Saturday, October 31, 2009

Robin Hood 3.6: Do You Love Me?


Do You Love Me? is probably my favorite episode of season 3 of Robin Hood to date. At long, long last we're treated to the introduction of Toby Stephens as Prince John. I freaking love Toby Stephens - whether he's playing a baddie as he does in Die Another Day or a romantic hero as he does in Twelfth Night or Jane Eyre, he does it brilliantly. And to have Stephens playing opposite Richard Armitage (who smolders more than usual as Guy in this episode - yay!) is a bit of a dream come true.

I think it was my friend Kaye who made the comment that any episode that starts off with a shirtless Richard is sure to be good. ;-) I think that's a very good rule of thumb, just sayin'. The episode begins with Guy being dragged before the Prince and ordered to kill the Sheriff (Keith Allen) - since he's failed to deliver Robin Hood's head on a platter, it follows that he doesn't love his prince enough. Right away Stephens gives the character of Prince John the perfect balance of vanity and menace. And he speaks about himself in the third person, just hilarious! I think Prince John is a bit of a tricky character to get right. It's too easy to make him a complete fop, you know? However, since the showrunners made King Richard a complete & total loser (as seen in the season 2 finale), I wanted Prince John to be a legitimate threat. Thank goodness Toby Stephens was cast as the Prince...that is one thing the showrunners got right this season. John may be wonderfully vain and full of himself, but he's a real threat to doofus Richard's claim to the throne.

Likewise, this episode is a fantastic showcase for Guy and the Sheriff's deteriorating relationship. Guy is on fire here - once the prince gives him the sort of approval and validation that the Sheriff never has, he's out for blood (and an intense, smoldering Guy is always fun to watch). :) It's also interesting to see Allen play the Sheriff with a little uncertainty. He knows, or suspects, that Guy is out for his job, but he also recognizes that Prince John isn't to be trusted. It's a case of the devil you know, or the one you don't, I guess you could say. When Guy and the Sheriff start their fight, wowzers, was that a satisfying scene. The Sheriff's been manipulating Guy for over two seasons now, and to see Guy snap - and how he blames the Sheriff for driving him to kill Marian - made for fantastic, dream-come-true viewing. It was a total Richard Armitage fangirl moment. :) Guy wasn't after the Sheriff to curry favor with the prince - this was a moment for him to try & kill the Sheriff's control over his life. Easily the most intense fight scene in the show's history, very well executed.

Isabella (Lara Pulver) makes her second appearance here - and she's two-for-two as far as appearances go & my liking the character. She's a resident of the castle, but makes it clear that she doesn't approve of the Sheriff, Prince John, or her brother's methods. She's apparently biding her time - not sure if we're supposed to get that she's out to revenge herself against Guy for selling her into a bad marriage or what. I have to say, I did enjoy Isabella's little moment with Robin (Jonas Armstrong) after she helps him put out the fire started on the prince's orders in Locksley. Pulver and Armstrong have some serious on-screen chemistry in this scene, and it's a good little moment for Jonas Armstrong reveal some rakish charm. ;-) I also liked Isabella's scenes with Prince John - he's so obviously smitten with her, and she plays him like a fiddle - their moments together are quite humorous.

The biggest downfall to this episode is, once again, Kate (Joanne Froggatt). This episode is just mean...Kate goes and gets herself wounded when the outlaws attack Prince John's decoy, and then she has the nerve not to die. *sigh* The potential there just crashed & burned. And to add insult to injury I had to watch Much (Sam Troughton) and Allan (Joe Armstrong) trip all over each other with concerns for her welfare (GAG!), and then, THEN she goes and has the nerve to make eyes at Robin. SERIOUSLY?! We had to go THERE?! Brace yourselves, people, I'm sure it's only bound to get worse. *sigh*

That annoyance aside, the Prince John-Guy-Sheriff dynamic made this episode one of season 3's best. There were many, many more moments of Toby Stephens' brilliant portrayal of Prince John that I could have gushed over, but I'll refrain. :) And yay for Guy finally snapping and turning on the Sheriff. It's not quite the same as owning to his mistakes, but it's a step in the right direction that's been a long time coming. Love it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars air date!

Some very exciting Doctor Who news was announced on BBC America's Facebook fan page today:

-“Mars, 2059. Bowie Base one. Last recorded message: don't drink the water. Don't even touch it. Not one drop.” The Waters of Mars -

New York, NY – October 30, 2009 –The BBC today announced the imminent arrival of the final Doctor Who episodes starring David Tennant as the Doctor. Television’s longest running science fiction series, shot in HD, has just three episodes to go before a new Doctor arrives on screen next year.

The next special, Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars airs on BBC AMERICA, Saturday December 19, 9:00pm ET/PT. It stars Tennant and British stage and screen actress Lindsay Duncan (Rome, Langford) as Adelaide, his cleverest and most strong-minded companion.

All will be revealed as the Doctor and his companion Adelaide face terror on the Red Planet in one of the scariest adventures yet. Peter O’Brien (Casualty, Neighbours) guest stars as Ed, Adelaide’s second-in-command at the base.

The Waters of Mars is written by Russell T Davies (Torchwood, Queer as Folk) and Phil Ford and directed by Graeme Harper. The executive producers are Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner (Torchwood, Life on Mars).

The remaining episodes, starring Tennant, will air over the holiday season as a two-part special. Airdates will be released in early December. Tennant shot a total of four specials before exiting the role - Planet of the Dead was the first one to air, last July, on BBC AMERICA.

The BBC will release The Waters of Mars and the two-part finale on DVD and Blu-ray, Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead is already available on DVD and Blu-ray. Releasing on February 2 are:

- Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars – DVD
- Two-part special (2-disc release) – DVD
- Doctor Who: Specials Collection (5-disc release) – DVD - contains The Next Doctor, Planet of the Dead, Waters of Mars and the two-part finale

The iconic sci-fi series originally aired on the BBC from ‘63 – ‘89 and ran on over 400 PBS stations in the ‘80s. This slick re-imagination of Doctor Who, created by Russell T Davies puts a fresh spin on the adventures of the iconic Time Lord and his feisty companions - who travel across the universe to protect Earth from dangerous aliens and terrifying monsters.

Doctor Who has received 67 awards in total - two BAFTAs, including Best Drama Series in ‘06, three Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form in ‘06, ’07 and ’08 as well as the Saturn Award for Best International Series in ‘08. Doctor Who has two hit spin-off series - Torchwood, which gets its name from an anagram of Doctor Who, and one for children, The Sarah Jane Adventures.


Needless to say, I'm thrilled with this news. BBC America is really stepping up and getting these specials to Doctor Who fans in the US much faster than has been the norm in the past.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Emma preview

Here's a special sneak preview to the newest version of Jane Austen's Emma, starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller (*swoon*!), set to air on Masterpiece Classic 1/24/10.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Robin Hood 3.5: Let the Games Commence

Here there be spoilers...

After an interminable two-episode absence, all of Richard Armitage-fandom rejoiced when Guy returned to Nottingham (at last!!). More on my favorite baddie's return in a second. :) This episode of Robin Hood opens with a mysterious noblewoman being chased through the woods. Just when all hope seems lost (eekk!), Robin (Jonas Armstrong) magically appears and of course rescues her. The woman, Isabella (Lara Pulver), *claims* to be the maidservant of the squire's wife and her decoy, ordered to help her escape her wicked husband. Robin, of course, buys this story hook, line, and sinker, because he's that kind of guy & because electric sparks immediately fly between him & the spunky Isabella (who's eerily reminscent of Marian in this scene, in both looks and attitude).

Robin, Isabella, and the gang run into Guy & his men returning to Nottingham. This is quite a different Guy than the one we last saw in episode 2, Cause and Effect. Then he was cowed & fearing for his life, "betrayed" (I think one can use that word, because he's apparently dumb enough to "trust" Sheriff) by the Sheriff (Keith Allen) and sent to Prince John to account for Nottingham's unpaid taxes. This time Guy's returned flush with pride and purpose, with a mandate from Prince John to kill Robin Hood (like that's gonna work in episode 5 of the season *rolls eyes*) a secret weapon (unbelievably silly), and men to command. Guy's starting to think that he doesn't need the Sheriff for success or validation, and personally I love the edge Richard Armitage gives his portrayal of Guy here.

Besides the Isabella/Guy's secret "weapon" storyline, this episode also serves as a much-needed showcase for Little John's (Gordon Kennedy) character. While Guy & his men are herding Robin & crew towards their arena-inspired end (really...a freaking LION?!), Little John falls in with a traveling troupe of performers who stage, of all things, gladiator-like fighting tournaments. Let's just be honest here, this is a ridiculous conceit, right up there with season 2's foray into Las Vegas-style gambling. Generally when this show is cheesy, I don't mind - it's part of the fun, after all. ;-) This fighting troupe was interesting for me because it's headed by a woman named Bertha (gotta love that name!) played by Denise Black, who I last saw play a similar role in The Scarlet Pimpernel Meets Madamoiselle Guillotine (if you've never seen the Richard E. Grant Scarlet Pimpernel films, do yourself a favor and track down copies of them asap!). Bertha's goal is to of course betray Little John for cash (though this idea occurs to her only after her amorous advances towards the Sheriff are turned down flat - hilarious!). Little John immediately hits it off with one of the kid's in Bertha's entourage, and their interaction is a nice reminder of the fact that John's a father, who's outlaw life has cost him a relationship and life with his wife & son. Plus, as cheesy as the fixed arena fights may be, the fact that they rely on brute strength plays nicely into Little John's purpose as "muscle" on the show.

Of course, the most interesting aspect of this episode is, for me anyway, the introduction of Isabella - who turns out to be Guy's sister!! Apparently Guy's selfish, thoughtless impulses go way farther back than season 1 - years earlier Guy sold his sister in marriage to an abusive squire in order to help further his own social position. The way things stand now, Isabella's been away from her brother for years, so she doesn't really know him anymore. And the fact that she's an abused woman would, one could think, make her a sympathetic, pro-outlaw character. However, Isabella is first and foremost a Gisborne. So where will the show take her character? Personally, I love the fact that the show chose to delve into Gisborne's past a bit. I find it interesting that Isabella is so out of touch with her brother, and so desperate for escape, that she's seeking sanctuary from her betrayer. Only a chance meeting with the charismatic Robin appears to have made her think twice about blindly jumping from the frying pan of her marriage into the fire with her brother & his plans. There's a lot of potential with her character, so we must wait and see how fast & to what degree the writers squander Isabella's potential.

Post-Marian, I vastly prefer the introduction of Isabella to the show rather than the unforgivably annoying, grating, pull-my-hair-out-I-can't-stand-her-that-much character of Kate (Joanne Froggatt). Kate was introduced so obviously, so badly, as a "poor man's Marian." This characterization sin is only compounded by the fact that the writers only seemed to transfer Marian's annoying characteristics to the new blonde stand-in - whininess, ingratitude, and to top it off bad hair. ;-) Isabella has TONS of potential IMO because she's got a tension-frought history with my favorite Guy, she appears capable of intelligence and spunk, and she's got some genuine chemistry with Robin (that last scene shows off some serious sparks!). Of course, a lot could change over the course of the season - but for now, Isabella is my favorite introduction to the cast.

*Great Sheriff quote: "For once I'm pleased to see you, Hood! It means Gisborne has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory again!!" - that pretty much sums up the relationship between the Sheriff & Guy, doesn't it? LOL!

*It just dawned on me that Isabella married Squire Thornton - could this be a nod to Richard Armitage's breakout role as John Thornton in North and South? Methinks it must be...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Robin Hood 3.4: Sins of the Father


I am WAY behind in my Robin Hood blogging, I know, I know. But let the record show that I am determined to get caught up THIS WEEK. Just in case you need a refresher, the last time we visited Nottingham, Robin & the gang are accused of being heretics, and the Sheriff (Keith Allen) has sent Guy (Richard Armitage) off to pay homage to Prince John. The Sheriff is apparently becoming a bit stressed about his struggles to collect the cash he needs to keep Prince John happy - so he calls in a new tax collector - Ruthless Rufus. Yes, that is the best name the scriptwriters could come up with. *rolls eyes*

So Rufus arrives in Nottingham with his son Edmund, and starts throwing his muscle around. This of course antagonizes my least favorite addition to the cast EVER, Kate (Joanne Froggatt), who's taken to Rufus's home in order to spare her annoying mother. There Rufus forces her dance for his entertainment. Lame. Will Kate survive the attentions of the dastardly Rufus? Unfortunately for the show, yes, Robin (Jonas Armstrong) & crew stage a rescue. *sigh* Since Kate is now a known associate of outlaws, she has to take to the woods. In typical Kate-and-her-relatives-are-complete-ingrates, she and her mother aren't grateful that Kate's been saved from Rufus - instead she and her mother find a way to blame Robin for the fact she has to leave the town. ARGH!! To add insult to injury, Much (Sam Troughton) and Allan (Joe Armstrong) both apparently want Kate to like them - Much falls all over himself to try and appear in a favorable light. (Aside: Why are men so stupid?!?!)

In spite of Ruthless Rufus's alliterative moniker, he's a fellow with a somewhat interesting history. Unfortunately for the Sheriff, Rufus has a history in Nottingham - he saw the Sheriff take his father's shop from him years before. Since the Sheriff has no conscience, he of course isn't going to remember wrecking Rufus's boyhood - and since suffering hasn't made Rufus a more compassionate person, he's willing to trample anyone in the way of his quest for revenge. This extends to his son, Edmund, who's somehow grown up with some scruples and obviously doesn't approve of his father's tactics. I've got to say, it's a nice change watching the Sheriff get played - well, he's usually played, but by a good guy - it's a switch when a baddie is the one pulling the wool over Sheriff Vasey's eyes.

As you can tell by the above picture, Kate & Allan get themselves taken prisoner by Rufus, while Edmund gets himself taken as a hostage by Robin & the gang. Kate and Allan have a nice, nauseating moment bonding over their shared misfortune. If Allan was imprisoned with any one else I don't think I'd care...he's my favorite member of the gang, and I love and adore his smart-aleck sense of humor. I just hate to see it wasted on Kate. *sigh again* However, this prisoner exchange does have an upside. Little John (Gordon Kennedy) actually gets a bit of screentime since, as a longtime resident of Nottingham, he's the first to recognize Rufus (only he just can't place him at first). Poor Little John's been pretty criminally underused so far this season, hasn't he? Tuck (David Harewood) also gets the chance to practice being Dr. Phil when he tries to convince Edmund to quit making excuses for his father's criminal behavior.

There are parts of the "big reveal" at the end of this episode that I actually really liked. When the gang descends on Rufus's hideout to rescue Kate & Allan, the Sheriff also appears - in hot pursuit of the money he discovered Rufus has stolen. When the Sheriff goes all "fatherly" in his talk with Edmund about the fact that Rufus "has issues" I just rolled. This is a major case of the pot calling the kettle black, no? ;-) The icing on the cake is when Robin makes one of his impossible shots and the arrow magically hits the mark, preventing a crazed Rufus from killing his son. Gotta love Robin's bow work, I'm just sayin'...

By the end of the episode, Kate is an official member of the gang and she's magically let go of all of her anger issues (thanks to Allan's therapy session I guess). Thankfully there's a shakeup coming to the show with the next episode. I made a mistake in my post on episode 3 - for some reason I was under the impression that Guy was returning this week...don't know what I was thinking but of course, that's not the case. It's really TRAGIC, this being the last season of the show & all, that Guy's AWOL from TWO WHOLE EPISODES. Oh well, c'est la vie. :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Inspector Lewis: Point of Vanishing

Possible spoilers...

I'm home sick today, and since the DVD player decided to DIE ON ME (GRRR!!), and I'm feeling relatively lucid (haha), I thought I'd finish blogging about the final Inspector Lewis episode, Point of Vanishing, which aired last Sunday. Here's the episode summary from the PBS website:

Steven Mullan is found dead in his bathtub, the scalding water indicative of the white-hot rage that motivated the murder. Lewis recognizes Mullan as having been recently released from prison after having tried to kill celebrity atheist Tom Rattenbury while driving drunk. Mullan's sentence may be over, but have the scars healed for the Rattenburys, especially daughter Jessica who remains in a wheelchair from the incident? Lewis and Hathaway find a postcard at the crime scene of a Renaissance painting inscribed with the words, "It was no dream." But the case is about to take a surreal, dream-like twist, leaving Lewis and Hathaway drowning in questions about crimes of the past and the present.

I thought this was the best Hathaway-centric episode yet. Laurence Fox really got a lot of screentime to shine and showcase his wonderful ability to be the strong, silent, and angsty type. ;-) The biggest surprise of the episode was giving Hathaway a little love interest - talk about a missed opportunity, showrunners! *sigh* It would've been lovely if they'd managed to introduce the newly-promoted Fiona (Catherine Walker) at some point prior to the last episode of Lewis (hopefully only for the time being, I haven't heard whether or not this series is returning).

Anyway, Lewis's (Kevin Whately) realization that Hathaway isn't just upset because of a missed promotion is actually kind of a sweet moment. You really get to see the sort of father/son, or at the very least older brother/younger brother sort of bond that has developed between the two of them over the course of their partnership. Also, you've gotta love the jokes that flew between the two of them about how they're attached at the hip, etc. Very nicely played IMO. :)

The mystery itself was actually pretty interesting - talk about a "Mommy Dearest" NIGHTMARE!! It was nice to see Julian Wadham featured in this episode as Tom Rattenbury, famous atheist and henpecked husband. He's appeared in such shows as Foyle's War: Plan of Attack, My Boy Jack, and Marple: Sleeping Murder. He's the only actor I recognized from other productions, though I thought everyone else turned in pretty solid performances. Particularly Jenny Seagrove as Cecile Rattenbury, the manipulative mother from you-know-where. Oh my word, that woman was insane. And CREEPY. Creepy-insane!! The other members of the family weren't nearly as interesting, but that's okay because Hathaway and Lewis more than compensated. Especially Hathaway - when he broke into the gym and then took a flying dive into the pool to save the Rattenbury daughter from drowning, I seriously almost swooned. Dishy Laurence Fox, I do love you so. :)

If this is the last Lewis episode - and that's a big if, and one that definitely hopes to turn out to be untrue - it does offer a nice measure of closure. After all, Lewis is back in action, the man who killed his wife is in jail, and he's helping Hathaway of all people work through issues with his love life (who would've thunk that? LOL). Seriously, the last moment of the show, when Hathaway goes to tell Fiona how he really feels and they share that lovely kiss - was that moment not to die for?? Who knew Hathaway had it in him? Here's hoping the show returns in 2010.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

**This is a "preview" post - full review coming (hopefully) tomorrow. As sadly seems the norm here lately, I'm behind in my reading and blog tour commitments. I'll get caught up someday soon, I hope (*fingers crossed*).**

The Swiss Courier is proving to be a spectacular read! It's a compulsive page-turner, and so far I'd rank it among the very best World War II fiction I've ever encountered (and since that's by far my favorite time period to study, for me that's saying something!). Full review coming soon - I can't wait to share my full thoughts on this one!

The Swiss Courier
By: Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3336-0

About the book:

She’s risking her life to save a man she doesn’t know. But whom can she trust along the way?

It is August 1944 and the Gestapo is mercilessly rounding up suspected enemies of the Third Reich after an attempt on Hitler’s life. Gabi Mueller is a young woman working for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (forerunner to the CIA) in Switzerland. When she is asked to put herself in harm’s way to safely “courier” a German scientist who is working on the atomic bomb out of enemy territory, the fate of the world hangs in the balance.


Full review coming soon!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Review: Soundtrack by Linda Eder

I couldn’t be happier with Linda Eder’s latest release, Soundtrack. And a huge thank you to both Eder & her label, Verve, for giving the fans new albums two years in a row – way to deliver, Eder & team! As a film music album, Soundtrack is a throwback of sorts to the type of music that garnered Eder legions of fans – Broadway showstoppers and standards – but with a generally more understated, intimate feel to the set. Her first album for Verve, The Other Side of Me, was a departure from that previous norm. While I loved that release, it’s decidedly more laid-back, country feel marked quite a change from releases like It’s No Secret Anymore or By Myself. Soundtrack sees Eder interpreting 11 songs from a wide variety of films, ranging from the Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer penned “Charade” (from the 1963 film of the same name) to “Falling Slowly” from the 2007 sleeper hit Once. From the well-known to the more obscure, Eder takes each song and puts her own unique spin on the lyric and arrangement. It would’ve been so easy for Eder to deliver power-ballad versions of classics like Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” or Bryan Adams “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You.” However, I’d argue that you’ll be hard-pressed to find versions that are more elegant, understated, and emotive than Eder’s take on these classics. The lyric is front and center, and Eder proves once again that she’s a master at wringing ever drop of emotion, every nuance, from the words of a song. Another of my favorite tracks is the stunning version of “Falling Slowly” – the power in this arrangement and delivery gives one chills! While the Presley and Adams songs are perhaps not unexpected song choices, Eder also ventures into some surprising territory by putting her own unique spin on the BeeGee’s “If I Can’t Have You” and the Beatles’ “Help,” the latter a tribute to her son’s love for their music. Prior to hearing the album, some of the song choices (like the Beatles’ cover) had me wondering if Eder could successfully pull off her own version. I need not have doubted. The entire album has a cohesive, beautifully constructed feel to it, and Eder succeeds in making each song her own. Sountrack would be an excellent companion piece to Eder’s 2003 musicals-themed album, Broadway, My Way. It’s also a great set with which to introduce new fans to Eder’s work, in how it successfully melds her ability to interpret classic song with the more laid-back, country-touched arrangements she’s favored in recent years. This album is another winner from Ms. Eder, one I’ll be enjoying for years to come.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Inspector Lewis: The Quality of Mercy


The next-to-last episode of Inspector Lewis this season of Masterpiece Mystery involves Shakespeare - ergo, it is awesome. It's even more awesome than just your typical Shakespeare association, since the play involved is The Merchant of Venice (one of my favorites). Throwing Shakespeare around can cover a multitude of ills, I'm just sayin'. Here's the episode summary for The Quality of Mercy from the PBS website:

A student production of The Merchant of Venice takes real-life deadly turn when a cast member is killed using a prop knife. Apart from the jealous ensemble cast who can't even muster fake tears over the loss of their colleague, there is an audience of suspects to consider — a career con man, an egotistical television personality and a young man who just might have killed to get a part in the play. Lewis and Hathaway methodically try to make sense of the murderous plot, but before they do, another death occurs with a Shakespearean sensibility. As the final act is about to unfold, the case takes an intensely personal turn for Lewis, bringing back traumatic memories and invoking a lesson in mercy.

This episode opened with a nice moment where Lewis (Kevin Whately) visits his wife's grave to mark the occasion of her birthday. Poor Lewis...will he ever move forward with his life? I also thought this episode provided a nice showcase of sorts for Lewis and Hathaway's (Laurence Fox) working relationship - particularly Hathaway's wonderfully dry, sarcastic sense of humor. Some of the moments where he's interviewing the student members of the theater troupe were absolutely hilarious.

There's two stories going on in this episode - the Shakespearean-related murders, and the appearance of a conman - one Simon Monkford. Monkford is played by Ronan Vibert, who is in one of my favorte shows ever - The Scarlet Pimpernel. Vibert positively owned the role of Robespierre in that series, he was absolutely fantastic. Hathaway senses a story with Monkford's presence in Oxford, so in an extremely attractive and determined fashion he begins to dig into poor Monkford's past, and discovers a gap in his history - a gap where he had a breakdown due to a car accident in London, an accident where he may have hurt someone. The pieces begin to fall into place, and Hathaway is shocked to discover he's stumbled upon the driver of the car who hit Lewis's wife years before.

The murder mystery isn't really the point of the episode. It's all well and good and fairly interesting. However the really interesting meat of the episode is in how it explores Lewis and Hathaway's characters and their friendship. They are still very much trying to figure each other out, and in separate conversations with their boss it's clear that they are both in complete and utter denial about the fact that they are more similar than they'd ever like to admit. Hathaway is more torn up by the discovery of who killed Lewis's than he'd ever admit. And Lewis's initial reaction to the revelation is rather painful to witness. But by the end of the episode they of course come to terms with each other - in only the way two strong, silent, extremely introverted guys can (i.e., not really talking about the issue and exchanging significant looks - haha!!).

I'll be sorry to see this run of Lewis episodes come to an end tomorrow night, they've been a lot of fun to watch. More than I expected, that's for sure, and largely thanks to the presence of the yummy Laurence Fox. :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Review: The Other Side of Me by Linda Eder

I originally reviewed Linda Eder's first album for Verve in October 2008.

Linda Eder has always been known as primarily singer of show tunes and standards, a vocalist in the grand tradition of Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland. Her last album, By Myself: The Songs of Judy Garland, is perhaps the most glowing example of her voice’s ability to wrap itself around pop standards and make well-known songs her own while paying tribute to one of her vocal idols. If that album set a high standard (no pun intended) for reinventing the Great American Songbook, Eder’s latest – The Other Side of Me – finds the accomplished vocalist doing a complete 180-degree stylistic turn. The results are stunning. The last time Eder attempted to branch out into pop-country fare with 2002’s Gold, the results were mixed with one too many less than stellar covers and weak arrangements, mixed with some outstanding gems (like “Gold”). With the backing of a new label (Verve), Eder and producer Billy Jay Stein have crafted a solid album of country/pop songs with arrangements that perfectly frame Eder’s voice, which is perhaps at its most relaxed and joyful. Eder’s cover of “If I Could” blows Celine Dion’s (from her Miracle album) version out of the water. The song brims with emotion, Eder’s voice pure and crystalline backed by a piano-based arrangement. Cover-wise Eder also delivers gorgeous renderings of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and the Indigo Girls’ “Ghost,” the latter of which has become one of my favorite Eder songs. It’s absolutely breath-taking. Songwriter extraordinaire Kara DioGuardi (who penned the Celine Dion hit “Taking Chances”) contributes “Back to Life,” an upbeat number that’s just one of many cuts on the album that could potentially find a home on country radio. Along with “Ghost,” my other favorite song on the album is the Linda Eder-penned “Waiting For the Fall,” a funky, blues-rocker of a number that recalls the likes of Carrie Underwood’s smash hit “Before He Cheats.” The Other Side of Me is a winner for Eder – she’s taken a risk that’s paid off in spades artistically and solidifies her position as one of today’s pre-eminent vocalists in everything from pop to country fare. (If you can, pick up the Barnes and Noble exclusive edition of TOSOM with the bonus track “Everything Comes and Goes” – it’s worth it!)

Review: By Myself by Linda Eder

I originally reviewed this fantastic album back in 2006.

By Myself: The Songs of Judy Garland, by Linda Eder, is a brilliant album. I absolutely love it. It easily makes the top five in my favorite albums of 2005 (if I were to ever bother to create such a ranking). My fears about losing Linda's crystal-clear voice in a tribute to her idol, Judy Garland, have proven to be unfounded. One of many reasons to rejoice about this album is that there is no Frank Wildhorn music on this disc. I like a lot of Wildhorn's work (the Broadway shows Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel), but I am thrilled that Linda is finally getting a chance to expand her recording repertoire (her 2002 album Gold contains some of Wildhorn's less than stellar work, as well as some truly insipid, uninspired covers...I think there are three good songs on this disc, maybe). The arrangements on By Myself are absolutely fantastic...they pay a fresh tribute to Judy and her work without sounding overblown or trite.

In "By Myself" Linda's voice is eerily similar to Judy's...she emulates Garland's every vocal nuance to perfection. Perhaps this is done a bit too well...the arrangement is fantastic but I would've liked to hear more of Linda's trademark crystal clear high notes. Incidentally this is one of my favorite songs ever. However, the Judy comparisons end for me with the 2nd track, "Almost Like Being In Love/This Can't Be Love"--this song swings with a stellar, sparkling arrangement and Linda's voice soars. This sets the tone for the rest of the disc, which alternates between upbeat, swinging numbers and slow, smoky jazz (whoever first used the adjective "smoky" to describe jazz was brilliant). "It Never Was You" is an gorgeous ballad that serves as the perfect showcase for Eder's achingly poignant vocals. Linda outdoes her previous recording of "Over the Rainbow" (on It's Time) with her new version...and if you listen to them both that's really saying something...each one is stellar. "Rainbow's End" is the one original song on the disc, written by Jack Murphy. It's a tribute song to Judy that tells her story, and it fits in beautifully with the rest of the album.

Eder has the kind of voice that was born to breath new life into these classic songs, and as a fan I'm thrilled that she's finally had the opportunity to record an album of standards and to do it so well. I hope in future releases that she revisits this type of music, but perhaps she will be able to blend the old with new jazz/pop songs? Jamie Cullum is one of the best examples of doing this successfully, IMHO. We shall see...if this is any indication the future is bright for Linda's recording career. To compare Linda's incredible tribute to the original, check out the Essential Judy Garland, a one disc compilation of Garland's work that just released summer 2006.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Inspector Lewis: Allegory of Love


Wow, have I ever gotten behind on my Inspector Lewis reviews. But never fear (ha!), I am determined to get caught up, especially since this run of shows ends this Sunday (*sob*!). Dang that pesky vacation. ;-) Allegory of Love is the episode I missed while in NYC, and it was one of my favorites, ranking right up there for me with Music to Die For as far as quality goes. Here is the brief episode summary from the PBS website:

Young and handsome Oxford writer Dorian Crane is following in the noted fantasy footsteps of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien with his newest book. The day after Crane's book launch party, reality shatters the celebratory mood when a young Czech barmaid is found dead by the river, savagely murdered with an antique Persian mirror. Some of the grisly circumstances seem to have been lifted from Crane's fiction. But the celebrated author claims no knowledge of the crime, instead fawning over his bride-to-be and muse Alice Wishart. At the murder scene, Lewis and Hathaway find a one-word note scrawled in blood that references a place in Iraq. As a result, Lewis and Hathaway get pulled into the world of Oxford's literary elite, only to find that it harbors resentment and jealousy and at its center, holds terrible secrets beyond all imagination.

I love the Oxford setting of the Lewis mysteries - the atmosphere lends each episode a rarified, academic tone that just can't really be found in other mystery shows. Allegory plays the Oxford/academic angle to the hilt, positively dripping with literary allusions. As an English major I'm probably extra biased towards this episode because it's the most literature-oriented mystery to date. It all starts when Lewis (Kevin Whately) attends a booksigning where up-and-coming Oxford research fellow Dorian Crane (Dorian Gray, anyone?), played by Tom Mison (also known as Mr. Bingley from Lost in Austen!!), is signing his latest fantasy epic. I've got to say I enjoyed watching Mison stretch his acting chops here - he's definitely an actor to watch IMO. Crane is attempting to restart the Inklings - so right off the bat this episode gives one Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis references. A gruesome pall is cast over the festive book signing atmosphere when a Czech barmaid (random, anyone?) is found brutally killed by an antique mirror bashed over her head.

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be any connection between Oxford's literary elites and a "lowly" murdered barmaid. However, the more Lewis and the intrepid, brilliant, lovely (okay, I'll stop now - ha!!) Hathaway (Laurence Fox) investigate, the more surprising revelations about some of Oxford's to professors come to light. Seriously, the profs are creepy, I'm just sayin'. One has to marvel at the way they cover for each other one second, always ready stab each other through the back if the need arises. The professor angle is particularly interesting since one of the suspects - Norman Deering - is played by James Fox, Laurence's real-life father. This connection made Lewis's comment to Hathaway about Deering being into "that celibacy" thing like Hathaway extra hilarious. Actually, they CRACKED ME UP. ;-) Like father, like son. Haha!!

The red herrings and misdirection this script throws at a viewer kept me in the dark until the end. In fact, I had serious doubts about the filmmakers ability to pull all of the disparate plot threads together into some sort of comprehensible resolution. Happy, for my money, they succeeded fairly well. Sure, this story is INSANELY crazy and convolutated, but I enjoyed the wild twists and turns. Who'd have thought one episode could cover an "Alice through the looking glass" murder, death by Peter's sword (of Narnia fame), wrapping up with an insane Oedipal complex run amuck. Lewis, my friends, covers a lot of literary ground.

OMG!! OMG!!!

Sorry for the real-time freak out, but I just realized that TWO, count them TWO Pride and Prejudice adaptation alums appear in this episode!! One of the many suspects, Jem Wishart, looked quite familiar but I couldn't quite place him - I just looked up the actor on the IMDB, and Wishart was played by Adrian Lukis, who played Wickham in what is commonly known in my world as the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice. ;-) Seriously, seeing how Lukis has aged here kind of cracked me up, just had to say that up front. Actually, his character here isn't really improved from his famous turn as Wickham - morally Wishart is just as much of a mess, only meeker.

For another perspective on this episode, check out Heidenkind's blog.

PS: Seriously, how sad and just a bit funny, in an ironice sort of way, is it that Lewis's boss spent most of the episode trying to fix him up with a PSYCHOTIC KILLER?!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Proposal

I don't see near as many movies in the theater as I used to, so I never got around to seeing The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds earlier this year. As it turns out, this is one film I wouldn't have regretted paying to see in the theater. I tend to like Sandra Bullock movies - While You Were Sleeping, Two Weeks Notice, and The Lake House rank among my favorites. She's so pretty but not in a stand-offish kind of way, and with the right script she can be oh so funny. In some respects she reminds me just a tad of Doris Day (not all the time by any stretch, and just a smidgen mind you! *wink*).

The story in a nutshell concerns one Margaret Tate (Bullock), an editor who rules her publishing house domain with an iron fist (think Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada), who discovers she's about to be deported thanks to carelessly flouting US immigration laws, all in the name of advancing her career. She blackmails her long-suffering assistant Andrew (Reynolds) into agreeing to marry her - only of course this contrived story doesn't fly with the immigration official. And sure, you could argue that this is just another contrived rom-com, but there are enough fresh and funny moments inserted into the script that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. For one thing, the gender battle between Margaret and Andrew is a heckuva lot of fun to watch. I can't think of another film offhand where the guy, who's playing second fiddle to an extremely powerful, by all appearances self-assured woman, is just as smart and as bright as his female counterpart - instead of falling into the trap of being likable but goofy/silly/stupid male lead. Does that make sense? When Margaret has to acknowledge that she actually needs Andrew's willing cooperation in order to stay in the country, and they have to kind of recalibrate their relationship, the "hiccups" in that process are a lot of fun to watch. :)

Bullock and Reynolds have some terrific on-screen chemistry. And let me be honest here, Reynolds is just a doll. He's an absolute sweetheart in this movie. His ability to balance being drop-dead gorgeous, sincere, and romantic with the comedic aspects of the role reminded me a bit of Cary Grant - he wasn't afraid to be wonderfully silly either. In fact the whole tone of The Proposal comes about as close as one could wish to the tone of the more classic romantic comedies, particularly the Doris Day/Rock Hudson gems. If it wasn't for the inclusion of Sandra Bullock's first nude scene - which is silly, stupid slapstick, and completely unnecessary to the flow of the story in my view - this movie would hit even closer to the mark of aspiring to the tone of the classic romantic comedies. The movie has a lot of pretty positive things to say about marriage and family and relationships that are quite refreshing to see portrayed in a positive & funny light. The family angle of the film is anchored by the always enjoyable Betty White as Andrew's grandmother - and she may be 87, but let me tell you that woman is an inspiration. She steals every single scene she's in. :)

If you missed The Proposal when it was in theaters I highly recommend checking it out. It's by turns super sweet and laugh-out-loud funny, and definitely my favorite romantic comedy of the year. (For the record I've seen Confessions of a Shopaholic and really enjoyed it (hello Hugh Dancy!!), thought New in Town was mediocre, and My Life in Ruins was so blah I'm not going to waste a blog post on it.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

NYC - Day 4 & 5 (10/4-10/5/09)

Okay, since it took 3 days for Facebook to "allow" me to post the remainder of my NYC trip pictures, I'm kind of over them at the moment. ;-) Here are a few selected shots from the last two days of the trip - and that's it, promise! LOL!

Sunday we went to the Brooklyn Tabernacle for church - the service was just awesome! This side entrance is a little unprepossessing, but once you're inside the building the renovated theater is spectacular!

Little Italy, which I absolutely loved & adored.

We took the Staten Island Ferry around 6:00 - perfect weather, and I got some shots of the gorgeous sunset to boot!

This is a picture of the memorial inside the first responders fire station right across from the World Trade Center site.

Shot of the Brooklyn Bridge from our walk Monday morning.

Regular blogging resumes from now on. :-)

Friday, October 9, 2009

NYC Day 3 - 10/3/09

Hope ya'll aren't tired of NYC posts yet. :) Here's a few of my favorite shots from day 3 of our trip.

Bryant Park was absolutely gorgeous, even though it'd been raining!

Grand Central Station - absolutely LOVED this place!!

The clock in Grand Central - remined me of the old Judy Garland film The Clock - such a sweet classic!

The Empire State Building - zero visibility that night, but I thought this pic came out kind of cool!

My favorite shot of traffic around the Empire State Building - cool, no? ;-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NYC Day 2 - Everything Else

This is a very small sampling of the pictures I took after Julia, Lori & I left Central Park on day 2 of our NYC adventures! (As usual, more pics are on Facebook!)

This is probably my favorite shot from visiting FAO Schwartz...the Harry Potter Lego display!! Isn't that cool? :)

St. Patrick's Cathedral - absolutely gorgeous, such an impressive site!

Me @ 30 Rockefeller Plaza!

One of the shots I took of the Wicked stage before show started. People, let me tell you - Wicked was absolutely spectacular. I've been wanting to see this show for something like six years - and to see it on Broadway? That was a dream come true, and so worth the wait. The Gershwin Theater completely blew me away...don't be surprised if a post devoted to my Broadway musicals experience appears in the near future. :)

In front of the Gershwin Theater with Elphaba. :)

Hang in there people - there's still three more days' worth of pictures to sample! ;-)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

NYC Day 2 (10/2/09) - Central Park

This is a very, very small sampling of the pictures I took on day 2 of our trip, when Julia, Lori & I hit Central Park. I LOVED it. The weather was perfect - it was a simply gorgeous, beautiful, fall day. There's apparently a ton of ground in the park that we didn't cover...if, no when, I go back to NYC, I'd love to check out the other half. :)

This is a view across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. I love the reflection of the buildings on the water!

Belvedere Castle, built in 1872. Loved it, loved it, loved it. A weather station is located inside the tower.

Me enjoying the view! :)

Lori & I at the castle.

View of the Plaza Hotel from the park.

NYC Day 1, part 2

Okay, here's the rest of my photo selections from day 1 of the trip.

First up is me in front of the Palace Theater & a West Side Story poster. Like the arms coming out of my head? LOL!!

Across the street from the Palace - advertisements for West Side Story, South Pacific (would've loved to have seen that one too!), and Chicago).

Julia in Times Square...

Advertisements for Wicked and Phantom (still can't believe I've never seen that show on stage!).

With Lori in Times Square - she saw the play A Steady Rain starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig (as hard as this may be to believe, I'm not *that* jealous, I loved West Side Story so much - LOL!).

NYC Day 1, part 1

Well, I'm BACK! :) Here's some pictures from Day 1 of our adventures in NYC!!

First up is a view of the Palace Theater stage from the balcony, where Leah, Julia, and I had seats to see West Side Story. I still cannot believe I was at the actual PALACE THEATER!! Judy Garland played the Palace, people!! You can read a bit about this theater's fascinating history here.

Here's a display of old Palace programs we found in the theater after the show. So much history, I just loved it!

Leah & I after the show in front of the stage. We've been friends for like six years and this is our first picture together - sad, I know. LOL!

West Side Story poster on the theater's side doors. We apparently hung around too long because we were ushered out the side door, LOL! Loved seeing this poster, though. The show was fantastic! I have never been a huge fan of the West Side Story movie, but seeing the show onstage made me appreciate the show in a whole new light (and it's bilingual, no less!). I thought the leads were all terrific - I especially liked Matt Cavenaugh as Tony. *swooning now* :)

Entrance to the theater. More pics to come soon!

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Though Waters Roar

• Bethany House (October 1, 2009)


Lynn Austin


Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction.

Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel.


"Thank goodness you're such a plain child. You'll have to rely on your wits."

So went the words of Grandma Bebe. And for all of my growing-up years, I scoffed at the beauty of my sister and what I saw as her meaningless existence. But my wits hadn't served me well in this instance, for here I was, in jail. And while I could have seen it as carrying on the family tradition (for Grandma Bebe landed in jail for her support of Prohibition), the truth is, my reasons for being here would probably break her heart.

So how did I end up becoming a criminal? I've been pondering that question all night. Perhaps the best way to search for an answer is to start at the very beginning.

Harriet Sherwood has always adored her grandmother. But when Harriet decides to follow in her footsteps to fight for social justice, she certainly never expected her efforts to land her in jail. Nor did she expect her childhood enemy and notorious school bully, Tommy O'Reilly, to be the arresting officer.

Languishing in a jail cell, Harriet has plenty of time to sift through the memories of the three generations of women who have preceded her. As each story emerges, the strength of her family--and their deep faith in the God of justice and righteousness--brings Harriet to the discovery of her own goals and motives for pursuing them.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Though Waters Roar, go HERE