Thursday, February 28, 2013

Inspector Spacetime

Troy and Abed at the Spacetime Convention

            The return of the beloved (though in danger) Community hasn't been perfect, but last week's Inspector Spacetime changed all that.  Community is all about spinning and referencing geek pop-culture.  Early on, its characters discussed their love of Inspector Spacetime, a celebration/parody of the 50 year old Doctor Who, a British show about a time traveling alien with a perchance for saving humanity.  In the most recent episode, the characters travel to a Inspector Spacetime convention.  The episode plays with the cult-following while highlighting the reason for the relationships of many of the main characters.
           Give Community a chance, especially now that it's in danger of cancellation.  At its worst it is still better and more endearing than most comedies.  At least let Insecptor Spacetime

Sunday, February 24, 2013

World Without End

World Without End's Cruel Beginning

         Netflix can easily snatch hours of your life with the mere suggestion of a show.  Last week, I gave the mini-series World Without End, based on Ken Follett's sequel to The Pillars of the Earth a chance.  Eight hours of my life later, I still agree it was time well-spent.  The series follows the city of Kingsbridge right before and during the outbreak of The Black Plague.  The kingdom is in turmoil as the old king is murdered by his wife, causing a mysterious knight to appear in Kingsbridge and claim sanctuary in the monastery    This knight brings with him the wrath of the queen, causing great trouble for the already struggling town.  Kingsbridge is heavily burdened with corrupt church and city leaders bent on their own power instead of the good of the people.
                With a sort of Game of Thrones lite-flair,the series is engrossing.  Yes, it has caricatures of villains, especially Cynthia Nixon's evil shrew of a woman, but World Without End also has a very unique, morally questioning king in Blake Ritson's Edward III.  Its main characters Merthin (Tom Westin-Jones of Copper) and Caris (Charlotte Riley of Wuthering Heights) have enough spark to carry the drama through, even in some of the more frustrating plot lines.  What I most appreciated in the story is its ability to make me both watch in horror at the capacity for corruption and recognize that corruption still exists in the confines of modern society.  For moral questions, political and historical intrigue, and human drama, check out World Without End.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Game of Thrones: Season 2 is Released

Daenerys in Game of Thrones

                  Game of Thrones season one was not a flawless story.  It was equal parts epic, complex, dire, and even at times disgusting.  The gritty realism of George R.R. Martin's blockbuster series makes the fantasy epic unique, but it also highlights the depravity humans are capable of sinking into without censor.  In short, it is for an adult audience only.

               Season 2 debuted last year, but if you are like me and don't have HBO, Game of Thrones Season 2 released today.  I am interested to see a new chapter for the broad spectrum of characters including Daenerys, Rob Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Arya as they all, in their own way, battle for power, even if the power is simply a power over themselves.  Check out a trailer for the season here.  For those already caught up with the first two seasons, season 3 debuts on HBO in March.

Downton Abbey: A Response to the Season Finale

Downton Season 3 Finale

                 I suppose I should warn you not to read this if you haven't seen the season three finale of Downton Abbey, though like most of us, you were probably already aware of the spoiler that sent Downton Fans down another death-filled tear fest.

              The episode is cruelly lighthearted until the bitter, stab you in the heart end.  A fair is in town for all the servants who did not accompany the Crawleys on a Scottish adventure to visit Rose, Lady Susan, and Cousin Shrimpie (Yes, that is his name, and yes, it is quite amusing to watch so many proper characters say it so solemnly, as though it isn't as ridiculous as it is).  Minor and major developments occur, with Thomas taking a thrashing to protect Jimmie, leading to their friendship.  Branson, the only family representative left behind, is caught up in an awkward opportunist's guilty trap, managing to escape the greedy hands of the new servant Edna.  Ms. Patmore and Isobel are both tangled, rather needlessly, in one-episode and it's done "romances."  All in all, besides the continued evolution of Branson into a confident and capable man and the redemptive friendship of Jimmie and Thomas, not much of consequence occurs back at Downton, barring this:

Carson and Baby Sybil

          Seeing Carson pluck up baby Sybil causes one of the three best "AWE" moment.  What then, are the other two?  Back in Scotland, Cora and Robert's relationship is secure, Rose gives her feuding parents quite a ride, Edith fights feelings for her (complicated order) editor, and Mary tries to dance a jig while eight months pregnant.  The second "AWE" moment came courtesy of Bates and Mary discussing how truly remarkable Anna.  It was sweet payoff for their long way to happiness relationship.

Bates's proud love of Anna
            The episode constantly reminds us of Matthew's view of Mary.  He sees the best version of her, whereas others bring out her worst.  It is a cruel reminder of what life will be for Mary if she doesn't have Matthew.  Can she always be Matthew's girl?  It is a good question, considering what follows.  Mary manages a successful birth of the new Downton heir (with a shocking amount of hair, go figure), causing Matthew to want to do his own jig.  Seeing the family so happy and whole is sweet, but boy is it bitter.  Seeing Matthew at his happiest is all the more bittersweet and "AWE" inducing.

Matthew holds Baby Crawley
            Now for the worst part.  Unlike the death of Sybil, the finale does not give us time to see the family grieve.  Instead, while racing to tell others about the birth of his baby, Matthew is struck straight off the road.  The final scenes show Matthew lying dead as blood pools near his head while Mary sits, happy and unaware with her sweet child.  Ouch, Jullian Fellows, ouch.  Sure, I get that it opens the story to new possibilities  but what if I don't want those possibilities?  Dan Stevens chose to leave, as did Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), but boy did they leave great roles and holes in the Downton world.  Downton has been so heavily permeated by Matthew's solid, morally strong character.  It is impossible to imagine life in Downton without him.  His death isn't an "AWE" moment at all.  It is difficult and sudden, and almost too cruel.  To quote Martha "Come war or peace, Downton still stands and the Crawleys are still in it."  How will Downton stand though, losing such a foundation?  Next season will have many questions to answer.

Lady Mary and Matthew, together and happy.


Once Upon a Time: How THAT Character Changes Everything

Neal from Once Upon a Time

           If you watched last Sunday's "Manhattan," you are probably still reeling from the big reveal, a reveal that everyone, non-seers included, called.  Neal is revealed to not only be the father of Henry, but he is also the one and only Baelfire (what a name), son of Rumpel.  The reunion didn't go quite as Rumpelstiltskin planned, with Neal determined to show his father how truly hurt he was by his father's actions.  (Never fear Rumpel, if he's still hurt, he still cares.)

         The horrible problem that arises for Rumpel is revealed in the flashback to his life in Fairy Land.  Apparently, a seer not only predicted the long separation of Rumpel from his son, but she also said that the boy who would lead Rumpel back to Baelfire would essentially be Rumpel's undoing.  Cue current day Rumpel staring ominously at his freshly labeled grandson Henry and son Neal/Baelfire while Henry meets his dad for the first time.  Needless to say, I really hope Rumpel can stay on the straight and narrow, or at least not totally fall into his former Dark One ways.  Perhaps he will make a great sacrifice for his grandchild and son, perhaps not.  Time will tell on Once Upon a Time.  

         I'd argue that Baelfire's reveal added a much needed freshness the show hasn't seen since last year's premiere season.  The possibilities for the rest of the season are limitless, especially as August is set to return. Too bad a little pesky, pretentious show prevents a new episode next week.  I'd much prefer Once Upon a Time's next chapter than the Oscars. The twists are much more fun.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Zero Hour: Surprising Fun with Clocks

Zero Hour

          Maybe I have weaknesses for Angels & Demons/National Treasure-lite, a potential armageddon,  clock-puzzles, and international intrigue and conspiracy, but I really enjoyed Zero Hour.  Following one man's quest to find his kidnapped wife after she possesses a special clock (yes, that's right, a clock), Zero Hour travels from Nazi Germany to NYC and back again (to Canada too, go figure).  While Zero Hour wasn't exactly an hour of absolute quality television, it was entertaining in the same way that a paperback adventure novel or a popcorn movie is entertaining.  I'm not a television snob.  If a show entertains me, then it does it's job. There are some shows I like more than others for their quality, but then there are those moments you crave good old fashioned intrigue and even a dash of cheese. I will be returning for a least another episode of goofy, over-the-top entertaining fun, mock me all you want.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rupert Grint Snags Television Show

Rupert Grint

           Ron Wealsey fans (aka everyone) rejoice.  Rupert Grint is returning to the screen.  While he won't be battling spiders and Voldemort alongside Harry Potter and Hermione, he will be fighting a fast food fryer on CBS's Super Clyde, a show about a young superhero-fan who inherits enough money to fuel his desire to be a hero.  Sounds like a pretty awesome reason to watch Grint, and like a way to capitalize of The Big Bang Theory's push toward celebrating everything geek.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Downton Abbey: Picture Response to the Penultimate Episode

Downton Abbey Episode 6 and 7

               When I read that next week's episode of Downton Abbey is the finale, I was quite confused, only until I first remembered that the premiere actually played two episodes, as did last night's episode.  Sadly, the  escapist drama is coming to a close for the season just when it seemed to be starting.  No matter, let's reflect on last night's episode, via pictures of course.

Free Bates of Downton Abbey

1.  Before we can move on, we must address the emancipation of Mr. Bates.  He is finally free from prison.  Looks like those internet campaigns to Free Bates finally paid off.

Jane Eyre

2.  Lady Edith cannot catch a break.  After getting a job as a journalist, she flirts with her editor until she discovers he is actually married.  The Jane Eyre catch- his wife lost her mind is in an asylum.  To make it even more Mr. Rochester and Jane-esqe, he cannot divorce her.  Poor Edith.  Don't forget girl, you are not an automaton!

Mr. Carson does not approve

3.  The introduction of Rose, the eighteen year old cousin with a perchance for clubbing with married men, was ho-hum.  It felt like a weak excuse to spend a few moments in a 1920's club.  The Downton set were shocked, declaring the club to be a part of Dante's Inferno.  I wonder what they'd think of a modern day club...

Dowager Countess

4.  The Dowager Countess was the star of the night once again, tricking others into revealing the truth about Rose, setting up the more and more empathetic Ethel in a job close to her son, approving of Ethel's job and zinging everyone with her Pre-Betty White sass.  You were right, Dowager Countess, in saying that you don't have to worry about admitting you were in the wrong, because you never are.

"I have never taken the high road, but I tell other people to 'cause then there's more room for me on the low road."-Tom Haverford
5.  Am I the only one who was very proud that Bates looked out for Thomas, even though Thomas made a mistake?  I think not.  Way to take the high road.

Be Brave Branson

6.  Tom Branson is growing up!  He'll stay at Downton and be a caretaker.  I am beyond proud of his transformation.  Way to have a makeover Tom.

The Ugly Cry II

7.  I am scared for next week's episode, especially after the happiness of the past week's.  Look out for drama and tears.  Prepare for the Ugly Cry Part II

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Delirium to be on Television

Delirium to be made into a television show

               In news that really surprises me, Fox cast Emma Roberts in the new television show Delirium, based on the young adult novel by Lauren Oliver.  Set in an America where love is considered to be a disease that requires a surgical cure, it follows young Lena as she discovers life outside of her strict government and loveless life.  The final book in the series is due in March.  While I wouldn't say the books are as good as Divergent or The Hunger Games, they are good enough to merit a show.  The more I think about it, the more a television show may work well for the story, especially with the second book's introduction of more complex characters.  Unlike many series, the second book, Pandemonium, was far superior to the first.  Hopefully the series will improve on the story of the first book, which dragged a little.
                  All and all, if the series can achieve what The Vampire Diaries did before it-using a book series to spawn a fascinating show full of mythology, character development, and drama-then it could be a hit.  It might even be loved.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Rave: For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars

             So, I wasn't asking for a YA book loosely based on Jane Austen's Persuasion with a dash of sci-fi, but apparently, I should have been.  Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars was an incredibly easy read with an almost too wonderful main character.  Set in a post-disaster world where Luddite nobles hold to old traditions in medicine and life after humanity reached too far in genetic engineering and created the Reduced, a group of humans brought low.  Elliot North is bound to her traditions and the estate she sacrificed everything for, even if all she really wants is to be with the son of the reduced and a part of the Cloud Fleet.
        I read the book in hours, perhaps because of the strangely intriguing mixture of sci-fi tech with old traditions (very much like Treasure Planet), the Jane Austen homage, or the interesting idea of humans reaching too far or not far enough.  It wasn't a perfect book by far, especially with a too easy conflict resolution and the almost too cruel actions of the love interest, but all in all it kept me reading.  I recommend For Darkness Shows the Stars to lovers of light sci-fi, Jane Austen twists, or even Downton Abbey fans.  I also really wish it would be made into a film/mini-series.  It has incredible potential, especially with the class schisms between the Ludite, the Reduced, and the Post-Reduced (children of the reduced).

Friday, February 1, 2013

Community is Coming

Community Season 4 Returns, and Troy and Abed are excited

     Last summer, when I rediscovered NBC's scrappy Community, I realized I had somehow missed one of the funniest, most endearing comedies on television.  I marathoned through the three seasons at an embarrassingly (or impressive, depending on how you look at it) rate.  The community college characters (even the minor characters) took turns at hilarity and heart.  Community finally returns February 7th.  If you haven't seen it yet, start watching, or hop right in when it returns.  People who know Community know it deserves to be on air for many years to come.  That, and I really with Troy and Abed in the Morning was a real morning show.