Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2013... and Introducing: The Ghostie!

Happy New Year's Eve, everybody! Today it's time for one of the blogs I look forward to writing all year long: my personal wrap-up of the best and worst movies of the year. Of course, try as hard as I can, I don't see every movie, so it's not a totally comprehensive list (glaring omissions right now are The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, and August: Osage County; I might revise the list once I get to see them). Once again as in past installments, I won't be reviewing the movies, there will just be a brief word or two here and there and a link to a past blog post if I had given them a full review in the past. As always, this list is possible in large part due to the existence of the Flickster app on Facebook, on which I do mini-reviews of every movie I see all year long. So let's get the list rolling!

The Worst
Normally I just list the worst movies of the year, which I'm still going to do, but this year there's a new addition: The Ghostie Award! Last year, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was my worst movie of the year, but more than that, I really think it's the worst movie I've ever seen. In honor of that, from now on the absolute worst movie of the year will get The Ghostie Award in recognition of its sheer sucktitude. And now, the list:

Spring Breakers
The Counselor
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
World War Z
A Good Day to Die Hard
Gangster Squad

And The Ghostie goes to...
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

The award consists solely of Ghost Rider pissing fire on the movie.

Now, with that unpleasant business out of the way, the rest of the list!

The Great
Thor: The Dark World (comic book adaption of the year, in my opinion. Friggin' Loki...)
Kick-Ass 2
The Wolverine
You're Next (the best horror movie I saw this year, even though my favorite was Insidious Chapter 2)
Pacific Rim
Much Ado About Nothing
This is the End (easily the funniest movie of the year)
Man of Steel
Star Trek Into Darkness
Iron Man 3

The Best
The Way Way Back
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
12 Years a Slave (frontrunner for Best Picture Oscar, methinks)
American Hustle (what a cast!)

The Best of the Best
Usually this is the category where you'll find my five-star movies of the year, from which I'll pick my personal best movie of the year, a tradition I've had since 2007 (that initial movie in 07 was Dan in Real Life; subsequent years' winners were: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, 500 Days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, Warrior, and Silver Linings Playbook last year). This year I only gave one movie five stars; I'm not sure why, maybe I was pickier this year. Or crankier? Who knows. Anyway, that makes this movie without a doubt the next entry in my personal best of the year:

The Spectacular Now

I'm not at all sure why I never wrote a review of this movie as soon as I saw it, because I loved it instantly. I loved the story. I loved the main character's emotional arc, a lot of which resonated very deeply with me personally. I loved the acting, Shailene Woodley in particular. Easily my favorite movie of the year. I am, in fact, eagerly looking forward to seeing it for the second time over the next day or two when I watch it with my girlfriend.

So that's my list. What's yours?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Krampus: The Yule Lord

Krampus: The Yule LordKrampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Talk about an alternative Christmas story! This book tells the tale of Krampus, a mythological creature of Asgardian descent who is the Yule Lord and who hates Santa Claus for stealing the holiday season from him. The set-up sounds comical as hell but, while the story does have plenty of comical moments, it takes quite a few darker turns as well. The main character, Jesse, gets involved in Krampus' story at a particularly low point in his life, and the story itself is all about watching how Jesse's personal journey dovetails with Krampus' quest for revenge. I enjoyed the book, it had quite a lot of nice touches and fun characters, but it felt less complete to me than the other Brom books I've read. I think that's because it felt kind of rushed; the entire story takes place over three or so days so the pace is frenetic and there isn't a lot of breathing room. Better pacing would have made for a better story, but other than that it was definitely fun... and different... holiday reading fare.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

We here at SSTAS (and by we, I mean me, cuz there ain't no one else) just wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Enjoy your day, whatever you're doing, wherever you're doing it, and, most importantly, whoever you're doing it with. For my part, I'll be spending the day with my grandmother and my girlfriend, watching Christmas specials while I wait for the Doctor Who Christmas specials, a box of tissues by my side. I'm not ready to say good-bye to Eleven, y'all. But that's a story for another time, as this is all about the merriness. So enjoy, everybody!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen MeanyA Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm definitely of two minds about this novel. On the one hand, I really like the story Irving told here. On the other hand, I don't like the way he told it; there were too many asides that seemed pointless. In his defense, some of them seemed pointless only to become important later on, but some of them were just pointless. He's also very, very repetitive, and at least for me after a certain point that jarred me out of the story. But again, I really liked the story. Likewise, for the majority of the book, I absolutely hated Owen Meany. Up until about the last hundred pages or so he struck me as an over-bearing, self-important feminine hygiene product and the package it comes in. And yet, despite my disdain for the character, Irving still managed to make me get emotional at the ending. I also appreciated the way the ending ties things together in an unexpected way, and the way both the ending and the book as a whole address questions about fate and faith. So like I said, I'm torn. I wasn't thrilled with the way the story was written, but any story that can make me upset about the fate of a character I hate deserves at least three stars, right?

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Better Late Than Never TV Reviews

Here's a blog I've been meaning to write for like a month now but have never gotten around to. Between the occasional work assignment, a newish relationship, and my all-around laziness and desire to just read and watch movies and stuff, well, I never found the time. So it's a little less than timely but still needs to be done as it wraps up my coverage of the mostly disappointing 2013 Fall TV season in terms of new shows. I've got three new ones to go through, and two of them quite frankly suck.

Atlantis comes to us from our friends at the BBC and is the story of Jason, Hercules, and Pythagoras (yeah, the mathematician) on the titular island. Except, this Jason isn't the Jason you're thinking of, it's a kid from the present who somehow ends up back in time after trying to find his missing dad. And this Hercules isn't some great, intimidating strongman, it's the fat king from the first season of Game of Thrones. And the third member of this triangle is Pythagoras (I hope you get the joke I just made...). The production value is much worse than you'd expect from the BBC and, well, let's just say I'll stick with Doctor Who. How this show is getting a second season is beyond me.

I was hyped for this series because I'm a big fan of Frank Darabont and I really liked the cast, so I was pretty saddened by the fact that the first two episodes of this event miniseries bored me to tears. Part of that is that, with a few exceptions, I've never been a big fan of the crime noir genre, and this show was clearly created as a love letter to that genre so it would be one hell of an uphill battle to really get me to like it. And while I know all too well some motherfucker's always trying to ice skate up a hill, for once that motherfucker ain't going to be me, and I passed on this show just like I passed on Atlantis.

There's a reason I chose the above poster for this show over all the other ones Fox's promo machine churned out. On its merits, Almost Human isn't all that special. It's not the first "man with machine partner" cop drama ever. It's not the first "future science" drama either (nor is it even the first from these creators, as this is from the same team that gave us the wonderful Fringe). No, on the surface, Almost Human isn't breaking any ground, but it is a fun little show, and that would be enough to make it worth watching, but it's two stars elevate it to another level. Karl Urban excels, as always, at being a growling curmudgeon. I would seriously watch him in just about anything. And Michael Ealy is just as good next to him. His robotic Dorian strikes a great balance between the efficiency of a machine and the soul of a human as he strives to be more than the sum of his parts. Yeah, sorry, I just couldn't resist that line. And when you add the fact that the stunning Minka Kelly is part of the cast...

...and the fact that they keep her lines to a minimum so her bad acting can't detract from the joy of looking at her or any of the other joys the show provides, well, Almost Human is definitely a winner.

So that brings my reviews of all the new shows the 2013 Fall Season provided to a close. Out of all the ones I gave a shot to, the only ones I actually added to my list are Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Originals (I'm also still watching Dracula but I'm not counting that because I really am just hate-watching the shit out of that to see how absurdly awful it gets). Anyone else out there want to share what new shows they loved or hated this season? Let's hear 'em!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Necromancer's House

The Necromancer's HouseThe Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up on a whim, having never heard of it or the author before, just because I really needed something to read. It's a decision I'm glad I made. The present tense narration is a welcome change from the norm, as is the way Buehlman modernizes the use of magic for his characters without beating us over the head with too much information. The novel can be a bit tricky as he juggles quite a few plot threads; there are a lot of balls in the air throughout the story but they all come to a pretty masterful head in the climax and the denouement. There are a few leaps that make things confusing for a brief second in parts, but the ship is always quickly righted. I also enjoyed all the characters and the way they're presented, good guys, bad guys, and mythical guys all. I haven't yet decided if the book was good enough to make me read the other novels Buehlman has written as I understand they aren't of the same subject matter at all, but who knows, maybe his name will come to mind the next time I'm book-shopping on a whim...

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Spinning My Own Web for a Spider-Man Movie Franchise

As you might have noticed, the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 dropped yesterday. As you may not have noticed unless you frequent the same circles on the internet that I do, there's been a lot of hubbub about the casting choices, character design choices, and most of all, the idea of including three new villains (Electro, the Rhino, and some version of the Green Goblin) at once just because Sony wants to get the Sinister Six involved by the third or possibly fourth movie. I don't have an opinion at the moment, content as I am to play "wait and see" here, but it did inspire me to re-post this column I did for a different blog three years ago in which I looked at the Raimi trilogy and reimagined it as a longer series which also had the Sinister Six as its payoff. So, for your enjoyment if you're interested or just bored, my idea of a Spider-Man film series, based off Raimi's beginnings!

The fact that I'm a comic book geek is no secret; and, like all comic book geeks, every time a comic book movie comes out, I've dreamed up what I would do for a sequel. Now, with Sam Raimi's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" Spider-Man trilogy over and a reboot coming, I get to play armchair quarterback and tell you all what I would have done differently, not just with one movie but with the whole shebang. I figure I'm qualified. I mean, I might not know better than Sam Raimi, but I definitely know better than the studio morons who messed up his visions for Spidey 3, and whose even worse ideas for Spidey 4 are what led to the reboot happening in the first place. Just a warning, my vision for the franchise is a six-movie story, so, be prepared for a ride.

Let's start at the beginning...

Spider-Man: To tell you the truth, in terms of plot, there really isn't a thing I would change about this movie. It really was a perfect origin story. There are, however, a couple of parts I'd cast differently. Maguire and Franco are okay. As for Dafoe, nothing against him, but, well, this is how they draw Norman in the comics:Now, if that's not Tommy Lee Jones, I don't know who it is. And as for Mary Jane, well, she's supposed to be a beautiful, curvy, redheaded model. That isn't Kirsten Dunst. It is, however:As Stan Lee would say, "'Nuff said." Oh, yeah, also? The Green Goblin's costume would not have looked like a giant green pocket rocket.

Spider-Man 2: Just a few small changes here too, as this movie was pretty damn great. One thing I'd change is the thing everybody found ridiculous about this one: entirely too many people knew who he was by the end of it. Aunt May, Mary Jane, Harry Osborn, a train full of people, Doctor Octopus... that's all unnecessary. Harry finds out, and Mary Jane finds out at the end, and that's it. The other thing I'd change is that Doc Ock wouldn't redeem himself by dying. He'd stay bad and go to prison. This is an important change for later on.

Spider-Man 3: Alright, here's where I start to do the heavy lifting. The most important thing is to avoid the overcrowding that happened in the original version. There'd be no Gwen Stacy, she served no point. We'd also stay away from the "Mary Jane is a hostage" thing that happened in the previous two climaxes, Pete and MJ are still together, Harry attacks him out of revenge, Pete finds the symbiote, Sandman is in it, Eddie Brock is in it (but not Topher Grace. Jensen Ackles, maybe.He has the look and the attitude) but, and I can't stress this enough, Venom isn't. Here's how it would play out. Spidey fights Harry as the new Goblin and loses. Spidey fights Sandman and loses. Spidey finds alien symbiote. Alien symbiote turns him into a douchebag (not emo!) and he pushes MJ away. Harry manipulates MJ into dumping Peter. Peter in his black costume kills Sandman. He gets Eddie fired like in the original version and in the background we learn that Doctor Octopus had escaped from prison and disappeared. Harry then confronts him and gloats about making MJ dump him, and they have the fight they had in the movie where Spidey seriously messes him up. This is where Peter realizes he's lost control to the suit and goes to the bell-tower and rips it off, and it finds Eddie Brock and they become Venom... end of movie. Credits roll. After credits, we see Dr. Octopus, living a bit like a bum, under the radar. He's approached by a mysterious stranger whose face is never shown, who offers to help him get back at Spider-Man.

Spider-Man 4: Well, now we're blazing some new territory here. Peter and Mary Jane would still be separated, he'd be trying to get her back but unsuccessfully. Harry would be in a coma throughout the movie. Eddie Brock, now Venom, would know all of Peter's secrets and would be trying to get close to MJ to use her against Peter eventually. Meanwhile, Spider-Man would be dealing with a rash of burglaries committed by the Black Cat (which Raimi did want to do in Spider-Man 4, it was a good idea so I'm taking it.), who would be played by Anne Hathaway.
(Whoever shopped that picture is a genius. And yes, my movies would be filled with beautiful women... it's a proven formula, folks!) She would end up falling for him, and he for her a bit, but she'd only be interested in him in costume, not out of it. All that would really come out of it is a few fights/sexual banters, and he'd convince her to give up crime. Venom would attack Spidey after one of his fights with the Black Cat, beat the crap out of him, and just leave. The climax would be Venom kidnapping MJ and Peter going to the rescue, keeping Venom busy while Black Cat sneaks in and gets MJ away without Venom noticing. Spidey would then beat Venom, get to MJ and they'd kiss, while Black Cat watches from the shadows, hurt and angry. Credits roll... short scene of a beach where Sandman has reconstituted himself, and he is approached by same figure from the end of Spidey 3, and they make a deal.

Spider-Man 5: Peter and MJ would be working things out in this one. Harry Osborn wakes up from his coma, Peter and MJ go to visit him, and he says he never wants to see either of them again, and that he still wants revenge on Spider-Man. Later in the film, his butler would tell him the truth about his father and what he did, giving Harry some things to think about. There would be a scene at some point between Spidey and the Black Cat where she's pissed at him for loving someone else and she tells him to go to hell or something. The villain? Remember how, in all the movies, there was at least one scene between Peter and his one-armed professor, Dr. Connors? Well, it's about time to turn him into the Lizard. The Lizard would be rampaging through NYC, eating people and whatnot, and would kick Spidey's rear a few times. Cue the second new character, coming to America to hunt the biggest game he's ever seen: Kraven the Hunter (despite the silly name, this guy was so badass he buried Spidey alive at one point) played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.Just change the costume up a little and he's perfect. In the end, Spidey would have to use Connors's own notes to synthesize a cure for the Lizard, while trying to keep Kraven from killing him. Of course, he'd be successful, Lizard is cured, Kraven goes to jail, and Peter proposes to MJ and she says yes, and the credits roll. Post-credits, shadowy figure talks to Black Cat about how she hated Spidey and how he could help her get back at him, and she says she's listening.

Spider-Man 6: This is it, the big pay-off. It would also be the first and only of the movies to have another word in the title, and comic book fans might have seen where I was going with this. The full title would be Spiderman: Sinister Six. One of the biggest events in Spidey comics is when a group of his enemies get together and attack him, and that's what would happen here. The movie would open with three scenes, alternating between them: Spidey fighting Sandman; Black Cat breaking Kraven out of prison; and Dr. Octopus breaking Eddie Brock out of the lab where he's being kept and re-uniting him with the alien symbiote. Sandman would just flee the battle, his job as a distraction over. He'd go somewhere secret, where Black Cat and Doc Ock had brought Kraven and Venom, and the shadowy figure would finally be revealed as Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, and you'd have the Sinister Six, and their goal is simply to kill Spidey. Meanwhile, Peter and MJ are getting ready for their wedding. Black Cat finds Spidey and warns him; she wanted to get back at him for breaking her heart, but doesn't want him dead. They decide she should stay with the Six to watch them, until the big finale, where she turns on them and sides with Spidey, making it five against two. The battle would be all over the news, and Harry would see his father still alive and go to join the battle... on Spider-Man's side! After learning the truth about his father, he wants to redeem himself by being a good guy. With the odds now five against three, the good guys manage to win, the bad guys go to jail, Peter and MJ get married, with Harry as the best man, and the saga ends!

I know having that many villains in one movie might be a lot, but, I think it would work, because they don't really need characterization time. They all already had it in their individual movies; this one is just about revenge. With this six-part structure, each villain gets their own time to shine while the danger is ratcheted up in each sequel until the most dangerous finale; the storylines of Peter and MJ and Peter and Harry have more time to develop with their ups and downs and reach satisfying conclusions.

Of course, there could always be a Spider-Man 7, but I think it's time for me to get out of the director's chair.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Infinite Jest

Infinite JestInfinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I majored in English in college. That means I spent an awful lot of time reading books that I was only reading because other people had picked them out for the literary value they thought they had. Sometimes I was reading three or four of these at once. Some of them i enjoyed. Some of them I never would have read if I didn't have to because there wasn't a thing about them I liked. When I graduated, I decided from then on I'd only read books I wanted to read because I thought I'd enjoy them. If I took recommendations from people, I'd only read books other people said they legitimately enjoyed, not because they thought the book had "literary value," or whatever. I broke that rule with Infinite Jest. I read it because of how it's supposed to be the greatest book in a generation or something. i don't know if it's deserving of that milestone, but one milestone it definitely has is that it's the first book in at least a decade I gave up on and didn't finish reading. The pretention behind the writing style just annoys the hell out of me. Fun ideas or not, i just can't do it. Maybe another time. But I doubt it.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Thankful Stormtrooper, 2013 Edition

Thanksgiving is upon us once again, which means it's time for another installment of my annual tradition of a brief post of the things I'm thankful for this year.

As always, the list starts off with Jameson Irish Whiskey. Because how the hell could you not be thankful for that wonderful libation?

I'm thankful for having the best year in terms of employment that I've had in a good five years. I worked pretty steadily all year long until now. Sure, they were all temp jobs, but temp money is just as spendable as perm money, right? If nothing else, a much more up-to-date and current resume is so much nicer and more attractive and convincing than one full of employment gaps. Of course, I really need to find something more steady and lucrative now as we approach the next thing on my list...

I'm thankful for having found a wonderful woman to spend my time with. I'd list all the reasons I'm sort of crazy about her but I don't want her to get a swelled head or anything. Plus, if you all know me, you know there's a limit to just how verbally nice I can be to somebody without getting apoplectic, so suffice to say she is the aforementioned wonderful. And it doesn't hurt that she's beautiful. Uh oh. I feel apoplexy coming on.

I'm thankful for all the things in entertainment I enjoy; all the varied TV shows and movies and books and comic books and games and everything else that divert from life and bring all kinds of thoughts and emotions. And I'll throw in this category how thankful I am for writing, even though I don't do enough of it and especially not enough of the kind of writing I should.

Lastly, I'm thankful for the family I love, no matter how annoying and unbearable they make life sometimes, and for the friends I love who make it bearable again. Y'all know who you are.

So that's it. In this season of Thanksgiving that kicks off my favorite time of the year, I urge you to share the things you're feeling particularly grateful for in the comments below, and maybe next year I can add "reader participation" to the list!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Ragtime

RagtimeRagtime by E.L. Doctorow

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I could see a lot of brilliance in this book, but I'm afraid I couldn't get into it through my hatred of the author's particular style enough to actually enjoy it. I hate the overly long paragraphs that compose the book; they make for intimidating blocks of text full of run-on sentences and asides that seem to have very little bearing on the story. I also didn't care for the author's lack of conversation and dialogue as a storytelling device for the most part or for the exclusion of quotation marks on the rare occurrence when he did use dialogue. I can enjoy the sort of co-mingling between fiction and history that goes on here (personally i think Ken Follett does it much better) but for me the book didn't get interesting until the last third where it became mostly about the author's own created characters, but by then it was too little, too late to really make me like this book.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

5 Favorite Doctor Who "Oh, the Feels" Moments: Countdown to the 50th Anniversary 1...

The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special is a scant nine days away now, and I figured what better day for me to drop the last installment of my special countdown series than on the day after the premiere of the special prequel minisode, "Night of the Doctor," right? So far, this series has seen me countdown my five favorite stand-alone episodes, my five favorite two-parters, and my three favorite specials. This final installment is all about the feels; any Whovian knows ours is a show full of feels, some of them happy but most of them almost devastatingly sad. This, then is a look at the five moments in NuWho history that have given me the most feels. And yes, there will be spoilers.

5. Eleven and Amy Take Vincent Van Gogh Into the Future to See His Legacy (Vincent and the Doctor, Series 5)

The Doctor, left, and Van Gogh, right

After befriending him in an adventure involving an invisible monster, The Eleventh Doctor and his companion Amy Pond take Van Gogh to a modern day retrospective of his art where the painter learns just how great his place in history is. It's a particularly touching moment to me as Van Gogh is easily my favorite painter, and it's a beautiful scene. It's also the only happy moment on my list, so i thought I'd start you off easy. Enjoy this moment, because here comes the rough stuff.

4. Ten Says Goodbye to Rose (Doomsday, Series 2)
I could describe what happens in this episode and tell you about the Daleks and the Cybermen and alternate dimensions and all that. Or I could tell you about how the end of it all sees the Doctor saying goodbye to the woman he's loved... or I could just let a picture say what a thousand words couldn't.

3. He Will Knock Four Times (The End of Time Part 2, 2010 New Year's Special)
Sometime during the course of the fourth season, the Tenth Doctor receives a prophecy of his death, that "he will knock four times" and that whoever this mysterious "he" is, his knocks will precede the Doctor's demise. Immediately after that prophecy, every knock is suspect. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Christmas 2009/New Year's 2010 two-part finale of David Tennant's run, where the return of the Master heralds the four drumbeats he always hears. Are those the four knocks? Or are the four knocks the beating of Rassilon's staff as the Time Lords return? No, they are not. The Doctor triumphs over everything and believes he has survived, until...

...Wilf knocks from the chamber he's locked in, a chamber he can only be released from by the Doctor's final sacrifice. Every time I watch this episode, even knowing what's going to happen, Ten's face hits me in the gut. This moment, which includes his farewell tour to all his loved ones, would be even higher on the list if not for the weakass final line they give him: "I don't want to go." You deserved better than that, Ten.

2. Goodbye, Sweetie (The Name of the Doctor, Series 7)
The Doctor and River Song. A love story told across two timelines travelling in different directions. It was a moment we always knew would come: River was always heading towards her death in her first appearance, but the sudden knowledge that between her last appearance in "The Angels Take Manhattan" and this episode, River passed away hits like a sucker punch to the nuts. But it gets worse! She's only in this episode because the Doctor has refused to say goodbye to her so her consciousness is lingering like a ghost until he says goodbye. Which he does with a final kiss, and even though River tells him they'll meet again, we know it will be from earlier in her timeline and for the Doctor, his wife is dead. River's final words to him are the mirror image of the greeting she's so famous for... goodbye, sweetie.

1. Raggedy Man, Goodbye! (The Angels Take Manhattan, Series 7)
You know what? I can barely even think about this episode and what I could possibly write about it without getting misty. So I'm not going to write about it. You can just watch. And for once, I'm not going to follow up with words, either. Because I can't. Oh, the feels.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Rage of the Dragon

Rage of the Dragon (Dragonships of Vindras #3)Rage of the Dragon by Margaret Weis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I picked this up I thought it was the final part of the trilogy, so imagine my surprise when I realized it was instead the third part of a quartet. It does explain why a large part of the first half of the book feels like filler, though. While the main character, Skylan, has grown a whole lot since the first book and has grown into a very enjoyable character, the novel spins its wheels for the first half, especially when it switches POV completely in Book Two. Once it switches back, however, the story picks up, as the intrigue between the various sects of gods is interesting, as is the subplot of what exactly the dragons know and what they intend to do. The climax is very thrilling; the book barrels on through its last hundred pages at a rousing pace, but the ending is a little abrupt. In short, it would have been better with a better first half, but is still a good book.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013


From Urban Dictionary:

"Watching a TV show or movie that you hate because you hate it.

Usage note: hatewatching is distinct from enjoying a guilty pleasure, wherein you like something despite its obvious badness. A hatewatched show is one the viewer genuinely despises but cannot stop watching. This could be because it is so "important" they feel they have to, because it has enough promise that they hope it gets better, because it's so well-crafted in it's terribleness that the badness itself is noteworthy, or because they enjoy the adrenaline that pure revulsion can bring. Whatever the reason, the hatewatcher can't look away from the trainwreck."

As the 2013 Fall TV season has progressed and I've eliminated most of the new shows from my list, it's dawned on me that there quite a few shows that I'm watching not because I'm enjoying them but because, for whatever reason, I feel like I can't stop... shows that I'm hatewatching. And because I'm all egotistical and think that you people out there give a crap about what I think and stuff, I thought I'd post the list and the reasons why.*

I gave my thoughts on this show in a post last week covering its first episode, and I'm here to tell you this absurd bastardization of the legend of Dracula got even worse in its second episode. Yet I'm still hanging around because it's Dracula and it's only ten episodes total and there's no way in hell this show is getting renewed past that and there's fuckall else on Friday nights so why not, right? I'll tell you why not: because gouging out my own eyes and then eating them mixed into a bowl of cut glass would be more fun.

I enjoyed this show for a few weeks after it debuted last season, but it went downhill fast. When the season finale revealed that the American government, which had been missing since the start of the blackout apparently, was alive and well in Cuba and ready to retake the country, I dropped it like a sack of manure. Then I did something I know I'm better than and I fell for the off-season hype and hints about how there was more to the American government than it seemed and how the show's title would take on a new meaning and I tuned back into the new season. What did I see? The worst character in the whole show dying off in the first episode... only to be revived by nanites who also apparently give him the power to have visions and set people on fire with his mind and stuff. I'd drop it like a sack of manure again, except now I have to see just how ludicrous it can get.

Once Upon a Time
For two seasons, I loved this show. I loved the way it balanced fairy tales with reality, flashbacks with the present, drama with comedy, main characters with quirky supporting characters. This season, it lost the magic of that contrast with a storyline taking place entirely in Neverland with nothing but the show's main characters. Gone is the town of Storybrooke and the fun ways reality and fantasy blended. Gone are all the charming background characters like the dwarves and Red Riding Hood; all we get now is the neverending drama of the Charming family. Rumpelstiltskin is still great, but even he's gone full emo now and isn't enough to bail out this show. I should have known this would happen after the way the abysmal spinoff turned out, but still. Now I'm stuck wanting to know what happens just because it got two years of my life already and part of me is hoping for a comeback.

A show that started out a brilliantly written character piece about crises of faith and identity has turned into nothing but another plodding spy drama full of "oh my god what a twist that no one saw coming except anybody with even half a functioning brain" moments juxtaposed with a completely boring depressed teen's suicidal dramafest. The character the show was built upon has only been in one episode out of six so far. The one saving grace of the show is Mandy Patinkin, and the closer his Saul Berensen gets to full asshole mode, the less interested I am.

And now we get to the two biggest offenders...

For five years, Supernatural was one of my favorite shows. The mythology and plotting was tight beyond belief, and there was a perfect balance between shows that advanced the main plot and done-in-one episodes. The stakes got upped every season as every time the Winchesters won a battle, they lost more of the war. It was a perfectly executed show... because it was planned that way from the beginning. Five seasons, starting with monsters and demons, ratcheting up the stakes until the apocalypse was pretty seriously nigh and only the death of a Winchester caught in the middle of a battle between the archangel Michael and Lucifer himself could save the world. The show ended perfectly. Except it didn't end. Now it's just a mishmash of plots we've seen endlessly about one of the brothers keeping a secret from the other one while the make a deal with a demon/angel they shouldn't have made while they're outsmarted by Crowley, the only reason to watch the damn show anymore. Every episode without him bores me to tears, and not even he could save last week's abortion of an episode involving Sam and Dean and the ultra-annoying Charlie helping Dorothy stop the Wicked Witch from returning to Oz. Yes, I just typed that sentence. Sorry, Crowley.

How I Met Your Mother
I don't even know where to begin with this one. It's clearly been drawn out much longer than anyone planned, and along the way the characters that were all so lovably real and well-rounded when the show started are all caricatures of themselves that are just about impossible to like. The mother's long overdue reveal at the end of last season was just about the most anticlimactic thing I've ever seen, and since then she's appeared in two episodes this season, a season that is just chock to the brim with filler nonsense like stunt casting and ridiculous fantasy sequences that would even be too ludicrous for Scrubs in its decline. And even though Ted hasn't met her yet, we get a flash forward to how he proposes to her, which is the first time we've seen them together and is just a total cheat to the show's main conceit. It's been a long time since I enjoyed this show on a regular basis, but I stuck around because after watching to long I have to see how he meets the mother, which apparently even though we've met her, Ted won't actually meet her until the last episode. And as if all of this isn't absurd enough, apparently there are talks of a spin-off with a whole new cast of characters, with the very original title of How I Met Your Father, that might be set up in the finale. You know, because that finale won't have enough to do and a hard enough time not sucking already.

*It's less because of that and more because I would at this point do anything to avoid working on the NaNoWriMo project I am to date failing so hard at.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Enzo. I never would have thought that a book written in the first-person with a dog as its narrator would be so damn entertaining, but this one surprised me. It's a wonderful oxymoron, deep and simple at the same time. The simple joys and complex musings of this particular example of man's best friend bring the reader to heights of elation and depths of sorrow. Seriously. Enzo had me alternating between laughing out loud, smiling broadly, and holding back tears as he narrates the struggles his family went through while he watched, most of the time feeling helpless while knowing and noticing more than anyone would ever expect. He really is the best puppy ever. The only detraction I could make is that there was a little too much racing jargon and history for my liking that felt to me like a chore to get through, but it's a necessary evil as it ties everything together at the end into one misty-eyed bow.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Shows Review: One Out of Four Ain't Bad...?

I'm back with what is going to be my penultimate review of new shows for the 2013 Fall Season. I'm a bit late on a few of the shows included here because for one thing I didn't have enough to write about any of them to give them a blog of their own really and, for another thing, life has been pretty busy lately. Plus, out of these four shows, only one was any good, so there wasn't any motivation to devote a whole lot of time to them.

So yeah, this is going to be pretty short. And away we go!

We start with a spin-off of an actual good show that seems to be a spin-off in name only as nothing I saw in the pilot or set up has anything to do with its parent show, Once Upon a Time. In fact, this show sort of defies that show's entire set-up; OUaT is about fairy tale characters moving back and forth between our world and the world of fairy tale. But, Alice is a fairy tale character who moves in and out of the fairy tale world and the "real world" in the fairy tale, so how does that affect the rules of the OUaT universe? It isn't addressed. If you can ignore that confusion in narrative logic, you get to the plot: Alice returns to Wonderland to find the man she fell in love with while she was there: the Genie from Aladdin's lamp who is apparently being held captive by the villain team of the Red Queen and Jafar, who are hunting for Alice because she's keeping the three wishes the Genie granted her in a hole in her shoe in the form of little rubies.

If that doesn't sound like bad fucking fan fiction, I don't know what does. Pass.

Here we have the CW version of a 1990's Nickelodeon remake of a 1970's British show that was on the face of it nothing more than an X-Men rip, right down to calling the people with powers "the next stage of human evolution, Homo Superior." Knowing all this ahead of time (and even somewhat remembering watching the Nickelodeon version twenty years ago), I gave the show a shot, and was confronted with a generic plot, bland acting, bad special effects, and a cardboard cut-out villain with a plot twist that will surprise only someone who has never watched a show or movie or read a book before, all of which adding up to equal a show that makes the worst episodes of Heroes look like Shakespeare.

Pass #2.

A legend is reborn... as Dracula is reawakened by Van Helsing, his reluctant BFF, so he can pretend to be an American captain of industry faking a really bad accent so he can use a new form of technology to destroy a group of people whose ancestors killed his family. Or something. It was a muddled, boring mess that hit as many cliches as possible while telling a story that has absolutely nothing to do with Dracula other than the character names. And yet, as bad as this was, there are only nine more episodes so I'll probably end up hate-watching the hell out of all of them. Maybe it'll turn around and surprise me at some point... but if it does, I'll shit in my hat. Pass #3.

I just realized something. Not only is The Originals the second spin-off on the list, it's also the second CW show on the list AND the second vampire show on the list. So apparently if you take all the shit shows I talked about above and make a Venn Diagram out of them, you get a middle full of win. This Vampire Diaries spin-off is just as good as the original (and if I haven't convinced you yet that you should be watching TVD, fine, sit there in your ignorance and miss out. Enjoy your bliss, you heathens.) The show follows the surviving members of the Mikaelson family, the first vampires of that universe, Klaus, Rebekah, and Elijah, as they return to New Orleans, a city they founded, and try to reclaim it from the vampire who usurped it while they were away, Marcelle, and his army of vampires and secret weapon. These are three great characters who balance each other out really well and the show is already a hit in my book, making it only the third new show this year I'm actually enjoying (Sleepy Hollow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. being the other two). In fact, I might go so far as to say it's the best of the new batch. It has great acting, drama, twists and turns, fatalities... much like TVD, it's like True Blood, but consistent in quality.

One more show to go and I'm done with these posts for another year. In the meantime, some reader participation would be nice: have you watched any of these shows and agree/disagree with me? Or have any you think I missed that you think I might enjoy? Let's talk about it!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

3 Favorite Doctor Who Specials: Countdown to the 50th Anniversary 2...

We're exactly one month away from the airing of the Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary Special, an episode we now know is titled "The Day of the Doctor," which makes today the perfect day to publish the third in my countdown series honoring this amazing show. In August, I counted down my five favorite stand-alone episodes and in September I counted down my five favorite two-part episodes. Tonight's new countdown is for the specials, a collection of episodes which consists of all the Christmas specials and the set of specials that rounded out David Tennant's run as the Tenth Doctor. Unlike the other countdowns this one will only have three entrees instead of five since there are only ten specials to choose from.

Oh, what the hell, let's throw in an honorable mention too.

Honorable Mention: Planet of the Dead (2009 Easter Special)

This special makes the list because it's a fun episode that gives the Doctor a great group of back-up characters and a great co-star, Michelle Ryan as the Lady Christina De Souza. Ryan's character, a master thief, is a great match for the Doctor in this episode and it's a terrible shame that she never appeared again. Plus, y'know, watching Michelle Ryan for an hour sure as hell ain't a bad thing.

It's a shame that Bionic Woman remake she starred in was such hot garbage.

3. The Snowmen (2012 Christmas Special)

Forget the mystery of Clara or the beginning of the Great Intelligence story arc. Forget even killer sentient snow, the joy of a cranky Eleven, or the voice talents of a certain special legendary actor. There are three simple reasons to love this special: Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.

2. The Christmas Invasion (2005 Christmas Special)

This special picks up right after the Ninth Doctor's regeneration, and the Tenth Doctor spends most of the episode unconscious and/or bedridden while Rose and her family watch an alien invasion of London. The greatness of the special comes when Ten wakes up, gets into a sword fight, scares the entire invasion off, and then in a fit of rage at an act perpetrated by the British government, starts a chain of events that takes that government down with just six simple words: "Don't you think she looks tired?" It's our first taste of just what kind of Doctor the Tenth Doctor is going to be... the Oncoming Storm.

1. A Christmas Carol (2010 Christmas Special)

My favorite Doctor. My favorite companions. An episode structured around the Dickens classic. Flying sharks. A paradox created by unintended consequences. There is absolutely nothing not to love about this special that I think is not just the best special the series has ever done, but really one of the best episodes. If The Day of the Doctor is even half as good as this special was, it'll be worth the wait and the hype.

Alright Whovians, use the comment box and let's hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular NowThe Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because the movie adaption is probably my favorite movie of the year so far so I figured the book must be fantastic, and I wasn't disappointed. I enjoyed the hell out of this book. It's remarkably well-written. The main character's voice is enthralling and endearing, something absolutely necessary for a book written entirely in the first-person; however, for all that Sutter is enthralling and endearing, you also can't help but feel bad for him and all his delusions. The only complaint I have about the entire book is the depressing-as-all-hell ending. I much preferred the movie ending, but I can't hold that against the book. It's just a matter of personal preference and takes absolutely nothing away from just how damn good this book is.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Godborn

The Godborn (The Sundering, #2)The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a follow-up to The Companions, this novel is pretty week, but as a stand-alone, it's... well, it's okay. It's definitely not for the uninitiated; if, like me, you going into this without having read all the other Erevis Cale novels, you're going to feel like you're swimming in the Bermuda Triangle for awhile. That's one of the books big problems. The other is that it takes entirely too long to go anywhere. After a very riveting prologue, the book spends way too much time being about powerful people talking about their plans without really saying or doing anything. I mean, the titular character doesn't do anything for almost 120 pages! What gets it three stars though is that once it picks up, it really picks up. The action becomes riveting and the drama even more so as those plans they spent so much time talking about start reaching their conclusions. Add that to the enjoyable and mostly well-developed characters and you have a three-star book that, if not for pacing problems, would easily have been rated four stars, or maybe even higher.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Winter's Bone

Winter's BoneWinter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very visceral, powerful read. It's stark and depressing with characters that feel both real and a little larger-than-life all at the same time. This is all due to the way Woodrell commits to the writing style he chose to use. The rough mountain language used by the characters isn't limited to just dialogue; it's in every sentence he writes, and it leads to the reader feeling fully immersed in the story he's telling. And Ree Dolly is one of the easiest characters to root for I've ever come across, due to her "sand," as other characters say. She's tough and hardened but still full of love, and you just have to both feel for and root for her.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Insidious Chapter 2

I have a very trusted barometer I use for just how scary a horror movie is: how many sleepless nights it gives me. By that barometer, 2011's Insidious was easily one of the scariest movies I've seen in years, giving me three sleepless nights before I got over it. Following that, then, Insidious Chapter 2 wasn't nearly as scary as the first one, resulting in only one sleepless night for me, and that sleeplessness could also fairly be attributed to a night of drinking an abundance of cocktails made with a Red Bull substitute. But just because it wasn't as scary as it's predecessor in no way means it was a bad movie; quite the contrary, actually. And I'll tell you why, and stay almost entirely spoiler-free while I do so. You're welcome for that, by the way.

First though, why wasn't it scary? The answer is through no fault of its own but instead due to what I call The Law of Diminishing Returns of Horror Sequels. What scares us about horror movies... and I'm not talking about the cheap jump scares here... is the unknown; we're afraid because we don't know what's going on. Freddy is terrifying in the first Nightmare on Elm Street because we don't know what his deal is. He becomes less scary once we know what's going on. The same can be said about just about any horror franchise, and Insidious Chapter 2 is no exception. We know the ghosts from the Further are trying to inhabit the father and son is this family so they can live again, and we know they're after those two because they have the power to "travel" into The Further while they sleep. That knowledge takes some of the fright out of it, and if you're anything like me, most of the rest is taken out by the knowledge that this can't possibly happen to you (because let's be honest, the reason The Exorcist is still to this day possibly the most terrifying movie ever is because, if you're remotely spiritual, you believe somewhere in your mind that shit can happen...). But again, just because the fear isn't there doesn't necessarily mean the sequel is bad.

And Insidious Chapter 2 isn't bad at all, partly because it seemed like the writers and director knew that with the mystery behind the fear gone they'd have to focus on something different to make a good movie. Instead of focusing on the question of what's going on and how it's happening, they focus on why and explore the mystery behind events. Instead of just trying to make us afraid of the spirit that was trying to possess the father in the first installment, they look into who, what, and why that is, and they tie it into the first installment in very tight ways some of them very surprising and satisfying. Which isn't to say the movie is perfect; they try to throw some humor into it in the form of two of the supernatural experts and in almost every instance it falls flat, serving not to amuse but to distract and it just breaks up the tension. But I can forgive that because the rest of the movie makes up for it.

It's probably obvious I really enjoyed this installment, probably more than I enjoyed any horror sequel in a long time. I just have one real gripe with it, and here's where the one spoiler I'll throw at you comes in: this horrifying, Tiptoe-Through-The-Tulips motherfucker wasn't in it...

...or was he? Insidious Chapter 3 is happening, after all.

And now, because I can't let that be the last image any of us sees, here's future Hollywood It Girl and star of my favorite movie of the year so far, The Spectacular Now, the adorable and amazingly talented Shailene Woodley.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings PlaybookThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those very rare times when I actually thought the movie was better than the book... but this review is about the book, so I'll stick to that. I enjoyed the plot and the characters, although as the story is told from Pat's perspective, all the characters except him and maybe his mother really get stuck with the short straw in terms of characterization. The other drawback to the first-person narration is that since it's Pat's and he's basically nuts, it's a very simple and very repetitive writing style that can get a little boring. The novel also has a very abrupt ending that is sort of anti-climactic after what comes before it, but overall it was still an enjoyable enough read... that was completely eclipsed by the movie.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New Shows Review: ABC Wins, CBS Loses. Twice.

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet today. I've seen three new fall premieres since last time, two on purpose and one because I had half an hour to kill last night and there was absolutely nothing else on. So let's get down to business.

I'm not really going to review S.H.I.E.L.D. because the point of a review is to possibly sway the opinion of people who aren't sure if they want to see something. Let's face it, there really aren't any such people when it comes to this show. Everyone who wants to watch it already is and have been waiting for it with bated breath since it was announced, and the people who aren't already watching it never will. So Instead I'll just say that while I loved it, there is still room for improvement, and I'm sure it'll get nothing but better as time goes on. ABC wins.

I wanted to like this. I really did. I've given everything Sarah Michelle Gellar has done since Buffy a chance, and this was no different. And it really was no different as, just like everything else she's done since Buffy, it was just awful. Robin Williams overacts his way through the whole affair as is his wont. Comedy has never been SMG's strong suit unless she's playing against the right supporting cast, and this supporting cast just falls flat. Plus, it has Hamish Linklater in it, and I just have an irrational dislike of him now after his turn as Jerry Dantana in The Newsroom. CBS unfortunately loses on this one.

I had absolutely nothing to watch last night so I ended up giving this a shot, even though I hadn't planned to originally. I should have stuck to my gut. I didn't laugh once. From the inane and overdone voice-over narration to the caricatures they parade out as characters to the forced male camaraderie that just grates, there is absolutely nothing good about this show. CBS definitely loses here.

So far, out of five new shows, the only survivors are the aforementioned S.H.I.E.L.D. and the surprisingly good Sleepy Hollow. There are still a few more to go, but it's looking like a pretty weak fall season so far...