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H. Bala "Me Too Can Read" RSS Feed (Recently moved back to Carson, California, or as I call it... the center of the universe)

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Darkest Day (StrikeForce Book 3)
Darkest Day (StrikeForce Book 3)
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars much brooding..., May 23, 2016
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If you hadn't read the first two books, why are you reading this? Don't do that. Darkest Day is the third book in Colleen Vanderlinden's StrikeForce series. It keeps on charting the exploits and personal growth of Jolene Faraday, once a notorious cat burglar, today the reluctant (yet celebrated) superheroine known as Daystar. It's not been easy going for her in her crime-fighting career. And, yet, despite her sheer cussedness and aversion to diplomacy, Daystar is super-popular with the masses. Maybe because she's not afraid to show personality and emotion, to show that she cares, unlike the other capes and cowls that act like these bland, by-the-book bureaucrats. Yep, she's the toast of Detroit. See that change.

Nowadays, Jolene resides in a darker place, wracked with guilt over the murder of her mother. You're in for heaps of our girl beating herself up over this. Her guilt and pent-up rage motivate her to take patrol shifts from the other members of StrikeForce. She's not sleeping much. She's obsessed with tracking down KillJoy, he whom she holds responsible. Along the way, she and her teammates manage to carve a chunk out of Killjoy's burgeoning criminal syndicate. But more problems lurk for the embattled team. A tribunal finally puts Alpha and his cronies on trial, but this tribunal seems also out to get Daystar. They want to question her about her crooked past and her involvement with certain other shady activities (and since you've read the books before, you know Daystar does have knowledge and culpability in those areas). There's also more from that annoying anonymous blogger, Detroit Unpowered, who dumps on superheroes with each of his (or her) posts. Not to mention, all around the world, super-powered children are being kidnapped. That last bit, we don't get a resolution on in this book.

I'm soaking up the minutiae of this author's worldbuilding. I'm always fascinated with the day-to-day workings of a government-sanctioned superhero enterprise, with how it's organized, with its support staff, et cetera. I wish there were a map or blueprint of the StrikeForce headquarters. But all these details help to plant Daystar and her cohorts and their adversaries in some sort of believable reality.

Daystar, broken person, serves as a striking counterpoint to sunny do-gooders like Supergirl, or Astra from Marion G. Harmon's Wearing the Cape series, or Solar from Matthew Phillion's The Indestructibles series. Daystar is a champion brooder, and, fair warning, there may be readers out there who find the magnitude of her self-flagellation too much to bear in this one. But I really dig her. I love her moxie and her chronic bad mood. And maybe she's more sympathetic because of the people she chooses to hang out with. Daystar doesn't let too many people in. Her two best friends (and teammates), Jenson and Caine, are seriously likable characters. I like their skill sets, too. One can cast multiple copies of herself. The other has superhumanly acute senses.

Vanderlinden is crackerjack at lending a sense of real jeopardy to the story. I get a Game of Thrones or Walking Dead vibe off these pages, in the sense that I feel no one is safe, that anyone can go at any moment. Credit the big bad, Killjoy, a bogeyman who is psychotic and obsessed with Daystar and damned elusive. Anyway, much of the narrative has to do with Daystar's mourning the loss of her mum. But Vanderlinden doesn't skimp on the character interplay and the teeth-rattling superhero smack-down. Daystar, being the most powerful StrikeForce member, gives better than she gets.

The StrikeForce series, so far (Kindle format):

- A New Day (StrikeForce Book 1)
- One More Day (StrikeForce Book 2)
- Darkest Day (StrikeForce Book 3)
- Day's End (StrikeForce Book 4)
- Haunted: StrikeForce Book Five (coming out in late 2016)

Adeco Wrought Iron Antique-Look Brown, Round Wall Hanging Double Side Two Faces Train Railway Station style Clock "Botanique" Roman Numerals, Scroll Wall Side Mount Home Decor
Adeco Wrought Iron Antique-Look Brown, Round Wall Hanging Double Side Two Faces Train Railway Station style Clock "Botanique" Roman Numerals, Scroll Wall Side Mount Home Decor
Price: $53.99

5.0 out of 5 stars my pal, Janus, approves of the train station clock, May 23, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I had a notion to add some bit of decor in the kitchen area and came upon this ornate, old-timey sucker, this hanging, side-mounted, two-faced train railway station clock from Adeco. It's redolent of them nostalgic good old days. I'm no train station clock connoisseur. I couldn't tell a "Chateau Renier" from a "Gard Du Nord Station" from a "Botanique." Go figure, I went with a "Bistro Leone." I was aware of its dimensions but was still surprised by how much smaller it looked when it got to my doorstep. But that's not a deal breaker. This clock classes up my joint. I appreciate how quaint and stylish and retro it looks. I enjoy eyeballing the wrought ironness of it, and the scroll design of the mount, and that each side presents a face that keeps time. It's hinged on one side and there's a clasp release on the other side that splits the clock frame open, allowing you to insert two AA batteries (one for each clock) and to set the time. This was super-easy to install. In its entirety, it measures 12 1/2" horizontally from the wall mount to the furthest end of the clock. The clocks' diameter is 6 1/4". The mounting bracket is 10" tall, although the arrow on top of the clock extends maybe an inch above the top of the mounting bracket.
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Diamond Select Toys Superman: The Animated Series: Femme Fatales Supergirl PVC Statue
Diamond Select Toys Superman: The Animated Series: Femme Fatales Supergirl PVC Statue
Price: $35.73
21 used & new from $35.72

5.0 out of 5 stars Kal-El's cousin, well-represented, May 23, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Supergirl, sunny and guileless and straight-shooting, is about as opposite of the femme fatale as you can get. But never mind. I pretty much love the crap out of this Supergirl PVC statue from Diamond Select Toys' Femme Fatales series. This is Kara as reimagined in Bruce Timm's fantastic Superman animated series (1996-2000). There's something so clean and fetching about the animation style in Timm's and Paul Dini's DCAU. It's so charmingly stylized with a distinct art deco vibe. And Kara's character design reflects all that. Her statue, simple and elegant and standing at 9" tall and clad in the awesome white tee, could've been lifted straight out of a cel from the show archives, it looks so perfect. And since one of my favorite team-up episodes ever is "Girls' Night Out" from The New Batman Adventures, I also got the Diamond Select Toys Batman: The Animated Series: Batgirl Femme Fatales PVC Statue, which makes the ideal companion piece to Supergirl. Shoot, I may even get the Diamond Select Toys Batman The Animated Series: Harley Quinn Femme Fatales PVC Statue and the Diamond Select Toys Batman: The Animated Series: Poison Ivy Femme Fatales PVC Statue, just to complete the episode's cast.
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Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes Season 1
Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes Season 1
Price: $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat revamped yet still old-school at heart - catch this show, May 23, 2016
If you're a longtime fan of the Fantastic Four, it's hard not to be judgmental when you first catch a peep of this show. But if you can get past the retooled character and costume designs (for the FF and their villains), and Reed's unruly mop of hair and Johnny's anime-influenced spiky do, and that spray-painted "4" on Ben's chest - then you might get that this is a pretty good animated series.

FANTASTIC FOUR: WORLD'S GREATEST HEROES debuted in September 2006 on the Cartoon Network. For the curious ones, this happens to be the fourth television incarnation of Marvel's first superhero family, succeeding the 1967, 1978 (with H.E.R.B.I.E. taking over for the Torch), and the 1994 versions. It's the hippest and funniest TV adaptation yet.

The series captures the essence of these characters. I've always liked Reed Richards, but he's never been the ideal leading man. Here, he seems to be younger but as typically bland and henpecked (thanks, Sue), although at times his personality channels the hipper Ultimate Reed Richards. Johnny Storm, patterned after the live action film's version, has never been more brash and immature, but he grew on me, and there are many times when he landed me in the silly giggles. He and H.E.R.B.I.E. provide a lot of the humor. The ever-lovin' Thing is still a tragic monster, but big-hearted, as demonstrated in "Contest of Champions." Johnny's older sis, Susan, consistently plays the role of the grown-up in the team and makes a formidable second-in-command. I'm glad that H.E.R.B.I.E. is back in the mix. This time H.E.R.B.I.E. is the self-aware computer system which Reed constructs to help run the Baxter Building. I dig how persistently cheerful and neurotic this new incarnation of H.E.R.B.I.E. is.

The mythos and spirit of the FF are well translated onto the screen. The sci-fi backdrop. Reed's futuristic gadgets. The classic and complex supervillains. The FF's constant family bickerings and infighting. As per norm, Reed's powerhouse intellect and scientific curiosity dictate that the team, besides holding down that saving the world gig, also acts as part-time explorers. As such, the foursome frequently end up in peculiar environments, whether it's the Microverse, the Negative Zone, on a different planet, or even in an alternate timeline. The Fantastic Four have always been adventurers on an epic scale. Mining from the FF mythos, quite a few of the episodes here are inspired by classic FF stories from the comic book (the FF getting evicted, Reed and Doom trading bodies, the Baxter Building being launched into space, the coming of Terminus, etc.).

The scattershot TV scheduling never gave the show a chance to build a loyal following. In my case, the sporadic airing left me lukewarm and even feeling critical of the episodes, and of the changes effected. But, having seen the entire run on this box set, I've come around 180. After steady viewing, the continuity and cohesiveness of the show are more readily discerned, despite that the stories tended to be episodic. Past events are recalled in later episodes. Torch's fear of water is revisited a number of times. The Baxter Building tenants have recurring appearances.

As done by the French-based animation house, Moonscoop, the animation is crazy bananas - a cool, fairly smooth integration of 2D and CG, and rendered with lush and vivid colors. Everything looks great - the FF certainly, but also the revamped classic villains. And the background details are exquisite stuff! The city landscape, for example, is impressively depicted time and again. The "Annihilate" episode, in particular, showcases some stunning visuals. And, the stuff's presented in anamorphic widescreen. Also, I don't want to leave out the episode title cards, which struck me as cool and arresting visuals. The theme song, however, is dang weak.

The surface tweaks may be disconcerting at first, but, trust me, just roll with them. You'll find that this is the quintessential Fantastic Four after all. The same dysfunctional team, the same family of superheroes. Ben's self-loathing as a monster, Ben and Johnny's non-stop teasing and pranking, the classic supervillains - all these bring a retro feel to the show, hearkening back to when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were doing big things, seminal things, in the World's Greatest Magazine. And, really, when was the Fantastic Four franchise ever better than when those two old coots were running it?

- Episode 1 - "Doomsday" - Dissension fractures the team as the media accuses Reed of having deliberately exposed Sue, Ben, and Johnny to cosmic rays on their fateful space mission.
- Episode 2 - "Molehattan" - When Manhattan highrises begin to sink underground, it could only mean the work of the Mole Man. And, this time, Ol' Moley wants Ben to join his side.
- Episode 3- "Trial by Fire" - Johnny Storm is charged with high crimes against the intergalactic Kree Empire. Johnny's trial lawyer? Reed Richards.
- Episode 4- "Doomed" - Doom's mind transference technology enables him to swap bodies with Reed. A camera crew follows Johnny around to film a "day in the life" segment.
- Episode 5 - "Puppet Master" - A segment of the space station in which the FF originally got their powers crashes onto a beach and irradiates the sculpting clay of Alicia Masters's disturbed step-father.
- Episode 6 - "Zoned Out" - When a portal to the Negative Zone is opened, bug creatures drawn to energy invade the Baxter Building. This couldn't be a worse time for a tenants' meeting to be held.
- Episode 7 - "Hard Knocks" - Two words: "Hulk smash!"
- Episode 8 - "My Neighbor Was A Skrull" - Wonderful episode. The Baxter Building suffers a systems breakdown even as the F.F.'s neighbors get all weird; H.E.R.B.I.E. begins speaking in Spanish: "El gato es muy macho."
- Episode 9 - "World's Tiniest Heroes" - A lab mishap causes the team to drastically shrink; guest-starring Ant Man.
- Episode 10 - "De-Mole-ition" - While out in the streets of New York, engaging in family time, the FF are attacked by a giant monster which bursts from underneath. So much for family time.
- Episode 11 - "Impossible" - Reed's space probe returns with an unexpected guest: the mischievous, shapeshifting Impossible Man. Now the F.F. can't get rid of the pesky alien.
- Episode 12 - "Bait and Switch" - A power surge accidentally has the Fantastic Four switching powers...and personality traits. Just in time for Doctor Doom to take advantage.
- Episode 13 - "Annihilation" - The FF are whooshed thru a mysterious sphere and into the Negative Zone, where their powers are drastically boosted. Oh, and they meet Annihilus... and an old foe.
- Episode 14 - "Revenge of the Skrulls" - The Skrulls are back, bringing with them the Super Skrull (who boasts all of the F.F.'s powers), but their scheme is thwarted by the F.F. - and some nerd named Rupert, who won Susan's "Be A Fantastic Fifth for a Day" contest. Meanwhile, Ronan the Accuser seeks revenge against the Human Torch.
- Episode 15- "Strings" - The Fantastic Four are evicted from the Baxter Building. Now they have to get real jobs.
- Episode 16 - "Imperius Rex" - Namor the Sub-Mariner (and Prince of Atlantis) bars the human race from the world's oceans. And Johnny, who hates getting wet, gets wet.
- Episode 17 - "Doomsday Plus One" - At 4am, Doctor Doom takes over the Baxter Building and launches it into space; the tenants aren't happy with this.
- Episode 18 - "The Cure" - Reed reverts Ben back to before that fateful space launch, thus making him human again, but without his memories intact; guest-starring She-Hulk.
- Episode 19 - "Frightful" - Move over, Fantastic Four. There's a new superhero team in town - the Frightful Four.
- Episode 20 - "Out of Time" - Returning from a time travelling jaunt, the FF find that present-day New York is now ruled by Doctor Doom.
- Episode 21 - "Atlantis Attacks" - Having been forcefully deposed as monarch of Atlantis, Namor ascends to the surface world with a dire warning: the massive Atlantean army is on the attack (or as Ben says: "It's, uh, a lot of fish guys.").
- Episode 22 - "Shell games" - Versions of the Iron Man armor attack the FF. H.E.R.B.I.E. fears he is about to be replaced.
- Episode 23 - "Johnny Storm and the Potion of Fire" - When Johnny is doused with Diablo's alchemy potion, it turns him kinda evil.
- Episode 24 - "Contest of Champions" - I really dug this one. The FF must compete in a contest against Ronan the Accuser, the Super-Skrull, Annihilus and the Impossible Man, with the fate of humanity at stake. Among the games selected: charades, scooter racing, and a spelling bee (Annihilus: "Could you use that word in a sentence?").
- Episode 25 - "Doom's World Is Law" - One of Doctor Doom's doombots gains sentience and is befriended by Ben.
- Episode 26 - "Scavenger Hunt" - Terminus, fearsome scourge of the universe, comes to scavenge the planet Earth.

This Would Be Paradise: Book 2
This Would Be Paradise: Book 2
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Bailey - with her fancy new Art degree and her Beretta and her axe - versus the undead, May 22, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
N.D. Iverson doesn't introduce any new swerve in zompoc lit. And although she does have an ex-military guy in her book to conduct training and recon and such, he's not Special Forces or anything so elite. Her zombies come off generic. The scenarios that come up - the initial outbreak, the helter skeltering for safe haven, the firearms training, the supply runs, how the living are still the most dangerous threats - are typical of the genre. There's only one element in her story that hasn't been mined ad nauseam, but it's a spoiler so all I'll say about that is that it isn't really (sort of) addressed until this sequel.

In the opening pages of the first book, maybe you tsk-tsked when it dawned on you that the lead protagonist was a blonde college party girl AND Canadian. She seemed so the polar opposite of edgy and resourceful and task-oriented. You wondered how in heck she'd survive. Oh, but she did. As she says: "Hey! I'm smart. I just don't make smart choices. There's a difference, you know." Uh-huh. Nowadays, 22-year-old Bailey is far removed from that day when she woke up in her messy hotel room with the worst hangover after a wild night of celebrating Mardi Gras in the Big Easy - that very same day when the dead began to walk.

This Would Be Paradise was an unputdownable read for me, and its sequel even more so. Far from her home in British Columbia, Bailey in the intervening months has developed into a sharpshooting, axe-wielding badass chick, and I loved how that came about gradually, organically, and after many hiccups. Bailey demonstrates the author's strength as a writer because you instantly emotionally connect with her, and not just with her. Her "Scooby Gang" is composed of interesting characters, from John the grizzled ex-Marine to the smart and energetic 9-year-old Chloe to the kinda shady Darren. The only one I'm lukewarm towards is Ethan, Chloe's caring, do-right, super-bland older brother.

This Would Be Paradise, Book 2 continues Bailey and Chloe's try at reuniting with the rest of their peeps. The meat of the story happens in Hargrove, a community that promises safe haven. But, to quote an Eagles song: "You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye." On the surface, Hargrove lives up to its brag. But there's something just a bit off about the Hargrove boss. And what about those murmurs of serial murders within Hargrove's walls? And, outside the walls, what about those marauders lurking about, leaving worrying signs on the road?

In reading both books, I've only come across two things that really bugged me, and they're lapses that come up often in zombie lit. In this case, they came up in the first book. And, for the rest of this paragraph, a ***SPOILER ALERT***. It's when Bailey didn't off Riley that first time, and you just knew, just knew, he was gonna come back later to mess up her day. The other nitpick is when, deep into the story, at a stage when she should've known better by then, Bailey rushes an infected in a general store and embeds her axe blade into his chest instead of skull. C'mon, Bailey.

Both books are told from Bailey's first person narrative, and this gives us even more of a peek into what makes her tick internally. She's a strong character, man. And I know you can't credit N.D. Iverson for pioneering the trope-upending premise of the party girl who nuts up. Whedon did it before her with Buffy, and I'm pretty sure even he's not the first to do this. But it's for sure that N.D. Iverson can spin an addictive yarn. Her story flows so well. She executes zombie tropes so marvelously that, even though I'd seen this stuff many times before, I still had mad fun reading about the things Bailey goes thru. What is life? Right now, it's Bailey in a mean mood taking guff from nobody and brandishing her beloved Beretta and her melee weapon of choice (the axe). It ain't an easy thing, waiting on the third book.

Other recommended zombie books:

- Michael Stephen Fuchs & Glynn James' Arisen series
- Glenn Bullion's Dead Living
- D. Nathan Hilliard's Dead Stop
- Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero
- S. Johnathan Davis's 900 Miles: A Zombie Novel
- Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes
- D.J. Molles's The Remaining
- David Achord's Zombie Rules
- Chuck Wendig's Double Dead
- Steven Booth and Harry Shannon's The Hungry 1: Zombie Apocalypse (The Sheriff Penny Miller Series)
- W.J. Lundy's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
- Luke Duffy's The Dead Walk the Earth
- Timothy W. Long's Z-Risen
- Craig DiLouis's The Retreat
- Craig DiLouis's Tooth & Nail

S.H.I.E.L.D - Agent Coulson
S.H.I.E.L.D - Agent Coulson
Price: $8.82
68 used & new from $7.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Who needs Tahiti when there's a Funko POP! figure of Coulson?, May 16, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: S.H.I.E.L.D - Agent Coulson (Toy)
Funko POP! has got it going on with their adorable mini-statues or display figures or whatever you call them. Funko's Agent Coulson stands at approximately 3 3/4" in a cool and defiant pose. AND it's also a bobblehead. As others have mentioned already, his clip-on ID badge has a teeny photo of Clark Gregg himself, a really neat touch that had me goofily grinning even as I had to squint real hard to make out the miniature details. If you can, go get the Agent Carter figure, because these two go well together. 4 out of 5 stars. It's just about perfect but I did note the small botch-up on the paint job on Coulson's hand.
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Pyramid, The
Pyramid, The
DVD ~ James Buckley
Price: $11.22
53 used & new from $4.19

2.0 out of 5 stars The Pyramid - it sucks on all sides, May 16, 2016
This review is from: Pyramid, The (DVD)
Meh for The Pyramid, deposited into theaters in 2014 with little fanfare only to creep out some weeks later like that mousy guy at the party no one even knew was there. If you're a fan of found footage cinema and of horror, The Pyramid mashes the two genres, although it's not quite as terrifying or as well executed as The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity or [Rec]. This 'un features an antediluvian pyramid, angry Egyptian soldiers (or one, anyway), cannibal cats, two hottie scream queens, and barely any light. The plot rolls out a father-daughter team of archaeologists (Denis O'Hare, Ashley Hinshaw) and a documentary crew (Christa-Marie Nicola, James Buckley) that, against orders from the Ministry of Antiquities, sneak into the dank catacombs of a behemoth, newly-unearthed, three-sided pyramid that extends 600 feet below ground and is nestled 250 miles south of Cairo. The explorers quickly find out that there's something in there with them, hunting them down.

Of course, there's a curse and an ancient monster and booby traps and a cast comprised of idiots severely short on survival instincts. There's a reason The Pyramid registers a feeble 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, if you're one to put stock in film review aggregators. This movie borrows from a grip of other movies. There's a stench of As Above, So Below and The Descent and The Mummy. In fact, I kept waiting for Brendan Fraser to pop in and save the day, save the movie (but he didn't). Why is this movie bad? The usual things. Not much characterization. Stale dialogue. Horrible pace. Crap acting. There is simply on one to root for. A lot of times, when they were in the catacombs, it was so dark it's hard to make out the action. The jump scares are obnoxious although, okay, a few did work. And there's a good share of blood and gore and some genuinely grotesque moments. There are two things that I find pretty unforgiveable. First, the movie plays fast and loose with the found footage format. There are scenes in which all the characters are in the frame, and you're left to wonder who the heck is filming them. What, did the monster pick up the camcorder? The second big snag for me is the awful CGI monster that's so pathetic it looks like a featured baddie from the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. There are involuntary chuckles, laughs that come not because the movie orchestrated it so but because something so stupid is happening onscreen that the audience snickers. The shining example of this is probably - and here's a **SPOILER ALERT** - when the documentary girl falls into a pit of pointy spikes and gets pincushioned. When the others try to lift the screaming girl up off the spikes but couldn't lift her out all the way, they just let her drop back down. Sluuuurp. I remember, at that point, everyone in the theater just busted out laughing. The Pyramid is French screenwriter/producer Grégory Levasseur's first stab at directing, so maybe he deserves some slack, so all I'll say is I'm glad he's got a day job to fall back on. There won't be a Pyramid 2.

Grandfathered Season 1
Grandfathered Season 1
Price: $24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "If you hurt my son or his daughter, I will choke you to death with your own overly moisturized hand.", May 15, 2016
Grandfathered presented a creaky premise what's been rehashed ad nauseam. But the pilot promptly won me over, with subsequent episodes engaging me that much more. Sucks that not enough people saw it the same way. Fox just axed the show, so this just went from a review to, I guess, a sort of post-mortem scrutiny. John Stamos killed it as Jimmy Martino, a self-absorbed 50-year-old bachelor and restaurateur who one day is blindsided with news that he's a father AND a grand-father. The show gleefully pointed out Jimmy's shallow side and yet, in a nifty swerve, also managed to earn him immediate goodwill with the viewing audience. Going in, I'd prepped myself for tired scenes of a vapid guy coping awkwardly with such a sudden swerve in life. Instead, gratifyingly, after initial moments of domestic ineptness, Jimmy rapidly moved on to acceptance and engrossment. It helped that his grand-daughter is such an adorable moppet (Layla and Emelia Golfieri).

Grandfathered played to Stamos' strengths. Stamos has got ageless good looks and a smarmy-like charm and a knack for making himself likable enough that you don't resent those good looks and that smarm. This show could've easily gone south because of how vain and self-serving Jimmy was, and the writers certainly took full advantage in mining jokes out of the scenario. But then the writers went ahead and injected heart, as well. It helped that Jimmy effortlessly bounced between poking fun at his square new family and, in turn, being the good-natured target of jokes by the same fam and by his staff at the restaurant.

I feel that Paget Brewster is the secret weapon of any show she's in. You could've knocked me over when I found out she's 46 years old. She is stunning. If you'd ever seen her in interviews, you're aware of how quirky she can get. As Jimmy's former flame, Sara, she presented an awesome dichotomy. She played up her eccentricity even as she maintained an even keel about her. You never doubted that she was a capable person. I think she was my favorite character.

What's left of the cast is just about as ingratiating: Josh Peck as Jimmy's awkward, heart-of-gold nerd son, Gerald; the luscious Christina Milian as Gerald's best friend/longtime crush/mother of his child from an inadvertent one-time hook-up; Ravi Patel as the sychophantic head chef seeking to worm a place in the inner circle; and Kelly Jenrette as Jimmy's acerbic, deadpanned right-hand woman.

What made Grandfathered work for me was its unexpected sweetness and its heart. It's a show predicated on the network formula of snarky drive-by zingers and edgy-but-not-cable-TV-edgy sex farce humor. And that's not a slam as much as it is an acknowledgment of the constraints that check the writers. And so what anyway? I laughed my a-- off throughout the run of the show. Its episodes were smartly written. I liked the confidence implied by the absence of a laugh track. Its cancelation is so frustrating because, as per norm, a network opted for the immediate bottom line instead of having the guts to stand by its product and allow it time to flourish and build up an audience. Grandfathered had the seeds to make it a great show. I loved the warmth and breezy alchemy of the ensemble cast. I cared about the characters. Like, I enjoyed Patel's constant toadying and Jenrette's eyerolls, Milian's sass and Peck's earnest, wide-eyed interpretation. But, mostly, I relished Brewster and Stamos' chemistry. These two had a spark. You knew where their arc was headed. I was just settling in to for the fun times ahead. I was eyeballing with great amusement what Stamos was doing onscreen, how he went so rapidly from enthusiastic serial one-night-stander to devoted family man, but that didn't mean that his vanity went by the wayside. What was so fun was watching him try to balance his self-absorption with his quickening interest in people who, well, weren't him. At its roots, Grandfathered wasn't an original take or an innovative, game-changing program. No, man, it reveled in its classic sitcom conventions, in its love for warm, playful family dynamics and its cordial ribbing of a pretty boy icon. And Stamos, he took it like a champ.

The Son of Monte Cristo
The Son of Monte Cristo
DVD ~ Louis Hayward
Price: $5.58
37 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars "Remarkable fellow, this Torch. Not only a grim sense of humor, but the very devil in his sword blade.", May 9, 2016
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This review is from: The Son of Monte Cristo (DVD)
It's not that this movie is an original stroke. It's not at all a fresh take on swashbuckler cinema. There are blatant whiffs here of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (1934), THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940), and THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1937). And, given, the production values aren't quite as sumptuous as those other, more lavish projects. But there's a lot that's on point. THE SON OF MONTE CRISTO sets itself in 1865. It embroils Edmond Dantès, Jr. - the richest man in Europe - in the overthrowing of a tyrant. It compels him to assume dual personas, that of a foppish French banker and that of an incognito swordsman. Two things motivate him to do this: his passion to right injustice and his falling for the deposed young queen of the tiny yet proud Balkan kingdom of Lichtenburg.

THE SON OF MONTE CRISTO (1940) has ties to THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, the 1934 triumph that starred Robert Donat, but they go beyond the obvious. Both movies were directed by Rowland Lee and produced by Edward Small. Small tried to cast Robert Donat for THE SON OF MONTE CRISTO, except that Donat had just won the Academy Award for GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (1939) and so his fee had skyrocketed past THE SON OF MONTE CRISTO's budget. So, instead, Louis Hayward got the lead and was reunited with Joan Bennett, these two having earned terrific cachet from their turn in the James Whale-helmed THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1939).

Hayward is equally marvelous as the vapid dandy what's more concerned with the social season and as the awkwardly masked freedom fighter, the Torch (seriously, how does he breathe in that thing?). Hayward plays both roles with a twinkle in the eye. Even the cruel general observes his adversary's playfulness: "Whoever he is, this Torch is dangerous. He has a sense of humor." At one point, Dantès smirks, "I'm worn out climbing in and out of windows and up and down chimneys. It would be such a relief to go thru an ordinary door again." Heh. Meanwhile, there'd always been something about Joan Bennett, who was lovely as a sunrise, graceful as a minuet. To me, she radiated a keen sense of intelligence, of depths unplumbed because this or that role didn't call for them. She does well as the Grand Duchess Zona, young sovereign to Lichtenburg, a nation controlled behind the scenes by the ruthless proletarian despot, General Gurko Lanen (George Sanders), whose ambition was to rise above his common stock and marry the Grand Duchess. When Zona dares to defy Lanen by sneaking off to seek aid from France's emperor, and the visiting Count of Monte Cristo inadvertently mucks things up for her, well, it's only right that he makes amends.

George Sanders, by the way, is nearly unrecognizable in his high and tight buzzcut and skinny mustache, that is, until he speaks. The slow, elegant rolls of diction are highly distinctive. There's some dimension to Sanders' heavy. I like that he was subtle and patient enough in some things, but savage and direct with other things.

I don't think I'll ever get swashbuckling fatigue. Furious swordplay, laughing in the face of danger, regarding the toppling of a wicked regime as a sporting proposition - and with the age of chivalry as the backdrop - yeah, that's my jam. So, never mind that the plot winds down a familiar avenue, THE SON OF MONTE CRISTO is old-fashioned derring-do and enlivened by a game cast that numbers Florence Bates in fine fettle as the unduly solicitous countess, Montagu Love as the endungeoned prime minister, and Ian Mac Wolfe as the despicable manservant. Bit parts go to a pre-Dick Tracy Ralph Byrd as an assassin and a pre-Lone Ranger Clayton Moore as a sympathetic palace guard. Not that the Torch needed Tracy or the Ranger. After all, Dantès' dad was the greatest swordsman of the land. Some of that did rub off.

Rush Hour: Season 1
Rush Hour: Season 1

3.0 out of 5 stars cultures clash, tempers flare (my temper), May 8, 2016
This review is from: Rush Hour: Season 1 (Amazon Video)
You'd best enjoy Rush Hour - this small screen incarnation - while you can. Ratings-wise, it's on life support, and I don't think it'll be around for long. This is the television treatment that absolutely no one asked for. Minus Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, what's left? Their less charismatic television doppelgangers, 's what. John Foo's stoic Hong Kong lawman Lee is described (by his female cop boss) as an "Asian Orlando Bloom." Justin Hires' maverick chatterbox LAPD detective Carter is referred to (by his shady cousin) as "Mini-Morris Chestnut." No first names are required for Lee and Carter. No one cares.

It feels like a time capsule, as if we'd been sent back to the 1990s, replete with that period's sensibilities. Cultures collide awkwardly when Lee lands in L.A. to serve justice on the crime syndicate what put a cap in his sister. Carter, put on punishment by his boss (Wendie Malick), is assigned to babysit Lee during his stay. If you'd seen the movie, then you'd pretty much seen the pilot.

A middle-of-the-ground 2.5 out of 5 stars for this one. It's a show that widely misses its mark in several ways, but none more glaringly than with regards to its two leads. Never mind that he doesn't have Jackie Chan's particular genius for levity and for stunts, John Foo is criminally wasted. If you'd seen his stuff in Tom-Yum-Goong or Bangkok Revenge, then you know Foo is capable of so much more when it comes to throwing down with the dynamic, bone-crunching martial arts. Look him up on YouTube sometime. As it is, CBS - home to staid octogenerian viewers - settles for bland kung fu choreo. But I'll give Foo this, he's a charming so-and-so. He's just not Jackie. But no one is.

You wanna talk about perpetrating stereotypes, let's talk about Justin Hires' tired shtick. He's basically doing a Chris-Tucker-with-a-smidge-of-Kevin-Hart impersonation, and he comes off obnoxious, to the extent that when he's genuinely trying to be sincere, it falls flat. I much prefer Foo's deadpan joke delivery system, even though even that style is old hat. When Carter mentions how dangerous their job was and how it was normal to be scared, Lee remarks, "I remember being scared once... as a small child. It was unpleasant." Heh.

Final verdict: CBS' Rush Hour does have some stuff going for it, namely John Foo's likeability, Aimee Garcia's badassery as a female cop, and Page Kennedy as Carter's pretty hilarious cousin who's living that thug life and always has a scam but is a nice guy at heart (he's also Carter's go-to street informer). Everything else is lame and tame and oh-so-generic, and the show is further damned by the two leads' lack of chemistry. Check this out: How cool would it have been if, during the pilot, Foo comes to L.A. seeking to avenge his sister only to himself die in a hail of bullets, but then his sister, who didn't die after all, ends up the one to partner with Carter? How's that for a swerve? Only downside would be that Carter can't make nerd jokes about her. Digs like "Chinese robot nerd thing" don't quite apply to her.

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