Category Archives: TV and Film

Book Smugglers Review of Child, plus vacation…

imageThea of Book Smugglers says this about Child of a Hidden Sea:

Sophie is sympathetic and genuine, and her motivation to learn more about her origins and her family comes across as wholly believable. Her insecurities when compared to her siblings – her fierce half-sister Verena, and her genius adopted brother Bram – only enhance Sophie’s sympathetic nature, as she struggles with her own feelings of inadequacy and confidence.

I’ll be taking next week off to see a bunch of films at the Toronto International Film Festival (Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, This is My Land, Luna, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch, Charlie’s Country, the Imitation Game, and Behavior, in case you’re wondering) and hang out with my lovely and wonderful cousins. So, you know–I’ll be online less. Write me if you  need me.

Which isn’t to say I won’t tweet a little about the movies, or any especially good food that comes my way. Because in the world of Instagram, my vacation is your vacation. Or something.

Why Moving is Cool… (Toronto, day 466)

Last week I developed a sudden burning need to rewatch the first five minutes of “Mountie on the Bounty,” a Due South episode from about midway through the Ray Kowalski years. In Due South fandom, you are generally either RayK or a Ray Vecchio fan; I’m the latter, and didn’t acquire the DVDs after The One True Ray had left the building.

Youtube, however, has the opening of MotB, which sets Fraser and RayK atop a very tall building, in a gunfight which they’re losing, and midway through the process of maybe getting killed, Fraser comes up with the bright idea of jumping off the building and into what–since this is Chicago–should be Lake Michigan. They do it. Ray, who can’t swim, is Officially Unimpressed.

Anyway, I brought up the clip. Bang, bang, yell, yell, and… jump!

And there was something shiny and new! In a piece of television which I’ve probably watched… oh, hey, let’s not even guess the number of times. I recognized the building! Because the role of Chicago was, naturally, being played by the city of Toronto, and now that I live here I recognized the very tall building as one of my favorite photographic subjects, the Canada Malt silo on the shore of Lake Ontario.

And, yes! I am right. Proof!

I’d see so much more, I realize, if I dipped into a proper DS rewatch.

That Escalated Quickly…

imageMe: Maybe this is a hoaxy thing, but Orlando Jones just sent me a friend request on Facebook.

K: Really?

Me: His page looks pretty legit.
Both: Random murmuring about Sleepy Hollow and how would we know if it was a real page or not. Then…

K: Maybe he read your book!

Me: Maybe he wants to play Parrish!

Both: Faint, coo, imagine the advance money, giggle, realize this is ridiculous, climb back up off the kitchen floor and sit back down to breakfast.

K: Orlando Jones is too old to play Parrish.

A: Sadly, yes. Pretty enough, but a little too old.

K: He could play Cly though.

Both: OMG OMG Eeee! Die.

Kittens: ?

Yes, we are deranged.

Telewitterings: Decoding The Morse Franchise 

imageI stopped watching Inspector Morse somewhere midway through its run. I liked the characters, particularly Lewis, but the stories fell into very repetitive patterns, and Morse himself didn’t do that much for me. (I’ve posted about this before, and I know that many people really liked Morse. He was just a little too irascible for me.)
Inspector Lewis, on the other hand, turned my crank from the beginning, even though the scripts were wildly variable. Some of the mysteries were so poorly written it was painful; only a few were brilliant. What was interesting about it, though, was the character of Lewis. He was conceived as a sidekick, a foil. Morse is ascerbic, educated, all-seeing; Lewis is a good-natured plodder: bright enough, in his way, but very much the supporting act. It’s interesting to see a sidekick made into a leading man, and it often doesn’t work. They’re not built that way. They’re not cast that way. There’s a reason why John Barrowman is Captain Jack, in Torchwood, while goofy-looking Burn Gorman gets to be Owen.
But Kevin Whatley, the actor who plays Robbie Lewis, is very convincing as a pure soul, an honest and fundamentally sweet guy. The pitch here is he’s grown up, and got experienced–and hey, he was always a good cop. Unlike Morse, who lives on crossword puzzles, operas and intellectual epiphanies in magnificent isolation, Lews has a family life outside the office. We get to peer in on the family, a bit; in no small part, they exist to illuminate what Morse doesn’t have. And, interestingly, one of the things done by the Morse creators to shift poor Robbie from second banana status, to anoint him as the pillar of the new series–is lay waste to that family. Val is dead; the kids are, as Robbie puts it, “grown and flown.”
This works especially well because fans of the original series knew that family. The nigh-obligatory dead wife isn’t quite the hypothetical font of angst you get in other series. We knew her: she was around for years.
Despite the occasional appalling episode, it held my interest. And it didn’t hurt that the guy who played Lewis’s shiny new sidekick, Laurence Fox, was incredibly compelling.
Now, finally and delightfully, we have Endeavour. This is Morse’s backstory: it takes him back to the 1960s, and makes him the junior officer. Again this is a nifty tweak on the original formula, and one that sort of interesting. It is usually the highest ranked character who is solving the mysteries. Here we get Morse as underdog; it’s cool.
I went into Endeavor expecting more of what we got with Lewis: some good episodes, truly silly ones, and a whole lot of interplay between the cops. Plus history, Cold War, and old timey clothing. And to some extent that’s all been true. Shaun Evans, the actor playing Endeavor, is extremely sensitive and believable. The rest of the cast great too, and I love his obvious slash interest, Constable Strange.
The surprise has been this past season was incredibly well-written. “Nocturne,” in particular, started off with a horrific crime scene and though at every turn it seemed as though it couldn’t possibly deliver on the promises it was making, in the end it did just that.
I can’t help thinking there’s a Pop Culture Studies doctoral thesis in the making here. The history of these three shows is just fundamentally interesting. It went from the original Colin Dexter novels into Inspector Morse, which was wildly successful. Now there are these spinoffs, successful variations on the theme created without the original author’s input.
Anyone else been keeping up?
Either way: Tune in Tomorrow for a Guest Post by D.B. Jackson!

Five movies I love, with actors I Meh

imageI have watched many a bad Western because, well, Western! None of them has beat out Silverado‘s place in my heart. It’s so much a favorite that it’s one of the movies we took to Italy with us. Because: Danny Glover! Linda Hunt! Scott Glenn! Kevin Kline and a soupcon of John Cleese!

But, also… Kevin Costner. Wooden, dull, square-jawed Kev. He’s inexplicably good in this, and not just when he’s showing off how well he rides the horseflesh. He is even, at points, funny. Good direction and the fact that he’s still working hard to make his name, I think, are the explanation.

There’s something in me that resists Renee Zellweger. She’s a terrific performer, and I heart both Chicago and Down with Love with a mindless fannish passion. I wouldn’t want to see anyone else in either of those roles. And yet… some hardwired thing within makes me want to dislike her. (Chicago also gets bonus points for being my favorite Richard Gere movie.)

He makes my gorge rise, but I thought Woody Harrelson was very well-cast in The Hunger Games. I find him convincing as a hard-boozing asshole. (I know he does a similar thing in True Detective, but hours on end of that was too much Wood for me. Plus it’s not a movie.)

I actually pulled up Tom Cruise’s filmography to see if I could find something other than Minority Report that I loved, and found zippo, nada, nothin’. Phillip K. Dick and Neal McDonagh FTW!

(Tried the same with Julia Roberts and didn’t find a single thing I’d rewatch unless the plane was going down and I really needed distraction.) So instead I’m going with Angelina Jolie and Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow. I’m not strongly against Jolie, and I enjoyed the Tomb Raider films, but she’s not someone I seek out, or get excited about.

What are your love the film, hate the actor faves?

Xmen, days of Boresville

imageI will be churlish and vaguely spoilery here, just so you know.

My chief complaints are, in no order:

*Everyone was so terribly, tiresomely earnest. Except Quicksilver, who was hilarious and delightful and then not in the movie anymore. Dour dour dour. You have to assume the true purpose of the Sentinels was crushing humor everywhere. The mutant population simply became collateral damage. “Mr. President, someone’s about to get off a zinger in here…” ZAP! DIE!!

*I get that a major point of these films is that Professor X and his obvious slash interest are young and inexperienced. Not yet the men they will one day become. Yay, good message! We get better as we get older. But as starting points for growth go, this is really sad. What we get here is Doctor Whiny versus someone who ODed on Stupid Pills. I love Mystique, but the fact that she runs rings around Charles and Eric is hardly satisfying. If the two of them tried to pull off a doughnut run in this movie, they’d come home with one spilled and cooling hot chocolate, five bales of wheatgrass, and a half-eaten box of baby Cheerios. “Sorry,” they’d say. “We were about to pay for crullers and bear claws and then Magneto decided that the deep fryer guy was giving in to his fear and hatred of the other.”

*Serious Bechdel Fail, unless you count Mystique as Peter Dinklage talking to an unnamed clerical worker about her scarf.

*The Sentinels (presumably by design?) looked like a mash-up of the rampaging Tony suits in Iron Man 2 and the Guardian from Thor Primo. Why?

*Magneto. A hacker? In the Seventies? What? Using railroad ties? What? Were they made of fibre optic cable and laced with the spirit of Neo? I mean: Come on! They weren’t all, “ATTENTION MUTANTS: I HAVE METAL COOTIES! I MUST COMPLY!” No, they flew in formation. They obeyed his voice commands. Do Sentinels get Stockhold Syndrome? Why isn’t Philip K. Dick around to write us all the answer?

*For eff’s sake, show some guts, Marvel! If you want to give us Charles as an IV drug user imagery, go for it and damnwell make him a heroin addict.

I could go on just about forever. I’d not have taken a chance on this–I knew there was a high chance of cineloathing. But the reviews were glowing and people seemed to have liked it.

Jennifer Lawrence performed well. Raven’s journey was lovely and if they’d cut about 90 minutes of crap from all around it, there might have been an okay story in there. Charles has a couple quasi-believable epiphanies, though I’d rather they’d been facilitated by Wise Mature Logan rather than Future Charles. You sell yourself short, Future Wolverine.

This emperor is buck naked, folks. Two and a half hours of watching the kittens wrestle while I tumble-dried the bedspread they peed on yesterday would have been a better use of my time.

Did you like Captain America? (Eff Yeah!)

Here’s a picture of me with the actor Cineplex hired to Cap it up outside the theater after Friday’s screening. He was pleasant and fun, and who doesn’t enjoy a superhero selfie?

Captain America Saves

Things I liked about the movie:

Steve: I am coming to like his character more and more. He may be the straightest straight-arrow since Constable Benton Fraser… in other words, catnip. What’s more, he’s pleasingly articulate. His funny lines are delivered with square-jawed conviction and good grammar.

Natasha: The only thing wrong with Black Widow in this movie was her hair, which looked as though evil fiends had dried and ironed it in a bid to lower her self-esteem. She’s delightfully deadly, and I loved seeing a glimmer of how very much she looks to Steve and Nick Fury to hold her onto a moral path as she continues to sponge some of that red out of her ledger.

Falcon! Just plain awesome. I am hoping Tony will build him some hardware one day soon.

Surprise! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that hey, there are some big reveals at various points in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. One I saw coming, the other was beautifully played.

The movie has an excellent sense of who Steve is. It reaches back into his past, referencing the first film without burdening the movie with too much exposition. (Those reach-backs are especially handy if you found Captain America Primo rather forgettable.) I had a few quibbles with the plot, but it makes a reasonable amount of sense, as such things go. And I’m very curious to hear how the film’s events affect Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In sum, I found it entertaining enough, and suspenseful enough. It may not be a staggering work of genius, but there’s nothing much wrong with it either. I had fun.

Did you?