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Sunday, October 28, 2007

TV: The First Season of 'The O.C.'

How many DVDs do you own?

The FOX Television Network scored a major hit in 2003 when The O.C. premiered on August 5. The show at first seemed to be the next logical step in updating the Beverly Hills 90210 and Dawson's Creek teen soap genre for the 2000's. In many ways it improved on the formula in its first season and used up and coming music stars to propel the action on screen, making stars of little known recording artists in the process. However, the show's quick rise to popularity is often compared to its equally swift fall. But that's not to say that the first season was a mediocre show.

I didn't catch the show during the 2003-2004 TV season, but viewed the entire season on the subsequently released DVD set. The story centers around fish-out-of-water Ryan, a brooding, bad-boy teenager who moves in with a rich Newport Beach family in Southern California. The Cohens are a family born with money - mother Kirsten works for her rich father, who is at odds with father Sandy, a local attorney. It's Sandy who represents Ryan in a case and ultimately invites him into his home.

The key partnership in the series is between Ryan and Seth, the Cohen's son. The show centers around dorky Seth's relationship to bad-boy Ryan, who is sort of like the big brother he never had. The boys juggle relationships with fellow classmates Marissa and Summer, while tackling the usual blend of teen drama along the way.

I always think I've seen it all when I see a teen drama like Beverly Hills 90210, which was remixed for the late nineties with Dawson's Creek. But The OC somehow manages to be just as good, if not better, during its first season. The first half of the season was particularly good, with things slowing down after a plot involving an unstable friend of Marissa's named Oliver, who develops an obsessive crush. Other plots involve Marissa's struggle with alcohol and the divorce of her mother and father.

Perhaps the slight lag during the last quarter of the season kicked off the amazingly swift downfall of the series. In the end, four seasons aired, each with a major percentage of viewer loss in the ratings. Adam Brody, Mischa Barton, Benjamin McKenzie, Kelly Rowan, Rachel Bilson and Peter Gallagher are the main cast of stars that propelled this FOX drama into an overnight sensation that likely burned out way before it should have.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

FILM: Shia LaBeouf in 'Disturbia'

As a fan of suspense films, this little movie caught my eye when it was released in theaters April 13, 2007. Disturbia stars Shia LaBeouf as Kale, a teenager who is placed on house arrest after striking a teacher in school. His outlash was the latest in many that occured in the months following his father's death.

After his mother disables his technology (iTunes subscription & X-Box Live), he turns to spying on his neighbors to pass the time. This voyeurism leads to his paranoid thinking that one of his neighbors just might be a notorious serial killer. Stuck with an ankle monitor that alerts police every time he leaves his yard, he's stuck watching his murderous neighbor carry out what might be a series of murders. Throughout the course of the action, he develops a crush on neighbor Ashley (Sarah Roemer) and is helped along the way by his class clown friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), his link to life outside his house-arrest restrictions.

Disturbia has some good chills and a few scenes will make you jump out of your seat. In the end, it devolves into pretty familiar territory with basic slasher-film style suspense, as Kale tries to take down his neighbor (played by David Morse) and solve the mystery without ever leaving his yard.

At the end of the film I found myself feeling as if I had just watched a longer "serial killer" episode of a typical television procedural, such as Criminal Minds or CSI. The first two thirds leave you wanting more and sets you up pretty good before the typical killer-chases-Scooby-Doo-like-gang ending. However, the film does most of this in a pretty stylish way.

Disturbia opened at #1 when it premiered at the box office with $23 million, which quickly covered it's $20 million production price tag. It stayed in the top spot for the next two weeks. Comparisons and inspirations for this film are drawn mostly from Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, and comparisons have also been struck between the movie posters for both films. The Burbs is also mentioned as an inspiration.

The most memorable aspect of Disturbia may be the casting of rising star Shia LaBeouf, who just months later would star in Michael Bay's Transformers. The official movie website can be found at http://www.disturbia.com/. Check out the Disturbia trailer below.

How many DVDs do you own?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FICTION: Don Crockett's 'Buried in Stone'

Occasionally I read a novel that hasn't spent any time on the New York Times Best Seller list. While I'm certainly a fan of big time authors who write big time thrillers, it's nice to sometimes come back down to earth and check out something different. In the case of Buried in Stone author Don Crockett, it boils down to an author chasing his dream of being published and writing about the region that I live in.
I met Don Crockett in 2005 at a local book signing in Roseburg, Oregon, where I featured him in a local television news feature about local authors. A genial fellow, Crockett had written three novels up to that point and tirelessly devoted his time to promoting them at any venue he could find through touring and networking with local book stores and clubs. The gimmick of his fiction is basing it in the northwest, and more specifically, in the Oregon towns he's lived and grown up in.

Buried in Stone was his first novel, published in 2001 by AuthorHouse (formerly 1st Books Library). The mystery novel is set in Ashland, Oregon, and documents the first adventure of Diana Carry, a private investigator who seems to specialize in everything. Traveling with her pet wolf, Donjue, she's called to the Southern Oregon town to help out with an investigation into some mysterious tunnels that are discovered underneath a residence after an earthquake rumbles through. Diana uses her athletic skill to explore the tunnels that appear to have no end. Dealing with darkness and even contending with water filled shafts, she makes her way through with the help of the local police department and discovers the decades-old murders of young children.

This sets up most of the action as Diana uses her unconventional methods to sidestep local and federal authorities on a quest to uncover the secret behind the murders. Over the course of the action, she befriends Chief Ben Hollis of the Ashland Police Department and even becomes the acting Chief when Hollis is injured during the investigation.

The story weaves in a varied cast of characters before solving the mystery in the end, which brings together the entire ensemble in a rather violent and bloody finale that features stabbings, shootings and explosions. The blossoming romance between Chief Hollis and Diana underlies the more serious drama.

Since Buried in Stone, Crockett has written three more novels in the Diana series, all of which can be purchased at Amazon.com and other retailers. The novel is not one you will see on the Best Seller lists, but if you are native to Oregon and want a breezy, easy-to-read story, then Buried in Stone may be just what you are looking for.

How many books do you own?

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