Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Scandal Never Seemed So Good

           If you're like me, and initially missed Scandal, ABC's glossy spin on dirty bloody politics and the people who cover up the blood and dirt, you my friend need to catch up.  I recently watched the brief first season, which follows ultimate "fixer" Olivia Pope as she covers the scandals of businessmen, jilted women, and even the President with killer confidence and a killer wardrobe.  The trick of Scandal is that Olivia, along with her strange cohort of employees, all are a part of their own dark scandals.  Watch season one on Netflix and catch up with season two before hulu takes more episodes down.  If you like a good secret, it won't let you down.

The New Downton Abbey

              Julian Fellows is set to create a New York show set in the 1880's entitled The Gilded Age.  If you haven't stumbled across acclaimed writer Julian Fellowes's brilliant show Downton Abbey, do so now. It spans the upstairs and downstairs drama during the aftermath of Titanic, WWI, and now the roaring 20's.  Fellowes manages to create escapist television with a soul, painting deeply complex, meaningful characters.  Look for The Gilded Age, which is sure to be done in a similar vain, on NBC.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Mortal Instruments

The Mortal Instruments

         Cassandra Clare's massively popular The Mortal Instruments series is coming to life next August.  The trailer for the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones starring Lily Collins as Clary and Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace, the shadow hunting duo in the supernatural underworld of NYC, is here.
         The trilogy of books are fast paced and surprisingly funny, and it's difficult to imagine the strange world Clare created on screen.  When I first heard that Jamie Campbell Bower, best known for a smaller parts in Harry Potter and Sweeney Todd,  was cast as Jace, I was a little confused.  He didn't seem to fit the part of the rebellious and hardened character.  However, after watching the trailer, it looks as though he will make a killer Jace.  I just hope the movie carries the dark yet light tone of the series, and doesn't stumble and fall on it's first film. The casting of Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the villain Valentine bodes well for the film in my book. While the books are not flawless, but they were incredibly addictive.  If done right, the movie could inspire a whole legion of new fans.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Very Who Christmas

Doctor Who and his new companion in The Snowman. 

            Ah Christmas.  A time for family, a celebration of the birth of Jesus, a smorgasbord of desserts and traditions, and oh yes, the debut of a Doctor Who Christmas special.  After the departure of Amy and Rory, the Christmas special is set to reintroduce the new companion.  As most whovians know, Oswin (Jenna-Louise Coleman) was already introduced at in The Asylum of the Daleks as a girl turned into a monster.  The question then is, who is she now and how did she survive to be the companion?  Will the Doctor meet her before she becomes a Dalek or after?  Will she be a totally new character who just happens to look like Oswin?  After all, the trailer calls her Clara.  The episode is entitled The Snowman (or Top Hats are cool), and appears to, in the tradition of Doctor Who episodes, make children and adults fear a seemingly innocent thing, in this case snow.  See the trailer here, and look out for it Christmas day. Also, enjoy this gif, I know I did.

Book Rave: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy, the first in a promising series.

          Every once in a while, you stumble upon a book that is magic.  No, it doesn't have to be filled with witches, wizards, goblins, and fairies.  Instead, the magic of the book  is it's ability to let you read like you did when you were a kid-gobbling up the story without cynicism, totally immersed in another world. It takes a lot for a book to have that kind of power as you and distractions grow.  Robin Lafevers's Grave Mercy is the most recent stunning gem of a book.  I read it in a blur of two afternoons, staying up late, flipping through it with the same sort  fervor I attacked a new Harry Potter book with.  That alone is high praise.

        Grave Mercy is a gorgeous and original hybrid.  It follows Ismae, a girl who survived death as a baby and is thus drawn into St. Mortains, a convent where girls are trained as assassins serving an ancient god of death.  The author plucks Ismae from fantasy, pulling her into history as Ismae must search out villains and friends in the intrigue of the court of Brittany.  With colorful, and deep characters and a vivid and exciting combination of fiction and fact, Lafevers whips up a powerul force of a novel.  I cannot wait for the next to in the series, entitled His Fair Assassin. If Grave Mercy isn't snatched up by a studio and made into a novel, or a miniseries for that matter, than I don't understand hollywood.  History has rarely felt so hightenend.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Argo: A Story Crazier than Science Fiction


              I went into Argo, Ben Affleck's film about the real-life rescue of 6 American fugitives from Iran, with high expectations.  The film has already received huge praise and is an earlier contender in the race for the Oscars.  I wasn't disappointed.  The film was highly entertaining, informative, and unique.  It's a lesson in history from a certain lens and light. Affleck not only directed Argo, but he also starred in it as Tony, a CIA agent who uses a fake sci-fi movie to help save six hostages who are hunted during the Iran Hostage Crisis.  As a 1990's baby, the events of the end of the seventies and early eighties were foreign to me.  I was happy to be introduced to the conflict in such an engrossing way.  Even though I had somewhat of an idea of the outcome of the events, Affleck maintains the tension, keeping me as a viewer at a constant state of worry and anticipation.  Brian Cranston has a meaty scene as Jack, a CIA agent, as does Alan Arkin as a Hollywood player who helps in the elaborate ruse.
         Where Affleck really showed his strength was in his ability to really create the emotions of the 6 hostages.  Affleck had the actors live together in a 70's style to put them more in the mood of the film, and it really shows.  The film had an authenticity to it, which is key when it is based on the unbelievable true story.
         That's the real greatest of the film.  It is based on the crazy truth covered up until Clinton released it to the public.  Even in the last moments of the film, you can't believe the CIA, and particularly Tony pulls off the impossible.
           While Argo is not a film I would watch over and over again, I would certainly recommend it as a good film about a truly great story.

Entertainment Not Guaranteed

The Ad from Safety Not Guaranteed

          Indie movies go one of two ways.  They are either incredibly intimate, important, sad, sweet, and unique portraits of stories and people, or they are boring excuses to watch people move around apartments, pour coffee, scowl in mirrors and live their ordinary lives to a sparse and warbling soundtrack.  For every truly stellar indie movie like Little Miss Sunshine, Once, and Chronicle, there are a hundred truly terrible films pretending to be entertainment.  When I first heard about Safety Not Guaranteed, a movie about a strange, grizzly man who posts an ad in the paper looking for a partner to travel through time, I was weirdly excited about it.  It seemed to have whimsy and charm to spare.  However, and maybe it was because when I watched it at night, but I found myself falling asleep, totally disillusioned with the whole story.  It was simply-lacking.  There is a story in small moments, but when the characters and moments don't connect, it's just darn boring.  Perhaps with a strong cup of coffee and an early morning start, I could give the movie a second chance, but honestly, I just don't want to. Here's hoping some of the other indie movies I've waited to see aren't quite so painful.  Jessie and Celeste Forever, I'm holding out hope for you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How Geeks Marathon

Listen to Boromir/Ned Stark

            How would you like to train for a marathon?  What about if I told you preparation included consuming large quantities of sugary soda and extra salted butter while brushing up on your elvish?  Well, extreme Tolkien fans rejoice and indulge like a Hobbit.  Not only are The Hobbit tickets going on sale November 7, but tickets for a super marathon of the extended Lord of the Rings set are also going to be available. By the end, you may feel like you have traveled there and back again....at least to the movie theater bathroom.
          As much as I am all for a marathon of a T.V. show or movies at home, I'm not sure I feel the same about a theater marathon.  By the end, I may resemble a zombie from The Walking Dead or at the very least I'll look like Frodo in the third film, mid-Mount Doom.  I think I'll stick to watching Lord of the Rings at home, one by one.  Then again, for the generation who missed seeing The Lord of the Rings in theaters, a marathon viewing may be perfect.  If getting to see The Hobbit is my reward, I'd spend one or two or ten hours in Middle Earth.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Arrow Stays on Target. Surprised?

Arrow Episode 4: An Innocent Man

              Everyone keeps talking about Revolution and what a surprise it's been.  I sort of fell away from it, tired of the over-actioned cliches.  Maybe I'll go back and catch up with it later, but for now, one of the few shows that has kept me watching is the CW's Arrow.  It's hero is genuinely likable and mature, it's setting is more Nolan-esque than Smallville, and the backstory is uniquely riveting.  The flashbacks and mythos that reveal why Oliver went from entitled brat to vigilante hero are well thought out and juicy.  Every episode has a balance of realistic and heightened reality to it, with just enough, "I can't believe they shocked me that way" to please even a superhero skeptic's heart.  I'm not a skeptic.  I've fallen hard for the hero domination in pop culture, and am very happy with the way it is starting to dominate television as well.  The world could use a few more heroes now, even if it's just for inspiration to do something truly heroic.
           As for the future of the Arrow season, I'm very curious ,especially after episode 4 which revealed the rage and turmoil dueling it out inside Oliver as he "kills or survives" on the island and just maybe, in the city. The episode ended with Oliver being arrested, under suspicion of being The Green Arrow.  I'm not a hero expert  but I am curious how the show will handle Oliver's secret identity. Granted, his secret is flimsy, with an oversized hood and shadow as his only cover.  I may have to consult an Arrow expert, but if Arrow is revealed, what will that mean for the season and the show?  Curse the show and it's constant ability to keep me coming back.  Who am I kidding?  I really enjoy it, and loved that Captain Jack (of Doctor Who) appeared as one of many villains to come.  Ok fine, it was just the actor who played Captain, but still, Doctor Who shout outs are the best.
           Look out for Arrow next Wednesday.