Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Almighty Johnsons, Season One, Episode One: It's a Kind of a Birthday Present

The Almighty Johnsons is a fantasy show based in New Zealand.  I think this is the first time we have done a show from this area of the world.  The Johnsons are all human manifestations of Norse Gods.  They become aware of who and what they are on their 21st birthday. They escaped to New Zealand (of all places) to avoid religious persecution.  Throughout the years, their powers are diminished but it has beeN foretold that when Odin completes his quest that they will again become full Gods.

Axl Johnson is about to turn 21 and so his grandfather, who he believes is his cousin, and his brothers, take him out the woods to tell him the family history.  He is rightfully distrustful and believes that his family is about to pull some sort of weird prank on him.  He learns that the man he believes to be his cousin is actually his grandfather.  Olaf Johnson is actually Baldr and this makes him the God of long life and rebirth.  This is why he looks young, despite the fact that he is actually 90 years old.  Olaf is the oracle of he family, and he is the one responsible for figuring out exactly which God Axl is. It turns out, Axl is the reincarnation of Odin.

Axl quickly moves from disbelief to excitement.  He is desperate to find out what his God power is as all of his male family members do seem to have some sort of power.  His older brother Mike Johnson who raised him is Ullr - the God of the hunt and he has the ability to win any game he chooses to play. Anders Johnson is Bragi, and is he God of manipulation and poetry.  A simple whisper in someone's ear is enough to get them to act in the manner that he wants.  Mike makes it clear that he believes that Anders is evil, as well as the veiled suggestion that he is a rapist.  If one is manipulated into having sex, then one cannot consent.  Ty Johnson is Höðr - the God who has the power to make everything around him cold. 

There are a group of women who attempt to halt the prophecy of Odin's return, but their actions actually fulfill the finale prophecy.  At this point, I highly suspect that this group of women are actually female Gods, but we have been given no back story surrounding their purpose. They attempt to kill Axl twice, and they  fail twice.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Teen Wolf Season 2 The first 10 minutes!

Review of Child of Fire By Harry Connolly Book 1 of the Twenty Palaces Series

The book opens with Ray Lilly driving Annalise Powliss, who is a member of the Twenty Palace Society - a group dedicated to eradicating demons and stopping the use of magic in the world,  towards a small town.  Ray knows that when Annalise is finished using him as her wooden man that she intends to kill him.  Though Annalise is the least powerful member of her society, there is no doubt that she can easily kill Ray.  

The children in this town are disappearing and even more alarming -- once they disappear -- no one remembers them, not even their parents.  At the center of this mystery, is a strange doll factory that was created specifically to give jobs to the locals, because the mining industry has fallen apart.  As with all small towns, the community is extremely tight knit and very protective of the Hammers, who are the richest family in town.  The police are completely corrupt and actually demand 100 dollars protection money a month from local businesses.  

As Ray and Annalise investigate, it is clear that some sort of evil is at work in this town, but when Annalise gets horribly burnt, Ray is left to his own devices to solve the mystery and attempt to find a way to restore the children. He is armed with a magical knife made out of paper, which has the ability to cut through anything, eradicate magic and comes to him on command.  His body is marked with several tattoos that render him somewhat immune to harm.

Ray is a touch of a Gary Stu and regardless of what the situation is, or how fantastic the odds, he manages to escape.  Interestingly enough, though we are told that Annalise is the powerful one, it is Ray who ends up feeding her raw meat in an attempt to heal her, and it is Ray who ultimately saves her life. Ray also has a complete and utter aversion to guns, even when people are shooting at him, he refuses to fire back because, "someone might get hurt."  No matter how many bullets the bad guys fire, Ray never gets shot.  Uh huh...this is a pure action and adventure trope that is boring. 

The Problem With Female Werewolves

Of all the creatures in Urban Fantasy, it seems that werewolves more than any other are intrinsically masculine. Female monsters are often much rarer  - and often problematic at that - but female werewolves in particular seem to be an extra rarity.

In many ways a werewolf is the utter opposite of how we view womanhood, especially white womanhood. In many European traditions (and, we have to remember, the shapeshifter tradition is a broad one) the werewolf is an uncontrolled, hairy, animalistic creature. Something utterly unrestrained, something that is unleashed, something aggressive and violent. In short - everything a woman “should not be”. A woman should be restrained, delicate, gentle, always in control and most certainly not hairy! This unrestrained, unrefined, uncontrolled aggressiveness (and hairiness) is the very antithesis of pedestal womanhood.

When we do see female werewolves they usually have difficulties above and beyond what is experienced by other werewolves. They have extra angst, or extra problems or some other issue dealing with their werewolfdom.

Unfortunately the few times we do see female werewolves they are clearly less rational than their male counterparts. It is only when the text in question has only a male werewolf that the werewolf is allowed to become unglued, and subject to call of the moon.  The degree to which they are affected by the curse of lycanthropy, is directly related to the position of the moon. In some texts, the waxing gibbous is enough to cause significant change to their behavior pattern.  Oddly enough, regardless of the position of the moon, the female werewolf is generally effected by the curse. Her reason for a loss of control, has nothing to do with the moon, which I found odd because menstruation is often referred to as moon time. 

Debbie Pelt of True Blood, is clearly out of control and when you cast this against her would be boyfriend Alcide, there is a clear difference.  With the exception of the full moon, Alcide is always in control; he is extremely rationale.  Alcide possess all of the qualities needed in a pack leader.  Debbie on the other hand is violent, a drug addict [note: vampire blood; known as V is her drug of choice], jealous, and vindictive.  Many of her problems are at first blamed on her drug addiction; however, at the end of last season, Pelt was sober and once again her jealousy and rage flared.

Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series brings us one of the few female protagonist werewolves out there and certainly another werewolf who struggles extremely with what it means to be a werewolf. Despite being part of the Pack - a lofty status among werewolves - she has extreme trouble integrating with the pack. In fact the whole plot of Bitten revolves around her leaving the the Pack and moving to Toronto -- to try and flee not just them -- but being a werewolf entirely. She seeks a normal, human life regardless of how dangerous or impossible that is. She’s certainly not the only werewolf to leave the Pack - but they have left the pack because of objections to the Pack itself - Pack politics, Pack restrictions, Pack personalities - not being a werewolf. The whole world of the series is set up to make her an oddity because she is the only female werewolf - female werewolves are not supposed to exist, they’re never born and don’t usually survive the bite. And we see that same impossibility of her existence as a werewolf in Broken, where she has constant doubts over whether she can actually have children because she can’t imagine a werewolf being able to be pregnant or carry children. Being a werewolf and being a woman is a constant impossibility that plagues Elena’s life - whether her own doubts and trouble integrating or by making her a bauble or novelty to possess.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Haunted by Kelley Armstrong, Book 5 of the Otherworld Series

Eve Levine, witch, half-demon and general supernatural bad ass is a ghost. She jumped the gun a while back protecting her daughter and ended up dead in an unmarked grave, now she’s pottering about the afterlife trying to find a purpose and stalking her daughter. Her whole life has revolved around protecting her daughter for so long – but there’s nothing she can do but watch in her afterlife.

And the Fates are vaguely irritated with her – because she does a very good job of being irritating. But they have a task for her and her very very unique way of looking at things – her ruthlessness, her highly grey moral code and her determination to get things done. And she owes them a favour after they let Lucas and Paige out of the afterlife.

So she has a task to hunt down a Nix – a task that has previously been given to angels who have failed rather dismally. The Fates hope someone with her grey moral code may have a better chance against the conniving, dangerous and devious Nix. Of course, her angel partner believes that the Fates have other schemes in mind

It also gives her a chance to grow and experience the afterlife beyond the obsession with checking with Savannah – but does she embrace her new role, especially since it comes with the ability to influence the real world – and possibly be Savannah’s real protector – but at the same time tie her to her mortal daughter rather than moving on with her afterlife.

Storywise, this is an extremely good mystery. Not that they don’t know who did it – but the sheer difficulty of trying to capture the Nix is a mystery in and of itself. She can teleport, she could be anywhere in the world, she flips from mind to mind leaving a path of destruction in her wake. The difficulty of finding her – let alone capturing and containing her – is a difficult puzzle on its own.

This involves a mystery that has them jumping back and forth around the US and Scotland, jumping to different historical murders, trying to find an edge and constantly surprising the Fates with Eve’s fun, twisty ways of completely leaving the Fates standing (and bemusement why they just won’t let her kill people!) as well as heartstopping when the Nix shows she’s a dangerous quarry to hunt and attacks Eve however she can as well – including through her family.

The pacing’s extremely good – there were no slow periods even when Eve was frustrated by lack of information and leads.

Blood Ties Season 1, Episode 7: Heart of Ice

Vicki and Celluci are doing their flirty thing, with Celluci blurring the boundaries around their relationship and Vicki giving him not too subtle “back off” vibes. And Vicki doing some actual, mundane detective work for money.

On the supernatural front, Francine, a homeless woman is attacked by night-versioned beast-like hunter under the light of the full moon.

Annie, another homeless person and a friend of Francine takes the case to Vicki. She remembers Vicki from her police days as one of the few who had any sympathy for the homeless – and with at least 4 people missing, they need sympathy.

After finding some of the dead woman’s stuff and some blood she, of course, turns to henry, hoping to use him as a bloodhound to track the blood trail into the sewer. Yes there is flirting. Vicki takes the bag they found to Celluci to try and get the police working on the case. Celluci is unwilling to devote resources to the case and deems it a low priority and a “hard sell” especially since it’s based on the witness statements of homeless people.

While not helpful on her case, he does want Vicki to look at his; Celluci and Graham are working on the murder of a sex-worker who was drained of blood with tiny holes on her neck. And a big, neon sign saying “vampire” flashing over her corpse. Yes, of course Celluci is aimed at Henry and Vicki is protecting him. The fact that Vicki has given Henry blood before also raises itself in the conversation

Henry’s tracking of the beast doesn’t find it – but does find a human who is also hunting it – and he calls it a Windigo. The man, Peter, a Native American, returns to Vicki’s office with Henry to tell them a dramatic story about the Windigo – a creature that used to be a man that eats people. He tells all of this in a rather stilted English for some reason. Coreens’ research fills in some gaps on the big hairy monstrous Winidgo

Celluci is approached by a Javier Mendoza over the dead sex-worker. He’s an officer of “canon law” and is basically hunting Henry because he’s a vampire.  He also brings a file of other supposed victims of Henry, including Delphine, a  woman he was in a relationship with in 1944 – which Celluci then takes to confront Henry with in his classic jealous style. Celluci is left with the difficult choice of handing Henry over to Mendoza or not – he doesn’t like Henry, but working with or helping a vigilante killer is a hard choice to make.

Javier presents Henry as a monster with a mass number of kills and that Vicki will be the next victim. And Javier gives him a sun pendant that will drain Henry’s life if placed on his chest. And Javier should know because, unknown to Celluci, he has already used it on Delphine – who isn’t dead, she’s a vampire (something Henry neglected to mention) and imprisoned at Javier’s mercy, left for the sun.

Cover Snark: Same Book, Two Covers and so Many Problems

This week on Cover Snark we’re going to look at the same book and how it is changed to different markets – alas. Yes, alas because it’s one of those choices that bemuse me.

We begin with Rivers of London. A very evocative title and very appropriate since Mama Thames and Old Father Thames – and their offspring (all tributaries of the River Thames) play such a major role in the plot line. It’s relevant to the story

And the cover? The cover is beautiful – it’s a map of London made up of the places of London , notes of those places and other indicators of the real London – with the blood red Punch, appropriately displayed on top of it. All relevant to the story, the place – and it’s a unique and interesting cover.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, Book 1 of the Rivers of London series

(In the US this book was released under the title Midnight Riot.)

Peter is a probationary police officer in the MET – just about to get his first real position. And it doesn’t look good – he’s a bit too easily distracted, doesn’t have much concentration and maybe not best fit for the job; a fine future of office work awaits him. At least until he meets Chief Inspector – he’s the MET’s wizard. And, after taking a witness statement from a ghost, it seems that Peter is perfectly placed to join that very unique police department.

It’s not the most conventional department – especially since he and Nightingale make up its entirety, along with a completely unknown non-human servant Molly (and a large library full of extremely old books). In addition to learning how to become a wizard, he’s also tasked with brokering a peace deal between Mama Thames and Old Father Thames – deities in all but name.

But the primary task is a series of horrendous and apparently random murders leaving people with their faces apparently falling off. The investigation of random culprits, ghosts, a couple of vampires, magic, gods of the London rivers and a rampaging Punch and Judy Show. It seems so random – but it all comes together excellently.

Sometimes I pick up a book set in Britain and I can tell it’s written by an American (anachronistic profanity and a heroin-like addiction to tea are normally involved), sometimes I’m not sure – and sometimes I know beyond a shadow of a doubt there is no way anyone but a British person could have written a book.

And this was most certainly one of those. Within seconds of opening the book I could feel the Britishness wafting off every page. There is a brilliant sense of time and place – this is London, you can feel London on every page. This is London as can only be written by a Londoner. In short, the setting is really well done with a full sense of history and local knowledge. The writing style is wordy – but concise, the descriptions giving an excellent feel of time and place and making the scene excellently real. Normally I am put off by too much description but this book hit the balance of making sure the whole scene was conveyed while not losing us in dense verbiage.

And that same level of detail applies throughout the book – not just the place settings. The author either has a background in policing or has gone to far more research than most. The book has the police procedure down perfectly. There’s no magical CSI (well, except actual magic) no random police units that don’t exist, no fudging of the issues and the procedures – it’s accurate.

The magical world setting is also excellent. I wonder how big the author’s world building notes are because it feels extremely planned. It’s consistent, we have a full, internally workable system for the magic (not just words and lights) – it feels planned, it feels workable and it adds a level of realism that all of these creatures and beings and magic work together in an overall logical and thought out system. It’s almost a scientific take to magic. It shows a lot of work a lot of dedication and it makes the story work more because it works within itself – and magic has rules so doesn’t just Deux ex Machinae everything.

Being Human U.K. Season Three, Episode Four: The Pack

The episode begins with George and Nina searching for Tom in the hopes of finding answers.  Both Nina and George are concerned that the baby will not survive the change. Tom is excited when he sees them in the woods but McNair tells him to hide and not come out.  When George and Nina question McNair, he claims not to know anything.  This denial keeps up until George hears Tom inside the truck.

Back at the house, Mitchell and Annie are trying to figure out how to have an intimate relationship. It does not help that Annie keeps asking Mitchell every few seconds how he feels and even suggests that his pants are too tight when she cannot get a rise out of him.  As an aside, I have to say that I wouldn't have minded have a little snuggle with Aidan Turner myself, that man is a thousand different kinds of yummy. Mitchell if finally forced into asking Annie if it's okay for them to just cuddle.

When Nina and George return, Annie is sitting on Mitchell's lap.  They pretend to be practicing ventriloquism rather than and admit to Nina and George that they are actually a couple.  Nina and George are just as secretive when asked about what they are doing.  An awkward silence descends and they end up going their four separate ways.

Later that night,Tom breaks into the house.  Mitchell realizes that a werewolf is on the premises and goes on the attack.  Annie desperately screams for George and Annie, as Mitchell and Tom fight.  McNair comes into the house but before he can attack, Annie wards him off, as Nina and George separate Tom and Mitchell.  Mitchell wants to know why Tom and McNair are in the house and George says that he is sought them out because Nina is pregnant.  Annie immediately begins to squeal happily and Mitchell congratulates George on becoming a father. 

McNair wants to leave and tells Tom to stand up but Nina says that he needs to go the hospital.  McNair says no because they are werewolves and so Nina says that she is a nurse and that the would needs to be cleaned.  Nina and Tom go upstairs, where Tom tells her about how werewolves killed his mother.  It seems that they were trying to run away from vampires but she wasn't fast enough. 

Downstairs, McNair is making it clear that he does not trust Mitchell.  He makes it clear that if anything happens to Tom that he will hurt Mitchell.  McNair tells Mitchell that he knows all about the cage matches that vampires hold to set werewolf up against werewolf but  Mitchell tells him that these fights are a thing of the past. 

McNair goes upstairs to see Tom and announces that he and Tom will stay until this is all cleared up.  Nina says that they need to go to the hospital in the morning for X-Rays to ensure that she got all of the glass out of the wound.  In the morning they head off to the hospital.  When Tom takes off his shirt, Nina notices that he has the same scars that she and George have.  She tells George that she believes that Tom was turned and that he wasn't born a werewolf.

Wednesday Reboot: Highlander

Highlander was released in 1986 and stars, Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery and Clancy Brown. In the interest of transparency, I am going to say upfront that I am a huge fan of both the franchise and the soundtrack, which was done by Queen. That said, I still believe that Highlander has its share of problematic elements.

Conner MacLeod of the clan MacLeod goes into battle with his kinsman, and is killed by a Black knight named Victor Kruger. His kinsmen declare him dead and are not pleased when he awakes. They assume that his return to life is the work of the devil and drive him out of town.  He sets up home with Rose and is content until Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez appears and informs him that he is immortal and that he must learn to protect himself. Juan teaches him about the competition that they are all in and how to protect his head, because other immortals will try decapitate him in the hopes of gaining his power.  This of course introduces us to the catch phrase for this movie, 'there can be only one."  The last immortals will apparently all get drawn to the same location at the time of the quickening and the last one left alive will be heir to untold power.

Juan suggests that he give up Rose because of the pain that he will feel one day when she dies and because he cannot give her children.  Conner refuses to give her up.   Later that night, Juan is telling stories about his life to Rose when Kruger breaks into the castle and kills him and rapes Rose.

Much of Conner's history is told between flashback and present day.  In the present, Conner is an antiques dealer and goes by the name Russell Edwin Nash.  He comes to the attention of the police after he is found trying to flee the police after beheading  Iman Fasil.  Brenda J. Wyatt who works with the police finds a fragment of the sword that Nash used to kill Fasil and immediately starts investigating him.  She agrees to have dinner with him in order to entrap him, but Nash is onto her from the get go.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HBO’s ‘True Blood’ Season 5 Trailer

It's getting closer folks.  Are you as excited as we are?

Review: Inanimate Objects by Kendra Saunders

Leonidas is an up-coming new artist; outrageous, flamboyant, stylish and edgy. With a unique style and incredible talent – he has caught the eyes of many, especially Matilda. Lady Matilda August, an immortal muse who has had centuries of training, moulding and controlling artistic talent, bringing out the very best in artists and ensuring they will be remembered for generations to come. She is fantastic, larger than life with connections around the world and the power and the influence to take Leo wherever he wants to go

So long as where he wants to go is exactly where she wants to go. While she can give Leo everything, does Leo want to pay the cost for all that?

Meanwhile, Elisha August, Matilda’s immortal son is driven by revenge for the cruel death of his wife – cursed to die in his arms many years before. Elisha is convinced that his immortal magician father is behind the death and is determined to kill him in revenge. But his plotting threatens to drag his mother into his schemes – as well as Leonidas and his sister, Helena, caught in this immortal drama

This book is, in many ways, a work of art. I’ve said before how frustrated I get by overwritten works – I have a much stronger preferences for concise, plot driven works rather than reams and reams of flowery prose that doesn’t advance anything. Yet this book takes it’s elaborate prose and makes it work. It artfully uses very lengthy and repeatedly revisited description to paint the scenes amazingly well.

It also upholds its themes throughout. The pain of immortality and mixing with mortals. Of what’s actually important to an immortal. Of freedom from an overwhelming force that may bind you by giving you whatever you want. Of individuality. These are powerfully maintained throughout through the very well built characters.

And the characters are well built indeed – they’re vividly described. They’re generally pretty complex with even their surface shallowness covering a wealth of motivations We get to see their past and history and how that all came together into a whole making them all rich, three dimensional characters.

We also have an extremely good analysis of class. With Leo being treated as a pet by the stupendously wealthy Matilda who uses her wealth and influence to flutter from event to event, sure that her long experience, reputation and wealth will ensure that she is honoured and praised. Leo is arm-candy – to attend the events Matilda demands, to wear what she wishes, to meet who she wishes and, ultimately, to do what she wishes. She tries to map out his life for him and pull him in based on her fantastic wealth and contacts and what she can offer him. She regards Leo as a commodity to buy and control. Her friends and peers are astonished at the novelty of someone who grew up so poor and had to resort

We have some great analysis on Helena, who used to be fat and ignored – and now she has lost weight she is seeing so much attention – and rather than being grateful for it, she is angry about it. Angry at these people who dismissed her as a person before, who ignored her until she became thin and was suddenly worth her notice.

Inclusionwise, sadly, we only have a couple of POC who are passing background colour and not much else.

We do have a really fascinating world that’s artfully hinted at. A world where there are vampires, but we only see them in passing. A world with magicians but only hints at what they can do and what they can achieve. There’s a lot here and the hints just make me hungry for more because there’s so suggestion

I also have to give the author extreme kudos for originality. Not just style and description but the world described and the concept are unlike anything I have come across in the genre. When we seem to read books that cover the same themes over and over, it's a surprising relief to find something that is so unqiue

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 22: A Land Without Magic

In fairy land Prince James is trying to escape from his prison cell with a rock which is, unsurprisingly, not very successful when guards arrive to take him to his execution. Of course, no guards stand a chance against a hero and he knocks them both out and he is helped by the Huntsman! Who had been enslaved by the Queen

The Queen spies the prince through the mirror and sends him to a vast, trackless forest; the infinite forest with no way out where he runs into Rumplestiltskin.  He agrees to give a Snow White tracking ring to Prince James for a price. James refuses and tries to stab him which… doesn’t really work. Did I mention how awesome Rumplestiltskin is?

We have a fairy tale moment saying how wonderful True Love is – and he wants his last stock of purple True Love juice to be protected by putting it into the belly of a beast. Off he goes to a castle to find the beast –and it’s Pam! Sorry, Maleficent who then turns into a dragon. Wow, special effects budget, I like it. Epic fight scene time!

He deposits the potion and gets his ring from Rumplestiltskin and nifty new clothes and the ring leads him to Snow White in her glass coffin. Time for the kiss and happily ever after… except their step-parents still hold the thrones

In the real world, Henry is rushed into hospital having been brought low by Regina’s baked goods. The doctor doesn’t understand, no poison has this symptoms – it’s almost like magic. Revelation moment for Emma – who picks up The Book and has a flashback of Prince James and Snow White putting her, as a baby, in the cupboard. Emma loses it, drags her into a storage cupboard and tells Regina that Henry ate her apple turnover – and demands to know if it’s all true. Regina confirms it, in tears and that she tried to kill Emma because that’s the only way Henry would be hers – but she has used up the last of her magic. This is an amazing scene – and we finally get proof of Regina’s care for Henry. They need help from the other person in town who knows about magic – Mr. Gold who Regina reveals as Rumplstiltskin

To Gold! And he tells them True Love will break any curse – and he has bottled some from the strands of Emma’s parent’s hair (his purple potion). He put a single drop on the parchment that created the curse for Regina – and that drop is why Emma can break the curse – long awaited and excellent exposition time! Emma has to be the one who finds the magic to break the spell (I do not appreciate the denial of Regina’s motherhood though, the fact Emma is the product of the magic would have been enough). And I love how Gold slips into Rumplestiltskin’s word choices and patterns when the truth is out - his acting has been part of what made this show. The bottle was hidden inside someone who Regina has locked up – and Emma will need her father’s sword to get it.

Regina has a show down with Jefferson - refusing to fulfil her part of the bargain and reunite him with his daughter. And Emma finds August turning into wood while giving her a pep talk. Onwards to the Evil Queen bat-cave where the True Love Potion waits, among the detritus of old fairy tales – in the belly of Maleficent who is, surprise, still a dragon! Well if Emma didn’t believe before, this should do it. Time for another epic fight scene! (Though I love that Emma draws her gun first) and she gets the egg with the potion inside. But Gold tricks them out of it (well, Emma’s ridiculous trust does)

Mary and David meet up for some quality Wet Lettuce time. Later Mary goes and sees Henry in the hospital and reads the Snow White story to him – which is very narcissistic really. Then Henry starts crashing while Jefferson sneaks into the hospital to release Belle from her prison – to go to Mr. Gold and tell him Regina held her prisoner – he will, presumably, be upset.

Gold has his potion at the shop – and Belle arrive telling him that Regina locked her up. This does not make Gold happy.

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 7: A Man Without Honour

In Harenhal we have standard shots of grimness and cruelty. Tywin is convinced that the death of his soldier (who was going to reveal Arya’s note stealing last week) was an attack on him. Ser Gregor the Mountain, who is not a Nice Man, is doing lots of hanging and torturing assuming that the death was caused by “the Brotherhood”. And, yes I agree with Tywin, that’s a ridiculously pretentious name.

He monologues away to Arya (who is awesome) about the war and his legacy and some exposituion about the history of Harenhal while Arya contemplates stabbing him in the back. But she joins in and reveals she knows rather a lot about the history herself. Tywin pokes her that he knows she is of noble birth but she continues to dance around him – I love how these two spar.

In Kings Landing Sansa approaches the Hound, Sandor Clegane in the halls to thank him for rescuing her from last week’s riot. She objects to how harsh and hateful he is – but his comeback is good as well, he may be rough and unpleasant but his actions protected her - and he also subtly made it clear he intends to stand between her and Joffrey.

Sansa wakes to find she has had her first period. With Shae (who has clearly thrown her loyalty in with Sansa, at least against Cersei) she tries to hide evidence of it (when she has her first period she is considered old enough to marry Joffrey) and Shae threatens a servant to keep it secret – but Clegane finds out and news reaches Cersei. Cersei discusses her own pregnancies and giving borth – with the late King Robert’s indifference, and her brother Jaime’s devotion. It’s also clear that whatever illusions Cersei had about Joffrey are at very least dying. Cersei’s delusion and cynicism is painful to see and extremely well acted – how love causes her to support people even when she knows she shouldn’t (Joffrey, again) and how you shouldn’t love anyone except your children – with whom you have no choice (again, the bitterness over Joffrey).

Cersei and Tyrion have one of their pleasant little meetings and they both discuss how they can’t control Joffrey. And Cersei wonders if Joffrey is their punishment for Jaime and her’s incest (pretty much confirming it to Tyrion even after he gives her the chance to pretend Robert is his father). Tyrion comforts her with Tommen and Marcella – surprisingly sweet, gentle children. It’s the first time we’ve seen these two act as siblings with Tyrion moved by his sister’s grief.

At Robb’s camp, the Lannister messenger/prisoner returns with news that Cersei is not accepting their peace terms, unsurprisingly. They have so many prisoners they lack places to put them so Robb, in his honour (gods save us from Stark honour!) decides to put him in the same cage as Jaime Lannister. Talisa wants medical surprises and so will come with Robb to the Cragg where he is negotiating a surrender. I predict more flirting.

The visiting Lannister and Jaime reminisce with the visitor clearly hero worshipping Jaime. There’s lots of reminiscing and exposition until Jaime reveals his escape plan – which involves Visiting Lannister dying (or Jaime beating him to death). The gaoler (the son of Lord Karstark) comes in to investigate… alone and gets a chain round his neck from Jaime.

If he escapes he doesn’t get far before being recaptured and Lord Karstark demands his head – to be talked into delay by Catelyn (in a masterful speech) to wait until Robb returns from accepting the Cragg’s surrender.

But anger grows through the night and Brienne says that the Karstarks or their men will try to kill Jaime before dawn – and if that happens who would fight to protect a Lannister? Catelyn goes for a dramatic confrontation with Jaime – who has wonderful points to make about the conflicting oaths a knight must swear in between insulting Brienne for being so tall and broad and insulting Catelyn for Ned’s infidelity.  Catelyn asks Brienne to give her her sword.

In Winterfell Theon wakes to discover that Bran and Rickon have escaped. He is unhappy about this – which certainly makes me happy. He is bemused that 2 disabled people (Hodor and Bran) can escape capture – which shows both Theon’s demeaning attitude towards them and how very wrong he is. So he calls up some horses and hounds to track them (what? Is he using Winterfell hounds, they’re collaborating? Or do the Iron Isles – seafarers and raiders – commonly have packs of dogs on their ships?). Theon is confident that his sister’s 500 men can hold Winterfell (and that Ned Stark apparently believed 500 men could hold Winterfell against 10,000 – so I assume the a) Ned was exaggerating and Theon didn’t realise or b) the castle has lasers or c) is actually a Transformer because there’s no other way that’s likely).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: Episode 66

This week we discuss the season finales of Vampire Diaries and Once Upon a Time and celebrate the demise of Secret Circle! We lament at Alcatraz being cancelled. We also discuss A Game of Thrones

We discuss out book of the week – City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare. And Tami is still reading her porn.

Face Off: A Tale of 2 Henrys

This is a tale of 2 Henrys.

Now, it’s a little fluffier than usual, but I was hit by a realisation watching Blood Ties (which we’re reviewing on Thursdays and you can find in our archive) - and the character of Henry Fitzroy, the sexy sexy vampire

Uh-huh, not throwing him out of bed for scattering crumbs. In fact, he can have a full 3 course meal with gravy, screw the sheets. How Vicki Nelson resists that or even thinks Celucci is a match, I do not know.

Review: City of Lost Souls, Book 5 of the Mortal Instruments Series

Jace and Sebastian have disappeared – and the Clave has started to reduce the hunt for them. They have other priorities and they just can’t dedicate any more resources to finding them.

Of course, Clary and her friends can’t leave it at that and can’t just let him go. They’re willing to search under every rock for him, leaving no stone unturned until they can find a way to both bring him back and free him from Sebastian’s control. It’s a quest that takes them to the secretive Iron Sisters, to summon mighty and fiercely terrifying demons and even call upon the Angels of heaven themselves and risk their furious wrath.

But, most heartbreaking of all is that Jace doesn’t seem to be unhappy where he is. Captive or willing accomplice seems to be in doubt. And if he is willing then what with clary & Co actually do? And are they willing to sacrifice him to stop Sebastian’s schemes? Or, if Jace trusts him, is there more to Sebastian than they have previously seen?

My first complaint of this book is, sadly, the writing. The series was always atrociously overwritten with a lot of severe Chekhov’s Junkshop issues, a lot of excess description and a great deal of unnecessary literary quotes.  This has always been a major barrier to my enjoyment of the series because it was so mired in pointless verbiage – it made Dickens seem concise. Now this book is much much better than previous books on that score. We have a lot less literary references, the dialogue is tighter, there’s less pointless description and less pointless tangents and maunderings.

Less. Unfortunately “less” here means I’m drowning in a sea rather than an ocean – it’s still overwritten and it’s still overdescriptive and the writing is still clumsy. In the first few chapters I could have started a drinking game based on how many times Clary felt “icy”. I nearly did start a drinking game based ion the number of times Alec’s hair and eye colour were described (they’re black and blue respectively, in case you’ve forgotten. An absolute impossibility if you read the book because they’re described at least twice every time Alec raises his black haired, blue eyed head) but was worried about the consequences of alcohol poisoning.

There were also moments of filler that were, frankly, bemusing. Jordan and Maia are giant filler characters for one – and I sat and gaped when, running to find a cure for Luke dying of demon poisoning, they decide to pull over and make out. Really?

Pacing was a problem. Clary is quickly separated from the group and spends much of the book following her own plan that doesn’t actually progress very quickly or in much detail – but we spend a lot of time on it to keep up with her emotional issues. Similarly we have a separate plot line with Simon that could be interesting but isn’t developed – so adds to the filler. And then we have the infuriating tangent with Alec sabotaging his relationship with Magnus – there’s a lot of pages written here that don’t advance the main plot or even their own plots significantly. It’s slow, has a lot of dead ends, a lot of irrelevance and takes a long time to actually get on with the plot. for huge amounts of the book all we have are people moping, people making out and people moping about wanting to make out with each other. This is like 2 thirds of the book.

I am actually immensely amused by how much people in this book refer to Clary as reckless, foolish and generally not one who makes the best decisions – it feels vaguely like Cassandra Clare re-read her old books and declared “no sensible person would do these things!” Oh and can someone please explain to me where Clary developed her epic fighting skills? Because she didn't get THAT much training

In some ways, Clary’s decision making is not nearly as bad as it was in previous books. But then, she doesn’t have much chance to make many decisions – she makes one (a horrendous, reckless and deeply foolish decision that Simon considers “suicidal” and is bludgeoned into helping her or she’ll plunge off and do it alone with no support) and keeping to that decision doesn’t really raise many more options. She can’t follow someone around and choose to do many other things. The sad thing is that doesn’t make Clary a better character – it merely means she’s more tolerable when her decision making is kept to a minimum; let’s not forget, the decisions she does make here are described as reckless, foolish and suicidal – and rightly so. They’re also frequently selfish and short-sighted, from leaving in the first place (including arguing that “it’s not fair” with her mother – what is she, 9?) to preventing Jace going to the Clave.

One thing I did like a lot about this book is the way Alec describes micro-aggressions he faces as a gay man in a homophobic society (even if that society keeps changing to fit the story needs, from virulently homophobic, to accepting, to “let’s just not talk about it”). The constant little heteronormative comments that are dehumanising and demeaning – it was really well done.

The Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 7: Walls

This episode begins with limits – specifically Harry’s inability to use technology because he’s a wizard and, above that, Bob’s intangibility making him unable to physically interact with the world. Something that’s especially poignant after last episode when we learned Bob was cursed into his skull after being punished for trying to resurrect his dead lover. He’s even more depressed when a prospective client arrives and refuses his help because she wants Harry

Harry runs into her walking home – asks if she needs help and she gets hit by a car (with a fuzzy faced magic man driving).

Time to report it to Detective Murphy (who covers every crime everywhere in Chicago ever). The deceased is Raychelle Banton and she had cut out Harry’s newspaper advert. Murphy has a bit of a snit because any case she has involving harry comes with a whole lot of randomness and lots of lies – now Harry says they also close the cases but I have to question that. Sure they’re resolved to Harry’s satisfaction, but I can’t imagine the paperwork would list the cases as closed at the police station. Murphy still invites him along to play (at least Detective Kirmani questions why they’re letting harry all over their crime scene but Murphy shuts him down) and examine the car that ran Raychelle over.

Harry finds tallow in the car and takes this to the very angsty Bob (thankfully Bob is both an actor who can pull off melodrama and he snaps out of it relatively quickly) and an answer machine message from Raychelle saying she had been seeing things.  Time for investigation at the college and to meet someone whose picture was in Raychelle’s date book, Dante. He claims to know nothing. Time to follow up the investigation with some magic and entering in Raychelle’s apartment, leaving his finger prints everywhere and finding an extremely expensive piece of jewellery– and been attacked by a man in a hood who magically disappears in a closet. Confirmation of magic!

The jewellery is part of a series of very expensive burglaries that Dresden reports to Morgan – which seems awfully precipitous. As Morgan points out – it doesn’t take magic to steal and make things disappear. They have their usual argument – Morgan makes it clear he’s a busy man with a war to fight and little time for Harry’s problems – but Harry makes it more personal and asks where the Council and their war against Dark Magic was when his father died. It was a good, heavy scene with a lot of issues touched on – including why Harry is doing what he does.

Harry does some magical spying on Dante and his two rich, connected friends – and they’re together with a lot of expensive purloined goods, referring to a Caleb and that Dante is working to clear his family’s medical bills. He follows them on their little bank robbing job where they magically dive through the banks walls to steal money. The problem is that one of them, Carson, only gets part way through and is ripped in half.

To the pathologist! And Waldo Butters is geeky and fun (but needs Polka music) declares that the body was killed by a large blunt instrument – and he was dying, rotting from the inside. Murphy confronts harry who knew both where the other half of the body would be (inside a locked bank vault) and that Carson was dying.

On to Bob (Murphy seems oddly placated by random platitudes) and some research. A tallow covered severed hand is, of course the Hand of Glory (it says a lot for my reading choices that I knew this from the beginning when they found tallow in the car). The severed hand of a dead thief covered in wax – it draws the energy from the boys (who all have emotional issues which makes them vulnerable) to power up super thief talents – like the ability to walk through walls – courtesy of the thief spirit bound in the hand candle. And that spirit is taking them over.

Review of Dark Shadows

I really wanted to like this movie and it should have been a winner considering that it once again paired up Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, but alas, Dark Shadows represents two hours of my life that I will never get back.  Dark Shadows stars Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green. This movie was based on the television series Dark Shadows which ran from 1966-1971.  I must admit that I am not familiar with the series so I cannot judge how closely the movie aligned with the series.

Barnabas Collins and his family sail from Liverpool to the U.S. where they establish themselves in the fishing industry and become the richest family in the town Collinsport, Maine.  The family builds  Collinwood Manor.  This should have meant a happy life for Barnabas but when his parents are killed mysteriously he spends his time investigating the dark arts, certain that some form of evil is at play.  He continues to run the business in between sleeping with Angelique Bouchard.  When Angelique asks that he declare his love, he is forced to admit that he does not in fact love her despite sleeping with her.  When Barnabas falls in love with another woman, Angelique curses Barnabas and he becomes a vampire.  She bewitches Barnabas' true love and jumps to her death from a cliff.  Angelique then sets the townspeople against him and he is buried in a coffin for almost two hundred years.

When Barnabas is accidentally dug up by a construction crew, he finds the world much changed.  He discovers that not only are his descendants still alive, but so is the witch who cursed him.  He sets about attempting to restore the family fortune, denying the charms of Angelique, learning about this new age, and falling in love with Victoria Winters, who is clearly the reincarnation of his lost love.  Barnabas uses archaic language that is meant to humorous, for instance his idea of complementing a woman is to comment on her child bearing hips.

Depp completely commits to the character of Barnabas and plays up the quirky dated character who he is playing, but in mind it is not enough to make the film entertaining. There are times when Barnabas is downright irritating and camp.  At several points throughout the movie, I found myself looking at my watch wondering how much longer I still had to sit through the film. Cameos by Alice Cooper not withstanding and comments about him being the ugliest woman that Barnabas has ever scene was not enough to save this film.

If you have seen the commercials advertising Dark Shadows, then you have already seen the best parts of this movie.  Burton went into this attempting to give the viewer classic gothic horror with a touch of comedy but it all fell incredibly flat.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Grimm, Season 1, Episode 21: Big Feet

“He Stripped off his skin and tossed it into the fire and he was human form again.”

Time for the penultimate episode of Grimm! Let’s see if they start tying up threads of the long neglected story otherwise I may have to break out the snark.

We start with fools walking in the woods at night looking for Bigfoot. I believe that a Wesen eating him may actually improve the intelligence of humanity so here’s hoping. Or a bear, a bear would do, I’m not fussy. Then we get screaming, running, lots of those horrible shaky camera effects that the Blair Witch made so annoyingly popular, and a guy getting thrown pretty impressively against a tree.

Meanwhile Tom Curson calls out vet Juliette because something big and furry attacked one of his horses.  And it was very very big and very very strong and very very hairy and leaves large, bare feet – that is wounded from Tom’s gunshot. Naturally they go wandering in the wood, at night, after the savage, clawed, wounded, angry beastie. As you do. And they find a large number of dead bodies.

In comes Nick, Hank and Wu (who has the perfect snarky lines and there really needs to be more of him) and they find the video camera and a survivor. She’s covered in blood, hysterical and blames it on Big Foot. The video shows a man wearing clothes though but also massive strength

Eddie is woken in the middle by Larry, a Wildermann, who has been shot in the leg. Naturally Eddie calls Nick. He can’t take Larry to a hospital because he can’t Voga – retract his monstery-ness, every would see him for what he is, not just Grimm and other Wesen. Eddie is also extremely doubtful that Larry is violent and he’s part of Eddie’s support group to control their issues and impulse controls.

The police have call in police dogs  who come near Eddie’s house – but not in because Eddie marks his territory and the dogs know better. Eddie puts on Larry’s shirt and runs through the woods, leading the dogs away. Ok, so they’d track Larry’s scent, but we’ve already established that the dogs are afraid of Blutbaden and won’t enter their territory – but they’re willing to chase one? At least when they corner him Eddie gives a fantastic roar (that Hank hears) and the dogs go running. To escape, Eddie knocks Hank over while looking all Blutbadey.

At that point Larry wakes up and rips something out of his own neck – and dies. Eddie does an amazing job of portraying restrained grief here – that’s some stellar acting. Eddie and Nick dump Larry’s body in the woods – but Eddie still doesn’t agree that Larry could have killed normally.

So Nick goes to speak to Larry’s therapist – Brinkerhoff. Who instantly starts asking Nick about being a Grimm and who knows, not that Nick answers. He had twice weekly therapy sessions, that helps with identity issues. Brinkerhoff has “creepy” and “villain” written all over him