Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: Hellenic Immortal by Gene Doucette

As you probably recall (because I won't shut up about it), Immortal was officially my favorite book of 2010. So I was more than a little excited (squee!) to get an advance copy of the second book Hellenic Immortal in order to review it before it is released on May 3rd.

I'm happy to report that Hellenic Immortal has everything that I loved about Immortal - voice, pacing, mystery, cleverness, philosophy, and atmosphere. Plus it has more! Quantum physics, for instance. And somehow Hellenic Immortal feels more... at ease with itself. But Adam (or Jason or Spencer or Ut-Naphishtim) feels a bit more harried in this one because the stakes keep getting higher. In the first book he had the innate confidence of someone who has managed to survive for a few thousand (tens of thousands) of years. But between the environmental changes of modern life and the risks surrounding him of too many people knowing who he is and having an interest in him, it seems like ducking out of sight and waiting a few hundred years for the danger to go away just isn't going to work this time.

The last thing I want to do is any spoilers (for either book, in case you haven't read the first one), so I won't go into any more details even though I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO. There were some new characters to fall in love with, some new enemies to face, and some really fascinating twists. When you've read the book email or tweet me and then I will have someone to talk to.

So how does Hellenic Immortal stack up in terms of  terms of sequels? For me the easiest way to illustrate sequels is with movies. (For instance Highlander 2 was a sequel so bad that it almost destroyed the cult classic that preceded it, and Wrath of Khan is commonly thought to be better than Star Trek: The Motion Picture.) For me Hellenic was like the Game of Shadows - everything I loved about the 2009 Sherlock Holmes... plus.

You'll love it. Trust me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Back in Time A to Z: Bedazzled (2000)

This movie has one of the best intros ever. All these people zipping around in fast-motion and then paused with insights into their character in a bubble over them, sort of giving you the perspective of any angels or demons keeping an eye on us. Comes off as both cute and creepy, setting a good tone for this tongue-in-cheek exploration of the nature of our souls and how our choices shape our lives.

Directed by Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Analyze This), it has the wit and intelligence at which Ramis excels. The movie focuses on the life of Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser). Elliot is a bit of a dork as the movie starts, not very well liked by his co-workers and socially inept. He pines for his co-worker Alison who is obviously leagues apart from him in temperament and life path. The Devil (Elizabeth Hurley) sees Elliot as an easy mark and soon has him signing his soul away for a chance at a better life with Alison. He gets seven wishes, which seems like a lot until he sees how the Devil can twist his words and intentions.

The Commander's Rating: Three out of five Vulcan salutes. Silly and quotable.
Pros: The goofy version of Brendan Fraser plus the sultry version of Elizabeth Hurley. There are a number of very quotable scenes and some Fraser beefcake if he's your thing.
Cons: Neither as deep nor as funny as it could be. Solid, just not exceptional. It also makes assumptions or statements about morality that some viewers may find objectionable. (It's somewhere between the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and Kevin Smith's movie Dogma.)
Recommendation: Great for a weeknight to unwind. Pop some popcorn and get ready for a few laughs. It's a remake of a Dudley Moore/Peter Cook/Raquel Welch movie from 1967 which is also worth checking out.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Back in Time A to Z: Airplane! (1980)

It's possible that my parents showed a distinct lack of judgment by taking me to this movie at such a young age. On the other hand it's possible I wouldn't have developed such a wicked sense of humor without it. Airplane! isn't just a comedy, it's a celebration of humor.

If you've never seen Airplane! then it's possible that some of the jokes are too anachronistic for them to hit your funny bone as hard as they would have in 1980 (provided you were around in 1980 to see it). For instance, although Hare Krishnas are still around they aren't as ever-present in airports giving out their flowers. On the other hand there are a number of jokes that are timeless. Anyone who has been in an airport is familiar with the bland, boring announcements about loading zones (keep an ear out in this movie for the announcers/announcements to get interesting). And many of the puns, visual jokes, and bawdy scenes are just as silly and outrageous now as they were then.

Some quotes that we fans use and totally recognize when someone else uses them:
  • "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit..." drinking, smoking, amphetamines, sniffing glue, etc. (Oh how we miss you, Lloyd Bridges!)
  • "A hospital? What is it?" "It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now."
  • "Surely you can't be serious." "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."
  • "You ever seen a grown man naked?" 
The Commander's Rating: Five out of five Vulcan salutes. It's a classic.
Pros: Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges, silly jokes and situations, and a plot that's a rollicking good time. It never fails to make me laugh. They lampoon the movie Airport, politics, pop culture, and everything else they could think of.
Cons: It was made to capture some of the oeuvre of the time, which means that you might not get it or at least might be "over" some of the issues that are being lampooned. You can definitely tell that it fell between the 70s and 80s.
Recommendation: Any time you need a distraction and pick-me-up Airplane! is a good movie to turn to. And the more you watch it the more it will make you laugh. Please be aware that there is nudity and some sexual jokes/situations.