Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?

THE VASE

A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart - the brilliant professor from Bethel University - or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

I took my son and saw X-Men Apocalypse last night. Since my childhood, the X-Men comic had always been my favorite comic. I stopped buying comics when my first son was born, but before that I was an on again off again purchaser of comics.

Mostly off again. I had collected comics when I was twelve through about fifteen. Started up again in my late teens and early twenties. Stopped for a long time. But when the X-Men cartoon came out in the 90s, I started up again and actually completed the entire X-Men run from Number One through about three hundred something.

So yeah. The X-Men was my favorite. When the first X-Men movie came out I was okay with it. I hated the casting mostly. Halle Berry was an awful Storm. She was too short, and did not possess that regal appearance Storm had in the comics. Famke Janssen was an awful Jean Grey. She was too tall and way too old. James Marsden was an awful Scott Summers/Cyclops. Too short and too soft. Ian McKellan was too old and too skinny to be a decent Magneto. Anna Paquin was too short and too mushy faced to be Rogue.

As for actors who worked in those earlier movies, Captain Picard was acceptable as Professor X, but that was only because Patrick Stewart was the most famous bald actor at the time. Hugh Jackman looked like Wolverine, although he's over six feet tall, whereas Wolverine was supposed to be only five feet, four. But again, he looked like Wolverine so he worked.

The best casting in those first three X-Men movies was Rebecca Romijn. Like, wow. When Hollywood changes things from the established stories, be it a character, their looks, or a story line, it's usually for the worse. But not this time. Not with the character Mystique as portrayed by Rebecca Romijn. That was a magnificent portrayal of Mystique. Talk about perfection.

So I'm totally disappointed that they changed the actress for Mystique in the later X-Men movies. Jennifer Lawrence took over the role of Mystique, and she doesn't hold a candle to Rebecca Romijn. And to make it worse, Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique was given the lead role in X-Men Apocalypse. It didn't work. Mostly because she was miscast. As was almost every other character. Almost.

I did like Michael Fassbender as Magneto. But why won't they give him the white hair that Magneto is supposed to have? Why? I did like James McAvoy as the younger Professor X. I did like the new actress they got for Storm - Alexandra Shipp, and I liked the way they had her originate in Egypt as she was supposed to have originated. They got that one right.

But the character of Angel? They never get that one right. Angel was always my favorite character in the comics. He was an American, not a Russian, like this movie portrayed him. He was the son of wealthy parents, too. Not some backwater Russian cage fighter, and he loved having wings, as anyone would. In prior movies, and even the cartoon, he hated having wings. WTF? No, he LOVED being the Angel. He loved being able to fly. Who wouldn't?

I am glad they recast the roles of Jean Grey and Scott Summers, but they still didn't get them right. Yeah, Sophie Turner is famous now from her role in Game of Thrones, and yeah, she's way better than Famke Janssen, but, to me, she's not Jean Grey. They could have, should have found someone more suited to the role.

As for Cyclops? They blew that one totally. Again. The new actor is Tye Sheridan and he was a complete flop as Cyclops. Again, way too short, and again, way too soft. When the first X-Men movie came out with James Marsden in the role, I was thinking that they should have found an actor like Christopher Reeve to play the part. And now all these years later there IS an actor like Christopher Reeve. He's Brandon Routh, of course. He would have been PERFECT for the role of Scott Summers/Cyclops. Why can't they figure that out? I'm talking perfect here. He's tall, like Cyclops is supposed to be and has the perfect face.

As for the character Apocalypse? I did like the actor who played Apocalypse. He looked like him, and they made his costume perfect. Oscar Isaac was perfect as Apocalypse. And speaking of perfect portrayals, I can't forget to mention Psylocke. I must say, kudos to Bryan Singer for getting that one right. Olivia Munn was great as Psylocke, and wow to the costume department for getting her costume just as it is in the comics. It's the only one that is just like the comics. No other character in these X-Men movies has a costume that's like the comics. But for Psylocke they nailed it.

As for the story? It was too slow, too tangled, and too involved. They tried to make this movie a tear-jerker, and that's not why people go see X-Men movies. They want to see their favorite mutants portrayed the way they are used to seeing them in the comics. And the only one who came close to that was Psylocke. I mean when I saw Psylocke on the screen, it was truly like seeing the comic character come to life. That's what movie goers want to see. The new Storm was almost as good, and so was Apocalypse. But that's not a very good winning percentage.

Let's see what happens in the future. If they get Brandon Routh to replace Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, I would be a happier X-Men fan. With Brandon Routh as Cyclops, I might even accept Sophie Turner as Jean Grey. So let's get Brandon Routh as Cyclops. Bryan Singer are you listening?

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