The Escape Artist

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The Escape Artist
Brad Meltzer
Grand Central Publishing 2018

What do an embalmer working for the U.S. Army, the Army’s artist in residence, and Harry Houdini’s long-deceased friends have in common? That is the heart of The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer. If you are looking for a mystery novel off the beaten path with solid characters and an original plot, this novel is a sure bet. The Escape Artist Kindle

Jim “Zig” Zigarowski is a magician embalmer who can make the most battered body almost lifelike. Nola Brown is the Artist in Residence for the U.S. Army both because she is a great artist whose talents are valuable on the battlefield but also to keep her out of harm’s way, her harm’s way. A plane crashes in Alaska, Nola Brown was on it, and her body is brought to Zig who immediately recognizes the name of a girl who saved his daughter’s life but that name does not belong to the body in front of him.

Zig sets out to find out what happened to Nola Brown because the body left a message indicating Nola Brown is in real danger. Nola is often one step ahead of Zig and does not want to be found. They both stumble upon operation Bluebook. A blue book is what magicians used to leave around different towns for the next magician who needed background stories on the locals to make his or her talking to the dead more believable. Here, Bluebook is the names of Harry Houdini’s long-deceased friends that are used decade after decade as covers for agents in secret operations.

A man who calls himself Houdini really wants to make Nola Brown disappear before she learns too much and this is when Zig gets caught in the crossfire.

Also integrating chapters about Nola’s childhood, The Escape Artist is a complex narrative but Brad Meltzer has a sure hand and this mystery novel never loses its reader or his or her interest.

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Justice League

Justice League
Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash
Directed by Zack Snyder
DVD Blu-Ray Digital
Warner Brothers 2018
120 minutes

Considering Superman in on the cover, it is no spoiler alert to reveal Justice League brings Clark Kent back from the dead after his encounter with Bartman in Batman vs Superman. In this fun to watch movie Superman joins Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and teen superheros Flash and Cyborg to defeat yet another villain out to destroy the earth. There may not be as much action as some action movie fans would have wished for but Justice League is still entertaining and a must for fans of the CD Comics franchise

Here the heroes must band together to defeat Steppenwolf (no relation to the band) who is out to find and connect three mystical boxes that put together will summon super villain Darkseid and cause life on earth to end. It is not hard for Batman to convince Wonder Woman to join the fight but he finds it more difficult to bring Aquaman on board. The trio is soon joined by a couple of teenage superheroes Flash and Cyborg who is sort of a six-million dollar man on steroids.

After fighting the bad guy some, Batman figures out a way to bring Superman back to life. It is only once that is achieved that Justice League really takes off action wise and like all action movies the finale is where all the special effects and CGI money went. As showdown goes it rates a 7 out of 10 but it will still keep you engaged and rooting for the good guys.

Pay attention to the credits as they include a race between Flash and Superman and a scene that sets up the next movie in the DC Universe.

You do not have to be familiar with Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman to enjoy this third instalment in the franchise.

Special features on the Blu-ray are Road to Justice about fifty years of the Justice League; The cast showing their appreciation for the DC franchise; New Heroes; The Return of Superman (bonus scenes); Steppenwolf the Conqueror; Scene studies segments:  Revisiting the Amazons, Wonder Woman’s Rescue, the tunnel battle, and Heroes Park; and Suit Up: the look of the League.  Features on the Justice League DVD are the same except for The Return of Superman

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The Almighty Johnsons

The Almighty Johnson is a fantasy TV series out of New Zealand about Norse gods living in modern times.

It is hard to get a real feel for The Almighty Johnsons based on the pilot as it is very busy setting up all the characters, the villains, and setting up the backstory. The short and sweet version is Axl Johnson turns 21 and learns he is Norse god Odin. His cousin is his grandfather (didn’t know Norse gods were rednecks, didyah?) and his brothers are other gods. He must complete the quest before he is killed and his whole family is also wiped out. The quest is to find Mrs. Right, a gal named Gaia.

A woman and her female minions is out to stop Axl because she does not want an all-male god system.

This is a promising idea. I hope the second show gets more action and such to keep the audience.

The show was renewed for a second season in New Zealand so that must mean something.

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The problem with getting a screener is you sometimes get hooked on the series. This is the case for Sinbad, and excellent fantasy series. Episode 1 premieres July 8th at 7 on The Space Channel and Season 1 will features 12 episodes. This is a British series from Sky 1

Elliot Knight plays Sinbad, a young man in his early twenties who scrounges around for a living with his brother. One way to raise money is to get into fights and win only when the odds are against him. One fight pits him against a future young emir and Sinbad accidentally kills him. The Emir’s father wants justice. Stuff happens and Sinbad’s mother curses him to never be able to set foot on land for more than one cycle of the sun until he has paid for his sins.

His first trip out is as a stowaway where he encounters some kind of water monster. It is possible something Sinbad did while he was in Malta is responsible for some of the darker manifestations he will encounter.

The show features lots of action, very interesting characters, and monsters. Naveen Andrews (of Lost fame) is stuck playing a stereotypical angry Arab sheik who is one of the baddies in this show.

Some of the CGI is rather low rent but can you really have a Sinbad without a few low budget features?

Sinbad is way cool and a lot of fun to watch. I am hooked.

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Bigfoot DVD

Bigfoot is wonderfully atrocious. It stars Partridge Danny Bonaduce and Brady Barry Williams. It also features WKRP’s Howard Hesseman, Twin Peaks’ Sherilyn Fenn, and the great Alice Cooper. The special effects are just as good as the acting so you know what you are in for. This said Bigfoot knows it is low budget cheesy and uses that knowledge to good effect (Bonaduce’s character is named Henderson –as in Harry and the– and Williams’ character’s last name is Quail and referred to as the Jane Goodall of Bigfoot.)

Bonaduce plays a DJ operating out of Deadwood, South Dakota. He is organizing an 80’s revival concert and needs to destroy a patch of forest to set up the stage. This wakes up Bigfoot who goes on a rampage. Williams plays a has-been one-hit wonder turned environmentalist who goes against Bonaduce. They will get into a too short fistfight and exchange witty repartee like “your breath stinks”

There are so many things wrong with Bigfoot you start to wonder how much of it is voluntary and how much is because of its low budget. The movie takes place in spring during a “freak snow storm” to explain why half the scenes are wintery and the other half features lush green lawns (sometimes in the same scene). Not that it matters. Bigfoot is at least twenty feet tall and can leap great distances but can barely catch up with someone rowing an inflatable boat.  Greg Brady goes after Bigfoot in a ultralight, yes, an ultralight.

You owe it to yourself to watch Bigfoot. You won’t have that much fun watching a bad movie for a long, long time. It airs June 30th at 9 PM on the Space Channel.

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Mom Reviewed Phineas and Ferb The Perry Files

For those of you not in the know Phineas and Ferb are ingenious stepbrothers who while away their summer vacation inventing and building fabulously extraordinary contraptions for their friends (and they themselves too) to use “I know what we’re going to do today!” is the rallying cry for these two and their friends.  Where and who is Perry in all this?  Perry is their pet platypus, who in fact doubles as a secret agent.  Perry always ends up thwarting the evil Dr. Doofenshmirrtz’ plans for mayhem and chaos.

This kind of sounds as if the show's creators sat down and chose the most unlikely scenarios possible and did a mash-up.  As improbable as the premise sounds, Phineas and Ferb is a show that really works.  It is funny, energetic (but not frantic), and creative.  There are often ridiculous musical numbers that give the right amount of good music and silly lyrics to make the tunes stick in your head (“There’s a Platypus Controlling Me” is one example). The boys have an older sister (Candice) that is always trying to “bust” them, by telling their mother what the boys have been up to, yet she never succeeds.  Perry (or Agent P) works for the secret agency O.W.A.C. and cleverly (yet silently) battles evil while his ‘owners’ are creating their masterpieces.

This family DVD has a total of 14 episodes on it (two per scene selection), which makes it easy to choose your episode, and it doesn’t have to dominate as a full-length movie sometimes does.  I must say that the special features were a little bit of a let down…just some promotion for their summer tour, and a quick explanation (albeit quite funny) of Perr’s agency O.W.C.A.

My kids love Phineas and Ferb – and they love this collection too.  Both my husband and I really enjoy it as well.  It is creative, and shows older kids  (8 and up) getting along, being imaginative, and helping each other.  I would definitely recommend this set for kids 8 and up.

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