Saturday, January 12, 2013

Being Human (US) Sneak Peak

We're nearly there, this Monday Being Human (US) will be coming back

The Problem With a Hard of Hearing Darth Vader

The following is video from Youtube entitled, Star Wars: Hard of Hearing Vader.  At this time of the writing of this piece it has received 229,064 views.

The premise behind this latest mashup is that Vader’s helmet makes it difficult for him to hear and so he repeatedly squeals,”what,” every time someone addresses him. Of course, the commenters on Youtube find this absolutely hilarious. To be clear laughing at a difficult to hear is ableist.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Review of: The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse by Nina Post

The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse is an urban fantasy novel dealing with demons, fallen angels and an interesting array of monsters.  Kelly Drisoll has been hired by Destroying Angel of the Apocalypse to track down a rival angel.  This search takes her to Amenity Towers, which houses earthbound angels and all manner of monsters.  To carry out her investigation, Kelly dons a multitude of disguises and claims to be various professions.  She is given two days to carry out her task and with armageddon at stake, Kelly cannot afford to waste a single minute but unfortunately, the residents of Amenity Towers have other ideas.

I was drawn to this book by the title.  It conveyed a lightheartedness that isn't a regular occurrence in urban fantasy.  From the very beginning of the story however, I was confused.  Post does not spend any time at all building her world and it feels a bit like being thrown into whirling mass of confusion.  Clearly, there is some understanding that humans are not the only sentient beings because a local college offers courses in vampire hunting; however, the foundations of this understanding are not explained in the least. There is no explanation as to whether or not this is universally understood or something unique to the fictional Pothole City.

I know that Post was counting on humour to sell this story but outside of the actual condo meetings themselves, the book fell very flat.  There were times when I was downright bored and found myself leaving to do something else.  Part of the problem is that The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse is just too busy.  There are too many angels and monsters to possibly keep track of.  Some characters appear for a few pages, simply to disappear without their relevance to the story being explained.  This of course added to the general lack of coherence in the story. In many ways, The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse suffered from a lack of content editing.  For example, we are told Raum told AF about his plans to escape the condo, yet it was AF who actually escaped and then said he was the one who told Raum how to leave. If the writer cannot keep track of their own plot, how is the reader supposed to do so?  What do all of the little interludes have to do with advancing the plot?  The entire book felt disjointed to me.

American Horror Story, Season 2, Episode 11: Spilt Milk

Leaving Briarcliff for a moment we start in the present, with Bloody Face Junior smoking some cannabis to some very eerily well done camera effects. He get s visitor, Pandora, a prostitute – who has just had a baby and is lactating. Yes, Bloody Face Junior has inherited his father’s fetish.

Back to Briarcliff and Thredson wakes Kit to take him to see his baby. Kit is convinced Thredson has harmed his baby but Thredson insists that he holds a child’s need for love and protection as a very high priority. He takes him to the common room where a love song is playing and Pepper is herding the inmates away from the baby in Grace’s arms. Grace names him Thomas and, when Thredson expresses concern about Grace’s lactation, Pepper warns him and he has an orderly take her to the hydrotherapy room with the water turned even hotter (what, the aliens can’t spare some mojo to help Pepper?).

Left alone, Kit and Grace bond over the baby and Grace tries to remember her time with the aliens. She remembers bright light, aliens and them putting a baby in her. And artistic images of water from odd angles, floating and Alma dead – apparently by accident (Grace thinks the aliens aren’t cruel – they just kidnap, experiment on and kill people! Totally not cruel at all!) . It’s a little confusing but meant to be. That and Excessively Arty  Cameraman escaped from his cage. Kit grieves for Alma and Grace worries that he wanted to have a family with her not Grace (he says he’ll do it with either which makes them sound awfully interchangeable). She’s also confident their baby is special (he was rammed in you by aliens – Ya Think?) Oh and Alma would want him to do the right thing so – marry him Grace. Wow, as far as romantic proposals go that’s probably just behind shotgun weddings.

After such declarations of love and support, Monsignor Tim, a posse of nuns (what is the collective noun for nuns anyway? A cloister? A prayer? A judgement? Actually checking google I find it’s a “superfluity”.  Which technically means an uselessly excessive amount, or more than one needs, which probably says something about the language. See, you learn something new every day.)  anyway, in comes Tim his orderlies and a superfluity of nuns to take the baby away to a Catholic orphanage. Kit and Grace are less than pleased.

Mother Superior Claudia, without a superfluity, talks to Lana in the kitchen, trying to help her escape. Lana is suspicious but Mother Superior points to Jude – confused and lost still after the damage from the electroshock – and tells her that Jude wanted her to get Lana out. She also gives Lana her medical file – documentation of every foul thing done to her – Mother Claudia wants her to expose Briarcliff, to pull it down and salt the earth.  Mother Claudia has her personal effects and a taxi waiting. Lana grabs the tape of Thredson’s confession and tells Jude she will come back for her, she will get her out – then off she goes.

Excessively Artsy Cameraman grabs hold of the scene again and we get a cut scene of Lana leaving, in civilian clothes, while Thredson tries to convince Kit to give him the tape and in exchange Thredson will save baby Thomas from the system. Kit argues with Thredson, distracting him and holding his eye, allowing Lana to sneak out past him.

In a horrendously tense, slow scene, Lana leaves the building, enters the taxi (all the while I’m waiting for some one to stop her, to ambush her, to be waiting for her, for Thredson to run out the building). Thredson comes out the building and sees her; Lana shows him the tape – and her middle finger. The taxi drives off. That scene was tense, I’m impressed.

Thredson goes him to his nifty house to find Lana, sat in a chair, holding a gun (nooooo noooo, this can only end badly! Lana you don’t have the luck to try this!) She tells him the police have the tape. Alas, despite their best efforts, Excessively Artsy Cameraman is still in control and ratcheting up the drama in the tense stand off as Thredson makes himself a drink and Lana holds a gun on him.

And we swap back to the future with Bloody Face Junior explaining to Pandora how his mother hated him and she only loved one person

Steampunk and the Nostalgic Blinkers of Victorian London

'Steampunk Lab: Lightbulb on Sears Catalog' photo (c) 2009, Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis - license:

One of the genres we are always quick to jump to read is Steampunk. It’s an excellent and relatively recent addition to the popular speculative fiction genres and it’s a lot of fun. The aesthetic of it is amazing, with it’s brass and cogs, steam and corsets, pageantry and frock coats. It has a cadence of language to it that is musical and open to a great deal of amazing humour, with the elaborate, formal speech and the careful protocols of etiquette. And it’s a time that is, in is many ways, so different from our own that it adds a level of the alien fantasy to the setting that goes far beyond simple Urban Fantasy, while still being grounded in our world, preventing it from being too alien.

Yet we often seem to forget that the Victorian Era was a real time, and Victorian England (where most of these stories are set) was a real place. And it wasn’t pretty. While the rich could indulge in their protocol, elaborate ritual, scientific progress and social tapdancing of high society; the poor lived in abject squalor. Disease was rife, exploitation by the rich - including child prostitution (indeed, it was during the Victorian period the age of consent in the UK was raised from 13 to 16 and only then after a reporter exposed how easy it was for a man of means to buy a child virgin - much in demand because of the high rates of STDs),. The poor lived in the most crammed slums imaginable, often working horrendously long hours in obscenely dangerous factories for little pay, again, including the children. It was bleak, it was harsh, it was horrific and far too many of those with wealth and power considered the poor to be fully deserving of their fates: desperate, starving thieves, even children (indeed the urchins of the streets were not considered children to be pitied by many, but a menace or pest to be removed) could and did face long prison sentences and even transportation.

The wealth of the time was, of course, based on Britain’s sprawling empire. An empire based on severe exploitation and oppression of colonialism, with POC across the globe being persecuted and controlled to further enrich the coffers. Slavery was only banned across the empire a scant 4 years before Victoria’s reign began.

In terms of sexuality, being gay remained a capital offence until 1861 (and one that was enforced in the 19th century - and men were hanged for it), after which it was replaced by “mere” imprisonment and hard labour.

Steampunk romanticises this genre in that it creates an alternate world simply through ignoring historical fact. Most writers seem willing to deal with suffrage but this is probably because many of the protagonist themselves are women. Beyond equality for women, however, few seem to want to acknowledge that despite the gadgets and the pageantry, Victorian England was not necessarily a pleasant time for many people. Part of the impetus for this erasure is based in the fact that privileged people have the ability of nostalgia that marginalised people will simply do not. Those who are gay, of colour, disabled or poor certainly have no reason to celebrate this time period.

Of course the easiest way to do this is to put on the blinkers and simply pretend it never happened.

Most of the protagonists in Steampunk are at the very least middle class. They almost all have servants and have been educated and, for many, the poor simply do not make a meaningful appearance in the books: A Conspiracy of Alchemists, Pilgrim of the Sky, Infernal Devices (Tessa is almost instantly taken in by the wealthy Clave)

When the poor do appear, they seem to exist solely to be saved from the wretchedness of their poor lives through the charity of the rich. An example of this is Steam & Sorcery by Cindy Spencer Pape, Sir Merrick Hadrian ends up adopting several homeless children and then covering up their backgrounds. His title and long history of wealth certainly play a role in the continued impoverishment of the lower classes but the reader is not expected to acknowledge this in order to focus on his act of generosity. Or Shelly Adina’s massively fun Lady of Devices Series which, again, sees a select group of the poor benefit from the generous instruction of their social betters (which is rather exacerbated by the ease with which she overcomes the bonds of poverty). Or we get the poor who don’t need to be saved, like Ivy Tunstill from the Parasol Protectorate series who aren’t really that suffering the privations of real poverty, they simply aren’t as well off as the rich characters.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Defiance Sneak Peak

It's a while before we get to see Syfy's new series, Defiance, but there's a few teasers to keep us going

Review: Earth Thirst by Mark Teppo

 Silas is an Arcadian, a blood drinking, sun avoiding, earth dwelling child of the Mother, on a mission from her and the Grove to desperately try and combat the tide of destruction humanity inflicts on the planet. It’s a desperate fight, one they seem to have already lost, but the Arcadians have many gifts to help them.

Despite this, Silas’s latest mission falls apart, badly. So badly that it’s impossible that it was merely an accident. It seems the Grove itself may have been compromised and he cannot return to the Mother. Worse, his opponents had a new weapon, a chemical that burns Arcadians and does far more damage than simple bullets ever could to the ancient warriors.

He frees the only person he feels he can trust, Mere; an investigative journalist with strong experience in challenging large, multi-national agricultural companies and they begin unravelling the knot of what is actually happening

But as they travel the world, do the research and piece together Silas’s shattered memories, there’s clearly far more going on than they expected with at least 3 distinct players and it has ramifications far beyond Grove – and maybe even Mother isn’t what she seems

I have to give this story all kinds of praise for its originality, because it has a truly remarkable concept. Vampires as environmental guardians, resisting the corruption and pollution of the world. The whole sleeping in native soil myth which Urban Fantasy often discards now brought back to have vampires connecting with the earth to heal, avoiding the sun because, combined with airborn pollutants, it harms their chemical sensitive bodies – it’s a wonderful twist on the old legends.

It’s tempting to think of these vampires, these Arcadians, as gentle because of their environmental leanings. Humans are over-consuming, polluting and, ultimately, disposable if not outright in need of culling. They are warriors and guardians, fully willing to use their deadly skills to protect the Mother.

The whole concept and the world here is incredible, and that’s just made more so by this globetrotting story across the southern hemisphere unveiling more and more of the mysteries around this multi-faceted conspiracy. It’s complex, it’s action packed, it’s extremely well paced and it’s huge – a true sense of being global about it

There’s also some great commentary on activism and empty gestures – ignoring corporate control and over consumption in favour of gesture politics that gets in the news and makes people feel good – the whole putting a “save the whales” sticker in your Hummer, mindset.

Dark Angel, Season 2, Episode 6: Two

 We open with Max on a mission to steal a baseball from a museum – apparently a culturally significant one. Only she’s joined by Alec, out to steal the same thing she is. There is much snarking back and forth and a childish struggle which ends up with the baseball being dropped and the alarms being set off. They both leave empty handed – and Alec adds a bit more gall by actually asking for a ride home.

Max complains about this to Logan who is amusingly sarcastic about Max’s outraged “he tried to steal what I was already rightfully stealing!” though he does change his tune when he considers the money he needs to keep Eyes Only going.

Meanwhile a sector police checkpoint guard sees a large man who looks awfully like Joshua from the back. He follows the man who refuses to answer him when he calls. When he’s been lead among the junk and debris of dystopian Seattle, the man turns and attacks him – making growling angry dog noises.

When Max goes to see Joshua she finds him sleeping - when she wakes him up he reacts aggressively and grabs her by the throat before he sees who she is. She didn’t come to see him yesterday and he claims he went out looking for food – he has an injury on his side he claims is a dog bite; he fought the dog for its dinner. Max gives him another “you can never ever leave the house, ever ever ever” lecture.

To make Max’s life more fun, at work while she’s talking to Original Cindy, Alec walks in. He wants a job (and a sector pass), while Max is sure Normal will kick him out, remember that Normal was a fan of Alec in his foolish cage-fighter days. And assigns Max to show him the ropes – and he starts casing customers for future robberies.

At Crash, Max tries to convince Cindy of just what a horrible person Alec is, even if Mantecore does make them pretty, and Alec starts ingratiating himself – and getting Sketchy to deliver a package no questions asked. But Sketchy also tells them about a “dog-faced mutant” attacking a Sector Cop and eating the man’s tongue – and being injured in the process. Max hurries to check on Joshua. And finds him missing

Meanwhile someone who looks awfully like Joshua is busy ripping another sector policeman’s tongue out.

The next day Logan tells Max about the now 3 police who have been hit – and the survivor who described his animalistic attacker. Max tries to dodge around the issue but Logan pushes her and she admits to finding Joshua missing. Logan goes to speak to the surviving police officer, posing as a doctor. The policeman identifies a picture of Joshua – and tells Logan (well, points and shows since he’s missing a tongue) that he had a barcode on his neck.

Max tracks Joshua using her X5 senses into the sewers when Logan rings Max with the bad news, she denies it’s Joshua and Logan brings up the barcode. But Joshua doesn’t have a barcode – he’s the first transgenic Mantecore made. Something moves around behind Max which means the rules of fiction dictate that she lose her phone signal. It’s mandatory. She follows the dog man who starts growling at her. She’s surprised until he comes into the light – a dog man, but not Joshua. Joshua runs in behind them and yells “run Isaac”.

Isaac runs and so does Joshua – but a gang of Sector Police with guns and tasers mob the tunnels and attack Joshua, Max brings one down but can’t stop Joshua being taken away. At the police station the cops beat Joshua for killing police – and are shocked by him being able to talk. Max is determined to rescue him and gets his location from Logan - Logan is concerned about the murders and hunting Isaac, and Max loses her temper about him expecting her to do 2 things at once – hunting Isaac to stop the murders and preventing exposure by rescuing Joshua.

Merlin Season 2 Review

 I find myself in danger of repetition because so much of what I loved about the first season is still true in the second. We still have the beautiful scenes and use of CGI (at least to some degree). We still have some amazing characters that are nuanced with good, strong motives. We have excellent relationships where you can really believe these characters love each other, or hate, or have a truly strong friendship.

And we still have some excellent acting. I think that may be the key to why so much about this show is so good - why the characters are so real, why the relationships ring so true and why the story is carried so well.

Of course, for me the crown is the meta. The plots are well maintained, most episodes continue to advance the ongoing themes and add to the overall series. There are no wasted episodes, no junk episodes, no filler episodes. Everything adds to the development - whether of Arthur and Gwen’s love or Uther’s magic hate or Morgana’s resentment of Uther and his prejudice. There is constant growth and development that keeps the season going and stops it having the mid-season dip that so many series have.

I love the way the seeds that have been sown return - Mordred wasn’t just a one off, he returns and adds further to the plotline. Lancelot, again, wasn’t just a castaway in the first season to fit in the name. Nimue is shown to have a greater history than we knew from her defeat in the first season. Morgause is more than just a one episode villain - every episode we lay more threads.

The season also had an epic finale. I think Merlin’s meeting his father was somewhat anticlimactic, all things considered, but the end confrontation was excellent. We had the epic loss, Arthur and Gwen’s coming together in the face of utter destruction, and a really well presented sense that all of Camelot was completely at risk and helpless. It was exciting and finally solidified what the relationship between Merlin and the Dragon was going to be after 2 seasons of doubt and conflict.

We had some excellent character development this season - most stellar of all was the relationship between Gwen and Arthur. I knew it was coming since I’d heard fanchatter, but it still surprised me when the chemistry began - and it was really well done. We get to see Arthur beginning to see Gwen as a person rather than just a servant. And there’s a wonderful moment when she demands for respect from him, to be treated as a person by him and calling him out for how much he takes for granted. Seeing how Arthur worries about her and insists on helping and rescuing her - and protecting her when needed.

The only part I don’t like is the love triangle with Lancelot, but even that is only briefly referred to and is more a nod to the original Arthurian legend rather than a classic love triangle we see so often.

Arthur and Merlin’s relationship continues really well - them coming closer as friends, often hilarious with their banter but with that continuing message of class that overshadows both their friendship and the love between Arthur and Gwen. Their different social positions lead to Arthur continually under-appreciating both of them and being grossly ignorant about the different standard of living he has from them.

I also liked Gaius’s continuing development as a father for Merlin - excellently done (but, with these actors, that’s no surprise) but also his friendship with Uther, and it is a friendship. But, like with Arthur and Merlin, it’s always overshadowed by their differing position and further damaged by Uther’s prejudice - culminating finally in a wonderful scene in Episode 7 where Gaius confronts Uther on his lack of trust after such history between them. I think that’s very much not just a case of Uther’s prejudice, but also the social gap between them that lead Uther to be willing to treat Gaius as he did.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Being Human (US) sneak peak!

Being Human (US) sneak peak for the new season!

Demons are Forever, by Julie Kenner, Book 3 of the Demon Hunting Soccer Mom Series

 Kate, the demon hunting soccer-mom, is back, juggling play dates for a toddler, her teenaged daughter, her husband and his political machinations with the complexities of hunting and killing demons.

With the demons yet again coming to San Diablo, Kate is faced a more evolved and ongoing threat as well as the fallout from her daughter finally learning the truth about Kate and her secret double life. Of course, once she understands she has a lot of questions – and Kate isn’t sure how many she can answer, especially in relation to Eric, her dead husband who apparently had a life and machinations he kept secret from her as well. A secret that got him killed – and may still have considerable bearing on what the demons are plotting today.

I said before that this series had an interesting gimmick, but that it couldn’t live on the gimmick any longer. While it is intriguing and new to have a housewife as a demon hunter, juggling her life and commitments while still trying to run her secret life killing demons, it’s a great hook but it’s not the basis for a full book series and could quickly grow tired.

And this book avoided that. We have a much more focused plot with a lot less side distractions or her mundane life being described in as much detail. It’s still there, certainly, and remains hectic but we don’t have as much page time dedicated to these tasks. Instead, we have a much more involved and winding plot. The demons are back again and up to something but there’s a definite meta developing with their plot line, something to tie in the whole series in an ongoing devious scheme that brings all of these demons to this town that Kate chose because it was safe from demons.

In addition to the demons developing more into an ongoing threat rather than one off encounters, we have considerable increased complexity with Kate telling her daughter what she does and her (and her dead husband’s) past. Not only does this free up some of the familial duties but it also adds a whole new dimension to the story with Kate’s worry about Ally wanting to join in the fighting, with her concern about the demons targeting her and Kate’s constant battle as to exactly how much she should tell her daughter

Which is, in turn, complicated by David, the freelance hunter who may or may not have Eric’s (her first husband and Ally’s father) soul inside him. This is a wonderfully complex and emotional storyline with Kate torn between the man she used to love, the man she used to hunt with and the father of her daughter, and her current husband and father of her son – who she does love, but who doesn’t know her past or about her hunting demons. It’s a wonderful, rich, nuanced conflict that adds a lot of depth to the book.

Throw in, on top of that, Kate investigating exactly what Eric was up to and we have a lot of plot here – but it’s all interwoven. She can’t investigate Eric without touching on issues of what to tell Ally and without considering the whole David/Eric issue nor without looking at the ongoing demonic scheme that is apparently involved in San Diablo and throughout the Forza. It’s really nicely done to have all of these plot lines touch each other, even though they’re approached separately.

That’s not to say that Kate’s life as mother and (aspiring) political wife isn’t still there. We still see her juggling child care commitments, PTAs, volunteer work, social commitments and her family. And it’s excellent that they are there on two fronts.

Merlin: Season 1 Review

Arthur Pendragon, prince under his father, the magic hating King Uther Pendragon has to fight off innumerable threats to Camelot from every direction. At his side is Merlin, a humble servant, newly arrived to the city and under the guardianship of crusty old Gaius the court physician - who struggles to help Arthur find his destiny without revealing his own magic. Along the way there’s Morganna, Uther’s ward, sparring foil for Arthur with her own troubled past - and terrifying gift. And her servant, the sweet and kind Guinevere.

What I love most about this series is... meta! Precious precious meta! Yes, throughout the entire season the plot was maintained. I don’t think there was an episode that I could have skipped and not missed something. There was character development, relationship development, seeds for future plots, lovely nuggets of Arthurian lore,  and every episode was interesting. There were none that felt off or down or pointless or weak or contradictory or frustrating, I generally enjoyed every moment of it all the way through. And that’s rare - normally you expect at least a couple of pointless episodes (usually involving bloody wendigo)

And there was some money spent on the CGI (admittedly, none spent on any scenes when the actors had to interact with the CGI). As well as on the sets and costumes - yes, small things but if you’re going for epic medieval fantasy you need to make it look right.

One of the other things I loved most about this season was the character’s growth - which they all display. They don’t miraculously change - Arthur is an arrogant prat who rather remains an arrogant prat throughout the series, for example. but they do grow. Arthur learns compassion and some level of respect for others. Gwen becomes stronger and more confident. Morgana, with her growing power, gains both the will and resentment against Uther. Merlin himself grows considerably. All of this works so well because the characters do have depth and complexity - they’re not just archetypes, they’re some of the best realised characters I’ve seen for a while. Even the villains of the piece - Uther and Nimue - are complex in their motivations and are not just bad for the sake of it. Uther’s intolerance to magic - an intolerance that steadily grows as the number of failed magical attacks continue - is based on tragedy and a not-entire-unreasonable fear. Similarly, Nimue’s hatred of Uther and Camelot is based on very real persecution and suffering inflicted by Uther. They’re not just bad because they’re bad.

Part of that is also how they work with each other, all the characters have some excellent character relationships. Merlin and Arthur manage the incredible feat of being excellent friends while maintaining that master/servant relationship. They’re fun, they bounce off each other really well and their relationship grows excellently. Merlin and Gaius, similarly develop at a great pace from first meeting to a pseudo-father/son relationship. Even Merlin and the dragon develop an interesting relationship despite their brief meetings - with the mix of mentor, advisor, manipulator and, at times, even enemy thrown together. There are no characters I hate, no characters I aren’t interested in and no character who doesn’t make sense.

Wednesday Reboot: Fallen

Fallen was released in 1998 and stars  Denzel Washington, John Goodman and Donald Sutherland.  From start to finish this movie is a winner.  It begins with a voice over saying that he is going to tell us about the time he almost died. John Hobbes goes to witness the execution of serial killer Edgar Reese. Instead of being concerned about the fact that he is about to die, Reese seems far more interested in Hobbes.  Reese leaves Hobbes with a riddle when he asks why there is a blank space between two detectives on a plaque that records special awards. As he walks to his execution he sings Time is on My Side and keeps doing so, even as he is strapped into a chair and the gas is released.

Hobbes attempts to look into it but is warned off by Lt. Stanton.  Though Reese is now dead, the serial killings start again.  Hobbes and his partner Jonesy believe that this is a copy cat and decide to look back at the day that Reese was put to death to discover he wasn't actually speaking gibberish but a form of ancient Aramaic, which scholars have never heard spoken before.  Hobbes is not committed to solving the riddle of the empty space.  When Hobbes discovers Gretta Milano, the daughter of Detective Milano the man whose name was in the empty space she tells him to leave this alone if he has even one person that he cares about.  Before Hobbes can leave, she asks him if he believes in God.

Azazel finally makes himself known and Hobbes watches as he switches from body to body through touch.  Having a difficult time wrapping his mind around what he saw, Hobs returns to Gretta's where he learns that Azazel is a demon who loves music and causing havoc in people's lives.  Gretta believes that God placed a select number of humans on earth to fight this evil.

When Azazel set Hobs up for murder and kills his brother Art, Hobbes realises that he has no choice but to run.  He places his nephew Sam with Gretta and attempts to kill Azazel.  I would tell you more but that would ruin the ending of this movie for those who have not seen it. 

Unlike other movies which involve demons, Fallen is not dependent upon special effects to cause a feeling of dread and horror for he viewer.  If the simple act of touch grants access to the demon, this means that anyone at anytime is at risk of being taken over.  Perhaps the most horrifying incarnation of Azazel was when he took over the body of a teenage girl.  Her innocence combined with his evil, was absolutely chilling.

In terms of inclusion, obviously you with Denzel in the role of Hobbes, this means that we have a man of colour as the protagonist. His brother Art, is neurologically atypical but I like the fact that he was raising his own son, though he seemed dependent upon Hobbes.  I wasn't particularly pleased that Art died to prove a point to Hobbes about his vulnerability.  Women did not feature in Fallen prominently.  Gretta Milano seemed to exist only for the purposes of world building, thus connecting the dots for Hobbes.  In the end she ended up being nothing more than a caretaker for Sam. 

Even though we are told at the very beginning of Fallen that we are going to hear about the time that someone almost died, the ending is a complete surprise.  There are a few cinematic clues throughout the movie that suggest the ending but it is not until you reach the end and think about some of the shots that the director chose to include that they become obvious. When it comes to demons in cinema, I  have to say that Fallen is my absolute favorite movie.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review of A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1)

Though society would much prefer that Eleanor Chance to remain docile, akin to all women of good breeding, Eleanor refuses to live such a confined life.  Having turned her back on a making a good match at her debut, Eleanor now supports herself as a dirigible pilot transferring freight. Things were going well for Eleanor until Patrice, an acquaintance, arranged for Eleanor to fly a small package from France to England, much to the distress of Mr. Hugh Marsh.  From the moment Hugh and Eleanor meet there is clear tension between them, largely due to Marsh's sexist beliefs.

It isn't long before Eleanor is drawn into a world of vampire, alchemists, fairies and warlocks.  None of this is at all in alignment with her faith in science and everything rational.  To make matters worse, her father has been kidnapped and Eleanor learns that despite all of her faith in science, she has been bestowed with a birthright which makes her the balance between light and shadow in the world.  Can Eleanor put a stop the coming clash and make sense of the legacy bequeathed to her by her mother?

A Conspiracy of Alchemists falls into the genre of historical steampunk.  Like all steampunk, science and wonderful steam creations are central items in the story.  Schwarz does a wonderful job with the setting and elements like a trip on The Orient Express add a great level of authenticity to the story.  Throughout A Conspiracy of Alchemists, there is a consistent feeling of a world on the cusp of great advancement, as the rules surrounding gender and convention begin to shift.  It makes it quite easy to see Eleanor Chance as a precursor to Amelia Earhart.

Eleanor is a very strong protagonist and is quick to defend herself when needed.  She does not see herself as a damsel in distress and seeks to be adequately prepared for situations as they happen. This is buoyed by the fact that on several occasions, she actually saves Hugh's life and in the end, is able to stop the plot engaged in by the alchemists. Eleanor never succumbs to rushing off ridiculously but instead attempts to take the most logical approach each time. It is further gratifying that in this world brimming with male privilege that it is Eleanor who holds the real power.

Lost Girl, Season Three, Episode One: Caged Fae

Well, it's finally here, a new season of Lost Girl.

Bo walks into an alley and is confronted by two men.  She takes them on with a bag of all things and leaves them lying on the ground. She then walks up to a line of men waiting to get into a bar, sucks essence from the bouncer and then throws money from her bag at the crowd.   Bo is then chased into  Trick's bar by Dyson, who wants to know if there is any fae law that she hasn't broken in the last three weeks.  Kenzi attempts to intervene but Vex uses his power to stop her. Dyson slams Bo on the table and handcuffs her.  Bo makes a quip about begging for sanctuary and Trick tells her that he is not going to fall for that again and doesn't know who she is.  Yeah, I smell a set up.

Bo is taken to a lockup where her possessions including a watch and a pocket rocket are taken. She is then forced to shower and is led down the prison block to a cell. Her cellmate is Sylvie and she claims to be nervous and admits that she is in prison because she stole some bread to feed her family. Bo of course makes a reference to Les Misérables. Would it really have been that hard to come up with a realistic crime and still have Sylvie be sympathetic?  Sylvie then hands her a stack of letters that she wrote to her mother, which apparently have been returned unanswered. Bo asks, "what's the deal with the feminazi's?"  Really, in 2013 we're still using that hateful term to apply to strong women, on a show apparently about a strong woman.  Sylvie says that the guards are all Amazons and apparently not only do they not like men, they refuse to take orders from men. Once every few years, the Amazons search out men to mate with and then abandon any male babies in the woods to their fate.

Their conversation is interrupted when Bo is led away for work detail.  Surprise, surprise, Bo is taken to the medical lab, where Lauren is in charge. As soon as they are alone, it's clear that it's a scam. Lauren has coated herself in some noxious product to pass as fae.  Bo's mission it seems is to go undercover to deal with "sadistic man hating Berthas." Lauren is also concerned that her mentor is missing. They banter back and forth about whether or not they are in a relationship, until they are interrupted by the warden. Despite Lauren's suggestion that she needs Bo, the warden reassigns her.

At the bar, Kenzi is freaking out firm in the belief that the plan they have concocted is not going to work. Kenzi marches up to Hale and tells him that he needs to fix this because he is the Ashe now.  Considering Hale's limited role in previous seasons, I cannot help but think that this is nothing more than a promotion to obscurity.  Kenzi says that she didn't like the plan but went along with it anyway and now she is concerned that Bo has no one to act as backup but Lauren. Trick tries to reassure her about Lauren's resourcefulness.  Hale reminds Kenzi that he is only the acting Ashe and explains that does not want to go up the line to get one of the female elders to intervene.  Trick suggests that this is the perfect opportunity for Hale to make a name for himself.

Kenzi looks down at the prison plans and learns that it is built on ley lines, which means that Bo has been stripped of her powers.  Dyson assures her that everything is going to be fine because Lauren slipped Bo a stone, which will allow access to her powers.  Apparently, all of the Amazons carry these stones, which is information that Trick is not happy that Hale revealed.  Trick then reminds Hale that he is has to be careful about what information he gives out as the acting Ashe. Dyson calls Kenzi over and says that Bo can handle herself.

Back at the prison, Bo is scrubbing the floor on her hands and knees and is scantily clad. The warden goes into her office where she is confronted by another Amazon, who wants to know how long she is going to keep up with her ongoing activities.  The warden says that she does what she has to, to keep the Amazons strong.

Bo is walking the floor with Sylvie, who is showing her the ropes.  Sylvie is grabbed by a guard and Bo intervens and tells the guard to pick on someone her own size.  Bo gets into a fight with the guard and then uses her succubus power to get the upper hand.  The other guards quickly pull Bo off and take her to see Warden Barnes.  Barnes rubs herself along Bo's body and does a body search that is nothing more than a sexual assault. Barnes finds the stone and realises that someone on the inside is helping Bo out.  Bo then kisses Barnes but without the stone, she has no power over the warden. Barnes walks away and demands that the guards avoid Bo's face when they beat her. 

Lauren finds a beaten Bo on the ground and Bo ensures her that she will be fine and will heal like a human.  Bo says that she had to use the stone because she could not sit by and allow her cellmate to be beaten.  Bo tells Lauren that because she protects the people she cares about that she is going to get Hale to pull her. Bo believes that it is only a matter of time before Barnes figures out who has been helping her.  

Lauren tells Bo that in her mentor's files, she discovered that the doctor had been injecting the fae prisoners with some sort of vitamin cocktail. Apparently, half of the prisoner cannot be found and the other half commit crimes again, only to be brought back to the prison completely broken.  Bo tries to reassure Lauren by reminding her that they don't know the reasons behind Dr. Everett's actions and that feelings aren't always Black or White.  Of course, once again, they have time for relationship discussion, which causes Lauren to explain that the skunk excretions are messing with her hormones.  Bo tells Lauren that she deserves more but Lauren changes the topic and says that she has to stay there.  Lauren informs Bo that she submitted to the Ashe for medical supplies and that they are in Dyson's hands now.  When Bo says that Dyson is good, Lauren replies, "you could do better."

At the police station, Vex expresses shock that Dyson works with humans everyday. Dyson threatens to break Vex's balls if he ruins his cover. Vex asks if Dyson has a partner now that Hale is The Ashe and when Dyson says no, Vex points out that a partner might have helped him work out "the not so secret deal about the light fae detention for broken birds."  Vex tells him that there is no record of prisoners ever being released.  

Back at the prison, Bo is returned to her cell, where Sylvie is waiting.  Sylvie hugs her in thanks for taking a beating for her.  They hug again and Bo tells Sylvie, "don't let me see your face again, not in here." Sylvie promises not to re-offend and is taken away. 

At the bar, Dyson hands Kenzi a package and expresses regret that he cannot go with her. Kenzi replies, "you know the deal, no wangs allowed."  Before leaving, Kenzi asks how Dyson is doing.  Dyson points out that Kenzi still has not told him what she did to the Norne to get his love back. Kenzi brushes this off and reminds Dyson that he had better hurry and tell Bo before an extra hot human with legs to spare moves in on his girl. Well, it didn't take long to re-establish the boring love triangle did it?

At the prison, Kenzi arrives and says that she is Bo's honey bee and there to give her some sugar.  Kenzi is let in despite being human.  Even though there are people in listening distance, Kenzi asks if anyone has figured out Lauren's agenda yet and complains that living with Vex is not going well. Bo tells Kenzi that she misses her and then Keni gets on the table and starts kissing Bo, clearly passing something off to her and performing a little fan service at the same time.  Kenzi is dragged out of the cell and Bo pulls a contact lens from her mouth.

Bo is scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush and when she is left alone, she pulls out the contact lens that Kenzi passed her and breaks into the Warden's office.  Bo quickly goes through files and notices several canisters throughout the office.  When Bo moves the prison seal, she finds a vault and so she uses her handy dandy contact lens to open up another area, where she finds a door with the words solitary confinement on it.  Bo goes through the door, down a flight of steps and discovers a living area with a woman sitting at the table. When the woman turns around, Bo discovers a heavily pregnant Sylvie.

Bo asks how it is that Sylvie is pregnant and she says that she just woke up and voila, had her own apartment and a bun in the oven. Bo tells Sylvie that they have to get out of there because it's not safe and she is being watched.  When Bo looks behind the curtain, she sees a prison nursery and is creeped out.  Bo promises Sylvie not to let anything happen to her baby but before they can leave, Sylvie's water breaks. 

Once Upon a Time, Season 2, Episode 10: The Cricket Game

 Fairyland Past
Regina looks out over a burning city when a messenger arrives to inform her that Snow and Charming have defeated King George and that Regina’s forces stand alone – and out matched. (Regina, in deference to it being a battle, is wearing a scale mail collar which still doesn’t cover her plunging neckline. At least it’s better than a chain mail bikini. Actually the worst I’d seen is a plate thong – can you even imagine the chafing?). Since Snow and Charming have been separated, she orders her men to keep them apart while she hunts Snow.

She catches up with Snow and Snow offers to parlay with her for Regina’s surrender. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Regina prepares to kill Snow and is ambushed by the Blue Fairy who imprisons her with magic – it was a trap.

Together, the magical council gathers to decide what to do with Regina , after passing ideas back and forth, Charming says the only way they can be safe is to execute Regina, despite Snow’s misgivings.

In prison, Regina is visited by her father and they have a touching declaration of their love. He begs her to show regret for what she’s done, to show she can change, to convince Snow and Charming not to execute her.

When taken out to execution, Jiminy Cricket urge Regina to clear her conscience as she stands on the block. Yeaaah doesn’t quite work out that way and Regina has a villainous rant instead. Despite that, Snow can’t bring herself to allow the execution to go forwards.

Snow argues with Charming that the Queen was once good and can be good again, she holds out hope that Regina may change. Time for Rumplestiltskin to drop in and add his take on matters. He offers Snow a test to see if the Queen can be redeemed (despite – apparently – wanting her dead, though Rumplestiltskin laughs at the idea that she knows his motives, which is probably true).

She goes to see Regina (“defying” her prince. Why is it defiance? Aren’t they supposed to be equals?) to let her go and express her believe that Regina can change. Regina leaves her cell, bemused by Snow’s trust and grabs her by the throat – Snow pulls a dagger but Regina takes it off her and stabs Snow. Who doesn’t die or bleed or nothing – the guards and Charming pop up, Rumplestiltskin cast a defence spell using Regina’s hair, meaning she can’t hurt Snow or Charming. They banish Regina with the magic preventing her ever from hurting them.

Of course that leaves her free to destroy their kingdom, kill their friends or, say, curse the whole lot of them but Snow and Charming were never the brightest ruling couple.

She returns to her dark castle – and is visited by Rumplestiltskin to cheer her up on Snow White’s and Charming’s wedding day – by pointing out the clause in the protection spell, Regina can’t hurt them “in this land” in another land? They’re not protected.

Therefore motivating the Queen to find the curse rather than to keep attacking them in this land and therefore transporting them to Storybrooke where Rumplestiltskin can look for his son. Oh, that’s some quality plotting.

Storybrooke Present
Hook and Cora have arrived in Storybrooke – looking awfully dramatic. Hook instantly sets off to kill his Crocodile (Rumplestiltskin) and Cora appears in front of him in a puff of blue smoke telling him not to. He huffs that she’s stopping him getting his vengeance, she points out she’s doing that using magic – which means magic is here, which means Rumplestiltskin is far from helpless. Time for a more careful plan (and turning the harbour master into a fish, because).

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fangs for the Fantasy Episode 99

Welcome back after the New Year! Hope it was a good one for everyone.

This week we have the return of Lost Girl and all of its many issues. We also look at the Walking Dead computer game. We also discuss Fringe.

Our book of the week is the extremely awesome Touch of the Demon by Diana Rowland that we love in all its glory

Our next few books of the week are:
7/1/-14/1/2013: The Awakening by LJ Smith
14/1-21/1/2013: Grave Memory by Kalayna Price
21/1-28/1: Ever After by Kim Harrison
28/1-4/2: Magnificent Devices by Shelly Adina