Sorry for the muddled state of some of the older posts. Mist is slaving away to reformat them ASAP ; ).

1/30/12

Movie Review: One for the Money


I was wary of this movie as the casting of the main characters were announced but knew I'd end up watching it. My sis and I are fans of the books and wanted to see how it would translate to the big screen. Unfortunately, it didn't hold up too well.

Katherine Heigl brings Stephanie Plum – the popular heroine of Janet Evanovich’s worldwide best-selling sixteen-book mystery series – to vibrant life in Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment’s “One for the Money.”

A proud, born-and-bred Jersey girl, Stephanie Plum’s got plenty of attitude, even if she’s been out of work for the last six months and just lost her car to a debt collector. Desperate for some fast cash, Stephanie turns to her last resort: convincing her sleazy cousin to give her a job at his bail bonding company… as a recovery agent. True, she doesn’t even own a pair of handcuffs and her weapon of choice is pepper spray, but that doesn’t stop Stephanie from taking on Vinny’s biggest bail-jumper: former vice cop and murder suspect Joe Morelli – yup, the same sexy, irresistible Joe Morelli who seduced and dumped her back in high school.

Nabbing Morelli would be satisfying payback – and a hefty payday – but as Stephanie learns the ins and outs of becoming a recovery agent from Ranger, a hunky colleague who’s the best in the business, she also realizes the case against Morelli isn’t airtight. Add to the mix her meddling family, a potentially homicidal boxer, witnesses who keep dying and the problem of all those flying sparks when she finds Morelli himself… well, suddenly Stephanie’s new job isn’t nearly as easy as she thought.

The movie starts out ok with a few laughs provided by Steph's mom and Grandma Mazur around the family dinner table. We find out Steph's been unemployed for 6 months and her Grandma lets her know of a possible opening at Steph's cousin Vinnie's bailbonds office. Then it kind of slowly moves along and it seems like forever til we get another laugh. Part of the time I was distracted by Steph's frizzy hairstyle. Finally she pulls it back into a low ponytail and it was less distracting. However, Steph's overly spray-tanned chest was another matter. It kind of varied from looking like she was sweating all the time to looking sunburned. Anyway, Steph ends up working for Vinnie and takes over some cases from another bondsman who is out due to an appendectomy. One of the cases turns out to be Joe Morelli. Steph and Joe have a history - she lost her virginity to him back in high school and he never called her again. Apparently Steph then hit him with her car, breaking his leg, so they're really not on good terms at the moment. When Joe finds out Steph is the bond agent trying to bring him in, all he can do is laugh since he doesn't think she's tough enough for the job.

Enter Ranger, an experienced bounty-hunter who's looking to expand into the private security business. Book version Ranger is the ultimate man of mystery. He's Batman-Superman-Sexyman all rolled into one. In the movie, he's Extra Friendly and Helpful Man. Seriously, he meets up with Stephanie since she's new to the bounty-hunter scene and he gives her some tips about the case and guns and shooting. But he's too damn friendly and talkative and smiley and...ok I'll stop. He doesn't even manage to say, "Babe" sexily.

I really didn't think Heigl could pull off the humor of the Stephanie Plum character but in the end she did a better job than I thought. I also had doubts about the guy playing Morelli since he totally didn't fit my idea of him from the books but I felt like he and Heigl had decent enough chemistry that it worked well enough. Unfortunately, I didn't think there was much chemistry between Steph and Ranger in the movie whereas in the books, Steph would have smoke coming out her ears if Ranger even whispered, "Babe". But....to be fair, I think Ranger is so built up in the books that anyone playing him in a movie wouldn't live up to him.

I thought the movie did improve during the second half where Steph started doing some more investigative work to find the witnesses to the crime that everyone thinks Morelli committed. We also see her going out to capture other people who skipped their court date so she could make some quick money to pay her bills. Some of those secondary characters had funny moments. Then there was a weird little chunk where the movie took a more serious tone and it felt very out of place.

Anyway, while I think the 2nd half was a definite improvement over the 1st half of the movie (and what made this a C- rather than a D), I would recommend renting it or waiting for a TV airing rather than seeing it in the theater. Unless you want to go to the theater, then by all means go for it because while the movie was a C- for me, the popcorn was A+.

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12/26/11

Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep (Elemental Assassin bk 1)

I’ve always been a sucker for anti-heroes. The concept of a
Assassin protagonist seemed right up my alley. In a world of black and white, long live the murky shades of gray. No apologies or noble excuses, just complexity; is often my cuppa. So did ‘Spider’s Bite’ scratch the itch? Somewhat, yes.

Gin Blanco is a notorious assassin.

All killers have their own style and she’s made a name for herself by being

 precise, patient, and crafty.  She’s works according to her own moral compass, In her own words “  I’m a killer, but not a monster”. As expected of a killer for hire she doesn’t have many emotional entanglements, but the loyalties she fosters run deep. When a botched job spirals into the murder of her handler/conspiracy where she’s slated to take the fall; she goes on the offensive Knives blazing to  get answers and deal out punishment to those responsible.  It seems spider’s don’t bite, so much as stab lol.



Gin Blanco is  a tough cookie in the best possible way. I really enjoyed the mixture of fierce predator with southern miss. Where this book really shines though is the action and investigation aspect and there’s more that enough to go around. I found many of the side characters appealing, and gin’s personal history seems like the set up for a wild ride indeed.


 
My name is Gin, and I kill people.
They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South — when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.
Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way — good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction...especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.

 

My favorite aspect of this novel is the concept of elemental magic. That some are born with the power to manipulate the elements, to different degrees of skill or application based on the person. This will sound sappy but despite all the: fantasy I’ve read, manga I’ve devoured, or harry potter dvds I’ve put through their paces;  I’ve never would’ve have thought of  element powers in this way. Take for example an Air Elemental. I’d think “ok, if I had this power I could blow the heck outta a shiz”  lmao. But from convenient air gusts  to weather manipulation, is as far as my imagination would go. In Gins world yeah you could do that. But you can heal using air pressure to hold cuts together like a supernatural Band-Aid. Or if someone were to break into your house, you could literally suck the oxygen out of the room suffocating them to unconsciousness until the police arrived or they died. Ooohh or  force air bubbles into their blood stream to stop their heart. Uber creative, no? Makes me wonder what Mz. Estep could do with Sailor Mercury. I always thought bubbles were an incredibly lame super power. But now my mind is blown open, so who knows what’s possible. Mayhap it’s time I revist the “fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight” gang lol.



 There are different races world. From what I gathered there are Elementals ( which are just gifted humans…I think)/humans, dwarves  ( which weren’t really touched on, but I’m sure are more than just miniature humanoids, since 2 characters ages are beyond human life span), Vampire (It is mentioned often that some can feed on emotions or sex instead or as well as blood. But it’s not touched on how one becomes a vampire and  one or so of the vamps have children and are just dandy with the sun. ), and trolls (literally huge 7ft ish, hulking humanoids, very strong..,not sure about life expectancy). The races seem to get along smoothly, which class and then sort of magic if any at all being where social tension stems from. Hopefully it’ll be further explored in the series.



Jin in many ways is less anti-hero than I expected. The city is so corrupt that there aren’t really normal channels to turn to if someone is a threat to you and yours. For something to be wrong there has to be a right option, no?  It’s going to make me sound like a blood thirsty wench but I found the behind the scenes world of ‘murder for hire’ compelling. It had me wishing Jin was more social with her colleagues to get a chance to experience others in her profession or that she would have flashbacks of her apprenticeship.



Now on to what I didn’t like, Detective Donovan Caine. In fact dislike is too casual a word.  I think he’s an Asshat and should suck eggs. I get that his weakness was supposed to honor fueled naivet√©,  but he never learned or changed his knee jerk reactions or though process, like a skipping record of incorrect assumptions.  I officially nominate him for the slow kid down the lane award for merely surviving the treacherous Ashland this long. I also saw their attraction as toxic. It all amounts to   him being a a total jerk, her pretending not to be hurt by it, and lusting after him anyway. Initially it didn’t bother me so much, when it just seemed to be a casual attraction, though it did make me scratch my head a bit. But when it’s later colored to be a deeper connection of some sort *cough* bullshit *cough*.





Also this novel would really  have benefited from tighter editing in terms of character interaction/responses. The constant ‘copy/paste’ repetition is maddening. I can honestly say I never want to read “his eyes going from/to desire. want, need, guilt”, “gold eyes meeting grey”, or  at the most random moment her going "Mhmmm* at his lean muscles and soapy smell ( at least 4x) and imagining herself on his "length" (gah…always  his "length" = / ) and her vagina aching for him, or every person she fights being "sloppy, sloppy, sloppy"; ever EVER ever again. It often knocked me out of the story.
  
Conclusion: where this book really shines is the action and investigation aspect and there’s more than enough to go around. I found many of the side characters appealing, and gin’s personal history seems like the set up for a wild ride indeed, if the writing and character motivations is improve  a tad.

 Grade:


 I thoroughly enjoyed myself. This read has most of the right elements, yet  lacks a little somethin' somethin' to truly rise above the pack. A fun ride, but doesn't quite scream "Oh Hells Yes!  READ-GASM!". (3 out of 5 stars)



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10/19/10

Rick Riordan - The Lost Hero

I haven't written a review in forever but it's Rick Riordan, who, sadly, only gives me two opportunities a year to gush, so I gotta seize the day.

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper. His best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids.” What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea—except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god.
Let me start out by saying that The Lost Hero is amazing. Rick Riordan is amazing. And I'm going to tell you how and why without giving anything, at least anything major, away. Written in the third person, The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus, Book 01) volleys between the individual and combined experiences of Jason, Leo, and Piper; three out of the seven demigods involved in the new prophecy, revealing the secrets they keep, even from each other. The perspective changes between the three every two chapters and I think it translated better here than it did with The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, Book 01). This style also keeps the book from feeling like a total PJ rip-off although there are a handful of glaring similarities which one cannot ignore. That said, the tone is slightly older than early PJ and R. Riordan does acknowledge, later in the story, that Percy and Jason serve as counterpoint to each other.

As for the prose, well, this man can write. It just flows. Jason starts out as the most intriguing of the three protagonists for three main reasons:

1. The story opens with him
2. The mystery surrounding his presence
3. the circumstances of his birth.

However, R. Riordan fangirl I may be, I do think that he could have done more to make the Jason character meatier. By the end I wasn't as interested with him as I was in the beginning which is a shame, really. Leo, now this guy, he was the dark horse of the story. Think Nico minus his Prince of the Undead charm. I found him pretty obnoxious initially but his vulnerability, ingenuity, and all around likability makes him, easily, my favorite of the three. The weak link, in my humble opinion, is Piper who is neither offensive nor spectacular (although it felt like I was being constantly told that she is) but is definitely more likable than other leading-lady type demigods out there. Her godly parent is...blah...but she, at least, isn't as useless as her cabin mates. The one thing I really did like about her is that she knows what she wants and isn't afraid to own up to it. *side-eye Annabeth*

Familiar characters from the PJ books make an appearance, Camp Half-Blood does become their base after all, but they do not figure prominently in the story. Percy is not a part of The Lost Hero at all but his presence, or lack thereof, is keenly felt. By the end, one cannot help but speculate on what his role is going to be in the next installment. There is no question that Percy, who may or may not be "The Son of Neptune" (Heroes of Olympus, Book 2), will be in the next book but I'm positive it's not gonna be his story. The one spoilerish thing I'm going to say about this series is that R. Riordan meshes Greek and Roman Mythology so beautifully and seamlessly (not that much of a spoiler since you'll catch on early anyway) that you don't even question it. The emphasis on how the same God could be two separate deities, genius! Plot-hole problems - solved!

Yipee, already I'm going on and on about the next book in the series - obviously October 2011 cannot come soon enough - so let me end my verbal diarrhea with this:
 
The Lost Hero is amazing. Rick Riordan is amazing. Flaws and all.
The Verdict:
If I had to describe this book in one word; it would be "Impressive". Though I may have a quibble or two, consider my socks rocked. Well played Author, Well played.

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5/25/10

Rick Riordan - The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid The Kane Chronicles, Book 01

In which I attempt to deliver a spoiler-free review AND make sense. First, the blurb:

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.
The Red Pyramid was a pleasant surprise. I got into the book with pretty low expectations because I adored the the Percy Jackson series so much and didn't think Riordan could follow it up with something (anything!) just as good. And was it just as good? Not really. Maybe it paralleled Percy a little bit too much to be OMG. THAT WAS AMAZING!!!!!, but, I enjoyed the Kane series debut nonetheless and eagerly await the second installment.

Carter and Sadie Kane, the two leads, were just okay for me. Unfortunately, when held against the Percy Jackson standard, okay isn't as interesting as the Camp Half-Blood kids were. I liked Carter well enough but found Sadie a bit grating on my nerves. I didn't really connect with either character but The Red Pyramid is the first book in the Kane Chronicles and my feelings for the two could be subject to change. The book is written in the first person POV with every two chapters alternately "recorded" by the Kanes. Unlike some other folks, I thought the two had distinct voices and personalities which helped me differentiate who was "speaking" - obviously I enjoyed Carter's chapters more since I find sassy 12 year old girls rude and annoying.

The Red Pyramid starts out a bit slow; Its plot is more complex than the PJ books and my lack of knowledge in the Egyptian Mythology department didn't help when assorted Gods and monsters sprung about. Riordan dumps all sorts of information from the get-go which kept me from getting into the story immediately; a little bit like Stephenie Meyer's The Host, but, unlike The Host, the depth of information given is written in a way that drew me in slowly as opposed to losing interest altogether. It gets plenty better though; Riordan does an excellent job meshing Egyptian Mythology with the 21st century (no surprise there) and, for those paying attention, even vaguely references the gods from his Percy Jackson books. I love, love, love it when authors do that and love it even more when it's done well. As mentioned earlier, the parallels between Percy and the Kanes keep it from being an amazing original; Riordan doesn't stray far from the formula that's made him successful: ancient mythology (albeit Egyptian this time), teenagers, birthright/chosen one/etc plots, however, he is talented enough to keep the two series from being identical (thus far).

The verdict? Very Good - even a keeper - but, alas, not as good as his other more popular series. That said, I eagerly await the next book in the Kane Chronicles as well as his Heroes Of Olympus Chronicles. At this point, I'd read anything this man writes.

Final Grade:







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