A lot of critics will cite fictional characters such as Tony Soprano or Walter White as being some of pop culture’s first fully embraced anti-heroes. But could it be that audiences were embracing anti-heroes before Tony or Walter came onto the scene?
Watching The Music Man this time around, I was stuck by how when we first meet Harold Hill, he’s a bit of an anti-hero himself. The first song establishes that Hill is a con-man, who has possibly had several other assumed identities before becoming the purveyor of boys’ band, and that he’s ruining the territory for the other salesmen. When he hears that Iowa might a challenge or an untapped opportunity, Hill decides to stop in River City and run his boys’ band con on the town.
He does this by creating and problem and then attempting to solve it via the goods only he can provide — in this case musical instruments. Watching as Hill avoids providing his credentials to various officials through the play is amusing and shows how quickly he can think on his feet. But then his attempted courting of Marion Paroo, the local librarian and piano teacher also shows how slick and savvy Hill really is when he puts his mind to it. Continue reading
Emma Saylor expected the three weeks following her father’s wedding to be filled with lazy days by the pool with one of her best friends, Gretchen, trying to catch the eye of cute twin-brother lifeguards. But a health emergency in Gretchen’s family leaves Emma and her father scrambling to find somewhere she can stay (their new house is under constructions and her Nana’s apartment is being renovated).
The last place Emma Saylor expected to land was North Lake, the area her mother grew up. Divorced from her father a decade ago and then overdose five years later, Emma has always felt a bit of a hole in her life when it comes to knowing who her mother was and where she came from.
Could three weeks give her some answers or possibly begin to fill in The Rest of the Story? Continue reading
As Westerns entered their later period, it feels like the most prominent examples of the genre did one of two things, either deconstruction them () or play them more for laughs (Cat Ballou).
Support Your Local Sheriff is one that plays the genre for laughs. And while it’s not quite as definitive as Cat Ballou or Blazing Saddles, I have to admit I enjoyed the movie a great deal.
James Garner stars as Jason McCullough, a drifter taking the long way around to Australia (he’s been on his way for four years) who wanders into a gold-rush town of Calendar, Colorado. The town has a low survival rate for its sheriffs, having gone through three in the past several months. Needing money to afford the rising price of everything in town, Jason takes the job as sheriff and begins to use his unconventional methods to clean up the town.
With Garner, it’s hard not to imagine that Jason is a variation on the character he played in the long-running TV series, Maverick. And he does a nice job here, looking bemused and offering commentary on the town and its inhabitants. Continue reading
John Grisham rarely writes sequels or follow-up novels. But given how wacky 2020 has been so far, it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that Grisham is giving us not one but two sequels this year.
Camino Winds revisits the book-central world of Camino Island and bookstore owner Bruce Cable. As a hurricane bears down on the island, most of the residents flee but a few hearty souls stay on the island. Apparently, a hurricane is an ideal setting for a nearly perfect murder. That’s exactly what happens early on in the story and then things slowly begin to spiral out of control as Bruce attempts to solve the mystery.
As with all things Grisham, there is more going on here than meets the eye. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but I couldn’t help but feel as if Camino Winds existed on island time.
Nelson Kerr is one of the authors that regularly participates in Bruce’s writer dinners on the island. The author of four novels that sold well (this book, like <i>Camino Island</i> pulls back the curtain a bit on the writing industry), and he’s working on his fifth. His latest centers on nursing home fraud and how patients’ lives are possibly being extended for billions of dollars in federal government payments. Nelson’s fiction may have hit too close to home and he’s suddenly the target of several large corporations who want to keep this cash-cow going.
As with a lot of recent Grisham, you do have to wade through a few passages intended to sway you into thinking whatever social injustice is taking place is the worst thing ever and how we could or should be taking steps to fight against it. In a related note, I’m finding it easier to skim these to get back to why I’m here — to have some type of resolution to the central mystery.
If your usual expectation of Grisham is a pulse-pounding, page-turner, odds are you’re going to be disappointed by this one. If you’re looking for a laid back, summer mystery read that is character-driven and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, give this one a try.
A couple of weeks ago while browsing Disney+, I decided I’d wander over and stream an episode of The Simpsons. I’d just re-watched Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear and the Sideshow Bob parody episode “Capre Fear” has always been a particular favorite.
As the closing credits rolled, I began to explore a bit, going from season to season of the popular animated series. As I pulled up season three, I noticed something — an episode was missing. The third-season premiere “Stark Raving Dad” wasn’t available to stream and instead the second installment “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” was listed as the first installment.
I scrolled through all of season three just to make sure it wasn’t there but placed somewhere else (maybe the season were ordered by production order, I thought) and, no luck. Continue reading
For her fortieth birthday, Livia is throwing herself the party she never had on her wedding day. Hastily marrying Adam due to an unexpected pregnancy, Livia has been waiting for and anticipating this day for twenty-two years, putting aside money to pay for a lavish party with all her friends and family there.
All of her family except her daughter, Marnie. Marnie is studying abroad and can’t justify the expense or time-off from her studies to come home for the party.
Set the day of the party and unfolding hour-by-hour like an episode of 24, B.A. Paris’ The Dilemma finds storm clouds gathering on the horizon the day of Livia’s big party. Both Livia and Adam know a secret — a secret which could devastate the other if found out and would certainly taint the party and the long-anticipated celebration. But as the day unfolds, can Livia and Adam keep those secrets. And if they do, will keeping them hurt them more in the long run? Continue reading
Batman Begins was one of the first movies I saw in an IMAX theater and it left an indelible mark on me.
I’m a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series and it felt like on the huge IMAX screen with the perfectly attuned surround sound that several sequences captured the feel of the Animated Series in movie form. This is especially true of the sequence where Bruce Wayne dons the Batman outfit for the first time and is battling crooks at the docks. Watching Batman use shadows and darkness to cover his taking out the crooks one by one sent shivers up my spine.
It still does. Continue reading
Connor Ford is the one itch that Tabitha Girard has never been able to resist scratching. It begins during their teenage years when Connor and Tabitha have a summer romance while she works as his grandmother’s country club. Connor’s grandmother doesn’t approve of the pairing and soon finds a way to break the two up.
Years later, Connor wanders into the restaurant/bar where Tabitha is waitressing, and the two attempt to pick up where they left off. The only things standing in their way are Tabitha’s recently released from jail ex-husband and Connor’s wealthy wife, who are suspects that Connor is stepping out on her. Thanks to an iron-clad prenup, if Connor leaves his wife, he loses everything.
So, when Connor’s wife turns up drowned in her swimming pool after a summer party and Tabitha reveals she’s expecting Connor’s child, suspicions begin to mount. After quickly and quietly marrying Connor, Tabitha begins to suspect that her new husband may be keeping secrets from her — deadly secrets. Continue reading
If you didn’t know that all the performances for Shadow of the Sun were recorded at home instead of in the Big Finish studio, you’d never be able to tell. This is a credit not only the actors but also the technical crew who mixed together this delightful entry in the Fourth Doctor Adventures to help give us a break from the less than thrilling reality facing us today.
When the TARDIS materializes on-board a luxury starliner, the Doctor, Leela, and K-9 encounter a group of people under the influence of Professor Nicely. Nicely has sold his followers that the answers to all their problems lie within the sun and has chartered a ship to prove his theories correct (aka hurtling into the sun). Separated from the TARDIS, the Doctor must find a way to avert disaster and get his beloved time travel vehicle back before things get too hot to handle.
Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, and John Leeson all slip back into their on-screen roles easily and the guest cast is also great. There’s even an autopilot that seems to be a distant relative of the Heart of Gold from Douglas Adams.
The great thing about the fourth Doctor range is their shorter running time and not allowing you to get bored or feeling like the story is treading water. These are compact, well-told stories, that capture their era well (even if the incidental music may seem incongruous at times).
Shadow of the Sun is another stellar entry from the range.
Spot-on impressions of the eleventh and twelfth Doctor are just one of the highlights of this entertaining entry in the Short Trips range.
Two Doctors are caught in a death trap and working together must find a way out of it. Alfie Shaw’s script is a delight, channeling the spirit of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi Doctors. It almost makes me wish I could see these two Doctors bicker on-screen together, though odds are it wouldn’t be half as clever as it is here.
If you’re looking for a fun, short story to help you escape for a few minutes, Regneration Impossible is one to add to your must-listen-to list.
The Invisible Man (2020)
Watching Blumhouse’s latest take on The Invisible Man after watching the latest installment of HBO’s I’ll Be Gone in the Night probably wasn’t the best idea.
Or maybe it was because after seeing an hour focusing on the quest to find a real-life sociopath that (until recently) came up empty, spending two hours watching a fictional sociopath get caught in the end was a bit more satisfying.
The Invisible Man is a fascinating, suspenseful film that delights in making you pay close attention to every scene. Every bit of apparently empty background could have the titular character hiding it, ready to spring out and terrify our heroine, Cecilia. The movie even toys with the audience a bit, giving us long, lingering shots of empty rooms or hallways, almost as if daring you as a viewer to see if you can spot some clue that the Invisible Man is lurking there.
Escaping from her abusive and manipulative boyfriend, Cecilia is shocked when the boyfriend apparently kills himself and leaves behind a large sum of money to her. However, before long, Cecilia begins to suspect that Adrian is still alive and trying to pull her strings in an attempt to either win her back or force her to return to him by cutting all her means of support. Continue reading