Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bad Haiku about: Superhero Movies (VIII)

So ... Thor: The Dark World.  Yeah.  There sure was a lot of stuff crashing and breaking and blowing up, huh?  As much as I enjoy seeing gargantuan bulked-up Chris Hemsworth with his shirt off, this one left me kind of cold.  Thor is just so ... stolid.  The best scenes, of course, were the ones with Loki - when is he going to get his own movie?

asgard in ruins
thor stands mjolnir in hand but
never trust loki

That's all I've got.  Perhaps Guardians of the Galaxy, when I finally see it, will prove more inspiration for bad haiku.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

True Blood episode recap S5E12 "Save Yourself"

One episode and two seasons to go ...

Picking right up where we left off, all the fairies blast Russell with all the light they've got, but it doesn't do anything but whet his appetite due to the Elder's blood he just consumed.  But Eric to the rescue!  He sneaks up and grabs his old enemy from behind, planting a stake well into Russell's heart.  Russell grins, mutters "Oh fuck," and disintegrates into lots of bloody goo.  Eric, getting his vengeance after a thousand years: "Well, that felt even better than I thought it would."  Afterwards, Sookie rushes out to check on the unconscious Jason.  Nora immediately starts drooling, "What is she? She smells delicious!" Eric grabs his sister, saying that Sookie is nothing but a waitress that saved his life many times and that Nora is not to eat her.  "But I want her!"  Eric makes Nora swear on Godric that she will leave Sookie alone; sulkily she swears.

Down in the Authority HQ, when Sam is brought before Bill, Bill is all, well, now you know too much.  Sam says that he's just here to get Emma back and he doesn't care what the crazy vamps are up to, but Bill fangs up and approaches menacingly because he's completely gone over to the crazy-dark side.  So Sam shifts into a housefly and buzzes off into the ventilation system.  Bill growls at the Authority guards, "In case you haven't noticed, we've been breached."  Then there's some Bill-speechifying (ugh), as Salome watches approvingly.  He sends the guards out to scour every inch of HQ, telling them to kill every bit of vermin they find - and if it doesn't shift back into human form after it's dead, keep looking!  Once the guards are gone, Bill kneels before Salome and lies/tells her that Lilith appeared to him and told him that Salome was to lead them all and that he was to protect and serve her.  Salome breathes ecstatically.

Meanwhile, Eric and Nora go to Fangtasia, Nora still marveling over the fact that she never encountered a delicious fairy before.  Then Tara comes out and tells Eric that the Authority got Pam.  Eric immediately goes into the basement and starts loading up light-tight coffins and oodles of cash.  Nora complains that they can't go rescue Pam - she's nothing but a prostitute - and Eric snaps at her that Pam is family.  When Nora and Tara growl at each other a bit, Eric points out that Tara is family too.  Back at the Stackhouse farm, Jason is having hallucinations of his parents when Eric, Nora and Tara show up.  Eric is all, Sookie, I need to you help me rescue Bill, Jessica and Pam from the Authority; Tara growls, "You owe Pam."  Nora: "You smell like something I once dreamed of."  Sookie: "Eric, tell your sister to stop looking at me like that."  Heh.  Jason's hallucinations urge him not to help the vampires but Eric explains what is going on, saying that if anyone can get through to Bill, it's Sookie.  Tara:"And you owe Pam."  The Stackhouse siblings agree and everyone mounts up.

Sam goes back to the cells, gives Luna the update that "apparently [Bill] has lost his motherfucking mind."  He tells her that if the guards come for her, she should shift and hide in the ductwork, and then they'll come back later for Emma.  Later, he comes back and says he's got a plan.  In another part of the cells, Jessica tells Pam that Bill and Eric are acting like they're in a religious cult.  Pam's like, I can totally believe that about Bill.  Heh.  She also remarks that one of the worst parts of being immortal is having to watch the same stupid shit happen over and over and over again:  "It's usually just the humans, though.  I guess this just proves we're just as fuckin' retarded as they are."

Ugh: Alcide and his dad grill up a buck they took down that morning.  Blah blah blah.  Then Martha drives up with Ricki (the hot she-wolf Alcide has been banging) screaming in the backseat.  She's on the verge of ODing on the low quality V she's been forced to ingest.  They take her inside Alcide's dad's trailer to detox her.  As she gets more lucid, Ricki tells the others how JD forced her to take the V and how the older wolves forced themselves on the younger females.  This is clearly not how packs work and Alcide gets all het-up about it.  His dad says the only way to fight JD is to play at his own game: he just happens to have some high quality vampire blood in the fridge and if Alcide takes just a little, it'll up his game enough to beat JD.

Back in Bon Temps, at Merlotte's, Arlene, Holly and Lafayette takes advantage of the boss being away to get their drink on and dance a bit.  Then Andy and pregnant fairy Mirella come in.  Andy ruins Holly's buzz by telling her about Mirella.  Holly gets pretty damn pissed.  But then Mirella goes into labor and Holly has to play midwife, laying the fairy out on the pool table and delivering four (!) babies while Arlene and Lafayette watch, fascinated.  Then Mirella hops up, kisses Andy on the cheek and says that the babies are his to take care of now.  She skips out of the bar and Holly gives Andy some serious stinkeye.

Sam's great escape plan is for Luna to skinwalk into Steve Newlin, fetch puppy-Emma out of the cells and take her for a walk, while housefly-Sam hitches a ride.  Steve-Luna almost makes it out of HQ  but (1) the receptionist gets suspicious when s/he forgets to use the real Steve's Southern accent and (2) Roslyn accosts Steve-Luna in the elevator, saying it is time for his television broadcast.  Things fall apart quickly as Luna starts to get sick from the skinwalking in the studio, unable to hold the shift and changing back into herself.  Roslyn starts to lose her shit and housefly-Sam awesomely flies down her throat AND THEN SHIFTS BACK TO HIMSELF WHILST INSIDE HER.  That was SO GREAT.  Then Luna passes out.

Back to the werewolves: Alcide finds JD and his followers stringing up a vampire in the middle of the woods, looking to bleed him for more V.  Martha and Alcide's dad have his back as Alcide starts pummeling JD: "I think you won this one, son."  But Alcide isn't finished and snaps JD's neck.  The rest of the pack kneel before him as he lays down the law for them.  "Tonight, we choose the pack."

Salome goes to the Lilith shrine, intending to drink the blood and accept her calling.  But Bill intercepts her.  She drinks the blood but he has switched it out for blood laced with silver.  They struggle a little as she realizes his betrayal and then he stakes her.  Thus endeth Salome.  Meanwhile, Eric and Nora drive back into HQ, with Sookie, Jason and Tara tied up in the back as "prisoners."  Once inside, everyone gears up and Jason takes great light in offing as many Authority vamps as he can.  The rest of them go deeper into HQ, Eric and Nora slaughtering a whole squadron of guards without batting an eye.  Sookie and Tara go to the cells while Nora and Eric go to the control room to disarm and unlock everything.  Pam, to Tara: "What the fuck are you doing here?"  Tara: "Rescuing your ass, bitch."  When the cell doors open, Tara walks in and plants a big ol' kiss on her maker.  As they make out, Sookie's jaw drops while Jessica grins: "I knew it!"

Eric sends everyone else out while he and Sookie track down Bill.  They find him in the chancellors' chamber, clutching the real Lilith blood.  They try to reason with him but he is way too far gone (I just don't buy this from the character - Bill has always been searching for something but this religious crap doesn't fit for me).  As they watch, he drinks the Lilith blood.  He shudders, shakes and then dissolves into a pool of blood!  Sookie cries out, burying her face in the equally stunned Eric's chest.  But then the pool of blood shimmers and moves, and Bill re-emerges, fully formed, naked and blood-covered.  (Sookie: "Fuck ....")  Bill's eyes open and his fangs pop out and he roars at them.  Eric shoves Sookie behind him, screaming, "Run!"

There you go, True Blood.  That's the sort of episode I've been waiting for all season.  Try to keep it up for S6.

Previously on True Blood / next time on True Blood

Friday, September 12, 2014

True Blood episode recap S5E11 "Sunset"

Bill has never been my favorite True Blood character and the religious conversion he's experienced this season has done nothing to redeem him.  So when the penultimate episode of S5 starts off with Bill wandering through Authority HQ, hearing Lilith intoning his name and telling him that she chooses him to lead - drink all my blood! - I'm all, meh.  For a while I was thinking that he was playing a long con but now I'm pretty sure that he's a religious nut.  And not even the interesting kind.

Nora, on the other hand, is having second thoughts in the aftermath of Vision Lilith having ripped Vision Godric's throat out.  She hides her misgivings from Salome, however.  Meanwhile, Jessica has had enough of this nonsense and wants to go home to protect Jason (and Sookie) from Russell and Steve Newlin.  Bill blah blah blah humans are trivial and Lilith says we should convert or eat them.  Jessica thinks of a way out, suggesting that she go back to Bon Temps to change Jason into a vampire.  Bill calls her bluff and sends her there to do just that, chaperoned by a couple of Authority thugs to make sure she goes through with it.  Also meanwhile, Eric frets about the Lilith/Godric vision until Nora shows up and then they console each other with sex.  It seems a bit gratuitous and pointless but there hasn't been much sex this season, so I'll allow it.  They also make plans to escape.

Later that evening, some human General Muckety-muck of the U.S. military comes to the Authority for a meeting.  He's all, WTF are you goddamn crazy-ass bloodsuckers going?  The U.S. goverment has weaponry you can't imagine that will wipe you vamps off the planet if you don't get back in line and get with the mainstreaming.  They're all, we're a sanguinist administration now, so get used to it.  The general: we own the day and you vampires don't stand a fucking chance.  So Eric jumps up and snaps the general's neck.  The chancellors freak out a bit until Eric and Nora volunteer to go topside and do a glamouring campaign/damage control.

Back in Bon Temps, Jason finds Jessica and the vampire thugs waiting for him at his house.  She tries to shake her chaperones, but they won't budge; she tries to get Jason to read between the lines and trust her, but Jason is so damn dim that he's not picking up what she's laying down.  So she whispers, "Trust me!" and then bites him.  Later, as the thugs shovel dirt over Jess and Jason, she has managed to convey enough of the plan to him that he is able to jump up and shoot both thugs, turning them both to slush.  She tells him about Russell Edgington and Steve Newlin being on the loose and he takes off, saying that he's got to go warn Sookie.

Over at Fangtasia, Pam and Tara have cleaned up the remains of Sheriff Elijah.  Pam is panicking a little about the Authority coming down on them for this.  Jessica shows up, bloodstained tears tracking down her face and asking to be hidden from Bill's thugs.  Pam is reluctant until Jessica mentions that she knows where Eric is.  (Currently, he and Nora are ditching (staking) their Authority security detail and running away.)  Jessica tells Pam and Tara about the situation in the Authority.  Pam says that Bill's weird behavior is due to vampire nesting: too many vampires in too close quarters.  When she stomps off, annoyed at having to hang out with baby vamps, Jessica asks Tara if she has a thing for Pam and Tara is all, no! never!  Jessica apologizes, saying that she is just trying to be friends because she likes Tara.  Tara sniffs that maybe she'll bring her a fangbanger later.  When Tara goes upstairs, Chancellor Roslyn is there.  The sheriff was her progeny and she's looking for his murderer.  She focuses in on Tara but Pam steps up, saying she killed the little asshole because he annoyed her.  Roslyn arrests Pam to take her back to the Authority and, on the way out of the club, sniffs out the hiding Jessica and grabs her too, saying, "Your daddy is looking for you."

Sookie, who has been hanging out at the fairy nightclub, is introduced to the Elder (Wallace Phennell's mom from Veronica Mars!), who is weird and flaky because she's so old and has too much stuffed in her brain.  She's a bit annoying, actually, but she looks pretty.  All she manages to tell Sookie is that she and Warlow are inextricably connected and a dark time is coming so Sookie should hold onto her light.  Jason shows up and fills Sookie and the fairies in: Russell and Steve are on the hunt and Bill (and Eric) are religious nuts and won't be coming to save her.  The Elder freaks out when he says that Russell is still alive.  Sookie tries to rally the troops, saying that they need to fight back against Russell.  Unexpectedly, the Elder agrees: they, the fairy tribe of Bon Temps will join Sookie in battle.

On the other side of town/storylines I don't care about, Holly makes her rude sons apologize to Andy for being jerks to him and he in turn promises that he is going to do right by their momma.  A little later, the fairy Mirella who Andy hooked up with a week or so ago shows up at Merlotte's: she is super-pregnant and the baby is Andy's - apparently fairy pregnancies are rather different than human pregnancies - she's expecting him to do right by her and protect her in the coming battle against the vampires.  In other news, a shirtless Alcide is putting a silver-plated fence up around his daddy's trailer to keep the rampaging packs of new baby vamps out.  I have to think that a silver-plated fence is awfully expensive.  That night, three baby vamps do show up.  The fence keeps them out but then they go over to the neighboring trailer, who doesn't have a fancy fence.  Alcide goes out and tangles with them and between him and his dad, they manage to kill off all the baby vamps.

Back at the Authority, Sam and Luna have been roaming the corridors as mice and finally find Emma, in puppy form, in the cells.  They shift back to human form to try to get her out but guards come in to fetch "Chancellor Compton" his breakfast.  (Chancellor Compton meanwhile is upstairs killing off Chancellor Doctore (Peter Mensah, but I can't be bothered to remember his name)).  Sam, upon hearing Bill's name, volunteers as breakfast.  As he is led out of the cells, Pam is being let in.  They both do double takes at each other: "What the fuck are you doing here?"  Sam calls out that she should help Luna.  Pam, increasingly annoyed: "Who the fuck is Luna?"  Jessica is sent in to Bill who is rather furious with her: he punches her across the room, snarling that he is the chosen one.  Of course, a couple of rooms away, Lilith is telling Salome that she choose her to lead.

That night, Russell and Steve find Jason at Sookie's farmhouse.  Russell immediately glamours him and he leads them right to the field where the fairies are hiding.  Russell, to Steve: Who know how to show you a good time?  Steve: You do!  When they get to the field, both Russell and Steve get all giddy and drooling over the delicious fairy smell saturating the place.  The fairies hide out in their sanctuary, scared.  The Elder comes out and when Steve rushes her, she zaps him across the field.  But when she tries the same with Russell, he is just too strong and he muckles onto her neck, draining her dry.  Now he's nearly drunk on her blood and it allows him to see the fairy sanctuary.  "Oh," he moans, staring at the frightened fairies, "I would LOVE to come to dinner!"

Well, what do you know?  Finally, 10.5 episodes into S5, things start to get fun.

Previously on True Blood / next time on True Blood

PS - Anyone else got their hopes up for American Horror Story: Freak Show?  I do!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mini book review: The Martian by Andy Weir

I tend to shy away from things that everyone raves about, not getting around to them until the mania passes.  Not so with The Martian, by Andy Weir, a best-selling first novel that apparently is being made into a movie.  NPR and the A.V. Club both liked it and I was looking for something new; lo and behold, I really, really liked it too.

Ares 3, the third manned mission to Mars starts out okay, everything working out as planned for the first six days.  But then a big storm whips up, with winds far beyond what the astronauts and their habitat and equipment can safely withstand.  The order to abort the mission was given and the six astronauts fled their habitat for the rocket that would take them back to Earth.  One of the astronauts, Mark Watney, gets hit by a piece of debris while rushing for the ship; he is carried out of sight and the computer reports that all signs of life have ceased.  The rest of the crew search for him until it is imperative that they leave - now or never - and then they go, rocketing back into space for the long trip back home.

Here's the thing: Mark survived.  And now he's all alone, the only living thing on the entire planet, with no hope of rescue until Ares 4, the next mission to Mars, scheduled to arrive in about four years, and no way of contacting NASA.  Mark is in a habitat that was designed to last about a month and if it pops, he'll die instantly.  If his oxygenator fails, he'll suffocate.  If the water reclaimer fails, he'll die from dehydration.  .  He has food enough for six people, which will last 300 days without rationing - which is nowhere near long enough.  These are all the bad things.  The good thing is that Mark is smart, creative, handy and resourceful (his mission specialties are botanist and mechanical engineer) and he's not ready to give up and die quite yet.

This is fiction, obviously, and science fiction, because its' set on Mars.  But the coolest thing about it is that it's really SCIENCE fiction.  There is a LOT of science in here, from the machinery and equipment Mark uses and abuses, to growing crops in sterile Martian soil, to plotting spaceship courses.  I was skeptical at first, thinking that it would be too science-y for me, but it wasn't.  It was exciting, witnessing Mark's thought processes and experiments, it was suspenseful.  The Martian is a fantastic book, very fun and exciting, and attractive, I think, to both people who love suspenseful fictions and people who prefer their fiction of the non- variety, because of all the technical details.  Good book.  Go pick it up.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

True Blood episode recap S5E10 "Gone, Gone, Gone"

All fi  ve of the TruBlood plants are destroyed and vampire/human relations are deteriorating.  The former Reverend Steve Newlin, in his new role as PR guy for the Authority, encourages humans to go about their daily business with nothing to fear from vampires.  Yeah, right.  Meanwhile, back in Bon Temps, Sookie calmly uses a wooden chopstick to stake Mike the pathologist when he starts chewing on her thigh, recently having been turned into a vampire and all.  "Fuck!" exclaims Sookie, festooned with gooey Mike-vampire guts.

In New Orleans, Molly/Vampire Mac/Tina Majorino gets iStaked, after first saying: "You people are destroying the world, based on the writings of a book that is thousands of years old.  You call that evolved?  That's the opposite of evolved!"  More gooey vampire guts (which Steve Newlin gets all excited about, having never seen a staking before).  Oh Molly, we didn't get enough of you.  Afterwards, Russell wants to go out and eat - he thinks Greek sounds good.

Hoyt tells his momma that he's taken a job oil-drilling in Alaska.  She is of course very upset about that, having assumed he'd be moving back in with her.  But he has had enough of Bon Temps.  In other unhappy news, the new sheriff is not impressed with the money Fangtasia is bringing in these days.   Pam and Tara are like, no one is coming in anymore.  He doesn't care.  Also, he lets them know that there is a new procreation mandate for the district: thirty new baby vamps in the next year.  And if Pam doesn't come through, he is authorized to take her assets, including her progeny.  Later, Pam and Tara talk, Pam snarling that vampires procreate because they want to, not because they're told to "by some dipshit dipped in afterbirth."  Tara's like, you'll let him take the bar, me?  Pam snaps that the two of them can leave Fangtasia and just wander, like she and Eric used to do.

Bill and Nora force Eric to take more of Lilith's blood.  He has a vision in which Godric appears to him, only to get his throat ripped open and decapitated by Lilith.  Bill watches from the control room, not seeing anything but smiling at Eric's reactions.  Out on their date, as they dance to Katy Perry's Teenage Dream, Russell tells Steve about being able to walk in the sunlight.  Enraptured and in love, Steve whispers, "Take me with you!"

Hoyt calls Jason and Jessica to meet with him at Merlotte's.  In a nice little scene, he tells them that he's leaving town because their betrayal is just too much, and his momma is smothering him, and he almost just got eaten by pigs.  They try to talk him out of it but he's made up his mind.  And he asks Jessica to glamour him, to make him forget about all about her and forget all about Jason too.  "Please, take this hurt away from me so I can go on and have my life.  Please.  Make this go away."  With tears in her eyes, barely able to speak, Jessica does what he asks, Jason sitting stunned at her side.  It's a really nicely done scene by all three, but especially Jess.

In the morning, Jason and Sookie, still following up on ghost Gran's message that the answer to who killed their parents is under Sookie's bed, push the bed aside and pull up a loose floorboard.  There's a dusty old scroll in a box.  They can't read it, however, so they take it to some university professor.  He says the scroll is at least 200 years old but it is not written in any human language he has ever seen.  The Stackhouses' ears perk up at the whole not-human possibility.

Meanwhile, Sam and Luna are continuing to try to get Emma back from Steve Newlin.  Luna's hair-trigger temper is really fucking annoying.  They learn that Steve will be doing a live televised debate in New Orleans that night, so off to New Orleans they go.  (Also off to New Orleans: Jessica, who has been fetched by Bill's Authority security team.)  On the debate, Steve is killing it, without having to rip anyone's spine out.  Sam and Luna make it into the green room and shift into little white mice, hiding in Steve's briefcase, hoping that he'll go to wherever he's stashed Emma.

I'm just realizing that this must be the season where Anna Paquin was pregnant.  She hasn't gotten naked and she tends to carry around big bags and sits with pillows on her lap.

In the Authority HQ, a seemingly tamed Eric apologizes to the rest of the chancellors and also to Russell, kneeling before him and forgiving him for having killed his Viking family so many thousands of years ago.  Russell begrudgingly agrees to a truce.  A bit later, Bill gives Jessica a tour of HQ.  He is really acting weird.  I can't tell whether this is a long con or whether he's really bought into this Lilith shit.  He's weirding Jess out too, handing her a vampire bible to read.

The sheriff arrives at Fangtasia, having been called by a panicky-sounding Tara.  She tells him that she's botched turning Ginger - "I don't know nothin' about birthin' no baby vampires!" - and when he goes to check on the human, Tara cuts his head off with a big old sword.  Pam comes storming in when Ginger (covered in gooey vampire guts) starts screaming.  Pam: You have GOT to be kidding me.  Tara: We're not running.  Nobody fucks with us in our house.  Pam: Hmmm.

When Steve returns to Authority HQ, he is annoyed to find that Emma has shifted back to human.  He doesn't want her human - he wants her as a puppy.  He scolds her and she runs off crying; two white mice creep out of Steve's dropped briefcase.  In the back room, Russell has HAD ENOUGH with the politics the Authority is into.  He wants to focus on daywalking - harnessing and studying fairy blood.  Salome is all, we are of the night and fairies are an abomination.  Russell, warming to the task: Their blood is like suckin' on Heaven!  When Salome gets in his face, he tosses her across the room.  His accent/voice changes: I am 3,000 years old!  I am stronger than all of you combined!  And he is not playing their reindeer games anymore.  I fucking love Russell.

Sookie and Jason take the scroll to the fairy nightclub and one of the fairies reads it.  It is a 1702 contract: promising the first female fairy in the Stackhouse family to that vampire Warlow.  Surprise surprise: it's Sookie.

Previously on True Blood / next time on True Blood

PS - One of the days I'll fix the links list over there on the right.  Today is not that day.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mini book review: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Magic is failing, fading from existence.  Oh sure, nearly-sixteen year old Jennifer Strange, foundling and de facto manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management, is currently quite busy keeping track of the agency's wizards and witches, sending them out to rewire houses and deliver take-out curries (by flying carpet), but the magic is fading, no doubt.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there is only one dragon left, the ancient Maltcassion, ensconced in the protected Dragonlands, and all the Ununited Kingdoms in Great Britain are itching to get their hands on those lands.  Jennifer and her trusty Quarkbeast - he of fearsome visage, dreadful fangs and unwavering obedience - are soon dragged into the political machinations surrounding the dragon's upcoming death, next Sunday at noon, by the last Dragonslayer.

Ten pages into The Last Dragonslayer, I was sure that I'd read it before.  I hadn't, as it turns out, but Jasper Fforde's light, clever, funny prose is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett and Ysabeau S. Wilce (she of Flora Segunda and Flora's Dare), with a touch of the self-conscious Lemony Snickett.  It's fun and a very quick read - whilst listed as YA fantasy, it's a fairly young YA - with a couple of touching moments sprinkled in to keep it from being completely fluffy.

USA - The Last Dragonslayer - paperback