The head coach of the French national soccer team is murdered after a big win, with his prized ring The Pink Panther removed from his finger in the process, and Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) needs to find the killer. Hoping to boost his own image in the process, Dreyfus concocts a strange scheme. He works covertly with a crack team of France's top investigators, and will "step in" when a suitably incompetent investigator chosen by him bungles the job and publicly embarrasses himself. Naturally, the right man for this job is the dimwitted, clumsy Jacques Clouseau (Steve Martin), and the stage is set for Shawn Levy's new version of The Pink Panther, based on the classic series of comedies from the sixties and seventies created by Blake Edwards and starring the legendary Peter Sellers.
As I've said before, I'm suspicious of re-makes, but I had enough confidence in the comedic abilities of Martin and Kilne to give this movie a chance. While some of the comedy is a little too predictable -- it's never hard to tell when something is about to get broken or catch fire -- the movie does for the most part deliver on the laughs. Beyoncé Knowles does fine as Xania, the murdered coach's girlfriend, and Jean Reno and Emily Mortimer also provide good support as Clouseau's sidekick Ponton and assistant Nicole. Ultimately though, I think liking The Pink Panther depends on what expectations you go in with. If you think Martin's Inspector Clouseau will make you roll on the floor the way Peter Sellers did, you will probably be disappointed. If you go in hoping for some good laughs and silly but entertaining physical comedy, you'll feel you got your money's worth.
Overall Grade: B-
I readily admit that I wasn't expecting a whole lot out of this Into The Blue. In the end, it is only a little less shallow than the water in the kiddie pool. However, for two hours, I was transported to the sun, surf and sand of the Bahamas. In the middle of winter, this was quite a good thing.
Into The Blue has a storyline that focuses on the relationships between the four main characters. Paul Walker plays Jared, a stereotypical "down on his luck" American living down in the Bahamas. His steamy girlfriend is Sam, played by Jessica Alba. Scott Caan and Ashley Scott round out the other couple who come down to the islands to visit.
The plot is centered around a sunken treasure find off of a coral reef. What follows is a tale as old as time where the individuals have to choose their own path through the temptations of greed. While this has all been done before many times, the story is almost believable, and the dialogue is reasonably well done; at least it is not insulting. The second half of the movie was quite tense. Not in a suspenseful sort of way, but more of a waiting for the elevator to fall after the cable is cut. Trust me, you'll at least be near the edge of your seat.
The notable part of Into The Blue is the underwater cinematography. There are extended scenes with minimal to no dialogue featuring the creatures of the deep and the characters. The music is supportive, and not distracting from the experience. While not quite "shark week" worthy, there are several scenes with sharks that I enjoyed quite a bit. The underwater portions were a notch better than the usual for a Hollywood flick of this genre.
In my opinion, Into The Blue was enjoyable entertainment. It will be forgotten in a few months to be sure. It won't win any Academy Awards either. If you just want a two hour escape to the Bahamas, some beautiful scenery, and a simple plot, this may be just the ticket. With snow on the way, this may be just what we all need.
Overall Grade: B
Both discs combine lively West African musical traditions with rock influences. Amadou and Mariam take turns singing, while Amadou also plays an excellent lead guitar. Not surprisingly, given that it pulls songs from three albums, Je Pense Á Toi is the more consistently strong of the two. Dimanche Á Bamako also suffers a bit from producer Manu Chao inserting himself too much into the proceedings, instead of just letting Amadou and Mariam do their thing. Still, the song "Coulibaly" is great, groove-oriented African rock, and Dimanche Á Bamako boasts a couple of other worthy tracks as well. These two discs will appeal to anybody interested in African music or good guitar music in general.
Dimanche Á Bamako B
Je Pense Á Toi A-
I-CON covers several genres, providing numerous guest stars for them. If you like movies, you can meet George Takei (Sulu), Kevin Sorbo (from Hercules and Andromeda), Marc Singer (star of Beastmaster), Cassandra Peterson (better known as Elvira), Ron Glass (Shepherd Book, from Firefly and Serenity), and more celebrities. I-CON 25’s celebrity author is Terry Brooks, webcomic creators Randy Milholland (Something Positive) and Jonathan Rosenberg (Goats) will be there, anime fans can meet Vic Mignogna (voice of Edward Elric on the show Full Metal Alchemist). More guests are added closer to the convention, from real-world scientists to gaming executives.
The panels are quite diverse. While the full schedule isn’t up until a few weeks before the convention, past panels have included everything from how to made medieval wooden utensils to the state of the gaming industry; from how good science fiction books get made into bad movies, to the benefits and perils of storing information on the Internet.
There is always something to do at I-CON. The dealers’ room is massive, offering old toys, new DVDs, handmade medieval garb and armor, and original artwork. Movies and TV shows are usually airing on large screens, games (of the board, card, roleplaying, and LARP varieties) are played all three days. You’re likely to see demonstrations of medieval combat or martial arts on the great lawn, and you’ll always see someone walking around in costume.
Is I-CON perfect? Alas, no. While this convention some of everything, that means if you want to spend all your time focused on one area (like horror movies or gaming) you’ll find more at a convention aimed only at a specific area. The various events are spread over numerous buildings over the SUNY Stony Brook campus, so be prepared to do a lot of walking. Due to campus security rules, you’ll find neither bladed weapons (for sale or in use) nor Nerf projectile weapons (obviating bringing my Nerf gatling gun). The final schedule isn't posted until a week or two before the convention. And the convention has really cracked down on bootlegs, so you can find plenty of rarities but nothing copied from elsewhere.
I-CON is my annual vacation, my pilgrimage out to eastern Long Island. If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, horror movies, gaming, shopping, history, science, or any number of items, head over to I-CON 25. (And I’ll be running a B-Movie Night of Z-Man Games on Friday night, followed by a live Knights of the Dinner Table Reading on Saturday. Check it out!)
I Con 25
Now, ol’ Clive is not getting any younger. It appears that he is preparing to pass the literary mantle to his son, Dirk Cussler: In their latest novel, which follows Trojan Odyssey, Dirk is coauthor with Clive. Like an allegory, Cussler’s Trojan Odyssey has his trusty action heroes Dirk Pitt and Al Giordano share the spotlight with Pitt’s newly reunited children Dirk and Summer. Therefore, the usual formula is at least partially broken as Pitt and Giordano share the spotlight with Pitt’s children.
The background nautical lore of Trojan Odyssey focuses around the tale of Homer’s Odyssey. While it was long thought that The Odyssey was very loosely based around the ancient Greeks in an epic journey around the Mediterranean, a newer alternate view believes it was the Celts sailing in the Caribbean. Cussler masterfully interweaves the history into the plot in an unobtrusive and flowing manner.
The early action in the novel focuses around the hurricane of the millennium. Cussler’s descriptions are as well honed as a newly-minted, five-bladed razor. We feel the salt on our windblown face and the desperation of a floating hotel caught in its path.
Our action heroes Pitt and Giordano are presented not as eternally young but as approaching the sunset of their life. There are references to how “we still got it,” and their muscles are hurting and sore after severe physical exertion. While they clearly perform, they are working quite hard to get the job done.
There are the requisite appearances from recurrent characters that Cussler’s fans have come to expect, including Rudi Gunn, Admiral Sandecker, and Julian Perlmutter. They provide a consistency between the novels and are like old friends when they make their appearances. I’m always impressed that Cussler is able to come up with a new description each time they make an appearance, but he always manages to.
I wholeheartedly recommend this novel, with one caveat: If you have never read the Cussler series of Dirk Pitt novels before, I recommend starting with one not so far along in Pitt’s life. My recommendation is to start with Pacific Vortex (the first in the sequence chronologically) or The Mediterranean Caper (the first published). While the novels don’t need to be read strictly in order -- I still have a few early ones to read -- this is one journey you don’t want to rush to the end to.
Overall Grade: A+