Tag Archives: Television

Every Day!

Today begins the writing group’s annual Story Every Day event. Should be fun! I’ve got a jump on a story already that I’ve been working on, so some of my SEDs will likely be chunks of that. We’ll be meeting tonight to get started, as a group. I’ll be posting as much as I can here in the process.

In other news, I’ve been watching “Luthor” via Netflix. Sooooo good. If you need a good example of how to write great villains without overshadowing your equally great hero, this is where you want to look.

Edit: SONUVA–link removed because there are some major spoilers there. I just ruined some major plot points for myself. Thanks, BBC!

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Capes

This is my month for non-powered superheroes, I guess. I just watched the first two episodes of NBC’s “The Cape” and quite enjoyed it. (Though I’m reading now that the pilot was two hours, so I guess that’s all I’ve watched.)

The Cape is an old-school style escapist hero, a guy with no powers but a handy selection of escape artist and magician sleight-of-hand tricks and, well, a nifty cape. Add in a stable of villains that could easily be Batman B-listers and you’ve got a pretty decent formula for a show. There’s a dash of humor that keeps it from getting campy (most of the time). Summer Glau plays (the so far criminally underused) Oracle Orwell, providing high-tech eyes and ears for our hero.

It has a plenty of problems. The direction is a bit lacking. The main villain of the show, a guy named Chess, is played perhaps a little over the top compared to the rest of the show. The Cape learns skills like hypnotism and how to fight with his fancy cape in a matter of days (weeks maybe?). In a comic book, that would have been something the hero spent years or decades doing off in some Eastern nation before he returned for his vengeance. I can understand their desire to speed it all up, though. Other than our hero, none of the characters has really been developed, but I expect that to change – if it doesn’t the show will have some serious problems.

Still, there was plenty for me to like. I’ll be watching. I expect it’ll be canned before too much longer.

Consumption

(but not the wasting kind…wait, they’re both sort of the wasting kind aren’t they?)

Watched Inception over the weekend. Amazing!

Also watched the first couple episodes of “Louie.” Greatness. And thus Louis CK gets added to the pile of people to whom my wife compares me (a distinguished list that also includes Ricky Gervais and Larry David). I just have more hair.

I’m like Serpentor, if his DNA had been culled from and hilariously awkward comedians.

Reading-wise, I just finished up Michael Moorcock’s A Nomad of the Time Streams trilogy. It was a quick read, and a lot of fun. The stories get increasingly darker as you progress through the three books, which are essentially Moorcock’s deconstruction of Imperialism. I highly recommend them.

I’m chugging through China Miéville’s The Scar now, and it is as usual incredible. I picked up another fantasy book, a new book by a new writer (I think) at the same time, purely on impulse, but didn’t make it far. I will itemize the following rules for prospective fantasy writers:

  • I should be able to tell the difference between the name of a person and the name of a city, artifact, or creature.
  • There should not be a made-up word in every single paragraph.
  • I no longer care about royalty (did I ever, I wonder?) or who/whatever else rules the kingdom.

I finished a story over the weekend, worked at it to get it to an easily sell-able flash length, then realized it is only the end of a story, and probably needs a good thousand words prior to where I start. Such is the life of a fiction writer.

When do we dance?

I attempted to watch Wings of Desire and failed utterly. I get it, it’s pretty and artful and life sucks. After an hour of nothing happening I gave up. Please don’t mistake me for someone with the attention span of a Michael Bay Transformers fan, or who doesn’t like “reading” at the movies. I’m a huge fan of Kurosawa, for example, and he doesn’t exactly have the most fast-paced movies. But you don’t need an hour to develop a character whose defining characteristic is that he’s bored.

On the plus side, now I get all those Sprockets jokes.

I watched The Friends of Eddie Coyle last night, and it was fantastic. Great story of a small-time hood in over his head in a town full of scumbags. Robert Mitchum and Peter both turn in excellent performances. Check it out. The film got a really nice Criterion edition just this past year.

And just to end on a down note, I checked out the first episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand on Starz. Wow was it bad. Probably one of the worst things I’ve seen on television. They essentially took everything that was good about HBO’s Rome, threw it out, then added in effects from 300 that they clearly didn’t have the budget to recreate. When the appearance of Lucy Lawless doesn’t persuade me to keep watching, you know you’ve got a problem.

Miscellania

My day job has gone into crazy overtime busy season, so I’m getting pretty much nothing done (other than my twitter stories, of course). I am, however, finding time to read and what not. A little, anyway.

Reading

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young. This is Wonderful Wizard of Oz, art by Skottie Youngthe recent comic book adaptation of the classic Baum book, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never read the originals, but I understand this is pretty faithful to the novels. It’s a lot of fun, and I recommend nabbing the hardcover so you have a version to read to your kids. Work is already under way on Marvelous Land of Oz, the next book in the series.

Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. I mentioned some time back that I read Iron Council, which is actually the third book in the series that begins with Perdido Street Station. As much as I loved Iron Council, I think this may have been a tiny bit better. So good. I can’t recommend Mieville’s books enough. If you enjoy fantasy or steampunk, you will certainly enjoy these books.

I just started in on the behemoth Illuminatus! Trilogy, by the Roberts Shea and Anton Wilson. At the rate I read, I will report back sometime in 2013.

Watching

Veronica MarsI finished up the last season of Veronica Mars this past weekend, sort of on accident. I didn’t realize I’d reached the end until popping the last disc to discover it contained only speacial features. There are only twenty episodes in the third season, so I must surmise the network didn’t let them finish properly. Two episodes would have easily been enough to let them wrap up a few hanging plot threads. While it’s a shame it ended on such a whimper, I enjoyed the show immensely. The first season is easily one of the best seasons of television ever made, and the second is nearly as strong. The last season was decent, certainly better than most of what gets put on the air. Any fan of mystery and noir will find a lot to like.

Paris, Texas, which is quite good. Moving character drama with powerful performances all around, and some great visuals. At first when I saw the bleak, desert landscape, I immediately thought, “Paris is in northeast Texas, and this is clearly west Texas!” But the film didn’t fall into that usual Hollywood fumble. You can kind of tell that the script wasn’t actually finished when they started filming, but the way the main character develops smooths out the rougher edges of the story and the viewer can fill in the gaps pretty easily. The asshole in me wonders why you would ever turn a camera on anyone other than Nastassja Kinski.

I’ve always wanted to watch director Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire as well, so maybe that’ll go on the queue sometime soon.

From Hell. I probably should have seen this years ago, being both a comic book geek and Alan Moore fan. I’d never really heard much good about it, though, so it just kind of slipped my mind. I’ve also never read the book, so I have no attachment to the source material. It was better than I expected, even if it didn’t blow me away. It looked great, and the story is a fun and interesting alternate history murder mystery procedural conspiracy tale. It fell short in the actually making me scared or suspenseful department, though, which is unfortunate.

That’s about it for now. Anyone reading or watching anything interesting?

Not So Bored Now

Last night HBO premiered its new series, “Bored to Death.” Starring Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson, and Zach Galifianakis, this show is pretty much what you would produce if you were looking to create porn for Alexander Burns.

I’m a big fan of Schwartzman’s, ever since Rushmore, one of my favorite movies. There’s something about the way he can deliver the simplest of lines that is just sublime. He can take a little throwaway sentence like “I understand.” and imbue it with real significance. Rushmore had a great, tight script that really took advantage of that.

Jason Schwartzman - Bored to Death

So take Schwartzman and:

  1. Make him a writer,
  2. living in New York,
  3. pretending to be a private detective,
  4. inspired by Raymond Chandler,
  5. whose best friend is a comic book artist,
  6. (and I believe at one point they made reference to his fascination with British slang and terminology)

and you’ve pretty much pulled something straight out of my brain and put it on television. Galifianakis is a funny guy, too. On top of all that, I loved how they filmed the pilot. There are a lot of very Sam Raimi-esque shots that tickled me. Honestly, the only thing that would make this more crack-like for me is if Ted Danson turned out to be a robot.

The pilot was a bit slow, introducing everything and what not, and I feel like they probably could have developed the characters a little more. The standard troubles pilots usually have. The big problem I see is that I think it may end up suffering from being only a half hour long.

Still, I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. HBO will repeat it like a billion times this week, and you can watch it for free via iTunes, so you should have plenty of chances.

We used to be friends

Yeah, started in on Veronica Mars this weekend. Whoever was in charge of informing me of this show’s awesomeness will be fed to the alligators for dereliction of duty.

Fresh new rejection waiting for me this morning. They said they loved everything but the part that I thought was the most fun and clever. So I don’t know what to think about that. No matter, there are other homes at which it will fit, I hope. I just have to sit on it for a month awaiting submission periods. Sigh.

Other than that, I’m juggling about half a dozen writing projects at once. It’s a little tiring.

A lot depends on who’s in the saddle.

On kind of a Chandler adaptation kick lately, I watched The Big Sleep last night (just a week or two ago it was The Long Goodbye – if you want a really good time, watch both of these followed by The Big Lebowski). Despite the extraordinarily convoluted plot, it’s a good time. You could tell the writers knew how hard the plot was to follow – there are several points in the film where everything just sort of stops so the characters can sum up what the hell has been going on. You almost don’t even notice the “who killed the chauffeur” plot hole. Mostly you just watch to see Bogey flirt with beautiful women.

Which is what brings me to the inspiration for this post. One of my problems (as I hinted in my last post) with Dollhouse is how the dolls are treated. They’re sex slaves, and it doesn’t seem to bother any of the employees. The show itself doesn’t seem to give the issue a second thought. There are certainly ways that it could be used to discuss a deep moral quandary, but it mostly seems like the show just uses it as an excuse to have Eliza walk around without pants.

The Big Sleep definitely features women as sex objects. Every female in the movie throws herself at Marlowe. (In fact, I thought the scene with him and the girl in the bookstore – played by stunning Dorothy Malone – was  big_sleep-dorothyway sexier than any of the euphemism-laden flirting he engaged in with Bacall.) And Bogey has a blast with it; he’s far from being the best looking guy in Hollywood, but he plays the role with a slick flair that makes the viewer totally buy it.

So we’ve got two different scenarios here. A ’40s detective film in which the women are props designed to make the protagonist look good; and a contemporary action thriller in which women (and men, just to be fair) are programmable dream dates.

But The Big Sleep doesn’t bother me. Marlowe seems to actually respect the women. He treats them as equals even as he admires their physical traits. At a couple points in the film he relies on Vivian to help him out in physical confrontations with the bad guys. He values an intelligent woman as much as a lovely one. It’s pretty remarkable for a film of its time. They’re using sex to sell, sure, but they’re doing it in a classy way.

In Dollhouse, on the other hand, the dolls are mostly treated as pets, and there’s been little evidence that anyone in the Dollhouse ‘verse even cares. Ballard, the FBI agent trying to bust the Dollhouse, has become so obsessedThe little work-safe marketing I could find for Dollhouse that we’re not sure whether he’s doing it because of human rights issues or just to prove himself more stubborn than the next guy. And he’ll probably punch out the next guy anyway. Langton, Echo’s handler, was set up in the first episode as someone who could perhaps be the ethical voice, but he seems to have bought into the Dollhouse line pretty quickly.

I could be totally wrong. It’s a series, so the next couple of episodes may see a complete reversal of this. Someone will be revealed as the traitor and they’ll have some impassioned plea about equality and what not. But 10+ hours in is a little late for for me.

Edit: having read some of the other reactions and critiques of the show that are floating around, and the loads of discussion concerning Dollhouse, I will concede that the show is smarter than I was originally gleaning. I get it. But I’m still not entertained by it or care about anyone in the show. So it’s a wash for me.

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Last night the pilot for the new HBO series, “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” premiered. It looked like a fun, charming show, so we checked it out.

The series (based on a series of books) is about Precious Ramotswe, the first (and only) female private detective in Botswana. She’s a smart, charming woman with a great eye for detail and a consuming desire to help her fellow Batswana. She’s been through some pretty devastating personal tragedies, but pulled through them all with her pride and dignity intact.

In some ways, it’s pretty standard private detective stories – in the pilot, her cases include searching for a missing child, spying on a husband, and a fraud plot.ladies-detective

But there are a couple of differences that make the show a lot of fun to watch. First is Precious herself. She’s the polar opposite of the standard-issue hardboiled dick you usually see in mystery stories. She’s not going to be beating information out of informants. She’s polite and compassionate. Warm and empathetic. On top of that, she’s new to the detective game. She’s learned most of what she knows from a book. There are consequences of this – she makes a critical mistake on one of the cases and it blows up in her face.

The other big difference is the setting. Botswana isn’t some steel canyon of grungy high rises punctuated with elevated trains and smog. It’s a rural society. Technology is limited. But at the same time, Botswana is a prosperous place, and there’s definitely a feel that the standard of life isn’t bad. When someone says they’re happy, you can believe it. You don’t automatically assume the authorities are corrupt or potential war criminals.

The show has a lot of humor, but they don’t shy away from the harsh realities of Africa. There are several references to the AIDS epidemic scattered throughout the show, and you know the bad guys are really bad guys. Their mobsters don’t bust your kneecaps, they kidnap your kid and use his fingers for spell components.

So I definitely recommend the show. If you’ve got HBO, I’m sure they’ll give you plenty of chances to catch up before the second episode airs on Sunday.