Archive for May, 2011

The Borgias (Season One) – J. A. Bove

Showtime recently wrapped up their first season of the The Borgias (created by Neil

New Showtime Series

Jordan) and I thought it was an intriguing show. I had to admit, either through lack of education, or ignorance that I was not all too familiar with the Borgia family history. I am though a person of faith, so I was quite interested in watching Showtime’s version of how they portrayed the history of the papal office back in 1492.

Considering that Showtime recently concluded a very successful series in The Tudors (starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers) back in April of 2010, I’m sure they were anxious to get involved in another historical piece involving a controversial family. I was a big fan of The Tudors therefore I was eager to watch this new series. As to my opinion, I’m still on the fence. I thought the series started off a little slow, but it certainly picked up some steam along the way.

The main character in the story is based off of Pope Alexander VI, or Rodrigo Borgia, played by Jeremy Irons (1990 Academy Award winner for Best Actor in Reversal of Fortune). If this story is factually correct, then this was a  very corrupt person. To think that a person of this caliber could rise up and become a Pope is very disturbing. Then again, thinking about the number of scandals involving priests and politicians these days, it’s not that hard to imagine.

Long story short, Showtime portrays Pope Alexander VI as a man who (to name a few) was guilty of adultery, greed, lust, nepotism, simony … I could go on, but I think you get the picture, not very Pope like.  This was a man who desired power and riches more than any other trait, and from what I recall in the good book, not good qualities to have. ‘It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle‘, etc. His children appear to lust after one another, if not everyone else, and the family of cardinals despise him. If not for his effective diplomacy and political skills, his reign would have been short lived.

Showtime does a superb job in creating their series, whether it’s their detail to historical accuracy, or their musical scores, you immediately feel drawn into the program. The scenery is spectacular and captures the appropriate time period and of course, the costumes always appear authentic. I also applaud their effort in introducing new actors (to me at least) into production, from Holliday Grainger, as Lucrezia Borgia, to Francois Arnaud, as Cesare Borgia. Very capable actors who truly get into their roles and make their characters believable.

If you’re looking for a convincing historical portrayal of another contentious family, this series is for you. As they say in the promos, sex, murder, etc. If you’re hoping to capture The Tudors Part 2, you may be a bit disappointed. I know it’s hard to make an apples to apples comparisons (only one season vs. four), but for me, at least, it hasn’t measured up to my expectations just yet. Granted, I’m only basing this on eight programs (seems a bit short), but compared to season one of the Tudors, it lacks that punch. King Henry was quite the character and a tough act to follow. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing season two of this series to see if Pope Borgia can push me over the fence.

Awaken from the Odinsleep – J. A. Bove

Summer blockbuster-time is back! And what better way to open the season than with a classic superhero adventure. The latest installment comes from Marvel (my personal preference over DC, but let’s not go there, that’s another argument).  Thor opened in theaters last Friday, and of course, I was there to welcome him to the Tampa Bay area. You can imagine my surprise when I found my father in the theater waiting as well. The love of adventure apparently runs deep in the Bove family.

The latest superhero to grace the silver screen is Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, played by Chris Hemsworth. The movie also starred some other well-known Oscar worthy actors such as Naboo native, Natalie Portman, and I’ll eat your face, Anthony Hannibal-Hopkins. Did I mention this was a superhero movie? How cool is that? When was the last time you saw a couple of Oscar nominated performers doing a superhero movie? Fantasy is finally getting legit!

I had to admit, when I first heard that Marvel was going to bring Thor to the big screen, I had to scratch my head. Granted, I’m a fan of the comic, but I wasn’t sure of the crossover appeal to the general public. Let’s face it, he’s not as kid friendly as Spidy and Iron Man, he’s a bit more mature. If the masses have anything to say about it though, he was a huge success. According to IMDB figures the movie has already grossed over $60 million (within a week of its release).

Without giving away any spoilers, I will admit that I was both pleasantly surprised, and slightly disappointed at the same time (if that’s possible). Of course, I had to see the film on IMAX (nothing screams hero more than IMAX-3D) and the graphics were amazing. It’s definitely worth your while to stick around to the end and watch the universe flow in 3D as the credits fly by. The scenery was incredible, and the costumes were not over the top.

As far as the acting was concerned, I thought everyone came to play. Natalie Portman has truly become a fantasy/sci-fi favorite. Even newcomer, Chris Hemsworth, did a solid job (showed a good sense of humor). He looked a little younger than I thought Thor should be, but he carried the role well. The only role I had a problem with was Loki. Not that the actor did a bad job, as a matter of fact I thought Tom Hiddleston did a great job with the part given to him. I just thought the Loki character could have been more evil and devious than they portrayed. Instead you received a bad guy with daddy issues.

Was the movie true to the comic form? For the most part yes, but let’s face it, when Hollywood gets involved, things tend to glamor up a bit. I thought Asgard was a bit more Star Wars than Norse Mythology, but creative none-the-less. Did the story make a whole lot of sense? Eh. Did I care? Not really. I went with one mission in mind and that was to be entertained, and entertained I was.

Up next I think is yet another X-Men film, or The Green lantern. I’m not sure. I may just wait on those films (so much to see, see little time to see it). The movie I’m truly looking forward to viewing this summer is Captain America. This character is long over due for a re-make. If Thor is any indication of what to expect from Marvel going forward, then I’m enthused.

In the end, I thought this was a good start to the season. Granted it may not have posted as well as Spider Man, or Batman, but Thor clearly had a tougher crowd to win over. If you’re looking for a solid story line, you can wait for the Blu-Ray disk, (wow, I said Blu-Ray, not DVD). If on the other hand, you’re looking to escape, then you won’t be disappointed. I look forward to Thor 2. For Asgard!

And I Love Her – J. A. Bove

Meeting with fans at festival

Well, I’m back from California. What a journey, what an experience. As many of you know I recently attended the L. A. Times Festival of Books, hosted by the University of Southern California (USC). The event was a tremendous success and I wanted to thank each and every one of you who came out to visit with me. I truly enjoyed speaking with you all. You only helped to confirm my belief that the Fantasy Fan is the greatest fan of all.

Where to begin? Without boring you with all the minute details, I will only highlight the specific experiences that came to mind. My trip was pleasant. The flight arrived on time (thanks Continental …err United), I got to watch 2 movies during the flight (The Tourist, and Gulliver’s Travels … eh and huh), and the weather was gorgeous. This was my first trip to Los Angels in more than thirty years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had high expectations, but granted, I come from Tampa, so it’ll take more than palm tress and beaches to impress me.

Well, we didn’t start off on the right foot. Now maybe I caught the terminal on a bad day, but from where I arrived, the place was a disaster. LAX was kind enough to say ‘Sorry, please excuse our mess’, but man did they understate our mess. It looked as if the place was stripped bare – walls, floors, everything. Okay, no problem, trying to better themselves. Don’t judge a book by its cover and all.

We got our bags and hailed a cab. The man hailing the cab appeared nice enough until he opened his mouth, cursed like a sailor. Am I in the city of angles? Maybe he was just having a bad day. Beyond the cabbie that thought he was Jeff Gordon at the Daytona 500, this was the worst of what I experienced on my journey.

The morning of the event I couldn’t sleep. I woke around 5:00 and thought about everything wrong that could possibly happen. What if it rained? What if the people didn’t like the idea? Dread the thought … what if nobody showed up?

I eventually went to get some breakfast with my wife. No rain, not even a cloud in the sky. Check that fear off my list. I sat outside on the balcony and sipped coffee as I stared out at the boats docked in the marina. I wished I could sail away. No, stay focused. I have work to do. After a quick bite and some pleasant conversation, I had to admit, I started to feel a little better about the day.

We hailed a cab and drove to USC. The first song I heard as we pulled away from the hotel was the Beatles, ‘And I Love Her’. Awesome, my favorite band! This is a good sign. The weather kept true to form and there was no traffic on the way to the campus. Yes, this would be a good day. We were dropped off at the entrance of the festival and you could feel the excitement in the air.

We arrived an hour earlier than anticipated (concierge over exaggerated the time and distance), but that was okay. I didn’t want to chance being late, and I wanted to get the lay of the land. By then there were already hundreds of people at the festival with many more arriving. My confidence grew, but that was short lived.

The first thing you realize when you enter an event like this is that there are hundreds of booths in attendance, and everyone in those booths are trying to sell you something. To make matters worse, the gentleman who occupied the booth before me had no one visiting him. Panic started to set-in. What did I do? What was I thinking? Why did I come here? Thank God for my wife. She saw the doubt grow in my eyes and she took control. She simply told me to do what I had to do and she would take care of the rest.

It was now 11:30, show time. I went into my booth and felt despair for the author departing, as he carried away two bags full of books. I looked at the table in front of me and saw seventy-five books sitting there waiting for me to sign. My first thought was, seventy-five books? How was I going to carry home seventy-five books? My wife looked at me and told me to have fun. She grabbed a handful of books and started working the crowd.

It wasn’t long before the first person showed up. Thank you, God! One down, seventy-four to go. Another person then showed with a few friends … okay, this is getting a little easier. The next thing I knew, there was a line of people waiting for me to sign their book. I was blown away! They were very respectful, asked wonderful questions, and were true fans of the genre.

In the end, I signed all seventy-five books in less than an hour and I didn’t have to twiddle my thumbs. I actually had to apologize to people looking for a book. Now I wished the publisher had brought more – regardless, great relief. That in a nutshell was my experience.

What’s next? Well, for starters, it’s time to stop marketing and time to get back to writing the next novel. For all those who received a book, I hope you enjoy. To those others who spoke with me and didn’t receive one, please visit my sight, I will try and accommodate you the best I can. As for the experience, I will simply say to anyone considering doing this – do it. All you need is a willingness to take a chance in life, and some loving support. You may be pleasantly surprised.