DESIGNATED SURVIVOR – Intriguing new TV show

I just saw the TV show Designated Survivor. It stars Kiefer Sutherland as the mid-level politician who becomes the US President because of an attack which kills all the others before him in the line of succession.

It’s an intriguing idea, and could go badly wrong if mishandled. What I saw in the first episode suggests it is being handled right. Time will tell if this guess is correct.

Sutherland is a good choice. He plays his character convincingly well: a nice guy who has been little tested by life (if what we see so far is true). However, he has the smarts and steel underneath the nice-guy exterior (which covers a nice-guy interior). In the first episode the story sets up three oppositions to his new job: an admiral who wants to replace him by a more obvious tough guy (maybe himself), a group of terrorists who have only begun their war against the US, and everybody around him who fears he’s not the right choice even as they desperately hope that he is.

Sutherland is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast of competent actors: his wife and kids, his top Secret Service bodyguard, a speech writer, the pushy admiral, the assistant to the former president, and the nicely done FBI special agent in charge of ferreting out the terrorist group, played by Maggie Q.

Click the link at my preferred streaming service, Amazon Video, to go to  the Designated Survivor ordering page. (The first episode is free.)

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Latest DARKOVER book available now

When Deborah Ross took over Marion Zimmer Bradley‘s Darkover series I lost interest, thinking Ross could never equal the feel and thrill of MZB’s books. I’m happy to admit I was wrong, as proved by the latest book in the series – Thunderlord.

Preview Amz B&N

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NAPOLEONIC WAR WITH DRAGONS series finale available

Naomi Novik in 2006 introduced us to her Temeraire series. It re-imagined the Napoleonic War if both sides had dragons to use as an air force.

Normally stories with dragons bore me, as they strike me as being out of sync with the rest of the ecologies shown in the stories. Plus they can fly and shoot flames from their mouths, ridiculous possibilities to an engineer who has been very involved in creating aircraft to do the same. But Novik thought out all the details so well, and presents them so vividly, that the dragons in her stories seem utterly believable.

Her dragons are also willing and willful characters, each with a personality of its own. They are primary characters in their own right; their desires and thoughts drive the stories as much as those of the humans. In the course of the series the main characters, Captain Will Laurence and his dragon Temeraire, visit China, Africa, Australia, as well as Britain and France. We see how differently the societies treat dragons. In China, for instance, they are equal citizens with the humans, and the two species live mostly in harmony.

The latest book, League of Dragons, draws the series to a satisfying close. If you’ve not read the series I suggest you start with the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon.

Preview Amz B&N

Preview Amz B&N

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dance scene from SUCKER PUNCH

Zach Snyder‘s 2011 film Sucker Punch was a deep disappointment to me. It has a downer ending and all the action sequences are dreams or fantasies, making the victories meaningless. Still, it had some fun dance sequences (available only on the Blu-ray Extended Cut version).

Here is my favorite, performed by Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac. It reminds me very much of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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MURDOCH MYSTERIES – CSI in turn-of-the century Toronto

Murdoch Mysteries is a Canadian crime show which may appeal to a lot of sci-fi/fantasy readers. The hero, William Murdoch, solves crimes on the cusp of the 20th Century in Toronto.

He often invents new machines and technologies to help him, or adopts ones just coming into service. This includes “finger marks” and black light to detect blood traces. Some stories revolve around inventions created by others, such as motor cars, airplanes, rockets, and robots.

Along the way he often encounters historical figures from the period, such as H. G. Wells, Thomas Edison, Bat Masterson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, and Winston Churchill. The star (Yannick Bisson) is ably supported by appealing actors playing several recurring characters: medical examiner Dr. Julia Ogden, his boss Inspector Thomas Brackenreid, and Constable George Crabtree. The constable is a prodigious reader and is always ready to suggest a fantastic or SFnal perpetrator of a murder, such as werewolves or Martians.

The latest season is now out in Blu-ray and DVD. It can also be streamed via Amazon Video. As can all the other seasons. (Click the images to preview and order.)

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New RING OF FIRE book available

One of my favorite series of books is the RING OF FIRE series by Eric Flint. The first book was 1632, and seems to have been intended as a one-off. It follows a group of modern-day Americans who lived within roughly ten miles of the West Virginia city of Grantville. Mid-day it was transported to 1632 in the middle of what was to become Germany, during the horrible Thirty-Years War.

Both “up-time” and “down-time” people and their situations were brought vividly to life by Flint, and they proved to be fertile ground for later books. Flint enlisted the aid of several capable authors to co-author or author follow-up books which he did not have time to write by himself. For updates and more info on the series see the Eric Flint web site.

The latest book is 1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz, by Kerryn Offord and Rick Boatright. It follows the early and middle life of Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz. An alchemist and possible great-grandson of Paracelsus, he struggles to survive and in the process helps to create and grow the modern chemical industry of the 17th Century. I spent several happy evenings with the book and look forward to a sequel is there ever is one.

Preview Amz B&N

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ULTIMATE EDITION Batman v. Superman surprisingly enjoyable

Desperate for entertainment, I got the ULTIMATE EDITION of Batman v. Superman. And was pleasantly surprised.

This edition has 30 extra minutes which fills in some of the background info. Thankfully this is in short bits placed so they don’t slow the film down, though the last five minutes afterstory scenes do move too slowly for my taste.

One of the more pleasant parts was a bit better understanding of how Lois and the Supe manage to have a romantic relationship. Another was how the writers managed to come up with a way for a mortal to actually fight an immortal, which was why I stayed away from the film in the theaters.

But best of all was the integration of Wonder Woman into the story; she doesn’t just appear for a few minutes to save the day at the end. That was the highlight for me and why I’m happy that my desperation made me see the film. Now I’m REALLY looking forward to Patty Jenkins’ WW prequel next summer.

Amz B&N


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terrific new WONDER WOMAN trailer

Hard to imagine any of you have not seen the new Wonder Woman trailer, but here it is just in case.

The action starts at 1:11 minutes.

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Great new CASTAWAYS IN TIME book

Just finished a terrific addition to the old “castaways in time” books which started with Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The book by Michael Z. Williamson is a bit long on the details of how the main characters adapted. This might bother a few but I enjoyed them. You can always skim if a book seems slow to you, but I might have felt cheated if the author had left them out.

From the book’s blurb:

“Ten soldiers on convoy in Afghanistan suddenly find themselves lost in time. Somehow, they arrived in Earth’s Paleolithic Asia. With no idea how they arrived or how to get back, the shock of the event is severe. They discover groups of the similarly displaced: Imperial Romans, Neolithic Europeans, and a small cadre of East Indian peasants. Despite their technological advantage, the soldiers only have ten people, and know no way home.”

Preview Amz B&N

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interview Gal Gadot, star of WONDER WOMAN movie

Gal Gadot and her Wonder Woman co-stars will be at Comic-Con on July 21-24. As part of the publicity for their attendance, Gadot (pronounced Guh-dot, according to her) gave an interview in Entertainment Weekly.

Below is the first of four images of Gadot in her costume. Click the first to go to the gallery.

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