Battlestar Galactica : The Plan (2009)

So, if you’re a fan of Battlestar Galactica, you know that the Cylons were created by man, they evolved, they rebelled, and then they came back and attempted to wipe out the human race.  At the start of each episode of Season 1 and Season 2, viewers are reminded of this fact and are assured that the Cylcons have a plan. 

Unfortunately, The Plan movie does little to shed light on the story you probably wanted to know more about – the final five and their origins.  Instead, what we get is the story of the Brothers Cavill, intercut with a collection of clips from various episodes from those early seasons. 

I felt like this was a big opportunity wasted.  What could have been a chance to delve deeper into the final five and their characters before the attack on Earth, is just a clip show.  First I was annoyed by the amount of clips in the show, then I quickly found myself LONGING for them because they were the only time anything actually happened.  And for the last half the show, I kept thinking “wow, I’d rather be rewatching these episodes rather than this mess”.

There were glimmers of other ideas, of little things that could have made for a more interesting story, but since they seem determined to only show us moments that could be tied into clips from other episodes, we never got to find out more about the Cylons.  We were just stuck with Cavill. 

And, like the Caprica straight-to-dvd episode, the “un-aired footage” from The Plan will mostly consist of naked people.  Ellen Tigh drinks in a bar where the waitresses are topless, and we have a VERY random scene in the co-ed bathroom on board BSG with lots of man butt and side boob. 

For me, what makes the early seasons of BSG so great is their metaphor to what was going on in our society at the time.  The terrorist attacks, the fear, choosing sides etc..  This special takes the mystery out of so many of those moments and confuses things. 

I’m so happy we rented this and did not pay for it.  Like the Star Wars prequels or the 7th Harry Potter book, I had a better idea for what this special could have been, and seeing what they ended up creating leaves me very disappointed.  I will not be buying this on DVD for our collection because it does nothing for the story or the mythos of BSG. 

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book thoughts: Night Trippers by Mark Ricketts

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Mark Ricketts

What if Vampires ruled 1960s London?  That is the thought that must have inspired Mark Ricketts when he came up with the idea for Night Trippers, a graphic novel with sex, drugs, rock & roll, and vampires.

Dorothy (Dot, for short) is a nurse at a hospital and one night when she is making the rounds, a mysterious man appears and attacks on of the patients with a wooden stake.  The patient disappears in a cloud of dust, and the attacker flees.  Little does Dot know, she is now a part of an undead subculture that has been manipulating swinging London for the past decade.

I heard about this graphic novel when I was read “Graphic Grown Up” in the August issue of Library Journal.  It included a list of comics and graphic novels to recommend to adults that want to try out the format.  This one caught my eye because of the colorful cover.

The art style is very different from any other graphic novel I have read.  The characters all seem to have very sharp edges, be it in their facial features or their Twiggy-style bodies.  But it worked for a story about fanged villians.  And for some reason, the “hero” of the story immediately made me think of Johnny Depp…might just be because one of his first lines sounded like something Jack Sparrow would say.

The story pokes a lot of fun at 60s culture and it would help the reader if they are familiar with the time period, especially the music.  I had a good time reading it, and even though Ricketts wraps most of the plot up by the last page, he leaves enough open that he could return to these characters later on. 

3.5 out of 5 – If you’re in need of a graphic novel with vampires and a sense of humor about itself, Night Trippers is a great place to start.

Official Night Trippers website here with preview images from the graphic novel!

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book thoughts: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2008)

It’s very rare that I pick up an adult book, but I had heard rumblings about this book for awhile so I decided to give it a try.  All of the print copies were checked out of the library at the time, but the audiobook was available, so I took that.

I’m so glad I did.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is an involved mystery with a huge cast of characters.  The two main characters are Mikael Blomkvist – a journalist who has been found guilty of libel against a multimillionaire – and Lisbeth Salander – a slightly unstable young woman with a knack for finding information, even if it means breaking a few laws.  We spend about half of the book waiting to see what twist of fate will bring these two people together.  And once they team up, we spend the rest of the book wondering how they will solve this 40 year old crime.

I’ll re-emphasize that this is an adult novel.  It’s complex and has some very disturbing scenes and themes (let me put it this way – the original title in Swedish translates to “Men Who Hate Women”).  The book is well written.  The characters full formed.  The story engrossing. 

Simon Vance reads the audiobook and I was blown away by his performance.  This book has a cast of probably 20 some characters and Vance manages to give them all their own unique voice.  Blomkvist sounds like a British Sam Spade; Lisbeth manages to sound like a girl and a bad ass at the same time; Henrik Vanger sounds like Richard Harris…I never found myself confused about who was speaking and my mind never wandered as I was sucked into this story of a reporter, a rich family, a delinquent woman, and a missing girl. 

5 out of 5 for the audiobook version – Fantastic story, AMAZING performance.

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book thoughts: Stitches by David Small (2009)

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David Small

If the artwork on the cover of Stitches seems familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve seen David Small’s illustrations in such classic children’s picture books – like Imogene’s Antlers.  But Stitches is not for kids…

Imagine you are 11 years old.  Imagine you go into the doctor’s office, thinking you’re just going to have a growth removed from your neck.  When you wake up, half of your vocal chords have been removed, along with your thyroid and the only sound you can make is a pathetic “Ack” noise. 

This happened to David Small when he was growing up, and this event, along with the general dysfunctional-ness of his family, is the story he tells us in Stitches, a memoir told in graphic novel format.

This format works perfectly for his story – The book opens with all the way the family “speaks” to each otherwithout actually saying anything – his mother slams the cupboard doorsshut in the kitchen while cleaning up, his brother bangs on his drumset – the images explain it all, text is unnecessary.

David is a shy child,  too shy speak up and the wordless panels reflect this solitude.  He lives in his head, with the cartoons he draws, the characters he reads about.  His main way of getting attention from family was to let himself get sick so his parents  would take care of him.  When the operation occurs and he loses the ability to speak, the wordless panels take on a sense of frustration because now there are so many things he wants to say.

The story of the operation is just a small part of Small’s memoir, though this event effects the rest of his life.  Growing up in the 1950s, you just didn’t talk about certain things, and the poor kid stumbles through life, discovering things at all the wrong times.

Small’s art is simple and expressive.  It’s as though he has been working all these years on children’s books to hone his skill enough to create this book.  Considering what he has become today, the book is both disturbing and inspiring. 

5 out of 5 stars, best graphic novel I have read all year.

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book thoughts: The Restless Dead (2007)

Noyes, D. The Restless Dead
Candlewick Press, 2007. 256 pages.
$16.99 ISBN: 978-0-76362-906-9

Ghosts, ghouls, tell-tale hearts, and vampires.  This collection of short stories has something for everyone that is a fan of supernatural tales, all written by some very well known young adult authors. 

As I’ve heard other readers mention, the problem with short stories is that they either tend to feel formulaic, as the writer tries to craft a tale to fit a certain length (and in this case, genre) OR the other extreme – they are too short and you would rather sit down with the characters for a full length novel.

I found several of the stories in this collection hit or miss.  A few of them felt like the authors were just doing an assignment: write a short story that incorporates something supernatural.  But there were a few stand-outs for me.  Ones that went beyond the basic retelling of a classic eerie story and really tried to make it their own. 

If I hadn’t been assigned to read this book for ” Books the for>978-0-76362-906-9

Ghosts, ghouls, tell-tale hearts, and vampires.  This collection of short stories has something for everyone that is a fan of supernatural tales, all written by some very well known young adult authors. 

As I’ve heard other readers mention, the problem with short stories is that they either tend to feel formulaic, as the writer tries to craft a tale to fit a certain length (and in this case, genre) OR the other extreme – they are too short and you would rather sit down with the characters for a full length novel.

I found several of the stories in this collection hit or miss.  A few of them felt like the authors were just doing an assignment: write a short story that incorporates something supernatural.  But there were a few stand-outs for me.  Ones that went beyond the basic retelling of a classic eerie story and really tried to make it their own. 

If I hadn’t been assigned to read this book for “Books for the Beast”, I probably would have skipped over a few of the tales that I felt moved too slowly or were too predictable.  None of the stories are particularly keep-you-awake-at-night scary, but several of them have moments that will give you a chill. 

If you’re craving some short stories to read while you gear up for Halloween, this might be a good place to start.  It’s also a nice way to get a taste of several different writing styles.  I know I jotted down a couple of the authors’ names so I could look into their full length works.  And there are a few I might avoid after reading this book as well. 

2.5 stars

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movie thoughts: Zombieland (2009)

To survive in Zombieland, you’ve just got to follow a few simple rules:
1. Have a wacky sense of humor
2. Be up on pop culture references from 1980s-present day
3. Be ready to laugh out loud!

Honestly, if you had told me that was going to enjoy a movie with zombies and Woody Harrelson, and I would spend a good hour and a half laughing non-stop – I would not have believed you!  Even with a solid score of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, I had my doubts.  I mean, a comedy with zombies? 

It has to be seen to be believed!

Even though they shove Woody Harrelson in your face during the trailers, it is Jesse Eisenberg that is the star of this movie, his deadpan, matter-of-fact delivery of the real rules to surviving in the zombie infested world (#1 – CARDIO!) will make you giggle.  He’s that loner loser that so many of us can identify with, spending his free time cooped up in a dorm room, playing World of Warcraft.  But all that changes after the zombies arrive!  He meets up with Harrelson’s character while trying to get back to his parents in Columbus, OH.  Hilarity ensues.

The best thing about this movie is that it is ridiculous, and it never tries to be anything else.  It’s like “Hey, this movie is about ZOMBIES and it’s gonna be FUNNY! Deal with it.”  It never tries to preach about society’s values; it doesn’t get sidetracked by a love story; it doesn’t spend loads of time trying to explain why this has all happened.  It stays true to it’s mission – to make the audience laugh out loud for as much as possible while our heroes wise-crack their way through a world filled with disgusting, drooling zombies.

Yes, Zombieland is SMART and FUNNY and the kind of movie that you walk out of the theater quoting…and then find yourself quoting it days later.  The jokes range from toilet humor to literary references. 

I don’t want to give too much away.  There are so many jokes and little surprises that make this movie great.  Go see it before you get spoiled. This movie makes my personal top ten list for 2009 – it was that good.

So do your cardio, remember the double tap, and always check the back seat. 

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book thoughts: Candor by Pam Bachorz (2009)

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Pam Bachorz

Bachorz, P. Candor
Egmont, 2009. 249 pages.
$16.95 ISBN 978-1-60684-012-2

Respectful space in every place.
Academics are the key to success.
Never keep secrets from your parents.

These phrases sound like something the average teen would hear on aregular basis as adults try to influence their behavior.  Whilechildren may not immediately obey these words, they do listen.  Butwhat if they had no choice but to listen?  What if these messages werenot coming from their parents’ mouths, but instead being deliveredsubliminally, every second of every day? 

In the town of Candor, that is exactly what life is like.  Well-to-dofamilies move in, hoping that the messages will help mold theirchildren into something “better”.  It only takes a matter of daysbefore the child starts to spout these phrases.  Once cherished items,like skateboards, art supplies, and M&Ms, are thrown in the garbageby their owners.  The town is quiet, safe, and seemingly perfect sinceall of its citizens must obey the Messages.

Oscar Banks is the son of Candor’s creator.  As the Messages will tellyou, he is a superior person.  He does well in school, participates inextracurricular activities, and even has a perfect girlfriend, Mandi. But no one knows the real Oscar.  He was in Candor from the start, andhe’s managed to figure out how the Messages work.  He can’t avoid themcompletely, but he has created a set of special messages just forhimself, to help him remember who he really is.  He also createsmessages for kids that are willing and able to pay his high fee to getout. He has managed to build his own little world inside right underhis father’s nose, and no one knows about it but him. 

Then one night, Oscar meets a mysterious girl.  She’s clearly new intown, still wearing her dark clothes and a collection of earrings. She’s also snuck in a can of orange spray paint.  He is amazed by thespirit this girl possesses and is drawn to her.  He slips her a musicCD, filled with special Messages to keep her from changing into abrainwashed Candor teen.  He doesn’t tell her that, of course.  Whowould believe that they were being controlled by subliminal Messages? Plus, he hasn’t quite figured out what he wants to do with her – shouldhe smuggle her out of Candor and out of his life?  Or should he keepher in the town so they can be friends…or more? 

Pam Bachorz’s Candor is a society that feels eerily plausible. Oscar Banks narrates the story in a natural voice, explaining to thereader how the Messages and the town work as a whole.  Oscar starts outsomewhat self-centered (as anyone in his situation might be, since heis the only teen not repeating the Messages) but as the story goes on,he begins to realize a bit more about himself, Candor, and the what theworld outside must be like.  He starts to see how much of a personalitycan really be suppressed by the Messages, and how far his father willgo to keep the town safe and sterile.

Candor would be a fitting book suggestion for a fan of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series- the bubbly Pretties and the Candor teens have a lot in common.  Buteven if they are not familiar with that series, readers will enjoy thiswell-written, fast-paced (and other hyphenated words) story.

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