Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Iron Man 2' is another high-quality, comic book-based movie

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of finally getting to watch “Iron Man 2,” and I enjoyed seeing another high-quality, comic book-based movie on the big screen.

Released nationwide on May 7, this movie is the sequel to 2008’s “Iron Man,” and the events in “Iron Man 2” take place about six months after the events in the first movie.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the comic book hero, Iron Man, he was created by comic book legends Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby and first appeared in March 1963 in Issue No. 39 of “Tales of Suspense.” Iron Man’s “real” name is Anthony “Tony” Stark, who’s not only a billionaire industrialist playboy, but also an engineering genius. Stark’s greatest invention is a suit of body armor that gives him superhuman strength, the ability to fly and a wide variety of high tech weapons.

In “Iron Man 2,” Stark has revealed his secret identity to the public, which makes his a target by a few of the bad guys he’s cross paths with in the past, including a rival industrialist who wants to bring down Tony’s company, Stark Enterprises. This rival defense contractor, Justin Hammer, recruits Stark-hater, Ivan Vanko, who does battle with Iron Man with his signature whip-like energy weapons.

In this movie, Robert Downey Jr. returns in the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man. Other stars in the movie include Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Garry Shandling and Mickey Rourke. There were also a number of other cameo appearances in the movie too, including Stan Lee and Seth Green. Jon Favreau directed the movie, which was based on a screenplay written by Justin Theroux, who is best known for his work on another Downey film, “Tropic Thunder.”

“Iron Man 2” was a huge financial success. The shooting budget was somewhere between $170 and $200 million, and the film brought in estimated gross revenues of $621.8 million. The film grossed $128.1 million in its opening weekend, making it the fifth highest opening weekend movie of all-time.

For those of you who enjoyed this movie, you’ll be happy to hear that plans are in the works for “Iron Man 3,” which will likely be released in 2013.

“Iron Man 2” also included a number of references to other upcoming comic book-based movies, including “The Avengers” and “Thor.” “The Avengers” is scheduled for release in May 2012, and “Thor” is scheduled for release in May 2011. In fact, if you watch “Iron Man 2” through the end of the final credits, you’ll see an after-credits scene in which S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson discovers Thor’s hammer, the mythical “Mjolnir,” in the middle of the desert.

In the end, I really enjoyed “Iron Man 2.” It’s action-packed and chock full of cutting edge, sci-fi special effects. If you liked the first “Iron Man,” you’ll love the second one, and if you’re like me, you’ll be eagerly awaiting the release of “Iron Man 3.”

How many of you have had a chance to see "Iron Man 2"? What did you think about it? What did you like about the movie? What did you dislike? Let us know in the comments section below.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Salvatore hits a home run with latest book, 'Gauntlgrym'

Earlier this week, I finished reading R.A. Salvatore’s latest, page-turning novel, “Gauntlgrym,” and I not only enjoyed the book, but it also felt like a trip down memory lane.

Published by Wizards of the Coast and released on Oct. 5, this 352-page book centers on Salvatore’s most famous character - the drow elf hero, Drizzt Do’Urden – and his sidekick, the dwarf king, Bruenor Battlehammer. Together, they’re on the hunt for ancient Gauntlgrym, the long lost, legendary home of the Delzoun dwarves. For decades, these two battle hardened adventurers have searched for this subterranean kingdom, but only come close when they are swept up in a quest to save thousands of lives from an ancient evil that’s stirring in the bowels of the lost dwarf kingdom.

Like most of Salvatore’s books, “Gauntlgrym” was an almost immediate best seller. Less than two weeks after its release, the book made Publishers Weekly’s hardcover fiction best-seller list, which is a rare feat for works of fantasy fiction these days.

This novel is one of hundreds of books set in the Forgotten Realms campaign world that’s part of the well-known Dungeons & Dragons role playing game. I haven’t dabbled in fantasy role-playing since about the eighth grade (My friends and I actually played a D&D knock-off called “Dragon Quest.”), but some things never get old.

This book was full of action, interesting characters, magic and high adventure. It includes a number of cliff-hanging moments and Salvatore’s trademark, well-written fight scenes. Salvatore, a former nightclub bouncer, is known far and wide among fantasy fans for his highly detailed fight scenes. He writes them like someone who’s taken – and given – a beating or two on more than one occasion.

One of the best things about this book is the portrayal of Drizzt and Bruenor, who are best friends and have traveled together for decades. They know each other inside and out, and Salvatore does a good job of portraying their good-natured camaraderie. If any of you have seen “The Lord of the Rings” motion picture trilogy from a few years ago, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Drizzt and Bruenor reminded me a lot of the elf-dwarf team of Legolas and Gimli from those movies.

Those of you in the reading audience who have already had the pleasure of reading “Gauntlgrym” will be pleased to know that this book is actually the first novel in what is being called the “Neverwinter Trilogy.”

Video and online gamers out there will also be interested to know that these three books are tied in with an upcoming online video game, Neverwinter. The books in the trilogy serve as previews to the settings, characters and monsters in the game, according to promotional materials. The game is set for release in late 2011.

In the end, I really enjoyed reading “Gauntlgrym” and would recommend it to anyone in the audience who enjoys sword-and-sorcery fantasy novels. I definitely plan to read the other two books in the trilogy, and if they’re anywhere close to as good as the first, then I’m in for a treat.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Elf on the Shelf' book is No. 41 on USA Today best-seller list

Normally, in this space on Sundays, I give you a weekly review of the Publishers Weekly Best-Seller Lists for hardcover fiction and nonfiction, mass market paperbacks and trade paperbacks.

This week, however, it appears that the good folks at Publishers Weekly have taken a well deserved week off and haven’t updated their online best-seller lists because of the latest holiday. They normally release their best-seller lists on Thursday, and last Thursday, as you all know, was Thanksgiving.

For that reason, I’m having to offer you something a little different this week. The boys down at USA Today apparently don’t get as much time off, and they did come out with their best-seller list this week, and as you’ll see it’s a little different from Publishers Weekly’s list.

Whereas, Publishers Weekly gives you the best-sellers in four separate formats, USA Today gives readers an overall list of the top 50 best-selling books, regardless of format. This list is based on reports that it receives from a number of bookstores nationwide, including Amazon.com, B.Dalton Bookseller, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Booland and Borders Books & Music.

As a reminder, I’m posting this list on Sunday because, as a whole, it represents a great, contemporary recommended reading list. USA Today and Publishers Weekly initially release their lists each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com or USA Today online at www.usatoday.com.

Below you’ll find this week’s USA Today best-seller list, and here’s the key to understanding some of the abbreviations used in this list: F-Fiction; NF-Nonfiction; H-Hardcover; P-Paperback.

1. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth" by Jeff Kinney (F-H)
2. "Decision Points" by George W. Bush (NF-H)
3. "Happy Ever After" by Nora Roberts (F-P)
4. "The Confession" by John Grisham (F-H)
5. "Hell's Corner" by David Baldacci (F-H)
6. "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King (F-H)
7. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson (F-P)
8. "Broke" by Glenn Beck, Kevin Balfe (NF-H)
9. "The Lost Hero" by Rick Riordan (F-H)
10. "The Girl Who Played With Fire" by Stieg Larsson (F-P)
11. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson (F-H)
12. "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown (F-P)
13. "Life" by Keith Richards (NF-H)
14. "Towers of Midnight" by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (F-H)
15. "Indulgence in Death" by J.D. Robb (F-H)
16. "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins (F-P)
17. "Southern Lights: A Novel" by Danielle Steel (F-P)
18. "American Assassin: A Thriller" by Vince Flynn (F-H)
19. "I Still Dream About You" by Fannie Flagg (F-H)
20. "Christmas in Cedar Cove: 5-B Poppy Lane" by Debbie Macomber (F-P)
21. "Worth Dying For: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child (F-H)
22. "I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections" by Nora Ephron (NF-H)
23. "Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain" by Portia de Rossi (NF-H)
24. "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks (F-H)
25. "Deeper Than the Dead" by Tami Hoag (F-P)
26. "House Rules" by Jodi Picoult (F-P)
27. "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins (F-H)
28. "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins (F-H)
29. "Holiday Magic" by Mary Carter, Terri DuLong, Fern Michaels, Cathy Lamb (F-P)
30. "Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett (F-H)
31. "The Christmas Brides" by Linda Lael Miller (F-P)
32. "Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?" by Ina Garten (NF-H)
33. "I, Alex Cross" by James Patterson (F-P)
34. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett (F-H)
35. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" by Jeff Kinney (F-H)
36. "61 Hours: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child (F-P)
37. "Pinheads and Patriots" by Bill O'Reilly (NF-H)
38. "Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever: My Story" by Justin Bieber (NF-H)
39. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese (F-P)
40. "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary" by David Sedaris and Ian (F-H)
41. "The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition" by Carol V. Aebersold, Chanda B. Bell (F-H)
42. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (NF-P)
43. "Cleopatra: A Life" by Stacy Schiff (NF-H)
44. "Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1" by Mark Twain (NF-H)
45. "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange (F-P)
46. "Little Bee: A Novel" by Chris Cleave (F-P)
47. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" by Jeff Kinney (F-H)
48. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw" by Jeff Kinney (F-H)
49. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" by Jeff Kinney (F-H)
50. "In The Company of Others: A Father Tim Novel" by Jan Karon (F-H)

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What do you think? Is 'The Amityville Horror' fact or fiction?

I recently finished reading a book the other day that I’ve been wanting to read for years, “The Amityville Horror: A True Story” by Jay Anson.

Published in September 1977, this book is supposedly based on the true paranormal experiences of George and Kathy Lutz and their three children while they lived in a reportedly haunted house in Amityville, New York. The Lutz family moved into the house about a year after Ronald Defeo Jr. killed six members of his family while they slept inside the home. Twenty-eight days after moving in, the Lutz family fled the house in fear, never to return.

Many of you will be familiar with the story because of the 1979 movie, “The Amityville Horror,” which is based on Anson’s book. In all, nine movies have been made based on The Amityville Horror, including a 2005 remake on the 1979 original.

The book is fascinating for a number of reasons, and if half of the events in the book are true, then it’s a wonder the family stuck it out in the house for as long as they did.

As you might imagine, the book has been the subject of a lot of criticism over the years and has also spawned a number of lawsuits. Many people claim that there’s no way that the events in the book could be true, and I admit that it is a little hard to believe.

However, one of the more interesting bits of trivia concerning it all, makes me give the Lutzes the benefit of the doubt: In June 1979, George and Kathy Lutz passed a lie detector test regarding their experiences. The test was conducted and certified by Professional Security Consultants, and you can view documents from the test online at www.amityvillehorror.com/docs/docs.htm.

I found it interesting that at least 10 other books have been written about The Amityville Horror. Those books, in order of their publication, include the following:

1979 - Murder in Amityville by Hans Holzer
1981 - The Amityville Curse by Hans Holzer
1982 – The Amityville Horror Part II by John G. Jones
1983 – Amityville 3-D by Gordon McGill
1985 – Amityville: The Final Chapter by John G. Jones
1985 - The Secret of Amityville by Hans Holzer
1988 – Amityville: The Evil Escapes by John G. Jones
1989 – Amityville: The Horror Returns by John G. Jones
1991 – Amityville: The Nightmare Continues by Robin Karl
2008 – Mentally Ill In Amityville by Will Savive

In the end, I enjoyed reading Anson’s book and will probably try to tackle some of the others later. Have any of you read “The Amityville Horror”? If so, what did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, November 26, 2010

'Jonah Hex' movie wasn't as bad as folks made out

I finally got around to watching the movie, “Jonah Hex,” the other day, and I knew going in that it was generally considered a critical and commercial failure. That being said, I didn’t think the movie was as bad as everyone made out.

Released on June 28 (the same weekend as the blockbuster, “Toy Story 3”), “Jonah Hex” posted gross revenues of $10.9 million. That might sound like a lot of money, but it cost over $47 million to make, that is, the movie lost about $36 million.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, this Warner Bros. movie is about Jonah Hex, a disfigured Confederate veteran turned bounty hunter. Hex eventually finds himself on the wrong side of the law, but the U.S. government offers him a deal if he can help them bring in a terrorist who’s bent on toppling the federal government with a super weapon.

This movie was directed by Jimmy Hayward and reminded me a lot of 2003’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” “Jonah Hex” starred Josh Brolin in the title role and also included John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett and Michael Shannon.

Many of you may not know that the “Jonah Hex” movie is based on the DC Comics character of the same name, and this was the main reason I wanted to see the movie. I can remember reading the Jonah Hex comics as a kid and was eager to see them adapt the character for the big screen.

The Jonah Hex comics character was created by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga. He first appeared in “All-Star Western” No. 10, which was published in Feb.-March 1972 by DC Comics.

In both the comics and the movie, Hex is portrayed as a rough and tough bounty hunter whose face is horribly scarred on the right side. Despite his demeanor and bad reputation, he lives by a code of honor that requires him to protect and help the innocent and those who can’t protect themselves.

In the comics, Hex has no supernatural or superhuman abilities. He’s kind of like Batman in that he relies mostly on his resourcefulness and physical abilities. However, the motion picture version of Hex has the ability to temporarily resurrect and talk with the dead. He develops this ability after a group of Native American’s use mystical powers to bring him back from a near-death experience.

In the end, I personally enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t as bad as everyone seemed to make out, and I’d have no problem watching it again.

Have any of you out there seen this movie? If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Newcastle Brown Ale traces name to 'royal heritage'

I recently had the pleasure of sampling a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale and was very surprised by the taste of this high quality, imported beer.

Brewed by Newcastle Federation Breweries in Dunston, England, this beer was first introduced in 1927. Up until the 1980s, it wasn’t even available in most of England, but it’s now currently exported to over 40 countries on five continents.

According to the brewers, it’s the No. 1 packaged ale in the United Kingdom, and is one of the fastest growing beers in the U.S. The brewers describe it as having a “delicate fruit aroma, caramel and nutty malt taste” that makes it “pleasurable and easy to drink.” It contains 4.7 percent alcohol by volume.

In England, this beverage is served mostly in pint containers, but in the States, it comes in 12-ounce bottles (or is available on tap in some locales). These bottles have come in different styles over the years, and the current bottle features a different “Newcastle Brown Ale Fact.”

Here’s what the label on the bottle I had said.

“It’s well known that Newcastle Brown Ale is full of flavor and remarkably smooth. What’s less well known is that the birthplace of this legendary English beer owes its name to William the Conqueror’s son, Robert, builder of the ‘New Castle’ of 1080. A suitably royal heritage for our great tasting beer. And good reason to carry the city’s name proudly on our label.”

For more information about this beverage, visit newcastlebrown.com.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My movie picks this week are 'Faster' and 'The Expendables'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as my list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

- Burlesque (Musical, PG-13): Directed by Steve Antin and starring Christina Aguilera, Cher, Cam Gigandet, Stanley Tucci and Kristen Bell. (Opens on Nov. 24)

- Faster (Action, R): Directed by George Tillman Jr. and starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Maggie Grace and Carla Gugino. (Opens Nov. 24)

- The King’s Speech (Drama, R): Directed by Tom Hooper and starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce and Timothy Spall. (Opens Nov. 26)

-The Legend of Pale Male (Documentary, Special Interest, Not Yet Rated): Directed by Frederic Lilien. (Opens on Nov. 24)

- Love and Other Drugs (Drama, Not Yet Rated): Directed by Edward Zwick and starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. (Opens on Nov. 24)

- Nutcracker in 3D (Fantasy, PG): Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky. (Opens on Nov. 24)

- Tangled (Animation, Comedy, Family, PG): Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard and starring Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman and M.C. Gainey. (Opens on Nov. 24)

- Truth in Numbers? (Documentary, Special Interest, Not Rated, Opens Nov. 30)

New DVD releases for the week of Nov. 23 include:

- The Disappearance of Alice Creed (Drama, Thriller, R): Directed by J. Blakeson and starring Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan.

- Eat Pray Love (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Julia Roberts, James Franco, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins and Billy Crudup.

- The Expendables (Action, R): Directed by Sylvester Stallone and starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews and Jet Li.

- Flipped (Comedy, Romance, Family, PG): Directed by Rob Reiner and starring Callan McAuliffe, Madeline Carroll, Rebecca De Mornay, Anthony Edwards and John Mahoney.

- I’m Still Here (Documentary, R): Directed by Casey Affleck and starring Joaquin Phoenix, David Letterman, Casey Affleck, Antony Langdon and Sean Combs.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Faster,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “The Expendables.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Nightmare on Elm Street' remake is scarier than 1984 original

I finally got around to watching the 2010 remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and actually thought that this movie was scarier than the 1984 original.

Directed by Samuel Bayer, this movie was released in April 2010 and starred Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker and Kellan Lutz. It posted gross revenues of $115.7 million against a shooting budget of $35 million.

For those of you who haven’t seen this movie (or the 1984 original), it’s about a group of high school students who are stalked and killed in their dreams by disfigured villain, Freddy Krueger. Many of you will be familiar with Freddy, who has earned his place in pop culture thanks largely to the iconic razor-tipped glove he uses to dispatch his victims.

Interestingly, this is the first of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies not to star Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. In the remake, Freddy is played by Jackie Earle Haley (who played the character of “Rorschach” in the movie, “Watchmen.”)

Englund and Haley also portray the Freddy character in much different fashions. Englund’s Freddy was more cartoonish and was full of one-liners. Haley’s Freddy was a darker, more sinister, more malevolent version of the character, and I believe that this is what made the remake scarier. Haley had big shoes to fill, but he pulled it off nicely.

The fact that Haley got picked to play Freddy in the first place was more than a little strange when you consider that during auditions for the original film in 1984, the now world famous Johnny Depp went with Haley to the auditions. Haley tried out for a part, but Depp got it instead after he caught the eye of director Wes Craven, who asked Depp to read for a part. Depp went on to appear in the original, but Haley didn’t get a part in the movie. The rest, as they say, for Depp is history.

Anyone who has seen both movies will notice right away that the two Freddys look a little different. According to promotional material for the remake, the movie’s make-up artists and special effects folks went out of their way to make the new Freddy look more like an actual burn victim.

Aside from his razor-tipped glove, Freddy’s also seen in the remake sporting his trademark crimson and black-stripped sweater. One interesting bit of trivia about Freddy’s sweater in the new movie is that was knitted by a woman named Judy Graham, who knitted the sweater for Freddy in the original movie.

In the end, I enjoyed watching this remake and hope that there are plans in the works for remakes of the other “Nightmare” films. For more information about this movie, visit its official Web site at www.nightmareonelmstreet.com/dvd.

The Evergreen Courant Sports Flashback for Nov. 25, 2010

SIX YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 2004

“Lady Warriors 73, Meadowview 70: Ava Pate bombed away from past the three-point arch for six treys among her 23 points. Ashton Garner contributed a double double with 19 points and 14 rebounds and added a team high eight assists.”
Other standout players on Sparta’s girls team that year included Cody Godwin, Samantha Seaman, Preethi Covin and Erin Brock.

“Warriors 69, Meadowview 73: Despite 24 points by Eric Talbot, the Warriors dropped a tough one to the visiting Trojans out of Selma. Tony Raines netted 21 points while Carter Smith and Michael Campbell both tallied 11 points in the losing effort.”
Chase Brown was also among the standout Sparta players to take part in that game.

“Jags 38, J.F. Shields 34: Leading the Jags scoring was Jerry Jackson with nine points. Chris Hines added seven while Maurice Bradley chipped in with six points.”
Other standout players on Hillcrest’s boys team that season included Frank Williams and Dexter Rudolph. Tommy Dukes was head coach.

“Lady Jags 44, J.F. Shields 41: Ebony Nelson led the way to a season opening win over the Lady Panthers of Beatrice. Nelson tossed in 21 points while grabbing a dozen rebounds and claiming eight steals. Keisha Rudolph was next with eight points while Shannon Rudolph pitched in with seven points.”
Other standout players on Hillcrest’s girls team that year included Brittany Simpson and Chantel Patterson. Danny Covin was head coach.

21 YEARS AGO
NOV. 23, 1989

“Katie and Kathy Archer have been selected by a panel of college cheerleading coaches to cheer in the 1989 University of Hawaii-Hilo Basketball Tournament and other college basketball games, Dec. 26-Jan. 1, 1990. They are the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Ted Archer of Castleberry and Ms. Rosa Cruz of Connecticut. Both are cheerleaders at Hillcrest High School.”

“Mr. and Miss Football for the 1989 Evergreen Green Pee Wee Team are JoAnn Andrews, Terry Holt, Monica Williams and James Johnson.”

36 YEARS AGO
NOV. 28, 1974

“Lyeffion High School honored the players on the 1974 Yellow Jacket football team at the annual football banquet staged by the Quarterback Club. Letters and awards were presented and the program was highlighted by an address by Coach Hayden Riley of the University of Alabama. Seated are Rickey Gaskey, named Outstanding Offensive Lineman; and Connie Harper, Outstanding Defensive Back and Sportsmanship Winner. Standing are Larry Mixon, Outstanding Offensive Back; Larry Kyser, Outstanding Defensive Lineman; Assistant Coach Ronny Williams, Coach Riley and Head Coach Wendell Hart.”

“The Castleberry Blue Devils upped their 1974-75 season record to 2-0 Tuesday night, Nov. 19, by downing the Repton Bulldogs by the score of 70-56.
“Sammy McCreary led the Blue Devils offensive attack by tossing in 19 points. McCreary was followed closely by Gross with 16, B. Moncrease with 12, and Blackmon with 12. Other point producers were Lyons, eight; Ethridge, two; and Stallworth, one.
“Repton received outstanding performances from Jerald Stallworth who was high point man for the game with 20 points and Zeb Rudolph who scored 16.”

66 YEARS AGO
NOV. 23, 1944

“No need to further fertilize ponds for fish production until next March, reports A.M. Pearson, extension wildlife specialist.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Voting now open for NFL Pro Bowl, cast your ballot today

This season’s NFL Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 30, 2011 in Hawaii, and you can now submit an online ballot for your favorite players through the NFL’s Web site.

To cast a ballot for this season’s Pro Bowl, visit www.nfl.com/probowl and follow the simple instructions. You’ll be asked to selected a number of players (between one and four) for each position in the AFC and NFC.

I cast my ballot earlier today, and just for discussion’s sake, here are my top picks for each position in each league, what you might call my “Dream Team” if I could pick a back yard team from players in both conferences.

AFC:
Offense:
Quarterback - Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Running back – Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Wide receiver – Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Wide receiver – Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals
Fullback – Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers
Tight end – Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals
Offensive Tackle – Charlie Johnson, Indianapolis Colts
Offensive Tackle – Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs
Offensive Guard – Dan Connolly, New England Patriots
Offensive Guard – Matt Slauson, New York Jets
Center – Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis Colts

Defense:
Defensive end – Dwan Edwards, Buffalo Bills
Defensive end – Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City Chiefs
Defensive tackle – Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders
Defensive tackle – Tommy Kelly, Oakland Raiders
Outside linebacker – Zac Diles, Houston Texans
Outside linebacker – James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers
Inside linebacker – Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots
Cornerback – Bryant McFadden, Pittsburgh Steelers
Cornerback – Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans
Strong Safety – Donte Whitner, Buffalo Bills
Free Safety – Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans

Special Teams:
Kicker – Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
Punter – Shane Lechler, Oakland Raiders
Kick returner – Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos
Special teamer – Antwaun Molden, Houston Texans

NFC:
Quarterback - Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Running back - Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Wide receiver – Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
Wide receiver – Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Fullback – Jason Snelling, Atlanta Falcons
Tight end – Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions
Offensive Tackle – Kareem McKenzie, New York Giants
Offensive Tackle – Jon Stinchcomb, New Orleans Saints
Offensive Guard – Justin Blalock, Atlanta Falcons
Offensive Guard – Leonard Davis, Dallas Cowboys
Center – Shaun O’Hara, New York Giants

Defense:
Defensive end – Justin Tuck, New York Giants
Defensive end – Kyle Vanden Bosch, Detroit Lions
Defensive tackle – Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
Defensive tackle – Barry Cofield, New York Giants
Outside linebacker – Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings
Outside linebacker – James Anderson, Carolina Panthers
Inside linebacker – London Fletcher, Washington Redskins
Cornerback – DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins
Cornerback – Greg Toler, Arizona Cardinals
Strong safety – LaRon Landry, Washington Redskins
Free safety – Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions

Special Teams:
Kicker – Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons
Punter – Hunter Smith, Washington Redskins
Kick returner – Devin Hester, Chicago Bears
Special teamer – Kenneth Darby, St. Louis Rams

Let me know what you think about my “Dream Team” line-ups. Which players would you take off? Who would you replace them with? Let me know in the comments section below.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stephen King's 'Full Dark, No Stars' appears on best-seller list

It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got two new books at the top of the four major best-seller lists this week.

“Hell’s Corner” by David Baldacci replaced “Towers of Midnight” by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-seller list.

“Decision Points” by George W. Bush replaced “Life” by Keith Richards as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-seller list.

”The Lost Symbol” retained the No. 1 spot on this week’s mass market paperback best-seller list, and “Happy Ever After” retained the top spot on the trade paperbacks best-seller list.

There are three books on this week’s hardcover fiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books (and their positions on this week’s list) include "Hell's Corner" by David Baldacci (1), "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King (2) and "I Still Dream About You" by Fannie Flagg (6).

There are three books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are "Decision Points" by George W. Bush (1), "I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections" by Nora Ephron (5) and "Simple Times" by Amy Sedaris (8).

There is one book on this week’s mass market paperbacks list that wasn’t on the list last week - "Holiday Magic" by Mary Carter, Terri DuLong, Fern Michaels, Cathy Lamb, which was No. 12 on the list.

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are "House Rules" by Jodi Picoult (5) and "Stones into Schools" by Greg Mortenson (15).

Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists. As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. They are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "Hell's Corner" by David Baldacci
2. "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King
3. "The Confession" by John Grisham
4. "Towers of Midnight" by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
5. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
6. "I Still Dream About You" by Fannie Flagg
7. "American Assassin" by Vince Flynn
8. "Indulgence in Death" by J.D. Robb
9. "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary" by David Sedaris
10. "Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett
11. "Worth Dying For" by Lee Child
12. "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks
13. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
14. "In the Company of Others" by Jan Karon
15. "Moonlight Mile" by Dennis Lehane

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
2. "Life" by Keith Richards
3. "Broke" by Glenn Beck
4. "Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?" by Ina Garten
5. "I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections" by Nora Ephron
6. "Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain" by Portia de Rossi
7. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth: A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race" by Jon Stewart
8. "Simple Times" by Amy Sedaris
9. "Autobiography of Mark Twain" by Ed. by Harriet Elinor Smith
10. "Me" by Ricky Martin
11. "Cleopatra: A life" by Stacy Schiff
12. "Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama" by Bill O'Reilly
13. "They Call Me Baba Booey" by Chad Millman and Gary Dell'Abate
14. "The Last Boy" by Jane Leavy
15. "Double Delicious!" by Jessica Seinfeld

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "61 Hours: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child
5. "I, Alex Cross" by James Patterson
6. "Deeper than the Dead" by Tami Hoag
7. "Christmas in Cedar Cove" by Debbie Macomber
8. "Southern Lights" by Danielle Steel
9. "The Wrecker" by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott
10. "Pirate Latitudes" by Michael Crichton
11. "Wolfsbane" by Patricia Briggs
12. "Holiday Magic" by Mary Carter, Terri DuLong, Fern Michaels, Cathy Lamb
13. "The Reckless Bride" by Stephanie Laurens
14. "Play Dead" by Harlen Coben
15. "The Gate House" by Nelson DeMille

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "Happy Ever After" by Nora Roberts
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
3. "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horwitz
4. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
5. "House Rules" by Jodi Picoult
6. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
7. "For Colored Girls" by Ntozake Shange
8. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave
9. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
10. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
11. "Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls
12. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
13. "The Finkler Question" by Howard Jacobson
14. "Rachel Ray's Look + Cook" by Rachel Ray
15. "Stones into Schools" by Greg Mortenson

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don't knock Tommyknocker's beverages until you've tried them

If you head on down to the Winn Dixie store in Monroeville, you might be lucky enough to find an outstanding (and unusual) item in the store’s beer cooler.

Winn Dixie has the area’s finest beer selection, and if you’re in the mood for something different, this is the place to go. A few days ago, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Tommyknocker Brewery “Mother Lode Sampler,” that is, a half-case of 12-ounce bottled beers that contained six different varieties of the brewery’s best beers.

The sampler comes in a distinctive box, which tells you a lot about the Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub in the historic mining town of Idaho Springs, Colorado, where these beers originate.

“Tommyknockers slipped into the mining camps in the 1800’s with the discovery of gold in the West. These mischievous elves guided many a fortunate miner to the Motherlode. Discovery the Tommyknocker Legend by sharing these brews.

“Tommyknocker Brewery has carefully gathered our most popular brews into one great 12 pack. The Tommyknocker Mother Lode Sampler contains two each of six unique, hand crafted lagers and ales. Our award winning Colorado micro brews have been meticulously crafted with the finest ingredients since 1994.”

Beers included in the sampler were Tommyknocker Tundra Beary Ale, Tommyknocker Butt Head Dopplebock Lager, Tommyknocker Pick Axe Pale Ale, Tommyknocker Ornery Amber Lager, Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale and Tommyknocker Jack Whacker Wheat Ale.

I sampled each of these over the space of a week, and while they were all excellent, I’d have to say that the Tundra Beary Ale was my favorite.

Each beer comes in a distinctive bottle, and the following is what the label on each has to say about each of these beers.

Tundra Beary Ale “is slightly tart, refreshing pale ale made with raspberry, blueberry and other natural fruit juices.”

Pick Axe Pale Ale “is a classic American Pale Ale which uses premium hops and barley to impart a full-bodied characteristic that dances on your tongue and titillates your palate.”

Jack Whacker Wheat Ale “is a light, unfiltered brew with a citrus aroma and flavor imparted by a late addition of lemon grass. It’s the perfect refreshment for a thirsty, trail-weary ale lover.” According to the bottle, a “jack whacker” was the guy who had to whip the last mule to keep supply trains at mining camps moving along.

“Maple syrup is added to each barrel of Maple Nut Brown Ale to impart roasted sweetness balancing the nut flavor produced by chocolate malts.”

Butt Head Doppelback Lager “is brewed with a generous amount of crystal malts producing a caramel sweetness and big rich mouthfeel. Why Butt Head? Try one. You’ll enjoy ‘big brew’ flavor that is a Gold Medal winner.”

Ornery Amber is described as “Amber with an Attitude! The brisk flavor, rich ruby color, and extra crisp finish create a sensation that will ripple the taste buds of the most discerning palate. Ornery Amber is brewed with a blend of the finest European hops and gently roasted malts.”

Currently, Tommknocker beers are available in 25 states. Other Tommyknocker beers, aside from those mentioned above, include Oaked Butt Head Bock, Imperial Nut Brown Ale, Cocoa Porter Winter Warmer, Alpine Glacier Lager, Rye Porter, Black Powder Stout and Hop Strike Black Rye IPA.

For more information about Tommyknocker Brewery and their fine products, visit www.tommyknocker.com.

Friday, November 19, 2010

'Slumdog Millionaire' is a great movie, even if a lot of it's in Hindi

I scratched another Academy Award Winner for Best Picture off of my list of movies to watch a couple of days ago and this time around, it was the 2008 winner, “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Released in August 2008, this movie was directed by Danny Boyle and was based on the 2005 novel, “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup.

Set and filmed in India, this movie stars Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Tanay Chheda, Irfan Khan, Rubina Ali, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail and Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala.

If you haven’t seen this awesome movie, it’s about a young man named Jamal Malik, who grows up in the slums of Mumbai, but eventually gets the chance to rise out of poverty when he appears on his country’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Malik does so well on the show that the show’s producers – as well as the police – think that he’s cheating.

Much of the movie involves Malik’s relationship with his brother, Salim, and Malik’s childhood sweetheart, Latika. Through a series of flashbacks, you see how the three grew up in the slums together and how their lives went different directions for various reasons.

This movie contains some very strong and unforgettable scenes of every day life in the Juhu slums of Mumbai. Its residents, especially children, are portrayed as having to survive while surrounded by dangerous neighbors, filth and extreme poverty. It’ll definitely make you thankful for what you have and maybe make you feel a little guilty for taking what you have for granted. (If it doesn’t, it should.)

Due to its setting in India, about 20 percent of the movie’s dialogue is in Hindi with English subtitles.

“Slumdog Millionaire” was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It also won Best Film honors at that year’s British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) and Best Picture (Drama) honors at the Golden Globes.

This movie was not only a critical success, but it was also a huge financial success. The move was shot on a $15 million budget and went on to post revenues of $337.9 million.

I had never seen this movie prior to a few days ago, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. It was part crime drama, part love story, part thriller with a dash of comedy thrown in for good measure. While watching it, I couldn’t help but be reminded by a number of other movies, most notably “Schindler’s List,” “Kids” and “David Copperfield.”

In the end, I really enjoyed this movie and would recommend it to anyone out there who has never watched it. How many of you have seen this movie? What did you like about it? What did you dislike? Let us known in the comments section below.

The Evergreen Courant Sports Flashback - Oct. 18, 2010

21 YEARS AGO
NOV. 16, 1989

“The Hillcrest High School Jaguars will open their season at 6:30 Friday night against Clarke County High School in Grove Hill. Their first home game will be Tuesday at 5 p.m. against W.S. Neal. Players are Laura Delaney, Tracey Dailey, LaRhonda Booker, Tracey Elliott, Nikki Likely, Katrina Bradley, Tammy Taylor, Sabrina Johnson, Kim January, Beronica Toliver, Coach Ronnie Williams, Rena White, Katina Cunningham, Shirley Bryant and Sandra Rogers.”

“Evergreen Tiny Mite Westside Team’s homecoming court and their escorts, honored in pre-game activities Oct. 14 were Raymond Taylor and fifth runner-up, Tamika Williams; Henry Scott and third runner-up, Lamika Rankin; Kevin Riley and first runner-up, Lawanda Hall; Miss Football Sherry Hines and Willie Likely; Miss Homecoming Crystal Boykin and Barry Grace; second runner-up Holly Hart and Lyle Bell; and fourth runner-up Casey Pugh and Carey Pugh.”

“Evergreen Pee Wee Westside Team’s homecoming court and their escorts honored in pre-game activities Oct. 14 were second runner-up Crystal Scott and Josh Scott; Miss Homecoming Shantell Scott and Donald Williams; Miss Football Aletha Perkins and Sedrick Williams; first runner-up Lakesha Womack and Reggie Boykin; and third runner-up Christina Grace and Ronald Riley.”

36 YEARS AGO
NOV. 21, 1974

“The Fort Dale Academy Warriors downed the Sparta Warriors, 38-28, in the Veterans Bowl at the Greenville school Saturday night.
“Bruce Hutcheson topped the Sparta runners with a net of 86 yards. Walker Scott had 70 and Sam Skipper, 68.”

“Coach Charles Branum and his Evergreen High School Aggies open their 1974-75 basketball season at Lyeffion High School gymnasium at 6:30 Friday night Nov. 22.
“His starters for the 74-75 season will be 6-6 Ronald Fantroy and 6-5 Alfonzo Holder at forwards, 5-5 Chuck Jones at one guard and Percy Jones, 6-0, at the other guard. Center will be manned by 6-4 Gene Stallworth. The Aggies top two substitutes are Willie Ingram and Albert Stallworth. The second team consists of four tenth-graders, Walter Bullock, Johnny Jackson, Nelson Bradley and Marion Stanton and eleventh-grader Edwin Rankin.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Peyton Burford Jr., Chris and Danny of Camden, spent the weekend with Mr. and Mrs. Bill Seales. They all attended the Auburn-Georgia football game in Auburn Saturday.”

81 YEARS AGO
NOV. 21, 1929

“This paper is in receipt of a letter from the student body of Georgiana High School, calling attention to an error made in reporting the football game played between Evergreen and Georgiana Fri., No. 8, and published in last week’s paper. The Courant stated that the score was 28 to 0, when it should have been 28 to 12.
“Coach Robinson called the editor’s attention to the error immediately after the paper came out and requested that we make proper correction this week, which request we were glad to comply with. We regret that the error was made. We assure the Georgiana school that it was by no means intentional. The notes which were handed to this office were not distinct, and we honestly read the score from them just as it was published. We are glad to give prominent notice this week to the correction in order that no injustice be done our neighbor school.
“The Georgiana student body enclosed an article which they state is their version of the game. This we are gladly publishing below.
“’The Georgiana Panthers met the Evergreen Aggies on Gantt Field Fri., Nov. 8, 1929. During the first half, the spirit of the Panthers was somewhat crushed by successive offside penalties. During this time, the Aggies scored two touchdowns by passes and line plays.
“’In the third quarter, the Aggies opened up their bag of freak plays. These plays netted them two more touchdowns.
“’In the final period, the spirit of the Panthers had somewhat returned and opening up with a passing attack, scored two touchdowns. McGowin and Arant scoring one each.
“’The game ended with a score of 28 to 12 in favor of the Aggies.’”

Compiled by Sports Reporter Lee Peacock from past issues of The Evergreen Courant.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010 National Book Award Winners announced

Yesterday, the National Book Foundation announced the 2010 National Book Award Winners.

This year’s slate of winners, in four categories, included:

Fiction – “Lord of Misrule” by Jaimy Gordon
Nonfiction – “Just Kids” by Patti Smith
Poetry – “Lighthead” by Terrance Hayes
Young People’s Literature – “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine

These four books were selected from 1,115 books nominated for the National Book Awards, including 302 in the fiction category, 435 in nonfiction, 148 in poetry and 230 in young people’s literature.

From these books, judges narrowed them down to five finalists in each category. The non-winning finalists in each category included the following books.

Fiction:
“Parrot and Olivier in America” by Peter Carey
“Great House” by Nicole Krauss
“So Much for That” by Lionel Shriver
“I Hotel” by Karen Tei Yamashita

Nonfiction:
“Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick
“Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq” by John W. Dower
“Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward” by Justin Spring
“Every Man in This Village is a Liar: An Education in War” by Megan K. Stack

Poetry:
“The Eternal City” by Kathleen Graber
“By the Numbers” by James Richardson
“One with Others” by C.D. Wright
“Ignatz” by Monica Youn

Young People’s Literature:
“Ship Breaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi
“Dark Water” by Laura McNeal
“Lockdown” by Walter Dean Myers
“One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia

Many of you will be familiar with some of the past National Book Award Winners, especially from the fiction category. Past NBA fiction winners include “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones, “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The World According to Garp” by John Irving, “Rabbit is Rich” by John Updike, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy and “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier.

For more information about the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards, visit www.nationalbook.org.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My movie picks this week are 'The Next Three Days' and 'The Last Airbender'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as my list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:

- The Next Three Days (Drama, Thriller, PG-13): Directed by Paul Haggis and starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Brian Dennehy and Lennie James.

- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (Action, Drama, Family, Fantasy, PG-13): Directed by David Yates and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.

- Heartless (Drama, Thriller, Not Yet Rated): Directed by Philip Ridley and starring Jim Sturgess, Clemence Poesy, Noel Clarke, Joseph Mawle and Eddie Marsan.

- Made in Dagenham (Drama, R): Directed by Nigel Cole and starring Sally Hawkins, Jaime Winstone, Nicola Duffett, Andrea Riseborough and Lorraine Stanley.

New DVD releases for the week of Nov. 16 include:

- The Last Airbender (Action, Family, Fantasy, PG): Directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone and Shaun Toub.

- Disney’s A Christmas Carol (Family, Fantasy, Action, PG): Directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey, Robin Wright Penn, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Bob Hoskins.

- Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore (Action, Comedy, Family, PG): Directed by John Whitesell and starring Chris O’Donnell, James Marsden, Jack McBrayer, Nick Nolte and Christina Applegate.

- The Extra Man (Comedy, R): Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini and starring Paul Dano, Kevin Kline, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly and Marian Seldes.

- The Kids Are All Right (Comedy, R): Directed by Lisa Cholodenko and starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson.

- Lottery Ticket (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Erik White and starring Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Naturi Naughton, Loretta Devine and Keith David.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Next Three Days,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “The Last Airbender.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

St. Pauli Girl Special Dark is a mighty fine German dark beer

A few days ago, I got the chance to sample a bottle of St. Pauli Girl Special Dark, and I was very impressed with this distinctive, German beer.

Brewed at the St. Pauli Brauerei (which is German for “brewery”) in Bremen, Germany and imported by Crown Imports of Chicago, this is a “remarkably smooth beer with a light hop character and rich malty taste,” brewery officials said. “Using the same high-quality ingredients in the lager, the malt in St. Paul Girl Special Dark is slow roasted using a centuries-old recipe. This gives St. Pauli Girl Special Dark unparalleled taste and a uniquely vibrant color.”

This beer has also been named a Gold Medal winner by the American Tasting Institute in the category of Best Full Calorie German Dark Beer. This beer contains 4.8 percent alcohol by volume and a 12-ounce serving contains 150 calories.

For more information about this beer, visit www.stpauligirl.com/dark.php.

St. Pauli Girl Special Dark is currently one of three beers brewed by the St. Pauli Brewery, which is actually located in the Beck’s Brewery in Bremen. The other two styles are St. Pauli Girl Lager and St. Pauli Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverage.

St. Pauli Girl beers were first sold in the U.S. in 1965, and St. Pauli Girl is said to be the No. 2-selling German beer in the U.S.

This beer is also known for its distinctive label, which features a buxom blonde lady in traditional German garb, holding three huge mugs of foaming beer in each hand. These labels have been around since the advent of bottling beer and the original artist based his St. Pauli Girl on the waitresses of his time.

Since 1982, the brewery has chosen a model to represent the beer, and for the past two years, the St. Pauli Girl spokes model has been Slovakian model, Katarina Van Derham.

In the end, I enjoyed this beer and would have no problem trying it again. Have any of you had the chance to sample a bottle of St. Pauli Girl Special Dark? If so, what did you like about it? What did you dislike? Let us know in the comments section below.

Monday, November 15, 2010

'Black Toe' is a marathoner's badge of honor...

Eleven weeks ago, I started training for my first marathon, and I’m over half way there with just eight weeks left to go until the First Light Marathon in Mobile.

So far, I’ve logged 198 total miles, which includes a long run of 15 miles. For the record, this 15-mile run is the longest I’ve ever run at one time without stopping.

I’ve been following a training program that I tore from the pages of a recent issue of Outside Magazine. The program was designed by former elite runner and 111-time marathoner, Hal Higdon. The program was designed for active people in mind, but not the running obsessed.

Under the program, you run three times a week with one long run at the end of each week. If you follow the program to the letter, which I have managed to do so far, you’ll slowly build up the miles in preparation for the big 26.2-mile marathon at the end. The longest run you have to complete under the program is a 20-miler four weeks before the actual race.

I’ve been running regularly for about 16 years now, but I’ve never attempted distances of this length. I’m 6-foot-3 and weigh nearly 220 pounds, so I don’t have the prototypical marathoner’s build. With that in mind, I’ve found it interesting to note all of the unusual aches and pains that have sprung up as I’ve piled on the miles.

Before starting the program, I could run five miles comfortably, but just two weeks into the program, I began to experience nagging pain on top of my left foot. I kept running on it, thinking that it would go away, but it didn’t after more than a week. I did some research and was not pleased by what I found.

Pain on to of the foot is usually caused by what’s called a metatarsal stress fracture, which is usually caused by overuse or over training without enough rest. To fully recover from a fracture of this type, you shouldn’t run for at least four weeks.

I thought my bid for a marathon was over at this point until I read that this pain may have another cause – the laces on my shoes might be too tight. From there on out, I began to loosen the laces on my left shoe before every run, and eventually the pain disappeared.

At times, I’ve also experienced pain in my arches that seems to come and go as well as some pain in my right knee that also comes and goes. On very long runs, I’ve also experienced some stiffness in my shoulders and elbows as well as some cramping in my calves afterwards.

On the unusual side of things, I’ve also experienced a burst blood vessel in my left eye (not sure if it’s running related) and that all-too-famous marathoner’s badge of honor – the dreaded black toe.

From what I’ve read, just about every marathoner has experienced black toe at some point. This common long-distance training injury is caused when your foot slides forward in your shoe, banging your toes against the front of your shoe when you make a step. On the upshot, it doesn't hurt, that is, until my two-year-old son steps on it.

To me, this is a very weird thing. When you look at my feet, all of my toenails look normal, except for the second toe on my left foot, where the toenail is good and black with a nasty blood bruise beneath the nail. (Not to gross you out, but I’ve included a picture above to show you exactly what I’m talking about.)

Every time I bring the subject up with my wife, she says “You know you’re going to loose that toenail,” and from everything I’ve read, she’s right. The nail will eventually die and will be pushed out of place by the new, healthy nail that will grow out beneath it.

On a side note, I figured that I would really drop the pounds due to all the added miles and all the calories that I’ve burned up over the past few months. However, I still weigh about the same. I attribute this to an increase in my appetite due to all the extra exercise.

In the end, this marathon training program has been a lot of extra work, but also very rewarding. I’m having to push myself harder than ever before and I’ve already managed to run further and longer than I ever had.

The First Light Marathon is set for January, and while I know I won’t set any world records, I do plan to complete the race. When I set out to do this, that was my main goal, to complete a marathon before I became to old to give it a legitimate shot. So far, so good with about two months left to go.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Clive Cussler's 'The Wrecker' appears on best-seller list

It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got two new books at the top of the four major best-seller lists this week.

“Towers of Midnight” by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson replaced “The Confession” by John Grisham as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-seller list. “Happy Ever After” by Nora Roberts replaced “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson as the top book on the trade paperbacks best-seller list.

“Life” by Keith Richards retained the No. 1 spot on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-seller list, and “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown retained the top spot on the mass market paperbacks best-seller list.

There are four books on this week’s hardcover fiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books (and their positions on this week’s list) include “Towers of Midnight” by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (1), “Indulgence in Death” by J.D. Robb (3), “Moonlight Mile” by Dennis Lehane (6) and “Edge” by Jeffrey Deaver (14).

There are five books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are “Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain” by Portia de Rossi (3), “They Call Me Baba Booey” by Chad Millman and Gary Dell-Abate (6), “Me” by Ricky Martin (7), “In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks: And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy” by Adam Carolla (10) and “Cleopatra: A Life” by Stacy Schiff (13).

There are four books on this week’s mass market paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. Those books are “Play of Passion” by Nalini Singh (8), “The Wrecker” by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott (10), “Wolfsbane” by Patricia Briggs (13) and “The Gate House” by Nelson DeMille (14).

There are three books on this week’s trade paperbacks list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are “Happy Ever After” by Nora Roberts (1), “Rachel Ray’s Look + Cook” by Rachel Ray (13) and “The Glass Castle: A Memoir” by Jeannette Walls (15).

Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists. As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. They are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "Towers of Midnight" by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
2. "The Confession" by John Grisham
3. "Indulgence in Death" by J.D. Robb
4. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
5. "American Assassin" by Vince Flynn
6. "Moonlight Mile" by Dennis Lehane
7. "Worth Dying For" by Lee Child
8. "Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett
9. "In the Company of Others" by Jan Karon
10. "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks
11. "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary" by David Sedaris
12. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
13. "Side Jobs" by Jim Butcher
14. "Edge" by Jeffrey Deaver
15. "The Reversal" by Michael Connelly

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Life" by Keith Richards
2. "Broke" by Glenn Beck
3. "Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain" by Portia de Rossi
4. "Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?" by Ina Garten
5. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth: A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race" by Jon Stewart
6. "They Call Me Baba Booey" by Chad Millman and Gary Dell'Abate
7. "Me" by Ricky Martin
8. "The Last Boy" by Jane Leavy
9. "Autobiography of Mark Twain" by Ed. by Harriet Elinor Smith
10. "In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks: And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy" by Adam Carolla
11. "Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama" by Bill O'Reilly
12. "A--holes Finish First" by Tucker Max
13. "Cleopatra: A life" by Stacy Schiff
14. "Double Delicious!" by Jessica Seinfeld
15. "Trickle Up Poverty" by Michael Savage

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "Deeper than the Dead" by Tami Hoag
5. "61 Hours: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child
6. "Southern Lights" by Danielle Steel
7. "I, Alex Cross" by James Patterson
8. "Play of Passion" by Nalini Singh
9. "The Reckless Bride" by Stephanie Laurens
10. "The Wrecker" by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott
11. "Pirate Latitudes" by Michael Crichton
12. "Christmas in Cedar Cove" by Debbie Macomber
13. "Wolfsbane" by Patricia Briggs
14. "The Gate House" by Nelson DeMille
15. "Play Dead" by Harlen Coben

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "Happy Ever After" by Nora Roberts
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
3. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave
4. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
5. "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horwitz
6. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
7. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
8. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
9. "Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls
10. "The Finkler Question" by Howard Jacobson
11. "For Colored Girls" by Ntozake Shange
12. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
13. "Rachel Ray's Look + Cook" by Rachel Ray
14. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho
15. "The Glass Castle: A Memoir" by Jeannette Walls

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dos Equis Ambar is a mighty fine Vienna-style amber lager

Dos Equis beer is known the world over for its outstanding quality, and many of you will be familiar with the most popular brand of Dos Equis beer, which is called Dos Equis XX Special Lager and comes in a green bottle.

Many of you may not be as familiar with a lesser-known brand of Dos Equis beer called Dos Equis XX Ambar. I recently sampled a bottle of Dos Equis Ambar and was pleasantly surprised by its quality. Dos Equis Ambar is a Vienna-style amber lager, which comes in a brown bottle and contains 4.7 percent alcohol by volume. (Dos Equis XX Special Lager contains 4.5 percent ABV.)

Dos Equis XX Special Lager and Dos Equis XX Ambar are brewed and bottled by Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma Brewery, which is based in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. This brewery, which is now a subsidiary of Heineken International, was founded in 1890. Dos Equis was originally brewed by German-born Mexican brewer Wilhelm Hasse in 1897.

Many of you will be familiar with Dos Equis because of its “The Most Interesting Man in the World” advertising campaign, which features actor Jonathan Goldsmith and Frontline narrator Will Lyman. This campaign was launched in 2007 and encourages Dos Equis’ drinkers to “Stay Thirsty, My Friends.”

Here’s what the bottle has to say about Dos Equis Ambar: Crafted in Mexico since 1897 to commemorate the arrival of the “XX” Century, Dos Equis stands for “Two X’s” in Spanish. In our second century of fine brewing tradition, we continue offering Dos Equis Ambar, a rich robust flavored beer with the smooth drinkability of a classic dark-style lager, a true Mexican work of art.

If you look closely at a bottle of Dos Equis, you can’t help but see the famous "Double X" logo, but if you look a little more closely, you’ll see a face between the two X’s on the bottle. This is the face of Montezuma, the 16th Century Aztec ruler who was conquered by Hernando Cortez.

For more information about Dos Equis Ambar, visit www.dosxx.com.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Amazon.com's 'Best of 2010' lists released this morning

The good folks at Amazon.com, one of the largest online booksellers in the world, released this morning its annual slate of 'Best of 2010' book lists (just in time for the holiday shopping season.)

Going all the way back to Amazon’s first best-of lists in 2000, these lists are always worth a look and usually contain a few surprises. This year’s lists include the Top 100 Editors’ Picks, the Top 100 Customer Favorites and Editors’ Picks and Customer Favorites in a number of categories, including Arts & Photography, Audiobooks, Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Investing, Children’s Books: Middle Readers, Children’s Books: Picture Books, Comics & Graphic Novels, Cookbooks, Crafts, Debut Fiction, Entertainment, Food Lit, Gay & Lesbian, History, Home & Garden, Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, Nonfiction, Outdoors & Nature, Romance, Science, Science Fiction & Fantasy and Teens.

The first 10 books on this year’s Top 100 Editors’ Picks include:
1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (Editors also selected this book as Amazon’s Book of the Year.)
2. Faithful Place by Tana French
3. Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes
4. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
5. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
6. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
7. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
8. To the End of the Land by David Grossman
9. Just Kids by Patti Smith
10. The Big Short by Michael Lewis

The Top 100 Customer Favorites were ranked according to customer orders on Amazon.com through October. Only books published for the first time in 2010 are eligible. The first 10 books on this year’s Top 100 Customer Favorites include:
1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Next by Stieg Larsson
2. Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth
3. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4. Dead in the Family by Charlane Harris
5. The Big Short by Michael Lewis
6. Game Change by John Heilemann
7. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
8. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
9. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In the category of Biography & Memoir, “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand was the top Editors’ Pick and “Spoken from the Heart” by Laura Bush was the top Customer Favorite.

In the category of Comics & Graphics Novels, “The Art of Jamie Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death” by Jamie Hernandez was the top Editors Pick and “Scott Pilgrim, Volume 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour” was the top Customer Favorite.

In the category of Entertainment, “Decoded” by Jay-Z was the top Editors’ Pick and “Sh*t My Dad Says” was the top Customer Favorite.

In the category of History, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson was the top Editors’ Pick and “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History” by S.C. Gwynne was the top Customer Favorite.

In the category of Literature & Fiction, “Matterhorn” by Karl Marlantes was the top Editors’ Pick and “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen was the top Customer Favorite.

In the category of Mystery and Thrillers, “Faithful Place: A Novel” by Tana French was the top Editors’ Pick and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” by Stieg Larsson was the top Customer Favorite.

In the category of Nonfiction, “War’ by Sebastian Junger was the top Editors’ Pic and “Game Change” by John Heilemann was the top Customer Favorite.

In the category of Outdoors & Nature, “The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival” by John Vaillant was the top Editors’ Pick and “The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean” by Susan Casey was the top Customer Favorite.

In the category of Science, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot was the top Editors’ Pick and Customer Favorite.

In the category of Science Fiction & Fantasy, “The Golden Age” by Michal Ajvaz was the top Editors’ Pick and “Dead in the Family” by Charlaine Harris was the top Customer Favorite.

If you’d like to see all of the books that made Amazon’s Best of 2010 lists, follow the following link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html/ref=pe_120700_17471430_pe_btn/?node=2486012011.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Raise your hand if you've ever been in 'the hurt locker'

Last Saturday, I mentioned in this space that I was planning to watch all of the movies that have won Academy Awards for Best Picture, and I finally got started on this project a couple of days ago.

I’m watching the winners in reverse order, that is, starting with the most recent winner and working my way backwards. With this in mind, I started this week with the 2009 Best Picture Winner, “The Hurt Locker.”

For those of you who haven’t seen this excellent movie, it’s about an elite U.S. Army explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) unit in Iraq. This movie is action packed and will leave you on the edge of you seat. It’s so good, that Academy voters selected it for Best Picture over such blockbusters as “Avatar,” “The Blind Side,” “District 9” and “Inglorious Basterds.”

This movie was directed by James Cameron’s ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, which makes this the first Best Picture movie to be directed by a woman. (Bigelow also received the Academy’s Best Director Award in 2009, beating out her ex-husband, Cameron, who directed “Avatar.”)

“The Hurt Locker” stars Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Christian Camargo, Evangeline Lilly, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse and Guy Pearce.

Released on June 26, 2009, this movie posted gross revenues of $48.6 million against a shooting budget of $15 million. The movie was shot in Jordan, which shares a border with Iraq (and is also probably the most Westernized country in the Middle East).

The movie was written by Mark Boal, a freelance journalist who spent two weeks with a U.S. ordinance disposal unit in Iraq in 2004. A number of his feature stories have appeared in Playboy magazine, and the movie is a fictionalized version of some of the things he saw and experienced while in Iraq.

A few people may be wondering about this movie’s title and what it means. The slang phrase, “the hurt locker,” is a decades-old military expression that likely dates back to the Vietnam War. It has a lot of different meanings, including a situation that involves extreme pain, big trouble, a huge disadvantage or just being in all around bad shape. For example, if that hummer runs over you, you’re going to end up in the hurt locker.

In addition to winning an Academy Award for Best Picture, it also won Best Film honors at the British Academy Film Awards. It was also nominated for three Golden Globe Awards.

In the end, I enjoyed this movie and would recommend it to anyone in the audience who hasn’t seen it before. How many of you have had a chance to see this movie? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

From here, it’s on to the 2008 Best Picture winner, “Slumdog Millionaire.” Rounding out the rest of the 2000-decade winners are “No Country for Old Men,” “The Departed,” “Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” “Chicago,” “A Beautiful Mind” and “Gladiator.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My movie picks this week are 'Skyline' and 'Grown Ups'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as my list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:

- Skyline (Science Fiction, Thriller, PG-13): Starring Eric Balfour, David Zayas, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel and Scottie Thompson.

- Unstoppable (Action, PG-13): Directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson.

- Morning Glory (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Roger Michell and starring Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson and Jeff Goldblum.

New DVD releases for the week of Nov. 9 include:

- Grown Ups (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Dennis Dugan and starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider.

- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Action, Comedy, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Edgar Wright and starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Brandon Routh and Chris Evans.

- The Dry Land (Drama, R): Directed by Ryan Piers Williams and starring America Ferrera, Melissa Leo, Ryan O’Nan, Jason Ritter and Wilmer Valderrama.

- Charlie St. Cloud (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Burr Steers and starring Zac Efron, Kim Basinger, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew and Augustus Prew.

- Disney’s A Christmas Carol (Family, Fantasy, Action, PG): Directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey, Robin Wright Penn, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Bob Hoskins.

- Ramona and Beezus (Family, G): Directed by Elizabeth Allen and starring Joey King, Selena Gomez, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan and Ginnifer Goodwin.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Skyline,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Grown Ups.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You too can be a Lovecraftian scholar...

Any of you who have been reading this blog for any length of time will know that I am a huge fan of horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft, pictured at right.

A lot of people are unfamiliar with Lovecraft and his stories, but he is generally considered to be one of the most influential horror writers of all time, right up there with Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King.

Lovecraft died in 1937 at the age of 47 and wrote mostly short stories for pulp magazines like “Weird Tales.” His works would have likely fallen into obscurity if they hadn’t been collected and republished by his friend, August Derleth, who was also a well known pulp writer of that time.

I say all this to say that I recently finished reading another Lovecraft story collection, “Shadows of Death: Terrifying Tales of H.P. Lovecraft,” which was published by Del Rey in 2005.

This 324-page book included an introduction by speculative fiction writer, Harlan Ellison, and 16 of Lovecraft’s stories as well as four seldom published Lovecraft story fragments.

Stories in the book included:
- The Shadow Out of Time (1935)
- The Festival (1923)
- Celephais (1920)
- The Tomb (1917)
- The Shunned House (1924)
- Polaris (1918)
- The Other Gods (1921)
- The Strange High House in the Mist (1926)
- What the Moon Brings (1922)
- The Doom That Came to Sarnath (1919)
- The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1927)
- The Beast in the Cave (1905)
- The Alchemist (1908)
- Poetry and the Gods (1920)
- The Street (1920)
- The Transition of Juan Romero (1919)

Story fragments in the book included:
- Azathoth (1922)
- The Descendant (1926)
- The Book (1933)
- The Thing in the Moonlight (undated)

From a personal standpoint, I enjoyed this book because it contained a number of Lovecraft stories that I had never read before, even though I have a bookshelf at home nearly overflowing with Lovecraft story collections. Stories in the book that I haven’t found anywhere else included “The Beast in the Cave,” “The Alchemist,” “Poetry and the Gods,” “The Street,” “The Transition of Juan Romero” and the fragment, “The Book.”

In the end, if you like Lovecraft, you’ll likely enjoy this book because it includes a number of obscure stories that you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else.

How many Lovecraft fans do we have out there? What’s your favorite Lovecraft story? What’s your least favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.

Monday, November 8, 2010

'28 Weeks Later' makes for an outstanding sequel

Just the other day, I finally got around to watching a horror/sci-fi movie that I’ve wanted to watch for some time, “28 Weeks Later.”

Released in May 2007 and directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, this movie is the sequel to the 2002 movie, “28 Days Later.” It brought in gross revenues of $64.2 million against a budget of $15 million.

Many of you will be familiar with both movies, which are set in an England that has been struck by the highly contagious virus, “Rage.” This virus is easily spread by blood and saliva and turns people into raging, homicidal zombie-like maniacs.

“28 Weeks Later” stars Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Imogen Poots, Mackintosh Muggleton, Harold Perrineau and Robert Carlyle. None of the major characters from the first movie appear in the sequel, unfortunately.

As you would imagine, this movie takes place 28 weeks after the outbreak of the virus. Most of “The Infected” have died from starvation, and the U.S. Army has moved into London, where they’ve set up a safe zone. The Army’s mission is two-fold. They’re busy trying to find a cure for the virus and are controlling the reentry of British citizens who were outside the country when the virus struck.

Much of the movie centers on a young brother and sister who have returned to London after being on a very timely school trip to Spain. The brother has a rare genetic trait that gives him eyes of two different colors.
As it turns out, his mother has the same trait and she is immune to the effects of the virus. She becomes infected by the virus just like anyone else, but doesn’t display any of its horrible effects. Before it’s all over, she becomes sort of a Typhoid Mary and passes the virus on to her husband. Her husband, in turn, kills his wife under the effects of “Rage,” and begins rapidly spreading the virus inside the Army’s safe zone.

And I’ll stop right there to avoid spoiling the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it.

One thing about this movie that’s cool centers on the debate the producers had over what kind of sequel to make after the original. One idea that got tossed around for the second movie was to tell the story of a Special Air Service (England’s equivalent to the Navy Seals) unit that had to enter infected London on a mission to rescue either the queen or the prime minister. I think that a movie based on this scenario would be very entertaining, and I hope that the idea hasn’t been taken totally off the board.

In the end, I really enjoyed this movie. If you liked the first one or enjoy zombie-esque movies, then I think you’ll like it too.

How many of you have seen “28 Weeks Later”? What did you think about it? What did you like? Dislike? Let us know in the comments section below.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Grisham book takes top spot on best-seller list

It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got two new books at the top of the four major best-seller lists this week.

“The Confession” by John Grisham replaced “Worth Dying For” by Lee Child as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction list.

“Life” by Keith Richards replaced “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth: A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race” by Jon Stewart as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction list.

“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown retained the No. 1 spot this week on the mass market paperbacks list, and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” retained the top spot this week on the trade paperbacks list.

There are two books on this week’s hardcover fiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books (and their positions on this week’s list) include “The Confession” by John Grisham (1) and “Side Jobs” by Jim Butcher (5).

There are four books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best seller list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are “Life” by Keith Richards (1), “Broke” by Glenn Beck (2), “Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?” by Ina Garten (3) and “Double Delicious!” by Jessica Seinfeld (7).

There are seven books on this week’s mass market paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. Those books are “The Reckless Bride” by Stephanie Laurens (4), “Christmas in Cedar Cove” by Debbie Macomber (6), “Deeper than the Dead” by Tami Hoag (9), “Crown of Crystal Flame” by C.L. Wilson (11), “Ecstasy in Darkness” by Gena Showalter (13), “The Christmas Brides” by Linda Lael Miller (14) and “Southern Lights” by Danielle Steel (15).

There are three books on this week’s trade paperbacks list that weren’t on that list last week. Those books are “Inside of a Dog” by Alexandra Horwitz (9), “For Colored Girls” by Ntozake Shange (12) and “Dewey” by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (15).

Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists. As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. They are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "The Confession" by John Grisham
2. "Worth Dying For" by Lee Child
3. "American Assassin" by Vince Flynn
4. "The Girl Who Kicked the Nornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
5. "Side Jobs" by Jim Butcher
6. "In the Company of Others" by Jan Karon
7. "Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett
8. "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks
9. "The Reversal" by Michael Connelly
10. "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
11. "Don't Blink" by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
12. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
13. "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary" by David Sedaris
14. "The Twelfth Imam" by Joel C. Rosenberg
15. "Our Kind of Traitor" by John le Carre

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Life" by Keith Richards
2. "Broke" by Glenn Beck
3. "Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?" by Ina Garten
4. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth: A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race" by Jon Stewart
5. "The Last Boy" by Jane Leavy
6. "Autobiography of Mark Twain" by Ed. by Harriet Elinor Smith
7. "Double Delicious!" by Jessica Seinfeld
8. "Trickle Up Poverty" by Michael Savage
9. "Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama" by Bill O'Reilly
10. "At Home" by Bill Bryson
11. "Extraordinary, Ordinary People" by Condoleezza Rice
12. "A--holes Finish First" by Tucker Max
13. "Obama's Wars" by Bob Woodward
14. "Washington" by Ron Chernow
15. "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "The Reckless Bride" by Stephanie Laurens
5. "61 Hours: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child
6. "Christmas in Cedar Cove" by Debbie Macomber
7. "I, Alex Cross" by James Patterson
8. "Play Dead" by Harlen Coben
9. "Deeper than the Dead" by Tami Hoag
10. "Pirate Latitudes" by Michael Crichton
11. "Crown of Crystal Flame" by C.L. Wilson
12. "Rough Country" by John Sandford
13. "Ecstasy in Darkness" by Gena Showalter
14. "The Christmas Brides" by Linda Lael Miller
15. "Southern Lights" by Danielle Steel

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
2. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
3. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave
4. "The Finkler Question" by Howard Jacobson
5. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
6. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. "Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls
8. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
9. "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horwitz
10. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
11. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho
12. "For Colored Girls" by Ntozake Shange
13. "Unlocked" by Karen Kingsbury
14. "Worst Case" by James Patterson
15. "Dewey" by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

How many of these Academy Award winners have you seen?

Earlier this week, I wrapped up a movie-watching project that took me several months to complete, that is, watching all of the Saturn Award winners for Best Horror Film in order.

Today, I’m launching a similar project, an effort to watch all of the Academy Award winners for Best Picture.

This project will likely take longer than the first, given the sheer number of Best Picture winners, the first of which was named in 1927. I plan to watch these movies in reverse order, starting with the most recent winner, “The Hurt Locker,” and working my way back to the first winner, “Wings.”

First, here’s a little background on the Academy Award for Best Picture, which is awarded each year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This award is considered the most important of the Academy Awards.

There was no Best Picture award in 1927. Instead, the award was called Most Outstanding Production. The following year, the name of the award was changed to Best Production. In 1931, the title of the award was changed to Best Picture.

Today, I give you a complete list of the Best Picture Award winners, starting with the most recent winner and working my way back. Without further ado, here’s the list:

2009 – The Hurt Locker
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire
2007 – No Country for Old Men
2006 – The Departed
2005 – Crash
2004 – Million Dollar Baby
2003 – The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2002 – Chicago
2001 – A Beautiful Mind
2000 – Gladiator

1999 – American Beauty
1998 – Shakespeare in Love
1997 – Titanic
1996 – The English Patient
1995 – Braveheart
1994 – Forrest Gump
1993 – Schindler’s List
1992 – Unforgiven
1991 – The Silence of the Lambs
1990 – Dances with Wolves

1989 – Driving Miss Daisy
1988 – Rain Man
1987 – The Last Emporer
1986 – Platoon
1985 – Out of Africa
1984 – Amadeus
1983 – Terms of Endearment
1982 – Gandhi
1981 – Chariots of Fire
1980 – Ordinary People

1979 – Kramer vs. Kramer
1978 – The Deer Hunter
1977 – Annie Hall
1976 – Rocky
1975 – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
1974 – The Godfather: Part II
1973 – The Sting
1972 – The Godfather
1971 – The French Connection
1970 – Patton

1969 – Midnight Cowboy
1968 – Oliver!
1967 – In the Heat of the Night
1966 – A Man for All Seasons
1965 – The Sound of Music
1964 – My Fair Lady
1963 – Tom Jones
1962 – Lawrence of Arabia
1961 – West Side Story
1960 – The Apartment

1959 – Ben-Hur
1958 – Gigi
1957 – The Bridge on the River Kwai
1956 – Around the World in 80 Days
1955 – Marty
1954 – On the Waterfront
1953 – From Here to Eternity
1952 – The Greatest Show on Earth
1951 – An American in Paris
1950 – All About Eve

1949 – All the King’s Men
1948 – Hamlet
1947 – Gentleman’s Agreement
1946 – The Best Years of Our Lives
1945 – The Lost Weekend
1944 – Going My Way
1943 – Casablanca
1942 – Mrs. Miniver
1941 – How Green Was My Valley
1940 – Rebecca

1939 – Gone with the Wind
1938 – You Can’t Take It With You
1937 – The Life of Emile Zola
1936 – The Great Ziegfeld
1935 – Mutiny on the Bounty
1934 – It Happened One Night
1933 – Cavalcade
1931-1932 – Grand Hotel
1930-1931 – Cimarron

1929-1930 – All Quiet on the Western Front
1928-1929 – The Broadway Melody
1927-1928 – Wings

I’m sure that more than a few of you have seen a number of these movies, especially those that were released in the past decade. In the end, how many of these movies have you seen? What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.