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MCU: Is The Defenders, Already Better Than The Avengers?

31 May

I don’t know if readers of this blog have noticed, but I’m not the hugest fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know, it’s shocking. I actually like movies with, like, plots and stuff. Maybe some character development.

For the people who actually do read this blog (if such people exist), the really surprising revelation will be that I actually don’t hate everything that’s come out of the MCU. I liked the first Iron Man movie, for example. Guardians of the Galaxy was good and fun. Ant-Man was solid entertainment. Agent Carter was better than Agents of SHIELD and should have been renewed instead of AoS… but that’s a whole other topic.

The real gems of the MCU, however, are the Netflix series. In fact, I’m of the opinion that these shows are of such different quality that we shouldn’t even pretend that they exist in the same universe as the rather cartoonish Avengers. Every time they make references to the events of those movies, it feels awkward and wrong.

This summer, all four of the current Netflix/Marvel series will come together into one big monster event series, called The Defenders. Will this series be an amazing convergence of awesomeness? Or will it be another Avengers, feeding more into the fanboy dreams of its creators than into a solid story of its own? Let’s examine the situation, both pros and cons. Continue reading

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Thirteen Reasons Why

10 May

Watching Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix isn’t fun. A teenage girl, Hannah Baker has killed herself (spoiler alert), and she’s left behind a series of thirteen audio recordings, each telling the tale of another person who contributed to her decision to commit suicide.

Overall, I think that the series was a success, for what it was. It was an interesting look at a downward spiral. At times, it was a brutal, sad, or painful series to watch. At one point, it also made me gag a little, which is weird because I’m not usually one to react to Hollywood gore. However, by that point, I was invested in this character, and no amount of knowing that she was going to kill herself could make that scene any less difficult to watch.

Rather than go through the entire series and write a normal review, I’m going to give my thoughts as they relate to certain criticisms that I’ve seen of the series. I’m not associated with the series in any way, and these are just my “top of the brain” responses. Make of them what you will: Continue reading

The State of the SUPERNATURAL Union

7 May

Continuing my habit of rambling about geeky stuff when I should be writing, editing, or promoting my books. This is more fun (but not a reflection of my ability to string together coherent sentences!) So… go check out my work on Amazon. See if anything sounds interesting to you. Maybe leave a review, if you’re so inclined.

I’ve been a fan of Supernatural since day one. The show has a great setup, great character, great execution… It’s a great show (putting aside season 7 for the sake of this post).

But, nearing the end of its twelfth season, the show has gotten into some ruts and lost sight of some of the things that made it great in the first place. In this blog post, I’m going to discuss the show’s past, present and future, and see where we stand at this point. Continue reading

Five Years Earlier…

9 Mar

As I continue to prepare my new book, Freedom/Hate for release (pre-order your copy today!), I have had some old friends stopping by for a visit in my head.

Five years ago this month, I sat down to begin writing Starlette (purchase your copy today!). It’s hard to tell whether I should feel as though it were only yesterday, or if it feels like a hundred years have passed since then. Either way, it was an exciting time for me.

The story began, oddly enough, five years earlier. As I was watching the Oscars red carpet show on television, I couldn’t help but get annoyed with the actors that I was listening to. The way they spoke about their films being “important” irritated me. They acted as though they were saving the world by making movies. Continue reading

Freaky Fridays

1 Oct

I should have made this post a week ago, but I was easily distracted by shiny objects and forgot about it. Oops.

The new season continues to roll out, and Fridays are turning out to be an important night for primetime. In all honesty, there are not many nights that I am looking forward to this year. I don’t think I have any must-see shows for Monday. Tuesday has Ringer, New Girl, and Raising Hope. Wednesday… pretty much just Revenge, which is turning out to be pretty interesting. Thursday, Community is the only one to look forward to there. I kinda forgot that The Office was on and while I watch The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle for now, they’re really just in my list of shows to watch when I have nothing better to do.

Fridays… Now, this is a night to behold for all geeks like m’self. Though Chuck won’t premiere its final (sniff) season for a couple more weeks, we have Supernatural back on The CW and Fringe on Fox.

I’ll start with my thoughts on Supernatural. I warn you now, there are major spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the first two episodes, stop reading now.

The season picked up where last season left off. Castiel was declaring himself god, though we all know that this isn’t a title that you can just be promoted to, so he wasn’t actually God. Also, Sam’s mental wall came down, allowing him to remember his time in the cage with Lucifer.

I don’t want to go into a long recap. For that, I’m sure that there are many websites out there. I will just post my general thoughts.

Most shows would have had Sam out of Hell and more or less back to normal within a few episodes of season 6. The fact that they brought him back without a soul and allowed him to remain that way for half a season was something that I appreciate about the show. It has consequences. Now, it’s season 7 and Sam is more messed up than ever because of the events that occurred in season 5. Now, I may wish that Sam could go back to being the sentimental guy he was when the show started, I applaud the writers for not doing that. Neither Sam nor Dean can be the people they were. They shouldn’t be. This is season 7. They fought a war with Hell. They died more times than we even know of. They lose the people they love the most.
Now the question is, can they ever come back from that? As much as the first five seasons were about putting them through Hell (literally), maybe these seasons that follow can be about how they move on from that.

Of course, it won’t be east. Thanks to Castiel’s brilliant plan to win the war in Heaven, we now have the leviathans roaming around. They’re dark and brutal creatures. More animal than the demons were, but still intelligent. Also, we have no idea how the Winchesters can possibly kill the leviathans, who seem to want the Winchesters out of the way. This isn’t looking good for our monster hunting heroes.

Season 7 and the writers are still holding to the rule that their monsters must be based in actual mythology and folklore. This is what has made the show great. They always put their own spin on those stories, but having that rule in place grounds the series in ways that most supernatural-based shows are not.

Castiel is apparently dead. Bobby is missing. Sam is crazy. Dean is worn out. Bobby’s house has been roadhoused. So far, the season is off to a great start. The tension is high and they wasted no time in making the characters suffer.

In all honesty, while I enjoyed the second episode, “Hello, Cruel World”, I found the editing to be really strange. Especially toward the end. I am under the impression that the last scene in the ambulance was not meant to be part of this episode, but the opening of the next episode. Why it was forced into this one, I don’t know. Maybe they needed something to take up time. But it was strange. Especially given the fact that it was sandwiched between commercials.

Other than that, I am liking this season. I do want them to mention Adam again. He was kinda important, and especially with Sam remembering Hell, it makes sense. I want to know why nobody seems to remember him (except for when Dean was dead).

Also, I do not accept Lisa and Ben being gone for good. I don’t care if some people didn’t like them. They were part of Dean’s life for two years. He dreamed of going back to them for even longer. They were his family. Dean does not abandon his family.

Now, Fringe…

I only saw the season premiere so far. I have the second episode recorded and will watch it soon. I’m not sure what I can say about this season. I still don’t have a great feel for this new world they’ve created, but that is one thing that I love about this show. They play one solid story arc, but it changes constantly. If you would have told me in season 1 that we would be dealing with an alternate universe on a regular basis, I would have thought you were crazy. Now, I don’t see how the show could have continued without it.

The mystery of Peter Bishop is one that is frustrating, but in a good way. Part of me just wants the old dynamic back and to return to the familiar. At the same time, the mystery is thrilling. The alternate reality that’s been created in each of the universes is intriguing.

I like the addition of Lincoln Lee to the team. He’s been a regular Over There for a long time, but this version is different and geekier. It’s fun to watch how the people are different in each universe. The actors have done a great job of making those characters different. Especially Anna Torv, who had a reputation in season 1 for being a wooden, flat actress. With the addition of the other Olivia, we get to see just how talented Anna is. When they’re on screen together, you almost forget that it is the same actress.

The show is a marvel of science fiction. It’s so layered and complicated, yet easy to relate to and follow. They don’t dumb it down for the viewers, which I usually find more offensive than helpful. I don’t remember many science fiction shows which were as well crafted as Fringe. Lost comes to mind, but that series had elements of the supernatural in there with the science fiction, so it’s not quite the same.

I look forward to watching the episode that I have recorded. I can’t even imagine where the series is going with all of their storylines, but that’s what makes it such a fun ride.

The CW’s Thursday Night… No Longer Must-See TV

19 Sep

A couple of years ago, the CW’s Thursday night was a lot of fun. Smallville wasn’t exactly deep and meaningful but it was usually an enjoyable way to spend an hour. Then there’s Supernatural which is just awesome. Complex storylines, great character development, dark, gritty… It’s a grownup show on the CW, though based on some websites I’ve seen, it seems like people can enjoy it without being into deep discussions on theology, mythology and folklore. Either way, Thursday was a day to look forward to.

Now… Not so  much.

I won’t review the entire Vampire Diaries series to date. It’s pretty much the normal story about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire, has a best friend who is a witch, etc. Kinda like Buffy but without the texture that made Buffy fun. See, Buffy was ultimately a spoof. We bought the reality in the series because the show didn’t take itself too seriously. You laughed more than you cried. Beneath that, there were metaphors and there was depth. When the show went deep with episodes like The Body you felt it.

Now, I watch a lot of TV shows. I have a list of shows that I think are actually good (Supernatural, Fringe, Chuck, Community, Raising Hope… and a few more) and then a longer list of shows that I watch which I wouldn’t really say are “good”. They’re more like filler for me. Something to do when I don’t have anything better to do. I think that there’s something to be learned from the writing of shows like that, just as much as there is to learn from shows that are brilliant. How many of us sit back and think “If I were writing that…”? So I won’t defend my decision to watch anymore. I’ll just move on to my thoughts…

Last week, The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle premiered. I didn’t have high hopes or expectations. I went in just wanting to be entertained for a while (DVRed them, since I have some Supernatural DVDs to watch).

With that said, I think that The Vampire Diaries went a bit far. See, I like dark shows. I think Dexter  is one of the better written shows on TV. I enjoy the darkness and the struggle on Being Human (US version since I haven’t seen the UK version… judge me all you want for that). But putting aside most of the story, two things stuck out the most for me on The Vampire Diaries.

First, Damon’s “girlfriend”, Andie. She went out with him last season and when she found out that he was a vampire, she ran screaming. He compelled her (using mind control that they do on the show) to not only remain silent about the vampires in town, but to be okay with what he is. He took away her ability to leave and in doing so, he took away her ability to decide that she didn’t want to be there. She could no longer say “no.” That does not sit right with me.

Secondly, in the episode, Elana discovers that her broody vampire boyfriend has been leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake all summer long. The episode ends with her talking to him on the phone, telling him that it will be okay. Umm… murderous monster killing a lot of people here. How is that okay? He didn’t misplace his iphone. We’re not talking about him forgetting to get her a birthday present. He kills people. Literally rips them apart and puts them back together…

Maybe I’m just showing my age here, but when that happened on Buffy the heroes on the show usually tried to kill the vampire. At the very least, they could try frowning upon it.

There is some talent on the show. I’m not bashing the actors here (I’d probably watch for one or two of the actresses alone). I think that the writers have gotten so lost in their broody scowls and romantic triangles, they’ve lost track of the little things like rape and murder. Because of this, I can’t relate to anyone on the show and I really can’t care about any of them. There’s no weight to the story. When a major character died at the end of last season, it wasn’t a “Jenny Calendar” moment that haunts you long after its over. It was… forgettable.

When the show makes the issues matter, perhaps there will be more to connect with. When the vampire hunter on the show stops drinking with the vampires and starts preventing them from killing people, maybe my opinion of the show will improve. Until then, The Vampire Diaries isn’t only fluff and filler, but I have to think that’s it’s doing some amount of harm to impressionable youths who are told to relate to these characters and sympathize with them. “Who will Elana choose” shouldn’t be as important as “Which vampire’s crimes are worse?” or “Who should they stake first?”

I think I’ve covered all that I need to cover.

 

Now, The Secret Circle.

Honestly, I liked this one better when it was called The Craft. The plots are similar. A girl’s deceased mother was a witch, so the girl is naturally powerful. She moves to a new town where she falls in with a group of other witches who teach her how to be one of them. In this case, there are a couple of guys included in the coven. All of the female characters are pretty much cut from the same cloth as the characters from The Craft. At times, it seemed like they were even trying to channel those other actors, especially when it came to the bad girl, played by Pheobe Tonkin. There’s just no escaping the fact that Fairuza Balk did it better. In fact, I’d say that if anything, The Secret Circle made me want to watch The Craft again. And come to think of it, a series with that tone and the sort of creepy intensity of those characters from the film could be really interesting.

Great, now I want to see the original cast of The Craft back for a sequel… also, wouldn’t Fairuza Balk be an awesome Livewire in a Superman movie? (sorry, sidetracked)

The Secret Circle really doesn’t captivate. There’s not much to talk about with it. I liked Thomas Dekker was cool on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and I think that this is kind of a step backward for him.

The New Season Begins with Murder and Intrigue

17 Sep

If you’re anything like me, you spend the summer suffering from withdrawal symptoms like… I don’t know… going places and getting stuff done. It’s just not the natural order of things. My life should be spent in front of the TV, not being productive.

I admit, my views might be a little skewed. I am a TV junky and I freely admit that. I routinely watch shows that I don’t even like, just for the sake of zoning out for a while.

Now that the new TV season is starting, I’m like a kid at Christmas. Supernatural, Chuck, Fringe! I can’t wait for Friday nights. But before those shows premiere, there are a slew of fresh new shows debuting this season. I’ve seen a couple of them now and I will talk about them here.

 

First up is Revenge. This new series airs on ABC and stars Emily VanCamp as a woman named Amanda whose father was set up for a crime in the 90’s and sent to prison where he eventually died. Now, Amanda takes on a new identity and moves to the Hamptons where she plots to take down all of the wealthy types who ruined her family. I read the pilot script, which ABC made available on the Kindle and then I watched the pilot which they gave access to at the end of that script. Though things changed between script and screen and will change more for the final version of the pilot, I think that it’s fair to say that I have a pretty good idea what the series will be.

The cast is solid. For some reason, I just like Emily VanCamp in whatever she does. I don’t know why. The show also stars Madeleine Stowe who seemed to disappear from my TV screen for many years, and Nick Wechsler who I remember most from Roswell. Yes, I know, there is a big impressive cast around these people, but those are the standouts for me. I’m not entirely sold on Conner Paolo as the bad boy brother to Nick Wechsler’s character, but we’ll see.

I can’t speak much for the plot. I think that the pilot might have jumped to dessert before the main course when they showed us Labor Day weekend and then went back to before Memorial Day to start the series. I get why they did it, but I don’t think they needed it. Other than that, the pilot was enjoyable enough to make me watch the second episode when it airs (or several days after it airs, while I’m looking for something to fill my time) but they need to carefully control the intrigue and not go off in weird directions that just turn the show into Melrose Place.

 

The second series I’ll talk about is Ringer. The classical plotting and manipulation seems to be in this season. This series attempts to take some of the flavor from the Hitchcockian thrillers as well as the noir classics. I’m not sure that they fully succeed in either. Their ode to Hitchcock, with the bad CG background in the boat scene was a fail in my opinion. It just distracted and was not done well. Surely they could have made that look more natural, and I hope that they ditch the super blurry look whenever the twins are on screen together. The trick is to make us not notice that it’s the same actress playing both roles… Don’t draw attention to that by making it super stylized!

They didn’t capture the noir tone exactly either. A show that did this really well was Veronica Mars. On that show, you can see the heavy noir influence in the set design, the lighting and the camera angles. Now, this does not mean that Ringer was a failure all around. I’m just saying that their visuals need to be cleaned up as the series goes on. Decide what the look of the show is, and stick to it.

Plot-wise, the show has some interesting ideas to play with. It’s something that will need to develop over many weeks, so as with Revenge it’s hard for me to say how good or bad the series is from the pilot. There is a lot going on. Bridget is a recovering addict who used to strip and somehow seems to have allowed her sister’s child to die, causing a rift between the two. Bridget witnesses a crime committed by a super bad guy and is put into witness protection, but skips town to go boating with her estranged sister, Siobhan. Siobhan is the wealthy one who seems to have it all, except she vanishes from the boat and Bridget takes over her life, soon learning that her sister’s life was possibly even more messed up than her own.

Honestly, I could have used a little more easing into Bridget deciding to take over her sister’s life. It seemed a little odd to me, even with her circumstances. Maybe there were time issues or something, but I think they could have cut the drug addicted troubled teenage daughter from the pilot, bumped her back to episode 2 and explained how you get to a point where you pretend to be your supposedly dead sister.

There’s a great cast. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nestor Carbonell,Ioan Gruffudd, Kristoffer Polaha, and Mike Colter all deliver fine performances, as do the supporting players. If the series can build on the mysteries and the thriller aspects, it could be really enjoyable. However, the show could easily pull the Melrose Place spin of death, so it needs to be as careful as Revenge does.

It is nice to see a grownup show on the CW, besides Supernatural.

Of the two, I would say that Revenge might have had the tighter pilot. However, Ringer gave me more of a glimpse at what sorts of twists and turns we can expect without actually showing me the end of the season within the first five minutes. (though I expect there to be a twist of some sort which makes the glimpse that we saw in Revenge into something else entirely)

Did I need a thousand words to say all of that? Probably not.