Book: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

"The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line"

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappearance from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

I’ve been looking for this book for ages! Okay, that’s an exaggeration: the book has only been out for a couple of months. But I was starting to lose hope that I’d find it here in the Philippines. So… Much thanks to National Bookstore in Quezon Avenue for stocking up on books that no one else has heard of… and books that should get more attention. Like this one.

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is Veronica Mars’ debut on print form. I was a little scared at first, I admit. Novels based off television franchises tend to not match the show we loved watching. Thankfully, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas is also a novelist. And he’s co-writing the series of books that follow the events of Veronica Mars the movie. And the book is crackling with the wit and zingers that made me love the television series.

Mystery-wise, the novel follows the format that an episode of Veronica Mars would employ in delivering the clues, the twists, the red herrings, and etcetera. And this is one of the things I really loved while I was reading the book. Rob Thomas and co-writer Jennifer Graham didn’t go crazy with the story-telling just because they’re no longer limited by production budgets. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line will fit right as an episode of Veronica Mars the TV series because it didn’t go big–it went right back to what fans loved about the show: Veronica being Veronica.

Another things I would like to rave about in A Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is how the writers developed the father-daughter relationship that was central to the television series. How they act around each other felt like a natural progression of where the television series and the movie left off. Veronica’s relationship with friends Wallace and Mac also felt natural, and don’t feel in any way tacked on.

I do have a request though: I hope we get to meet some new people in Veronica’s life too. We meet a Stanford professor in this book, but what about classmates? Friends? Enemies? I would also like to see Duncan and Piz show up again. The former, just to see how much Veronica has grown as a person, and the latter, to help us fill in the missing years in Veronica’s life.

And lastly, and I might be alone in this, I loved how we didn’t have a lot of Logan. Although I preferred Veronica to end up with Piz, I’m not against the Veronica-Logan relationship. But their relationship also tend to take away from the drama of whatever mystery Veronica is solving when they’re together, so I’m glad that Logan took a backseat in this story. Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham are reestablishing the status quo, it’s nice to see that love–however epic–is not their first priority in a female-centric mystery series like this one.

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Television: Sherlock and the Empty Hearse

"The Empty Hearse"

Two years after the devastating effects of The Reichenbach Fall, Dr John Watson has got on with his life. New horizons, romance and a comforting domestic future beckon. But, with London under threat of a huge terrorist attack, Sherlock Holmes is about to rise from the grave with all the theatricality that comes so naturally to him. It’s what his best friend wanted more than anything, but for John Watson it might well be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’! If Sherlock thinks everything will be just as he left it though, he’s in for a very big surprise…

It looks like Steven Moffat saved all his smarts for Sherlock and left none for Doctor Who. But this isn’t about Doctor Who. This is about Sherlock Holmes, and BBC’s brilliant adaptation that takes the detective to the present time. And currently, the only show under Steven Moffat that has any semblance of brilliance.

Last time on Sherlock, we saw our titular detective fall to his death–only to attend his own funeral. In the first episode off the new series, we quickly find out how Sherlock survived the fall. Or do we? The way Sherlock tells the story is open to interpretation. He really might be telling the truth, but he could also be trying to pull a fast one. It wouldn’t be out of character for him. I don’t plan on dwelling on the mystery. I’m just happy to have three new episodes of Sherlock.

The first order of business is to bring Sherlock back to everyone’s lives. It takes a third of the episode to integrate him back into people’s lives, but I’m not complaining. Benedict Cumberbatch, the bastard, is perfect in every aspect. The ways he breaks the news to the people he cares about are Standard Sherlock, but he gives them each a personal touch depending on the relationship his character shares with whoever he’s talking to in the scene.

Amanda Abbington is a glorious addition to the cast. I was afraid that I wouldn’t like whoever they cast as Mary Morstan, since I’m already content with the existing cast from the first two series. I feared that introducing Watson’s wife might change the chemistry of the show. But I was wrong. Abbington’s first series of scenes doesn’t actually make much of an impact. I won’t share why. But once we do get to meet Mary and see how her relationship with Watson works, she immediately wins us over.

Well, she won me over at least.

Louise Brealey, our dear Molly Hooper, also steps up as she gets more screen time. Brealey gives life to Molly with such enthusiasm and seriousness, that I would actually like to see her help out more in Sherlock’s cases. She gives a new dynamic to the Holmes-Watson tandem, and I think the team behind BBC’s Sherlock would do well to explore it. If not in this new batch of episodes, then maybe the ones for Series 4.

But the best part of The Empty Hearse is this: it’s fun to watch. Series 2 of Sherlock reached too much into intellect. The writers sought to one up us every step of the way. The Empty Hearse brings something back that hasn’t been seen since the first series: fun. It’s not tiring to watch The Empty Hearse. Our minds do not get taxed. We get sharp wit and smart entertainment, without the show becoming overbearing… or too smug about its brilliance.

Television: A Gay Dad’s life story is featured this Saturday on ‘Magpakailanman’

"Magpakailanman: Ang Tatay Kong Beki"

This Saturday on Magpakailanman, a gay man faces the limitations of his sexuality–when the mother of his adopted son threatens to take his only source of happiness away.

In the Ruben Marasigan story, Keempee de Leon portrays the life of a homosexual whose only joy stems from having adopted and raised a son all on his own. But when his son, tired from bullying at school, asks him if he could meet his mother–the one who bore him–Ruben does his best to comply to his son’s wishes.

What he didn’t know was that by inviting his son’s mother into his life, he will be opening his doors to two parasites.

His family and friends tell him to cut ties, but because of his love for his adopted son, Ruben looks past the hurt that his son’s mother inflicts.

But when he finds out that his son is being physically abused by his mother and her lover, Ruben realizes that he might have a mistake in introducing them to each other.

Will he able to take back his son from his real mother? Or will the mother’s threat to take her son away come to fruition?

Find out tonight on Magpakailanman, after Vampire ang Daddy Ko.

Book: A Calm Before Storm #2

"A Calm Before Storm #2"

Derrick Storm was a successful private investigator who occasionally consulted with the C.I.A., but when the opportunity for a life of leisure presented itself, he took it. Ignoring the disapproval of his father, Carl Storm, Derrick sold his company to the famed private investigator, Jake Palace, and moved onto his yacht.

But someone has different plans for the Storm men. When a decapitated head shows up on Derricks’ yacht with the Hindu sign for ‘life’ carved on its cheek, his father, Carl reveals that the mark is the calling card of the notorious criminal, The Fear. When Derrick recommends they inform the C.I.A., Carl refuses. This is about revenge.

Carl Storm is out to find the man who killed his wife.

I must say, I really liked this issue of A Calm Before Storm. That said, nothing really happens. But the quips. And the action. It’s like one body of sequences lifted off a Castle episode. In comic form. Which, come to think of it, is also a bad thing.

Do we really want Castle in yet another media form? I mean, we already have the Nikki Heat novels that’s basically Castle in book form, and now we have the Derrick Storm graphic novels and comic books? Sure, Derrick doesn’t really have a Kate Beckett–but, he’s like a mixture of Kate and Castle! So they’re both still present–just in one person.

Which brings me to why I like the issue. With the introduction of Carl Storm, we get insight into Derrick’s history and character. And we take a step away from the similarities between him and Castle. Though, it does bring us a little closer to Beckett and her mom’s murder, there’s the added dynamic of a parent willing to spar verbally with his son. So it’s not completely the same.

I’m once again looking forward to the next issue of A Calm Before Storm. Hopefully, there will be new developments alongside the peek into Derrick’s back story by then.

Press Release: What convinced Katrina Halili to allow “Magpakailanman” to feature her story

"The Katrina Halili Story"

courtesy of GMA Social Media

This Saturday, Magpakailanman tackles the scandal that fell one of Filipino TV’s promising actresses–and out of the three press releases given, I thought the following was most interesting because I myself wanted to know–

What made Katrina Halili agree to revisit one of the, I’m assuming, most painful moments in her life. Here’s the press release;

Katrina Halili rose from being a StarStruck aspirant to being a TV goddess whose beauty and gorgeous body graced the covers of glossy magazines, tickling the fantasies of men and becoming the subject of envy among many women.  But as she reached the peak of her career, one scandal knocked her down to a ground deeper than where she had started.

A year later, she tried to make a comeback in showbiz but it was cut short when she announced that she was pregnant with Kris’ baby.

Now, with a bouncing baby girl to inspire her and a supportive boyfriend to back her up, Katrina is back on track and is determined to make her story a source of inspiration.

“Actually ang hirap nga. Noong una pumayag ako kasi para sa akin okay lang na gawin nila yung life story ko kasi alam ko na merong matututunan ang mga tao sa mga nangyari sa akin, pero ang sabi ko huwag lang ako ang gaganap bilang sarili ko,” shared Katrina.

Katrina had a valid reason for initially declining to portray herself in the episode.

“Tingin ko kasi magkakaroon na naman ng issue at ayaw ko na ng gulo, ayaw ko na ng may issue kasi nananahimik na ako diba? Pero ininsist nila sa akin na ako na lang tapos nung nabasa ko na yung script okay naman pala siya, hindi siya yung tipong pagmumulan pa ng panibagong issue at hindi naka-focus din dun sa dating issue,” she explained.

Since the sex video scandal she was involved in was a major pivot point in her life’s story, including it in the episode is inevitable.  Katrina, however, clarified that the episode will not dwell so much on that incident.

“Parang dinaanan lang.  Kasi kung hindi mo dadaanan, parang magkakaroon ng question sa utak ng mga manonood na parang, ‘So ano ang nangyari?’ So dinaanan lang,” the actress said.

The “wounds” caused by the incident may not have completely healed yet and dramatising the scandal on TV could stir another round of discussion about the almost forgotten issue.  But Katrina is not deterred.  Instead, she is determined to make her life story a testament that every one deserves a second chance.

“Kaya rin talagang gusto ko siyang ilabas ay para ipakita sa mga tao na yung mga problema ay kayang daanan lahat ‘yan, at lahat tayo — kahit sino ka man — ay binibigyan ng problema pero iba-iba lang. Kahit ano pa man ‘yan, kayang lagpasan ‘yan at makakabangon tayo,” she said.

“Gusto kong ipakita sa kanila na eto ako, OK pa ako ngayon, nakakaharap ako sa tao kahit alam kong hindi naging maganda ang past ko.  Hindi ko ipinagmamalaki yung past ko pero tao lang ako, nagkakamali din ako pero at least sinusubukan kong mag-improve ako,” she added.

Watch “Ligaw na Diyosa: The Katrina Halili Story” this Saturday (January 26) in Magpakailanman after Kap’s Amazing Stories on GMA-7.

Press Release: Heart Evangelista, Geoff Eigenmann, and Ms. Gloria Romero banner GMA’s afternoon drama FOREVER

"Forever"

It’s only been a week since Indio premiered on GMA-7, but the network has one more ace up its sleeve before January ends with Forever.

I’ve always been intrigued with the premise of Forever. Love, time, all the pain that comes with it–and all the happiness… But before I go on, here’s the press release by the GMA Network about the show:

GMA Network rings in the New Year with the launch of its first afternoon prime drama for 2013 – FOREVER, which features riveting performances from some of the biggest Kapuso stars today. It will air beginning January 21 before 24 Oras.

Forever promises to steal the viewers’ hearts as it follows a captivating storyline that explores the enduring power of love between two individuals who will let fate determine if they are meant to be together despite time, distance, and the obstacles that conspire to keep them apart.

This original offering features the dramatic talents of prime Kapuso leading man Geoff Eigenmann as Ramon/Patrick, multi-award winning actress Heart Evangelista as Adora and the original Queen of Philippine Movies Ms Gloria Romero as Adora.

Forever begins with the story of Adora, the sole heir to a wealthy sugar plantation in the 1950s. Despite her social status, Adora falls in love with the poor and passionate Ramon, a farmer who works in their farm. Her domineering father Don Jamie strongly disapproves of Adora’s relationship with Ramon but the young lovers pledge to stay together regardless of Don Jamie’s objection. This forbidden romance eventually leads to Ramon’s death who vows to return to be with his one true love Adora.

Adora is devastated with Ramon’s passing and she realizes her life is now empty and meaningless without him. But she gets a second chance to be reunited with Ramon after an old woman gives her an antique pocket watch that could bring back her youth.

Fast forward to the present time where Adora will be reunited anew with Ramon but this time in the persona of Patrick, a painter who will form an unusual romantic connection with Adora. Will the promise of Adora and Ramon to rekindle their romance transcends time no matter where or when their paths cross? Can the ill-fated lovers fulfill their destiny to once and for all be together even in the next lifetime? Can anything or anyone still come between the two lovers?

Adding star power to this classic tale of undying love are Isabel Oli as Monique, Saab Magalona as Leila, Gian Magdangal as Rico, and Candy Pangilinan as Susie.

The special guests of Forever include Marc Abaya as Federico and Ronnie Henares as Don Jaime.

Forever, which is created by the GMA Entertainment TV Group, is another first in the television industry for its refreshing concept and production value.

Directed by acclaimed actor and TV director Ricky Davao, Forever is supervised by Lilybeth G. Rasonable as Over-all in charge of Production, Redgie Acuña Magno as Supervising Producer, Hazel F. Abonita as Program Manager, and Executive Producer Kaye Cadsawan.

The creative team is headed by Creative Director and concept creator of Forever Jun Lana.  It is composed of Roy Iglesias, Creative Consultant Des Garbes – Severino, Headwriter Kit Villanueva-Langit, writers Ma. Christina Samson-Velasco and Geng Delgado, and Brainstormers Reynaldo Leoncito, Jessie Villabrille, and Luningning Ribay.

The theme song, Together Forever, is interpreted by the King of Soul, Janno Gibbs.

Interesting, right?

I’ve always been intrigued with the concept of love–especially one that’s so epic and big that you would do anything for it. Like fall in love with the same person, who is already in another lifetime–while you’re still in your previous one. There are so many avenues of storytelling to go to. It’s all so very exciting.

Forever airs weekdays, starting tomorrow (January 21), every afternoon before the news program 24 Oras.

Television: Aso ni San Roque

"Aso ni San Roque"

Monsters. Creatures of the night.

Aswang.

Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve been fascinated by the things that go bump in the night. I’m a self-confessed coward, I’m afraid of the dark… but I love monsters. Because monsters? Monsters you can fight.

In Aso ni San Roque, we get monsters. Lots of them. And the only person who can stop them is a blind little girl raised on hope. A little girl and the people who love her, and the ones who learn to love her.

The story is pretty standard fare for a Filipino program, and the only thing that sets it apart is the supposedly new take on the Philippines’ well-known monster mythology. But so far, while you can see the attempts of it through dialogue and actions–one thing is definitely holding the show back from its promise: the show’s special effects.

GMA has done horror numerous times before. The effects were never spectacular, but they worked. With Aso ni San Roque though, the effects border on cartoonish. And that takes away from the brevity of scenes. Which is a shame.

Aso ni San Roque boasts of a cast that are known to be great actors. Even the titular dog is known for being good at being dramatic, from her turn as Bwakaw in the film of the same name. But with the less-than-stellar effects, instead of being wowed by the actors, or the story, all you get is frustrated.

Encantadia, a show that aired six years ago, had better effects than Aso ni San Roque. Marian Rivera’s version of Darna employed a few similar monsters–and that had better effects too.

So what went wrong with this show?

And speaking of what went wrong–I have to wonder why MTRCB, our local entertainment governing body, has deemed it necessary to rate the program SPG for strict parental guidance needed.

There is nothing in the show that can harm children. Unless they gave it an SPG rating because of the monsters and their victims. Which would be a stupid reason.

I grew up with monster stories, and those came from my parents and the guardians we were left in care of. There’s a reason why monsters are a part of our culture. It’s because this is how our parents instilled fear and values in us.

Most of us grew up fine. We grew up good people. And the stories told us were much scarier, much harsher than the ones shown in this show.

So what’s with the SPG?

And I know I’m supposed to be talking about Aso ni San Roque, but I have to ask: is MTRCB babying television viewers too much?