Saturday, September 28, 2013

GENERAL HOSPITAL: The Scorpios are coming! The Scorpios are coming!

It looks like the Scorpios are returning to Port Charles with a bang this week – and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve made no secret of my Scorpio family love – and the fact that Tristan Rogers and onscreen daughter Kimberly McCullough are both set to make their triumphant returns is the best news to hit Port Charles in recent memory.

I was worried for a little while that Robert Scorpio wasn’t going to return for the big Robin reveal. For those that don’t remember, Robert discovered his daughter was alive months (and months) ago and was then injected with a powerful drug that left him comatose before he could tell anyone.

If spoilers are to be believed (which is always a mixed bag) Robert is set to wake up Friday (although we’re supposedly going to see Robin on our screens before then). When Robert first wakes up – with both Mac and Anna at his side – reports are saying he doesn’t remember seeing Robin. It’s not long, though, before he announces to the rest of his family that he does indeed remember the minutes before he was incapacitated – and his beloved Robin was there with him.

That’s supposed to kick off an umbrella story that has Anna and Robert searching for their daughter.

For her part, Robin has been shuffled from one mad person to another. First Faison had her. Then Dr. Obrecht. Now Jerry Jacks. Apparently, our hero Robin is the one keeping Jerry alive and working on a cure for his poisoning.

That cure, not coincidentally, can also save Sean and Luke.

This past Friday, a hallucinating Luke though he saw Helena Cassadine. I believe he’s also going to get a gander at Robin this week – but, since he’s sick, not realize that she is actually alive. My guess is, when he trades notes with Robert, they’re going to combine their considerable resources to not only find Robert’s daughter – but a cure for Luke (and Sean) as well.

While all this is going on, Dr. Obrecht is set to kidnap her “grandchild” and bring it to Robin to taunt her. Apparently Jerry has been telling Robin little tidbits of the truth here and there – and when Ben is brought to Robin she is going to believe it’s Patrick’s baby.

Most fans actually believe that baby is Lulu and Dante’s – but that’s a whole other story.

The Ben kidnapping brings Britt and Nikolas into the story. With Nikolas joining the fray, I’m betting we get a few more Cassadine tidbits. One rumor has Stefan being resurrected, which I’m actually mixed on. I love the character of Stefan, but the GH canvas is so bloated right now it’s draining all the momentum out of the show. They need to be cutting some characters, not adding them.

Back to Nikolas, though. Nikolas and Robin have a long history together, so I would like him involved with her rescue.

While all this is going on, though, the one person that doesn’t look to be involved in Robin’s rescue is Patrick. Now, don’t get me wrong, I used to love Patrick – but I’m fairly irritated with him right now. Apparently Patrick is going to be playing high school relationship with Sabrina and Carrrrrrrrrlos (what’s with Sabrina’s sudden accent?) while the big Robin rescue is transpiring.

Then, I have no doubt, that Robin will be reintroduced to Patrick with as much drama as possible.
Personally, I can’t wait to see Robin kick Sabrina in the head – but I know that’s a long way off
Here’s my question: If Anna knows that Robin is alive and she goes off to find her daughter, why doesn’t she at least give Patrick a heads up at what’s going on? I know she doesn’t want to get his hopes up if it’s not true, but isn’t it worse to just spring Robin on Patrick and Emma? I’m not advocating telling Emma, she’s a small child, but shouldn’t Patrick get a chance to get his house in order before Robin is unveiled in what I’m sure will be a very public way?

I have no doubt that Patrick and Robin are the love story here (although, given the fact that Patrick has made me want to puke with Sabrina for months, I’d like to see him squirm). However, if Robin’s return is used as a further prop for Sabrina, I’m going to be a little ticked. They’ve obviously introduced Carrrrrrrlos (his accent is just as annoying) as a love interest for Sabrina when she quickly loses Patrick, but I would like to have Patrick involved in the rescue of his wife. Is that too much to ask?

Oh, and while I’m making requests of the soap gods, can we please get a slow motion reunion between Robin and Emma? I’m thinking a mirror of when Robin was a little girl and ran to Anna’s arms in slow motion would be best. Thanks in advance.

What do you think? Are you ready for Robin and Robert to be unleashed on Port Charles?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Once Upon a Time returns Sunday -- with a trip to Neverland

Sunday marks the return of one of my current favorite shows – ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

To say that the magical show had something of a sophomore slump last season would be an understatement.

The Storybrooke denizens spent the first nine episodes of the show floundering – and it took a little while for things to get back on course.

To be fair, I have re-watched season two of Once Upon a Time twice since it came out on Blu-Ray – and I like the second season a lot more now than I did while it was airing.

I think the second season’s biggest problem was separating Mary Margaret and Emma from everyone else so early (and for so long). I understand what they were going for - -a bonding between estranged mother and daughter – but it still felt like the time in the magical realm dragged by.

When you watch the episodes stacked on Blu-Ray, that separation seems to go by much quicker.

The initial separation wasn’t the only problem with the show, though.

Personally, I was disappointed with the lack of family hijinks. These are two parents that have a
daughter that is roughly their age – and the opportunity for hilarity was embedded in the story – so I don’t know why the writers didn’t play with that more.

Not everything has to be doom and gloom in Storybrooke either. This is a magical world – and even Lost knew that sometimes you just needed to have a little fun to keep the audience invested in the characters.

I also thought the writing for Regina was all over the place. I don’t want her to be totally good, but she doesn’t have to vacillate so wildly, does she? That being said, the flashback to little Owen and Regina’s realization that the curse she created wasn’t going to make her happy after all was one of the best episodes of the show to date.

Despite those complaints, though, there was a lot to love about season two.

I loved the revelation (although most fans had guessed it) that Henry’s father was also Rumplestiltskin’s son. The reunion of Emma and Neal was both bittersweet and heartbreaking. And, yes, I am invested in Emma and Neal and not in Emma and Hook. I’m pretty tired of pirates, and Hook is kind of a bad Jack Sparrow rip-off, in my opinion. I just don’t get his appeal.

I also hope that the truth about Neal being alive is resolved sooner – rather than later. I don’t want to see a Hook, Emma and Neal triangle – mostly because the fact that Hook was Neal’s stepfather gives the triangle a creepy quality.

I also liked Emma and Regina’s attempts to work together – especially in the final episode. These are
two women that should hate each other and fight with each other, and yet they have a common goal.

Which brings us to Henry’s abduction. I like the twist that Peter Pan has been looking for Henry, that he’s somehow special to the evil Neverland scamp. I do not like Tamara and Owen’s “company” mantra, though, and I think the fact that they were actually trying to take Henry came out of nowhere.

Just because this is a show about magic, that doesn’t mean that you can let all continuity go out the window.

At the end of last season, Emma, Rumplestiltskin, Regina, Mary Margaret, David and Hook all agreed to open a portal to Neverland to rescue Henry. It sounds like this little adventure is going to last nine episodes – up until the mid-season break.

The show has a chance to fix some wrongs here – but separating characters is a risky story choice. It didn’t work out so well last season. Still, the most important characters will be going on this adventure together – while Storybrooke will be left to fend for itself.

I’m attached to the secondary characters in Storybrooke – especially Red and Leroy – so I’m hoping that this estrangement won’t be as painful as the last one.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to the third season of Once Upon a Time?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cable cancellations (and renewals) have been coming fast and furious

It’s been an interesting few week for pickups and cancellations.

Why interesting? Because it comes at the same time that the big five networks are premiering their new slate of shows.

First up, what’s been cancelled? TNT announced that King & Maxwell would not be getting another season (and Franklin & Bash’s future is up in the air), while AMC axed The Killing (again), and HBO announced that the upcoming seventh season would be the final one for True Blood.

This was all before Lifetime announced the axing of Army Wives (after seven seasons) on Tuesday.

I can’t muster a lot of anything about the King & Maxwell news. I’m still mad at TNT for axing Leverage – and the only episode I saw of King & Maxwell was the Christian Kane episode. The vindictive part of me wants every show that TNT tries to replace Leverage with to fail.

The honest side of me, though, admits I still watch Falling Skies and Dallas. Still, the vindictive side Leverage -- and I hope they learn it the hard way.
of me is going to win: I hope TNT learns a lesson from cancelling

As for The Killing? I can’t say I’m surprised. The fact that the show was saved after the second season cancellation was a miracle. Am I disappointed? I would have said yes after the second to last episode of this superior third season. Since I saw the final episode, though, and saw the corner they wrote Linden in (and the ripoff of the movie Seven) I can’t say that I am.

I’ll miss the talent involved, but the show lost with the season three finale.

As for HBO’s True Blood, I have to say that the cancellation is actually a relief.  Even fans of the show have to admit that the quality in the writing has went systematically down each season. This last season was almost impossible to watch.

I’m not joking, the only characters I could tolerate for the bulk of the season were Jason and Pam. Although, if I’m being fair, Steve Newlin’s demise (and his hilarious utterance at the end) were a series highlight.

That brings us to Army Wives. The show started out great. It was interesting, giving fans a glimpse of army life, and it was well-acted. It was the simple things that were interesting about the show, including the struggle for money and the inherent loneliness associated with having a spouse overseas.

Then the show started going the ultra-ridiculous route. I mean, consider the Pamela Joy character: her daughter was blown up, she was almost raped, she was held hostage at gunpoint, she got diabetes, she almost died in a car wreck, she ultimately died of heart failure in a hotel. It was just too much.

And, while in my head I know that it’s realistic for military families to move, the show started losing
me when it started shedding original cast members. Losing Pamela was bad enough, but losing Roxy was the final straw.

This is a cancellation that was really overdue. At least fans are getting a two-hour wrap-up from the network. Fans of The Killing will never know what Linden’s punishment was.

Also cancelled were ABC Family’s Bunheads and The Lying Game; A&E’s The Glades; BBC America’s Copper; Showtime’s The Borgias; Starz’s Magic City; and TNT’s Southland.

And what’s been picked up? USA has ordered another season of the gritty Graceland; Lifetime wants more Devious Maids;  and HBO wants more of The Newsroom. These are three shows that I can’t muster the energy to watch, so I really have no comment.

What do you think? Are you upset at the flurry of cancellations over the past few weeks?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

GENERAL HOSPITAL: More to love than hate in Port Charles right now

No one is ever going to like everything on their soap.

That’s a simple truth.

People can hold up the 1990s as the best era artistically for ‘General Hospital’ – but that doesn’t mean I liked every story and every character from that decade.

The truth is, ‘General Hospital’ has seen an increase in ratings lately.

There are a lot of different reasons for the increase – but there’s no one thing that should be taking credit for the jump. Instead, it’s a number of things.

First off, GH is still riding high after the 50th anniversary this summer. There are a lot of vets on the canvas right now. Sure, they’re not on every day, but they are on regularly. Old time fans want to see Mac, Felicia, Lucy, Kevin, Laura, Scotty, Luke, Anna, Duke and Tracy. The key is fitting them into umbrella storylines.

For example, Anna and Duke easily fit into the Jerome crime saga that is unfolding on the canvas right now. Luke, Anna, Duke, Mac, Felicia and (the rumor is) Robert are going to play heavily in the return of Robin next month.

Mac, Felicia, Luke and Laura will have key parts to play in the reveal of baby Connie.

And it sounds like Lucy’s kid will come to Port Charles to join in with the young adult fray in the next couple of weeks.

GH also brought on high profile – and beloved – vets from other soaps. Whether you like Ava Jerome
or Silas Clay, Maura West and Michael Easton have big fan contingents. They are bringing in viewers. The same goes for Roger Howarth, who has been saddled with one of the worst characters in history. His fans will still watch him, though.

Finally, GH has struck a balance with airtime. The reason ratings plummeted so drastically over the past 15 years is that Bob Guza pimped Sonny, Jason and Carly like they were the only three characters on the soap. He decimated the Quartermaines during that time, and made many of the other characters props for the mob.

Fans turned out in droves because of that.

So, GH is seeing an upswing in viewers – and all I see on message boards is complaining.

“I hate Kiki.”
“I hate Olivia.”

“I don’t Robin to come back because Sabrina might cry.”

We should be embracing the fact that GH is doing so well right now guys. I’m sure ‘One Life to Live’ fans would love to be in our shoes – fighting over Sabrina and Robin – instead of coming to the slow realization that they’ll probably never see their Llanview faves again.

The reason we love soaps is because they’re a mixture of things to love and hate.

I loved when Emma verbally kicked Sabrina in the face this week.

I hated Olivia shrieking like a banshee.

I loved Anna and Duke working together to solve a problem.

I hated Sonny’s sudden descent into madness that arrived in the form of propping Michael to high heaven.

I loved Sam and Silas’ flirtation.

I hated Lulu and Dante suddenly turning into unfeeling monsters.

You know what’s important to take out of all of that? I love GH – and I want it to survive. I’m happy it is getting higher ratings. I am biting my fingernails in anticipation of the Robin return. And, for the first time in years, I’m not worried about the imminent cancellation of a show I’ve loved since I was a child.

That’s a win for me.

What do you think?

Friday, September 20, 2013

New book covers revealed

I've finally updated all of the covers for my existing six books. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. What do you think?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What are the best sequels of all time?

As a general rule, the original is almost always better than the sequel.

Sure, it’s a blanket statement – but sometimes blanket statements are rooted in fact.

Still, there are a few sequels that not only equal the original but, in some cases, surpass it.

What are they?

I’m mighty glad you asked.

10. The Dark Knight: This film gets a lot of accolades – and many of them are because of Heath Ledger’s death. Still, almost all of those accolades are deserved. This is the grittiest and most realistic Batman flick of the bunch. Bale’s performance is the strongest in the middle arc, Harvey Dent’s downfall and death lends a quiet gravitas to the film and Ledger’s role as the demented Joker was not only Oscar-winning but Oscar-worthy. It’s too bad the final film in the trilogy was such of a letdown.

9. Superman II: This summer’s Superman travesty reminded me that there were two good Superman flicks -- a long, long time ago. Christopher Reeve’s original effort and the vastly superior sequel are the only two "good" Superman movies. The sequel strayed from the straight Lex Luthor formula and introduced us to a villain that could actually hurt Superman. The film is grounded in emotional realism despite the fantastical elements – and the performances are chilling and winning at the same time.

8. Rocky II: The original Rocky has the pedigree, but it’s the second Rocky that has the happy
ending. I know a lot of fans were kind of miffed that Rocky didn’t win that first bout. This was a sports movie, after all, the underdog is supposed to get all the glory. The second film in the franchise does a good job of exploring Rocky’s sudden fame, Adrian’s birth mishap and Apollo’s troubles while still giving fans something to root for. When Rocky finally does win the title, fans jump to their feet – the triumphant score soars – and fans everywhere wipe a tear from their eye. This is the zenith of the franchise, even if I do have a soft spot for Rocky eradicating communism in Russia.

7. X-Men 2: Calling the first X-Men movie a creative miss isn’t being mean. Sure, the movie was hampered by some heavy-handed writing and it was handcuffed by the fact that it had to introduce a lot of off-the-wall characters to a mainstream audience. Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan pretty much save the first movie from tumbling into mediocrity. The second film in the original trilogy, though? Wow, what a difference. The story was more cohesive. The acting was more impressive. The action sequences were pretty much as awesome as you could imagine. Jackman again steals the show, but he has a little help from the supporting cast this time around. The most impressive standout is the conflicted Pyro – a character that manages to anchor the younger set.

6. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan: There’s a running joke with Star Trek fans: The even
numbered movies are good and the odd numbered movies are bad. It’s pretty much true. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a hodgepodge of all things terrible. That’s why the fact that the sequel – despite a few plot holes – is so good is really quite befuddling. Wrath of Khan looks at aging, friendship and the hearts of men as Kirk – who doesn’t believe in the no-win scenario – is confronted with a death he can’t stop and realizes that there really are no-win scenarios. Sure, Spock’s death is turned around a film later – but that doesn’t stop that scene in the engineering department between Kirk and Spock from being the emotional touchstone of the entire Star Trek franchise.

5. The Two Towers: The three Lord of the Rings films should really be considered as a whole. The Fellowship of the Ring is the best standalone movie, but The Two Towers is my favorite all the same. The middle flick has so much going on that it’s a wonder it wasn’t five hours long. From Gandalf’s resurrection, to Sam’s quiet realization that the quest will probably take his and Frodo’s lives, to Aragorn embracing his destiny, to Merry and Pippin growing up, to Gimli and Legolas forging a friendship where only war had been before, to Arwen realizing that she cannot leave Aragorn, to the final battle scene at Helm’s Deep and the final march of the ents, the film is virtual perfection. It’s too bad Jackson can’t weave the same magic with his Hobbit trilogy.

4. Aliens: The first Alien movie was a quiet horror movie that was filled with suspense and dread.
The sequel ratcheted everything up a notch – including letting Ripley turn into one badass action hero. Ellen Ripley was a female to be feared from the beginning, but she’s what a lot of today’s action heroes should aspire to be (whether male or female). The supporting cast in this one is just as good as the original – Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton being solid standouts – but the overall scope of the movie was so much grander than the original you can’t help but love the science fiction twist in the storyline.

3. Terminator 2: Judgement Day: The first Terminator flick was more of a cult hit than anything else. Sure, it launched Arnold Schwarzenneger on us as an action hero – but the movie wasn’t overly memorable in the grand scheme of things. How much difference a few years makes. The sequel to the science fiction action flick is better than the original on just about every front. Sure, you miss Michael Biehn, but the true heart of the movie comes from a young John Conner teaching a robot how to love. Not only is Linda Hamilton’s physical transformation something to behold in this film, but the special effects were awe-inspiring at the time (and they still hold up). When I look back on this film, the true shame is that Edward Furlong never lived up to the potential he showed in the movie – because the film itself still stands up today while Furlong has faded into mediocrity.

2. The Empire Strikes Back: I love the entire Star Wars franchise (the newer prequels to a limited
degree) but my all-time favorite is The Empire Strikes Back. After the introduction of the universe in the first film, things start moving pretty quickly. You have the gripping opening on Hoth, the introduction of a charming puppet, the expansion of the Han and Leia relationship, the tearjerker ending with Han being frozen in carbonite and the ultimate reveal in movie history: “No. I am your father.” This film has lightsaber battles, air fights, scoundrels and off-the-cuff humor. There’s nothing better.

1. The Godfather Part II: Sure, the original is a classic – and it’s practically perfect in its operatic glory – but the sequel actually improves on a flawless original. Not only does Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone grow in menace and stature in the second flick – but Robert DeNiro’s flashbacks as the young Vito Corleone are chilling. The Godfather has a stellar cast, including Robert Duvall, Talia Shire and Diane Keaton. It’s the whacking of Fredo, though, that will forever mint this film as one of the best ever.  When you can’t trust your brother, who can you trust?

Honorable mentions go to:

Dawn of the Dead: The original is still one of the scariest moves ever put to film. The sequel,
though, manages to transcend the genre. This wasn’t just a movie about zombies eating people. It was also a commentary on human consumption and greed. Great film.

Clerks 2: The original will go down in film history because of the way it was made and the reception it had. The sequel is just as funny, though (funnier in some instances) and Kevin Smith’s riff on pop culture is always a welcome viewpoint.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: If The Wrath of Khan is Star Trek at its best in the drama category, then The Voyage Home is Star Trek at its best in the comedy category. A film about the Enterprise traveling through time to save whales could have failed – but it didn’t. Not only did it succeed, but it surpassed most of the other films in the original franchise.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: I’ve enjoyed most of the Indiana Jones films – but this one is clearly the standout. Whoever thought of pairing Harrison Ford with Sean Connery should win an award.

Spider-Man 2: The first Spider-Man had a naïve quality to its storytelling. The second one gets a
little cocky – and it’s the better for it. Super hero movies are at their best when the villain actually has a voice and isn’t just a caricature.

Lethal Weapon 2: The first movie is iconic. It’s the second movie, though, that has the most heart. Plus, once you introduce the dynamics of Riggs, Murtaugh and Leo – there really was no turning back.

Beverly Hills Cop 2: Much like the Lethal Weapon franchise, the first movie is iconic. It’s the second movie, though, that manages to surpass the original with legitimate emotion.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: An argument can be made for any of the follow-up movies (sans Chamber of Secrets) to be on this list. I went with the most stylized one. This movie signifies the darkening of the Harry Potter world in a fantastic way and the travails of growing up (whether you're magical or not).

What do you think? What’s the best sequel of all time?