Monday, December 26, 2011

Blood and Ashes!


My all-time favorite book series is Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time". My brother introduced me to these books about 14 years ago, when my second son was just a toddler and we were renovating and remodeling a little house in the country and living with my in-laws. I was desperate for some good reading escape material, and my brother said to check these out. I had never really been a big reader of fantasy-- still not, really, though I adore "The Hobbit" and all of the "Harry Potter" books. Back then, I really only read mysteries and some thrillers. I had read all the "Cat Who..." books to that date by Lillian Jackson Braun, most of Dick Francis and Tony Hillerman's collections, and a handful of random titles. I hadn't really read any series of the scope and extent of Jordan's books. Of course, 14 years ago, there weren't as many of them. I think there were 7... maybe.

So I picked up "The Eye of the World" and after slogging through the completely detached and confusing prologue (I tell new readers to skip it, they won't understand it until later, anyway), began the story of Rand al Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara, along with the various female characters, whose names I struggled to pronounce, even in my head: Moiraine, Nynaeve and Egwene. (I happily report that all these years later, those names are no longer so foreign to me...) I was hooked, instantly and deeply. I adored the first book, and, I devoured the rest as quickly as I could. I remember driving down the streets of Salt Lake City, in my old Toyota Corrolla, with the book in one hand, face down, until the red lights, then I would sneak in a page or two until the light changed and I had to put it down again. That's the only time in my life I've actually been hoping to hit lots of red lights.

In my mind, this set of books sets the standard which all other fantasy series try to live up to. I haven't read many fantasy series, still. I've read the first three of George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" books, but there was a bit too much sex and incest for my taste, so I haven't ever re-read them. I started a couple of books by Terry Brooks and someone who I can't even remember, but wasn't really intrigued. I do love Orson Scott Card, and I've read two fantasy (not Sci-Fi-- that's a whole 'nuther genre, and please don't treat them as though they are the same. They aren't) books by him, "Enchantment" and "The Lost Gate", which are both fantastic books, especially the latter. I've read the LOTR trilogy, by the legendary Tolkein, and I was bemused by his over-descriptions of certain aspects of the scenery. I read those long before reading WOT, and yes, I'm aware that most fantasy books pay homage to Tolkein whether deliberately or unintentionally, but in my mind WOT still sets the standard.

I suppose I need to read more fantasy before making such a bold statement, but most that I start are pale imitations of this great series and I just don't care to waste my time on them.

The only series to come close to the magic and power of the world Jordan created (for me) has been Harry Potter. When I read those books, I wish I could visit at Hogwarts just a little longer. But Jordan's world is so vast, so epic and rings so true, I honestly feel like I'm there. Every now and then, especially when I'm doing a re-read of the books, aspects of WOT will creep into my conversation as though it's a real place. For example, once we were driving to Southern Utah for a vacation in the spring, and we were driving past a dry, arid place with no wildlife growing, and my mouth almost said, "Huh, kind of like the Aiel Waste, don't you think?" What made it out was "Huh..." and then I just grinned...

There are fans that are obsessed with these books, who attend "Jordon Con" and other events; who create costumes and fan art; who write songs and create video dedicated to WOT. I find them amusing, but I don't want to join their ranks. I adore these stories, I feel like I know the characters personally, but I am happily able to separate fantasy from reality.

It's been a long time since I read the entire series. A few years ago, when Brandon Sanderson finished book 12, I listened to it in absolute glee. When book 13 came out, I was in awe. Sanderson has taken the magic of Jordan and made it even better! I would have thought that would be impossible. Sanderson is a wizard. Absolutely amazing. His solo books are good, and getting better with time, but none of his older stuff is anywhere near as great as WOT. Until now. His "The Way of Kings" is excellent, and I look forward to more of the same. In the meantime, though, WOT reigns supreme and I'm just thrilled to have him at the wheel.

Yesterday, for Christmas, my husband gave me a Kindle Touch. It's nice and a lot of fun. Just for kicks, I downloaded a "sample" of "The Eye of the World", which I haven't read in about 6 years, I think. I can't put it down... If I pace myself, I could read a book a month and be done right about the time that the last book is released next year. But I've never been very good at pacing myself... I read super fast. I'll have to make a concerted effort to savor the stories, to try and keep all the Aes Sedai and Windfinders and nobles and other second- and third-tier characters straight. Maybe I'll finally figure out who Demandred is hiding as. Maybe I'll remember things I've forgotten and notice details that didn't make sense before.


Whatever happens, I'm sure I will enjoy the ride. Again. May you always find water and shade.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mission... IMPOSSIBLE!

Midway through a long day of last-minute Christmas shopping (of which I am so NOT a fan), my husband and I went to see the new "Mission Impossible" movie today. He was happy to be out seeing a movie instead of at work, and I was happy to be seeing Josh Holloway again... at least, I thought I would be happy to see him again... because his name is in the first 10 or so names in the credits... and I stupidly got my hopes up that he would be an actual character of note. Friends of mine (also shameless "Lost" fans) had speculated that maybe he was one of the baddies... which we would have enjoyed. He became my favorite on "Lost", and I was so excited to see him doing something new.  So imagine my disappointment, when he appeared in less than 5 minutes of film. Wha??? I was very disappointed. I won't say more, because I don't want to be the spoiler lady.

As far as the film itself, I liked it. It was exciting, had some breathtaking scenes and was well cast. I'm not a huge Tom Cruise fan, but I like the other members of his team in the film quite a lot. Simon Pegg is excellent, as always, and the casting of Jeremy Renner as Agent Brandt was brilliant. I am giddily awaiting the release of "The Avengers" next year, in which Renner plays "Hawkeye". He had a small part, little more than a cameo, in "Thor", and I liked him then. In "Mission", he's funny, charming and very believable as an ISA agent.

The movie is a little bit Bourne and a little Bond, adventurous, stunt-heavy with a barely believable evil plot to destroy the world. There were some fantastic moments where I cringed, clutched my husband's arm, and held my breath.

I can't bring myself to pay nearly $9 for a movie ticket, so we went to a matinee, and it was a full theater, and we only had a couple of idiots with cell phones. I've learned that if you sit on the back row, energetic tweens won't distract from the movie by kicking your seat the whole time. Unfortunately, so have a lot of other people, so our row was packed, elbow-to-elbow, but it was a fun time. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Super 8!!

Take a little bit of "E.T.", a portion of "Jurassic Park", a smidge of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (all directed by Steven Spielberg) and a heaping scoop of the Rob Reiner directed "Stand By Me". The result is "Super 8", written and directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Spielberg. It is a terrific sci-fi movie, set in the '70's and starring a bunch of newcomer kids, all of whom were perfectly cast. I loved the fun, comic-relief moments, the authenticity of the kids' relationships and dialogue and the fast-paced script. The middle-school romance was sweet and endearing, the heroics just believable enough, and the pacing of the direction was excellent.  There are enough startle moments to keep you on your toes, and I have always liked Kyle Chandler, who plays the deputy/dad character perfectly.

"Super 8" had some of the best movie trailers I've seen in a long time-- scary, fascinating, enticing, with just a tiny bit of the story. I love a trailer that teases the viewers, making us want to see the movie, giving us just a taste of what to expect, without showing us the whole movie. Fantastic!!

This is a very Spielberg-esque movie and I enjoyed it very much. However, I was surprised by the heavy dose of common cusses by the tweens, mostly the s-word, so-called "religious" swearing, and one loud and clear f-bomb (said by an older character). It was unnecessary and annoying, and made my 12-year old uncomfortable.

We are in the habit of letting a movie run through the credits, and we were rewarded this time with the film that the kids in the movie were making-- a zombie flick intended to be entered in a local film festival. It was very funny.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Props to Pandora!

My 16-year-old son recently introduced me to the Pandora app on the ipod touch.  I tend to be very particular about music and haven't really used it much for music, but it occurred to me to look for a comedy station, and, much to my delight I found a PG comedy station!  It is mostly clean, family-friendly comedy-- bits from various comics shuffled together for my enjoyment.  The only thing I've heard that I wouldn't consider "family-friendly" was a short routine about sex after marriage.  Really, though, with hours of listening to it, that was the only even moderately offensive thing!  Well, unless you count the "bible" swears.  Those are used quite freely...

The comics include our family favorite Brian Regan, as well as Jim Gaffigan, Henry Cho, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Bill Cosby, Steven Wright, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Frank Caliendo, and a bunch I'm not very familiar with, but who are also very funny.  My one complaint is that they don't play very much Ellen, and she's hilarious.  Oh, and they play too much Cosby.  I know most of his routines almost by heart, having listened to them since I was a girl and my dad had a couple of his records.

Thumbs up and big thanks to Pandora for providing my children and me with a place to hear some great comedy without risking too much naughtiness or language making its way through their headphones...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Anticipating 2012 Movies

My two-and-a-half teenage sons and I are very excited about next year's promised crop of movies. We are looking forward to:

Spiderman.  Yep, another "reboot".  My son tells me this version will be truer to the comics, including Gwen Stacey as Parker's big High School crush, rather than MaryJane, who came much later in the comic books.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I love Martin Freeman.  I think he's such a fantastic, understated,  subtle actor.  I was so impressed by his performance as John Watson in the BBC production "Sherlock", and I can't wait to see his Bilbo Baggins.  I have a soft spot for hobbits as it is, so the casting of Freeman pushes this movie into the short list of my most anticipated movies for next year.



"The Dark Knight Rises"-  I was so impressed by Christian Bale's Batman, in spite of his throaty stage voice, and in spite of the darker nature of the most recent movies.  I found "The Dark Knight" a bit too dark for my taste, but "Batman Begins" is one of my all-time favorite films.  Just great entertainment.  I am interested in where the story will go, now that Bruce Wayne's lady love has been killed, and he has resigned himself to a life of "darkness".




The 2012 movie I am most looking forward to has to be "The Avengers".  The bringing together of so many awesome characters, played by fantastic actors can't be anything short of amazing:  Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo this time), Hawkeye, Thor and Captain America... did I miss anyone? Enjoy the trailer.



Have You Seen This?

One of the funniest things I have ever seen on the internet.  Whether you are a supporter of Romney or not, this is hilarious.  I love the idea of "bad lip reading".  It reminds me of when we were young and sometimes my dad would just turn down the sound on a particularly bad movie and he (and my brothers, probably) would make up funny dialogue to go along with the stupid action.

This is very good, but most of their other videos are pretty stupid.  I did like the Justin Bieber/Rascal Flatts video, though.  That was good for a laugh, even though I hadn't ever heard the real song...

Enjoy!

Oh Captain, My Captain...

Lack of spending cash has severely damaged my movie attendance in the last few years.  I was very disappointed when I missed the many theatrical showings this year, but my sons and I have enjoyed catching up on my husband's ridiculously-oversized TV at home.  Tonight's installment was the highly anticipated (at our house), "Captain America", which my second son has been talking about since it first went into development.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  As usual, I went into this movie not really knowing the back story, and (as with Thor), not sure the star was good-looking enough to impress me as the hero.  And (as with Thor) I was pleasantly surprised.  Chris Evans provides some lovely patriotic eye-candy.  

As far as the film itself is concerned, I was blown away by the computer-graphic animation (or whatever it's called) that was used to make Evans look much, much smaller than he really is.  It was seamless-- amazing!  They even made his face look slightly slimmer.  He was so cute-- like his own little brother.  Special effects just get better and better. 

This isn't Evans' first foray into the genre of comic-book movies.  He stole the show as "Johnny Storm" in the "Fantastic Four" movies a few years ago, but I wasn't sure he could pull off the sweet-kid-turned-soldier. I was impressed by his seemingly effortless performance. He's a lot more talented than I realized.  I completely believed he was a skinny, bullied young man, and I completely bought his physical transformation that didn't change who he was inside.  

I also enjoyed Hugo Weaving as the Captain's nemesis, Red Skull, but I had a hard time shaking the image of him as Elrond (a leader of one group of elves in the LOTR films), and that was distracting. Not his fault, just what got stuck in my head.  He was good, though, sufficiently evil and naughty.  

I had anticipated that, because the story is set in the 1940s, much of it would have a corny feeling, but the director and scriptwriters handled the cheesy, comic-book stuff really well-- it was amusing, and a little uncomfortable to watch the Captain performing for crowds, encouraging them to buy war bonds, instead of doing what he wanted to do and fighting against the Nazis, but the reaction of WWII-era children (especially those reading "Captain America" comics) was very well written and heartwarming.

There were a few unintentionally amusing things in the movie, which I wouldn't have even noticed had they not been pointed out by someone (so sorry, I can't credit whom, because I can't remember; if anyone knows, please tell me so I can give credit where it's due) such as the fact that the bombs heading for the U.S. were conveniently labeled "New York", "Chicago" and "Boston", in English, though the baddies were German.  Also I wasn't totally convinced that the Captain had to make the choice that he made at the end-- I understand the story has to go that way, but... really?  He couldn't turn the plane around?  I won't say more, I don't want to spoil it if you haven't seen it, but it seemed like a silly thing to do, really.

This was a four-star film, engaging, fun, adventurous, humorous and surprising.  Just what you go to the movies to enjoy.

I found the photo on: http://www.figures.com/forums/news/12450-new-photos-chris-evans-captain-america.html

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Lackluster Lantern...

This weekend, we finally got around to watching last summer's least-liked super-hero movie, "The Green Lantern".  I was, in a word, unimpressed.  I'm not a big Ryan Reynolds fan.  I think he was cute in that movie he was in with Sandra Bullock where she was his boss and they faked an engagement; comedy ensued... but this time, he wasn't cute, he wasn't really all that likeable, and between the dull dialogue, the slow pacing, the obvious CGI, and the easy comparisons to superior films, it was just a big disappointment.

I'm not a big comic book fan, but I love a good super-hero movie, and, even though I had heard from everyone that it was pretty lame, I thought we should give it a fair chance.  Going in with low expectations often helps a movie seem better than it was.  No good here.  Nothing could have saved it.  The Green Lantern story is decent, I can see the appeal of the character, and I totally understand the coolness factor of the Lanterns' power-- how cool to be able to create anything your mind can come up with-- but it didn't translate well to the big screen.

Now on to "Captain America"...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My friend gave me the Liebster Award!




I will pass it on to the blogs listed below.  These are the rules:
The Liebster Award is one given to highlight up and coming blogs. These blogs usually have less than 200 followers. It does come with a few rules: 

1. Copy and paste the award onto your blog.
2. Thank the giver and link back to the blog that gave you the award.
3. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving them a comment.
4. Hope that your followers spread the love to other bloggers. 



Here are my picks:
http://lauradbastian.blogspot.com/
http://dancesdishesanddreams.blogspot.com/
http://craftingintherain.blogspot.com/ (this blog has over 200 followers, but it is such a great blog, I thought she deserved to be noticed)


I don't follow very many blogs, I simply don't have time to read them.  My favorite blogs besides these 3 are well over 200 followers, so they don't really qualify. 


Check out my friends' blogs, though.  You'll be glad you stopped by. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Friday Night Flick

Working full time makes it very difficult to find time to blog.  SO this will be short, because it's the end of my work week and I'm exhausted and tomorrow is another busy day.  My sons, husband and I watched "The Adjustment Bureau" tonight, which features my imaginary boyfriend, Matt Damon, as a politician whose life is being controlled by the titular Bureau, who inexplicably doesn't want him to be with the girl he loves (Emily Blunt), so he runs around a lot and looks stressed out or sad a lot, and keeps breaking her heart by just disappearing from her life (except I'm fairly sure she saw him on TV, because he's running for Senate... um... not sure why she didn't just go to HIM and confront him...) and she gets engaged twice to another man (some guy named Adrian, I think), then twice ditches said fiance, poor fella.

It's pretty good, somewhat predictable, but refreshingly creative and energetic. It's no Bourne movie, and the story seemed a bit... flat, but it was a decent free library dvd.  I liked the humor, Damon had a lot of cute, flirtatiously funny lines.  I liked Harry an angel (?) who ends up helping them, he was well played by Anthony Mackie.  He's good-looking and seemed to be the only Bureau member with a conscience or brain.

This movie is advertised to be a thriller, and I suppose it is, though only just barely.  They cuss a handful of times, including the obligatory "you-can't-stop-us" f-bomb, which Hollywood seems to think belongs in any movie not PG, but which I could have done without.  Who needs it?  And the little sprinkling of "sexual content" was very short-- short enough to wonder why they even put it in.  It wasn't graphic, but sexy enough to make my two and a half teenage sons uncomfortable.  And me, sitting next to them, as well! We did the "cover your eyes!" game that we have to play with so many movies.  Ugh.

Thanks to IMDB for the details such as actors' names, and to the world wide web for the photo. Google's image search is a wonderful thing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

And we're back.

I finally finished watching all 6 seasons of "Lost" today.  The final episode, which generated fan complaints and dissatisfaction, was actually lovely.  I enjoyed it, in spite of the tears I shed while watching.  Of course, there are multiple questions in the so-called mythology of the series that were left unanswered, which was mildly frustrating.  There were things I didn't understand that never got

Granted, I didn't dedicate 6 years of viewing to the show, like fans who watched it during its run did, and maybe that contributed to the feeling that I'm just glad to be finished with it, rather than feeling disappointed that the end didn't explain everything.

I do think the show didn't really need 6 seasons to tell its story.  I think 4 or 5 would have been sufficient...

I did find myself very attached to these characters, Desmond, Charlie, Hurley and Sawyer in particular. Good stuff...

I don't want to say too much because I know that future fans would probably not appreciate me spoiling any of the fun, and there are a lot of mysteries and secrets to enjoy. If you haven't watched it, give it a look!  It's on Netflix streaming, or your local library might have the DVDs for your enjoyment.  Just be careful, because if you like it as well as I did, you'll have a hard time doing much else besides watching TV.

Now it's time to catch up on my TV shows, movies and (especially) books!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Season Late and an Admission Price Short

I'm finally, slowly, catching up on the summer moviest that I missed out on during the actual summer.  The list I wanted to see included a handful of comic-book-ish movies, such as "Green Lantern" (haven't seen it yet), "Thor" (check out my sort-of review, HERE), "Cowboys and Aliens" (yes, I know it's based on a Graphic novel which is not the same thing as a comic book... see my review, HERE), "Captain America" (really looking forward to seeing it), and "X-Men First Class", which I watched with my husband and 3 1/2 teenage boys.

Here's what I thought:
I have a longstanding Hollywood crush on James McAvoy, so I was really looking forward to his screen presence, his voice, his accent (oh, that accent...) and his interpretation of the character of Charles Xavier. I think he was as good as ever-- bringing charm and sweetness (but not too sweet) to Xavier and intelligently spouting out sciencey lines with ease.  He was great; I wanted to see more of him.  My only distraction (besides those blue eyes) was that every time he put his fingers on his temple to read someone's mind, I was reminded of Shaun Spencer (played by James Roday) of Psych.  So that pulled me out of the movie. I am curious whether Xavier does that with his fingers in the comic book?? Look at the pictures if you don't believe me...
 Actually, Mcavoy used one hand through the movie, as does Roday (most of the time), but I couldn't find photos of them both doing that, so just enjoy the comparison and don't worry about that detail, please.

Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr), the other main leading character, was played by Michael Fassbender, who was good.  He was believable and effective, and I liked his relationship with Xavier.  His power to move, manipulate and use metals magnetically was excellent.  Modern special effects are magic!

Then there was Kevin Bacon!  When I was a teenager, Footloose hadn't been out all that long, (it came out in 1984, when I was 12), and Kevin Bacon was still a cute, young adult whose star was rising fast.  I have always liked him, and I have very much enjoyed his often humorous appearances in movies-- in particular his cab-stealing cameo in "Planes Trains and Automobiles" with Steve Martin.  He played a rather evil man in "X-Men First Class", Sebastian Shaw, whose manipulation and torture of a young Erik create a world of anger and hatred, resentment and unhappiness for Erik.  Bacon's performance was good, his character was consistent.  I think I prefer him being subtly funny to him being evil, though...

I liked getting to know the X-Men a little bit, the young mutants with their various abilities were interesting, and some of them went through some good character growth and maturing; others seemed there just to fill the room, but it was fine.  I loved Hugh Jackman's little cameo, but I could have done without the f-bomb he dropped.  I also cannot recommend this movie unequivocally, because of the repeated scenes of women in lingerie and one in a bed who is obviously not wearing anything at all.  I want movies I can watch with teenage boys and NOT get uncomfortable!! As my Step-Mother pointed out recently, the problem with sexuality and immodesty in movies is that it's actually real people not wearing clothes, acting these things out, as opposed to violence and explosions, which are not real.  Sexual content in films is not necessary, and it doesn't make a movie any higher quality.  In fact, I think it denigrates women and makes me NOT want to purchase copies of those films.   But I digress.

Overall, "X-Men First Class" was a fun movie, with some humor, some heart, a little revenge and science, and I liked it.  I won't be buying it, however.  Sadly...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Coming Soon...

Movie trailers are something I have loved my entire life.  There's a delicious anticipation in sitting in a freshly darkened theater, popcorn and Redvines in hand, a hush settling on the crowd and the screen flickering to life.  Flashes, clips, bits of enticing dialogue, snazzy music and that familiar deep voice present just enough tidbits of a soon-to-be-released movie to leave us wanting more. We might even lean forward in excitement, or turn to our neighbor as the screen momentarily flashes black to exclaim, "Wow!  That looks good!"  Then it begins again, the green ratings screen appears, and we settle back for the next small treat.

Good movie trailers are like tasting the cake batter.  Yummy enough to pique your interest and promising something even better to come.

Poor movie trailers, however, are an entirely different experience of disappointment and letdown.  Some show the entire movie in quick-flashing snippets, leaving the viewer feeling disinterested and unfulfilled.  Others are so inane ("G-Force", anyone?) that one might question the sanity of producers who put up money to make such rubbish.

Another point to make here is that in modern movie theaters, before the trailers, we have to sit through a handful of car, Coke and shoe commercials.  I despise this practice.  I've already paid an excessive price for the ticket and treats.  I shouldn't have to be bombarded by commercials in every single media outlet on the planet.  But that's another blog discussion altogether.

Overall, my habitual enthusiasm for trailers has not waned as I've grown older, and I even look forward to them on DVD, hushing my family and hurrying to get into my seat before they begin.

So what movies that are scheduled for the upcoming fall/Christmas season are you looking forward to, based on their great trailers?  Here are a few I have thoroughly enjoyed and can't wait to watch the films for:

 
The new "Muppets" movie looks clever and updated and funny, I can't wait!
If you haven't read my previous post about Matt Damon, then maybe you won't understand why I'm looking forward to this one beyond the fact that it does look like an interesting premise and hopefully a much more entertaining film than "The Zookeeper" with Kevin James looks.  I didn't see it. I won't see it.  Talking animals in live action films with humans make me crazy.


Okay, these are the only two I could find.  There aren't many movies coming soon that I'm all that interested in.  Share your upcoming favorites in the comments and I'll post the trailers if I agree with you. :)

On suggestion of my crafty friend:  (I'm not actually all that excited about this one, I'll have to reread the books and see if I feel differently this time around.  I thought they were good, but one of those series that maybe shouldn't be brought to the "big screen"... but I know a lot of people are really excited about it, so here you go!)

My sister, whose comment wouldn't post, suggested this and I agree with her, this one looks really good!  Very Bourne-Bond-ish. :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jumping the Shark

I've been pondering the meaning behind the modern idiom, "jumping the shark".  I learned about this when it was referenced on the wonderfully entertaining but short-lived "Arrested Development", which featured Ron Howard as the narrator and Henry Winkler as a lawyer named Barry Zuckercorn.  The inside joke originates from a few angles.  One is that Winkler and Howard shot to fame together on "Happy Days" a few decades earlier, when they were both much younger.  On the premiere episode of that show's fifth season, Winkler's character, known as Fonzie, performed a waterskiing stunt, (wearing his leather jacket!) by jumping over a shark in an enclosure near a beach.  The other is simply the physical act of jumping the shark-- Winkler "winks" at his past by literally jumping over a dead shark on a dock on "Arrested Development".  The joke is also a self-deprecating (though untrue) poke at "Arrested Development".

Here are the two clips, first from "Happy Days" and then the funny reference on "Development"
  
This is the idiom's current meaning as defined by Wikipedia: 
"Jumping the shark is an idiom, first employed to describe a moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery.
In its initial usage, it referred to the point in a television program's history where it has "outlived its freshness" [1] where viewers feel "the writers have run out of ideas" and that "the series has [lost] what made it attractive."[2] These changes were often the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose audience had begun to decline.[3]"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_the_shark


 This is just a little something to watch for.  There have been many instances of this being done over the years, and I guess it's really a matter of personal opinion for viewers as to when they feel a show has "jumped the shark". And if you haven't watched "Arrested Development" yet, you really should.  It's one of the best TV shows I've ever watched. It's not for everyone, and it can get kind of naughty-- adult jokes, it's not for kids. But it's very funny and clever.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fall TV

It's that lovely time of year when the air begins to cool, the leaves die in spectacular visual fashion, the kids return to school, I begin thinking about Christmas shopping and Halloween costumes, and, best of all, the TV shows we know and love return for our entertainment.  What shows are you looking forward to this year?  Here is my list, photos courtesy of various network websites:


"The Office"- NBC's most popular 1/2 hour comedy returns for its 8th season, without the great Michael Scott. Longtime fans were sad to see him go, he was really the focal point of the show, even when he wasn't the focus of each episode.  He will be missed, but I look forward to seeing just how the writers manage to replace him with James Spader as the new boss.  Will he be quirky?  Undoubtedly.  Will he be as nutty as Michael?  I hope not.  I hope they let his character be unique, but still entertaining.  I am not a huge Spader fan, so he will have to win me over, but I have faith in the writers.  And if it doesn't work, this show had a good run, and it wouldn't be the end of the world for it to wrap up while it's "ahead". New episodes premiere on September 22, at 8:00 p.m.

ABC's crime comedy-drama, "Castle". I love this show.  I am a fan of the star, Nathan Fillion, but I also have grown to really love the other actors/characters on the show.  I look forward to seeing how they resolve the season-ending cliff-hanger from last spring, where Kate was hospitalized.  I wrote about it here. It should be an exciting beginning to the fourth season of this entertaining show.  "Castle" returns on September 19th at 9:00 p.m.



Another winner from ABC is the more traditional-format sitcom, "The Middle", starring Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn.  The kids are exceptionally well cast, and the show is, in my opinion, the funniest half-hour on TV right now.  I laugh out loud more than once during every episode.  The show's creators and writing team have managed to perfectly capture life in middle class, mid-life America right now.  If you haven't seen this show, get renting or streaming and catch up.  This year begins the
third season of larger-than-life adventures for the Heck family.  Seriously, check it out. Especially those who currently have or have raised teenage boys will love it.  Or awkward early-teenage girls. Or any kids, for that matter.  Or no kids-- you were kids once, right?  You'll enjoy this show.

The show I am most excited about, though, is "Psych", which airs on USA. This show is the funniest HOUR on TV, and my only complaint is that they are making us wait clear until October 12 for it to return.  After which, I will have to watch it on Hulu.com, because we no longer have a satellite.  Not that I'm complaining, I'm just so glad Hulu is there for me.  I love the characters and I am so excited to see what happens now that Shaun and Juliet are officially a couple.  It's been a fun ride so far, with many a crime solved in entertaining and crazy ways.  I can't wait for Season 6...  If you haven't watched this show, but you love obscure '80's references and fake psychics (this show came first, by the way, and has poked fun at "The Mentalist"...), you will love this show.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Oceans and other things I like to look at...

 Last weekend, my teenage sons and my husband and I watched the three "Ocean's" movies (11, 12 and 13) featuring that glorious Hollywood trio of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.  Well, to be honest, hubby and I only watched the first two.  The first movie is well paced, entertaining, and all the confusing bits get explained soon enough to not be annoying.  Not so with the second.  It was overly-muddled, under-explained and, frankly, boring.  I didn't care for the flimsy plot, which seemed an obvious excuse to bring back a star-studded cast and not much else. The only thing I actually enjoyed was the evolution of Damon's character, Linus.  In the first film, the character was young.  The films were made in 2001, 2004 and 2007, so through the course of the movies, Damon ages 6 years total, and it shows.  He is adorable in the first movie, attractive in the second, and hunky in the third.  I love that his character is the go-to guy with the fast hands.  This entry is quickly devolving into an "I heart Matt Damon" schlop and that's not what I had in mind.  I intended to increase your cinematic intelligence with a thoughtful discussion of the three aforementioned "Ocean's" films and not sound like a 13 year old girl with a celebrity crush.

But I can't do it.

So I won't.

Enjoy some Damon-flavored "eye candy" instead and go watch the "Bourne" movies, "Good Will Hunting", "Invictus" and "Ocean's 11". 

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm more than halfway through the second season of "Lost" now.  It's kind of bugging me how so many of the characters have behaved out of... character... all season.  I don't get it.  And I'm getting tired of the moony-eyed stares and people shooting people randomly and multiple inexplicable plotlines still hanging unexplained and muddled... I completely understand why my brothers both gave up after the second season.  I will continue on, though, as recommended by so many fans.  I will give it a fighting chance by sticking with it into the third season.  It had better improve, though...

I still like the characters and the story is still mostly compelling.  In fact, the show reminds me of a rather long novel. There are sections that make me have to keep reading, and sections that are weak and less interesting. I keep coming back for more with the hope that it will return to the enjoyment of the first few chapters...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Obsessed much?

I've been watching an average of two episodes each day.  I can't stop, because I need to know what comes next.  It's compulsive... I'm addicted... I can't stop!!  I'm about 4 episodes into season 2 and although I wasn't as taken with this season as the first, it is still very compelling TV.  I care about these characters and I HAVE to see what happens next.  This must have been extremely frustrating to fans of the show during its run, because they couldn't watch 2-3 episodes in one sitting (as I can... while doing chores, but still...).  They had to wait a week between episodes and months after a season-ending cliffhanger.  Oy.  I would have given up. :)  So, although I'm not nuts about Netflix raising their prices, I'm still a fan of theirs for having all of "Lost" on streaming for me. Now... do I have time for just one more???

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Lost" and Found

I started "Lost" on Sunday by watching episode 1.  That night I had a nightmare.  I no longer remember the details except that there was a familiar damp jungle and a feeling of "something hiding in the woods".  I wasn't expecting the first episode to be so scary!  I don't mean the plane crash, I was expecting that, but not the unseen, enormous monster in the jungle part.  *Shudder*.  I did go back for a second episode, and it wasn't as scary, but just as intriguing.  I am not wholly hooked, but I am definitely interested.  I will be watching episode 3 as soon as I have both time and desire at once.  So far, I have been keeping pretty busy with the first days of school for my kids and the first weeks of a new job for me! I will probably only get to see a couple of episodes a week, but that will be enough, I think...

Dare I write down who I think will be the next to die?  I am trying not to assume anything by the fact that certain characters aren't featured in photos from future seasons.  I am also trying very hard not to look online for spoilers... I'll be good.


My Ipod Made Me Do It.

Today my ipod took me to the past with the music of Michael Jackson.  I have a few of his albums from when I was young, I don't really like his last few, but I have a soft spot for "Off the Wall", "Bad" and especially "Thriller".
I was 7 years old when "Off the Wall" was released, and I didn't become aware of it until years later, when in 1984, "Thriller" hit the radio stations and tape (yes, children, tape) players of my friends and sister. I was 12 years old.  That's the time I began my pop culture education, probably like most of you.  I hadn't really been into music before that, just listening to my dad's records, mostly ABBA, Herman's Hermits and whatever he had on the record player.

When my sister bought "Off the Wall", we must have only played a couple of the songs over and over.  I am not a big disco fan, and much of that album is deeply disco-style. I do remember "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough", nearly word for word, as well as "Rock With You" and "Off the Wall".  These were songs my sister and I probably sang along to and really loved.  But nothing came close to how much I loved the album "Thriller".

Michael Jackson led the way for other artists with his smooth transition from the disco of the 70's to the rock/pop of the 80's.  It's very different from what Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Doors, etc. were singing during those years.  It's completely different from hard bands like Rush, AC/DC, Kiss, etc. as well.  His music has a definitive "pop" feeling to it.  It's also very different from the 50's and 60's bubbly popular music.  It was unique (in my opinion) and almost every teenager in the 80's embraced it, sending "Thriller" rocketing to #1.  We loved it.  The album uses various musical styles, including what could be called "post-disco", in "PYT", R&B, but mostly pop.

The title song on the album "Thriller" is unique, nothing like it has ever come along that is quite as effective, and the music video, which we all tuned in to MTV to watch.  It was mesmerizing, scary, and very fun.  I loved it!  I even went so far as to record it (yes, children, you used to record TV) on the VCR (you remember those, right?) and play the zombie dance sequence over and over to learn the moves.

The best memories, though, are of sitting in the bedroom I shared with my older sister and listening to the tape over and over again. I remember that with such a warm feeling of camaraderie and friendship with her.  It wasn't too many years later that she went to High School and we decided we didn't much like each other any more, so I'm so glad we had those years together, sharing music.  (We are now very good friends again, lest you think we never got over our teenage nonsense.) She had a box of memorabilia that she stored under her bed-- a couple of commemorative pepsi cans, magazines, etc. (I wonder where that stuff went?) that I used to covet.

I also liked "Bad" (1987) quite a bit, though it never captured my heart the way "Thriller" did.  It was good, but it didn't have the sweetness of "Thriller".  It does, however, have some excellent dance numbers and in the show number "Smooth Criminal", it's obvious that Michael was enjoying living out an old-time movie fantasy, so it's fun to watch and listen to.

I never fully believed he had a skin condition, though I suppose it was probably true.  It was very odd to watch this man who was born black with normal features morph into a pale, plastic, broken-beaked man.  His nose became a tragedy of plastic surgery, and the rest of his face was incredibly strange as well. It was heartbreaking that the young man I thought was so cute in the early 80's had disappeared, mutilated by well-paid plastic surgeons (not that I see him as a victim of his surgeons, though- it was a tragic addiction that I watched in horror over the years.)

It was very sad for me when Jackson started acting bizarrely (well, more bizarrely) in the late 80's and 90's, taking vacations with Macauley Culkin (who was still quite young), showing his Neverland Ranch (which was kind of fascinating in a sad, I-wish-I-were-a-child way), supposedly fathering a few oddly-named children, marrying and divorcing the daughter of Elvis Presley, marrying again, divorcing again, and of course, being accused of child molestation.  He was never convicted, but no one ever looked at him the same.  It was very sad; regardless of whether he did it or not, people were hurt and his life and career would never quite be the same.  It's possible he was guilty, it's also possible that these people saw an opportunity for a settlement from one of the wealthiest people in America and jumped on it.  I think he was looney, but I don't dare really even have an opinion as to his guilt.

 I will always love those 80's albums by Michael.  I was sorry he died the way he did, so young and leaving three children behind, but in the end, it's probably just as well.  Would his face have deteriorated until we were watching a skeletal MJ sing and dance and try to defend unusual behavior?  Would he have had more legal trouble?  They say he was out of money; his career was declining; he was becoming not much more than a sideshow freak. Then again, maybe he's still alive and living in South America with Elvis...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

If I don't return in three days, send help...


Yesterday, I had my first day of my new job.  I will be working at the local city library, as a technician.  Whatever that means. :)  I will soon find out, I'm sure.  Much to my amusement, when the other new employee and I met with the three heads of departments today, in a meeting peppered with laughter and humor, we were told that our first assignment is to go home and start watching "Lost".  Apparently, among many of the library staff, that show and "Dexter" are extremely popular.  Steve, the IT guy and supervisor, said, "Everyone here either loves "Lost" or hates it.  Those who hate it haven't watched it, they just get sick of hearing about it."

That conversation lasted at least 10 minutes, and it was rather amusing, with Steve sharing how he saw these numbers in order as he drove down the street (Rachel, the other supervisor gasped, eyes wide at the numbers), and the Director, Jami, telling us how she's got some guidebook to the series and that someone wants to borrow it, but she won't let them because they're only one season into it, etc.  It was very funny.

And I've decided I should probably check out the show, so that when my co-workers exchange meaningful glances at certain words (or numbers...) then I won't feel... well... lost.





As for the other show popular among library employees, I'm not entirely sure whether to watch "Dexter" or not.  This is not only a show about a serial killer, but it's a show about a serial killer that is made for HBO.  Which means my normal standard of decency and gore tolerance will probably be tested if I do watch it.  I'll have to think it over and discuss it with my siblings that are fans... anyone want to weigh in on either show?  I do so love comments..

Monday, August 8, 2011

Here's lookin' at you, Netflix.


We'll always have Paris.

Well, sort of. As anyone with a Netflix account or a computer or an ear probably knows by now, Netflix is raising prices on the accounts of its current customers. Not only are they raising them, but it's a 60% increase, for people like me, who have streaming and single-DVD service. Right now I pay about $10 a month for both. At the end of August, Netflix would like to begin charging me $16.

I realize it's only $6. I recognize that is a small amount of money and it isn't such a bad deal, but I am bothered by the arrogance of the company. Jesse Becker, blogger for blog.netflix.com wrote this about the decision to un-bundle DVDs and streaming: "At the time, we didn’t anticipate offering DVD only plans. Since then we have realized that there is still a very large continuing demand for DVDs both from our existing members as well as non-members. Given the long life we think DVDs by mail will have, treating DVDs as a $2 add on to our unlimited streaming plan neither makes great financial sense nor satisfies people who just want DVDs".

This quote makes me crazy. They are using "great financial sense" as an excuse to raise prices on a service they "didn't anticipate" would be as popular as it is? What? When a pen company sells a lot of purple pens to regular customers, more than they anticipated selling, do they then raise prices on those pens for their current customers, justifying it by saying that they didn't realize those purple pens would be so popular? That it's just good fiscal sense to charge you more for something we've been providing at an affordable rate for so long? That bundling purple and green pens isn't a good deal for the company any more, so we're going to split the deal and charge you 60% more if you want to continue getting purple?

Stupid move, Netflix. As evidenced by the 5,000 comments (this maxed out the allowable comments, and you can no longer add your thoughts, but most of the people commenting hit it on the nose anyway.), most of their customers are incensed by this. Many are promising to cancel, come August 31st.

Had they come out with "we will now be streaming more new releases" and given us a list of newly added and upcoming shows to be added to streaming, it wouldn't have been so bad. Had they said, "we'll still offer a bundle price of $12" or something reasonable, it wouldn't have been as painful. But this is not the case. Less and less of what I actually want to watch are available to stream, and sometimes I've been partly through a TV series when Netflix decides to pull it-- leaving me only the option to wait for the DVDs to come.

I don't want to see Netflix put out of business. I have really enjoyed what they offer, recommending it to friends and family and even quitting our satellite because we knew we could count on Netflix for our entertainment. I just want them to realize this was a stupid move. They raised the price too high, too fast and with a stupid justification for doing so. Basically, they are just saying, "We realized we could make a ton more money (60% more) for our service. So we want to." I am a fan of capitalism, on the whole. I like the idea that the market decides how much companies can charge people for products and services. I don't like greed, however. It makes me angry. This just reeks of greed.

I will be canceling my DVD service from Netflix. Redbox, my dad's collection, my friends and families' collections and purchasing on Amazon will have to suffice for those many, many shows not streamed on Netflix. There are other ways to see what I want to see. Though, I will be sorry that the ease of my queue will be gone. That the fun surprise of the movie arriving in the mail will be over. We will be keeping our streaming, for now. Our children use it a lot, though, with school (and the new TV season) starting, they may not use it as much, and maybe I'll cancel that in September as well. We shall see.

To give credit where credit is due, the image above is from the following location: http://netflixartkomenda.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

British comedy, nerds and computers.

My dad recently told me about a TV show that I could watch on my Netflix streaming, that he said he and my step-mom love.  He said they have laughed out loud at things in every episode, even on multiple viewings, so I thought I'd better check it out. I'm so glad I did!

There are three main characters, Roy, played by Chris O'Dowd (love that Irish accent!!), Moss, played by Richard Ayoade, and Jen, played by Katherine Parkinson.  Roy and Moss make up the IT department, with Jen as the "Relationship Manager" and their supervisor, in the company 'Reynholm Industries'.  They occupy the cluttered, dark basement (relegated there, because no one cares about IT), only to surface on the upper floors for computer repair calls.

Roy's character wears funny t-shirts, such as a black one with the word "meh." in white on it, and various techy-type shirts.  He's slobby, doesn't like to eat healthy or exercise, and like any good computer geek, is too clingy and emotional, doesn't know how to deal with other people (especially "manly" men) and gets himself into all kinds of awkward situations.  I liked him a lot.

Moss, on the other hand, took some getting used to.  I felt like Ayoade was too stiff, too "I'm now delivering my lines" in his acting at first.  A few episodes in, however, I got used to his style and came to really like Moss.  Moss wears a shirt and tie every day, cusses with words like "flipping" and is socially backwards.  He is hilarious! He is also naive and brilliant.

Jen is pretty funny, she has a lot of great physical comedy bits, and she doesn't know a thing about computers, so what she's doing in IT is anyone's guess.

One of the funniest episodes had Jen convincing Moss and Roy to write a speech for her to give after she's been elected Employee of the Month.  They didn't want to, feeling resentful that she was nominated rather then either of them, but Roy convinces Moss that they could write anything in the speech and Jen wouldn't know the difference-- she works in IT, but knows absolutely nothing about computers!  They write a funny speech, which she doesn't understand, but the best part is they give her a small black box with a little red light on top and tell her it's the internet, and that they got special permission for her to use it as a visual aid in her speech, but to be very careful with it, because if anything happens to it, the world will fall apart-- the internet will be lost!  Instead of laughing her off the stage, however, the other Reynolm Industries employees believe her!  Roy and Moss are outraged, they can't believe that no one in the room knows enough about computers to know it's a joke.  It's a great scene, with a very funny ending.

Another great running gag is that every time they answer the phone, they say, "IT, have you tried turning it off and then on again?"

I recommend this show with a few caveats.  It is British comedy, and on Netflix, not all the cuss words are beeped out, so there are some s- and f- words.  Again, it is British, so there are also a lot of naughty situations and jokes as well, but no more than our American "The Office" and probably a lot less than "Big Bang Theory", of which this show is reminiscent.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cowboys, Aliens and Indians

Last Saturday night my husband and I went to see "Cowboys and Aliens", which had just opened at our local 6-screen movie house.  Our choices were "Captain America" in 3-D (which I don't dare spent $$ on because I get motion sickness watching my kids' video games), the new Smurfs movie, which I wouldn't see on a bet, and a few others that we weren't interested in.  I didn't want to drive all the way into the city to have more choices and a better theater, so we settled for uncomfortable seats where, inevitably, a tall man would sit in front of me and slightly cheaper tickets, to be closer to home.

The movie, as you probably know, is a fascinating blend of the science fiction and western genres, based on a comic and graphic novel, starring Daniel Craig (I really enjoyed him as James Bond) and Harrison Ford (who doesn't like him?) as old west near-stereotypes.  Craig's character awakens in the desert, not sure who he is, and after easily dispatching a trio of bandits, makes his way into the nearest town.  Ford's character doesn't make an appearance right away, but when he does, he is the initial antagonist to Craig's protagonist.  He is a bully, a rich, stubborn, mean old man and it takes the alien invasion and kidnapping of his son to change his ways.

I liked the story, even the parts that were simple or reflective of previous films.  I read here about the detail that went into the clothing and guns and some other interesting facts about the film's casting and background.  Check it out.

I liked the involvement of the Native American Indians, it was (of course) a bit contrived, but it would have to be... there are aliens in the movie! 

Oh, and I really like Sam Rockwell in nearly everything I've seen him in.  I liked his character a lot in this movie.  He's the saloon owner, known as "Doc" (I assume he's also a doctor?) who is married to the most beautiful woman in town.  He is a spectacles-sporting target for bullies, but the chase and battle to rescue his wife from the aliens brings out his inner hero.  We all love a good story like that, don't we?

My husband and I had a couple of amused questions during the alien attack scenes.  Mine was "Why are aliens always able to move so much faster than humans?  And horses?"  and his was "And why do aliens always come with so much goo?"  The aliens in this film were reminiscent of the creatures in the 1979 movie "Alien", but unique.  They had an inner set of hands that came out of the chest (where a large two-chambered heart visibly beat), dripping with slime.  Of course, they bled green and screeched and popped up unexpectedly (yes, I leaped a few inches more than once...).  So, they were a bit cliche, but I was okay with that.

The movie was good, but I think I prefer super heroes to aliens... then again, I do like Craig... wonder when they'll find him a latex suit.  His pants in "Cowboys and Aliens" were nearly as tight as a Superman or Spiderman costume...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer=MOVIES!!!

I have seen two movies in the theater in the last 2 weeks-- that's a new record, I think!  Here are my thoughts on them:

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (something about "stranger tides")

I went into this movie with very low expectations.  Let me go back a little and explain myself.  I loved the first Pirates movie, it was fun, swashbuckling, Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom goodness.  It also made me crave going to Disneyland.

I really loved the second film, which I saw 3 times in the theater-- also unprecedented.  It was such fun to watch and funny and the special effects were amazing, and the music was breath-taking and the story was even good!

I went to the third film VERY excited to see it, with way-too-high expectations.  I was severely disappointed.  It had some good things, but I thought the whole Calypso storyline was stupid, and I DESPISED the ending... stupid Flying Dutchman... anyway, I didn't like it very much.  I only saw it the one time, until a few weeks ago when we had a Pirates marathon in advance of seeing the newest installment in the film series.

Going in, I thought, "Well, I'll give it a look, hopefully it won't feel like a waste of my money..."  but I was pleasantly surprised.  I really enjoyed Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard's daughter.  I loved the Ian McShane as Blackbeard, he was excellent-- perfectly cast.  I liked Barbossa's storyline, his affiliation with the British Navy and where that went.  The mermaids were fascinating-- vampirish beauties with magical tears.  I did miss the old crew of the Black Pearl.  The only one who returned (besides Jack Sparrow, obviously) was his first mate, Gibbs.  All in all, a good, stand-alone movie.  Lots of fun!

Today I went to see "Thor" with my sisters.
 It was also very, very good.  I am not a comic book fan, and I don't even pretend this is the best movie out there, but it was a lot of fun to watch and, I think, VERY well directed.  For one thing, when the film flips from Earth to Asgard, it is perfect.  I wasn't left feeling like I wanted more of one or the other storyline, nor did I feel like the scenes were too short.  It was very well cast as well, I haven't really enjoyed Natalie Portman since her dull, boring performance in the Star Wars movies, but she was cute, funny, honest and likeable as Thor's mortal love interest, Jane.  The script was tight, the acting believable and the direction (by Kenneth Branagh) was clean and moved the story along quickly.  I've always liked Branagh.

My one complaint about this movie (and I know, DC Comic fans probably have more than one) was that Thor's change from an arrogant, loud, war-seeking brute to a peaceful, loving, giving, selfless man was a little too fast.  That being said, however, if they had taken time to have his character development move slowly, the film would have been too long and the action scenes too far apart.  It's fine as it is, for what it is supposed to be: an action-super-hero movie with some seriously blue, blue eyes...  Probably digitally enhanced... My brother in law was teasing us about 3 married women going to see "Thor" together, but we really didn't go to look at Chris Helmsworth.  I don't really know that I find him all that attractive, but he was great as Thor.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the whole DC Comic character of Thor, because I had heard some small amount of Norse mythology in my youth, and I couldn't quite reconcile in my mind a God becoming a super hero.  But it worked.  It worked very well. For me.  Like I said, I'm not really a comic book reader, so I didn't have a lot of background on this story, so I enjoyed the film a lot!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Food similes, spoilers, TV and other nonsense.

Most of the time, the TV episodes and movies I watch slide across my subconscious like melted butter-- they slide across and fall off and don't stick.  So it's a pleasant surprise when one sticks.  Like a marshmallow.  This week, I watched the season finale of one of my favorite shows:  ABC's Castle.

Over the last 3 seasons, I have enjoyed watching Nathan Fillion spar with his co-star, Stana Katic as author Richard Castle, and homicide detective Kate Beckett.  He is charming, funny, handsome, and compelling onscreen.  I have always liked him, so this show was easy to watch, but it has turned into quite a good TV show, as well.  I like the characters, and the actors (with the exception of the police captain) are all quite good.  Suspending reality, Castle follows Beckett around as she solves murders, supposedly to feed his muse so he can write crime novels. Their relationship has become complicated, however, as they are both crazy about each other, but she keeps him at arms length, the timing is never quite right, etc.-- pretty much standard love-interest fodder for prime time TV show characters.  I have enjoyed the developing relationship quite a lot, familiar formula or not, and I was looking forward to this finale, thinking surely this will be a game-changer for the two of them.  It certainly was.

I don't want to issue a spoiler alert, so I won't tell about what happens, but it was dramatic, compelling, and had me locked on the screen right up until the very end.  What bothered me at that "very end", however, was the back-to-basics end-of-season cliff-hanger.  OY!  I feel like I've seen it before, done this all before and didn't expect that again.  Which I guess is a good thing, that it surprised me, but it's one of those obvious situations that would end the show if it isn't resolved in a certain way, blah blah blah... I kind of hate that...

I will watch in the fall, happy to see the situation resolved, anxious to see how it will be resolved, and to revisit these characters I like so much again.  But I have a feeling I know how it will go.

Okay, SPOILER ALERT.  I can't continue writing this without telling a few things.

Beckett gets shot in the last scene, and Castle (finally) holds her and tells her he loves her, as her eyes close and the scene goes black.  Here's what I predict will happen in the fall:  First of all, she will be in the hospital, coma, maybe, but at least in a hospital bed.  Castle will be there, and when she wakes up, he'll hesitate to tell her again that he loves her, and as he's waffling, her "boyfriend" will arrive, sweep her into his arms and blah blah blah, you know the rest... so we have another season of Castle and Beckett not admitting what they feel and the sexual tension can build some more.  We'll see...

I hope they prove me wrong and do something new and original.  What I would love to see would be Beckett coming to in the ambulance, Castle holding her and she grabs him in a kiss; they profess their love, she's lucid and knows what happened, they get her to the hospital where she is admitted for emergency surgery, etc. etc...

I know that in the past it's been scary for shows to have the two leads actually get together. There have been many shows that having this occur, but smart writers manage to give the viewers what they want (i.e., Jim and Pam finally get married, etc.) and still have good tension in the writing.  I hope this is what they do with Castle.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fantasy Reading

I have this fantasy where I get to just curl up with a blanket in front of a fire-- or on a soft lounge chair on a deserted, white-sandy beach somewhere-- or in my own private library and just read read read.  No responsibilities, no disturbances, no problems.  Just me and my books.

But that's not what I'm talking about.  Nor am I talking about naughty fantasy reading, you dirty birds.  I'm talking about fantasy fiction, and I'm wondering why after reading a handful of fantasy series, every time I start a new fantasy genre book, it sounds like a parody of itself...

I've read the following fantasy series and liked them enough to return to them:

  1. The Wheel of Time- one day I'll write an entry extolling the incredible talents of Mr. Robert Jordan and the amazing, fantastic, stupendous, genre-defining series he wrote, which, since his death, is being finished by Brandon Sanderson (a really great writer in his own right).
  2. Harry Potter-  These books take me away from my reality, to a magical place that is so real, I feel like I could step forward and BE there.  
  3. Twilight-  Now, before you condemn me or refuse to read my blog anymore, hear me out.  I really enjoyed these books a lot, but the entire time I was reading them (the first time) I kept thinking, "Why do I even like these?  They are amateurish, simplistic and Bella is annoying", but I kept reading.  I think the reason I like them so much is that I see a lot of my young self in Bella (sad, I know) and because the idea was so fresh and new to me (girl loves vampire-- now it's been done, oh, let's just guesstimate, about 40 gazillion times... ugh... the library shelves are dripping with vampiric romantic sap...), but at the time, I hadn't ever read anything like it, and I love slightly scary stories. :)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.  I read them long before the movies were even made.  I liked them enough to buy them.  "The Hobbit" is really the only one I will return to re-read, though.  Probably. :)
  5. Mistborn, by the aforementioned Brandon Sanderson.  Well, to be totally honest, I've only read the first one, but I do own the trilogy, and I do plan on reading the others.  Eventually.  They're there, waiting patiently.
  6. Sanderson's new book "The Way of Kings" is an improvement on his previous writing by a good-sized leap.  I think working to finish "The Wheel of Time" has made him a better writer.  Where he was good before, he is great now.  I look forward to buying this series when it becomes a series.  
That's it.  I read the first 3 books of George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire", and found them too sexual for me.  Incestual, as well.  I don't remember details, though.  This morning, I watched a sneak preview of a clip from the new HBO miniseries based on the first book "Game of Thrones", and it was gory and scary and probably will be really, really good, but will be much too sexual for my tastes, so I won't be looking to watch it.  The story was good, the characters were interesting, but I just can't get over graphic sexuality-- it isn't something I want to read or see...

I have tried to read books by other authors, but I haven't found many fantasy books that really hook me.  I won a book on goodreads.com, called "The Unremembered", which I have tried to start reading, but I am struck by the laughably obvious parallels to "The Wheel of Time" and it really feels like a joke-- like a parody.  Like this author thought to himself, "Hey, I can do that!" after reading other fantasy books.  I will try to get past these prejudices and give the book an honest chance, but it will be difficult.  I am only about 30 pages into it, so I really do need to try not to pre-judge.  It really seems like so many of these books are all the same thing, though.  Flipping through them at the library or reading synopses online, I feel like it's just all been done, and so much better!  Maybe I'm done with fantasy for a while.  Maybe I need a break... or maybe I just need my fantasy to come true, for just a few hours...

Deja Vu, anyone?

In our "everything's disposable" American society, we have many, many items in our lives that are not made, or built, to last very long, really.  There are houses standing in this country that have been there for over 100 years, but modern houses?  Most of them are slapped up wood, a little concrete, and plastic.  Cars?  You drive it until it can't drive anymore and pile it up at a wrecking yard.  Clothes?  Wear it, tear it, and replace it.  Technology?  My ipod has been working for quite a few years now, I have a second gen. ipod nano.  But in the last year I've noticed it's starting to do a few buggy things.  It has many good years left, but when it dies?  I'll replace it with a new one.  No big deal. 

This mentality has even seeped into our entertainment world.  Lady Gaga mixes Madonna's melodies into her songs and although a few people comment on it, basically it's considered "new" and "fresh" and the radio won't stop playing the bloody thing.  On TV, for decades now, cop shows have been recycling the same basic premises over and over, as have lawyer shows, medical shows and sitcoms.  And once upon a time the whole "reality" TV thing was relatively new, as was the "talk show" (I remember Donahue...), but now, it's ALL been done.  And they keep doing it.  Again and again.  Often when a new idea comes along on TV, it's soundly rejected by the majority of the viewing audience and slashed from the lineup after just a few seasons (as evidenced here). 

And movies?  Movies are the worst offenders!  There seem to be more sequels and remakes every year than original films! I understand a "franchise" of films, such as "Star Wars" or "Indiana Jones" or "Harry Potter", telling a story or keeping a character going for multiple films, but what baffles my mind are movies such as "Yogi Bear" or "The Smurfs".  Whaaa?  It's jaw-dropping.  Or even worse, when Hollywood takes a classic film, like "Psycho" and decides it can do better.  Nah, just stupider.  I was looking at movie trailers here today and saw a new "Planet of the Apes" film is on its way.  My first reaction was to ask why the heck do they need another one.  Then I watched the trailer and understood.  It actually looks good, and it's a new angle, not just a "reimagining" of the old story.  But... it's still not really an original idea.  There have been a few times that a new film is a definite improvement on an original.  Take "Batman Begins" for example.  Other superhero or comic book movies fall into this category.  I understand taking a terrible movie and wanting to use the characters to make a better movie. 

It sounds like I'm taking both sides of a debate, which I guess I am, but what I would really like to see from Hollywood and entertainment in general are more original ideas. Maybe that will become the new trend in a year or two.  We can only hope. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Best comedy routines...

 I love stand up comedians.  I have a hard time with those who "work blue" or whatever it's called, using foul language and sexual themes for their jokes.  I prefer those whose routines are more observational, like these guys:

Henry Cho
Henry is a full-blooded Korean man who grew up in Nashville, Tennessee.  He even has a southern accent.  He is hilarious and almost completely little-kid-friendly clean.
The dang blogger-youtube connection won't post my favorite bit about his really stupid friend, JB Stewart, but it's the one I really wanted to share, so you'll have to forgive me and click the link.

Brian Regan
If you haven't ever heard Brian's stuff, you are absolutely missing out. He recently released a new album available for download here.  His routines are amazing.  And clean.  He has so many great bits that I had a hard time choosing one to insert here.  This scene is among my favorites:

When my family takes road trips, we like to take comedy CDs with us to listen to.  We enjoy Bill Cosby, especially his older stuff.  You can't go wrong with some great, classic Cosby, right?  Funny, relatable, real, and family-friendly.
Another comic that I like a lot is Steven Wright.  Good stuff.  He's the one who is completely deadpan, dry and looks like he may be half asleep...
We also love a lot of Weird Al Yankovic's music.  Some of his parodies are amazing, but I prefer his original stuff, myself.  Like this: (I actually prefer my own imagination to the animated video... it's much funnier just to listen...)