Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Covenant - 2006

Synopsis From Back Cover:

To the students of the Spenser Academy, the Sons of Ipswich are the baddest boys on campus.  But that's not all they share.  The four friends also share a 300-year-old secret: they're warlocks, the teenage descendants of a 17th century coven of witches.  So when the long-banished fifth son suddenly appears and threatens to kill their loved one, they realize they must face their enemy in order to prevent him from stealing their powers and shattering the covenant forever.

Sometimes all a movie needs to be good, at least good enough for me to watch a few times, are a few pretty faces.  The Covenant is full of them, even if only two of them really caught my eye.

Steven Strait plays Caleb Danvers, the hero of this little story.  Caleb, who is the oldest of the friends, is about to come into his full powers, but they come with a price.  Once they reach the right age, every time they use their powers, it's ages them.  He is the most reluctant of the friends to use them, and it seems all he wants to do is swim and meet a nice girl and settle down.  He is constantly reminded of the price of his powers, as it has turned his father into a old man, forced to hide in their ancestral home, deep in the woods.

Sebastian Stan plays Chase Collins, the black sheep who seems to have come home.  Chase grew up without the benefit of knowing his history, and seems to be a little power hungry.  He killed his adoptive parents when he came into his powers, and it seems he has become a little addicted to the rush.  He comes across as Mr. Nice Guy at first, but it doesn't take long before his true colors start to shine through.  Pretty soon he is kidnapping Caleb's blond girlfriend, and trying to force Caleb to give him his powers.

Who the other characters are is really not important, they are pretty much pawns that get moves around the screen.  They are there for the other two characters to interact with, fall in love with (not very believably), and use.  Sure they are pretty and look good on screen, but the other two have them beat hands down.

The movie itself is pretty fun, as long as you don't try to take it too seriously, or over think the plot points.  There are holes in it of course, but I don't know of a pretty boy horror movie that doesn't.  The acting is better than is the norm in this type of movie, and the special affects are as good as you expect from a movie made in 2006.  The fight scene at the end is a lot of fun to watch, and not only because the two guys are drenched.  It's well choreographed, and has just enough tension in it, to keep it from being repetitive.

This is probably only the third time I've seen the movie.  I saw it once at the theater. and once when I first bought it on DVD.  I can't foresee myself watching this one all the time, but it's a fun way to spend 97 minutes of my time, especially when I want to watch a couple of hot guys fight it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Space Ghost

I was a cartoon addict as a kid, and one of my favorite channels was USA.  Does anyone else remember Cartoon Express?  If I'm remembering right, they had a weekday version, and a weekend version.  I watched it every change I got, and it's the reason I'm so in love with cartoons that really were before my time.  Give me The Herculoids over Ren & Stimpy, any day.  I still have a lot of fond memories over the days I spent on my grandmother's living room floor, switching the dial to USA, and getting lost in cartoon worlds.

On of the shows I loved featured Space Ghost and his teenage sidekicks, Jan & Jace.  And you can't forget that damn monkey, Blip.  I'm so not a fan of inhuman sidekicks, and Blip is a large part of the reason why.  He was so frickin annoying.  I could handle Jan & Jace, especially since they seemed to keep the stoic Space Ghost from becoming to full himself.

And he was a little full of himself.  I'm not talking about that horrible talk show parody they stuck him in, I couldn't handle it.  I can never watch one of my favorite childhood characters, turned into a joke.  I much prefered him when he was racing across space, protecting planets form destruction, and beating his regular cast of bad guys.

I even liked his bad guys.  They were different, and while they seem kind of hokey to me now, they were really cool when I was a kid.  Moltar, Zorak, Black Widow, Metallus, and Brak, how I love you guys.  I used to pretend I was along for the ride, when Space Ghost would kick your asses.  The adventures were something I could get lost in, and let me imagine a world where right always wins, and the bad guys always lose.  That false sense of rightness is why I love cartoons, and why I love superheroes so much.  Even if the good guys suffer a defeat, you always know that they will some how land on top.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Helping of Love by Andrew Grey

Synopsis From Publisher:

If Peter Christopoulos has learned one thing from his last three years in a wheelchair, it's that people have a hard time seeing past the hardware.  When he asks out Russ Baker after giving him a quote on equipment for a new Greek restaurant, he's disappointed but not surprised to be turned down.

Russ has been covering for his abusive boyfriend for so long it's almost automatic, but with a little help from his friends, he finds the courage to break it off.  To his surprise, Peter is still interested, and soon they're falling hard and fast.  But there world is thrown into turmoil: Peter finds an old letter indicating he has a half sister he's never met, and Russ' past interferes when his ex makes it clear he'll do anything to get him back.

One of the things I've learned from reading the bazillion romance novels I've torn through this year, opposites attract and the most unlikely pairings, end up working out in the end.  At least that's how it happens in books.  I'm almost positive that it isn't that easy in real life, even if I am desperately hoping that it is.

You guys really don't care about this, but I'm going to spill it anyway.  This last week we had a regional meeting in Kansas City, MO.  Our region is actually pretty damn huge, so it was only store managers from four of our districts.  One of those other store managers is from a town in North Dakota, and as of right now, I have huge crush on him.  Which is my head, makes entirely no sense.  He's not my normal type, if I even have one anymore, and he lives 799 miles away.  Yes, I looked up the distance on Google maps.

Regardless of how much I'm telling myself that this is the stupidest thing in the world, I can't get him out of my head.  I was pretty sure it was mutual, I was able to friend him on FB before the meeting was over, but I was too damn scared to ask for his number.  We did exchange numbers, via FB later on, and my chickeness was reciprocated.  So at least I knew that part was mutual.  We have texted back and forth once sine then, Saturday night, and because I have a big mouth, I admitted that I wanted to kiss him a ridiculous amount of times Wed. night, but again I was too chicken to do anything about it then.  He said he felt the same way, so once again I was vindicated, at least in the sense that I wasn't completely out on a limb on this whole thing.  We haven't talked since, but we are both swamped at work right now, him more than me, and I'm not thinking we will talk, until later on this week.

I'm not sure where this will go, if it will go anywhere, but I'm at least willing to give it a chance right now.  I"m not sure that I would have done the same thing last year.  I think reading all of these romances has done away with some of the more cynical sides of me, and at least allows me to remember what it was like when I went into every situation with an open mind,.  A time when I didn't prejudge everything, and hoped for the best possible outcome.  I guess you could say that reading romances, has given my sense of romance back to me.

I guess I should get to the book at some point in time, and quit talking about myself.  But what I said about the first two books in this series, still holds ture.  I adore the characters that Andrew Grey creates, and Peter and Russ are no different in that.  I love them by themselves, and I love them as a couple.

They are the kind of couple that doesn't make sense on paper.  They are both damaged, though in different ways, and have issues that most people would run away from, or at least make them take a long pause.  But they click together so well, it's hard for either one of them to walk away.  They get through all their messes, and by the end, in true romance fashion, live happily ever after.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Synopsis From Inside Cover: 

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio.  Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes.  Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of night, they'll patrol the empty Showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

Quirk Books is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers.  They keep producing works that not only draw you in with a well told story, but they are masters at packaging.  Much like The Thorn & The Blossom by Theodora Goss, another Quirk title, this is one of those books that needs to be experienced in person.  It can't be read over a NOOK or a Kindle.  You can not stare at it on a computer screen, and truly get the experience of reading it.  It's bound and formatted like a furniture catalog, soft cover and French flaps.  The first few pages include the typical store map, Orsk's mission statement, and an order form.  The chapters themselves start with a new piece of furniture, and it's description.  It's a gorgeous book, and the experience of reading it, should be enough to convince everyone to pick it up.

I think I made it pretty clear when I reviewed 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz, that I love a good haunted house story.  I think it was also pretty clear that I get upset when the haunted house story sucks, as it did with the Koontz book.  Thankfully, Horrostor didn't suck.  It was actually, pretty damn good.  I'm not going to say it kept me on my toes the way The Haunting of Hill House does, or that it's nonstop action the way Hell House is, but it was a fun and lively romp through a store, bent on killing those that are still in it.  It had it's scary moments, but I can't stay it ever terrified me, or made me want to turn on all the lights in the house.

I think were it fails as a pure horror novel, it makes up for in it's ability to poke fun at the genre, and at IKEA.  The riff at IKEA is obvious.  From the concept of the store, to the design of the book, to the names of the furniture pieces, it's making fun of the IKEA idea.  But it's also getting at the consumer mentality that allows stores like IKEA or Orsk to exist.  It's the cultural digs that I found to be the most appealing, and the most dead on.

Horrostor also plays with the precepts of the genre.  It takes some of the basic constructs, including character types, and has a ton of fun with them.  I can take each of these characters, and show you examples of them in just about every haunted house novel I've ever read.  Normally, that would be a horribly repetitive, boring thing to do.  Here, it reads more like a hilarious send up of the genre.  Before the action even got started, I knew who would die, and who would live to see another day.  With all that being said, I don't want to come across as if this book should be shelved in the Humor section of Barnes & Noble.  It is at it's core a horror novel, it just has a lot of fun with it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Banshee

Back in the day, even after I stopped reading comic books, I still collected superhero action figures.  At one point in time, my sophomore year in college, I had quite a few of them.  Now most of them were X-Men characters, though I had a few that weren't.  One of the figures that I really wanted, but never got, was of Banshee.  I looked high and low in every store I could get to, and I never found it.  By the time I found one, I was no longer collecting them, and I had given all of them away to a neighbor kid.

The man who would go by the name of Banshee, was born Sean Cassidy.  He was raised in his ancestral home, on the rugged, wind swept coast of Northern Ireland.  He grew up with all of his family's noble history, and for the most part, it rubbed off on him. As he grew up, he realized that he had one of the coolest mutant powers I've ever seen.  He can produce a sonic scream so powerful, that he can use it to fly, take out his enemies, and a myriad of other cool things.  

As he continued to age, he joined Interpol, fell in love and got married. While on a rather lenghty, undercover assignment, he lost his wife in a horrible terrorist attack.  She was pregnant at the time, which he never knew about, and it was kept from him when he got back from his mission.  It was thought by those around him, that it would be better for him not to know he lost a daughter as well.  What many didn't know, is that she lived, and was raised by Sean's cousin.  Let's just say, the two men didn't like each other very well, so his cousin never filled him in on the truth.  So his daughter was raised by his criminal cousin, and he continued with life, not knowing anything about her.

In the meantime he joined the X-Men and a few other organizations, and lived and loved on Muir Island. He put his life in danger, more often than most, all in the name of doing what's right and noble.  At one point in time, he did appear to be dead, but it's recently come to light that he has been brought back.

What I've always loved about Banshee, even when he was at his lowest, is he never allowef the darkness to completely overwhelm him.  I'm not saying he hasn't been rocked on his heels a few times, and hasn't hit the bottle, but that innate nobility always shines through in the end.  He, at his core, is a genuinely good guy.  He wants to do what is right, and wants to put the needs and safety of those around him, ahead of his self.  In my book, that makes him the perfect superhero. 

Of course it doesn't hurt that he's hot, for a blond, and has an awesome superpower.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The Pendleton stands on the summit of Shadow Hill at the highest point of an old heartland city, a Golden Age palace built in the late 1800s as a tycoon's dream home.  Almost from the beginning, its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder, and whispers of things far worse.  But since its rechristening in the 1970s as a luxury apartment building, the Pendleton has been at peace.  For it's fortunate residents - a successful songwriter and her young son, a disgraced ex-senator, a widowed attorney, and a driven money manager among them - the Pendleton's magnificent quarters are a sanctuary, it's dark past all but forgotten.

But now inexplicable shadows caper across walls, security cameras relay impossible images, phantom voices mutter in strange tongues, not-quite-human figures lurk in the basement, elevators plunge into unknown depths.  With each passing hour, a terrifying certainty grows: Whatever drove the Pendleton's past occupants to their unspeakable fates is at work again.  Soon, all those within it's boundaries will be engulfed by a deadly tide from which few have escaped. 

When do you give up on an author you used to love?  When do you finally say, enough is enough, their new stuff sucks, I'll stick to what I already love?  With Stephen King, it took reading Insomnia for me to get to that point.  The damn thing should have been marketed as a cure for the ailment.  I actually stopped reading Dean Koontz years ago.  I don't even remember which book(s) finally turned me off of his new stuff, but for whatever reason, I was never willing to totally give up.  I almost bought 77 Shadow Street when it first came out, but I kept putting it off.  It wasn't until the hardcover was less than $6 at Barnes & Noble, earlier last month, that I finally decided to give it a go.  I kinda want my money back.

I can never stress how much I wanted to love this book.  To start with, I'm a huge haunted house fan.  I want to like any book that can suck me into dark halls and claustrophobic rooms.  I can read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Hell House by Richard Matheson, Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite, The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz, Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco, or Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters a bazillion times, and never be bored.  It's the whole reason I watched 666 Park Avenue, it sure want's for the acting.  Whether it's a book, movie, TV show, or something else; if it involved a haunted house, I'm there.  Hell, I've even lived in a haunted house, though it wasn't as exciting as the movies make it out to be.

On top of that, I used to love Dean Koontz's books when I was younger.  I still love a few of them; Watchers, Strangers, Phantoms, and Lightning being the ones that come to mind.  So put the two together, and it should have been a slam dunk.  Instead, it was a foul ball that hit the catcher in the face.  It was such an odd mishmash of nanotechnology, time travel, temporal portals, mad scientists, and the meaning of life.  It was disguised to look like a haunted house story, but it wasn't.  The plot was so convoluted, I'm still not sure on some of the things that happened.  Nor do I really think I care.  It felt as if the story was constructed by picking themes and events out of a hat, and stringing them together. The only redeeming quality was some of the characters, but there were so many of them, that the ones I liked weren't on screen long enough. Nor do you really have enough time to spend with them, to truly care about what happens to them.  The hero of the piece, though he may have some of the characteristics of some of his earlier heroes, he's never developed enough, not like what I expect from Koontz.

To answer my own question, I think I'm finally willing to admit defeat.  I will not be picking up any more of his new work.  Instead, if I need a Koontz fix, I'll go back to the books that I know I love.