Book Review: Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss by Christa Faust

Hi all…

When the Wichester boys, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), began slaying monsters back in the Fall of 2009 on television, we were hooked right away. Each week they’d fight demons or monsters from folklore and urban legends to save the lives of people who didn’t believe in such things. And as the battle raged between good and evil, Heaven and Hell, they kept my interest for a long time. Five seasons. More than 100 episodes. When they put the Devil back in his box, I was ready for the journey to end.

So when season six started in 2010, I watched a few episodes but after a while it started to flounder a bit in a world without God or the Devil calling the plays on the sidelines. Eventually I stopped watching. And when the seventh season starts this month, I’ll probably catch an episode or two to see if the show got its mojo back, but I’m not holding my breath.

Why did I tell you all this? What does it have to do with a Supernatural novel? Well, late last year I read Supernatural: War of the Sons by Rebecca Dessertine and David Reed. The boys (sometime during the season five timeline) traveled back in time to 1954 to stop a demon from finding a weapon that would unbalance the battle between demons and angels. I don’t usually like reading tie-in novels, but Dessertine and Reed managed to capture the snarky banter between the brothers and the atmosphere of monster hunters winging it on the run. I enjoyed it, much to my own surprise.

This time, with Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss by Christina Faust, the Winchester boys are going to the southern border of the United States. Set sometime in the timeline of season six, they are investigating the deaths of illegal immigrants slaughtered while trying to cross the border and the border patrolmen unlucky enough to find them. And this is definitely a whole new world for the Winchesters.

But they’re not fighting evil alone. A small, beautiful, but feisty Mexican monster hunter by the name of Xochi rides into the picture on a hot motorcycle. Will Sam and Dean survive working with her? She has her own secrets and comes from a whole different world – at one point the angel Castiel even pops to say he can’t help them. Who knew that there was an agreement between the deities of different pantheons around the world to not interfere with the mortal realms under their power?

Instead of the Christian concept of the hosts of Heaven and Hell holding sway over Mexico, it’s the old gods – the Aztec gods like Huehuecoyotl – a god of music, luck, and storytelling. Will the fickle Huehuecoyotl help Xochi and the Winchesters stop the Borderwalker before she kills more innocent people? Will Xochi’s family squabbles get in the way? Only time and a few trips back and forth across the Mexican border will tell.

Again, Faust managed to recreate the witty banter, the sarcasm, and the sharp wit of the Supernatural universe for me, making this a fun read. At nearly 350 pages, it went quickly and felt more like an extended episode of the series than anything else. I would have liked to have seen an episode or two made out of this story arc during the season, possibly even a made-for-DVD movie since it easily can stand on its own.

If you like the world of Supernatural and want more adventures with Sam and Dean Winchester, I’d definitely encourage you to pick up Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss by Christa Faust.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-supernatural-coyotes-kiss-by/.

–Fitz

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Fall 2011 TV: ABC’s Once Upon a Time and Charlie’s Angels

Hey there…

As the studios begin marshaling their forces to show us what’s on the Fall 2011 slate for their lineups, I’m always intrigued by what the writers choose to reinvent. Some years the original shows are more prevalent than the shows retooled for modern audiences, but there’s usually a mix of good and bad regardless. This year ABC has announced two big shows already – Once Upon a Time and Charlie’s Angels – and they’ve offered a video peek as well as some background for each.

Once Upon a Time

The preview of Once Upon a Time really caught my attention. Let’s take the stable of fairy tale stories from Disney and put those characters into the modern world with a twist from two of the writers from LostEdward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. The premise is simple – what if fairy tales were real?

It has a great cast of people I’ve liked in other shows:

  • Robert Carlyle (TV’s Stargate Universe) as Rumpelstiltskin
  • Jennifer Morrison (TV’s House M.D. and How I Met Your Mother) – Emma Swan
  • Josh Dallas (Fandral in Thor) as Prince Charming/John Doe
  • Jared Gilmore (TV’s Hawthorne and Mad Men) – Henry
  • Ginnifer Goodwin (HBO’s Big Love) – Snow White/Sister Mary Margret Blanchard
  • Lana Parilla (TV’s Miami Medical, Swingtown, and Lost) – Evil Queen/Regina
  • Raphael Sbarge (TV’s Dexter and The Secret Life of the American Teenager) – Archie/Jiminy Cricket
  • Jamie Dornan – Sheriff Graham

Watch the preview and see what you think… As a fan of urban fantasy these days, I have to admit I’m looking forward to this matchup between Haven and fairy tales. If they kick it off with a bang in the season premiere and then do a slow reveal throughout the season, the merger of magic and storytelling in our world may capture more than a few fans along the way. If it’s too heavy handed, I worry that it will seem standoffish.

Short synopsis: Welcome to a world where fairy tales are real. Anna Swan is like any other 28 year old, until she discovers she’s a lost princess destined to save her world from darkness. Experience the passion project of executive producers/creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (Lost, Tron: Legacy). Once Upon A Time is a thrilling twist of our most beloved stories.

Charlie’s Angels

Now, though Charlie’s Angels managed to get three gorgeous ladies to step into the limelight as a new trio of Angels – Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, and Rachael Taylor – I don’t know that I’ll be watching. With Smallville‘s Alfred Gough and Miles Millar producing the action with Drew Barrymore, I was hoping for a bit more. But the setup is the same as it was in the 1970s, minus the Farrah Fawcett hairdo.

Here’s the synopsis:

Get ready for the knockout hit of the year. Charlie’s Angels is back and hotter than ever. Meet three ex-bad girls who are earning their wings by busting the really bad guys. Together with legendary producer Leonard Goldberg and Drew Barrymore, Smallville‘s Alfred Gough and Miles Millar re-imagine the popular 1970’s series with more action, more eye candy and more heart than ever before.

Abby (Taylor – TV’s Grey’s Anatomy plus Transformers and See No Evil) was a spoiled Park Avenue princess who became a world-class thief. Kate (Ilonzeh – TV’s General Hospital, Melrose Place) was a Miami cop who fell down the hole of corruption. And Eve (Kelly – TV’s Parenthood and Friday Night Lights) who has a talent for stealing and driving fast cars. The three work together with Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez, TV’s The Wire, Battle: Los Angeles and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) and Charlie (voiced by Robert Wagner – TV’s NCIS, Two and a Half Men, and Hart to Hart) recruit the ladies to take out the “really bad guys.”

Though I know ABC wants to join in the remake success CBS had with Hawaii Five-O this year ABC is riding high on the reboot of Hawaii Five O this year, I’m not sure they’re going to have the same luck with Charlie’s Angels for a couple of reasons. First, though there are beautiful women kicking butt, we’ve seen it before. And yes, I know that we’ve seen Hawaii Five O before as well, but the state of Hawaii hasn’t featured that prominently on TV since Lost, and on Lost the island didn’t exist! We’ve already seen many successful shows with a similar structure, such as Burn Notice and Covert Affairs, both of which are getting ready to kick off their new seasons this summer.

Here’s the preview for Charlie’s Angels:

So what do you think? Though I’m hoping that Once Upon a Time succeeds, somehow I suspect that Charlie’s Angels will probably succeed despite itself. ABC’s been on a roll with shows like Castle and Grey’s Anatomy, and Hawaii Five O, so maybe their knack for finding good shows will continue into the Fall? We can only wait and see.

Leave me some comments below after you watch both previews… I’m curious what you think!

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Shaun the Sheep: The Big Chase

Hi all!

It’s no secret I’m a fan of well-done animated programs. Whether they were done in the 1940s or in just the last few years, it really doesn’t matter so long as they are fun and tell a good story. The style is less important, though I tend to enjoy good old two-dimensional hand-drawn animation and classic stop-motion more than computer-generated “pixel fests.” With a good story and passionate people working to bring that story to life, a great team can do almost anything with animation in any style.

That said, I am also a fan of old-school humor. Slapstick from artists like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, and even the Three Stooges can be used not only to entertain audiences with wild physical antics, but can also offer social commentary in a non-confrontational way. The greats didn’t even need dialogue, just exaggerated facial and physical expressions to show action and emotion.

When you mix great animation, storytelling, and slapstick humor together, you can end up with something very special. Shaun the Sheep is one of those projects from Aardman Animation, the same folks who brought Wallace & Gromit to life. Using stop-motion, claymation techniques these brilliant folks bring an entire farmyard to life with a flock of sheep, three naughty pigs, a barnyard dog, and a clueless farmer. Without any speech at all beyond the lyrics of the theme song, each five minute episode tells a complete story with humor suitable for both kids and adults.

The latest DVD, Shaun the Sheep: The Big Chase, pulls together seven episodes of fun mayhem on Shaun’s farm. The episodes include everything from a runaway sheep on an ATV and a monster from the swamp to a runaway boat and rare migrating zebra ducks!

One of my favorites was the title episode for the DVD – “The Big Chase,” in which Timmy (the baby sheep of the flock) went for a joy ride on the Farmer’s new toy – a four-wheel ATV. Bitzer, the Farmer’s faithful dog, was supposed to be guarding it but Timmy was sneaky. And once he got the motor started, it was off to the races! Bitzer and Shaun tried to catch the ATV after stealing a motorcycle from a pizza delivery guy. The pigs tore off in a convertible to cause more chaos. And we got to see town nearby the farm for the first time I can remember. After they finally stopped the ATV, the Farmer, dressed in his finest riding leathers and helmet, gave it a spin and didn’t do nearly as well as the baby sheep!

Another great episode was “Bitzer from the Black Lagoon.” Whenever Shaun and Bitzer start playing soccer, you know nothing good is going to happen. This time when the ball gets lost in a nearby forest, Bitzer goes after it. Unfortunately, he finds the ball floating atop a small pond and when he tries to retrieve it, he ends up covered in swampy mud and greenery. When he gets back to the farm, he doesn’t look like Bitzer at all and scares the sheep into a panic. When the flock finally realize it’s really Bitzer under the muck and corner him to get him cleaned up, they get a bit of a shock instead!

And “Zebra Ducks of the Serengeti” introduces two troublesome ducks into the mix. These two birds decide to build a nest on the Farmer’s house, blocking the chimney. When Bitzer and Shaun finally get them off the roof, both birds are covered in soot and end up looking like a pair of rare Zebra ducks. The Farmer sees this as a money-making opportunity and decides to set up a small drive-through exhibit so he can show off these rare ducks. Unfortunately, like many of the Farmer’s plans, the ducks spoil everything by getting cleaned up just in time…

In addition to the seven episodes, you get a couple of bonuses. The “Mini Making of Shaun” video shows a bit about how each episode goes together and the amount of work involved. I’m always impressed seeing these talented folks getting the thousands of shots together for each five minute episode. The DVD also includes a music video (“Timmy’s Tune #1”) from the new show for preschoolers called Timmy Time.

If you like animated shows you can share with your family, it’s tough to beat Shaun the Sheep. We love all the characters and Aardman continues to add more to the series each season. Be sure to pick up Shaun the Sheep: The Big Chase at your favorite retailer or rental store if you get a chance!

This review originally appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Definitely check out this and other great Shaun the Sheep titles below!

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