Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Sharknado

You knew this post was coming.

LionEyes and I decided to forego renting a new movie for the evening from one of those boxes the color of red that have sprung up in just about any supermarket these days, chancing that we would find something watchable on TV.  Upon CrabCake's and Peanut's bedtimes we did a thorough channel scan.  Over 1,000 channels of nothing we want to watch.  One channel was showing the third X-Men flick, but I just had no interest in re-watching that ("I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" /sigh).  But, alas, a current of hope in an ocean of despair - Sharknado would be on in an hour.

I had missed the initial airing of Sharknado on Syfy (I still hate the changed channel name - Syfy), but had marked my calendar for August 22nd (when I thought a subsequent airing would take place based on review of The Guide).  So I set the DVR to record, reading until a half an hour or so past the show's start-time (need that commercial fast-forward ability).  We grabbed some nachos, some salsa verde, and readied ourselves for the bad.

Sharknado was everything I expected it to be.  Completely over-the-top, relentless shark action, inconsistent (at best) filmography, horrendous CGI, and one-note characters.  But, there's a sharknado - no, there's three sharknados!  And what better defense against airborne sharks than a chainsaw?!

The sky would be dark, cloudy, rainy, one moment, and when cut to the next character in the dialogue, the backdrop would be bright and sunny.  LE commented on this and my only thought was - there are sharks in the streets, flying through the air, and this is what bothers you?  Water depths would have half submerged a school bus in one scene, but cars and SUVs are driving by the next.  Sharks swimming in the streets attacking the moving vehicles.

I'm not painting the best picture.  If you're going to watch a movie named Sharknado, you likely know what you're getting yourself into.  And I've stated in previous entries that the best campy movies are the ones that have no intention of being taken seriously.  Sharknado fits this perfectly.  The action is non-stop.  The sharks are ridiculous.  Hell, the plan to resolve the situation (spoiler warning) to use a helicopter to drop bombs into the sharknados is complete nonsense.  Continuing in spoiler territory - the scene posted above - Fin (yes, the main character's name is Fin) is swallowed by the pictured shark, only to cut his way out of it with the chainsaw.  And guess what, this is the same shark that swallowed his maybe girlfriend earlier, and she's ok.  How can you do anything but laugh?

To add to the viewing pleasure, during the re-airing of Sharknado, SyFy streamed in various places, the tweets of fans as a contest to name the forthcoming sequel.  The puns flew as people suggested The Jawsey Shore, etc.  One request was for Sharks on a Train (further requesting Samuel L. Jackson as star).  I opted to go a different route, and followed in SyFy's own path of pitting abnormal aquatic beasts against each other and suggested Sharknado vs. Crocaquake.

Make it happen SyFy Movies.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

On A Good Day to Die Hard

Going into A Good Day to Die Hard, I was merely hoping for a mindless action movie.  Enough with the thought-provoking dramas, the intellectual thrillers, the smart comedies.  I want explosions, I want gratuitous violence and nudity.  I want my "yippykiyah motherfucker!" I did get my tagline, but overall, this was the WEAKEST of the Die Hard franchise to date.  And let's face it, in Live Free or Die Hard John McClane took out a helicopter with a car.

A Good Day to Die Hard follows the buddy-cop formula of John McClane bouncing his funny tough guy attitude off of an opposite (in this case, his son).  It just made me miss Samuel L. Jackson and Die Hard with a Vengeance.  Then it made me miss Samuel L. Jackson and Snakes on a Plane.  Because what tough guy tagline is better than "Enough is enough.  I've had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!"?

But I'm off-topic.  A Good Day to Die Hard - there are just so many different directions I could take my griping.  Do we complain about the constant Clerks knock-off joke wherein "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" is replaced with "I'm on vacation!"?  Do we complain about what must be one of the worst car chases filmed?  Do we complain about the subtitles (movie takes place in Russia) that were too fast, too thin, and too small to be fully comprehended?  I suppose in asking, I've complained about them all.

John McClane's introduction to the "bad guys" has the villain dancing about while eating a carrot.  Tough guy eating a carrot has been done before to perfection, so, bad on you Die Hard.  Furthermore, Shoot Em Up fully satisfied my mindless action, gratuitous violence and nudity, explosions and gunfights quota.  Seriously, if you are tired of thinking and just want to watch some people run around and shoot at each other, go pick up Shoot Em Up.  Now.  I'll wait.

LionEyes had suggested we turn the movie off at the car chase scene (extremely early in the movie).  For me to abandon a movie (particularly one I rent or go to theaters to see) I really need to hate the movie.  Even though it was obvious at that early stage that this would be a subpar addition to a franchise that's been declining in quality, there must be at least some John McClane humor, some over-the-top action.  So, perhaps familiarity with the character and franchise was its saving grace.  

However, in the end LE could have been right.  After all, we have The Avengers sitting in a drawer and she hasn't seen it yet.  Persistence was not rewarded.  Hell, the last scene of the movie father, son and daughter have an emotional reunion at the airport and the writers opted for fake talking with music playing instead of writing any actual dialogue.  Maybe this should have been the end of John McClane, as he sacrifices himself to save his family, thus ending the Die Hard franchise (until Hollywood reboots it in three years).  
Cue Nine Inch Nails' 'Terrible Lie' and pretend I'm writing a clever closing to this rant.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On Joyland by Stephen King - REVIEW

Synopsis (per Goodreads):

"I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts," says Stephen King, who has combined these elements into a wonderful new story.  Joyland is a whodunit noir crime novel and a haunting ghost story set in the world of an amusement park.

It tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a "carny" in small-town North Carolina and has to confront the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the way both will change his life forever.  It is also a wonderful coming-of-age novel about friendship, loss, and your first heartbreak.  Who dares enter the funhouse of fear?


I fell victim to assumption by association with this novel.  Without reading the synopsis, I had filed Joyland amongst the other Horror novels I had read on my Goodreads shelves.  Approximately 50% through the story (which will be completed before this post is officially made public), and having now read the synopsis, I am fed the realization that an author is capable of leaving the safehaven of the genre that made them.  This is not horror; there are no possessed rides, no alien mindgames, no globally devasting disease to wipe out 90% of the population.  The last thing I expected when picking up a new Stephen King novel was a bildungsroman, but murder and ghost aside, that is exactly what Joyland is, the coming-of-age of Devin Jones as told by elder Devin Jones. 

I appreciate the gimmick with Joyland (though I beg other authors to avoid following suit for my own selfish reasonings), wherein Stephen King, who having grown up enjoying the pulp crime paperbacks, decided to give his readers the same feeling of nostalgia.  Joyland is set in a small-town amusement park in the 70's, with possibly psychic fortune tellers, quirky characters, mysogyny, and an unsolved crime resulting in a truly haunted house ride.  To further achieve the sentiment, King decided that Joyland will only be available in paperback form - no hardcover, no e-book.  I've grown to love my e-books (as well as the space and money savings that come with), but the gimmick works for Joyland (King did it, if everyone else could bereave the missed opportunity and skip the copycat gimmickery, that'd be great).  Even the cover art to the book is perfect.  

The story is truly a coming-of-age tale.  The Stephen King factor involves a backdrop of creepiness in the possibility of the supernatural, the possibility of danger, the possibility that life and death are more complicated than can be perceived.  A large percentage of the book has no real supernatural element and no real antagonist.  It is akin to sitting down for a cup of coffee with Mr. Jones to discuss the good old days - when your heart was broken, that one ridiculous job you had, the quirky characters you had to interact with, the strangeness of what you would do for a few bucks over the summer, the friends you made, the older woman, and how you learned to appreciate life.  The storytelling style as present-day Devin narrates the tale makes the story flow quickly and ties in all the revelation that experience brings.  It isn't until the end where the story becomes Stephen's King-dom.  I'll avoid getting spoilery, but the supernatural picks up, the murder case takes center stage, and life and death hang in the balance (but at no point is there that really? moment like when you learned about the cause of the disturbance in Under the Dome).

This is what Stephen King does best.  He takes well developed characters, ordinary situations, and turns them into something extraordinary.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

On Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey - REVIEW

Synopsis (per Goodreads):  

For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.


This is book three in James S.A. Corey's The Expanse series.  Book three takes Holden and crew of the Roci out to the edge of the solar system where a mysterious ring has appeared, and it is through this ring where a majority of our story takes place - a starless void, an alien command station, a gateway.  This is a space opera, and as such, the overall plot surrounding the ring is only a small piece of the story.  What is a space opera, you ask?

I am by no means comparing The Expanse novels to Battlestar Galactica.  That would just be unfair.  However, the tone, the reliance on character development to drive the story, the extraterrestrial setting, put this in the same category at some level (this is not "hard sci-fi" where the emphasis is in scientific and/or technical detail).  

This being the third book in the series, it becomes a little easier to pick up on the writers' tendencies (side note: "writers'" is not a typo.  James S.A. Corey is actually two people).  As such, even though the story is unique from books one and two, even though there's character growth and additional characters added, the path of the story feels familiar.  

The blurb on the cover of the novel is something along the lines of "the closest to a Hollywood blockbuster in novel form as you can get" (I may be paraphrasing that).  That is Corey's style.  All three novels could easily be translated into film (should the science fiction scene become mainstream enough to necessitate the use of novels for additional content - and this is a possibility with Star Wars, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc. hitting the screens).  

What I disliked:  Reliance on new characters to drive the story.  Holden and crew, though central to much of the "purpose" of the events taking place, seemed to take a back seat for a majority of the novel.    Book two also added several new characters (most of which do not make more of an appearance than an off-hand mention by the main cast of this tale), but the driving force behind book two remained the development of the Roci's crew, their relationships with each other, and with various political organizations of the solar system.  

That being said, the book is still an excellent read (don't judge my month-long timeframe to get through the novel as an indication of my enjoyment as there were just too many personal reasons for my lack of reading lately).  Is Abaddon's Gate as good as book one (Leviathan Wakes)?  No.  I'd also venture so far as to say it was not quite the level of book two (Calaban's War) either.  But, the authors that are James S.A. Corey know how to entertain, and I will read the continued (mis)adventures of Holden and crew as they deal with the ramifications of the conclusion of Abaddon's Gate (I'll leave this mostly spoiler free).  Though these novels are generally in the 500 page range, they read like candy - like a popcorn flick.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Shark Repellent Bat-Spray

In a previous post I used the 1966 Batman scene where Batman utilizes his "shark repellent bat spray" to escape an attacking shark as an example of when television programming has gone too far into the camp zone (an alternative to Arthur Fonzarelli's waterskiing adventure - though involving a similar aquatic beast).  Dexter, Under the Dome (or just about any other Stephen King work), True Blood (to a certain extent) are meant to be a little darker, edgier, and grounded in some form of modern reality - maybe True Blood needs to be taken off that short list as the show of late has been more-or-less silly.  When a show, book, movie, etc. has been created with the intension of being taken even the slightest bit seriously, any hint of over-the-top shenanigans detracts from character development, storyline, audience engagement, etc.  

What I failed to mention in that post is that to a certain degree, I like campy things.  Killer Klowns from Outer Space?  Sign me up!

The difference here is that this movie never tries to take itself seriously.  The synopsis of this 1988 horror masterpiece (per IMDB): Aliens who look like clowns come from outer space and terrorize a small town.  

All of that being said, one could make the argument that my use of shark repellent bat spray as a symbol of degeneration of episodic program content is contradictory to my own expectations.  1966 Batman was anything but serious, and truth is, I love it.  There is no comparison to the modern Dark Knight that is The Batman, and there shouldn't be.  The 1966 Batman was meant to be fantastic - barely any resemblance to reality, was meant to be over-the-top ridiculous, was meant to entertain through excitement and humor.  Imagine my surprise (I don't follow DC Comics much, so maybe it wasn't a surprise to those who do) when I saw this as I picked up this month's Deadpool at my local comic shop:

A new comic series, written and drawn in the style of 1966 Batman.  Per DC Comics:

"Put on your go-go boots and get ready to "Batusi" back to the Swingin' 60s as DC Comics reimagines the classic Batman TV series in comics form for the first time!  These all new stories portray The Caped Crusader, The Boy Wonder and their fiendish rogues gallery just the way viewers remember them.  In this first adventure, The Riddler's out to steal some valuable artwork from under the noses of Gotham's police.  But Batman gets help from an unlikely source:  a certain femme fatale dressed in feline finery!

This book is everything it claims to be!  It includes pants-less Robin, "Holy <Insert Whatever Is Happening Here> Batman!," ridiculous fight sequences (on a crashing plane in one instance), remarkable unintentional (but really intentional) humor, pre-commercial "IS THIS THE END OF THE CAPED CRUSADER?!," and unbelievable (literally) escapes!  A must read for those who like their fancy meals, but also like their cheese.

Friday, July 12, 2013

On Homeland

I went into Homeland wanting to like the show (stay with me, I do like the show), but had some serious doubts about the sustainability of it.  This stems from the premise of Brody's character skirting the line between terrorist, victim, and hero.  How long can the show continue the "maybe I'm bad, but maybe I'm not" routine (especially with so much of the show in Brody's POV)?  But I had to give the show a chance (LionEyes, cover your eyes) considering the two lead actresses - Claire Danes and Morena Baccarin - are easy on the eyes and the show fills a void left with a lack of Jack Bauer on television.

Not that I'm saying 24 didn't have its problems (if Kim gets kidnapped one more time...!), but espionage and terrorist threats makes for good television.

LE and I binge-watched the second season of Homeland over the last few days, and the show continues to do a decent job of dancing the line of hero and villain, though LE continually comments that Brody is a jerk.  But the show isn't really about whether or not Brody is a terrorist - it's about the interplay between characters - Brody and his family, Carrie and Brody, Carrie and Saul.  

It's the focus on character relationships that separates this show from the others.  The development of of love and family, without the overuse of those relationships as plot devices (does it bother anyone else when the terrorist ends up being the protagonist's brother or father? - I'm looking at you Dexter, 24, and all the other examples that just aren't coming to mind at the moment - you get a pass, Star Wars).  

Season two continues the fast pace, the constant threat, continues the development of emotional growth, separation, anxiety, and lust.  Abu Nazir makes his appearance on American soil.  The plot twists and turns, never quite letting you know who is behind what, and what the overall objective of the terrorist attack entails.  

The final two episodes slow things down a bit (possibly too much).  It was the only time I felt the series was dragging its heels.  Until the extreme end - a twist I did not see coming.  But the show sets up a third season, and leaves me excited for more.  

Thank you Howard Gordon (co-creator of the American version of the show - and author of Gideon's War, which seemed to take place in the Homeland universe and tied in the propensity to have national security problems solved in less than 24 hours) for filling the void when 24 was taken away.  Keep up the good work.

And since LE and I were so far behind in watching the series, there is only two months until season three begins.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


I still exist.  Continued derailment of plans due to the unpredictability of life has caused a lapse in any thought-provoking commentary.  Please stand by for potential discussions surrounding any of the previously discussed television programming, Abaddon's Gate (currently at approximately 60% completion), Monsters University, and/or any other topic that I deem discussable.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

On Dexter: The End Begins...

Spoiler warning.  Blah blah blah.

Over the course of several years I have developed a love/hate relationship with Dexter (both the show and the novels - the focus of this will be on the Showtime series).  The show has been a pendulum, swinging from the darkly, satirically, humorous phenomena of the Death to Smoochy caliber all the way to the utter cheese of the Batman & Robin badness (ok, maybe not THAT bad).  Maybe I missed my calling in life and should have been a script writer, but again, with Dexter I am more in love with the potential of the concept than I am with the execution (no pun intended).  I suppose that's the problem when you create expectations for something - you create the possibility (likelihood) of failure to meet those expectations.

I have read the Dexter novels (not sure if I am current, but have no intention to move forward from where I left off) and have watched all previous seasons.  This season is being touted as the final, the end of our lovable serial killer one way or another, the last of Deb's "motherfuckers," and my thoughts are "it couldn't come soon enough." Again, I love the concept, but the execution for the last several seasons has been weak.  The series needs to end before it really jumps the shark.

"Robin, hand me down the shark repellent bat spray!"
The season begins with five minutes of the cast gloating over their joy and honor and wonder for being a part of the phenomena that has been Dexter, and how great the show is and how exciting the end will be.  Five minutes taken away from advancing the story in episode one.  Unnecessary.  You're all getting paid handsomely to say these things, so the opinion may be just a little biased.

The show begins several months after the end of last season.  Deb is a drug-doing, undercover, bounty hunter.  Dexter is losing his cool.  And new plot device Brain Doctor/Consultant lady is added to the force and she knows!  The season is laid out.

<intermission music>

I wrote that first segment hours ago.  Since that point CrabCakes has lived up to her name and Peanut has been as much assistance as a one year old can be.  As such, my train of thought is gone, and my brain functionality has decreased to basic operational standards.  Children have a way of pulling the life-force from you, making menial tasks like remembering something from last night seem inconceivable.

I'm not going to go scene by scene through the episode.  I'm not sure I'm capable right now.

But my impression of the show was much of what my impression of most season-opening episodes is.  A sense of underwhelming data-dumping setting up the remaining episodes of the season.  I had been holding onto the feeling ever since the Trinity season that the series should have ended with

The season ending was so impactful, and even with Dexter still amongst the living it had a sense of finality to it.  Now that the show is in its official final season.  Let's hope they can end it on something as emotionally impactful without resorting to how everyone expects it to end.