Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Simply Wonderful

No one is born to be a failure. No one is poor who has friends. Simple thoughts that were the inspiration for one of the richest, most uplifting, most beloved American films ever made. Frank Capra's classic tale of George Bailey and his Christmas Eve visit with a guardian angel was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. After more than 60 years, it remains as powerful and moving as the day it was made.

Title: It’s a Wonderful Life
Release: December 20, 1946
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
Writer: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, & Frank Capra
Director: Frank Capra
Music By: Dimitri Tiomkin
Produced By: Frank Capra
Distributed By: RKO Radio Pictures
Run Time: 130 minutes

Dark and little bittersweet, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life has become one of the most popular Christmas movies ever made- and yet it has very little to do with the holiday season at all. Nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Picture), it was still originally considered a flop during its release and because of this it was allowed to pass into the public domain where a whole new generation discovered it.

There are so many Christmas movies that I enjoy but this one is my favorite and I try to watch it every year. Of course, it's a bit of a tearjerker but it’s also wonderfully heartwarming as well. The director and James Stewart have both claimed that this was their favorite pictures that they had made and you can tell that a lot of love went into the making of this gem.

James “Jimmy” Stewart has been one of my favorite black and white movie stars ever since I first watched him in this film as a little girl (I like Donna Reed too though). I thought it was interesting that he had served in the military during WWII as a general and that this was his first film after his service but he jumped right back into acting as though he had never left. He’s just so expressive and can convey so much in just one look. What I love about him most though is that he’s not exactly the typical movie star. As his obituary in the New York Times put it, he was "ungainly, self-effacing and somehow [still] debonair."

Over the last few years, It's a Wonderful Life has finally received the recognition it deserves making it on six of the AFI's 100 Years... lists and was deemed culturally significant by the National Film Preservation Board in 1990 too. The film has even been colorized in recent years but I like it a lot better in the old black and white.

Links: Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Filmsite.org
Interviews: Lux Radio Theater Reenactment


Complete Film:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Jurassic Park Trilogy

On a remote island, a wealthy entrepreneur secretly creates a theme park featuring living dinosaurs drawn from prehistoric DNA. Before opening the attraction to the public, he invites a top paleontologist, a pale botanist, a mathematician/ theorist, and his two eager grandchildren to experience the park-- and help calm anxious investors. However, their visit is anything but tranquil as the park’s security system breaks down, the prehistoric creatures break out, and the excitement builds to surprising results.

Based on Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel, Jurassic Park stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. It’s a breathtaking adventure you’ll want to experience again and again.

Title: Jurassic Park
Release: June 11, 1993
Genre: Science Fiction/ Horror
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based On: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Writer: David Koepp, Malia Scotch Marmo, & Michael Crichton
Director: Steven Spielberg
Music By: John Williams
Produced By: Kathleen Kennedy & Gerald R. Molen
Distributed By: Universal Studios
Run Time: 127 minutes

Michael Crichton's cautionary science fiction novel from 1990 was adapted into a film three years later that was immediately the most successful film about dinosaurs ever made: Jurassic Park. This movie was directed by one of the "most powerful and influential figure[s] in the motion picture industry, used the best special effects -including the then new computer-generated imagery, and was not only the highest grossing film of 1993 but also number 11 on the list of highest grossing films worldwide- not taking into account inflation (adjusted for inflation it falls at number 17).

There has always been a fascination with dinosaurs but this film and its book “generated a lot of interest in the study of paleontology [which] has been at an all-time high ever since-” and that’s not the only way this film has inspire people either. The amazing special effects made films that would have been “impossible” to make actually possible like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are spin-off novels and continuation comic books, and there is even a ride called Jurassic Park River Adventure at the Universal Studios Hollywood and at the one in Orlando, Florida in the Islands of Adventure theme park (there is one in Japan too).

This movie was one of the very first films I remember seeing in the theater- and I remember being so scared! I have to admit that I yelped once or twice this time too. Despite the fact that it is now 15 years old, all of the special effects hold up very well and they continue to earn those three Oscars that film won for special effects and sound too. What amazes me is just how real that those dinosaurs still look (and sound)! You can almost imagine that you could go the zoo tomorrow and see them. I’ve been told that the films (and its sequels) are quite a bit different from Crichton’s books but I haven’t had the pleasure of reading them before but I would love to someday.

Links: Film Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Jurassic Park Game, Tribute Page, Fan site
Interviews: Sam Neill (Good Morning America- 1993), Stan Winston on making dinosaurs (text), Michael Crichton on adapting his novel (text)


Making of Jurassic Park:


Director Steven Spielberg takes us back to the scene of Jurassic Park in The Lost World, the blockbuster sequel with even more dinosaurs, more action and more breathtaking visual effects than its record-breaking predecessor. The Lost World remains among the most successful films of all time and features an all-star cast including Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore and Pete Postlethwaite. It has been four years since the disaster at Jurassic Park and two groups are in a race against time that will determine the fate of the remote island's prehistoric inhabitants.

Title: The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Release: May 19, 1997
Genre: Science Fiction Thriller
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based On: The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Writer: David Koepp
Director: Steven Spielberg
Music By: John Williams
Produced By: Kathleen Kennedy, Gerald R. Molen, & Colin Wilson
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 129 minutes
Official Site

The Lost World: Jurassic Park is the sequel to the critical and commercially successful Steven Spielberg science fiction thriller made four years previously. Like the original, it is based on a book by Michael Crichton who was in fact urged to write it by the director himself (Crichton had never done a sequel before or since). Unlike the first Jurassic Park though, the sequel had mixed reviews and it didn't win as many awards either. It was the second top grossing film of the year (Titanic holds the first position) though!

One of the main reasons there were so many mixed reviews was because of the fact that one of the minor characters, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is practically the only returning character from the original film. Since he was one of my favorite characters, I had no problem with him as the leading male (Vince Vaughn plays a tiny part as Nick Van Owen and nearly outshines him in a couple of scenes). The lead female is played by the gorgeous Academy award nominated actress Julianne Moore but her co-stars (including the non-humans) do manage to outshine her a little bit.

I felt as if the film wasn't quite as subtle as its predecessor in some aspects nor did it have the same "grand" feeling but if possible it does look a whole lot more real! Generally what The Lost World is, is a "creature-feature" with tons of chase scenes/ dire circumstances with a few funny characters as comical relief. However, the film is so interesting and spectacular; it is very hard to mind at all.

Links: Film Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Fan Site



Adventure runs wild when renowned paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) agrees to accompany a wealthy adventurer (William H. Macy) and his wife (Téa Leoni) on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna, InGen’s former breeding ground for prehistoric creatures. But when they’re terrifyingly stranded, Dr. Grant discovers that his hosts are not what they seem, and the island’s native inhabitants are smarter, faster, fiercer, and more brutal than he ever imagined in this heart-stomping thriller.

Title: Jurassic Park III
Release: July 18, 2001
Genre: Science Fiction Thriller
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Writer: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, & Jim Taylor
Director: Joe Johnston
Music By: Don Davis & John Williams (theme)
Produced By: Larry J. Franco, Kathleen Kennedy, & Steven Spielberg
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 93 minutes
Official Site

Jurassic Park III is the third and currently the last film in the dinosaur franchise that has thrilled audiences once every four years since 1993. However, it is the only film in the franchise not based on Michael Crichton’s books nor was it directed by Steven Spielberg. Instead, the former director passed the reins over to Joe Johnston who had directed another big budget film: Jumanji.

Thanks to the new director’s expertise and his love of the first film (he had asked Spielberg if he could direct the sequel but the former director wanted to do it so he promised him this one), a lot of the majestic feeling makes it into the third film- along with even more chase scenes with bigger dinosaurs! To be honest, this was the first Jurassic Park to actually give me nightmares and its all thanks to those Velociraptors.

I thought the actors were great though, especially Sam Neill (who returns as Dr. Alan Grant) and William H. Macy (who plays Paul Kirby). I was also impressed that for once in the series the female (Amanda Kirby played by Téa Leoni) was given a more pivotal role. Most people have either loved or hated the film but almost all agree it is better than the previous sequel. For the most part, the film is not really necessary to the storyline but I still thought it was good even if it was the only film of the franchise to not be recognized at the Academy Awards.

Links: Film Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Jurassic Park Wikia
Interview: Composer Don Davis (IGN), Cast Interview (Science Fiction Weekly), Téa Leoni (Cinema.com) & Leoni JP videos


Behind the Scenes:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Cozy, Not Too Crafty Mystery

Recently widowed, Jo McAllister is setting up shop in Abbotsville, Maryland. She hopes Jo's Craft Corner will take her mind off her troubles. But no town is too small for secrets, scandal-- even murder.

It's opening day at Jo's Craft Corner, and Jo is more tightly wired than the wreath on her store's front door. The entertainer she's hired, Cuddles the Clown, won't stop complaining, and Jo's about ready to strangle the grumbler in grease paint. But then, to her horror, she finds someone else has silenced him-- for good. With a dead clown in her storeroom, Jo is the prime suspect. So she sets out to clear her name, only to find that a crafty killer wants to stamp her out of existence...

Includes directions for a craft project and a recipe!

Title: Wreath of Deception
Author: Mary Ellen Hughes
Series: Craft Corner Mystery, Book 1
Start & Finished: 7/22/08- 7/25/08
Published: 2006
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Pages: 372 (Large Print)
Genre: Cozy Mystery- Hobby

A somewhat new author to the cozy mystery genre, Mary Ellen Hughes gradually learned how to write fiction by publishing articles in newspapers and in 2000, her first mystery novel A Resort to Murder was published. She then wrote a sequel and also a short story before she turned her attention to writing a mystery series centered around a craft store publishing the first one in 2006: A Wreath of Deception.

I loved the characters in the story and for that, reason alone I might continue the series but I felt like the heroine was really, really slow about figuring things out. I already had the murderer pegged and even had a suspicion of the why that person killed “Cuddles” light-years before Jo did. I'm not sure if the author did this to draw out the book more or what but it made me feel like she was insulting my intelligence. There also aren't any red herrings and no surprises so it got to be kind of boring and irritating after a while. However, the ending was great but it still didn’t redeem the story for me. I know there are other cozy mysteries that involve craft stores like Laura Child’s scrapbooking series (I’ve only read the first one though so I’d rather get around to finishing those before I try any more of these).

After I had finished this, I honestly thought that it was Ms. Hughes’ debut book and while this is her very first series, it is not her first mystery (it just reads like one). Needless to say, I was very disappointed but the series shows a lot of promise so hopefully it will get better because I enjoyed the camaraderie. Ina Mae, Carrie, Loralee, Charlie, and even the craft store itself were such interesting people and places. I'd also like to know more about Detective Morgan although I was ready to slap him more than a few times during the book! So it had some good parts and some okay parts but I just wasn’t left with the urge to run right out and get the next one any time soon.

The first person I considered as the murderer was Deirdre Patterson because someone who takes great pains with the way they look usually doesn’t want to do crafty things that as Carrie said could ruin their manicure. I mean, she’d already glued her fingers together! Of course, I was just speculating since I had no reason other than this to suspect her. Again, she seemed like she was scoping Jo's home out to hide something in when she asked for a tour. That's just me but it seemed fairly obvious!

Series: Wreath of Deception, String of Lies, & Paper-Thin Alibi

Interview: BookEnds Q&A

Wreath Making:

Picture Explanations
Takes place during Halloween
Sculpture: Jo's husband was an artist who used acetylene torches to make sculptures like this one by Joe Clark. He died during an explosion because of one of the torches- leaving Jo a widow.
Scrapbooking: Jo hosts many crafting classes including a scrapbooking one

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Disney's Take on Dickens

In this heartwarming remake of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas
", Disney's version of the timeless classic is told. Mickey plays
Bob Cratchit and Scrooge Mc Duck plays, of course, Scrooge who is visited by
three ghosts on Christmas Eve as they try to make him mend his ways.

Title: Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Release: December 16, 1983
Genre: Animated- Christmas
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Writer: Burny Mattinson, Tony L. Marino, Ed Gombert, Don Griffith, Alan Young, & Alan Dinehart
Director: Burny Mattinson
Music By: Irwin Kostal
Produced By: Burny Mattinson
Distributed By: Buena Vista Distribution
Run Time: 25 minutes

If Twas the Night Before Christmas is the most famous Christmas poem, then Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is the most famous story. Published during the holiday season in 1843, it has always been one of his most famous works- it’s also one of the most adapted stories for Christmas. There have been operas, plays, TV shows, and especially films made based on this little story almost as soon as it was originally written! Just about every film studio has made their version too… including the Disney studio in 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

Disney stays mostly faithful to Dicken’s story (which is really impressive considering it’s only 30 minutes long) and what makes it really unique is that is borrows every single character in the film from another Disney movie. Mickey plays Bob Crachett, Minnie plays his wife, Goofy is Jacob Marley, Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant is the Ghost of Christmas Present, Pete is the Ghost of Christmas Future, Donald is Scrooge’s nephew, and all of the background characters are from other Disney films as well. Matter of fact, almost every character from Disney’s version of The Wind in the Willows makes an appearance!

Mickey Mouse is to Disney what peanut butter is to jelly but for some reason this was the first Mickey short cartoon in 30 years (the last had been The Simple Things in 1953) and he plays more of a cameo role because Scrooge will always be the main focus of the story. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film, Animated but lost to Sundae in New York though. Many of the critics weren’t very impressed with Disney’s Christmas special but even if I do wish it were a little longer; it is still a very pleasant experience during the busy holiday season.

Links: Film Wikipedia, Original Story Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Encyclopedia of Disney Shorts

Complete Film:

Hear what these two Scrooges Thought:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa Wants a Holiday Off

From the magic making Rankin/Bass studios comes a unique and beloved Yuletide favorite boasting delightful stop-motion animation, catchy songs and it's a family-pleasing story too. In The Year Without A Santa Claus, weary St. Nick (voiced by Mickey Rooney) foregoes his gift-giving journey, leaving Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth) and two spunky elves to reawaken the Christmas spirit in Santa and the world's children.
Title: The Year Without a Santa Claus
Release: December 10, 1974
Genre: Animated/ Stop-Motion- Christmas
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: The Year Without a Santa Claus by Phyllis McGinley
Writer: William Keenan
Director: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Music By: Maury Laws
Produced By: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Distributed By: ABC Family
Run Time: 50 minutes

Poet and Children's author Phyllis McGinley wrote a short Christmas story called The Year Without a Santa Claus in 1956. Nearly 20 years later, Rankin/ Bass made it into one of their most popular stop-motion Christmas specials. It's the only one that was re-made into a live-action film (even if it was pretty awful) and recently into an animated film too.

What I love about this particular Christmas special and why it’s really high on my favorites list is mainly due to the Miser Brother: Heat (George S. Irving) and Snow (Dick Shawn). Also I really like Mickey Rooney who reprises his role as Santa Claus from the other Rankin/ Bass special Santa Claus is Coming to Town- making this one kind of a sequel to that. Truly, those two are the highlight of the special but the rest is pretty good as well.

Rankin/Bass as always has some amazing songs in the film too. Matter of fact, this is my favorite holiday soundtrack! The Miser Brother songs are the best of course ("I'm Mr. White Christmas, I'm Mr. Snow...") but there are tons of others including one sung by Mrs. Claus that is often overlooked since its so early in the film (she's voiced by Shirley Booth and this was her last film role before she died). Outside of the Miser Brothers though, Mickey Rooney has the very best song: I Believe in Santa Claus- and this little special really makes you want to!

Links: Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Christmas Wikia, Rankin/Bass Website

Complete Film:

Mr. Snow Miser:

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Bourne Trilogy

“A new action hero is Bourne!” (Access Hollywood) Get ready for the explosive, action-packed hit with incredible fight sequences, starring Academy Award winner* Matt Damon (Ocean’s Eleven). Pulled from the sea with two bullet holes in his back, Jason Bourne discovers he has the skills if a very dangerous man and no memory of his violent past. Racing to unlock the secret of his own identity, he discovers the deadly truth: he’s an elite government agent. But to the government, Jason Bourne isn’t just their property, he’s a malfunctioning thrity million dollar weapon. Leathally trained, built to disappear, he’s an agent on the run who has to be taken out. Now, the government’s top operative has become it’s number one target, in a super-charged, thrill-a-minute spectacular loaded with “Non-stop action!” (Bill Zwecker, FOX-TV)

Title: The Bourne Idenitity
Series: Jason Bourne, Movie 1
Release: June 14, 2002
Genre: Action- Conspiracy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based On: The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Writer: Tony Gilroy, & W. Blake Herron
Director: Doug Liman
Music By: John Powell
Produced By: Patrick Crowley, Richard N. Gladstein, & Doug Liman
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 119 minutes
Official Site

Robert Ludlum's spy-fiction/ thriller mystery series has been a hit ever since the first book was published in 1980, The Bourne Identity. However, Jason Bourne didn't make his first screen appearance until 1988 with a two-part television movie starring Richard Chamberlain. The more successful interpretation was made in 2002 with actor Matt Damon though. Fresh off of the success of playing a small part in the star studded film Ocean's Eleven, Matt Damon was approached to take on the role of Jason Bourne- "one of his most recognizable works to date."

This film (and the rest of the franchise) is so popular because it had a bunch of great actors; including one of my favorite actors, Clive Owen as The Professor, a director who has proved time and again that he can make some seriously good action films (he was responsible for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jumper, and he produced the rest of the Bourne films), and a bestselling author’s greatest series. Thanks to all three of these things, what could have been just a cool action-packed summer flick became so much more. Bourne isn’t a shoot-‘um-up assassin, he’s an intelligent guy who not only thinks things through but is an interesting character too.

Unfortunately, Robert Ludlum died shortly before The Bourne Identity was released but I bet he would have been very proud of what Ludlum and Damon created from his novel. Matt Damon summed up the film better than I ever could:

"The main point with The Bourne Identity is that it’s an action movie that’s character-driven. The violence isn’t gratuitous, the action in the movie is actually driving the story, and in between the action sequences there’s tension that’s building — it’s just like one of those Hitchcock films that I love. I think it’s tough to find an action movie that can be a relief from the genre, but there’s definitely room for movies like The Bourne Identity to come out that are just really great, surprising and fun.”

Links: Film Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Character Wikipedia, Imdb.com
Interview: Doug Liman (BBC), Matt Damon (Movie Habit)


Matt Damon & Charlie Rose Interview (to 35:45):


They should have left him alone. Academy Award winner* Matt Damon is back as expert assassin Jason Bourne in this stunning, non-stop action hit. Fuelled by awesome fight scenes and some of the most breathtaking chase sequences ever filmed, it’s a state-of-the-art espionage thriller that explodes into action and never lets up!
Title: The Bourne Supremacy
Release: July 23, 2004
Genre: Action-Spy/ Thriller
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based On: The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum
Writer: Tony Gilroy & Brian Helgeland
Director: Paul Greengrass
Music By: John Powell
Produced By: Patrick Crowley, Frank Marshall, Paul L. Sandberg, & Doug Liman
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 108 minutes
Official Site

Thanks to the overall positive response to the first Bourne film, work began on its sequel The Bourne Supremacy very soon afterwards. However, the original director Doug Liman had to bow out (he continued to produce the Bourne films though) and Paul Greengrass took over. Thankfully, he continued to make the film as Identity had been made: smart, savvy, and character-driven. The entire Bourne franchise is based on Robert Ludlum's popular Bourne trilogy but only to a degree, most of this film has a completely different plot due to trying to make it more modern.

Despite the director change, a few of characters from the previous film return- besides Jason Bourne of course! To me this film just felt more gritty for lack of better word. Matt Damon seems more at ease in the character and although he can no longer realistically be considered a “good guy” he’s too complex to fall into the category of “bad guy” either. Pamela Landy played by the wonderful actress Joan Allen, is another character that can't be placed in one category or the other. She's the Deputy Director of the CIA and she obviously wants to do what she thinks is right but what should be right and what is are two very different things.

I always enjoy the Bourne films because they’re smart while being action-packed. Nothing blows up unless it’s to move the story along, and in each “sequel” more is discovered about Jason Bourne. Robert Ludlum only created three books in his series about Bourne but to coincide with this movie release, Eric Van Lustbader took over the series (with permission from Ludlum’s estate) and continued them, publishing the first one The Bourne Legacy the same year as this film came out. I have yet to read any of the Bourne series but as much as I enjoy the films, I’m almost positive that the original source material will be just as good

Links: Film Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Imdb.com
Interview: Matt Damon on Film (About.com)


Director Interview:

Behind the Scenes:


Matt Damon returns as highly trained assassin Jason Bourne, who is on the hunt for the agents who stole his memory and true identity. With a new generation of skilled CIA operatives tracking his every move, Bourne is in a non-stop race around the globe as he finally learns the truth behind his mysterious past. Loaded with incredible fight and chase sequences, it’s the exhilarating movie with “mind-blowing action” (Robert Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times that you can’t afford to miss!

Title: The Bourne Ultimatum
Release: August 3, 2007
Genre: Action- Spy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based On: The Bourne Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum
Writer: Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi, & Tom Stoppard
Director: Paul Greengrass
Music By: John Powell
Produced By: Patrick Crowley, Frank Marshall, & Doug Liman
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 115 minutes

The third and current film in the Bourne series loosely based on Robert Ludlum's books is The Bourne Ultimatum. Every Bourne film has done incredibly well when released, but this was the first one to be recognized at the Academy Awards. It actually took home three Oscars for Best Sound, Best Film Editing & Best Sound Editing.

There have been many complaints about the director's "shaky camera" technique, which is a lot more noticeable in this film than in the last. That particular technique is undoubtedly annoying and even unnecessary but it does add a bit of realism to the chase scenes. The locations are gorgeous (it was filmed in London, Tangier, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, New York and a few other locations as well) though and I love the film series so was very willing to put up with it.

Usually as a series goes on it tends to be not as good as when it started or it gets better. As much as I liked The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, I enjoyed this Bourne a whole lot more even with its problems. The characters are a little older, the story is a bit grittier, but it’s just now getting even more interesting.

Although there were claims that there wouldn't be a fourth Bourne film by Matt Damon and the director Paul Greengrass, as of October work has already begun on it although it's still untitled. Whether it will be loosely based on the series of books that Eric Van Lustbader wrote after Robert Ludlum's death or not still hasn't been said. However, Damon, Julia Stiles, and Paul Greengrass have already signed on. This story arc ended very well so I can’t wait to see what Jason Bourne does next!

Links: Film Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Reelzchannel.com
Interviews: Matt Damon Bourne to Talk (UGO.com), Julia Stiles (UGO.com), Matt Damon (Femail.com)



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Creepy Koontz Story

“Are you him?”
“Who else would I be?”
“You look so… ordinary.”
“I work at it.”

Timothy Carrier, having a beer after work at his friend’s tavern, enjoys drawing eccentric customers into amusing conversations. But the jittery man who sits next to him tonight has mistaken Tim for someone very different- and passes to him a manila envelope full of cash.

“Ten thousand now. You get the rest when she’s gone.”

The stranger walks out, leaving a photo of the pretty woman marked for death, and her address. But things are about to get worse. In minutes another stranger sits next to Tim. This one is a cold- blooded killer who believes Tim is the man who has hired him.

Thinking fast, Tim says, “I’ve had a change of heart. You get ten thousand- for doing nothing. Call it a no- kill fee.” He keeps the photo and gives the money to the hired killer. And when Tim secretly follows the man out of the tavern, he gets a further shock: the hired killer is a cop.

Suddenly Tim Carrier, an ordinary guy, is at the center of a mystery of extraordinary proportions, the one man who can save an innocent life and stop a killer far more powerful than any cop… and as relentless as evil incarnate. But first Tim must discover within himself the capacity for selflessness, endurance, and courage that can turn even an ordinary man into a hero, inner resources that will transform his idea of who he is and what it takes to be The Good Guy.

Title: The Good Guy
Author: Dean Koontz
Start & Finished: 7/15/08- 7/20/08
Published: 2007
Publisher: Bantam Dell
Pages: 386
Genre: Thriller/ Mystery

Author Dean Koontz published his first novel 40 years ago then went on to write under more than ten different pseudonyms because he enjoyed switching genres so much. It wasn’t until the 1980s that he started publishing mainly under his own name though. Although he has written everything from horror to science fiction to even satire, Koontz is known mainly for his suspense thrillers like The Good Guy- which was his first book published in 2007.

When it comes to the “horror” genre, Stephen King has always been my particular poison so once I had read just about everything he had written; I went searching for another author to help fill the gap. After hearing from many people that Dean Koontz was a lot like King I gave him a try and was extremely disappointed. Nearly ten years have passed so when one of my online book groups nominated this book I was willing to let bygones be bygones and try him out again. While I can’t say I disliked it, I didn’t enjoy it too much either for one simple reason: the killer was too creepy. Weird, I know but the killer, psycho, nut-job was creepy-scary and seemed more real than the main characters.

That's not to say that I didn't like Linda and Tim because I did. Linda's personality and Tim's aura of mysteriousness are two of the main reasons I continued reading the book. The other being of course, what Linda did to provoke someone enough to hire a hitman, what her secret is, and what Tim used to do for a living (which I was able to guess before too much longer)?

I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is that throws me off about Koontz’s writing but the particular psychopath is this book makes my skin crawl- and not in a Dexter or Hannibal way- I wouldn't want to meet either but they‘re interesting. Krait makes me uneasy. He’s ordinary-looking but he’s not even recognizable as a human on the inside and to be honest, visiting the mind of that nut job (the narratives switch between characters) made me want to take a shower afterward! I know that only a truly talented author could make me feel this way but I just didn’t like reading what he thought and witnessing him killing innocent people. Sometimes I really didn't like the book but sometimes I did and I was very pleased with the ending. I might change my mind about reading another book by Koontz after all…

Links: Author Wikipedia, Fan Club
Interview: Dean Koontz Answers Questions (Gather.com), Why I Wrote The Good Guy (Gather.com)

Picture Explanations
1939 Ford Coupe: Linda owns one of these and it sits in the middle of her kitchen.
Lock-aid: Krait uses one of these to get into places
Marlin: Tim's friend Pete Santo lives in a house with "a shy dog named Zoey and a dead fish named Lucille."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not a Creature was Stirring...

Inspired by Clement Moore's poem, 'Twas The Night before Christmas is the charming animated tale of Scrooge-like Albert Mouse who calls Christmas "a fraudulent myth" and because of his opinions letters to Santa written by the children of Junctionville are sent back unopened. The skeptical rodent must be brought to his senses "and let up a little on the wonder why." Joel Grey, Tammy Grimes, John McGiver and George Gobel are featured voices.

Title: Twas the Night Before Christmas
Release: December 8, 1974
Genre: Animated Christmas Special
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore (poem)
Writer: Jerome Coopersmith
Director: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Produced By: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Distributed By: CBS Television
Run Time: 25 minutes

A Visit from St. Nicholas; more commonly known as Twas the Night Before Christmas, is one of the most famous poems ever written and is considered to be responsible for the main beliefs about Santa Claus that have continued on to this day. Originally published in 1823, there have been many interpretations and parodies of Clement Moore’s poem from stories to cartoons to even comic strips. It’s even been made into a few films and holiday specials like Rankin/ Bass’ 1974 loosely interpretive animated version.

I say “loosely interpretive” because while some of the dialogue is lifted directly from the poem, holiday specials run a minimum of 25 minutes and the poem just wasn’t long enough to cover the full time. So somebody got the brilliant idea of not only is a mouse “stirring” but he’s the main narrator! Voiced by the comedian George Gobel, Father Mouse’s story is what helped stretch the picture so long and it wouldn’t be Rankin/ Bass without a couple of songs and he sings one too, the often deleted song “Give Your Heart a Try” (the others are all sung by a chorus, the most notable is Christmas Chimes are Calling). Surprisingly, Gobel wasn’t credited as being the narrator, instead Joel Grey was and he doesn’t tell the story at all! His character Joshua Trundle is one of the most important people in the story; as he is supposed to be the narrator in the original poem, but he’s still secondary (he still sings one of my favorite songs, “Even a Miracle Needs a Hand.”

Rankin/ Bass’ most popular Christmas specials were those that are stop-motion animation featuring beautifully made puppets but I doubt even the kings of Christmas could have pulled off animating this story any other way than they did. While the animation isn’t as charming as something that Disney would have produced, it’s still able to provoke an acute case of nostalgia today.

Links: Poem Wikipedia, Christmas Special Wikipedia, Imdb.com, Original Poem

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