Category Archives: Reviews

View from the Peaks: a “Twin Peaks” episode review

Pilot – “Northwest Passage”

I was 8 when “Twin Peaks” first aired on April 8, 1990 and while I was not allowed to watch it I remember my mom setting the VCR to record the newest episode; I remember the TV Guide section of the newspaper printing a graph to show how everyone was connected; I’ve seen references to it in “Psych”, “Gravity Falls”, “Veronica Mars” and “Community”; I have spent most of my life knowing the quotes “Who killed Laura Palmer?” and “This as a damn fine cup of coffee.”

But I never watched a single episode… until now.

After some initial confusion over picking the original or international pilot (the internet told me to stick with original) my DVD booted up and I was introduced to the Log Lady – which left me feeling like I was watching public access TV in Night Vale.

The introduction of the major plot point happened fairly quickly and then we spent the next 45 minutes watching everybody cry. Like, bad soap opera crying. At the drop of a hat. Really, the sheriff walks into your classroom, doesn’t say a word, but somehow you look at him then look at an empty chair and start bawling?

donna cryingThen another girl is missing but before we can blink she’s walking out of the woods in a torn and bloody nightgown. This prompts the arrival of FBI agent Dale Cooper and we discover that Laura has a super small piece of paper under her fingernail with the letter R on it, which the FBI agent says is a clue to a serial killer.

At this point we move away from the crying and on to the part of the episode I call “When is this show taking place?”. Without the major trends (mod in the 60’s, disco in the 70’s, or punk in the 80’s) to pin the time frame, Twin Peaks plays on the small town time warp; the teens are set as jocks vs bikers, the doctor makes house calls and knows everyone by name, and the local dinner is so chock full of kitsch you can hardly find the pie.

The episode finally fizzles out to the end and I’m left wondering what the heck I just watched. But a lot of people – who generally have good taste in TV – have told me this show is awesome so episode two here I come.

Quote of the episode: “The Norwegians are leaving! The Norwegians are leaving! The Norwegians are leaving! The Norwegians are leaving!”


Find it on Amazon

Twin Peaks: The Complete Series (The Definitive Gold Box Edition)

Mythica: A Quest for Heroes – Engaging Fun for Fans, by Fans

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Premiering today exclusively on CONtv, Mythica: A Quest for Heroes is the first installment of the Mythica trilogy from Arrowstorm Entertainment. The next two parts (Mythica: The Darkspore and Mythica: The Necromancer )will also debut on the new streaming channel later this year.

The story of Mythica: A Quest for Heroes is fairly typical of fantasy-adventure films: a temple is raided, a woman is kidnapped, and her sister, a healer-priestess, hires a team of would-be heroes to find and save her. Along the way they face dangerous creatures (ogres, orcs, etc.) and learn about themselves.

Here’s what isn’t typical: The first hero to sign on for priestess Teela’s quest is a young woman named Marek, a young magician with a club foot. It is Marek who finds the rest of the group, and convinces them to join the quest, and her story is really the heart of the film.

Marek is played by the incredibly engaging Melanie Stone, who infuses the part with the perfect balance of eager anticipation and fierce tenacity. Her teammates include Adam Johnson as the noble warrior Thane, and Jeremy Stormoen as the delightfully roguish thief, Dagen. Rounding out the party is Nicola Posener as Teela.

All four are relative unknowns, with a few genre credits and bit parts in more mainstream productions, and all four are relatable and watchable, but it is Stone who really grabs the camera’s – and the viewer’s – attention. I enjoyed her performance in this film so much that even when the plot was somewhat predictable, I was never bored.

The supporting cast, including Kevin Sorbo as Marek’s mentor Gojun Pye, is as interesting as the core four. Of particular note are the performances by Christopher Robin Miller as Hammerhead the Innkeeper/Bartender and Sebastian Michael Barr as Marek’s friend Egan.

If Anne Black’s direction feels, at times, as though we are watching a well-plotted LARP adventure, that doesn’t detract at all from the story. (Black is also one of the writers, along with Jason Faller and Kynan Griffin.) After all, the Mythica series was inspired, in part, by RPGs. A combination of digital and practical effects – an impressive array considering the size of the filmmakers’ budget – enriches the film, and Nathaniel Drew’s soundtrack was a delightful surprise.

The creators of the Mythica trilogy have said in interviews that this project was created by fans for fans, but it was also supported by fans: a Kickstarter campaign was a crucial source of funding for the first film, and the Kickstarter campaign for the second installment (link here) was launched yesterday.

If you’re looking for a highly intellectual film, Mythica: A Quest for Heroes isn’t it. If, however, you want to spend an enjoyable hour and a half watching some really likable characters on a journey, not just to save Teela’s sister, but also toward camaraderie, then point your web browser or Roku device of choice toward CONtv, pop some popcorn, and have fun.

 

Click here to watch Mythica on CONtv NOW! 

Taking Care of Your Clothes With Downy, Bounce and Janie Bryant from Mad Men

Downey Wrinkle Releaser

I’m horrible when it comes to taking care of my clothes. I dump them all in together, wash them cold and HATE ironing. SO I was very excited when I was offered “The FabricCare Guide” by costume designer, Janie Bryant, who is best known for her work on Mad Men.

A page from the Fabric Guide by Janie Bryant

The guide is a beautifully illustrated book with illustrations and pictures of garments from the show. There’s even tiny fabric swatches! If you want first class advice on how to take care of your own clothes like a pro (or just want a really fun Mad Men tie in) check out the downloadable guide here: www.downywrinklereleaser.com/janiebryant.  There’s also a coupon there so you can try Downy’s Wrinkle Releaser for yourself.

“One thing I’ve always been passionate about is how important presentation is to having great style,” said Bryant. “Looking pressed and polished is often just as important as what you’re wearing and the best way to pull off that look is to know how to take great care of your clothing.”

The advice is tied in with Downy’s new Wrinkle Releaser. For folks like me who hate ironing it’s a welcome relief. You simply spray on, tug and smooth out the serious wrinkles and hang it up. Obviously it’s not a last minute product (unless you’re willing to go out with a damp shirt or pants), but it is a nice alternative to ironing. I used it on a skirt that I had forgotten to hang up immediately out of the dryer and it reduced the visible wrinkles pretty quickly (and I didn’t burn anything down). And, the plus side is it smells great!

I also received a bottle of Bounce’s new ironing spray. It acts like starch, but without the annoying smell or flakes you sometimes get from starching your clothes and ironing. For the times that I do have to iron I’m happy to have this around.

Both are available at big box retailers like Target and Walmart or check your local grocery store.

 

I received  free samples of Bounce Ironing Spray and Downey Wrinkle Release along with a hard copy of “The FabricCare Guide” for free, but all opinions are my own and I do my best to give my honest, amazingly insightful review of any free products I receive.

Movie Review: The Killer Elite

The Killer Elite opens 9/23. Buy tickets now on Fandango.com.

Find out more about The Killer Elite at killerelite.com

I went to see “The Killer Elite” last week at a special press screening and I have to say I was blown away. I’m not normally one for assassin vs. assassin movies, but “The Killer Elite” is more than just your typical violence for the sake of violence film – it’s actually a real interesting story about trained assassins, government corruption and the role the West has played in the Middle East. Entirely relevant for the current culture and political times today.

Both myself and Lisa, who came along, walked out after seeing it surprised at how much we really enjoyed the film because, at the end of the day, it told a compelling, redemptive story. Added bonus? Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker from Chuck) plays the romantic lead.

Synopsis:

“Based on a shocking true story, Killer Elite pits two of the world’s most elite operatives – Danny, an ex-special ops agent (Jason Statham) and Hunter, his longtime mentor (Robert De Niro) – against the cunning leader of a secret military society (Clive Owen).  Covering the globe from Australia to Paris, London and the Middle East, Danny and Hunter are plunged into a highly dangerous game of cat and mouse — where the predators become the prey.”

Non-Spoilery Verdict:

Come for the explosions, car chases, stellar cast and leave with a compelling story.

Jason Statham does what he does best in this role: he plays the hard on the outside, teddy bear on the inside lead. As Danny he gets to really play with the tortured soul who is pulled back into the assasian business because of his friend. Robert DeNiro gets to play an excellent role as a foil for Jason’s character adding to every scene he’s in without having to outshine the rest of the cast. Yvonne gets to play a good Australian country girl, and even though her role is smaller than the male leads, she really lights up the screen at every turn. I was pleasantly surprised that her character wasn’t as flat as I had anticipated she might be in this very male genre film.

Clive Owen is masterful and gripping in his role. Of the three male leads I really believed his character most of all.

At the beginning the movie did feel more like an independent film (long, non-actiony type shots), but the action picked up and left me interested through out. There were a couple unexpected turns that the movie made that I wasn’t expecting and the overall message was redemption is possible and who you were does not have to define who you become.

Downsides to the movie (for me) was it was rated R for language (brief nudity) and violence (though the violence wasn’t as bad as I thought it may be).

This is a really great movie based on a non-fiction book The Feather Men and I recommend you go see it for yourself.

The Big Bang Theory and Co-Workers (and lasers)

This past season of the Big Bang Theory we saw a lot more of the boys at work at CalTech. Their office life is something that I envy! Imagine being surrounded by cool lasers and a cafeteria that lets you take as many napkins as you want. My last office job was full of geeks much like CalTech, but it seemed to have a higher ratio of females than CalTech.

One of the things I love about the Big Bang Theory is a lot of the relationships between the characters are centered around hanging out and eating. It’s no different at their work where a lot of pivotal discussions and introduction of new character/plots happen in the cafeteria. A lot of my co-worker bonding time has been around food as well (shared lunches, free lunch Friday, etc). There’s something universal about sharing a meal together.

Of course, I’ve never spent overnight sleeping at my office like Sheldon did when he refused to learn how to drive. But in a lot of other ways my office experiences were similar to the ones you see on The Big Bang Theory… except for the laser part.

How about you? Do you and your co-workers bond over lunch? Do you get to work with lasers (okay, I’m super jealous of the laser bit, I admit)?

Buy The Big Bang Theory Season 4 on DVD/BluRay! http://bit.ly/nAnZ5T

I have been hired by Warner Bros. WBWord division to promote The Big Bang Theory Season 4 on DVD.

Vampire Diaries Season 2 DVD Review – Special Features

Special Features are something that makes or break any DVD set, especially for TV. The special features included add to the overall valube of a show that you may be able to get cheaper digitally. Recently I’ve been kind of disappointed by the lack of great features on DVDs that I’ve bought. Thankfully, The Vampire Diaries Season 2 DVDs have some really great features and is well worth buying the set for.

My favorite is “Her Own Worst Enemy…” which goes into explaining how they do split screen scenes (when one actor plays two characters in the same shot). Especially in Season 2 where in one episode Nina Dobrev has to play 12 pages of script Katherine and Elena just talking to each other. For Buffy fans it’s kind of like Dopplegangland when Aly had to play four different characters.

There’s also an amazingly fun “The Perfect Love Triangle…” that explains all of the romances on the show (with a fun little ‘family tree’ style chart) with actor/crew interviews explaining them. Then they try and explain Elena’s family tree. It’s freaking hilarious.

There’s also a bunch of small features on the werewolves and their mythology, a fantastic gag reel, deleted/unaired scenes, and a commentary on the pivotal episode “Masquerade.”

Check the fun features out for yourself and order your copy of The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season on DVD/Blu-Ray here today: http://bit.ly/mkiZtx!

I have been hired by Warner Bros. WBWord division to promote The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season on DVD/Blu-Ray.

Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert/The CW

Theo Teaches Systematic Theology in Cartoon Form

I grew up with Christian cartoons, from Superbook to Hanna-Barbera’s Greatest Adventure Stories from the Bible and, as I hit high school Veggie Tales. So when I was asked to review Theo I was very intrigued. The idea of teaching systematic theology with fun cartoons is very appealing because, as School House Rock can tell you, animated featurettes can sometimes teach more lasting lessons than a room full of teachers.

Theo is a very cute premise, a nice old English man who lives in a cozy cottage in the Cotswolds with two mice named — of course — Luther and Belfry. Luther and Belfry are my favorite part of the movies. Their antics add the fun part of the videos. The two episodes I watched had them acting silly, but it actually fit with the lesson for each video.

I also enjoyed the illustrated shorts (like the story of Abraham done in pop-up graphic style) and I think that it’s a resource that works really well for adults as well as kids because of the pacing and storytelling. I can see it easily setting up a message or used in a worship service. It also would be helpful in Sunday School or homeschooling settings if supplemental materials are used (discussion especially).

The theology itself and the message is sound. For those who really want to teach the fundamentals of the Christian faith, this is a great series. Again, the lessons are simple enough for children to understand, but are also ideas that work well for adults. In one episode Theo explains how the word “sin” really means “missing the mark” and that it’s an archery term. He illustrates the fact by firing a bow and arrow.

As enjoyable as the videos are there are a couple drawbacks. The series is geared towards urban kids or younger children who probably would get bored with the didactic style of the videos. There’s not enough story here to keep people engaged (though, the videos are short 5-7 minutes). I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea that theology can only be taught by older, Caucasian Englishmen. I would have liked to have seen something more universal (or at least a larger, diverse human population).

If you’d like to find out more about Theo, which is also available on iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch check it out at:  www.theopresents.com

You can also check out the first episode for free and download it at their website.

 

I was given a review copy of Theo for the purpose of reviewing on this site. The free copy does not in any way change my opinions of the product and I strive to always give honest and reliable reviews.

Video + Review: Millie and the Lost Key


I love ebooks for the iPad. I think they’re getting cleverer and cleverer. So I was delighted when I was able to review “Millie and the Lost Key” (the second book about the dog adventurer Millie). While I don’t have kids of my own I have a ton of kids who use my iPad on a regular basis. It’s been the best tool in combatting “long, boring adult things.” Just a couple weeks ago it was a long lunch. There’s also been long graduations, long meetings, and long bus rides. Kids love the iPad because of the tactile experience and, because of this, “Millie and the Lost Key” is an experience kids won’t soon forget.

The Interface
Millie and the Lost Key is fairly intuitive to use, though I’m glad they had the small startup instructions on how to turn pages. A lot of the pages look like their “real life” counterparts (such as pop up books) so knowing what to do on the screen is easy. The kids I’ve seen use it didn’t struggle at all. The only part I struggled with was knowing when to “scratch off” versus click on something, but soon got the hang of it.

Experience
The strength of this app is that there’s always a surprise on the next page and you can’t really tell what might come next. Where a lot of ebooks fail, Millie and the Lost Key succeeds in giving you enough variety in things to do that you’re not bored and give up halfway through. There’s things to push, pull, scratch, click and more. Plus a variety of small mini-games that help the story along.

The Story
If you’ve bought enough ebook apps you know that often an ebook is either 1) a great story or 2) a great experience, but very seldom does an ebook app give you both. I have several amazing kids books on my iPad that just make boring apps. There’s nothing visually striking about them and there’s little to click on, move or push around the screen. Thankfully Millie and the Lost Key is not only an exciting app to play with it’s also an adorably cute story.

The Price
For the amount of fun this app is, I think it’s one of the most reasonably priced kids ebooks out there. The added value is that it’s got a nice replay incentive if you’ve missed all of the hidden stickers or just want to retry to beat your score on some of the mini-games.

Bottom Line
I say buy it, it’s a fun app and is great for the kids in your life who are going to be borrowing your iPad. Plus, you can get the first book “Meet Millie” for free! Click here to find “Millie and the Lost Key” on iTunes: http://bit.ly/qm4ofG

Review of Star Wars vs. Star Trek by Matt Forbeck

It’s safe to say that I’m an uber geek girl. I cut my teeth on Star Trek and met Riker at my first Star Trek convention when I was like 8 years old. My dad watched the original Star Trek (ST:TOS as it’s referred to by fans) when it first aired, but he also watched the Star Wars movies as they were released. Geekdom, it runs in my blood.

So when I got the chance to read and review Matt Forbeck’s “Star Wars vs. Star Trek” I jumped at it. Long has there been a stalemate in which future franchise reigns supreme. Is it Star Trek with it’s “wagon train to the stars,” optimistic vibe of explorers and tusslers or Star Wars, with it’s small flame of hope against an oppressive regime? Both are near to my heart, so I read the book with gusto.

If you’re looking for a very serious, in-depth look at the cultural, political, social implications of two fictional world mega-franchises — this is not the book for you. And kudos to Matt for not making it another academic discussion. Instead Matt pits similar characters against each other based on their roles in a head to head combat that’s heavily influenced by both stories. My favorite parts are the show downs themselves that are written in semi-fictional prose (want to see Obi Wan and Picard battle? It’s here). Long time fans of both series will enjoy the depth of information and the (sometimes surprising) mashups. At the end of each meeting there’s a decision – who wins? Sometimes clear, sometimes a draw, the characters themselves will determine the winning franchise at the end.

Great fun to read and it often had me giggling like crazy. I highly recommend Star Wars vs. Star Trek to any uber geeky fan who just needs to know who wins.

Buy it now on Amazon:  http://t.co/8ZLyWRF

PAINMAN ISSUE #2 – Reciprocity Review

PAINMAN is a “superhero” in Los Angeles who takes the pain that has been caused to the victim of a crime, and transfers it onto the villain. He is in pain all the time, due to his Fibromyalgia, but he uses this pain to make him stronger.

In this issue, PAINMAN comes to the rescue of some women being abducted for human trafficking. He must push through his own pain in order to scale the building and defeat the bad guys. Only then can he inflict the pain of the victims onto the villains. Not all pain is physical either.

PAINMAN is a great concept. There are some deep themes that I’m sure could be explored through a series of issues. Our hero makes judgment calls just like any superhero about what punishment the villain deserves. He also has the ability to take away others’ pain and keep it as his own. He must show mercy and also justice, but there has to be a balance.

The artwork is really amazing! I enjoyed always being able to see the scarring on PAINMAN’s face. He’s never just a faceless character like in some books. The illustrations are very detailed, and I’d love to have a couple of the shots as posters.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good superhero comic story, and I look forward to continuing to read this series myself.

To learn more about PAINMAN visit the official site at PAINMAN.com where you can read issue #2 and buy issue #1 (plus other merchandise) or on their Facebook page.