Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Odds and Ends

Hi everyone, as I'm now two days away from my month-long journey through the Twilight Saga I have a few quick things I'd like to say:

1) Sorry I didn't get a First Impressions: No Ordinary Family post done - I had book club last night and therefore no time to check out the pilot. I'll try to do a review of the first five episodes once I'm back to normal in November.

2) As one of my book clubs is doing Twilight for our October selection, I'll also be reading the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner as I now will have the space to read another book (I read 6 or 7 a month).

3) Although I will read all of the Twilight books and check out all three current soundtracks, I may have difficulty seeing the movie Eclipse - It's not on DVD yet, so I'm basically hoping I can find it at one of the cheap theatres in my area.

Have a great day everybody.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vending Machine Review: The EPL Lending Machine

I'm always happy to see my city come up with new ideas, or perhaps a new twist on an old idea, like the Edmonton Public Library's new Lending Machine. The premise is pretty simple; take the technology used for candy vending machines and fill it up with materials from the library (books, music, DVDs, video games, etc.), attach a return chute to the machine and then put it in one of our LRT (basically a subway) stations.

Suddenly you've given library access to people using our mass transit system, so then can sign out and return items during their daily commute. The machine looks pretty nice and my daughter Lorisia (who used the machine last Friday - pictured above) said it was pretty easy to use and kind of fun.

I hope the project works out well and we get more of these machines in our city, because the idea is really kind of cool.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things I've noticed: Thinking about a month of Twilight is scary

Dear Readers:

By this time next week I'll be working on a month's worth of posts focusing on the Twilight Series. Yup, almost 2500 pages, three movies, three soundtracks, two teams, and millions of screaming Twi-hards have caught my attention, causing me to devote a month to a series of books about vampires that glitter.

I'm hoping to keep to the same schedule I usually blog, but for the entire month of October I will be focusing on one of the most popular horror series of all time, and to be fair, one of the ones that scares me the most (for example, the fact that this series is considered horror scares me).

I'll do my best to give the series an honest look, from the point of view of a father of two teenaged girls who have read or are reading all of the books, as well as from the point of view of a fan of both horror and vampire-specific fiction.

If you don't like Twilight, and the idea of reading about me reading it over a month makes you want to stop visiting my blog, I understand. Just keep two things in mind:

1) If you read my blog throughout October you will become much more knowledgeable about the world of Twilight.

2) As of November I'll be back to my regular style post (first up, a review of the AMC series The Walking Dead - which premieres on Halloween)

For those of you brave enough to enter this frightening world with me - Thanks!

Your pal,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First Impressions: The Event

Continuing on with my look at the new genre series of the fall 2010 season, today we'll take a quick look at The Event. As mentioned previously, the show played up the Event as something big that may or may not have even fallen under the category of a genre work.

Here's what I can say about the show, it played with timelines leading up to the event (much like issue one of Y: the last man - which I love), it introduced us to a whole lot of characters; presidents, prisoners, parents, etc., it has a very good leading man (I've been a fan of Jason Ritter since I saw him in The Class - Joan of Arcadia is still on my "To Be Watched" list), who is quickly relatable and comes across as the kind of guy you might want to follow throughout many seasons of a show.

I'm a little annoyed that the pilot doesn't give us any sort of premise to follow (basically, SOMETHING happened), I mean, with Lost - even though the mysteries of the island were clearly only being hinted at in the pilot, you started with a plane crash and people having to survive on a deserted island, it didn't tell you everything, but at least you knew where the first half dozen episodes were going to go. I'm not sure what will happen next on The Event.

Due largely to the acting of Jason Ritter however, I will stick around for a couple more episodes to find out (and may keep watching after that if the show manages to hook me.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

First Impressions: Lost Girl (TV Series)

Last night my wife and I checked out the pilot for the new genre series, Lost Girl. The show focuses on a woman named Bo, who has spent years on her own, travelling from place to place and using her strange abilities to feed on the sexual energies of others.

Discovered by other supernatural beings (called the Fae), Bo is drawn into a world wherein everyone must choose a side (light or dark) and nothing is as it seems. My wife said the idea of Canadian Fae running about is very similar to Canadian fantasy author Charles De LInt's Newcastle series of books, and the series definitely plays up the humour to match its dark premise (it turns out that Bo is a succubus, and that both groups of the Fae may want her dead), in introducing a side-kick character for Bo, a young girl named Kenzie who is both quite brave and a little stupid (a great mix, by the way).

I would consider the series Urban Fantasy, and although the subject matter means it is not for younger audiences, I think that older teens would probably find the show a lot of fun. The cheese factor is pretty high, but finding a good balance between humour and dramatic tension can definitely win a show over for me.

Overall, the pilot was fun, I think we'll be watching the series from now on (unless it goes horribly wrong), and I'm quite interested to see where they are going to go with this intriguing characters throughout the season.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Things I've noticed: The new genre TV lineup is getting lean

Last year with the end of Lost, the networks were filled with possible replacements – from Flashforward to V and The Witches of Eastwick to The Vampire Diaries, there were a lot of new television series with a significant Genre focus.

This year there are just a handful (to my knowledge, be sure to correct me if I’m wrong); No Ordinary Family on ABC, Lost Girl on Showcase (a specialty cable network up here in Canada), The Walking Dead on AMC, and possibly The Event on NBC (Although if they are a genre show, they are playing it really close to the vest – I guess we won’t know for sure until the pilot airs).

There is a deluge of Police and Legal shows this year (as compared to last years overwhelming Medical offers), and although there are a number of these shows I want to check out (most notably Terriers on FX, but I’ll have to wait for the DVD), I am starting to feel like the offerings for genre fans are starting to get pretty lean.

I guess it’s good in a way, as it lets me focus on the massive backlog of genre shows I’ve got on my shelves and still haven’t got around to (I’m still at season seven of The X-Files, and I’m really hoping to watch both the original Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits someday too), but like with any genre fan, I wish there were more shows specifically made for me!

Hmmm... (The sound of Bookmonkey imagining a bored TV executive coming across his blog and deciding to base a show on the things this blogger talks about – and yes that is a specific sound – the sounds and behaviours of the bookmonkey are a sadly underrepresented science!)

Executive: Perhaps if we made a show focusing on storyline and intriguing concept mixed with well thought out story arcs and perhaps nods to classic genre stories of the past... matching this with any number of up and coming actors, with a significant Canadian percentage... yes, I believe this show could definitely be created at a reasonable charge and it would impress one lone Canadian blogger (and possibly the readers of his blog), we will call it, The Wisdom of Bookmonkey – quick let’s send this blogger an offer to option his blog!

...or maybe I’ll just have to wait and see which of the new shows I’ll like best like everyone else.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: Caleb Colton

One of my favourite types of horror story is the one in which our main character is becoming the monster, rather than attempting to capture or destroy it. Most famously done in The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, the concept has been adapted and changed to cover werewolves, aliens and vampires. Which brings us to this weeks character, Caleb Colton (pictured left), from the film Near Dark.

What I like best about Caleb (as opposed to say Michael from The Lost Boys), is that he doesn't start the film as a jaded young man, but instead is simply a kid attempting to talk to a girl. Unfortunately, this girl appears to crazy, talking about the night and sort of ignoring the boy until she asks for a ride home.

The meat of the film occurs after (mild spoiler here), Caleb is transformed into a vampire (a word which is never mentioned in the film) and tries his best to adapt to his new life without ruining his moral code. Adrian Pasdar, the actor who played Caleb does an incredible job of portraying the internal strife of a man in a terrible new world, bringing the character much more depth than I was expecting in a horror film - it is characters like this by the way, which keep me interested in the genre.

In the end, the character of Caleb works for me as the kind of person I hope I would be in a terrible situation, one who does his best, but sticks to what he knows is right.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Game Review: Brütal Legend

This morning I finished my first game for the Playstation 3: Brütal Legend. And although I already posted about the main character in one of my recent Genre Character of the Week posts, I felt the game itself deserved a review.

First of all, here's what I loved about the game - the music, the humour, and the view. The game features 107 tracks from 75 different Heavy Metal bands, all the original bands doing their own music. This alone was one of the strongest features of the game as I loved being able to switch between songs throughout and the music added a really fun dimension to the game (which is inspired by Heavy Metal lyrics, imagery, and album covers). Secondly the game had a great sense of humour, adding a fun dimension to an otherwise standard action game (it sort of felt like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver to me, but instead of being filled with grim intensity, enjoyed poking fun at itself.) Finally, the graphics are just freaking amazing - speaking as someone who has never played a PS3 game before this one, I cannot stop commenting on how beautiful this game looks.

The negatives can mostly be tracked back to my inexperience with more recent games: in later levels of the game you end up playing strategist in that you send out squads of your men to attack different armies in real-time, requiring a skill-set I don't have a great grasp of yet. There were a few glitches, but overall I loved how smooth the gameplay felt.

For the $20 I spent on this game, I loved it - it kept me busy for a months worth of weekends, and it's open-world concept (wherein you can follow the main mission, side missions, or explore as you like), allowed me to have a really big sense of control throughout.

Like Jack Black says in the opening of the game, "This is so epic, it won't just blow your mind, It'll blow your soul."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Things I've noticed: There are a lot of cool doors in genre stories

Right now I'm reading the latest Bram Stoker award winner for Best Horror Novel, Audrey's Door, written by Sarah Langan, which basically follows a nice, but flawed girl as she moves into a suspiciously perfect appartment in New York City and is told by voices in her dreams to build a door.

Over the years I've come across a lot of doors in genre film and fiction, whether being sealed by blood, broken through by Jack or hiding in a refrigerator, genre stories seemed packed with doors that lead to strange or terrifying places.

This got me thinking of my favourite doors in genre works - check 'em out, first person to get them all wins my admiration (and bragging rights).





Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bookmonkey's top 5 Genre Films to see before Christmas

As it is now September, I thought it would be a good time to look ahead to the genre films I'm hoping to see over the next few months - this doesn't count the obvious films I'll see with my kids like Harry Potter 7 or the next Narnia film, or the non-genre films I'm hoping to check out, but instead we'll look at the ones I'm hoping to see for myself.

I've put the list into release schedule order, so let's start with September:

Let Me In (October 1)
On the same day that the first Twilight film was released into theatres, a Swedish film about the budding relationship between a vampire and a human was released, and although not nearly as popular, Let The Right One In is by far the better film - the story is scarier, more intriguing, and has blood (which is kind of important in a vampire movie). The upcoming American remake has a lot to stand up to, but I'm hoping the remake will be worthwhile - just make sure you see the original first.

Red (October 15)
Last years I took my BFF Mike to see Surrogates, wherein Bruce Willis played a man and a remote controlled robot, based off of a graphic novel. This year he appears in RED, based off a graphic novel by Warren Ellis (which, although short was a lot of fun), the film is pretty action-based - I was intrigued by Bruce Willis, but I've got to say the image of Helen Mirren with a machine gun in the Trailer is what moved this up to the top five of my must see list.

Skyline (November 12)
I like alien invasion stories - there, I've said it. If you have aliens invading Earth, you've probably ensured I'm going to buy a ticket and check it out. Add the creepy factor of people getting sucked up into the flying saucers and the casting of personal favourite Donald Faison and this is a movie I'll try to get to as a matinee.

Tron Legacy (December 17)
I saw the movie Tron when I was in after-school care, back in early Elementary, in a room with a whole bunch of grade 1-6 kids. The lights were on, the popcorn was stale, but the constant noise of the centre was virtually non-existent as soon as the film started. As a kid I really, REALLY liked tis movie, so now I'm going to have to check out the sequel.

Gulliver's Travels (December 24)
Each Christmas my family goes out to the movies - we aim for the early evening show, as the theatre is almost always empty and it gets us out of the house - It's cold up here in Canada. Last year we saw Sherlock Holmes and had a great time, so when I looked to the release schedule for films this Christmas I was happy to see a family friendly fantasy film - my family likes Jack Black, and I read the original novel last year so I'm interested to see where the film makers will go with this film.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Movie Review: Machete


Yesterday I went to see the new film Machete, which I've been looking forward to ever since I saw the trailer back in 2007 when I saw Grindhouse with my BFF Mike and sat in awe at the awesomeness that was Machete.

As much as I enjoyed Planet Terror and put up with Death Proof (sorry everyone, I don't drive so car movies don't have a lot of appeal to me), The kinetic energy that filled that two minutes of trailer had me wondering why there couldn't actually be a real Machete film.

And yesterday I finally got to see it.

The movie is great, the action is top notch (although definitely bloody), and in addition to the action I was pretty impressed by the films sense of humour. If you've seen Robert Rodriguez's Desperado films you already have a pretty good idea of the kind of film this is, only the action here is ramped up even further. I was simply blown away by Danny Trejo - an actor I've seen as Cop, Prisoner, Bartender or Biker in dozens of films - there is nothing else to say but, he is Machete (a man who is so awesome all references to him need to be in bold).

Like a lot of action movies, you do have to be in a specific mindset to watch Machete, but keeping that in mind, the film is great. Without a doubt it will end up on my DVD shelf, and know I simply sit and hope that the film does expand into the proposed trilogy that the star and director have been suggesting may occur.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things I've noticed: My style of videogaming may be weird

Over the last week my kids have been playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii non-stop.

Hold on - I guess I should put some sort of context to the term non-stop, as your definition is surely different than mine. When I say non-stop I mean they play for a couple hours (2-3) each day.

We borrowed the game from my younger brother who played it for eight to ten hours a day (this was before he went back to school) and finished the game in just under a week.

Personally, my gaming habit is to play 60 to 90 minutes twice a week (early Saturday and Sunday mornings).

I suppose all of us (my kids, brother, the readers of this post, and myself) all consider the amount of time we spend playing videogames “normal,” but when I explain to others how I play my games (two to three hours a week, one game at a time, until I’ve finished the game), I’m often met with strange looks – as if the way I’m playing is somehow wrong.

I have lots of friends who juggle multiple games for multiple platforms, but personally I like the style wherein I spend a couple hours a week actively playing and then take five days to think about what I’ll do next. In addition, because my local library now loans games and my newer consoles (PS3 and Wii) can both save my progress, I have a much larger catalogue of games to choose from.

In addition I have a couple games which get played on a yearly basis (on New Year’s Eve), Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Katamari Damacy – both of which I’ve been working on steadily for 5-10 hours a year for the last five years.

It’s funny, but until I started comparing my time spent gaming with other people, I thought my way was the normal way – I mean, how else would you play a video game?