Saturday, January 28, 2012

New stuff

In addition to hurtling with great joy through Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold (more on that later) and getting caught up on S5 of Dexter, I've been sampling some of the new mid-season television shows.  While I haven't found anything yet that I love, I'm generally liking them more than what fall brought us.

Alcatraz - I'm intrigued by what happened to the prison's denizens, I'm enjoying Jorge Garcia a lot and I don't dislike Sam Neill's character as much as many other critics do, who've pegged him as overly curmugeonly and hostile to the little blonde girl cop.  They need to get into the mythology a little and back off the procedural aspect - us Lost fans are missing some mystery.

Touch - I liked the preview episode but didn't love it.  Things wrapped up a little too neatly at the end.  I'm hoping Danny Glover gets a bigger role - and maybe reins in some of the crackpot - and I like Gugu Whatsername.  Kiefer is sort of just playing Jack Bauer-lite, though, right?  As if Jack had been a baggage handler instead of a world-class ass-kicker.

The Fades - BBC America sci-fi ghost story wherein lots of dead people aren't moving on after they die, and some of them are getting pissed off about it and eating people which makes them tangible and mean zombie-ghosts, and apparently they're going to take over the world unless a bunch of people with mystical powers can defeat them.  And the apparent savior of the mystical power people is a geeky British teenager who's never had a date.  Pretty scary in bits, gory too.  Big exposition dump in the first couple of episodes so maybe things will move along/get a little more fun now.

Lost Girl - American SyFy Channel supernatural/urban fantasy show wherein the world is overrun by fey folk (altho' spelled "fae" in this show, I think) - all kinds too, like succubi and incubi and will-o-the-wisps and possibly werewolves and vampires and "doulihans" which are headless horsemen-assassins - who are divided into the Light and Dark Armies and always on the verge of fighting with each other, except for this one girl, a succubus (who is trying to learn how not to drain her sexual partners' life force but, dang, she's got a serious sex drive), who won't choose sides and is probably the savior who will unite the fae into one big happy family.  I'm interested to see more varieties of the fae; and it's a fairly sexy show what with the succubus and all, so that's fun.  The lead is not that charismatic (which I think is poor casting because she's supposed to be all irresistible) but her human sidekick is cute and feisty.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that The River will be good and am counting the days until The Walking Dead comes back.  What are you guys watching?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book review: The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie, is a magnificent high fantasy novel.  Taking place over the course of about three rain- and blood-soaked days, the story covers the battle for the control of the North: Black Dow and his scruffy, scary War Chiefs hoping to gain some more ground to the south, and the well-armored, rich Union armies unwilling to let them encroach any further.  There are three main characters - Bremer dan Gorst (Union), a disgraced but lethal fighter; Curnden Craw, the North's last honest man who just wants to retire; and clever "Prince" Calder, devious coward and world-class smirker - but the cast numbers in the thousands, most of whom get slaughtered.  There are, I believe, exactly four women with speaking parts in this book - there's not a lot of room for women in this war.

And what a war!  The Heroes is a brutal, bloody battle fantasy that is clear in its belief that there are no heroes in war, only lives wasted.  There are no elves or unicorns in this fantasy novel; there's hardly any magic.  What there is is battle.  Abercrombie writes the most incredible, visceral and easily-pictured battle scenes I've ever read: I got the idea of reading the book in the first place from a mention in an A.V. Club article that posited that a scene with Gorst and Calder's brother meeting to fight on a bridge was one of the writer's favorite pop culture moment of the year.  And yes, that scene very nearly lives up to the hype (although my favorite scene - discussed in this A.V. Club review - begins with one unknown, very minor character who gets killed after several pages and then the viewpoint switches to the guy who killed him, until that guy gets killed and the viewpoint switches to his killer, and on and on.  In addition, this book is very funny: twisted, dark and British-dry.  I laughed out loud several times.  When's the last time that happened in a high fantasy novel (that wasn't written by Terry Pratchett)?

In case you couldn't tell, I really, really liked this one.  The Heroes is my first Joe Abercrombie novel, but it won't be my last.  I've already gotten Best Served Cold, his other stand-alone novel set in the land of The First Law trilogy (this time starring a girl!) and I can't wait to start it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mini movie review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Quite frankly, after all the rave reviews I was expecting more out of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes.  It seemed a little over-long; it wasn't as clever or as funny as my favorite Ritchie films (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch); I often couldn't understand what Robert Downey Jr. was saying in his British-accented mumbling; and it was slow in spots, which surprised me.  The movie did stay true to some of Holmes's iconic traits - the disguises, the ahead-of-its-time forensic science, the inscrutable logic, the disheveled residence, the pipe-smoking and arrogant manner; it only alluded to his drug-use (being a PG-13 movie and all) by having Watson (Jude Law, pretty good here altho' much more manly and prone to fisticuffs than the original) look with disapproval over possible drug paraphernalia, as well as having Holmes wake up woozy on several occasions.  The actual story doesn't matter all that much, but it involves possible black magic, secret societies and Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams, slightly annoying) playing a double agent in the employ of an unseen Moriarty.

I'll give it a rating of okay to middling good, I guess.  On the plus side, Mr. Mouse did manage to stay awake for the entire 120 minutes of the movie, and that's saying something.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I am shocked, shocked, I tell you*

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, word is that the U.S. is going to try to remake the wonderful British sci-fi hit, Misfits (available on Hulu) [link is to S2E4, a good one, but start from the beginning], because Americans never met a good foreign t.v./movie idea they didn't try to commandeer and ruin.  Josh Schwartz, creator of Gossip Girl and Chuck, is said to be behind the spec pilot.  Really?  I am a closet GG fan (first couple of seasons anyway - I haven't been keeping up) and I like Chuck as much as the next person who casually likes Chuck, but I don't think Josh Schwartz is the man for the job.  Pluswhich, a large part of Misfits' not inconsiderable charm is its vigorous and unabashed profanity and violence - which would have to be watered down to thin gruel to make it on American network television (see above re: ruin).  Bad idea, bad bad idea.  Leave my Misfits alone.

Updated - here's the S1 trailer at least:

* that's my sarcastic voice, btw

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bad Haiku about: Superhero Movies (IV)

This is the last superhero movie for a little while, I promise.  X-Men: First Class.  Here's the thing: when this came out, in June 2011, everyone was all "Ooooooh! It's a good X-Men movie!"  But then we got to see Captain America, and we'd already seen Thor and IM2, and I just don't think XM:FC holds up.  Despite the strong cast (Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmichael Fassbender), and the sleek retro-60s setting, it's too origin-y, jumping around the world for little short scenes and never giving the audience much time to connect with anyone.  Yes, it was TONS better than the more recent X-Men fare - and I loved the Wolverine cameo, with the one f-bomb of the whole movie - but I'm thinking the Avengers line is stronger.

if fassbender was
really in charge i'd go with
magneto for sure

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bad Haiku about: Superhero Movies (III)

Wow - Captain America: The First Avenger is really quite good.  Not only is it a decent movie in its own right (not just good for a comic book movie) but it's a solid origin tale too, showing us how Cap came to be but not getting bogged down in the mythology and giving our hero something to actually do, not just come to be.  However, as much as I liked the movie - and I think it is for sure the best of the three pre-Avenger flicks I've recently seen - I think I find the superhero at the center of the movie to be the least fun.  Steve Rogers is basically the anti-Tony Stark: innocent, decent, focused, ultra-patriotic, altruistic, stolid, non-ironic, non-sarcastic and with very little sense of humor.  He's a good man, sure, but he's not so much a fun man.  I get that they can't all be quipping wiseasses (it would be exhausting if they were) but I find Captain America just a bit boring - and I can't imagine that he and Iron Man are going to be BFFs in the upcoming Avengers flick.

his shield a beacon
all-american hero
can he tell a joke?