Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Sunday Review

We enjoyed 1776 on TCM on the 4th. I absolutely adore William Daniels and Howard Da Silva in this. It's amazing how this movie manages to make the vote for the Declaration actually full of suspense and doubt. It didn't happen precisely like the movie, but this dramatization certainly makes the whole event entertaining. We try to always watch this movie on the 4th, as well as "Fireworks" from Schoolhouse Rock! I think watching these on the 4th is a good tradition for us.

TV this week:
  • The Next Food Network Star: "The Ultimate American Meal" - I would have liked to try some of those burgers, and I definitely want to try the winning one. That tiny kitchen with the ancient stove was the biggest challenge. And what happened to Debbie was terrible, but it was definitely her own fault (you ALWAYS say "behind" when you walk behind somebody in a kitchen). Michael's horror at what he'd done was clearly genuine. In the end, I would not have wanted to make that decision.
  • History Detectives: "Manhattan Project Patent; Galleon Shipwreck; Creole Poems" - The information about the Manhattan Project was all stuff I hadn't heard before, so I was fascinated. The shipwreck discovery was in my neck of the woods, so I was very interested in that as well. And the mysterious book reflected some information I'd just been listening to in a history podcast! So this episode was three for three for me.
  • Primeval: "Episode 23" - Final episode. Well, probably. I hope the producers get to do a final something to wrap up the series, as they left the cast in... well, a couple of cliffhangers. Still, even if we don't get a wrap-up, I'm very very pleased with how this series turned out. I loved it with very few nitpicks. I would love to see the series continue, but it still managed to feel surprisingly complete.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic book shipment that arrived this week, of books originally released June 17th and 24th:
  • Tiny Titans #17 - No Aqualad, but otherwise it's ok.
  • Wonderful Wizard of Oz #7 - This is how you stick close to the book. This is a fantastic adaptation. I particularly like the balloon.
  • Captain Britain and MI13 #14 - Ah, well, that's all better then! Still not a big vampire fan, but this seems to be working for me. Pity the series is ending.
  • DC Superhero Figurine Collection Magazine #31: Aquaman - The figurine itself is very cool, and the magazine that comes with is surprisingly good as well, although I'm not enthused about the choice of Aquaman origins and key stories.
  • Green Lantern #42 - What, is Hal going to get every color ring by the end of this arc?
  • Justice League of America #34 - So bored with this.
  • Justice Society of America #28 - Ma Hunkel appears, so this is a good issue.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold #6 - I don't like the design on Kid Eternity. He looks like a brat with a smirk. Otherwise, nice little story.
  • Incredibles: Family Matters #3 - A really good continuation of the characters from the movie, so much so that I think I'd like to read an ongoing. No surprise that they jump to comic book format so well, is it?
  • Northlanders #18 - I'm a little disappointed in the fight action at the end, as I couldn't tell one character from another. But the story... whew. Difficult stuff in there.
  • Usagi Yojimbo #121 - A pretty standard Usagi tale (which means it's about 20 times better than most comic books out there) with a strangely lame ending.

This week's movie was Ninotchka from 1939, starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. Greta Garbo is a serious Soviet agent sent to deal with three agents who bumble the sale of imperial jewels in Paris. The former owner of the jewels wants them back, and the agents are quickly seduced by capitalism and its pleasures. Ninotchka is not so easily seduced. Garbo delivers hilarious deadpan lines, and as she cracks she becomes a much more interesting character. The movie is about 40 minutes too long, but is very funny. It was banned in the USSR because of the unflattering portrayal of Soviets, and it kept hubby-Eric saying "In Soviet Russia...!" constantly.

My library book this week was Ranger's Apprentice Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan. I picked this one up based on the Unshelved Book Club review. I knew it was part of a series, but apparently the series is already eight books and counting with a movie on the way! Furthermore, like a lot of great young adult fiction in the past decade or so, it hails from Australia. It's a solid little book, not super-fantastic but not disappointing. There were lots of points in the story where it could have gone into a much darker or depressing tale, but it stayed upbeat. And, yeah, I think I'm going to go read the rest of the series. It's a nice "snack" kind of book.

Another book I read this week was Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. I picked this one up based on the Unshelved Book Club review. As you may have noticed, I like getting reading recommendations from Unshelved. Tamara's suggestions tend to be for younger readers (she is the children's librarian) and this book is no exception. The main character is an 11-year-old boy, and the writing is a little simple for my tastes. Still, it made for a quick read, and that's good because this is the first book of a series. And I will be checking out more of these. It's a nice read, with plenty of action. Events have consequences, and our hero has to make hard choices. The villains are suitably horrid, and the allies are both nasty and not. And, despite there being a prophecy involved, the result isn't a given for the characters. Not bad for a kid's book.

Agatha Christie this week was N or M? from 1941. Tommy and Tuppence return! And they're not only all grown up, they've got grown children involved in the War. In fact, the adventure starts out with them moaning that their services aren't needed, and gets complicated when they are called in to do some sleuthing against the fifth column in the UK. They accomplish their task in the usual fashion, with plenty of mystery and uncertainty. This was a romp, and while the mystery was difficult to figure out, I'm proud to say I got it before the reveal. Just barely, but I got it. Read this one if you want a fun wartime adventure with good ol' characters.

Fortean Times #250, Special 2009. First item of note: my Fortean Times usually arrives in a nice white envelope which protects it from damage and prying eyes. This issue arrived in a flimsy plastic sleeve, and appeared to have been sent from Belgium (!) instead of the usual New York postmark. The plastic was ripped badly, and the magazine itself was severely bent, but luckily not otherwise damaged. I really hope the distributor can go back to envelopes.

Moving on to the book itself, the cover story is about "Invizikids" aka Imaginary Friends. I never had an imaginary friend, although I certainly felt left out and wished I had. I think at a few points I even pretended I had one, but it never worked... those who had them seemed to have something I didn't understand. And the author of the article seems to see more in them as well. I don't particularly agree with his hypothesis, but it's a fun read. I'd want to see a lot more research before I'd accept that there is more there than simple human nature.

The Editorial page makes it clear that John Michell had not died when the tribute in the last issue was put together. His death was not unexpected, but the timing was impressive. Strangedays goes into Singer sewing machines and red mercury, which is fascinating but stupid. The article on witch-hunting made me ill. Cases of hysteria that cause genuine harm because people can't be bothered to think things through.

The ghost photos article was ok, but I tend to credit double exposure for many of those. I liked the UFO files article on Men in Black, and look forward to reading the rest of the series. Of course, the mere fact that the article is being written is fun proof against the existence of MIB. The Hoaxers article was also very good. It does seem to be human nature to try to pull a fast one on our fellow humans. I liked the Loch Ness Cryptokid story. There were two pieces on the Antikeythera mechanism, with slightly different angles but both informative.

Two more articles, on Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Uri Geller respectively, were ok. I tend to be overwhelmingly skeptical of Geller, but I admit if the facts of that article are true, I'd love to see a logical explanation since I'd be hard-pressed to come up with one myself. The reviews and letters were normal for Fortean Times, which is to say they were entertaining and somewhat informative. Another good issue.