation in Palm Springs. He waits, and waits, never leaving his precarious branch, even through a freezing winter and a spring that's punctuated by the insults of his friends. ("They taunted. They teased him. They yelled 'How Absurd! Old Horton the Elephant thinks he's a bird!'") Further indignities await, but Horton has patience and he is rewarded in the end.

Title: Horton Hatches the Egg
Release: April 11, 1942
Genre: Animated Short
Writer: Dr. Seuss (book) & Michael Maltese
Director: Robert Clampett
Music By: Carl W. Stalling
Produced By: Leon Schlesinger
Distributed By: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 10 minutes

The first person to have a go at adapting Ted Geisel’s (better known as Dr. Seuss) work was his friend Robert Clampett who was currently working at the Warner Brothers studio producing the animated cartoon shorts known as Merrie Melodies. Working together using the “mash-up of Clampett’s craziness and the Seussian rhyme and style” , they recreated Seuss’ fourth published story Horton Hatches the Egg.

Such a great cartoon! There are pop culture references (Mayzie does a great Katharine Hepburn impersonation) and of course the humor you would expect to get from a Warner Brothers animated short but I was so pleased that the Seussian essence of the original story was still there. Even the overall look of it has a Seuss flair. I meant what I said and I said what I meant, this cartoon is faithful almost 100%.

Dr. Seuss' classic of a jungle elephant named Horton teaches us what it means to be a true friend. Hearing a faint cry for help from a floating speck of dust, Horton finds a tiny planet of Whos living there. Though he can't see them, he hears them for sure - and puts his safety on the line for microscopic inhabitants. Thanks to Dr. Who-Vee and Horton, Whoville is saved and a lasting friendship is created.

Title: Horton Hears a Who!
Release: 1970
Genre: Animated TV Special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Chuck Jones & Ben Washam
Music By: Eugene Poddany & Dr. Seuss (lyrics)
Produced By: Chuck Jones & Theodor Geisel
Distributed By: Warner Brother
Run Time: 26 minutes

Dr. Seuss’s finest elephant made his first appearance in his book Horton Hatches the Egg (1940) and fourteen years later he was the subject of another story Horton Hears a Who! Although both were bestsellers, the latter has been made into more films. Quite a lot of the original Dr. Seuss material appears throughout this adaptation but there are a few major changes like names and some of the story. For example: it’s not the Who mayor that is in contact with Horton, it’s a scientist named Dr. H. Who-Vee (the Who who bears a slight resemblance to Dr. Seuss himself) and no one believed him about there being a world outside of Whoville- just like no one believed Horton about the Whos.

This short adaptation is wonderful! Dr. Seuss’ touch is evident (especially in the songs, which were composed by Eugene Poddany who also worked with Seuss on his Cat in the Hat Song Book in 1967) throughout the film even when it takes an off beaten track from the original story. I also loved the overall look of this Peabody award winning TV special because it’s by the same people who worked on How the Grinch Stole Christmas (matter of fact there are a few reused scenes from it) and you can really tell because it’s just that good.

In an animated version of one of the most beloved of all Dr. Seuss tales, two youngsters find themselves at home with nothing to do on a rainy afternoon. But when the magical, mischievous Cat in the Hat arrives on the scene, they're all cat-apulted into a day of rousing, romping, outlandish antics they-and you-will never forget!

Title: The Cat in the Hat
Release: March 10, 1971
Genre: Animated TV special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Hawley Pratt
Music By: Dean Elliott
Produced By: David H. DePatie, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Theodor Geisel
Distributed By: DePatie- Freleng Enterprises (DFE)
Run Time: 25 minutes

Obviously one of the most well-known and loved of Seuss’ creations is The Cat in the Hat. Dr. Seuss himself used the cat for many personal drawings to family and friends the rest of his life as well as created six stories that the cat either starred in or was a part of. The lovable rascal also appeared in many adaptations by the DFE (DePatie- Freleng Enterprises) cartoon specials but the Cat’s first screen appearance was in this animated special.

If I was going to pick my favorite Seuss character it would have to be Horton the elephant or the Grinch but the most celebrated creation of his is The Cat in the Hat. Maybe it’s just me but I actually liked the fish, Mr. Krinlebein more. In this TV special he’s voiced by the very talented Dawes Butler who also did the voice for Yogi Bear and many others (Allan Sherman lends his voice to the Cat). I also had a slight issue with one or two songs even though I loved the lyrics (they seem pure Seuss to me) but the score just doesn’t sound right. Other than a few other nitpicks, this was a great adaptation even if Thing 2 and Thing 1 gave me the creeps!

The award-winning tale of The Lorax tells the story of the greedy, tree-chopping Once-lers and the brave little Lorax who speaks up for the vanishing Truffla trees. Only to be pushed aside in favor of progress.

Title: The Lorax
Release: February 14, 1972
Genre: Animated TV special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Hawley Pratt
Music By: Dean Elliott
Produced By: David H. DePatie, Friz Freleng, Theodor Geisel
Distributed By: DePatie- Freleng Enterprises
Run Time: 25 minutes

There are one or two controversial books written by Dr. Seuss over the years. His 1971 release was The Lorax which is a pollution and environmental damage awareness story that made quite a few people angry but has since been acclaimed as genius. The DePatie- Freleng Enterprises (who have made more Seuss adaptations than anyone) created this animated TV special a year after the book came out.

The Lorax was my favorite DFE animated feature because not only was it faithful to the original story, it also expanded on it. The short little film is an adept look at progress. I wonder what the Lorax would say about the way life is like now, nearly forty years since Ted Geisel created him?

The Hoober-Bloob Highway is a path of light connected to Earth that leads to a floating island in the sky. On that island lives Mr. Hoober-Bloob who; assisted by a self-playing instrument, sends babies and other animals to live on Earth but only if they want to go.

Title: The Hoober-Bloob Highway
Release: February 19, 1975
Genre: Animated TV special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Alan Zaslove
Music By: Dean Elliott
Produced By: David H. DePatie, Friz Freleng, Theodor Geisel
Distributed By: DePatie- Freleng Enterprises
Run Time: 30 minutes

The Hoober-Bloob Highway was another one of the few animated films created that Ted Geisel wrote everything for (even the lyrics to the music) without his alter ego Dr. Seuss having written a book for it first. This short, artistic film was actually nominated for the Outstanding Children’s Special Emmy in 1975.

Although I didn’t hate this colorful musical, I also can’t claim it’s my favorite. There is a reason why it’s not shown quite as often as some of the other stuff Geisel had a hand in. It certainly had a lot of neat parts but while the song lyrics were good, the final composed product just didn’t mesh quite right and the pacing was kind of slow too. I did notice quite a few scenes that are in some of Seuss’ other books but for the most part it was just a crazy little film.

A young man named Pontoffel Pock wishes he could get away and his wish is granted by the fairy McGillicuddy who gives him a magical, musical piano that takes him anywhere he wants to go. When he loses his new love and his way home, Pontoffel Pock is determined to find them again!

Title: Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You?
Release: May 2, 1980
Genre: Animated TV special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Gerard Baldwin
Music By: Joe Raposo
Produced By: David H. DePatie, Friz Freleng, Theodor Geisel
Distributed By: DePatie- Freleng Enterprises
Run Time: 25 minutes

The DFE also created Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You? which was another of the few things that Ted Geisel lent himself to that wasn’t based on a book he had written (as Dr. Seuss of course). This cartoon was nominated for an Emmy along with another DePatie-Freleng Pink Panther in the Olym-pinks but unfortunately neither cartoon won.

I thought it was interesting to be sure, but again not the best. I think it was all of the singing that threw me off, only about ten to fifteen minutes total is spoken instead of sung (not that the singing is bad! There is just too much). The film is animated in that classic DFE look but the Seussian remains distinctive too. I would love to see all of the TV specials by this company completely remastered!

In the Emmy award-winning tale of The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss's two most popular characters square off in a whimsical, Seuss-style showdown as the ever-clever Cat puts the gloomy Grinch in his place!

Title: The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat
Release: May 20, 1982
Genre: Animated TV special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Bill Perez
Music By: Joe Raposo
Produced By: Friz Freleng & Theodor Geisel
Distributed By: DePatie- Freleng Enterprises & Marvel Productions, Ltd.
Run Time: 25 minutes

The last of the DePatie- Freleng animated cartoons was The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat and they certainly went out with a bang! It won two Emmy awards for both of the animated categories beating two Smurf cartoons and two Charlie Brown ones as well.

Oh boy! The Grinch decided to grinch the wrong person that day! Of course the laidback, easy-going Cat in the Hat showed him the error of his ways. You would expect a kind of Bugs Bunny- type of showdown but that’s not this Cat’s style. However he does get fed up with the Grinch stealing everyone’s sound, light, and colors (you have to see some of those creations). I think this was my second favorite DFE production (The Lorax was the best), they should have merged with Marvel even sooner!

Let the Butter Battle Begin! The Zooks and the Yooks are at war over butter and bread - on which side should one spread? It starts with sticks and with stones. Gets bigger, grows badder, everyone's a bit madder. There's a lesson to learn for those who must fight... a war is never won despite all one's might.

Title: The Butter Battle Book
Release: November 13, 1989
Genre: Animated TV special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Ralph Bakshi
Produced By: Ralph Bakshi & Ted Geisel
Distributed By: Bakshi Productions
Run Time: 25 minutes

Rarely did Dr. Seuss have any kind of big statement to make in his books but when he did, he didn't back down, especially in The Butter Battle Book! When he was pressured to have it end with on an uplifting note by his publishers, he refused. Five years after it was published (it was the only book of his that has been censored), Ralph Bakshi teamed up to create one of Seuss’ mos faithful adaptations.

The Butter Battle Book is a very satirical view at the nuclear arms race by trying to show how silly war is when everyone can and probably will be blown to bits. All over which way a person buttered their bread (butter side up, or down), kind of like in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift when a war is started over which way to crack an egg. I actually found both Seuss’ creation and this adaptation kind of sad really, but at least Chris Recarrdi did a really good job animating it!

Narrated by The Cat in the Hat (voiced by Henry Gibson), Daisy-Head Mayzie is the story of a little girl who one day, grows a flower out of the top of her head!

Her classmates, teacher, and principal can't believe their eyes and her parents are shocked. Finagle, the agent (voiced by Tim Curry) is the only person who seems happy about the situation. He helps turn Mayzie and her Daisy into a world-wide marketing sensation.

What happens when she tires of her fame and fortune?

Title: Daisy- Head Mayzie
Release: February 5, 1995
Genre: Animated TV special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Tony Collingwood
Music By: Philip Appleby
Produced By: Audrey Geisel, Christopher O’Hare, Buzz Potamkin
Distributed By: Hannah- Barbera Productions
Run Time: 30 minutes

Nominated for the prestigious Annie and Emmy awards, Daisy-Head Mayzie was a script that Dr. Seuss’ widow Audrey Geisel found after he died (there are several other posthumous works too) and allowed it to be filmed. Hannah-Barbera won the bidding war for the right to make the cartoon and they added a bit of the Seuss whimsy to the animation while still keeping with their own style.

A great Seuss story! I thought it was very cute, but it could have probably done without the moral lesson; something I’m sure Seuss himself never would have put in, so it must have been added at the last minute but I still liked it and Tim Curry was really good as the sleazy agent too.

Other Seuss Adaptations: How the Grinch Stole Christmas & Halloween is Grinch Night

Theodor Geisel aka Dr. Seuss has plenty of pages dedicated to him and his many varied works including a National Memorial but Wikipedia has many pages linked to him and his adaptations too. I also stumbled across a great article about this amazing author on Animated Views.

Horton Hatches the Egg:

Cat in the Hat Clip:

The Lorax Clip:

Grinch Grinches Clip:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Go Camel-Tipping!

I’m Lucille Robinson (aka Jaz Parks).

This is a mission unlike anything my vampire boss, Vayl, and I have ever been on. It’s not our usual take-them-out-and-run; it’s an undercover mission that needs the whole gang: a psychic, an interpreter, and a weapons specialist.

We’ve never gone in with such heavy artillery before, but the more the merrier, right? Um…. Nope. At least not since Vayl and I learned that part of our job is to ferret out a mole concealed in our unit.

To add to our problems, we’re being harried by a pack of reavers bent on revenge, and targeted by a Seer who wants to share Vayl’s power - at any cost. This is going to be a blast.

Title: Biting the Bullet
Author: Jennifer Rardin
Series: Jaz Parks, Book 3
Start & Finished: 3/18/08
Published: 2008
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 336
Genre: Paranormal-Adventure

Proclaimed by many as Bond meets Buffy (or as "Bond meets Dracula- only better" as Patricia Briggs put it), Jennifer Rardin’s Jaz Parks continues her butt-kicking ways in the current story in this series Biting the Bullet. Jaz goes to the Middle East in this book and discovers that her friends, family, and even herself are in even more danger than she thought. Not even a trip into Hell itself will deter her from saving them all.

I discovered this series in January shortly before this one came out in March? thanks to one of the blogs I read. After flying through the first two books I was so happy I wouldn’t have to wait long to read the next one. Of course it was taking my library forever to get the book so when I stumbled across a contest for it at Jaye’s Blahg that she was hosting for the author I signed up and then I actually won! About a week later, it arrived and I read it that very night. I still think it’s so cool that Jennifer Rardin autographed it too.

As much as I love this series, I think this is the best book yet. Well at least until the next one, Bitten to Death comes out! It’s an action-packed story (kind of like what the first couple of Anita Blake books were like) with really great characters, funny dialogue on every page (at random: “When you’re in my biz and you walk into an arsenal, something inside you springs to its feet and starts yelling, “Yipee!” pg. 223), scary blood and soul-sucking bad guys, save the world type of plots, etc. It makes you wonder just how long Jaz is going to survive but at the same time you know that anyone as interesting and amazing as her won’t be killed off any time soon.

The Jaz Parks Series: Once Bitten Twice Shy, Another One Bites the Dust, Biting the Bullet, Bitten to Death (August ‘08), One More Bite (January ‘09)

The first book in this series Once Bitten, Twice Shy was the first book that Jennifer Rardin had ever had published and it came out in 2007, so other than a lot of good buzz and some interviews with bloggers there isn’t too much publicity out there for her books.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It Rises to the Occasion

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride carries on in the dark, romantic tradition of his classic Edward Scissorhands and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Set in a 19th century European village, this stop motion, animated feature follows the story of Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp), a young man who is whisked away to the underworld and wed to a mysterious Corpse Bride, while his real bride, Victoria, waits bereft in the land of the living. Though life in the Land of the Dead proves to be a lot more colorful than his strict Victorian upbringing, Victor learns that there is nothing in this world, or the next, that can keep him away from his one true love. It's a tale of optimism, romance and a very lively afterlife, told in classic Burton style.

Title: Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
Release: September 23, 2005
Genre: Animated
MPAA Rating: PG
Writer: Tim Burton, John August, Caroline Thompson
Director: Tim Burton & Mike Johnson
Music By: Danny Elfman
Produced By: Tim Burton & Allison Abbate
Distributed By: Warner Brothers Family Entertainment
Run Time: 76 minutes
Official Site

Tim Burton is a man the word “creepy” is synonymous with and The Corpse Bride only solidifies that fact. True, it is a bit gruesome at times but the songs and the personalities of the characters shine through so strongly that it’s impossible to dislike this wonderful film.

A lot like Nightmare Before Christmas but even better, this is a stop-motion animated film that just happens to be a kind of macabre reunion of all Burton’s favorite people he’s worked with like Johnny Depp (Victor), and Helena Bonham Carter (Emily, the Corpse Bride) whom he is now actually married to.

The animation is awesome of course (clay figures like Nightmare Before Christmas) but it's really the music that moves the movie along. Danny Elfman and Tim Burton's styles mesh together well. Elfman is the creator of this hauntingly beautiful, jazzy soundtrack. My favorite song would have to be Tears to Shed but the one that I think is the most fun and show how lively the dead really are is Remains of the Day. Just like Tim Burton has a very recognizable look to his films, Elfman’s sound is incredibly unique and what makes him one of my favorite composers of today.

While this movie is still a little gross, even gruesome at times and certainly macabre, it still somehow is manages to be kid-friendly and yet adults can enjoy it as well. I think Tim Burton himself describes it best: "Rather than make [death] this dark, unspoken thing -- which is kind of how I grew up -- I always liked the idea that it was more a celebration. It feels more positive, somehow, and more spiritual and right to me," he said.

Besides the usual Wikipedia and Imdb.com pages I also found an interview with Graham G. Maiden who was the supervisor for the puppets who make up the Corpse Bride characters and some original unused storyboards by Dean Roberts. I also found an interview with Johnny Depp about the film (text).



Friday, June 13, 2008

Vegas Vampires Books 2-4

Author: Erin McCarthy
Series: The Vegas Vampires, Books 2-4
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: Paranormal Romance
The USA Today bestselling author of High Stakes returns to Sin City, where you can get bitten by the gambling bug or by the sexiest vampire you've ever seen...

Politics makes strange coffinfellows. Vampire Seamus Fox is supposed to be the campaign manager for a Vampire Nation presidential candidate. But instead, finds himself running around Vegas, keeping tabs on the candidate's wife and female entourage.

Seamus has had his fill of women. A disastrous and deadly love affair has haunted him for over two centuries. Talk about baggage. But suddenly he finds himself obsessed by a mysterious stripper who dances behind a screen. The sultryyet shy Cara Kim whets his appetite for more. But leave it to Seamus to fall fangs over feet for that rarest of Vegas attractions... a good girl.

After a sudden runin on the street, though, they may soon have a lot more in common...
Title: Bit the Jackpot
Start & Finished: 3/13/08-3/14/08
Published: 2006
Pages: 304

A celibate vampire and a virgin stripper make up the unlikely pair in Erin McCarthy’s Bit the Jackpot, the second story in her paranormal romance Vegas Vampires series. Seamus Fox is the campaign manager from the first book High Stakes who is undeniably sexy but also a bit of a prude... until he met Cara Kim.

Erin McCarthy did such a fantastic job creating such an entertaining plot with even more interesting characters than in her first paranormal romance High Stakes that I had to read the next book in the series. Besides, she left a few things unresolved that I was curious about such as who won the vampire election (which still isn’t solved by the end of the story) and whether the people who tried to kill off some of the characters ever got caught.

Yes there are a few groan worthy moments, even quite a few predictable moments but McCarthy’s stories are also very sexy and hilarious (I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a vampire walking his girlfriend’s dog, have you?). The characters are strong, even the minor characters but I did think it was a little odd how some minor characters overshadowed others. Alex’s sister Brittany (who is the main character in the next story Bled Dry) takes a backseat to the scatterbrained (or as Seamus puts it “child/puppy/porn star) Kelsey a few times.

At least in Bit the Jackpot the major story plot ends and you don’t need to read the next story to find out what happens. The problems coming up are hinted at though. I doubt anyone would want to stop reading this series in the middle but this romance can stand alone. A refreshingly light read.

Only in Vegas can a on-night stand with a vampire beat the odds-from the national bestselling author of Bit the Jackpot and High Stakes...

Hooking up with a vampire has its risks- but getting pregnant usually isn't one of them. Tell that to Brittany Baldizzi, who finds herself in the family way with no father in sight. After their one night of passion, vampire Corbin Jean Michel Atelier disappeared off the face of the earthor at least off the Vegas strip...

Corbin is a vampire with a cause, secretly trying to find a cure for his condition. But when he finds out Brittany is pregnant with his child, Corbin can't keep his parental instincts from trumping his bloodsucking ones. Even when showing his hand could cost him the woman he can't help but love...

Title: Bled Dry
Start & Finished: 3/14/08-3/15/08
Published: 2007
Pages: 288

Poor Brittany! As of being pregnant from a one night stand with a vampire who hates what he is and is searching for a cure isn’t stressing enough, her child will be the first known threequarter vampire in history. The third story in Erin McCarthy’s funny, light paranormal romance Bled Dry is all about the unexpected and how the Vegas vamps overcome the hurdles thrown at them.

I liked this book but if I was to pick one of the stories in the series as my least favorite Brittany and Corbin’s would have to be it (and if this was the first story I doubt I would have continued the series). Not that it’s not hilarious and even has some cool scenes (like when Brittany gets kidnaped) but compared to the others it just falls short. I guess it’s because Corbin strikes me as a scientist and not really a vampire.

Skipping a book in a series is never an option for me but I really wouldn’t recommend doing it in the Vegas Vampires series since each book takes previous things and continues with it (the vampire election is won during this story). Plus you get to find out what Ethan, Alex, Seamus, Cara, Kelsey, and Ringo are all up to and that’s worth going with Brittany and Corbin to parenting classes any day.

A night of indulgence...

Gwenna Carrick is a woman with a history- 900 years of it. As the vampiress ex-wife of the notorious vampire Robert Donatelli, she has to keep a low profile. Not easy when she's bathed in the neon glow of Las Vegas- especially when there's a whole online group of vampire slayers bent on dealing her her last hand.

Can feel like eternity...

A wild night with a stranger was not in the cards for Gwenna. But that's exactly what happened when she met the ruggedly handsome detective Nate Thomas. Their passion made her feel... well alive again. But when Donatelli catches wind of the tryst, he's determined to clean house, with Nate the first on his to- off list. Gwenna knows she hit the jackpot with Nate and won't let her ex stand in the way. But the two soon realize they have far more enemies than Donatelli - both on the Strip and underground...

Title: Sucker Bet
Start & Finished: 3/15/08
Published: 2008
Pages: 304

The fourth and current story in Erin McCarthy’s fang-tastic Vegas Vampire series; Sucker Bet, follows the story of Gwenna Carrick (sister to the vampire president Ethan, who starred in the first story High Stakes) and a cop named Nate as the fall for one another in the entertainment capital of the world.

Gwenna is one of my favorite vampires in this series because after spending over half of her life (or is that un-life?) living in a drafty old castle and hiding from the world; well mainly her ex-husband, she’s ready to get a backbone and start having fun! Besides, all of the other books in this series are about a male vampire finding their mate and it’s about time a vampiress took the lead.

Sucker Bet was another fine example at how well the author can juggle her minor characters and their subplots (a lot of loose ends are tied up, someone gets married, a few people die, and there is even a mystery) but it never becomes confusing. I sincerely hope McCarthy does continue this series someday but until then I guess I’m just going to have to enjoy her many other books (including her decadent Sin series).

The Vegas Vampires Series: High Stakes, Bit the Jackpot, Bled Dry, Sucker Bet

Erin’s personal page has a few FAQ about the series and there’s an interesting interview about why the author (and her characters) love Vegas. The vampire band The Impalers in Sucker Bet became an actual real life band when Erin McCarthy and Kathy Love approached a local New Orleans band with the idea and the rest is history. In their official website you can find out more about the band as well as read excerpts from the books and the online serial too.

Monday, June 9, 2008

They Captured My Heart Singing and Dancing

Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance their way into your heart in the sensational musical comedy Holiday Inn. Nominated for 3 Academy Awards®, this special edition features 13 holiday songs by famed composer Irving Berlin, including White Christmas - one of the biggest-selling recordings in music history!

Crosby plays a song and dance man who leaves showbiz to run an inn that is open only on holidays. Astaire plays his former partner and rival in love. Follow the two talented pals as they find themselves competing for the affections of the same lovely lady (Marjorie Reynolds).

Title: Holiday Inn
Release: August 4, 1942
Genre: Musical Comedy
MPAA Rating: NR
Writer: Irving Berlin, Elmer Rice, Claude Binyon
Director: Mark Sandrich
Music By: Irving Berlin
Produced By: Mark Sandrich
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Run Time: 100 minutes

Take two legends and place them in the same film and of course you’re going to have a success but put Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in a film together, you get something timeless. That something is Holiday Inn. The famous songwriter Irving Berlin came up with the idea of a place open only on all of the major holidays and pitched it to Mark Sandrich and Paramount and the rest as they say is history! This movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, produced one of the most popular Christmas songs ever, and was remade in 1954 as the movie White Christmas (also starring Bing Crosby).

You may be asking yourself why in the world am I watching Christmas movies in the middle of summer but the truth is White Christmas is the only song for Christmas. There’s also The Easter Parade (which became a movie too that Astaire co-starred with Judy Garland) for Easter, one for Washington’s birthday, New Years (with Fred's "drunk dance"), The Fourth of July and many more. Plus, I had no idea what the film was about when I watched it! Just that it had two of the greatest song and dance men that the world has ever known in it and that was enough for me.

Since this movie was essentially just a vehicle for Berlin’s music it could have easily flopped and although I just love the music, especially I’ll Capture Her Heart and Be Careful it’s My Heart, I don’t think anyone else could have pulled this film off with such finesse as Crosby and Astaire do. While some of it’s not perfect, most of it’s just something you want to watch over and over again (and believe me, I have).

Besides Wikipedia and Imdb.com’s usual articles, TCM (that’s Turner Classic Movies) has an article and a re-issue trailer for Holiday Inn.


I'll Capture Her Heart:

Say it With Firecrackers:

White Christmas:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Contemporary Canine Classic

101 Dalmatians has charmed audiences for generations with its irresistible tail-wagging stars, memorable story and wonderful blend of humor and adventure.

Cruella De Vil, Disney’s most outrageous villain, sets the fur-raising adventure in motion when she dognaps all of the Dalmatian puppies in London- including 15 from Pongo and Perdita’s family. Through the power of the “Twilight Bark,” Pongo leads a heroic cast of animal characters on a dramatic quest to rescue them all in a story the whole family will enjoy again and again.

Title: One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Release: January 25, 1961
Genre: Animated
MPAA Rating: G
Writer: Dodie Smith (story) & Bill Peet
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman, Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi
Music By: Mel Leven & George Bruns
Produced By: Walt Disney
Distributed By: Buena Vista Pictures
Run Time: 79 minutes
Official Site

The very first animated Walt Disney movie to take place in modern day was based on a successful story by English writer Dodie Smith about a “dognapping case solved by dogs” in the most thrilling way possible. One Hundred and One Dalmatians has since become one of the most highly regarded of animated films.

After the tremendously expensive Sleeping Beauty, the Disney studio needed a box office hit but they also needed one inexpensively made. Thus the method of copying the animator’s drawings onto cels by hand had to be eliminated. Ub Iwerks is credited with finding a way to do this using a xerox machine which copied all of the animator’s original drawings and that was what was painted. Instead of someone’s interpretation of an animator’s drawings like in the films before this you got the real thing and it drastically changed the look of the animated Disney movie.

I’ve always loved this intelligent, enjoyable, and innovative film. Every character is bursting with a personality, especially the devilish Cruella De Vil. She seriously is one of the scariest Disney villainesses ever drawn! With her exaggerated movements (and really big feet) she could have easily become too cartoonish to be real but Marc Davis proved himself a master with bringing her alive. He considered her his finest work and believed he couldn’t top her so he retired from animating and went on to work on the Disneyland attractions.

The Dalmatians (and their numerous spots) are one of the very few Disney creations that Disney created not only a sequel for (101 Dalmatians 2: Patch’s London Adventure) and a cartoon TV series but also two live-action adaptations both starring Glen Close and tons of real Dalmatian puppies. The second one is my favorite because it has even more animals in it than usual (including the cutest bird named Waddlesworth).

When 101 Dalmatians was re-released in 1992, every kid I knew went crazy over the film. I’m positive that I had never even seen it before then either and I was just captivated by it. Looking back on that first time experience (when I was a few months shy of six years old) and now watching the new restored special edition for the first time, I’d have to say the captivation is pretty much the same!

More information about this movie (and it’s sequels and remakes) can be found on Imdb.com and Wikipedia. There is a page on Wiki about the 1956 book that the movie is based on and I also found some interviews about and from people who worked on 101 Dalmatians at Animated News. Redmorgankidd over on YouTube has the complete Making Of 101 Dalmatians available.


Redefining the Line Clip:

Reelz Channel Special:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pure and Endless Light

Watching her grandfather’s condition deteriorate as the summer passes on beautiful Seven Bay Island is almost more than Vicky Austin can bear. To complicate things, she finds herself the center of attention for three very different boys: Leo is an old friend longing for romance; wild Zachary is sophisticated but troubled; and Adam, her older brother’s friend, offers her a wonderful chance to assist in his experiments with dolphins but treats Vicky as a young girl just when she’s ready to feel grown-up.

Why is life so hard when you’re a teenager? Vicky wonders. But this summer she discovers that past the darkness of tragedy comes the light of joy.

Title: A Ring of Endless Light
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Series: Austin Family, Book 4
Start & Finished: 3/10/08-3/11/08
Published: 1980
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Pages: 324
Genre: Young Adult-Fiction, Newbery Honor winner

“Every life is noted and is cherished, and nothing loved is ever lost or perished”, Vicky Austen writes these words in Madeleine L’Engle’s award-winning A Ring of Endless Light. Her fourth story featuring the Austen family is about death and the despair at death but also the affirmation of life and love.

When I was younger and had just discovered what the Newbery award was I stumbled across L’Engle’s arguably most famous book A Wrinkle in Time. I vaguely remember bits and pieces of the story now but I do remember how much I loved it. After she died last year I noticed more and more people discussing her works so when The Children’s Books of Yesterday chose this book as the March read it gave me the perfect excuse to move it up on my to be read list.

It was such an enchanting story! Madeline L’Engle doesn’t simply tell you a story, she shows it to you through the eyes of her main character Vicky. Many authors aren’t able to breathe life into their characters like this but she sure does. Vicky is alot like the author herself personality-wise and the entire book reflects that. The wonderful thing about L’Engle’s books is that they were marketed for young adults but never once does it seem like they talk down to the reader and they all reflect her interest in science and religion (to a degree, thankfully I haven’t yet felt like I was being preached at).

When Madeleine L’Engle died last year, the New York Times worked up a beautiful article/obit about her and her works, her most popular of which would probably be the Wrinkle in Time Quintet. There are also quite a few amazing acceptance speeches that are available on her still maintained website and Wikipedia has a few pages on her books . A Ring of Endless Light was made into a Disney Channel movie in 2002 starring Mischa Barton and Ryan Merriman but I haven’t been able to find a copy of it anywhere only a short spliced video. I’m not really sure what the whole “mermaid” thing is about though, it’s certainly not a part of the book.

Surprisingly, other than a few bumps along the way I was able to understand the story perfectly without having read any of the other books in the Austen series but here they are in order:

Meet the Austins, The Moon by Night, The Young Unicorns, A Ring of Endless Light, The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas (short), Troubling a Star, A Full House: An Austen Family Christmas (short)

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