Sweet Trouble

Rants, raves, book reviews and one girl's thoughts on life, the universe and everything.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Battlestar Galactica

An avid reader of Entertainment Weekly, I was tickled to see my favorite television show gets nods from none other than acclaimed author and Weekly columnist Stephen King. He calls Sci-Fi Channel's series Battlestar Galactica "a beautifully written show, driven by character...there's not a better acting troupe at work on television." Mr. King also says my beloved series is "far better than Star Trek, in any of its incarnations." He's right. Elsewhere in this week's issue of EW the series was named #4 on their top ten lists of dramas! Go Galactica.

Sci-Fi's Galactica started with a miniseries back in 2004 and evolved into a full-fledged series late in '05. A complete remake of the classic 70's camp sci-fi series which starred (among others) Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict and Jane Seymour, the new show takes the basic premise, the villains and a few memorable names and turns them into the best drama, sci-fi or otherwise, on television today. Many die-hard fans of the original were put off by the changes: Starbuck and Boomer are women! Tigh's not black! Too much drama! Not enough comedy! Personally, I feel sorry for these folks, as their limited thinking has them missing out on some amazing television.

Galactica airs on Friday nights as part of the station's Sci-Fi Fridays. The three hour block of original programs also contains Stargate, and it's Atlantis based sequel, neither of which I care for. While the second half of Galactica's second season just ended with a bang, you can catch them in reruns. However, I'd recommend starting at the beginning: both the miniseries and Season One are available in one DVD set. The first part of Season Two has it's own boxed set. The show will return with new episodes in July. If the Sci-Fi Channel lets this series run full course I will (almost) be able to forgive them for canceling Farscape.

***Update: It's true. Galactica will not be returning in July. Instead they will air a complete season begining in October. Previous seasons were broken into two chunks, but for various reasons they have decided to air season 3 as a whole. The blog Galactica Sitrep has more information on the decision making process, as well as many other Galactica oriented news.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Good Movies

Post Oscar season usually brings about a flurry of discussion, usually "did the best picture win?" This year folks are harping about Crash and Brokeback Mountain. The thing is, there's always a lot of debate about movies, especially before and after Oscar, about what a good movie really is. Are they art, or entertainment? Harbingers of social change, or reflections of a society glorifying violence and sexuality. Mindless escapism or tight story telling that makes viewers ponder the meaning of life? I can't answer a those question, but I can tell you what a good movie is and it has nothing to do with Oscar! A Good Movie is one that, when causally surfing through your television channels if you happen upon it you stop and watch it even though you own it on DVD. That is a good movie.

Example A: I don't watch much TV, if you read this blog at all you know I am much more of a book person. However, I've had a cold lately and not had the attention span for starting a new novel. Idle surfing of the telly yesterday found me absolutely engrossed in the movie Jaws. What a great film! The dialogue, the cinematography, the score, the damn shark popping up at unexpected moments! Roy Schneider's deadpan "We're going to need a bigger boat." This film is almost as old as I am, yet it's utterly riveting. Truly a keeper for the ages, and even though it won awards that's not what we remember about this film.

Example B: Back to the Future. Again with the channel flipping, this time my husband has the controller...music is the first thing we latch on to. As children of the eighties we were happily grooving to the tunes before we even realized what we were watching. There was a maybe three second delay before we happily settled in to watch Marty skateboarding up to his house. In this film, while the music's grand, it is the writing that is really the glory. A tightly scripted, detailed set-up followed by the actual adventure. We sat on the couch and ooh-ed and ahh-ed at how elaborate the seemingly mundane opening scenes with the McFly family really are. They set the stage for everything, even though as a child I mostly just remember things picking up when the Delorean hits the screen. The sequels to Back to the Future were fun, but the first installment was art, pure and simple.

Last but not least, Example C: Raiders of the Lost Ark, in fact perhaps all three Indiana Jones films can be cited. They weren't actually on this weekend during my rare bout of channel surfing, but every time they have been I have stopped to watch them. It doesn't matter if you pick it up when Indy is swapping sand for the Idol, digging up the ark or racing on a horse across the desert. This movie sucks you in and doesn't let you go, nor do you want it to.

There are probably more movies I could list; Gone With the Wind and the Princess Bride come to mind. The point, though, isn't to list what I think of as great movies. The point is that Oscars and awards don't matter. Heck even their initial grosses don't really count (Wizard of Oz was considered a box office flop!) What matters are the movies themselves, and how they stand the test of time. I doubt I will ever sit down with my son and watch "Crash." I *know* I will sit down with him and watch Raiders...or if you want to keep it to current movies, Batman Begins. So lets quit blathering about the nominees, award winners and Best Pictures and lets start talking Good Movie.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is probably best known for her spunky teen series "The Princess Diaries." Having a novel made into a full length Disney summer movie helps in that regard. However, her new mystery series which begins with Size 12 is Not Fat is aimed toward adults. Not quite mystery, not quite chick lit, the novel is a frothy, delectable treat.

I've seen criticisms about this book in that the mystery isn't meaty enough, or the heroine is not quite believable as a sleuth. Come on! Meg's new mystery is written in the same tongue in cheek humorous vein as the popular Chocoholic mysteries by JoAnna Carl. These kind of books aren't made for the folks who debate techniques seen on CSI! This is fun, girly escapism. I found it met that criteria and took it a step further by being witty, engaging and memorable. I even look forward to the sequels Ms. Cabot has planned.

Size 12 tells the tale of one Heather Wells, a former teen pop sensation. In the Avon trade copy I purchased there is an author exclusive where she explains how she came up with the idea. For Cabot's fans, this honest look into creation is worth the price of the novel...but I digress. While the idea seems more Tiffany than Britney Spears, it is, nonetheless, a catchy one. The heroine has fallen on hard times, her record company ditched her when she wanted to sing her own songs and her mother took off with her moola AND her manager. Now employed as a dorm assistant at a New York college, Heather has stumbled into a murder mystery...and that's just the first chapter!

Heather is likeable, if somewhat lazy. She takes baths instead of showers because showers take too much effort, what with all the standing up. Heather is at times pithy, punchy and pitiful and for all of the bizarre circumstances seems very real. As I've already mentioned, I look forward to the sequels Meg Cabot has planned: Phat Chick and Big Boned slated for January 2007 and 2008 releases respectively.

If you enjoy this novel I'd recommend Cabot's other adult offerings: She Went All The Way, Every Boy's Got One, and The Boy Next Door.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook

The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook came to me highly recommended. The book kept popping up on my recommendations from Amazon, and has been on the reading lists of Sherwood Smith and Charlaine Harris. For all of this online visibility I had a difficult time finding the book at first. For some reason I assumed this was a young adult novel and was surprised to find it in the regular Science Fiction and Fantasy section of my book store. Silly me.

The big revelation is in the title: Princess Contessa isn't. Tess is, in fact, an adopted street urchin raised by the royal couple to protect their daughter by birth from assassins. Even with such a big "twist" occurring in the first couple of chapters Cook manages to keep up the pace she has set, delivering her readers with a rollicking good adventure.

This was the first of Ms. Cook's novels that I have had the pleasure of reading, and I would guess that it is the first of a quartet. The book just has that sort of feel about it. The Decoy Princess has overtones of Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy in that the heroine is not quite royalty and is mentored by a shadowy figure in arts more assassin-like than lady-like. Cook's writing style is mostly enjoyable and gives her readers glimpses of castle/medieval life without it seeming ponderous. The cast scrounge baths, search for food and bicker with each other in a very realistic and engrossing manner. My only complaint is the over-usage of the made up curse word "Chu." The author is so heavy handed in bandying about her linguistic novelty that it has the opposite effect of what she intends and jars the reader out of the delightful world she has created.

Dawn Cook's website has her complete bibliography, and news of upcoming releases including Princess at Sea a sequel to The Decoy Princess with a tentative release date for this summer.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

David Mack's Kabuki

It occurs to me, that while I have spoken often of Tamora Pierce in this space, I have not previously lauded the talented David Mack. Thus some of you may be unfamiliar with his name, aside from the mention in my last post.

David Mack is the creator of the graphic novel "Circle of Blood" featuring the character Kabuki and her associates. The book artfully blends a tale of adventure, espionage, friendships, family and betrayals against a lush and richly imagined near-future society. To write this story off as a comic book is to do yourself a disservice. Circle of Blood is an epic told by a very talented young man who happens to have more than one gift through which to tell his tale.

The art of the first book is mainly done in carefully inked panels. In the following installments Mack broadens his artistic repetoir with equal brilliance, employing paint, collage and other more elaborate forms of art for which this former music major has not the names.

The Kabuki series starts with Kabuki:Circle of Blood and continues in Kabuki Vol 2:Dreams, Kabuki Vol 3:Masks of the Noh, Kabuki:Skin Deep, Kabuki:Metamorphosis, and Kabuki:Scarab. The as yet unfinished "The Alchemy" is currently being released in comic book form from Marvel Comics and will also be collected when complete.

While some of the characters *are* scantily clad in traditional comic book manner, they are all very roundly written, complex women. I would recommend these wonderful books to fans of novels and comic books, male and female alike. They truly have something for everyone. The books are also what I would designate as "keepers," as they improve upon rereading. With such wonderful visuals, there are always new nuances to focus upon. Do not be intimidated by the abundance of volumes! Kabuki: Circle of Blood is a complete story and can be enjoyed as a stand alone epic.

In addition to finishing The Alchemy, David Mack is working with 20th Century Fox on a live action Kabuki feature film.