Wednesday, July 29, 2009


This week, we've got City of Bones, Blood Ties and Dead Until Dark over on the book blog!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

movie: harry potter and the half-blood prince

See, here's the thing: I liked this moviw, and I'm not particularly appologetic about that. It was fun, exciting, sweet, a little scary, and it had all the important parts that move the plot along and develop the characters. So what if it doesn't follow the book exactly? The book is freakishly long, and a seven hour movie just isn't worth the time. The first movie was practically a read-along, and that was dull, dragging and opressive. I think the movies have been saved by the fact that the books were so long by the end; it means the directors and scriptwriters could cut the things that work in a book but are unnecessary in a movie, that they can pare the story down to it's basic components and show us what's needed to make a movie-- because movies and books are different things, even if they're telling the same story, and there's really nothing but agravation in trying to make them the same.

Half-Blood Prince had everything I wanted it to have: It had Draco being tortured by his own divided loyalties, lurking and brooding and crying alot, and I swear the kid got skinnier and paler as the movie progressed, as he should if he's really dealing with this horrible crap. It had Ginny getting to do stuff and have lines, and she's really good at the shining, compassionate better-person schtick. It had Ron totally missing the point with Hermione and Hermione realizing what all these weird feelings meant. It had Snape being subtle and divided and obviously unhappy and murky and snarky and wonderful. It had Dumbledor at a loss, damaged, and ready to finish the plan. Slughorn was wonderfully twitchy, Lavendar was exactly as clingy and weird as was necessary for us not to feel bad when she gets jilted. I hated seeing the Weasley house burn, I loved Bellatrix, the few moments we got of Fred and George were awesome as always, Luna was fantastic, and that scene where the whole school bands together to stop the cloud-skull-creepiness totally got me.

And best of all, it reminded me why I loved all these characters, and set up how horrible it's going to be in the next movies when they start offing people left and right.

Best parts:
- Hopped-up-Harry talking about the spider's pinchers
- "He likes my sister for her skin??" "Well, I'm just saying it could be a contributing factor."
- "I supposed you're wondering what we're doing here?" "Honestly, sir, after all these years I just sort of go along for the ride."
- "Why does it always seem that when there's trouble, the three of you are involved?" "I've been asking myself that for six years."
- The set design. Hogwarts looks more like a real place every time, and this time it was gorgeous, all stairs and vaulted halls and weird little details like the birdcage inside the birdcage and so on. I want my office to look like Dumbledor's...
- Ron and Harry hitting eachother as they fight over the book. Just like real boys.

There were a few weird things:
- They almost entirely cut Harry's obsession with the book and who wrote it, and then Snape is all 'I'm the Half Blood Prince' and I went 'Oh, right, that was the title of the movie...'
- Did we see Ginny break up with Dean? Because all of a sudden she was all over Harry, and it was very sweet and exactly what was supposed to happen, but I don't remember her stopping dating... And most of that relationship got cut, too.
- Where was Hagrid as his house was being burned down? And what happened to the Weasleys after the same? We just sort of skipped those parts, and I don't remember what happened in the book.
- Wasn't there more with Lupin and Tonks?

Over all, though, it was great fun and I really enjoyed it. Each movie holds together as a movie better than the last, the world gets more detailed and real, and the characters act and dress and speak more like real people. I loved it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

torchwood redux: everything changes and day one

It's been ages since I watched season one of Torchwood, and last night H and D finally agreed to start watching, so we did the first two eps.

Season one is a whole lot of fun, but is kind of marked by being inconsistent. These two episodes establish that right off the bat: Ep1 is really solid, a great introduction to how the world works and how the show differs from Doctor Who, and Ep2 is just sort of silly and a little loose around the plot.

Everything Changes brings us Police Constable Gwen Cooper, decked out in all her unflattering uniformed glory, stumbling upon Torchwood and, being the good cop that she is, not letting it slide. She watches them bring someone back to life, and she wants to know how. She meets and alien, and she wants to know why. They walk in and out of her life, and she wants to know what they're up to. And it's great. I love Gwen. Right from the beginning, she doesn't put up with any crap from Jack, and even when she's entirely overwhelmed and more than a little scared, she stands up for herself and keeps following through, and tries to get them to be helpful to the city they live in, rather than just being these amoral others that don't care that crimes are being committed.

Jack is charming as always, but he's overlaid some of the cockiness of his first appearance in the world with some sort of secret knowledge of how things happen, with the understanding that he can't die (which is first shown here, in this first ep, after Parting of the Ways but before his return to the Tardis at the end of season 3)-- and with the steadying influence of this team that he leads and harasses and believes in. I like Grownup Captain Jack-- and I like that he's still a little smarmy, a lot irreverent, and not terribly secretive about the fact that he isn't normal, while still leaving most of the details to the imagination.

And the team is pretty great right off the bat. Owen is a creep, but he knows what he's talking about, Tosh is a bit of a prude, but in a wobbly and shy sort of way, Ianto is the best butler on the planet and always seems slightly amused by the wholw world, and Suzie-- I love Indira Varma. She can make even a little part like Suzie so great. And I know what happens next, but I'm not telling the boys.

Day One is... not so great. Gwen's in over her head, which is understandable, and she's pretty much the best part of the episode. The premise is silly: a space-druggy goes after orgasm energy because it's "the best hit in the galaxy" and goes about killing people to get it. Blah. Lots of gratuitous sex. Double Blah. There's better later. But Gwen's the one that accidentally lets it out into the world, and she's the one that figures out how to fix her problems. I love when chicks do things for themselves in TV. She's not a companion, and though she's the viewer's way in like one, she's more than capable of getting by on her own, of making do with what she has, and getting the job done in the best way possible. Excellent.

Jack has "life to spare" and can give it away if he needs to, and that's something interesting. but the best part is after it's all over when Gwen kisses Jack-- and gets him off-guard. That doesn't happen much, and the way he reacts shows (me, anyway) that he's not cocky and confident all the way down, and that's more interesting.

Who knows when we'll watch more, but I'm happy to review it all, even if D didn't like it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


This time it's Robin McKinley's Sunshine, over on the books blog.

classic who: the hand of fear

And then we move on to The Hand of Fear. This one is Sarah Jane's last episode, and she gets to go out being herself-- or, at least, the mcguffin she frequently is.

They land back on Earth in a quarry (which is actually being a quarry, so that's two shots if you're playing the drinking game we made up and I haven't written about yet), just in time to be very nearly squashed in a rockslide created by blasting they don't pay enough attention to get out of the way of. The Doctor lands on top of the rubble, and they find him first, and they go looking for Sarah Jane and find her trapped under some massive bits of styrofoam, passed out and concussed, and holding onto a big stone hand. Which, of course, takes over her mind. ::sigh::

When they leave her alone in the hospital, she wakes up and steals the hand from the lab, sealing it up in Tupperware to keep it fresh, and uses the ring she found on it to blast her way into a nuclear power plant that may or may not be the same one in Inferno (in my head, it totally is, and it's just not a very nice place to work). She locks herself in the reactor, and the stone hand starts to come back to life. The radiation is critical, and the hand is controlling people all over the place, trying to get more of it. The Doctor manages to get Sarah Jane out, but she doesn't remember being taken over, and the hand has absorbed so much of the radiation that she isn't contaminated at all. Which is convenient.

Eventually, when the core implodes instead of explodes and the hand isn't stopped, the RAF tries to nuke the place, which I would think is pretty obviously not going to work, but maybe they're way dumber without UNIT to explain things to them. I miss the Brig. Anyway, the nukes only make the transformation complete, and Eldrad walks out of the reactor-- and is a chick, since the regeneration imprinted on Sarah Jane, the first person to touch the hand and the ring. The Doctor decides to try diplomacy (finally), and they talk Eldrad down from a massive attack on everything with the promise of taking her home, which they do, but it has to be now, millions of years after she / he was exiled and executed, so they can't mess with history. Eldrad leads them to the frozen-over capital and starts turning machines back on with the intention of rebuilding the world that was destroyed... and walks right into a trap, where a spear full of acid slams into her chest and starts cracking her crystaline structure.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane take her down to a regeneration chamber past a void and through various other traps. She's amazingly good at remaining manequin-stiff as the Doctor hauls her around, and she must not weight much (though if she's really silicon like quartz, she should way most of a ton) because he's hauling her around all over the place. They make it to the chamber just in time, and Eldrad is reborn as his true self, a big pointy man-thing with a crystal beard and a habit of extreme overacting. And he's a lunatic. He was the one who killed the planet, and his continuing punishment is to have a world where everyone chose to die instead of risking that he'd come back, even far in the future, and killed themselves. Jeeze. The Doctor and Sarah jane have to escape his crazy to get home, and they toss him down the needless chasm to do so.

And then Sarah Jane has to leave. She's complaing about always getting chased and mind-controlled and tricked and manipulated, and pretends to want to go home, and stomps off to get all her stuff together (which turns out to be a stuffed owl, two ugly jackets, a teeny tiny suitcase, a potted plant and a tennis racket)-- and while she's gone, the Doctor gets the Call home to Gallifrey. Humans aren't allowed there, and he has to leave her. So he drops her off where he thinks she lives, and she gets off with the sort of cheerfulness of someone who thinks she'll get to go back soon, and he leaves her. For thirty-five years. And I was very sad. The last few episodes, he called her his best friend, and he was so deflated-sounding when he told her she couldn't go with him, and she didn't really seem to know what it meant...

And so ends the Sarah Jane Years. She gets an abortive spinoff in the early 80s, and she gets to come back for the Five Doctors in a bit, and she's still around the expanded universe, but there's no more Sarah Jane Smith in the series until School Reunion in Nu Who, and the Sarah Jane Adventures after that. I'll miss her. Even with her really awful outfits and her sometimes hopeless ankle-twisting, she was sharp and clever and smart enough to keep up with the Doctor, and they were a good team.

classic who: the masque of mandragora

Man, my scifi intake has really suffered since I stopped being unemployed / ran out of all the stuff I'd previously cued up for watching / had my Netflix cancelled for non-ability to pay. But we've gotten back on track with the Classic Who, and I, for one, am much greatful. I love this watching-through of the history-- I grew up with the show, but we moved around alot and lived all over the place, and it was never consistent. Even when I watched it every day on PBS when we were back in the states and didn't have cable yet, sometimes they didn't show episodes together, even when they showed lots in a row. I mean, really. What's that all about?

So here we have the Masque of Mandragora, Sarah-Jane's second-to-last story. It starts out with them wandering around the massive interior, full of hallways that all look the same, and doors that lead to greenscreens, and they come across the Old Console, which is delightfully steampunky and wood-crafted. They find that they're being swept into a power vortex that's semisentient-- the Mandragora Helix (pronounced man-DRA-gora, not man-dra-GORA as might be assumed). There's a ball of energy that buzzes the Tardis, and the Doctor literally swings Sarah Jane out of the way in a delightful show of how little she is, then they evacuate the weird.

The Doctor lands in Renaissance Italy, drawn in by some weirdness (as per usual), and they immediately stumble upon a Plot. Sarah Jane is kidnapped (also as per usual), and the Doctor is waylaid trying to save her-- so Sarah Jane is taken to be a fortold sacrifice to Demnos, an ancient god worshipped by a secret cult that was thought to be long gone, because she was found at the right place at the right time, and meanwhile, the Doctor is taken to the Prince and his court, and the uncle and Hieronymous the Creepy-Bearded Advisor sentance him to death as a traitor. Because there's civil unrest, you see, though that doesn't really matter all that much. Also, there's the Helix Fragment, flying around and turning people into blue jello.

They send the Doctor to the block, but he escapes with the help of shi clever scarf, and hides in the catacombs under the city, where he finds and rescues Sarah Jane just before she's to be killed (I guess they couldn't see all that well in their fancy roman masks), and just in time to miss the Helix Fragment arriving and creating a link between it's home-self and the cult. Or, more specifically, with Hieronymous-- annother of his prophesies fulfilled, since he was sure he'd get unlimited power.

The Doctor and Sarah are captured and think they're going back to the block, but are taken to the Prince (Guiliano) instead, and he's willing to listen to reason and isn't happy that his uncle won't. He's decided to have a party for his succession, and Frederico, the uncle, isn't happy about it. He wants a horoscope that declares Guiliano's death, with the death following before the morning, and Hieronymous isn't too into that-- he's got a cult to lead and a massive extradimensional power to unleash.

From here, it gets even busier. They go back to the catacombs and Sarah is taken hostage again, hypnotized and told that the Doctor is an evil sorcerer that needs to be destroyed with this poison needle they give her, and she's left for them to find. She almost does it, but the Doctor snaps her out of it just in time for them all to get thrown into prison. The Doctor talks Frederico into letting him show them what's going on, which results in Frederico getting pretty suddenly offed by Force lightning, after they witness Hieronymous becoming all glowy with Helix energy. He announces that their attack will happen tomorrow, when Mandragora swallows the moon and changes history; the guards switch allegiance and everyone is freed, and Guiliano takes over, deciding to keep the party on, since cancelling it would look like he can't control his own people.

The Doctor comes up with a clever plan involving a metal breastplate and alot of wire, and sneaks into the temple where there's apparently not even one guard to stop him from setting stuff up over the course of hours. When things go to crap, the Doctor tricks the cult into grounding out all it's energy, and then there's nothing left to cause trouble.

This one... it alternated between kind of dull when it was all palace intrigue, and needlessly complicated when that intrigue bumped into the plot, and I wasn't terribly fond of it. It wasn't bad, but it was confusing, and it felt just a little off... the Doctor's still being kind of a jerk, and the plot points all came too quickly to make much sense. There's been much better historicals. And it all seemed kind of contrived in a way that left me without much opinion of the story one way or another. It's not a great way to start a season, and I liked the last ep better.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


All the books from here are going to be over on the new book blog Booksaholic Samnonimous, so here's your first link to something that pertains to this site: Peter S Beagle's The Line Between, featuring a new(ish-- new to me) Unicorn Story.

classic who: the brain of morbius and the seeds of doom

We've finished another season of Classic Who, and somewhere halfway through the next one, SarahJane will move on and Leela will show up. All I know about Leela is that she marries a Time Lord-- in the Ten Doctors comic, she's got something like fourteen kids and is very old, but still a warrior.

Anyway, we started with The Brain of Morbius! Which was not so crazy as it seemed. Actually, it was kind of like watching Dark Shadows-- alot of standing around in Gothic settings, talking about one thing and meaning another. So the Tardis lands on a stromy planet that has a ship graveyard and a bunch of headless bodies on it, and though the Doctor is feeling cranky and thinks it's the Time Lords using him as their errand boy again, and is determined to not do anything at all, just to spite them, Sarah Jane immediately finds a body and they're in trouble. The rest is alot of back-and-forth between Solon, a semi-criminal follower of the worst mad Time Lord ever (the Mobius of the title) who's trying to build a body to bring his master back, and the Sisterhood, a group who look like the ones in The Fires of Pompei, and worship a holy flame that produces an elixir of life. Their flame has been dying down, and they're almost out of the elixir, which means they're almost out of eternal life, and things get tense when they start to think that the Time Lords are trying to steal it from them. They don't like Solon, and he doesn't like them, but with the Doctor and Sarah Jane going back and forth and the two sides having cross purposes, they start to work against eachother. Meanwhile, Solon builds his monster, though he had to give up the idea of using the Doctor's head for it. I don't think Morbius's massive glowing and pulsing brain would fit into it anyway.

Sarah Jane gets to be pretty resourceful in parts, though for a big chunk near the end, she's been blinded and blunders around getting into trouble, too. But she saves the Doctor, who gets to bea tricked and manipulated alot this story, and that's fun. The Doctor, meanwhile, does alot of solo running around trying to restore sarah Jane's eyes, which is both proof that his own safety comes after that of his companions, and that the companions are his weakness-- Solon sends him to the Sisterhood to get her fixed, but it's a lie that's supposed to get him killed and out of the way. And this is the only time so far that the Doctor has outright tried to kill someone: he makes a poison glass and lets it get to Solon.

The monster is creepy and neat and cheezy all at once, and I think it'd make an excellent action figure if they start making classic monsters. Morbius is megalomaniacal and whiny, and doesn't really do much because of brain damage; first he's trapped in a jar, then he's dropped on the floor, and it's probably true that he was already mad.

Overall, the story is a direct ripoff of Frankenstein, if it was set on a remote planet in the vecinity of Gallifrey and if the monster was being built to hold the brain of a crazy ex-cult-leader. Not bad, but a little confusing needlessly, and not as original as some.

And then we had Seeds of Doom, which was kind of like two related three-parters. The Doctor and Sarah Jane go to the antarctic (without the Tardis for some crazy and unexplained reason) to help some scientists with a weird new plant they've found, and wind up trapped by weather in a research station, which is always fun plotwise (like the Ice episode in X-Files). Side note: in this half, Sarah Jane wears cute little bright yellow overalls, which are entirely useless against and arctic blizzard, and a fur coat alot like the one Donna wore in the Planet of the Ood. The Doctor wears what he always wears, and I love that temperatures never seem to bother him. It's another of those little touches that remind us that he only looks human-- though in these classic episodes, he eats pretty frequently, as opposed to the new ones, where he doesn't much, and usually avoids eating all together.

Anyway. The scientists have found this weird pod about the size of a softball, and it's germinated in the warmth and taken over one of the crew, turning him into the broccoli from Garth Merengie's Dark Place. And then into a blobby green mansized creature that starts sabotaging things and killing people. back in England, a leak in the Ministry of Environment (I wonder why they aren't working with Unit here?) tells a manic and extremist plant collector / plant rights activist / lunatic about the new plant, and he pays alot of money to get his best mercenary there to get the plant for him, ignoring that it's an alien creature that eats animal-things (instead of the usual animal-thing eating plant-things).

The first half ends with the plant-dude blowing everything up, but not before the mercenaries get the second pod back to the crazy collector dude. Sarah gets to change into a different weird seventies outfit that looks like it has too much pattern and too many hems in it, and then they're off to find who took the other pod. He's encouraging it to take someone over, and tries to give it Sarah Jane, but the Doctor saves her, and leaves it to take over someone else. Side note again: the Doctor is very angry and yelly, like he's channeling Six over here, and punches alot of people rather than building clever machines or something.

So the scientist is taken over and the baddie feeds it and nurtures it into the full-size Krinoid. There's an old lady who is what I want to be when I grow up: a little batty and silly and vague, but cherrfully serving as a spy and loveing every minute of it. She gets information to Sarah, and then takes her message back to the Ministry, which brings in Unit. There's no Brig (I miss the Brig), but there's some other dude from Unit who can't pronounce the word "fire", and they show up and start attacking the estate-sized monster with the vaguest laser cannon ever. To no avail.

After alot of being trapped inside the estate, alot of plants coming to life and trying to strangle them, alot of running down halls and escaping monster tentacles, and several attempts to wood-chipper the Doctor and turn him into com-pos-t for the garden, eventually the massive creature is killed by fighter jets.

The monster is mostly dumb, but when it gets up to estate-size, there's a pretty nifty shot where it looks like c'thulu humping a mannor house that looks pretty cool. I couldn't immedaitely see how it was done, so that adds a little reality to it, you know?

The story was neat, but I'm not sure how I feel about four being angry and violent; that's not his thing, usually, and it bugs me. The monster was an actual threat, and it's one of the few times when the Doctor couldn't fix things-- it took the big guns of Unit to get anything done. And it sure was a big bang to end the season on. Literally.

true blood: s01

Don't know what you've done to me, but before this night is through... I'm gonna do bad things to you...

Man, no kidding. I watched the first few episodes as they came out until I couldn't get ahold of them any more, and recently, with the return for season two, H got all of them and I devoured them in slightly less than a day. And all together like that, it really sucks up your brain. And so much happened in those twelve little episodes.

Here's the basic impression: goofy at the beginning mixed with alot of pornyness and some sweet will-they-won't-they while punctuated with alot of blood. Alot of blood, all the time, in good and bad places (vampires are really messy eaters here, and even messier die-ers), and alot of sudden violence. I mean, Sookie's beaten almost to death right off the bat. Then it gets sexier and tenser, and weirder and even more violent and involved, and it ends really crazy.

I love Sam and feel horrible for him, since he can't seem to win, and I want to know what's up with Maryanne (who I knew was trouble as soon as Ensign Ro walked on screen-- it's like seeing John Delancy show up: nothing but trouble), and his past! How horrible.

Tara's life keeps falling apart by degrees, and I'm waiting for the other show to fall now that she's mixed up with whatever's going on with the afore-mentioned Maryanne. I was hoping she'd get to figure something out with sam and get some sort of human interaction going, but maybe that'll come after that other shoe... or maybe not at all, since they just introduced Eggs (though it annoys me that he's black-- why do the black characters have to wind up with other black characters? I liked her with Sam partly because inter-racial relationships that work are still not that common).

Bill's got a psychopathic little vamp-baby to deal with just as vampire-marriage becomes legal, and that aught to make things interesting. And she's fun, wild in every way that he isn't. Poor Bill, he's kind of a stick in the mud when it comes to being a vampire. And her existence is a thorn in his side, since he Made her against his will as a punishment he doesn't think he should have had... That had better continue.

LaFayette. Oh poor, poor, crazy, entirely amoral LaFayette. Looks like you're donefore. Apparently in the books, he wasn't even a character, just a body in a car, so maybe that's why he wound up like that. But we'll see, won't we?

And Jason never got any smarter, though it looked for a minute like he might, and now he's going to an extremist church, which will probably be more annoying than him boinking everyone in sight. But I was glad to see how happy he was to see Sookie after all the Crazy at the end. Speaking of, I was scared it was going to be Jesse, since they keep making him so strange in between all the sweetness, and I'm glad it wasn't him-- though I'm sad it was Renee.

So what does the new series hold? I can't wait to find out.

the avengers: return of the cybernaut

We've been watching The Avengers sporadically-- and by sporadically, I mean, like, one episode ever two or three months, usually on a whim when we remember that A&L have a computer hooked up to the TV and we can watch Netflix on demand there-- and I've been forgetting to post on it because of all the other things we've been doing. This show, however, should not be forgotten.

Return of the Cybernauts is a sequil of sorts to an episode we haven't watched yet, but is self-contained enough that it doesn't really matter. Grand Moff Tarkin is the brother of a scientist from the previous ep who recreates his brother's metal thug to kidnap scientists to make machines to get revenge on Steed and Mrs Peel-- the sort of revenge that will torture them without killing them. They crete mind-control watches. Posing as their friend this whole time, it's not too hard to flatter Emma with a gift of hers and to sneak a replacement of Steed's own watch into his office. Emma's been courted by Tarkin enough that she willingly puts her's on and gets mind-controlled when the baddies jump the gun a little and activate the device-- but Steed hadn't put his own yet, and, worried about Emma's weird behavior, rushes out without his watch and is therefore unaffected.

The save the day, of course, but it's a technological fluke that allows them to do it: the watch, suposed to be forced onto Steed, goes onto the Cybernaut by accident, and conflicts with it's own programming, making it go berzerk and kill Tarkin an a steel-banded death-hug that looks kind of... homoerotic.

This is all in the last quarter of the episode. Most of the rest is Tarkin and his lab assistant kidnapping and pushing around the scientists, offering them alot of money and threatening them with death. One gets out, but is immediately captured and thrown back into his pink cell (all the cells are single-colors), like this was the third act of a John Pertwee adventure.

Speaking of, it's impossible for me to watch something so strikingly Brittish without comparing it to Doctor Who of the same time period-- and The Avengers comes out WAY on top. It's an adult show vs the Doctor's still pretty child-oriented show, so we'll say that's why DW comes off so much more silly even though the scripts are about as tight and similarly-plotted. But it's the quality of the show that gets me: the film stock is clear, sharp even on our moderately modern TV with a NetFlix feed, with extremely saturated colors and no blurring or ghosting, and though the Cybernaut is not the best effect in the world, it's better than the Cybermen or the Autons, both of which it resembles (mod Autons with really snappy shoes and a peacoat). And it's perpetually amazing to me how Steed can be constantly leaning into Mrs Peel, flirting so close to her face that he has to turn his head to drink so he doesn't hit her in the nose with the cup-- and yet he comes across as charming and kind, whereas people I've known in real life that do exactly the same thing to me come off as skeezy and invasive of personal space. Maybe it's the Brittishness; maybe it's that she's flirting back. And the best part is that at the end, after Steed's mistrust of Grand Moff Tarkin is justified, he doesn't even try to be all 'told you so'. Doean't even mention that he could be. He just takes Emma home and they have a nice moment where he fixes her toaster not at all.

A fun, good episode. One of my favorites so far.