Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Update: Liam McIntyre, the New Spartacus?

Back in September I wrote a post about my sadness over hearing that not only did Andy Whitfield's (right) cancer come back, but he would also be pulling out of Season 2 of Spartacus for good. Andy had a bit of a cult following after he starred in a low budget independent film called Gabriel and I was extremely pleased to see him get the role of Spartacus. With his piercing eyes, high cheekbones, strong jaw, deep but soothing voice, this was a man, an actor that brought something special to his characters. This was going to be his breakout performance and it was...

But when cancer only allowed him to give us 1 perfect, addictive season of the hit STARZ show, the cable network had to make a decision: cancel the series or try to undertake the daunting task of finding another Spartacus. With Andy's blessing, representatives began looking for a new male lead, someone who not only had the look of a gladiator but could act as well. It wasn't an easy process and Andy's sandals were hard to fill. Rumors floated around the cyber world for months. At one point Wentworth Miller of Prison Break fame showed interest. While some fans were excited at the prospect, others were not so kind, saying that Miller did not have the muscular frame nor could he pull off the accent.

Around December it was confirmed that casting had been narrowed down to 3 actors: Liam McIntyre, Aidan Turner (of All My Children fame, not to be confused with Being Human's Aidan Turner), and Stephen Amell. I personally had been rooting for Aidan Turner since he had the look, the accent, and the build.

However, this past week took an interesting turn when suddenly there was news that Dominic Purcell might be up for the role, another Prison Break star who had a huge fan following and known for his muscular physique and deep, booming voice. While Liam was still the favorite choice, STARZ representives were worried that the lean actor would not be able to build up enough muscle in time for Spring of 2011 which is when Season 2 resumes filming.

Well just a few days ago the cable network finally announced that Liam McIntyre IS the new Spartacus. They feel confident that Liam, who has been working out nonstop since his first audition, will be physically ready by the time cameras start rolling this Spring.

So how do I feel about it? I'm a bit on the fence. I like unknown actors and I have no doubt that Liam will be looking like a gladiator by Spring since we have seen big physical transformations such as Taylor Lautner promising to pack on 40+ pounds of muscle in order to keep his role as Jacob Black in the Twilight Saga or Gerard Butler as King Leonidas in 300. I guess why I hesitate to embrace this new actor is because I can't help but still see Andy as Spartacus. We are not talking about a minor character that is being replaced. However, I am relieved that the show will continue on. I'll admit that my other favorite character is Crixus and the romantic in me is dying to see what lengths he will go to in order to find Naevia.

All I can do is wait and see. In the meantime, the 6 episode prequel called Spartacus: Gods of the Arena starts this Friday at 10pm on STARZ. I wish Andy Whitfield a speedy recovery and will be keeping an eye on his future projects because I REFUSE to believe that man will succumb to cancer.

So what do you think? Is Liam McIntyre the new Spartacus?


TV Series Recommendation: Lights Out

I have a new fantasy man and his name is Patrick 'Lights' Leary :) The pilot episode for the new FX tv series drama aired on 1.11.11. I knew before the pilot ended that this was my new favorite show. FX has been promoting the hell out of it and I thought this show would not have any rating issues since it has a little bit of everything for different viewers--boxing and street fighting for the male viewers and adrenaline junkies, a hunky new male lead, (despite being middle aged) a little bit of romance, and family life for female viewers, etc. You can imagine my surprise when I did a little research and found out that the premiere ratings for Lights Out were low. So what exactly is the show about?

Holt McCallany plays Patrick 'Lights' Leary, an aging former heavy weight champion who gave up his boxing career 5 years earlier for his concerned wife who couldn't bear a moment more of watching her husband get beaten up and severely damaged. Retired life doesn't seem so bad at first--watching his daughters grow up and supporting his wife's dream of becoming a doctor just a couple of the perks. However, after 5 years out of the limelight and perhaps some bad management, his brother tells him that they are broke. He decides to hide their financial woes from his wife while trying to come up with a solution. But with a deteriorating health issue (which he also keeps a secret) and struggling to find his identity, returning back to the ring or getting involved in some shady illegal debt collecting seem like his best options.

What makes this show a cut above is the excellent acting. Holt McCallany is fairly unknown but that is in no way a weakness. He brings something fresh to the screen and to his character. He is so ruggedly male, intimidating in size and quiet ferocity and yet he can be so tender when it comes to his daughters, his family. Behind every strong man is an even stronger woman--Patrick 'Lights' Leary's wife Teresa is played by Catherine McCormack. If you are wondering why she looks so familiar (like I did) then you may remember her as Murron from the movie Braveheart. And let's not forget Stacy Keach (Prison Break), who plays Leary's father and old trainer.

The good news is, FX president John Landgraf has confirmed that the cable network will continue supporting Lights Out despite it's slow start, believing that given some time and word of mouth more people will tune in for future episodes. I figured it wouldn't hurt by doing my part in promoting the show since I definitely think it is worth devoting time to each week. So get caught up by going to On Demand to check out the last 2 episodes and please tune in Tuesdays at 10pm on FX. Trust me, it's worth it!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: The Demon Trapper's Daughter

Title: The Demon Trapper's Daughter
Jana Oliver
ISBN: 978-0312614782
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Theme: Demons/Necromancers
Binding: Paperback
Length: 340 pgs (advanced reader copy)
Published: 1 February 2011
My Rating:

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Riley, the only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper, Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father's footsteps. The good news is, with human society seriously disrupted by economic upheaval and Lucifer increasing the number of demons in all major cities, Atlanta’s local Trappers’ Guild needs all the help they can get – even from a girl. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing crush on fellow apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving distressed citizens from foul-mouthed little devils – Grade One Hellspawn only, of course, per the strict rules of the Guild. Life’s about as normal as can be for the average demon-trapping teen.

But then a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, sudden tragedy strikes the Trappers’ Guild, spinning Riley down a more dangerous path than she ever could have imagined. As her whole world crashes down around her, who can Riley trust with her heart – and her life?

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: First I must state that I won an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book in a contest so I do understand that there are mistakes and perhaps unfinished thoughts or ideas that may be revised by the time the finished copy is released.

The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver was a pleasant surprise. There were a few things in the beginning of the story that troubled me or had me scratching my head in confusion. But by the middle of the book, things started really coming together which led to a very interesting climax and nice segue for a sequel.

After you read so many Young Adult novels, you begin to recognize a formula such as stubborn/independent female heroines, love triangles, etc. Since the formula has been used so many times, it's hard to find an author that can wow me in the character department. When I started reading Demon Trapper's Daughter, I set my expectations low. But let me tell you-- I love it when an author proves me wrong :)

I must commend Jana Oliver for creating interesting characters. Riley is a solid female protagonist. She is an only child, comes from a single parent home, and has a very close relationship with her dad. Riley is somewhat of a tomboy and is trying to enter into a profession that is ruled by men-- demon trapping. Since she is an apprentice under her father's watchful eye, she feels constantly pressured to prove herself and at the very least, not do anything that would embarass or bring shame on her father, Paul Blackthorne who is a well known and respected demon trapper master. Riley finds herself in a bad predicament after what should have been a simple demon trapping job at a law library goes wrong.

To make her even more embarassed, Beck arrives, a 20 something demon trapper who not only has been trained by her father but whom she had a crush on a couple of years back and was rejected by him. At first I didn't think I was going to like Beck, but once his story unfolded and I came to realize the motives of his rejection towards Riley's teenage crush, I couldn't help but fall a little in love with him.

On the other end of the love triangle is Simon, an apprentice, like Riley who is completely different then Beck. Where Beck swears, drinks, and claims to believe there is no God, Simon is quiet, confident, and very religious, always depicted as wearing a wooden cross around his neck. I am digging Jana Oliver's thinking and writing because just when you think this is a typical love triangle, half way through the book another potential love interest is introduced, the sexy, mysterious Ori. Even though Riley makes her choice early on who she thinks she wants to be with, the author gives you just enough here and there to make you wonder about Ori and perhaps what kind of role he will play in future books in the series.

The second thing I enjoyed about The Demon Trapper's Daughter is the third person narration. As many already know, Young Adult novels are usually written in 1st person. While I've come to enjoy and understand its effectiveness, I sometimes get tired of only being in the head of 1 character. Call me nosy, but I like bouncing back and forth between different perspectives. I think this is why Beck really grew on me :)

The third and perhaps most important thing that impressed me about the story is Jana Oliver's unique demon mythology and futuristic twist that is frighteningly realistic. Going into the story I thought it was just going to be about demon trappers. But I was very wrong. First, the author does a great job describing the different kinds of demons--levels 1-5, 5 being the worst kind. She introduces the different kinds of trapping tools that they use such as holy water and magic spheres/globes. The author also makes a clear distinction between a demon trapper and a demon hunter. Many people, including myself may automatically assume that trapping and hunting mean the same thing. But they are very different terms. In the book, demon trapping is just that-- their job is to trap the demons and sell them to the Vatican so they can be properly exorcized. Demon Hunters, however, hunt down demons with the intentions of killing. There is much more involved but I don't want to give everything away.

Jana Oliver also paints a scary future in the modern world. Because of the bad economy, the city goes bankrupt. Schooling for students are now held in the backrooms of grocery stores and coffee shops since educational buildings are too expensive to run. Gas prices are outrageous. Since the city is bankrupt, jobs are scarce and businessmen and women are cheap. This is where Oliver introduces Necromancers. Yeah, trust me, I at first thought she was going a little too overboard with adding so many things in the first book, but you know what? It somehow works. Necromancers are paid to raise the dead so that the dead can be used essentially as slaves. It's creepy and sad. If we knew how to do that now in the real world, I'm sure we would try it-- I guess that is the scariest thought.

So now to the little things that bothered me. What kept me from giving this book a perfect 5 star rating is as follows:

1) I know this is the first book in a potential series so I understand that some things will be explained and explored in later novels. I came to love Beck's character but in the beginning he confused me. He had a rough childhood-- no father and a mother who slept around due to alcoholism. It's stated that Beck doesn't believe in God which is one of the things that confuses me. Demons exist, so does Satan, and somewhere in the book angels make an appearance. And yet he still doesn't believe in God? I know that some people believe that being alive is hell on earth, therefore there is no Hell. I know there are other forms of religion and beliefs-- but if you are going to write a book about demons, necromancers, holy water, angels, etc., and one of your characters is a demon trapper but doesn't believe in God, then you better explain yourself. It just doesn't make sense. Now I would find it believable if Beck didn't have much FAITH in God since he had a crappy childhood, but that is not how it is stated in the book. So my point is, Oliver has some character development and explaining to do in book 2 in regards to Beck's faith.

2) I know this next thing is trivial to complain about but it just bothered me. The author wrote this: "By the final visitor she was so bitchy, so sleep deprived, she'd told him off even before he'd opened his mouth. That had earned her a profanity-laced rant that would have impressed a rapper." Umm, stereotypical much? Not all rappers use profanity. Not sure why that line annoys me so much, but it does.

3) Here is something else she wrote that annoyed me. "The boy was almost Simon's height, five nine or so, with black scruffy hair and a collection of metal in his eyebrows, nose, and tongue. Riley wondered how he could afford all that bling." Umm okay? It's not that expensive, trust me, I should know since I have my eyebrow pierced and had my lip pierced awhile back. I'm not sure if the author is either misinformed, uneducated in the matter of piercings, or maybe it is just how Riley thinks since teenagers can be judgmental.

Other then those few things, Jana Oliver really has impressed me. The Demon Trapper's Daughter is the kind of Young Adult novel that either a teen girl or boy would enjoy. I look forward to reading book 2 since this one leaves you sort of on a cliffhanger. I almost wish I hadn't read this book in advance since now I have at least 6 months or more until book 2 is released. Oh well, as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait! Enjoy!