Saturday, December 22, 2012

Syfy stars during the holidays!

Stars on holiday - some stars from the shows we watch enjoying the season: inc Being Human (US), Warehouse 13, Continuum and the upcoming Defiance

The Walking Dead Christmas

And you thought your Christmas was hectic?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lost Girl Season Sneak Peak

Whetting our appetite for its return

Supernatural: The Official Companion Season 7

I’m not normally a fan of behind the scenes guides and companions. I’m very fond of my suspension of disbelief and don’t like staring too hard and seeing the wires and trap doors. I don’t even check out actor interviews on my DVD extras

But Supernatural is on hiatus for a time and I’m getting withdrawal, so when I was offered this book I was sorely tempted. And when I realised that it would have pictures of Castiel inside I made frantic grasping motions and begging sounds.

I am easily swayed by trench coat wearing angels
 Upon reading it, I enjoyed it because of the amount of detail there is in there (and not just pictures of Castiel). There was a lot of detail as to what the writers and directors intended behind the show as well as what they wanted to portray and the themes they wanted to develop. Like the whole idea of Leviathans as a faceless, corporate threat that could be anywhere – how that motivated them to drop the Impala to continue the theme of loss and even the decision to keep the Leviathan gaping maws to a minimum simply so they could be presented as a corporate, wealthy, almost humanly powerful threat rather than a new gribbly monster. These insights into the planning behind the show actually tempted me to go back and check out the episodes again to see fully what they meant.

It also covered things that they realised where major barriers to get round in the writing – ensuring that their world setting remained consistent, even down to the colour of light used in souls, and working around having Castel, how hard it is to have an angel in the plotline without him becoming a deus ex machinae

The book also contains an episode by episode examination which I really loved. We got to see not just the various issues over the series as a whole, but also specific issues that arose in each episode; which was fun for finding specific sets and addressing specific fun one off characters or characters that only appeared in 2 or 3 episodes – like Garth (saved by Sera Gamble from being killed off!) or little touches like directors and writers being used as extras or painting of them used in sets. It’s hard not to go through each episode with the book and compare notes.

And it has some really fun anecdotes from the set giving a nice insight into how they work and the relationships the actors have – like the rubber duckies dangling from wires and Jared tweaking Jim Beaver’s toes when they were trying to have an emotional deathbed scene. Or the planning they had to fit around Operation Moose Drop (Jared and Genevieve Padelecki had a baby during this season)

The guide also gets into the nuts and bolts of the show. How exactly does one make a ripped out throat look realistic? How do you have one of your characters eat human flesh and make that look real? Where are the various sets? What exactly is that music? How do you mock up all the food when Jensen Ackles has to constantly eat as Dean but has a much much healthier diet than the role he plays? I liked that it talked not just to the actors but also the makeup artists, stunt co-ordinators, the composers, the graphic designers – all the people who add a lot to the show.

Of course, it finishes with some excellent interviews with the actors including Misha Collins acting with food poisoning, Jensen Ackles directing and Jared Padelecki’s new baby.

And it was fun to read about what they couldn’t do because of those pesky people in Standards not letting them rip Reaper heads off or boil someone’s head in cheese. Or sometimes simply because it was too expensive – so many dreams cut short by reality

If you’re a Supernatural fan, there’s a lot here you will love.

If you’re not a Supernatural fan… shouldn’t you be watching Supernatural and catching up?

And it has pictures of Castiel. 


Terra Nova, Season 1, Episode 4: What Remains

 We open with a man in Outpost 5, who seems to have learning difficulties playing with a giant insect. It escapes and he follows it outside. While there he becomes distracted by the flowers and finds himself face to face with a Carnotaurus. Which eats him.

Back at Terra Nova, Taylor and Elizabeth are going to check on the outpost that has gone silent. They don’t anticipate anything dangerous, they think it’s just a tech issue, though Malcolm wants to come as well. Lt Washington is in command while Taylor is gone. Why is Taylor going and not an underling?

Elizabeth, Taylor and the extra, Brady arrive to find that “Ovisaurs” have chewed the wires. Ovisaurs? Really? It’s not like you couldn’t have used an actual small dinosaur for the role – Oviraptor, compsognathus, troodon, coelurus. My dino-geek soul is saddened.

Anyway, the wires have been chewed through and the gate is open and shouldn’t be.  Time to investigate, carefully. They find the place is empty and Elizabeth finds notes saying “This is not a dream” and “do not leave the building!” They investigate further and find a room with 2 people strapped to beds and another woman pressed against the window.

The woman talks about running through snow up to her knees and asks if they’re with the Red Cross. As she settles down Taylor is confused since there’s no snow in Terra Nova, but Elizabeth says the woman believes she’s in 2137 Detroit when the city burned, there were food riots and the coldest October on record. She guesses the two strapped down patients are suffering from the same dissociative disorder, but more advanced. They find a computer with a log from the guy we saw at the beginning being eaten by the Carnotaurus. It records the illness taking over the staff – it starts with short term memory loss, followed by confusion followed by believing you are in one of your memories. Since he’s not around – the only one of the 4 staff members unaccounted for – Taylor orders Brady to search for him.

The log reveals a pathogen and Elizabeth thinks it’s likely they’ve been exposed. She has his notes on his progress curing it – but it devolves into a nursery rhyme. Time for Elizabeth to finish it because they can’t go home with the pathogen until it’s cured.

They find the missing guy’s boots – with his feet still in them. And call back to Terra Nova telling Jim they’re under quarantine. And the memory loss is starting, Elizabeth forgets who Zoe is (uh, forgetting your daughter is not “short term memory loss”).

The next day when Taylor at Outpost 3 doesn’t call in (which, Lt Washington explains, could be communication problems which they have a lot in that area) Jim wants to send a team to check up on them, showing his failure to grasp the term “quarantine”.  He insists on going to check on them, Washington tells him no. So he goes to Malcolm and asks to borrow his rover. Malcolm is furious that, as head of science, he hasn’t been informed about the quarantine (which he has a point) and insists on going with Jim (what part of the word “quarantine” do these people NOT understand?!). Jim refuses to take him and Malcolm asks what exactly Jim is going to do in a medical emergency? Shoot them back to health (second great point from Malcolm. Something should really eat Jim)?  

Jim concedes and also gets a temporary cold cure from Malcolm – a foul tasting root that Malcolm enjoys inflicting on him.

So off they go wearing face masks (not hazmat suits, just face masks. Elizabeth, in the same episode, said the pathogen could be from an insect bite or any number of sources). They arrive to find the Ovisaurs (Dino Geek grumble) chewing on the wires. They go in in time to tell Lt Washington that they’ve blatantly ignored her orders and trell her he’s looking for the group then dismiss her.

GBLT Characters on our shows: What do you expect us to Watch?

As I watch many many many programmes and critique them I inevitably get someone saying the same damn thing:

“Just don’t watch it!”

There are many replies to this, but irritation has worn me down until even I, who am not generally given to swearing, have to ask

“What the fuck do you expect me to watch?!”

Seriously. I’m a gay man who likes to watch the fantastic – primarily Urban fantasy, what do I watch? Because we’ve now reviewed 39 television series from start to finish (or current) and we’ve got two – TWO – or three with a GBLT protagonist. Lost Girl, headed by a bisexual woman and her true love/primary love interest is already underscored as being a man. And Sanctuary where Helen Magnus is a bisexual woman – you may have missed it though since it was one reference in one episode of 4 seasons – the rest of the time was focused on men. The third is Switch that has a Lesbian as part of an ensemble cast. And while she’s the only GBLT protagonist I love without complaint, the same programme is grossly homophobic towards gay men.

21 of those shows don’t have even a brief, token GBLT presence. Not for one second, not a bit actor, not a one off, not a thing. Completely and utterly straight from start to finish. Some of them have managed to reach their 5th season without any GBLT people.

4 of them have a GBLT character who appeared for one or two episodes – out of 8 seasons in some cases (yes, Supernatural, that’s you. Though your subtext means the slash fans love you and ignore your erasure) Of course that doesn’t stop these shows have a running commentary of bad gay jokes (Being Human US, Misfits – ye gods Misfits, the very poster child of a hot mess) or used these single episodes to push the horrible tropes (Being Human UK with the gay vampire killing his human lover).

2 of them have a recurring token. But, frankly, that’s generously deciding the Manscaping medieval prince who faints at the sight of blood (the dead Renly) and his lover, the knight of flowers count as tokens rather than one-offs on Game of Thrones. And despite Danny being nothing more than a token who only shows up in one episode in four whenever one of the straight characters needs something, Teen Wolf will always be loved by the slashers (If you want any greater evidence of how this damages us, both Racialicious (“I enjoy what Teen Wolf has done with homosexuality”)  and Kiss My Wonder Woman have actually praised Teen Wolf for their handling of sexuality while criticising it for its greater inclusion of other marginalised people. Yay for homophobic double standards and the glory of homoerotic subtext!) And no, they don’t get points for the constant gay jokes.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Being Human (US) Season Sneak Peak

Whetting our appetites for its return

A Vampire Walks Into A Bar by Tracey Sinclair A Dark Dates short story The Cassandra Bick Chronicles

A Vampire Walks Into A Bar, takes place after the end of Dark Dates. Unlike Dark Dates, this short story essentially focuses on an interaction between Laclos the vampire and Cain the earthbound angel. Cain is sitting in a bar trying to drown his sorrows after having been given the boot by Cassandra when Laclos walks in with a problem. It seems that there is a new hunter in London and of course, he is fixated on Cassandra. Can these two men get along enough to ascertain whether there is a real threat and, if so, deal with it?

We got to learn a little bit more about Cain's background in this short story. Learning that he was once crucified does much to explain exactly how painful his past is. Sinclair also explained why it is that Cain remains so out of touch with modern times unlike Laclos. It makes sense that changing human morality, conventions and names would have little effect on him and it helps to make him an even more fascinating character.

Despite strong references as to why homophobia is wrong, I felt that there was a lot of homophobia in this book.  Laclos is bisexual and is well aware that Cain is not in the least bit interested in him, yet he touches him inappropriately and Lacolos' speech is constantly littered with inappropriate sexual innuendos.

Dark Angel Season 2, Episode 5: Boo

 Seattle is, ironically, out of coffee and Asha and Logan are consulting over a big bad hit man who has come to town.  But he has the S1W working on it so he doesn’t need Max. Oh and he’s too busy working on this with Asha to come to a party with Max at Crash for Hallowe’en.

This paragraph hereby concludes my tolerance for love triangles in this episode. Stop, stop right now.

At Jam Pony Cindy has views on Logan spending all the time with Asha, Sketchy is still following the tabloids scaremongering about transgenic monsters everywhere and Max and Cindy poke Normal into letting them go early since it’s Hallowe’en. And Max not!love interest Rafer arrives to let max know he’s going to the Crash party.

Max and Cindy head to Joshua’s who has just had an experience with Trick of Treaters. He realises that, with everyone in costume, this is the day when he can actually leave and not be noticed. Max is dead set against the idea and even solidly shuts Cindy down when she tries to speak up for Joshua.

When they get back to their flat, Cindy isn’t going to drop it, feeling bad for Joshua all alone and puts her finger on Max not wanting to be judged by being associated with Joshua rather than he worried about Joshua being judged. Still she gets a bath until Rafer arrives, she hasn’t bothered with a costume but he has – he looks normal but he’s pasted a barcode to the back of his neck. He is going as a genetically engineered killing machine.

She then goes to see Rafer’s fortune telling mother. No really. Who then, in the most ridiculously overwrought fashion, reveals that Max has deep dark secrets and has no name, only a number, before predicting death and having to have a lie down.

 There is absolutely no way any of that could have been remotely serious. I’m amazed I don’t remember this episode from last time I watched Dark Angel, I may have skipped it. The writer must be on crack.

This is when she sees Joshua through the ridiculous psychic’s window. She goes to meet him and meets Sally. A transgenic having problem with his head twisted through 180 degrees. Apparently he was designed with cartilage instead of bone meaning he doesn’t suffer from fractures, he just twists and bends. And in twisting and bending his head round they accidentally rip his head off. Don’t worry it doesn’t kill him – the starfish in his DNA means his body parts can live separately and don’t even shout fountains of blood from being decapitated. And then his body runs away – so fast even Joshua can’t keep up.

So, hallucinations, dream sequence or hypnotising transgenic because there’s no way this episode is canon.

Terra Nova Season 1, Episode 3: Instinct

We begin with a rover getting a puncture (what, 22nd century and we still get punctures? Shoddy Goodyear, very shoddy) in the middle of the jungle. To no-one’s surprise, something leaps on them when they get out.

Back at Terra Nova Lt Washington is teaching folks some basic survival skills – how to make fires, how to find north, how to not leave the compound to drink homemade hooch – basic skills. Josh is still in the dog house but, alas, he hasn’t been eaten.

Time for family time, playing with carnivorous plants and Maddy continues to establish herself as the greatest source of pointless trivia known to mankind. And Jim and Elizabeth have their sex lives ruined by noisy pterosaurs and a needy child.

The next day, Taylor gives Jim a mission to find the missing supply rover (with the puncture) and Elizabeth meets Malcolm – an old colleague of hers who arrived on the 5th Pilgrimage and the Chief Science Officer. He has an English accent so has about a 60% chance of being evil according to TV rules. When Jim arrives for a medic to come with him on his mission, Malcolm doesn’t seem 100% thrilled with the fact Elizabeth is married (85 million years in the past, surrounded by dinosaurs and we still have a love triangle. Hey, maybe Jim can be eaten by something and then it’ll just be Macolm?)

Out they go on the mission they reach the empty rover and Jim tries to get Taylor not to take point since the Sixers tried to kill him. Yeah, that’s not going to happen, but he does want Jim to use his psychic cop powers to find out who the Sixer mole is. This is when they find the bodies of the missing patrol – badly covered in bloody wounds.

At base, Dr. Elizabeth says they were attacked from above and Jim finds a claw or tooth embedded in one of the wounds (the doctors missed this?). Since Elizabeth is going to be working late, that leaves Jim to sort out the family for the evening showing that a) he can’t cook and b) that his 2 years apart from them has left him with large gaps in his knowledge.  And Maddy asks about boys until Jim panics.

Elizabeth arrives home with the news that the claw is from a hitherto undiscovered species. And we learn that Malcolm and Elizabeth once, a long time ago, dated (this will surprise precisely no-one). To make matters worse, the celibacy pterosaur visits again and brings its friends. Josh throws a rock at them – and they attack! Why would this be an airborn predator they haven’t found before? Looks like. That also means they’re going to end up with a proper name and I can’t call them celibacy pterosaurs any more, booo. They manage to escape to the house and Josh isn’t eaten. Alas.

The next day Jim gets his injury looked at by Malcolm who confirms that they look the same as the wounds on the bodies. They report to Taylor and Malcolm suggests small creatures rarely attack larger ones and they were possibly provoked. Taylor tells Lt. Washington to put the compound in lockdown until they know more about the Celibacy Pterosaurs, but Malcolm wants to study them more and produce a little guide on how to act around them without provoking them. Taylor vetoes it and he leaves – and Taylor tells Jim that Malcolm specifically asked for Elizabeth to be recruited.

Which is when we join Malcolm and Elizabeth looking at plants and rhapsodising at the potential out there – maybe even a cure for cancer (what, the 22nd century and you haven’t cured cancer? We have the bullets that can’t kill dinosaurs, failing tires and no cancer cure? Future world fails badly! I am not impressed). And Malcolm is totally not flirting, honest.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Being Human US interviews

Some quickie interviews with the cast of Being Human (US)

Meaghan Rath

Sam Huntington

Executive Producer Anna Fricke

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin Book 2 in A Song of Ice and Fire

This series continues to be extremely epic but I shall do my best to recap it and share my thoughts.  The seven kingdoms are at war with Stannis Baratheon and his younger brother Renly Baratheon, both declaring themselves King.  Stannis as the older brother has the stronger claim but Renly as the love of men and a large force to support him.  Their push for the Iron Throne, is based in the fact Joffrey Baratheon is not their brother Robert's son, but in fact the product of an incestuous affair between Queen Cersei and her brother Jamie (the kingslayer) Lannister.  If that were not enough to cause strife in a kingdom, Robb Stark has declared himself the king of the north and not to be undone, Balon Greyjoy has declared himself King of the Iron Islands and is intent on taking control of the north as well. While these men squabble for power, a threat is quickly building north of the wall and  Daenerys Targaryen is determined to recapture the what she deems her rightful throne, with the aid of her three living dragons.

There are a lot of characters in this story and it can be easy to get lost in the relationships of the minor characters.  There is an appendix at the end of the story; however, that may not be convenient for those who are reading a digital copy of  A Clash of Kings.  The main characters are very well developed and the book adds an intense layer of characterisation that is actually lost in the series The Game of Thrones. The internal dialogue really helped establish the motivations behind the actions of the actions of the characters.  For instance, Theon Greyjoy while still a disgusting sexist pig, is a far more sympathetic character than in the television series.  The fact that he was fostered against his will at Winterfell and then derided for this when he returned to Pyke by both his father and his sister, played a huge factor in his decision. Theon found that he didn't really belong anywhere because despite being raised alongside Ned's sons, he was most certainly not a Stark, and having been gone from the iron islands for so many years, he had been supplanted and in many ways forgotten.  In the end Theon just wants somewhere that he can belong and to prove his worth as a man and a soldier.

I don't think that any amount of characterisation could make Daenerys Targaryen more palatable. I understand that she feels a birth right to the Westeros; however, she comes across as self absorbed and petulant a great deal of the time.  Daenerys says repeatedly that she knows that the people of the seven kingdoms will not immediately swear fealty to her, she counteracts this statement repeatedly by asserting that her presence will inspire love. 

With he exception of Daenerys, I largely enjoyed all of the female characters in this story, though they all seemed to have been touched by sadness in someways. The night that Stannis decide to invade Kings Landing, Cersei has a conversation with Sansa about what it means to be a woman.  She is all to aware that from birth, her twin Jamie was destined for greatness, while she was destined to be married to a stranger and bare children. Cersei finds comfort in her children and I do believe that fact that all of them are the product of incest rather than her marriage with Robert, speaks loudly about the way she has strived to thwart gender expectation.  In the end, Cersei knows that a woman has a certain amount of power in terms of her body and gender but all of this pales in comparison to the power of the sword.

Misfits: Season 4, Episode 8:

 Nadine, the nun who Rudy likes is doing a little light reading – about the horsemen of the apocalypse. This doesn’t bode well. She’s interrupted in her musing by another nun who tells her there’s a young man here to see her to return her bag… which is probably not a common phrase in a nunnery.

Of course it’s Rudy, subjecting random nuns to his incessant babble (there is no sin in the world so severe it requires listening to Rudy as penance). Rudy speaks to Nadine and she tells him she can’t see him again, being a nun and all. Rudy leaves – very upset. As he does the other nun tells Nadine she mustn’t see him again because it’s “too dangerous”. Ahhh, clearly she has met Rudy before.

Jess’s not exactly thrilling love affair with the Alex and his newly returned penis doesn’t seem to be getting better with him ignoring her and obsessing over himself in the mirror.

Rudy takes up prayer to try and convince god to give up Nadine so they can have sex again which even Finn finds dubious.

At the community centre even Greg notices the group are oddly silent and grumpy compared to usual and Abby nicely recaps everyone’s issues for him (since when has Greg ever actually cared?) and Greg responds in a creepy, angry and very heartfelt way about burying pain.

At the pub Jess and Finn play the “we’re totally not into each other, honest” game and Finn takes issue with Alex flirting with every woman around

Nadine leaves the nunnery – the other nuns act like a rabid velociraptor escaped, so I assume there’s more going on here – to go see Rudy. Who has been trying confession and Hail Marys to try andconvicne god to de-nun Nadine. It’s Rudy, he doesn’t have to make sense. Even the more sensible Rudy #2 thinks it’s ridiculous. Time for awkwardness and trying to break the ice with nun jokes and Rudy trying to confess his many many many many many many many many many oh dear gods many sins. She interrupts him with a kiss and tells him she doesn’t care because he has a good heart.

See, this is the problem with love at first sight – it never gives the people chance to know each other first. If she knew him, she’d never say something so silly.

Afterwards they’re both very gleeful (and Rudy can dance? Actually Irish dancing? First there was Greg the stunning karaoke and now this?) and Rudy goes to the bathroom to make some earnest declarations of love about Nadine to god (kinda). While alone, Nadine hears glass breaking. She goes to check it out – and the nuns kidnap her using chloroform.  Rudy returns to find Nadine gone and rants at god – and breaks Finn’s TV (it’s an act of god!)

At the community centre the next day, Rudy complains about being run out on – while saying how many many many times he’s done exactly the same thing. Jess isn’t impressed but, at the same time, decides to slut shame Abby. Abby rather accurately points out that Jess isn’t feeling a reel connection with Alex (subtext: Stop taking out your shitty relationship issues on the rest of us).  Jess lashes out at Abby, calling her a bitch to compound the shaming. Yeah, Jess is winning no points at all today.

Rudy tries to leave and is intercepted by Greg – Rudy insists that he’s going to tell someone he loves her and how much it hurts. This strikes a chord with Greg , he knows that pain, he was in love once but was scared, didn’t say anything and lost them forever. He then gets creepy and angry and extra creepy and orders Rudy to go tell Nadine how much he loves her or he’ll fuck him to kingdom come. Rudy runs – possibly in terror. That was almost a touching moment…

He arrives at the nunnery to find it barred to him and the nuns won’t let him see Nadine. He sees her through a window but 2 nuns drag her away. He tries to knock the door down and fails dismally. He returns to the group and rants at them until Jess and Finn agree to help (Abby’s in from the beginning)

When they arrive back at the nunnery he reveals he has no plan. Abby suggests they use the special powers they got from the storm and Finn chimes in with “we should use them more often”. Ok I normally hate 4th wall breakage but I applaud this. One of the complaints of the latest season is that the misfits hardly ever use their powers (but their powers are considerably weaker than the ones in season 1)

Terra Nova, Season 1, Episode 1 & 2: Genesis

  At the dawn of the 22nd century, the world is on the verge of environmental collapse. Mankind’s only hope of survival lies 85 million years in the past.

Big dystopian views: everything is worn down and dirty and the people are walking around with masks over their faces so they don’t have to breathe the air. To underscore this, Jim Shannon brings an orange home to his family – something incredible and rare. His wife, Dr. Elizabeth Shannon talks about people with lung disease from the bad air.

I think we can call this setting well and truly established – awesomely done. I rather think the opening blurb was unnecessary.

In rushes Maddy to tell everyone (mum, dad, son Josh, young daughter Zoe) that “they” are coming they put Zoe into hiding in time to greet the gun wielding officials from population control. Jim protests that he’s a cop but they still have to leave while their home is searched and ransacked.  Zoe’s crying gives her away. Jim runs to protect his daughter, beating up many of the population control men before being tasered

2 years later, Jim’s in prison and Elizabeth is visiting. Elizabeth has been contacted by the recruitment people for Terra Nova and the pilgrimage is scheduled to leave next week. He tells her to take the kids and go – but they won’t let her take Zoe, they won’t reward her for breaking the law. He wants a way round it and she has a plan – that she whispers to him and then says she’s counting on him. She gives him her rebreather before she leaves.

When he’s alone he rips open the mask to find a nifty pen-light sabre (ish). Elizabeth, Josh and Maddy start on the pilgrimage (the 10th) while nifty TV screens explain about a rift in time and space. Just in case we’re not following, Josh decides to talk about his dad breaking out of prison while they’re in the middle of a crowd (don’t you just love inappropriate exposition?)

While she does that, Jim is on another train and cuts a little button with a flashing light out of his flesh (ouch). He walks out onto the ruined streets where we can see how the less well off live (not very well and with little shiny technology) surrounded by adverts against overpopulation  until he finds a stashed case with a gun, wadge of cash and an ID badge. We get to see how they work as his family checks into the pilgrimage and Josh says goodbye to his girlfriend, Kara.

Jim sneaks in, exchanges his wedge of cash for another big pack and joins the crowd heading towards the portal. He catches up with his family and swaps packs with Elizabeth as security realises something’s up. Security stops Jim, Elizabeth encourages her extremely dramatic children through the portal and then Jim joins them after explaining things to security with an elbow to the head.

They get through to a new, highly vegetative world and have more dramas with guards, guns and small children smuggled in backpacks.

They’re 85 million years in the past, in lush jungle – though Zoe and Jim are reported as stowaways and Jim is worried that Zoe may not remember him since he was gone for 2 years.  And they’re interrupted by a roaring Allosaur before arriving at their home base – a fenced in circle of cleared forest with wind turbines and farms.

They are welcomed by Commander Nathanial Taylor, boss man, who gives them a rousing speech of how much they screwed the world  and they have a second chance in Terra Nova, not to ruin it. He also wants to speak to Jim and Elizabeth, alone. Dr. Liz he knows as being super doctor in just about everything medical. He knows and learns about Jim and Zoe – which he doesn’t care about, the population laws are outdated in terra Nova, he does care whether Jim is useful. Elizabeth leaves and Commander Taylor questions cop Jim about why he broke the law – in a very friendly fashion – Jim responds with snarls. Because that’s sensible. Jim demands a badge and a gun, he can help catch bad guys – Taylor sends him to farm instead.

They get a shiny new house and Elizabeth wonders if they did the right thing coming to Terra Nova. No, course you didn’t, you should have stayed in the world where the air was poisonous, fruit a novelty and your husband was dying in prison. Clearly this is a difficult choice. Jim also works on rebonding with his 5 year old daughter with 3 years absence.  And Josh has an emo fit because his dad went to prison. We’re spared more ridiculous teen angst by Zoe disappearing to go watch the brachiosaurus eating just beyond the fence. It’s a nice interlude before more family dramas when they return home for the night, Josh whines and tantrums some more and Elizabeth and Jim have to deal with being together after 2 years apart.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Can you name all the dwarfs in the Hobbit?

Having trouble naming all the dwarfs in the Hobbit?

Take heart, you're not the only ones!

Review: Deadly Descendant by Jenna Black, Book 2 of the Nikki Glass Series

 Nikki, descendant of Artemis is awkwardly fitting into Anderson’s house of Liberi, while still trying to maintain some semblance of independent existence – not helped by her work place burning down and having to work for Anderson as well.

A further complication is Emma. After her deeply traumatising experience with the Olympians, she has become increasingly unstable and difficult to be around. Her fights with Anderson rock the house – and her jealousy has focused squarely on Nikki.

There’s a new Liberi in town, one who is hunting innocent civilians with a pack of wild dogs. Even the Olympians want to track him down – not that they care about innocents, but they want him found before he exposes them all to humanity.  Of course, when it comes to tracking someone down there is no better candidate than the descendant of Artemis.

I do really like this world setting - I’m a mythology geek, I always have been. Throw in some ancient deities and you’ve hooked me – and this world definitely hooked me. The descendants of the gods with their arcane abilities, battling against the supremist and cruel Olympians, a full range of different pantheons (even if they do have a Greek focus) are really well done – and I just would like to see more. There are some gems of characters as well – I think Jack, descendent of Loki – always playing his own game, never really sure what he’s up to, but always having so much fun is definitely one of my favourites.

The plot itself was largely solid and decently paced – expanding the world well without inundating us in unnecessary world building. We have a mystery that Nikki has to solve, murders to stop – her motivations are detailed, her thought processes reasonable without too much in the way of monologue and the investigation proceeds in a reasonably well paced way. Some of it is short cutted by her Artemis power that makes her a gifted hunter, but it doesn’t make it merely a matter of “ding lookit my magic”, she does actually have to do some work. In fact, I’ve seen detectives in other novels who have made far greater, illogical leaps to convoluted solutions than ever Nikki has. I don’t think the plot was especially complicated – there were twists but they weren’t unexpected or major – but nor was it totally linear because there w If there’s any fault with the plot it’s that some character development wouldn’t have gone amiss for some of the side characters who are little more than names. A little day in the life of Nikki before the plot launched wouldn’t have been a bad thing. As it is, we’ve never had chance to establish a “baseline” for how the Olympians live – or even what half of them do all day. We have some really nice hints (like Maggie’s romance novel war) and some odd diversions (does it matter if someone’s drinking tea or coffee?) so I really do hope it could come in a future book.

I did feel Emma’s antagonist was excessive, unexplained (and, no, “she’s crazy,” isn’t an explanation) and spotted by Nikki before there was any reason to believe it was going to happen. Since a large part of Nikki’s motivations rests upon Emma’s malice, I think it added a weakness to the plot (and I don‘t understand why it’s necessary to have a protagonist lie to her allies so she can go solo in a dangerous situation). Except for that, her motivations, her conflicts and her actions make sense and continue to develop her presence in the house. I like that she hasn’t instantly decided “this is my home, these are my family” she is taking time to adapt, to fit in – and is still feeling very much the outsider in the home. I do wish she’d interacted more with the characters she had formed some kind of connection with – like Maggie – but it did emphasise just how much the house was not her home.

I’m torn about the female characters in this book. Like before, there’s still a considerably lower number of women than men but the problem is compounded by the nature of the women who take centre stage. In this book Steph and Maggie are both largely absent (though, again, we swipe at the men’s silly dislike of having Maggie carry things despite her super strength) which is a shame because they’re both good, interesting characters. Instead we have Phoebe (evil evil Olympian oracle who Nikki declares her hatred of within seconds of meeting) and Emma (evil evil woman who Nikki declares her hatred of within seconds of her first appearance).  The problem with the way Emma was written is that she was, in some ways, written the wrong way round. Nikki expresses how horrible Emma is, how evil and malicious and nasty (and frequently adds the word “bitch”) BEFORE Emma – who, we have to remember, has been tortured, raped and traumatised for the last 10 years – really shows us any behaviour to justify the depth of Nikki’s contempt. I’m left feeling that Nikki is a rather horrible person that doesn’t really go away even when Emma does develop into the hateful, jealous unstable enemy. And just the way Emma was written bothers me – she was tortured for 10 years, she was raped, she died repeatedly and came back, a harrowing experience, but there’s so little sympathy for her. She’s an enemy from almost the opening of the book – at best a nuisance, at worst a malicious, evil force.

Switch: Season 1, Episode 6

It’s time for the solstice party – which means lots of packing, lots of preparing and Stella driving everyone up the wall with her checklist. And Gloria, Grace’s mother, ringing every 5 seconds. And Gerry is going to miss Grace and is angling to come with her. Grace realises she has to tell the truth and builds up to the big reveal – of being a witch. Which Gerry shrugs and takes. When she reveals she’s going home for solstice, he’s even more eager to go.

She runs to the others and begs for help, she’s not ready for Gerry to see all the weird and whacky stuff around solstice. Jude says to tell him not to come, but Grace doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Hannah proposes a switch, but Grace says they’ve already done it a lot in the month she’s known him, it’s exploitative and wrong. Stella giggles and wonders what Gerry will say to Grace’s mum’s naked solstice dance – Grace changes her mind about the switch.

All Switched they set off for Lower Sooth where the solstice is being held and, car trouble aside they arrive. Only to find that Alexa’s family owns the land and is now charging £50 a person to attend and a further £75 to park – miles from the actual event. And extra corporate sponsorship.

Grace’s mum Gloria is also unhappy with the corporate everywhere and is dressing as a red squirrel in protest (it makes sense to her).  To Gloria’s house where we find Grace’s dad is silent and radiates dullness and Gloria acts like she’s not had Grace home for decades when it’s actually been a week. And she’s trying to set Grace up with someone – which is when she sees Gerry through the window.

Grace talks to Gerry about how important solstice is for her and how narrow her mother’s expectations are for her boyfriend (beard, sandals, bad breath). She wants to go slowly and be careful. And he has to hide – she takes him to see Hannah and Jude in Hannah’s mum’s caravan

And in Hannah’s mum’s caravan, Hannah and Jude are shivering and it’s looks kind of bleak, Hannah’s mum is missing and not answering the phone. Hannah reflects on her childhood and how unloved the caravan is now.

They gather up outside the caravan and Gerry begs to be let out long enough to go to the bathroom, she relents and he goes against a sacred rock – which is when Gloria arrives. Outraged, of course, she demands to know who he is and Grace panics and says he’s Stella’s boyfriend. Gloria is confused since Stella is a lesbian and she stutters that she’s not any more, it was a phase, a 15 year phase (and she gives Grace a brief death-glare).

OH COME ON! Ok, Grace is spineless enough not to claim Gerry as a boyfriend but she has 2 fellow coven mates who are right there and are straight. Jude has even not-quite-dated Gerry in the past. But Grace chooses Stella? She decides that the lesbian is the one to cast as Gerry’s girlfriend?

Gloria insists that Gerry stay with her as Stella is – only they’ll have to share a single bed. (Grace complains to Jude and Hannah that she doesn’t like that – Stella’s a lesbian but he’s not gay. Yeah I think grace is not the one who gets to complain here). And to add to the fun, Gloria brings them both back dressed as fertility idols to lead the solstice.

More bonding, friendship and blessings – and Alex arrives and to finish off her awfulness, her mother has joined the coven to bring them up to full power again.

Grace is introduced to Geoffrey – who her mother is trying to set her up with. He grows plums. This concludes the one interesting fact about him.

And Jude goes to see Jack, a guy she’s been texting who she had a fling with when she was 18 and is worried that he wants far more than a fling now. Turns out she needn’t have worried – he already has a partner, Summer. And their daughter, Willow and they want Jude to be her guide-parents. She worries she’s no good with kids but Jack remembers Jude letting his little sister tag along all the time – she still talks about Jude. Jude agrees to become a guide-parent.

Time to gather up again and Gloria has an… interesting motivational speech to get them psyched up and ready should they be chosen to open the ceremony.  Grace apologises to Gerry but he’s having a wonderful time. And spend a minute making out in the bushes, which is when Gloria and Geoffrey come past.

Gloria begins to lecture Grace for betraying Stella and Grace reiterates that Stella is a lesbian – and confirms she loves Gerry. But it’s Gerry who sells it by being willing to come back to Lower Sooth and make a life there with Grace, having quickly fallen in love with the place. Gloria unleashes the group hugs.

As they move off, Gerry tells Grace he meant it, he’d love to get a cottage there, live with Grace and have lots of kids (they’ve been together 1 month. Uh-huh)

Stella and Jude look for the absent Hannah and find her in the caravan, upset that her mother has abandoned her again. She tearfully realises she has to let her go.

Time for the big solstice meet with Lord Piedpoint (Alexa’s father) and La Bamba lager providing sponsorship. And in a moment of pure shock, the witches of Camden are invited to open the solstice.  But as Grace begins to read the scroll aloud, it’s clear she has been hexed and says lots of offensive things about the community being hippies with no grip on reality. Jude starts eating the sacred scroll. Alexa’s mother speaks up for their banishment – and in walks Hannah’s mother demanding they stop this “betrayal of sisterhood.”

Hannah’s mother, Gloria and 2 others join together in a circle to lift the curse and confront Alexa’s mother, Corina. There’s clearly bad blood between them and big secrets that Corina wants kept secret – Hannah’s mother had an affair with Lord Piedpoint – who is Hannah’s father. Hannah’s mum leaves and Hannah chases her.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

 I feel a desperate urge to sing the praises of this film to the hills and back, so I’m going to try and take a restrained view and hit on a your mileage may vary moment. This is an action film. The characters set off on  their quest and in that they bounce from battle to battle, from giant stone monsters, to rabbit chariots (yes, really), to more battles and action. This film a series of action scenes loosely linked together. And I loved it, so there.

It is beautiful – it uses it’s brilliant picture and 3D-ness to great effect both during the action scenes but also showcasing the amazing scenery and detailed sets they use. It’s visually stunning and rich and glorious. It’s also restrained – I think we’re finally past the whole “WE HAVE 3D! LOOKIT COMING AT YOUR FACE AUDIENCE MUAHAHAHAHA!” phase and are finally incorporating 3D into films without feeling the need to ram an orc into your eyes every 5 seconds. It was used to enhance the movie rather than having the movie be a tool to show off the pretty technology.

The pacing is fast and exciting – but what do you expect for a series of closely linked action sequences? But I also think a lot of flesh has been added to the bare bones the book provided.

There was a lot about this film that fixed so many of the problems I had with the Hobbit. Part of that is the format – it’s much quicker to show beautiful, fantastic scenario, to show events, to show feelings than it is to describe them in extreme detail. And with songs. Just changing to a film greatly speeded up the slow pace of the book.

Similarly, while the dwarfs weren’t much more developed than in the book – merely being there, present during the scenes than being a name that is randomly brought up gives them much more presence than just the name they were in the book. They were all part of the fights, all part of the journey, all part of the story. Yes, there was still a lot of “oh shit Gandalf save us!” quite a lot, but at least they seemed to be there trying while Gandalf saved the day rather than flailing around incompetently and letting the wizard get on with it.

The film also did a great job of making Thorin a hero, a leader, a king people would want. In the book, again, he was something of a name and little else. Thorin in the film is epic, truly, awesome and a force to be reckoned with. Ok a lot of it takes part in the past – but he is still amazingly cool. And surprises everyone that you can have a hairy dwarf be the sexy male lead.

There were a few elements added to the film that were missing from the book and, I dare say, Tolkein purists are chuntering away. But I think they all added something important. The council with Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf and Saruman helped tie in the film more with the Lord of the Rings and tie events together. There was a greater sense of events being lifted to a higher level than in the book. Gandalf is meddling not because he wants several random dwarfs to be rich, but because he fears the Necromancer (Sauron) coming back. This, along with Radagast the Brown’s inclusion (and his awesome rabbit chariot. Yes it was a rabbit chariot, yes it should have been ridiculous, yes, it was shockingly awesome) changes the Hobbit from a tale of several dwarfs out to fill their pockets who happen to trip over the One Ring on the way to being a story about the opening gambits in the war against Sauron: denying Sauron the help and power of Smaug. In the overall mythos it makes the film and the events of it far more significant and I hope it continues.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Episode 98

It’s our last show before the Holidays! So while we discuss our usual shows: American Horror Story, The Vampire Diaries and Fringe as well as our book of the week, The Turning, by Jennifer Armintrout, we also looked back on the year

Which books did we like? Which surprised us? Which series plummeted? Which shows we want to see again, which shows managed to continue strongly and which shows have held on far too long and really need to be cancelled?

Our next books of the week are:

17/12-7/1: Touch of the Demon by Diana Rowland
7/1-14/1: The Awakening by LJ Smith
14/1-21/1: Grave Memory by Kalayna Price

Happy Holidays everyone and the podcast will be back on the 7th January 2013