Sunday, December 27, 2009

Music Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks:The Squeakquel Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Music - Blogcritics

Music Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks:The Squeakquel Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Music - Blogcritics

Previously published as Music Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks:The Squeakquel Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Music - Blogcritics


Monday, November 02, 2009

TV Review White Collar "Threads"


Despite the time being Fashion Week, Pete (Tim DeKay) and Neal (Matt Bomer) have more important things on their minds. Well, one of them does anyway. Leave it to Neal to see models are the first to grab a taxi before the Feds do. When Pete mentions they have someone who needs them, Neal uses his skills to grab the very next cab. Note to self -flash cash at the drivers and they pull over! What a useful tip.

After bringing down the Dutchman ("Pilot"), a new villain awaits capture. His name? The Ghost. Sooner or later, there is going to have to be a female baddie, but two episodes into the season is hardly worth passing judgment just yet. The Ghost is into counterfeiting, but there's a little uncertainty as to exactly how. He is, however, ruthless, which is why the meeting at the office is so critical. Tara is a witness to the Ghost killing someone off, and it scares her so much that she goes immediately to the authorities. When she leaves, Neal comes up with a plan. Throw a party so lavish the Ghost has to show and Tara will make the identification. Of course, FBI personnel are surrounding the area to make sure Tara is kept safe.

Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), Pete's wife, gets involved in the case as well. She's an event planner, so her career is a big help. She shows Pete she stands behind the work he does with a gift of a watch. Something which is "him". There is also no mistaking her determination to make sure everything works out by insisting he be home for dinner.

Mozzie (Willie Garson) has some great scenes as he tries to help Neal find Kate, Neal's longtime girlfriend. Neal is starting to think she left him a message, which security tapes at the jail when she last visited prove. Something ties back into the bottle she left as a goodbye present ("Pilot"), but what? So far, the question has yet to be answered.

Natalie Morales makes her debut this week as Lauren Cruz, an FBI rookie who gets assigned the task of tracking Neal. Morales is supposed to be a series regular, and she has already proven herself to be a worthy addition to the cast. Watch the first time Cruz and Neal meet up. She is already wise to his charm, and is not about to let herself be sucked into his game. The minute she reveals just how mistaken about her identity Neal is, makes for classic television.

James Rebhorn also comes into play as the FBI director. I'm going to assume he heads the White Collar division since he does not handle any other case except the one Pete and Neal are working on. Rebhorn is probably going to be a recurring character, who is not seen each week but often enough to be recognized. He might not like the idea of Neal being part of a government intelligence team, but better with them than working on the opposite side.

Now that the second episode has aired, there has been some work done on the opening credits. Not bad! The actor names are not linked to their pictures, but at least there are only five of them. Matt, Tim, Tiffani, Willie, and Natalie. Marsha Thomason, who plays Diana, should be back before too long. As far as I know, anyway. Usually a cast member who is let go for one reason or another is announced well ahead of time.

Also published as

Product Review: Periscope Book Light in a book Cover


As the economy forces people to use money in a manner more wise, one way is to find books from a local library or an inexpensive store. Goodwill, for example. The person who enjoys the written word can get several paperbacks for the price of an individual copy. With the holidays coming up, bibliophiles are looking for anything which enhances the reading experience to give as a gift.

Periscope Bookklight in a Bookcover for Paperbacks does a nice job of filling the bill. Just like the name implies, a light is tucked inside the portion where the spine lies. Note - this DOES require 3 AA batteries to work. They aren't included, but you can pick up a package at the grocery store or Walgreen's if needed. Make sure to put them in with the knobby end pointing out. Smooth end hits the spring, in other words.

Batteries aside, there are several other features which make the Periscope booklight a very useful gadget to have. For example, the LED's which give off the light are two times as bright as the standard version. No more straining one's eyes to see what is written on the page. The range of illumination goes completely from top to bottom. It can stay in the same spot while reading and pages are read without a fumble.

Turing on the light is an easy task. Simply pull the booklight out of its cubbyhole in the cover and it automatically starts glowing. When retracted, the light pops off so there is not wasted energy use. Ridges on the top of the light give your hands a natural place to grab.

A special cover helps to protect your book from the elements. It also takes privacy into account, so others do not have to see what you are perusing. Inside the cover is room for flat items such as a plane ticket or a hand held magnifying glass. A smaller pocket can hold a pen and highlighter for taking notes. There is even a built in bookmark to keep your place for the next time you read.

More is available should one so desire. Hardback books have their own bookcover and booklight if you prefer a heftier size of literary material. Both cover sets come in a variety of colors and finishes. These suit any taste and fancy. An AC adapter can be purchased for those times spent in a hotel room.

With all of these amenities, the cost is well worth it. The basic variety is only about thirty dollars plus tax. However, the price is only a starting point since there are other items one can purchase in addition. I suspect the hardcover version is more since the book contained within is bigger. Versions of this are the Kindle edition and one made for the executive. More information can be found at the Periscope website.

Review previously published on Blogcritics.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TV Review CSI:NY "Battle Scars"


A dead person in a place like New York is hardly a cause for concern. After all, plenty of large cities around give more than a few opportunities for crime to take place. However, there are a few things which make this a bit more tricky. Stella (Melina Kanakaredes) and Flack (Eddie Cahill) would be content to think a robbery went wrong except for the money still in the victim's apartment. I'm taking about enough bills and coins to fill almost the entire bedspread. No self respecting thief would leave it emrely sitting there.

Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise), the crime lab department head, has another snag on his hands when the only other person at the crime scene is hurt far too badly to be of any help. Still, there is evidence which can be used almost immediately. Between Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) and Adam (AJ Buckley), fingerprints and DNA are examined with highly capable equipment.

Giovinazzo has always been a strong performer, so watching him hobble around with a cane since his character got shot in the season premiere ("Epilogue") is a powerful image. It's no small thing to stay behind while one's colleagues hit the streets as part of an investigation. Developing the storyline is a credit both to the actor and the writers.

Nice to see Cahill and Giovinazzo together again! The scene where Danny and Flack interrogate a possible prime suspect is classic detective work. These two simply look like cops even in street clothes, which does not work out for everyone. Flack, for once, is not hesitant about doing his job. Somehow, Danny is a calming influence so Flack does not get thrown off balance. Losing his girlfriend was hard for Flack ("Pay Up"), and lately he's been not acting like himself. Should Danny ever learn what really happened at the warehouse raid ("Pay Up"), their friendship might be on shaky ground.

Meanwhile, Mac gets frustrated after a paper advertises the Compass Killer is still on the loose. (They probably have a lead with the compass left behind at the morgue). Sid (Robert Joy) even saw the guy. ("Lat 40 47N Long 73 58W") Assuming there is another episode this season about the case, Skeet Ulrich should return for a fresh guest star appearance.

One small bit of luck. When Mac and crew solve this week's case, they also close the book on another case which is a bit cold.

If the fadeout at the end is to be believed, then next week is either a pre-empt or a repeat airing of a former episode. Since the show runs from September until May, there are several repeats pencilled in so the run doesn't end prematurely.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

TV Review CSI:NY "Dead Reckoning"


When Mac (Gary Sinise) hears about a man's murder, the solution is a relatively simple one. The victim has a wife. She confesses to kiling him, so the case should be over and done with. If only things were that simple. Stella (Melina Kanakaredes) has the unfortunate task of giving Mac the bad news: it doesn't match their prime suspect. While the DNA is in fact female in origin, it comes from someone else entirely.

Flack (Eddie Cahill) must now grill the confessor since she appears to be protecting another. Without perhaps meaning to, he mentions feeling okay about a wrongdoing does not take away any guilt. Wow! For the first time, himself acknowledges what has more or less been an open secret. After his girlfriend Jessica was killed during a routine police job, a hunt for the killers had top priority. ("Pay Up").

Flack killed a man, sort of. I have some reservations about the act being a cold blooded one out of pure revene. Sometimes, a cop has to shoot first before a noggodnik gains the upper hand. Eddie Cahill takes on the role of the tortured soul with solid raw skill. Flack is a character who is living with sorrow and trying desperately to hang on. Mac and a few others have noticed the troubling change, but no official action yet. It may only be a matter of time before a life is put in jeopardy.

Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) is having problems of his own. A drive by shooting paralyzed him from the waist down ("Pay Up"). He finally is standing on his feet Now, does this mean he is able to walk? perhaps. Then again, if he can pull himself to a standing position, bending over to pick up his daughter makes logical sense.

Sinclair (Mykelti Williamson) returns, since the current kerfuffle means pressure from the mayor's office to solve the case. Quickly. Sinise and Williamson work well as two who take their jobs seriously. Good thing, because Mac finds out the true cause of why there are more than a few deaths connected to the same person. Here's a hint - someone is sloppy. The key is not assuming anything without evidence to back up the theory.

Halen (Sarah Carter) appears to have settled in, and there is a reason why she works so hard. The double set of wages from her grant and crime clean up duties help to pay off student loans.

Monday, October 12, 2009

TV Review Castle "Fool Me Once"


Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Beckett (Stana Katic) have always had some uniqueness to their cases, but this week's is anything but simple. Why? For one thing, it involves a guy who apparently dies while on an expedition to the South Pole. Since the man, a Mr. Fletcher, is on a video feed to schoolchildren, NYPD gets a call to try and investigate exactly what is going on..

A lead is traced to an apartment, where Fletcher is lying dead on the floor. Odd. Not that a corpse is unusual, but isn't this guy halfway around the world? Twists and turns make for an interesting episode up until the arrest when the case can finally be concluded. One of my favorite parts is watching Castle and Beckett work out whether Fletcher just might be CIA. An agent named Gray has to come help them out.

The Captain returns! Ruben Hudson Santiago makes a fresh appearance after being gone for a couple of episodes as the boss in charge of the detectives. Technically, he's in charge of Castle too, even though Castle is a civilian and not subject to the departmental rules Beckett, Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Esposito (Jon Huertas) are. Lanie (Tamala Jones) is the exception. As the medical examiner, she is responsible solely to the state licensing board.

Pressure to solve this case makes everybody on edge. After all, children play no small part. Fletcher being dead is bad enough. To make matters worse, this guy is either a man with multiple identities or a highly skilled con artist. The trick is keep one's mind open to any and all possibilities.

Robert Pine as a wealthy businessman with a family is a nice touch. For those who do not recall the name, Pine is well known for his work on Chips, the police drama with Erik Estrada in the lead role. Playing a protector suits Pine perfectly, and he uses just enough toughness in his voice to get the point across without coming off too strong.

Too bad Castle gets blinded by the case's progress and takes work home with him. Alexis (Molly C Quinn), Castle's daughter, gets a new violin teacher named Dylan. (Tyler Hoechlin). Under ordinary circumstances, this would not be cause for concern. Castle jumps to conclusions about their relationship. Quinn is brilliant in the police conference room as she yells about the misguided impression. No matter how much a parent wants to protect a child, not everything can be avoided..

Other fun moments come as Castle tries to figure out what Beckett thinks of his new book. He has based it on her, sort of. I doubt it is an exact carbon copy. After reading an interview Castle gave to a magazine writer, Beckett declared she should have seen the book first ("Inventing the Girl"). Nathan is charming as he waits with bated breath for Beckett's opinion. It shouldn't matter what she thinks, of course. The book was started before Castle and Beckett met. Still.

Beckett's mom died, but this story is on the back burner for the time being. A serial killer might be involved, but this is speculation on my part and not to be taken as 100% accurate. Other people killed around the same time does not mean much in a major metropolitan city, although Beckett's mom has a connection of sorts to one of them. It's tenuous, but could prove important as time goes on.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

TV Review CSI:NY "Lat 40 47N Long 73 68W"


With a place like New York for a location, it stands to reason things local would be wrapped into a episode from time to time. having Ellis Island as a crime scene is a stroke of genius. However, there is more to the story than meets the eye.

For example, the deceased works the night shift at Ellis Island. He supposedly talked to his wife before he passed away. According to Hawkes (Hill Harper), the notion is impossible. Why? Since he's a former medical examiner, he can tell about how long the dead guy has been in that state. It's a guess, but usually some sort of evidence exits to at least give a proper range. Plus, despite the hanging corpse, prints indicate antoher person was there too. Homicide! This leads Mac (Gary Sinise) to think the killer might have answered. This is a voice mail, so no need to audibly respond.

A race is on to find whodunit. Having a second corpse doesn't help. The two victims are vastly different, which makes a connection between them unlikely. However, there may be one promising lead. Sid (Robert Joy), the current medical examiner, leaves Mac a message about the second victim's husband stopping by the morgue.

Every season has the potential for a storyline which runs over most of the season. While it doesn't have to air week to week, it takes some time to finish. Perhaps the latest long running plot should be called The Compass Culprit. Despite some terrible lighting issues, I think Skeet Ulrich (Jericho) was in several scenes as a man who wants to get the attention of Mac and his team. Done. Here's the problem- is he there because he's breaking the law and wants to get caught, OR is he attempting to draw attention to someone else who is? I cannot be entirely sure either way.

A new set of eyes is not a bad idea. Good thing Mac hires Halen Becall (Sarah Carter), the crime scene cleanup girl, in the lab part time. Smart girl, she figures out a way to make him notice her. Apply for a grant so her salary is paid for a year. Mac doesn't have to let Adam (AJ Buckley) go. She certainly has the background for the job - biology undergrad and forensics masters. Those degrees are perfect.

Adam and Halen actually make a decent team. They are both dedicated to the job at hand, and have the quirkiness down pat. Competing for the same job? Not exactly. Halen just wants to be in the lab she loves. Adam is smart enough to recognize her talents, but someone should tip him off about the grant. And soon, so he knows his job is secure.

What an improvement over Kendall, the last lab technician! Halen is eager to learn and resourceful in her quest when she wants something. Becall makes watching a joy. Halen steps on other's toes inadvertently. She also senses when she goes too far and clarifies. Would I trust her in a interrogation? Probably not. Someone tougher is needed when it ocems to questioning suspects.

Speaking of, Flack (Eddie Cahill) is grieving still over the death of his girlfriend, Det. Jess Angell. He is holding on, but barely. The beard of stubble seen this week is solid evidence. It's not a bad look, but I've always preferred Eddie Cahill clean shaven. Even after Jess's dad asks Flack to come by for a pot roast dinner, Flack cannot bring himself to walk in the Angell front door. Guilt as the reason makes little sense. After all, Flack is not responsible for Jess being dead. A set of crazed kidnappers is ("Pay Up"). Perhaps Flack is troubled over something else. What, if anything, has not yet been revealed. Stella (Melina Kanakaredes) is worried, and rightly so. Flack self destructs, and somebody could get hurt. Or worse.

Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) is eager to leave his wheelchair, so he is pushing himself to work hard and achieve this. I'm not sure how chin ups help, but the important part is a man not willing to sit around and feel sorry for himself. Lindsay (Anna Belknap), his wife, is prepared to stand at his side with their daughter to cheer him on.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

TV Review CSI:NY "Blacklist (Featuring Grave Digger)


Technology can be a great thing. For example, cell phones are often used to signal help when it is needed the most. Emergency crews know ICE, or In Case of Emergency, connects them to someone who can answer questions about prescriptions or medical history should the actual victim be unable to communicate. The Internet opens the world up to everyone by web sites and email. A Global Positioning Device can guide those who require direction.

However, the same technology can also be potentially hazardous for anyone who is involved in some sort of wrongdoing. Det. Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) finds this out the hard way when a dead man's body is discovered in the Bronx. All in a days' work? Maybe, except the victim's profession was a hospital CEO. The possibility of a revenge statement is not out of the question. Especially after an oncologist at the same hospital nearly dies of anaphylactic shock. Somehow, a special request to leave salad dressing off due to its containing peanuts never made it to the chef. There's a reason why, of course. A clever culprit named Victor Benson (Greg Germann Ally McBeal) set everything up, but the true mystery is why.

Sinise does a nice job of setting up his character for the tension of a law enforcement professional who knows not where Benson will strike next. The story for Mac, though, is even more stressful. Benson identifies to an extent with Mac's father. The Taylor patriarch fell ill with cancer, and so Mac resigned from the Marine Corps to be at home in Chicago with him. Astute viewers will notice the woman playing Mac's mom is Gail O'Grady. How fitting that a former cast member of NYPD Blue is around this show. Mac makes a promise to his dad to join the ranks of NYPD and start performing another kind of service.

I have to admit, my first thought of who the killer was focused on Sid (Robert Joy). He wasn't in this episode, which hardly helped. Even though the chance of the current medical examiner breaking the law is pretty much unthinkable, it still took me a minute to decide he was out of the running. A crime show without some sort of autopsy makes little sense, but the focus was on cybersecurity rather than the victim himself.

On a more positive note, Danny (Camine Giovinazzo) is showing progress after getting paralyzed from the waist down in a random shooting incident ("Epilogue"). Lindsay (Anna Belknap) tells Stella (Melina Kanakaredes) Danny can feel movement in a toe. This is not full strength, but at least he can still be part of the lab. Seeing Danny and Adam (AJ Buckley) work side by side as they use facial recognition to try and track down a criminal is a delightful view.

I cannot say for sure just how long Danny is going to be in the wheelchair, but Giovinazzo gets a lot of credit for being willing to take on such a role. Marriage and a new baby is difficult enough without adding illness on top of things.

Flack (Eddie Cahill) is back at work, but barely hanging on since his girlfriend, Det. Jessica Angell(Emanuelle Vaugier) was killed in the line of duty ("Pay Up"). He's sure he would be worse off if he were to simply stay home day after day. Mac is wise to be concerned right now, but there could come a time when Flack goes off the deep end and nobody will be able to stop him.

The only people who seem sane are Stella and Hawkers (Hill Harper). The season's early yet, so this could change later. Considering how much of last season focused on them, the writers probably figured to move the meatiness elsewhere.

The episode title has a caveat. It features Hangman, which I assume refers to the music. Haunting, it well sets the stage for working through memories fresh and therefore painful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TV Review Castle "Inventing the Girl"


New York has all sorts of interesting activities to take part in, so it stands to reason Castle this week would use one as a plot point. The dead person is one Jenna McBoyd, a model whose rising star is snuffed out by something sharp. In other words, she has been stabbed. Since Fashion Week arrived, there is an easy list of people Caste (Nathan Fillion) aand Beckett (Stana Katic) should talk to. A label in Jenna's clothing gives them a place to start.

Most of the guest stars are playing roles which could, in theory, be played by anyone. Harper's Island fans will notice Matt Barr, formerly Sully, as Travis, Jenna's husband. Travis plays a much bigger role than you might think. I won't spoil things by revealing it here, but let's just say the final interrogation scene has a major twist.

Martha, the feisty mother to Castle, played wickedly well by Susan Sullivan, has her own substory as she tries out for a Broadway play. It's been a while since Martha last performed, so auditioning is even more important than it might be normally. She gets hired, but for a different role altogether. The scene on the couch between Castle and herself is touching with just the right touch of maudlin.

The part where Martha holds up her headshot was perfect. It's obviously of Sullivan as she is without the flaming hair and troweled on makeup. I remember seeing Sullivan years ago as Maggie on Falcon Crest. She really is adept at portraying a multitude of characters. Now then, when is Robert Foxworth going to make a guest appearance on this show? Chase and Maggie for a mini reunion. It has the potential to make an episode memorable.

Beckett was a model once, who knew? The picture is on the Internet, apparently. She may try and hide it from Castle, but you know it's only a matter of time before he runs across the dreaded photo. At any rate, Beckett will soon have other things on her mind than Net stuff. She is about to read the book where she serves as the inspiration for Nikki Heat, the main female character. This should keep going thruogh several scripts.

No mention of Becket's mom this week. Sooner or later, though, it will come up again. Mom is long dead, a victim of homicide. Others were killed around the same time, hardly unusual. Cities tend not to limit themselves to one person a day. However, somebody worked in the same company. Relevance? Perhaps not much. It does prove a potential link, which could mean a serial killer. Lanie (Tamala Jones), the medical examiner, could say for sure. She hasn't. Yet.

What happened to the chief (Ruben Hudson-Santiago)? He may not be critical to the plot as a whole, but he serves as a reminder that cops answer to authority and live by a code of conduct. They cannot run willy nilly into a crime and make assumptions as to whodunit. I assume he'll be back before too long.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

TV Review Castle "The Double Down"


New York is well known for its wealth of things to do, hence the title of City That Never Sleeps. No wonder this week's episode is built around one of those - specifically, basketball. The scene of the crime? Not exactly. There are actually two victims, which only heightens the mystery surrounding them both.

At first, more than one crime scene does not seem too unusual. This is a big place with lots and lots of people living in it. More than a few others visit on a regular basis, so it stands to reason multiple victims could be killed at the same time. Leave it to Castle (Nathan Fillion) for some unique insight and a mountain of laughs.

The writers use Castle as a way to poke some fun at the world of language. Victim #1 has writing on her face, with one word misspelled. Fillion has some wonderful lines when he harps on the topic of proper grammar in front of Det. Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and later, a witness brought in for a round of questioning. Considering Fillion is playing a bestselling novelist, the cheeky delivery is a nice ironic touch.

Even better is the bet between Castle and two others who are direct underlings to Beckett. Ryan and Esposito are partners, which makes them the perfect foils. Seamus Deaver and Jon Huertas portray likeable guys who enjoy the business of being a cop. Let's just say the winnings involve a certain article of clothing in addition to losing one's follicles. Only time can decide whether or not return is made.

More than once, Ryan's girlfriend has been mentioned. Will we get to see her before the season is complete? Perhaps. They don't sem to been together long, so I am wondering if she understands what it is really like to get involved with someone in law enforcement. A realistic view means knowing Ryan could get shot, or be killed in the line of duty. Having her pregnant is also a possibility. I'm sure Castle could give Ryan a few tips about parenthood.

The guilty party is a bit of a shock. It's not particularly complicated when the solution is revealed, but the result is unexpected. Of course, it all depends on how much attention was paid to begin with.

Lanie (Tamala Jones) is hot! The medical examiner has always been pretty, but a certain dress she wears is eye catching. The red shimmering sassiness is a fun visual concept. My favorite line out of the entire episode is Lanie's response to noticing Castle appreciate her loveliness. It's slightly risque, but this show is on late enough to not have to worry much about censors.

Martha (Susan Sullivan) and Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) provide a bit of calm as a respite from the grittiness of homicide. These two strong women walk through life with their heads held high, no matter how trying the circumstances. They give Castle a home life, while Beckett is still wrestling with the death of her mother. She was a homicide victim, too. It's entirely possible the culprit will only be revealed at the season finale.

Compared to the premiere, this is a little lackluster. A crime takes place, and people try and solve it. Granted, the midseason point has yet to arrive. Since Stephen J. Cannell and Michael Connelly kicked things off last week ("Deep in Death"), it's time for a few well known actors to keep viwers tuning in. The easiest ones would be former castmates. Fillion and Sullivan come to mind first. I also think Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who plays the chief, could bring abroad those he's worked with. More than likely, they are ones everyone recognizes.

Friday, September 25, 2009

TV Review CSI:NY "Epilogue"


The gang from the NYPD crime lab is back! To say they went out last season with a bang is an understatement. As they sat in a bar in memoriam to Det. Angell (Emmanuelle Vaugier), somebody opened fire. Who was undetermined, but the whole place got nailed ("Pay Up").

As the premiere opens, viewers are shown clips from the previous season's finale just to make sure everyone is on the same page. Were people hurt? No kidding. The bartender gets killed, and others slightly injured. I think they need medical attention rather than the morgue or an extended hospital stay. Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) has his legs shot, causing paralysis. It could be temporary, but Mac (Gary Sinise) now has a case to solve with a field investigator out of commission. At least Danny can work in the lab.

Giovinazzo pulls out the stops as his character attempts to deal with his new situation. For someone who works well on the streets. This is a major blow. He knows the chances are dicey, and he's angry someone has the gall to do him harm. For her part, Anna Belknap has a huge job to do as Lindsay, a colleague now his wife. Hard enough with a new baby, but a cranky husband increases the tension. Watching her attempt to give Giovinazzo's character a well deserved kick in the butt falls a little flat. Still, the reminder of hope not being entirely out of reach is a credit to the writers.

The gang copes with the aftereffects of the attack in different ways. Flack (Eddie Cahill), still grieving over Angell since they were dating when she got killed, hangs out at a bar to be among people. He later tells Mac it's better for him to be on the job, which is probably accurate. Chemistry between Sinise and Cahill is solid, and the concern versus determination talk is a touching moment.

Stella (Melina Kanakaredes) and Adam (AJ Buckley) have sex! I admit Buckley is hardly unattractive. The pairing, though, is unusual. What will happen down the road? It's anybody's guess right now. Anyway, Adam's quirky yet brilliant lab tech persona has another issue to deal with. There's a new scientist in town - Halen Becall (Sarah Carter). Becall is a crime scene clean up technician, meaning she comes in behind the lead crew and puts things nice and tidy again. This woman is memorable for a couple of reasons. She has an unusual first name - Haley would have worked just fine. While it's a different actress, I cannot help but notice a resemblance to Kendall, a former colleague. Did she get hit by the budget cuts? Bess Wohl must have decided to move on at any rate.

Carter and Buckley are going to be a fun pair to watch. She plays the eager beaver who wants more than anything to have Mac Taylor as her boss. He portrays the experienced pro whose job is shaky enough without having to fend off a competitor. To his credit, Adam gives Halen the recognition she deserves after an important discovery is made. Carter is supposed to be a regular cast member, although this sounds more in line with a recurring role.

Hawkes (Hill Harper) takes his job to a new level by volunteering with an ambulance service of sorts. My impression is that he is sent on patrol to various parts of town when his turn comes up in the roster. As a former medical examiner, the training helps.

In a nice twist, Jake, one of the guest star characters, is played by Andrew Lawrence. Older brother Joey took on Clay Dobson, who jumped from a building with his hands cuffed to set up Mac on charges from Internal Affairs ("Past Imperfect"). The scene in the interrogation room between Jake and Mac is solid, just like the show itself.

Tune in Wednesdays at 10pm for all new episodes of CSI:NY!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TV Review Castle "Deep in Death"


He's back! For the second year in a row, Nathan Fillion returns with all new episodes of his hit television show Castle. The premise is simple enough. Fillion is Richard Castle, a bestselling author whose work is strikingly similar to crimes committed outside the written page. Once the police figure out they most likely have a copycat killer on their hands, the author is teamed with a female detective, Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) so his expertise can be used as a way to close the book, as it were, to many more crimes. The chemistry between Fillion and Katic cannot be stressed enough. it's almost Moonlighting, only with more wit.

When we last left these two. Castle had something to tell Beckett. This was not just any random piffle, but it concerned her deceased mother. ("A Death in the Family") Hard enough under regular circumstances. However, Castle knew Beckett told him to stay away from the case, since it was clear homicide. If he chose to ignore her, their partnership would be over.

Whoever hired these two actors made a smart move indeed. Watching Fillion try and redeem himself while Kantic seethes in a steady rage makes me want to see much more. There is a touching vulnerability of each person having to confront feelings long thought buried. I look forward to seeing more of this storyline. A serial killer might be involved. Why maybe? A major metropolitan city has things go on each day where more than one person gets hurt or dies. I'm not willing to connect the dots just yet.

A man dies and his body is found in a tree. Welcome to New York. Somehow, this seems perfectly natural. The ride to the morgue brings a twist which I'll let you watch for yourselves. The rumble almost gives everything away, but the medical examiner (Tamala Jones) and Castle are surprised anyhow. Go take a look.

Stephen J. Cannell and Michael Connelly make guest appearances in this episode. They play themselves, in a nice clip which discusses motive. Poker playing is only a prelude to the undercover gambling in Chinatown with the Russian mafia. Speaking of, Beckett speaks Russian! She explains by mentioning a semester in Kiev to her astonished colleagues. Considering how unusual Katic's name is, I think she is probably part Russian herself.

Part of the reason this show works so well is the glimpses of Castle's home life. Daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) and mother Martha (Susan Sullivan) provide a good balance to offset the grittiness of police work. Each is strong in her own right which helps when being thrust into the spotlight upon Dad's success.

Could Beckett's dad show up sometime later? Perhaps. The actor would have to be old enough to have fathered a woman now in her 30's. Kevin Tighe of Emergency fame? Sixty's or mid to late fifties would work. I get the impression Castle no longer has a living father.

Now that the first season has gotten its kinks out, it is time for some of Fillion's former castmates to show up. Firefly has some nice ideas, but it could be a bit tricky prying a few away from other series. Adam Baldwin is a prime example. Chuck takes up most of his time, and he's critical to the plots each week. Sean Maher makes sense, as does Alan Tudyk. Of course, Tudyk ahas Dollhouse and V on his plate already. Morena Baccarin is a series regular on V, so she's out. Jewel Staite? It could work. Gina Torres was supposedly in this episode. I don't recall seeing her, so let me know in the comments if you did. Once Summer Glau finishes with Dollhouse, she could be available for Castle.

Here's another idea. Somebody could come from Desperate Housewives, except Dana Delany. She is far too involved right now to appear anywhere else. My best guess is a dead person. Easy enough to retrieve one.

Sullivan is known for her work as Maggie on Falcon Crest. Robert Foxworth would be a great guest star! Lorenzo Lamas is getting his own reality show, but Ana Alicia is an option.

Tune in Mondays at 10pm for all new episodes of Castle!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

TV Review Warehouse 13 "Nevermore"


Any television episode titled "Nevermore" has got to have some references to Edgar Allen Poe. I just hope the estate of one of the darkest mystery writers get paid royalties as a courtesy. Most of the references this time are visual, always a nice touch.

The artifact in question is a two parter. The pen and the notebook which Poe used to compose his legends. The key is the black ink, which causes a nasty reaction if absorbed int the bloodstream. So who gets it? Myka (Joanne Kelly)'s dad! Played by Michael Hogan, Colonel Tigh to Battlestar Galactica fans, has an understated role as the crusty patriarch, but it works fine. He gets a book in the mail with Poe's writings. Since he touches the pages, he gets affected.

A boy in Portland OR gets the pen. the prep school attendee finds out words really do have power, and he uses it to destructive effect after being bullied gets to him. Write a word on paper, and the person who reads it must suffer the consequences. Here's where the illusions come into play. The Cask of Amontillado is revenge for a plot discovered. Clever! The Raven, obviously, is an escape route. The Pit and the Pendulum is almost cheesy, but memorable. The first note, however, is just payback.

Hogan and Bering have a few touching moments as the parent finally accepts what the child does. He knows nothing about her true job description, but understands she helped save his life. Perhaps next season can focus on Pete (Eddie McClintock) for a bit. This is different in that Pete's dad is dead, but he has a sister and, I assume, a mom.

McPherson (Roger Rees) returns! Rees and McClintock have a tension filled scene at the top of the episode, which works well in setting the mood. Back at headquarters, Artie (Saul Rubinek) and Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) wait with bated breath. The part where Artie speaks french to convince the Montreal cops they should close in quick is a nice touch! Rubinek is a native Canadian (as is Kelly), so the dialect is easy to accomplish.

I do have one nit. Diction, Diction, Diction! Kelly describes an artifact during the scene where Bering, Lattimer, and Rees confront each other. While I hear "lantern" fine, the owner's name got mangled up. Surely a trained professional can communicate effectively.

McPherson, naturally, blames Artie for his own actions. If Artie gave secrets to the Russians ("Implosion"), has it not occurred to anyone he was a double agent at the time? The woman Artie loved chose McPherson ("Implosion")! No, it's something else entirely. What is anybody's guess.

The Season finale is next week, which should be a big one. Especially if the Internet chatter is true, and the ending is only the start of a cliffhanger. Anything can happen, and don't be surprised if past guest stars show up. Hint, Hint to the creative team - Valda would be a nice treat to have stick around for a bit.

Tune in Tues. Sept 22nd to find out how Warehouse 13 finishes!

Previously published on Blogcritics.

TV Review Eureka "Have an Ice Day"


Allison (Salli Richardson Whitfield) has gone on maternity leave. Tess (Jaime Ray Newman) is in temporary charge. Just another day in a town where most people are geniuses when it comes to scientific principles. Easy, right? Wrong!

Forget the fact Henry (Joe Morton) would have made a better choice for head person. After all, he has been part of the works since day one. Fargo (Neil Grayston), might be young, but he has been the assistant of Nathan Stark long enough to understand how things work. It seems Henry is helping out NASA with a project. The nice thing is that Joe Morton directed this episode, so he is still part of the process. Bring in Taggart (Matt Frewer).

Yes, the animal guy has returned. A trip to Australia gives him a detour into the world of ice. First of all, nice to see Frewer onscreen again. He is an expert at taking a few seconds of air time and making each one memorable. Fans of his will be delighted to know he is in the Syfy version of Alice in Wonderland coming in December. Remember The Tinman? This should be a new classic. Frewer plays the White Rabbit.

Back to the plot. Ice Rings function much like those of a tree, and tell much about civilization as a whole. Global Dynamics wants to study it. Taggart is heading the project. The system used for the purpose has been designed by Zane (Niall Matter). Yes, two recurring characters are back now. About time for both,

the writers wisely chose to fit in a storyline about Taggart leaving town without saying goodbye ("A Night at Global Dynamics"). Jo (Erica Cerra) was bereft, since she and Taggart once dated. now, what does new boyfriend do about a rival who comes as a blast from the past?

matter is pitch perfect while he basically turns his back on Jo. There's a reason, but it's not the obvious. Some clever film splicing puts Zane in a potentially compromising situation. I would not want to ruin a decent plot, but Zane goes back to his roots as troublemaker. There is something amiss, however. Why in the world is Jo around when Jack (Colin Ferguson) thinks the worst? Professional judgment is compromised by her emotions already. Jo should have been barred from working the case, as any good boss would do.

Zoe (Jordan Hinson) takes her college entrance exams. The twist comes from an aptitude test of what someone might be good at. Did a number get input wrong? Results are supposed to be highly accurate, but she gets some which make little sense. Lucas (Vanya Asher) just might get his heart broken before too long.

Speaking of Newman and Hinson, they may be signalling some cast changes. Newman is going to be a series regular on Eastwick. More than likely, Tess will be out the door with the finale next week. it's time for her exit anyway. Dying? I have no clue. It's been a close call before ("Shower the People"), but anything can happen on a science fiction show and does.

Hinson also has a new show under her belt. Hank, starring Kelsey Grammer. She's not the lead, so perhaps she can do both. After all, Eureka is a summer series.

Also published on Blogcritics.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

TV Review WH 13 "Breakdown"


Things happen in the warehouse but never like this! Pete (Eddie McClintock), Myka (Joanne Kelly), and Claudia (Allison Scagliotti Smith) have a serious situation on their hands after an incident with a self working vacuum. No, it didn't suck up a file belonging to Artie (Saul Rubinek). Worse. The cooling system got thrown offkilter. Add to that a can of sticky string and you start to get some idea of the picture.

Speaking of, Leena's house is an artifact! In theory, anyway. Pete realizes something might be inside, and the one the agents typically stay in is a newer model. A certain painting becomes critical to getting the intrepid trio out of a trap.

Bouncing balls made for one of the more lighthearted moments. Of course, these are not just any toys. It seems they were created as a death weapon. McClintock gets buried, which is a great visual scene.

Where is Artie, you ask? Out. He turns over a bunch of files to higher ups, but this is only the beginning. Send forth the Regents! This is the group which supervises the missions of Artie and his minions. Put it this way - Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder) reports to them as well. They are none too happy at what has been taking place with a few of the assignments and are now ready to call Artie on the carpet.

A key member is perfectly cast. Mark A. Sheppard, who science fiction fans know as Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica , is introduced to viewers by the name of Benedict Valda. I can't help but think of either eggs, the traitor, or Dirk Benedict when it comes to the premiere moniker. The latter half is pure fiction.

Sheppard is spot on as the guy who wants Artie to get the job done right. He never yells, but the near menace is felt just the same. Were the writers thinking of Lampkin when Valda started to describe Artie's assumed sins? The pacing and list sharing of where Artie went wrong works for someone trained as an attorney.

The Regents themselves are a surprise. Ordinary looking folk, but with a whole lot of power. Again, Sheppard has a nice bit with the "What did you expect?" line. The softly spoken group of people who made an impact without standing out in a crowd gets the point across. Will we see Valda again? It's hard to say. He would probably do best popping up from time to time rather than each week.

By the way, is Artie married? He mentioned a father a bit back, but I thought I heard him mention a Nina in the small talk with Mrs. Frederic. Of course, it could very well be Leena.

Underlying all is McPherson, who Artie used to be friends with. He is taking his training as a former warehouse agent and reeking havoc. Artie might just be the only one who can stop him. Roger Rees does not make an appearance this episode as the cunning villain, but his picture shows up with the word 'wanted' written across it. He's completely ruthless, which should make for some interesting viewing.

With only two episodes left in this season, I have to assume McPherson shows up in both. Rees apparently signed a contract for a threeper. The Secret Service agents and their junior partner might be in for more than they think. Every mission so far has been fairly tame. McPherson is willing to kill anybody who gets in his way, which he has already proven ("Implosion"). What's to stop him from trying to kill one of the Warehouse agents?

Keep watching for more missions and answers to the biggest questions Tuesdays on Syfy!

Also found at Blogcritics.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Music Review Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Transmigration


Transmigration is a series of orchestral compositions which are performed by a well known group. Robert Spano is famous, and correctly so. He was born in 1961, and grew up playing instruments such as flute, violin, as well as the piano. Since he also came from a musical family, it only makes sense for him to make music his full time career. After graduating from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Spano conducted a many a venue until being employed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

This is his eighth year as the ASO conductor, and Spano has already been lauded in the press for his strength in leading the team of musicians to take on several creative pieces and put them on a scale of international merit.

Within their latest CD, Spano and the ASO take on the subject of death and all its facets. Five unique selections go through the journey for both those who pass on from this life to their next and the ones left behind. Each piece is different so listeners can choose which is the favorite.

Samuel Barber is responsible for "Adagio for Strings", which is exactly what it sounds like. This work is likely to be the selection when someone of great public importance has died. Although the name might not be familiar to some, perhaps the occasion is. During the time when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was announced deceased from polio, Barber's music could be heard playing on the radio.

From the soft opening notes, one is prone to feel a tugging at the heartstrings. I have to mention they are so quiet that hearing them is a bit on the tricky side. After a while, it does improve. The thump thump of the cello suggests something interesting is on its way. This sets the tone for some haunting overtones. if feeling melancholy is the intention, Barber has succeeded.

"Elegy", composed by John Corigliano, is a nice piece. it is loosely based on a Broadway show about Helen of Troy. A flute trilling calls those who hear to a solid attention. I am reminded of a soft light which shines throughout a field, perhaps not unlike a sunrise. Considering this is a reflection of dying, Corigliano can easily suggest a life has been extinguished far too soon. The horn blowing says the person is about to leave Earth and rise to heaven. I enjoyed the crash of drums - it's sign of not forgetting the impact the person made. At its peak are two double forte (extra loud) climaxes for a full orchestra.

Samuel Barber has another work on this CD - "Agnus Dei". The sweet sounds might best be described as coming from angels. I have to wonder if these could be interpreted as recently departed souls who are now guardian angels for the survivors left behind. An attempt at comforting, maybe? The familiar Latin prayer is set to music in a choral setting.

"On the Transmigration of Souls", put together by John Adams, was created at a particularly poignant time in our nation's history. During the aftermath of the events of September 11,2001, the memories were so fresh in people's minds that a special bit of music was needed. Comprising the text is some randomly chosen names of the victims, quotes from missing persons signs, and personal reminiscences. This is probably the most haunting of all the selections, with bells ringing out and quickly rising to a crescendo. A strong message of remembering sails through the air.

Jennifer Higdon is responsible for "Dooryard Bloom". Higdon first premiered in 2002 with her Philadelphia Orchestra premiere of "Concerto for Orchestra". After the resulting rise to fame, most of her fans will probably remember her "Blue Cathedral", the piece she composed after her brother passed on.

If the title seems to ring a bell, it's because it comes out of the "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard" elegy by Walt Whitman. Lilacs play a prominent theme, but so do the two organs which open the music. The baritone Nmon Fod sings lyrics which take listeners to a place of peace. Until the drum rumbles through, that is. When things calm down, a gentle harp reminds listeners of each day being a precious one.

Previously on Blogcritics.

TV Review Warehouse 13 "Regrets"


The title of this week's episode says it all. When Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) are sent to a prison in Riverton, it is for the purpose of investigating the death of a prisoner who commits suicide. As it turns out, our victim is the fourth in the past two months. He killed a young woman during a hit and run, but there is more to the story. No surprise.

An inmate (Joe Morton Eureka), the self titled "Messiah" has been telling others that any regrets should not be a part of life. Although his message appears non-threatening at first, followers take on something of a cult status. Pete and Myka quickly sense they have a much bigger mystery on their hands. The impending tropical storm only adds to their uneasiness. I have to smile at the line where Pete mentions bones. A reference to his past work on Bones, maybe? Since there is supposed to be a Season Two, it might not be a bad idea to have one of the cast members from that show make a guest star appearance.

Back at the Warehouse, Artie (Saul Rubinek) is busy at work, trying to compose a piece of music for his father. Even though the elder Nielsen is still alive, there is a distance between them. A regret? Perhaps. Artie hopes he can shorten the gap with music to soothe the soul. Leave it to Claudia (Allison Scagliotti-Smith) to mess up his plans.

She tries to tighten a light bulb which has started to flicker. Who needs a ladder when Alessandro Volta's coat is stored nearby? The magnetic properties let her climb the closest structural support beam and screw the bouncing bulb back in place. One problem. The coat is uncontrollable. Before long, things start flying. Artie gets inventive to free her from her precarious perch.

This comedic bit is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark storyline. The prison where Myka and Pete are sent has a special secret. Hallucinations are fast in their arrival. If one is not careful, the effect is devastating. For example, Pete sees his firefighter dad appear and accuse him of a death sentence. Why? Years ago, Pete sensed a snag in the works. He decided not to warn his dad, and his male parent went on to a life in heaven ("Pilot"). This is nothing to feel guilty about, Pete was only a kid at the time. McClintock works the poignancy angle as he comes to terms with his loss. One can easily see just how much he cares.

Myka has her own loss to deal with. Sam, the partner who died while they both served as Secret Service agents on Presidential detail ("Pilot") shows up again. He blames her, even though it was really his own fault. Viewers get to see how events unfolded through a flashback sequence.

All in all, this was one of this drama's best works. There was a glimpse into each of the main characters which is revealing. Is this the end of their stories? Probably not. Pete has not shown much of his family beyond his dad. Myka, for her part, is going to have to live with Sam's death for the rest of her life. Even though she does not cause it, it happens pretty much in front of her. At least Pete is spared the visual memory.

Only three episodes remain for the season. Be sure and catch them Tuesdays on SyFy!

Also on Blogcritics.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Manga Review Manga Guide to Calculus by Hiroyuki Kojima


The Manga Guide to Calculus, by Hiroyuki Kojima and Shin Togami of Becom Ltd., is an ambitious attempt to help those who are not inclined to like mathematics much to understand its importance. Whether we realize it or not, all of us incorporate math into our daily lives. Think about this - when going out to eat, do you try and figure out the tip? Or, check the weekly paper to clip coupons in order to save on your grocery shopping? Most people want to get the best value for their money. Understanding math concepts can be a big help.

The authors wisely use the idea of a story to get their point across. Noriko, the main character, is hired by the Asagake Times as a new reporter. When she meets her boss, Mr. Seki, it's not what she is used to. Seki is math minded to a large degree. He sees the world in terms of calculus, and doesn't understand anyone who cannot be swayed to its good side.

Seki is an interesting character, but I also believe he has an obvious flaw. This guy seems to be not much older than Noriko. Should he be in charge of a newspaper department? Make Seki about five years older than he is right now and it would help in the credibility line.

While the formulas are a little tricky, the calculus concept is simple enough. Every fact is related to another fact in some way. One just has to figure out how. For example, advertising on television has a cost involved. Run a commercial during an episode, and people go out and buy the product. The more bought, the more money made. What's the key? Bring in more than what it costs to make the ad, and profit! Knowing calculus helps one to figure out if more commercials should be made, or, if the profit is so huge, less ads need to be run.

The real life examples aid with comprehension. I understand those much better than any formula listed. Technically speaking, calculus is fairly close to algebra. It just takes longer to finish the process.

Beyonf the number stuff, there is also a story about relationships. Noriko wants to cover the hard hitting stories without first learning the basics of being a reporter. Seki must employ all of his patience in his dealings with her. There are a few times where her frustration leads to aggression. By no means is this acceptable business practice, yet she manages to keep her job. Since this is a fiction story, one must allow for some breaks from reality.

Mr. Oblivious Seki is also not noticing his latest member of the team has something of a crush on him. All he thinks about is calculus, which does a lot to explain why he is not too far up the corporate ladder.

Overall, both writers do a decent job of keeping readers entertained with a tale which should keep them interested from beginning to end. Math has never been my strong suit, so it's hard to tell whether or not the formulas work. Perhaps the best way to describe calculus is to think of it as pattern interpretation. Is there a trend occurring? The outcome can be worked to try and decide if it looks positive or negative. Things are charted over time, and then examined closely.

Can be found on Blogcritics.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

TV Review Eureka "You Don't Know Jack"


Memory. It's a weird thing. While there are no guarantees of an item sticking, some people can get things to be held onto for a long time. Tess (Jaime Ray Newman) decides she can increase the odds of retention by creating a StoryNest. Think of a time capsule, and you get the idea. Upon first glance, this does not seem too bad. Give townspeople a glowing orb and tell them to think of a special time or person. Once compiled, they are stored together in one central spot. Dr. Douglas Fargo (Neil Grayston) throws the project into chaos, and hilarity begins!

I have to feel a certain degree of sympathy for Fargo. After all, it's better to be thought of as a person highly capable than a consistent mistake maker. Therefore, the solution is a simple one. Put in a memory where he is deemed smarter, and remove those which have him acting like a birdbrain. However, more than a few are hit with selective amnesia. Jo (Erica Cerra) forgets the soup she orders, and what kind. No biggie. The trouble arises when those who work at Global Dynamics forget about the once a year cleaning of their facility.

Allison (Salli Richardson Whitfield) and Jack (Colin Ferguson) are trapped inside the lab where Tess works. In order for them to get out, Allison needs to override the system. Obviously, Jack cannot. Cue the flashbacks!

For viewers who are not regular fans of Eureka, each set of clips relate to a particular theme. The writers did a clever thing. A few characters no longer with the show are added in. Ed Quinn was nice to have back, even if it was only here and there. Frances Fisher shows up in a scene from "Bad to the Drone". Matt Frewer is in one too. My guess is that most clips are from the first season. Even Christopher Jacot pops up when Frances Fisher does. If his name is not familiar, he walks into Cafe Diem with Fisher.

Jordan Hinson does a nice turn as Zoe tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life. She is not far from graduating high school, and most people in town are way beyond where she is now. Clarity comes, but the answer is still waiting to be fully discussed.

Allison gives birth! A daughter named Jenna, after Nathan's mother She wisely decides to use Nathan's last name of Stark. The baby is his for sure. The blessed event is made even more delightful with Grayston's reaction. Maternity leave now places Tess in charge for a while.

Vincent (Christopher Gauthier) has an advanced degree, who knew?! A nice little tidbit which explains how he comes up with such interesting menu items.

Due to the Labor Day weekend coming up, it will be two more weeks before a new episode appears. However, there is a special item planned. August 4th is a day of Viewer Choice Eureka shows. Fans will at least be able to see past favorite moments. They can also catch some of those episodes they never saw the first time around.

Find this as a part of Blogcritics.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

TV Review Warehouse 13 "Duped"


Calling all science fiction fans! While the plot this week is typical, go gt the Artifact, the two guest stars are crowd pleasers. Erica Cerra and Niall Matter, whom Eureka fans know as Jo Lupo and Zane Donovan. Neither showed much in the diverse range department, although Matter has a bit of cleverness in a trapped room scene with Joanne Kelly, playing Secret Service Agent and Artifact grabber Myka Bering.

Cerra and Matter portray a married couple who win at the casino. This wouldn't be unusual, since a victory now and then keeps people coming back for more. However, the streak is so high that it gives Artie (Saul Rubinek) cause for concern. Bering and Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) head for Vegas to find out why. If only things were this simple.

The Warehouse, you see, contains all sorts of stuff. Each is unique in form and function. One rather large object is a mirror with ties to Lewis Carroll. Who? The author of Alice in Wonderland. Mirrors are made to reflect. This one in particular has the reflection come alive, in a manner of speaking. Astute viewers will recall Pete playing ping pong against his backwards image a few episodes back. The writers take the concept a but further by scripting an interaction between it and the mirrored disco ball from Studio 54. Suffice it to say there is trouble ahead.

It seems Carroll does not write a sweet story about a girl who dresses up to have tea with her closest friends. Alice is actually descending into madness with Carroll scribbling down the details. Poor Myka gets caught in the middle, literally. An Alice who needs a psych ward badly flies inside Myka's body while the real one is trapped in the mirror itself. Artie figures out the truth by a certain body movement. Here's a hint - Pete tells you what it is in the scenes before the opening credits.

Joanne Kelly plays a double role this time around, which gives audience members a chance to see a new side of her. It's markedly different than the uptight federal intelligence officer she typically plays. A nod to her stint on The Dresden Files, perhaps. With the little black dress, though, McClintock should have been wearing a tux. Come to think of it, Matter should have had one on too. The casino is classy, befitting high rollers. I can't think of a man alive who does not look good in a penguin suit.

McClintock tends to get some of the best lines, and the "Let's stay together" is a clever one. Since he doesn't actually sing the line, the effect isn't coming off as cheesy.

The kiss between Cerra and Matter is old hat. They play a couple on Eureka whose commitment is deep. I would not be surprised to find out they are dating when the cameras are off. McClintock and Kelly kissing is another issue altogether. More than likely, they enjoyed the moment. She is an attractive woman, and he has been an actor long enough to know how to lock lips. Emily Deschanel would likely agree. The chemistry with those two on Bones was nice to watch. I digress, though.

Claudia (Allison Scagliotti Smith) returns, and her camera is critical to cracking the case wide open. She now knows about McPherson, the old friend of Artie's who is reeking havoc ("Implosion"). For now, she and Leena (Genelle Williams) have not come into direct contact with the man. This is a good thing. This guy is ruthless, and will stop at nothing to rule the day. Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder) and company are going to have their hands full once everybody meets again.

Artie and Mrs. F know all too well a Warehouse agent is easily killed in the line of duty. Any loss is heartbreaking, and this causes them extra concern. Everyone is critical to the team. Pete and his compassion, Myka with her logical precision, Claudia's gadgets, and a working knowledge of the system by Artie along with Mrs. Frederic. Even Leena contributes by a strong intuition, although this might be better described as extra sensory perception.

While only a handful of episodes are left in this season, talk on the Internet says a Season 2 renwal has taken place. This might be a good time for actors identified with cast members to show up. As in Bones people. John Francis Daley or Michaela Conlin come to mind. The Dresden Files lead character makes a lot of sense for a show with odd goings on. Rubinek is known for his work on Frasier. David Hyde Pierce? Admittedly, he poses a problem since he works on Broadway. Scheduling conflicts, not his acting ability. Pounder, I believe, was on ER sometime ago. There's boatload of folks who can be added, however I will mention one name in particular. Laura Innes, who longtime fans know as Dr. Kerry Weaver.

See more at Blogcritics.

Music Review SIX PACK by Straight No Chaser


Straight No Chaser might just be the best group you've never heard of. Why? They are not exactly the same type of regular music people typically found on the radio. In fact, they hit their biggest stride last year with the release of The 12 Days of Christmas. The song, not an album.

A bit of a background is in order. Fall 1996 at Indiana University. Ten guys form a group dedicated to singing a cappella. In other words, no accompaniment to speak of. Which is as difficult as the image implies. One goof, and the audience instantly knows it. A couple of guitars and a keyboard would at least cover up part of the bad singing, but this form of vocal performance relies solely on what comes out of someone's mouth. Perhaps the best way to describe a cappella is to imagine auditions on American Idol where the contestants which viewers get to vote on are chosen. Everyone simply sings, whether or not they should be.

Dan Ponce, who founded the group, has two requirements for those who wish to become members. First, they need solid vocal chops. The bigger issue, of course, is the ability to blend well with everyone else. Second, personality is absolutely critical. If they are going to perform in front of other people, it helps if the audience likes them. Did it work? This is an understatement. Lou Rawls has had this group for an opening act. Footage of their efforts can be seen on YouTube where they are singing in front of crowds at Wrigley field. Chicagoans appreciate them. Even Carnegie Hall is not an obstacle. The National Championship of Collegiate A Cappella bestowed first prize on these guys. With the release of their third album, 50 000 copies were sold.

The only thing which stands in their way is graduation. After all, this is a college group. No worries, those who are leaving make sure to handpick the next set. This helps the dream continue. About those YouTube videos - Indiana University decided a 2006 reunion was in order for the original team. Randy Stine, a member, produces a DVD and posts clips for the guys to enjoy. Needless to say, "The 12 Days of Christmas" got more watchers. Try to get seven million in 2007 alone around your mind. Craig Kallman, CEO and Chairman of Atlantic Records, saw them too. The rest, as they say, is history.

Six Pack is an EP of six selections which are not in the holiday genre. Both popular and classic songs make up the collection, which just might help increase sales. While the success of Holiday Spirit might not be duplicated, proceeds should not be too shabby.

"Rehab" kicks off things. Originally by Amy Winehouse, it's a good choice. Opening notes pop with a kicky beat, entrancing and fun. Jerome Collins, the soloist, sings the actual song, but everyone has a part to play. Several can be heard in the background contributing an "Ah". They make a pleasant harmony. Some split off into a fresh group, which is also delightful. Clapping helps keep a strong rhythm going.

"I'm Yours" mixed with "Over the Rainbow" hit a few snags. What is first heard is a caribbean type beat. From what I could tell, this just might be an original arrangement. Where did it go wrong? The mix. I expect to hear a song which someone else covers with a version matching the familiar. As in, Judy Garland sings The Wizard of Oz. The bits Straight No Chaser threw in clashed with what they started out with.

"Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours" is my favorite song. Not only does it sound like the Motown hit, the fun is contagious. Jerome Collins solos again, and I almost thought he was a carbon copy of Stevie Wonder. From the opening to its end, this is flawless. One small item- "I was Made to Love Her" is listed on the cover as the other half of the group. Not only it not on the CD listing itself (when it gets played, a list comes up with titles to show where the listener is exactly), it never played! Whoops.

"You Send Me" has Ryan Ahlwardt as the soloist this time. A much slower tune, it works with Ahlwardt's tenor voice. There is a crooning which makes for a nice earful. Some noises akin to bullfrog croaks are a bit offputting, but this is a personal thing. Another may like what I am not keen on. The ooohs and ahs are a sweet touch.

"Can't Take My Eyes Off You" should also be something of a ballad. The pop version which these guys come out with sounds a bit off. I have to wonder if perhaps the issue is having all ten performers singing this. What I keep hearing is a crying baby and a train passing by. The words are lost in the background of those.

For the most part, I like this CD. There is no question of anyone's singing ability. Yes, some stuff could use a bit more refinement. It could simply be due to the songs chosen for a cappella versions. What works for words, lyrics, and a band is different than vocals only.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Music Review 9 to 5 The Musical Original Broadway Cast Recording with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton


The world of Broadway Musicals has always been filled with adaptations of television shows along with films. In a way, this makes things a lot easier. Why? Theatre is a lot more freeing. While productions do not anywhere near the big budgets of say, a Steven Spielberg flick, actors are not confined to standing in certain places for the camera. Plus, the interaction with a live audience can be a thrilling experience.

One of the more recent shows to appear on the Great White Way is 9 to 5 the Musical, based on the film with Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin. Dabney Coleman is also known for his role, although he was never intended to be in a starring part.

Dolly Parton writes the score for the stage version, which basically means she put the music together. Since she is also part of the film, her job is pretty much taken care of. However, her contribution of one or two more songs is not a bad idea.

Dolly Records put together the Original Broadway Cast Recording of 9 to 5: The Musical. If the producers of this show wanted to get actors who are reminiscent of the movie actors in the same roles, they succeeded. The only problem is having the actors sing in full character. Now, presumably, anyone who is cast in a Broadway show has decent vocal chops. I just think sometimes the songs do not reflect their true abilities.

"9 to 5" is the show opener, and the one song most people recognize. The entire cast sings. Stephanie J.Block, who plays Judy (think Jane Fonda), is the standout voice. Judy shares her personal life with the audience in an attitude of determination and perserverance. After hearing her, you like her that much more.

Whoever cast Marc Kudisch as the Dabney Coleman role of Frankin Hart did a great job! The first time he solos is on "Here for You". Talk about a solid baritone voice. It says not to ignore this guy. The vocal strength alone is enough to put him in Tony consideration.

Kathy Fitzgerald first can be heard in "Around Here", where Judy is getting her introduction to the office. Fitzgerald handles the role of officious Roz, Hart's assistant, with the right notes of nitpicky and alpha female.

However, Fitzgerald shines best in "Heart to Hart " where she envisions herself as the only woman Hart ever needs. The song is campy, but audiences are going to smile at Roz and her efforts.

Megan Hilty, who is Doralee, could not be anybody but the person Dolly Parton played in the movie. She has the hardest role vocally. Trying to pull off Broadway lyrics and music isn't easy. The gentle pleading in "Backwoods Barbie" does much to reinforce the idea of there being more to her than meets the eye.

Allison Janney is perhaps the most well known actress in the entire production. Formerly of the television show The West Wing, this is Janney's first adventure in song. As Violet, the part played by Lily Tomlin in the film, Janney does not quite carry off the part vocally too well. It might have something to do with the way the songs are set up. However, "One of the Boys" works for her voice decently enough.

This CD with its selection of tunes gives anyone who listens a clear insight as to how the show is performed. There are stronger productions out on Broadway, but this grouping is not too bad for what it has. Solid acting more than likely helps draw in a crowd night after night.

Published on Blogcritics.

TV Review Eureka "Shower the People"


There's just no telling what life may bring. Each season is a time of new beginnings and a point at which things may come to a close. For Jack (Colin Ferguson) and Henry(Joe Morton), the concept is understood all too well. As the Sheriff, Jack Carter has seen his share of crimes being committed by all sorts of people. No matter how much he may like the person, a lawman has no choice but to put his badge first. Good thing evidence can show the truth and clear a suspect pool of the ones who don't deserve the close scrutiny.

Henry Deacon, the town's mayor, sees it slightly differently. Why not? After all, he once spent time behind bars for nearly closing down Global Dynamics, a research lab which employs more than a few local citizens, for good ("A Night at Global Dynamics"). When confronted, he stepped up to the plate of responsibility. Jack made the arrest himself. Another could have, but Jack knew his friend deserved better.

This week's episode is a powerful one. To start with, a woman drowns in her car. A stretch? Well, maybe not. She might be more likely to be discovered in the engine since that's where the radiator is. However, this is science fiction. One allows a few liberties. The next woman's death helps connect the dots. Almost. Fargo (Neil Grayston) performs the autopsies. He IS a doctor, but the true cause of death is made by Jack adding in one more piece of the puzzle. A sauna is part of it, but you should watch to understand everything.

Tess Fontana (Jaime Ray Newman) gets hurt in the process, which ups the ante of suspense a bit. It's about time something serious happened to her. Giving Jack the elevator scene is a nice touch. Shouldn't CPR include compressions? Ferguson is solid as he realizes a woman he cares for is in trouble, and the emotional blow is hard on him. Grayston is pitch perfect as Fargo recognizes he has the unenviable task of delivering tough news of a hard reality.

Henry has a worse time. The return of a computer who bears the exact image of the woman he loved and lost now has a glitch. Morton and Billy Campbell (The 4400, Once and Again) are nicely suited for the conflict between science and the heart. Kim 2.0, or Tamlyn Tomita as fans well know, is on a mission to deliver information Global Dynamics needs, and badly. Campbell's character, Dr. Manlyus, understands how critical the data retrieval is. Morton sees only his lost love. A tearjerker ending? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how one perceives the situation.

On a lighter note, Allison (Salli Richardson Whitfield) has her baby shower! This poor woman is ready to pop with child number 2. The father is Nathan Stark, although he has long since vanished from the scene. No, he did not abandon her outright. A certain particle accelerator was responsible ("I Do Over"). This celebration of new life is highly amusing. As Allison's birth coach, Jack gets a new appreciation of what the parenting experience is like.

Zoe (Jordan Hinson) and Vincent (Chris Gauthier) returned! they have a fun restaurant scene together. Once more, though, no Zane Donovan (Niall Matter). Drat.

Less than five episodes to go before the season finale. Couldn't Zane be brought back and Tess sidelined for at least one of those episodes? Newman can act, but she's been around since episode three ("Insane in the P-Brane"). It's long past time for her to be written out of something.

On Blogcritics.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book Review Small Dog Big Life by Dennis Fried


Small Dog Big Life: Memoirs of a Furry Genius by Dennis Fried, is an unusual book. It is the story of Genevieve, a Papillon, who has placed her memoirs down on paper for the world to read. What is a Papillon, you ask? A dog who walks low to the ground and has ears which reminds anyone who sees them of a butterfly. In fact, the word "Papillion" is French for butterfly.

Genevieve is quite the clever canine! She knows she has a story to get out but knows she cannot do the job on her own. Enter Dennis Fried, to whom Genevieve barktates the story of her life along with a few tips on living life to the utmost. Why wait until death to introduce others to just how great she really is?

The logical place is to begin at the beginning. Born to Chloe, Genevieve is one of many in a litter. December 19, 1997, to be exact. A couple of her siblings were actually half relations, but they are all raised together until ready for adoption elsewhere. To make this a true menagerie, a cat is added into the mix. I have to appreciate the biting wit as this strange creature is distinguished from the dogs by being too ugly for membership in the canine variety.

Some background is also provided as to the background of Dennis and Katrina, Genevieve's new family. While each grows up with a dog, their histories could not be any more different. Dennis gets his heart broken by a significant loss and vows never to repeat the experience. Katrina, on the other hand, has always had a dog around. She quite reasonably expects this to continue upon her marriage to Dennis. It will not surprise anyone that there is a brewing clash ahead. Suffice it to say the resolution of the conflict is well worth the read.

While this has twenty chapters, this book is an easy read. A few of the chapters are laugh-out-loud funny. For example, "Dog and Driver" is a step-by-step lesson on the proper way for a dog to assist the human in maneuvering the vehicle. Waiting on the blinker to come on is a helpful signal for steerage. Put hind paws on the lap of human and front on the wheel itself. By shuffling one's paws, just the right amount of pressure is applied. Voila, task accomplished!

"Weather (or Not)" describes life in Florida as one rainstorm away from disaster. The best place to be is, obviously, the bathtub. Our doggie heroine hates rain with everything she's got. Therefore, she is far more likely to stay in the washing receptacle than somewhere else.

"Party Animal" is a celebration of Genevieve's first birthday. She would be completely oblivious to the significance except for one thing. Dennis and Katrina plan a surprise party for her at a store catering to dogs. Between the members of Genevieve's dog family and the humans, people abound. Leave it to a dog to appreciate a cake with liver in the icing. After cake and presents, games are then required. I have to wonder how in the world someone would think bobbing for cookies is enjoyable. After all, does anybody like soggy cookies? Musical chairs rounds out playtime.

"Paw Park Etiquette" is a cute chapter. The physical language of dogs takes on a new dimension as they interact with each other. After one confrontation, a local park creates a section just for smaller dogs. SUC's (sports utility canines) have to converse among themselves. Do you ever wonder if your dog has a personality of its own? Go to a dog park and see. Watch how they interact among others, if at all. Some are natural mixers; others stay aloof, far away from dogs and people.

For the most part, this is an entertaining read. The terms cute and quirky certainly fit. More than likely, though, there will be some who are not going to read this. They may not like small dogs and so picking up the autobiography is pointless. Others could be cat people. Fair enough. I suspect the numbers will be be decent with dog lovers.

Also published on Blogcritics.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

TV Review Warehouse 13 "Implosion"


Can you say Boom? If so, this is a pretty good indicator of where this week's episode goes. Not only do Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) find themselves smack in the middle of another assignment, the past of Artie (Saul Rubinek) comes to light. Throw in a strong guest star, and the recipe is properly mixed and ready for baking.

The Artifact sought this time? Part of a sword. It's a circle which fits over the blade and comes to rest down near the hilt. Put in plain language, it really goes atop the handle. Why so important? Power. Whoever uses it is fairly indestructible. Not to mention having the ablity to vanish and appear at will.

Under ordinary circumstances, this would hardly be an issue. Pete and Myka go and get their prize, and head home to the Warehouse. This time is a little different. Japanese officials want to give it to the President as a gift. Our thrilling twosome are to run interception at the Japanese embassy. Things don't quite go as planned. Astute viewers will know whodunit in about the first ten minutes.

Simon Reynolds is back as Dickenson, Myka and Pete's former boss. He knows even less about happens in the place in South Dakota than his agents. While I haven't seen Reynolds in much, his attempt to balance work duties and personal feelings is pitch perfect in this episode. Dickenson cares, and the nuances make Reynolds a valuable member of the cast.

Allison Scagliotti-Smith is off, so Claudia doesn't show up. They fixed the credits! Nowhere does it say her name, either in opening or a guest star role. Good. To put her in when she isn't only confuses viewers.

The real nailbiter this time has to do with Artie's past. Why am I not surprised he's a former NSA agent? Whoever wrote the script put in a dingbat line -Artie was a codebreaker! Uh, that's what the National Security Agency DOES. Honestly. Twenty years ago, he alledgedly sold secrets to the Russkies. A name change was in order to keep them from coming after him, but Dickenson had no choice but to act on information he received. Now, a logical conclusion is Artie as a particular type of agent. Think about your classic spy flick, and you'll easily come up with the same conclusion. This has yet to be considered, but it works.

Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder) also returns, as the baddie in question could be a man named McPherson. Little is known about what happened to get him on the government watch list. However, the guest star is already known. Roger Rees. Not bad! The chemistry between him and Rubinek is potent. Artie and McPherson were both in love with the same woman, but that's nothing compared to their current clash. Watching these two is delicious, but Rees looks like he's in his 20's. Sheesh. Granted, the lighting was dark. Two more McPherson episodes are on the way, with one being the season finale. As far as I know, there WILL be a Season 2. Nothing indicates Rees is back then, though. Keep in mind this is a summer show. Things could change.

Speaking of lighting, what's with the green lights for science fiction? Eerie is one thing, but to use the same color all the time isn't the smartest idea in the world.

As Leena (Genelle Williams) points out, working for the Warehouse is dangerous. Some have died already. Artie understands this all too well, and so is reluctant to share of himself to Pete and Myka. Miss Curlytop, or Agent Bering, is frustrated at not having every detail so she can be prepared. She correctly points out she is hardly a redshirt. Then again, this is a new experience.

If the rest of the season is anything like "Implosion", viewers will be highly entertained. Seven episodes, and this show has gotten its feet where they need to be. More background should come up, as Pounder, Reynolds, and Williams play characters whose lives are not fully developed as of yet. Also, look for more top name guest stars in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TV Review Eureka "Ship Happens"


As Allison (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) and the rest of the town discovered last week, a spaceship landed in the middle of an open field after sending out signals for weeks. The problem was trying to figure out whether they were from a friend or a foe. Only Henry (Joe Morton) deciphered the clues - a flag appeared on the bottom. American.

Henry tells Jack (Colin Ferguson) he is responsible for building the thing. Twenty years ago, to be precise. A person tumbles out, and there's a doozy of a shocker - it's Kim Anderson! This would be the woman Henry lost a while back. One problem, she died. Which Zane (Niall Matter) is able to confirm after a check of the records.

I cannot be entirely sure whether this is the same actress who created the role. For some strange reason, an Internet search yields nothing on the topic. However, I will say this. Whoever claims responsibility for this script is to be commended. A character returns, but the storyline is true to her original death. The premise has Kim 2.0 as a computer who has memories of the original project Henry and Kim worked on. She's not a ghost. Or time traveler, for that matter.

Joe Morton shines as he attempts to figure out if his long lost love is right there in front of him. The scientist knows better, but the man struggles with all too human emotions. He's not the only one.

The show stealer this week? Fargo (Neil Grayston). He is only one of many who has an item used to make the spaceship landing pad. The townspeople teamed up to bring in much needed items ("If You Build It). A converter is swapped by accident, so Fargo snatched it back! Which wouldn't have been a problem except the guy dies. Oops. Grayston's panic as he realizes he could be in big trouble is highly amusing. So is the slap Jo (Erica Cerra) gives him to make him focus. The guilty look he displays at the ultimate Global Dynamics scene is even better.

Only in a science fiction television series would there be a bathing of cast members in a green light. Why is a little tricky to explain. It has to do with a computer virus which attacks anyone in direct contact. Disaster puts Zane in grave danger- you'll have to watch to see what happens.

A nice moment occurs as a street sign is highlighted to reveal its name of Archimedes. This man is credited with tons of discoveries, the most notable being his contributions to the field of mathematics. More than likely, his work is used for the data transfer out of Kim 2.0's memory bank into a research file. She also uses it to demonstrate how long the process would take if she wrote everything out.

Now, I have to wonder if the Artifact is planning to come back into play. This ran through storylines from the past two seasons as highly coveted. Beverly Barlowe (Deborah Farentino) vanished from Eureka in the quest to keep it out of the wrong hands ("A Night at Global Dynamics"). While I am not eager to see her character return, Kim Anderson has me at least considering the continuation of the storyline.

Tess (Jaime Ray Newman) and Jack hold hands during a meteor shower. This seems a bit odd for them to be a couple. Newman is decent, and I have to admit liking her onscreen persona more than Frances Fisher as Eva Thorne. Still. The purpose of her being in town is something of a mystery, and any purpose remains elusive. She should leave before too long, and give viewers a much needed break for a bit.

Jo and Zane are turning into a power couple, as this week clearly demonstrates. These two are a good team. The bad boy versus the strong willed woman. Both are having their edges softened, which is hardly a bad thing.

What happened to Zoe (Jordan Hinson) and Vincent (Chris Gauthier)? They give value to the show by bringing a balance to the work going on at the lab. Gauthier is especially fun as he throws many a zinger at the other cast members.

For a show which has become extremely popular, these last few weeks are duller by comparison with the first two episodes this time around. Only about a month of shows are left before the season comes to a close. The best just might be on their way.

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