A version of this review also ran in Sunday’s The Oklahoman.
Sharp-tongued, gun-shy New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum returns for another fast, fun read in Janet Evanovich’s “Fearless Fourteen” (St. Martin’s Press, $27.95).
The latest installment brings back one of my favorite supporting characters, Mooner. The resident stoner of Stephanie’s high school class, Mooner has a habit of meandering into her life and inciting chaos.
The zany story starts when Stephanie tries to capture another former classmate, Loretta Rizzi, who is charged with robbing a liquor store. Loretta threatens to commit suicide unless Stephanie promises to care for her teenage son, Zook.
The bounty hunter stashes the boy in the home of her cop boyfriend Morelli, one of Zook’s distant cousins. The arrangement gets complicated when Loretta’s brother, Dom gets out of prison.
Ten years ago, Dom was one of four men to pull off a bank heist, and the only one to serve time. Dom furiously claims that Morelli’s house, which the cop inherited from their Aunt Rose, was supposed to be willed to him.
Rumors fly that Dom hid a clue leading to the bank robbery money in the old house. Soon, people are breaking in to find the cash – and some of them are dying. And, Loretta disappears as soon as she gets out of jail.
Stephanie must track down Loretta and the money if she wants to restore peace and safety to her crazy life.
Along the way, Stephanie’s mentor/ex-lover Ranger talks her into providing security for a brash, aging diva. The singer in turn cons Stephanie and her bumbling sidekick Lula into starring in a reality TV show about bounty hunting.
Evanovich doesn’t take full advantage of the timely reality show setup, and she lets the novel slowly drift toward predictability by the end.
The best days of the series are back around Book 6, but the latest adventure still offers the hilarious dialogue, colorful and madcap antics fans have come to expect from Evanovich’s books.
A catchy quote from a movie, TV show or other source to brighten the beginning of your week:
Inigo: That Vizzini, he can *fuss*.
Fezzik: Fuss, fuss… I think he like to scream at *us*.
Inigo: Probably he means no *harm*.
Fezzik: He’s really very short on *charm*.
Inigo: You have a great gift for rhyme.
Fezzik: Yes, yes, some of the time.
Vizzini: Enough of that.
Inigo: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?
Fezzik: If there are, we all be dead.
Vizzini: No more rhyming now, I mean it.
Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?
- Click here to learn the source.
Today’s featured event:
Hear original music, along with sacred, classical, blues and jazz pieces, performed at a free handbell concert today.
Bronze Tapestry and OKCRingTones, Oklahoma City’s newest community handbell ensembles, will be performing free concerts this summer throughout the Oklahoma City metro area.
The first of these concerts will be at 7:30 p.m. today at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 10100 Ridgeview, Oklahoma City.
The two new community choirs are secular, consisting of ringers from local churches. Over the past few decades, handbell ringing has grown in popularity worldwide, although most handbell choirs, including those in Oklahoma, are still affiliated with churches or schools.
For more information, e-mail email@example.com or call 205-3928.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com.
Today’s featured event:
Today is the last day to see the top dogs at the 2008 OKC Summer Classic Dog Show, hosted by the Oklahoma City Kennel Club and Mid-Del-Tinker Kennel Club. The event will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Cox Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens.
For more information, call 487-8877 or go to www.okcdogshows.com.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com.
Today’s featured event:
Cheer on the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz against the Lubbock (Texas) Renegades at 7:05 p.m. today at the Ford Center, 100 W Reno.
For more information, call 228-3294 or go to www.okcyarddawgz.com.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com
Matt Price and I break down the two big, disparate movies opening in theaters this weekend in this NewsOK entertainment podcast.
The song that has been on my brain the most this week:
- “D’yer Mak’er,” by Led Zeppelin, from the 1973 album “Houses of the Holy.”
If there was ever a song that could get stuck in your head for weeks at a time, it’s this reggae-esque ditty from Britain’s heavy metal royalty.
OK, language and music history lesson: This song title is not pronounced “Dire Maker.” The guys from Zep are British, and the title has apostrophes that do actually mean something.
It is pronounced “jah-may-kah,” and the song is based on an old joke that goes something like this: “My wife’s gone to the West Indies.” ”Jamaica?” “No, she went of her own accord.”
Although I strive to give this blog an educational bent whenever possible, I can’t say that was my main motive in this case. It just really bugs me when people call it “Dire Maker.”
This song has special meaning to me. It’s actually tied to one of my favorite high school memories – graduation.
While we were waiting in line to file into the auditorium for commencement exercises at Lindsay High School, a friend and I started singing this song. Pretty soon everyone was crooning, “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, you don’t have to go-oh.”
For a moment, I was impressed that so many of my classmates were cool enough to know Zeppelin. But I then learned that they were actually singing the Sheryl Crow cover off the 1995 Zep tribute album “Encomium.”
Still, her version is fairly spot-on, it was a great musical moment, and it demonstrated the value – however marginal – of tribute albums.
If you’ll remember, I told you back in April about a surprising – and surprisingly great – cover of Barry White’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Oklahomans Wayman Tisdale – who is just as skilled playing a bluesy bass guitar as he is dominating on the basketball court – and country music megastar Toby Keith recorded the cover for Tisdale’s new album “Rebound.”
The Oklahoman‘s Natasha Mitchell reviews the album today, and calls the Keith-Tisdale collaboration the best on the disc.
Check out her review by clicking here.
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To hear an audio clip of my interview with Andrew Stanton, click here.
Animation goes sci-fi in ‘WALL-E’
HOUSTON – The clever minds at Pixar have used high-tech computer animation and old-fashioned storytelling to explore the hidden worlds of children’s toys, undersea families and gourmand rats.
The animation studio’s ninth feature film, “WALL-E,” offers a cinematic journey to the final frontier.
“The biggest influence was sci-fi movies that I saw in the ‘70s … particularly the iconic ones like ’2001,’ ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Close Encounters (of the Third Kind),’ ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner.’ They all did such an amazing job of transporting to these other worlds, and I just really believed they were there,” said “WALL-E” writer-director Andrew Stanton in a recent one-on-one interview at the Four Seasons Hotel.
“Some of that may have been my age, but I also think that somehow the whole majesty and wonder of that kind of fell away. … I just haven’t felt that way again, and I just wanted to kind of go back there. And I guess I realized that sci-fi is not something that you’ve seen that often in animation.”
“WALL-E” features the kind of hero rarely seen in modern cinema: A quirky, clunky robot cleaning up the Earth after humans left it covered in trash 700 years before. While all the other Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class robots have broken down, WALL-E keeps doing his job, though not before sifting a few interesting treasures out of the rubble.
His lonely existence is disrupted when a sleek probe named EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) lands on the abandoned planet. She and WALL-E form a bond, and EVE learns that WALL-E has found the one sign that people might some day return to Earth.
When EVE’S mission takes her back into space, where humans live on a luxury space liner, WALL-E comes along for the adventure.
The idea for “WALL-E” came out of a now-famous 1994 lunch during which Pixar pioneers Stanton, John Lasseter, Pete Doctor and the late Joe Ranft also kicked around the ideas for “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters Inc.” and Stanton’s previous directorial effort, “Finding Nemo.”
While working on his Oscar-winning fish tale, Stanton also began building the story for his “Robinson Crusoe” robot.
“I didn’t want you to see him as a person; I didn’t want what I called the ‘Tin Man effect’ where it’s like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and he’s just a metal human being,” he said.
When Stanton started the four-year process of making “WALL-E,” he didn’t have a particular look in mind for the robot, who now has Caterpillar treads, binocular eyes and a square crusher for a body. The former animator sent the film’s artists out to take pictures of different machines and develop personalities for them.
Stanton, 42, also decided his non-humanoid robots would only speak in whistles, beeps and other electronic sounds.
“I kept recalling that moment in ‘Star Wars’ where R2 was alone with the Jawas, and there was no English, it was all different languages, but you completely understood everything that was going on,” said Stanton, whose next project will be the film version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book “John Carter of Mars.”
After 18 years with Pixar, he knew from his experiences with the studio’s trademark animated Luxo Jr. lamp that a non-speaking character could work if done right.
“I didn’t want him silent, that wasn’t interesting to me. What was interesting to me was that he just had his own way of speaking. And I just kept using the term ‘R2D2,’ ‘like R2D2,’ ‘like R2D2,’” Stanton said, laughing.
“And finally my producer, Jim Morris, said, ‘Why don’t we just call Ben Burtt, who did R2D2?’ And I went, ‘Oh, can we do that? Wow, that’s nice. OK, well, let’s call him.’”
The legendary sound effects designer spent two years on the film, basically becoming two-thirds of the cast, since so many of the characters are robots. Each has its own identity and way of speaking consistent with its form and function.
“I really don’t think I could have solved this movie (without him),” Stanton said. “He just brought so much knowledge to the table.”
The movie’s limited dialogue helped push the ever-advancing studio into new territory, from making its cameras more accurate to incorporating live-action footage for the first time.
“I wasn’t going to be able to rely on conventional dialogue and so … everything else in the picture was going to have to rise the occasion to carry the storytelling – the music, the way the camera was staged, and on a very subtle level, the way the lenses worked on the camera,” he said.
The story involves WALL-E watching the movie “Hello Dolly!” and through the song “It Only Takes a Moment,” learning about and yearning for love.
“That’s live-action footage. So that sort of sets a precedent now that anytime you look at old footage, it’s gotta be real humans. … So I realized I was going to have to shoot live-action, which was fun.”
While change is on the only constant at Pixar, Stanton said the company stays focused on turning good ideas into the best possible movies.
“We have a lot of lunches,” he said with a laugh. “I’m surrounded by so many talented, smart people, that I think there’s a million ideas that are as worthy as the films that we’ve made that are just getting thrown around.”
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. 4 of 4 stars (plus all the sporks, Rubik’s Cubes and love he can haul off.)
Animated robot becomes lovable hero in Pixar’s ‘WALL-E’ sci-fi tale
Only the geniuses at Pixar Animation Studios could create an adorably clunky, inarticulate robot janitor capable of eliciting warm fuzzies and merry giggles in equal measure.
“WALL-E,” the latest film from Oscar-winning “Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton, may be animated, but it’s the best science-fiction movie of the past several years.
The movie is set 700 years in the future, on a bleak but oddly evocative Earth so covered with trash that humans have been forced to leave. Centuries ago, the Buy n Large corporation promised to clean up the planet while people took a one-year pleasure cruise on the luxury space liner Axiom (voice of Sigourney Weaver).
The corporation created the Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, or WALL-E, robots for the task, but through some glitch, they didn’t work – except one. While the humans continue their centuries-long space cruise, a single WALL-E (voice of Ben Burtt) continues to scoop up and compact the result of generations of rampant consumerism.
When he isn’t crushing trash, WALL-E spends his time sifting treasures out of the rubble, from a spork to a ring box (the diamond ring goes back in the junkyard) to a small plant. He also befriends a cockroach and dreams of finding love, like the characters in his favorite movie, “Hello Dolly!”
His lonely existence is changed with the arrival of a sleek probe called EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). The humans living on the luxury space liner Axiom have dispatched EVE to search for signs that Earth can be inhabited again.
WALL-E is enchanted with EVE, but she initially ignores him. They eventually form a bond, though EVE still refuses to reveal the purpose of her classified mission.
To her surprise, EVE discovers that WALL-E has found the one sign that people might be able to return to Earth.
When EVE is recalled to the Axiom, WALL-E hitches a ride into space. On the Axiom, WALL-E’s discovery, along with his inquisitive charm, changes the lives of everyone aboard the ship and the fate of Earth itself.
“WALL-E,” Pixar’s ninth studio film, constitutes a stunning achievement. About the first third of the movie has nearly no dialogue, just a series of electronic oohs, ahhs and beeps from WALL-E and EVE. But the filmmakers still manage to convey the characters’ emotions and thoughts through their expressive faces and the tone of their sounds.
Once the film launches into the space and aboard the Axiom, the film gains more dialogue and characters but doesn’t lose its focus on the core story. As WALL-E searches for love, the humans, led by the captain (voice of Jeff Garlin), have to decide whether to leave behind their super-soft existence and try to reclaim their damaged home world.
For the first time, Pixar incorporates live-action footage into one of its films, and the bold move pays big dividends. The lyrics to “It Only Takes a Moment,” along with the accompanying scene from “Hello Dolly!,” add poignant power to WALL-E’s obvious desire for companionship.
Fred Willard’s live-action flashback sequences as the smarmy Buy n Large CEO Shelby Forthright fit seamlessly into the movie.
Rated G and boasting one of the most charming underdog heroes to appear onscreen in a long while, “WALL-E” is wonderfully original and well-crafted entertainment for all ages.