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Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Good evening and welcome to the next big thing. Or at least, the next thing I am going to try at least once.

TV Show Review/Recap. In which I recap in glaring snarky detail a portion of a TV show and then review the whole episode.

Call it a writing exercise, call it typing practice, call it an application to Television Without Pity (yes, I know you all aren’t hiring but your staff also isn’t reviewing this show… so I think we could work something out….)**** Correction… at the time I wrote this (last week) TWOP did not have anything on the show… they have since fixed that making my following rant pretty meaningless but since I wrote the darn thing already and because I have ulterior motives, I am going to post this anyway.

Tonight’s episode: Castle: The Pilot.

(Background information: The promos for this paint it as yet another buddy cop procedural featuring a quirky “how will they ever get along’ couple. In this case a curmudgeon boozey socially inept writer (named Castle … just like the show!!!!) played by Nathan Fillion (of Buffy, Firefly, and some really horrible movie fame) and a strict by the book totally professional cop played by Stana Katic (what a name!) who you might remember from Quantum of Solace or a whole slew of bit parts on TV shows like Heroes and ER.

In other words: not looking too great but why not give it a go?

First: The Recap of the opening scene;

We open on a ankle with a tiny river of blood and then there are rose petals falling down in what we can only call ‘the art budget” before we get into the voice over telling us all about murder and macabre as a pretty blond gives a long introduction to the “master of the macabre” Rick Castle… there are the stock footage shots of him being all superstar like, signing autographs and looking dapper in sunglasses

Cut to Stana all business like and looking at a dead body which is lying in repose covered in roses (except the sunflowers on her eyes) and looking like quite the flower platter. “Who are you/’ Stana asks but the dead girl decides not to answer… maybe because she is covered in artfully arranged flowers. Someone took a lot of time to get those just right.

Another cop tells Stana that the dead girl was named Alison, 24, grad student at NYU with a rich daddy and that there are no signs of a struggle. A mouthey (aka will be a regular) crime scene tech jokes about romance not being dead because the killer did bring flowers. (Gross) to which Stana mumbles that for her romance is in fact dead “every Saturday night” which… ok… I get that she is going to be a hard ass (the promos told us that) but this sort of fatalistic attitude bullcrap is annoying when anyone says it, but especially annoying when an attractive youngish woman who is probably picky and controlling in her personal life says it.

Moving on, Alison was shot at close range. And then thanks to the magic of exposition we learn that Stana likes the freaky cases and that this case looks familiar to her… and in case we haven’t put it together yet she says ‘Don’t you guys read?” and we cut back to Castle and the blond posing for photos. She asks him why he killed off his main character and he exposits that she is not only his publisher but his ex wife and that their relationship is a bit tense. Yay pilots! Apparently he doesn’t like his main character anymore because writing him wasn’t fun.. it was work. Oh man, I suddenly like him.

More exposition about how his latest book is late and that he hasn’t written in months… some kind of blockage. How much you wanna bet he will be writing by the end of the episode? She threatens to take away his advance if he doesn’t produce and he sulks.

We move over to the bar where Brainy Girl Child is being good and studious and Grandmother Lush Tart is being classically upper crust bratty old lady. Castle asks his mother if she told Gina (the pretty blond has a name!) about his trouble writing. She denies telling but then admits that she did. Oh… and mommy dearest lives with Castle and his daughter. But before we get any further back-story, Grandma’s “graydar” goes off and she flounces off tossing back a really creepy giggle over her shoulder. Grandma, by the way, not wearing a bra.

Castle then has an interaction with his daughter that I can only describe as ‘Hey, I’m your dad and I am a loose cannon who likes to party… why don’t you want to grow up to be just like me?” ‘Because I know better” Oh and she is fifteen but doesn’t look a day over twelve. No really… he hems and haws about how his life is boring glossing over Daughter’s statement that she minds when he autographs women’s boobs. But wait! Because here is Detective Kate (yay, another name!) who is not flashing her boobs but rather her badge and in her no nonsense way she announces that she wants to ask Castle some questions about a murder.

Castle looks stunned and Daughter looks vindicated and

Credits Roll!

Now the Review:

The opening scene did little to peak interest… a whole lot of possible recurring characters were introduced and the barest bit of actual character interaction. This isn’t really a critique because it is the dual job of a pilot episode to not only give you enough exposition that you care but also give you a simple story to follow so you can care without getting overly distracted or bogged down with all the wonderful minutia that will eventually make you love or hate the show.

In the case of this show I would have to say that the opening sequence did a fair job of giving you a sense of the show.

A few notable moments: Detective Kate using the words “bimbet” and “celebutannte’ to describe the type of women that Castle’s charms work on. Me thinks she will be eating those words later… but what yummy words they are. (And I am right… the flirting goes both ways by show’s end.)

The interaction between Kate and Castle is oddly reminiscent of Bones and
Booth… hey look, even alliteration can join the fun!

Daughter’s interactions with Castle actually rings a bit more true later on… and away from the bar she actually looks older.

Also… Kate’s not so secret fangirl attraction to Castle (err, I mean the genre that he writes –sure-) leads one cop to say in a hideously hilarious moment “Yo check it girl, you’re totally a fan.” Check it indeed.

A few issues with dialogue but the pacing is rather well done.

Perhaps the oddest scene was a meta mega melt down when Castle plays poker with Patterson and other apparently recognizable murder mystery writers and they talk shop about the “actual” case. As shticks go, this isn’t totally horrible though it sort of reads that way.

Castle seems to be a pretty darn good detective in his own right… he notices things Detective Kate misses; he has the whole mystic inductive reasoning attention to details that you expect from a trained detective. Thankfully he also blunders and doesn’t disbelieve thing like alibis which is good because otherwise we might wonder just how in the world Detective Kate is supposed to a good detective since she obviously needs the help of this random writer guy.

In the end we have a fair bit of flirting, some mighty good looking people, a bare foot Castle chasing the bad guy while carrying his shoe, a happy ending, and the promise of more fireworks to come.

My grade: B.

Will I watch again? Depends on what else I have to do… but chances are yes… I usually give shows three episodes before I make a final ruling.

If you made it through this horribly long post… please let me know if you watched Castle, why or why not, and if you did what you thought of it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

World War Z

Book Review for World War Z

(Today’s review will take on a different form. Not content to merely give you a few paragraphs about whether or not I liked the book and why, I have decided to so something a bit more dramatic.)

Kaylia sits on the couch, legs curled up underneath her, reading. From the kitchen sounds of cooking carry though the small apartment; Matthew is cooking.

Scott flops down in the easy chair and regards the woman on the couch with apathy until he notices what she is reading.

“Oh! World War Z?”

She glances up, “Yeah, almost done.’

‘Are you enjoying it?”

She pauses, one eyebrow raised ever so slightly and seems to give the question serious thought for a moment.

“No, not really.’

Scott is mildly surprised having read the book himself a few months back and having enjoyed it immensely. “Really? I read it a while a go and I really liked it.’

She shrugs, years of being a Lit major has taught her many things, the most important one being that people can have lousy taste in books, although in this case, that wasn’t exactly the case.

“Well,” she marks her place with a well trained eye and then turns to give him 90% of her attention (10% being saved for the sounds of cooking coming from the kitchen). “I do plan on finishing it, I am glad I am reading it, and I am very interested in it, but it is a horror book and I can’t really say that I am enjoying it. If you know what I mean.”

He leans forward intrigued, ‘What do you mean?’

“Like I said, it is a horror book… (not really my thing) and it is supposed to be scary and disturbing and such… I mean it’s about zombies trying to take over the world and it is very well written… once you buy into the premise of the undead it is downright creepy how ‘realistic’ it gets.” (She uses air quotes around the word ‘realistic” and then continues.) “And I think he did a great job of instilling the plausibility of the premise… it isn’t over explained which makes it even more disturbing… the whole fear of the unknown thing is very well played… and the fact that then it translates into the fear of the known, well there are some very nice levels of reality and knowledge and fear and such, but I think what is the scariest thing about this book is the realism when it comes to the human reaction to the ‘zombie uprising’ That is what really bothers me.” (Air quotes not around “realism” but around “zombie uprising”… she makes her air quotes with both hands and gives them a whole arm movement to add to her point.

“Oh you mean, how it could actually happen/”

“No… well, sort of. I think that the background of this horrible catastrophe is silly (I mean really, zombies?) but the way people react to the zombies.. the cruelty, the insanity, the military mistakes, the random very human moments, all that is very on the nose. And a lot of that is very negative. Which is kind of depressing.”

From the kitchen, proving that he is a man who can both cook and contribute to the conversation, The Maifan-San speaks “Toward the end there is a bit more positive stuff.”

She turns toward him and hefts the book in one hand, “Oh I know, I know, I am pretty close to the end… and it wasn’t any big shocker that the human race found a way to survive… I mean the book is written as interviews with survivors and that is a pretty good narrative device if I may say… (beats the heck out of a dog doing all the talking) but still….”

Again from the kitchen comes the voice of a man who also enjoyed the book in question “I thought it was interesting how all the different countries were portrayed… that thing with North Korea? Very creepy.” He makes an exaggerated shudder noise to lend credence to his words.

“Right, and that was very well written, very powerful… no question.” She turns back to Scott, “but still horrifying and bothersome.”

Scott smiles “Right, I think that was the point. I flew through it, couldn’t put it down.”

She regards the book on her lap for a moment, her eyes troubled. In her head she can hear the sounds of the death, the backlash of the people, the cries of the children. This is a book that will stay with her. She opens it back up, a mere 25 pages from the end, “Exactly”

If you are interested in reading this book for yourself and agreeing or disagreeing with my review, feel free to use this link to buy it on Amazon!

Dog On It

Book Review for Dog On It

This is one of those times when the title of a book gives you not just a glimpse of what the book itself will be about but also the tone, the cleverness, and the staying power. If you think the title is clever, if you think it is cute, if you find yourself smiling at the play on words… then you will enjoy the story.

It all depends on how much shtick you can comfortably handle. Dog On It follows the detectives in the Little Detective Agency as they in turn follow the clues in a missing persons case. The two detectives are Bernie, a likable rather normal guy, and the narrator Chet his loyal canine companion.

I found the actual story of the missing girl to be mildly interesting at best and the voice of Chet to be a mixture of annoying and more annoying. There are a few problems inherent with having a dog be the narrator. The first is that his emotional range is limited and thus we never really get drawn into the human characters. We care about the resolution of the case in a vague sort of way…. But really the most dramatic moments come when Chet has been dognapped and is running for his life. And sadly that is toward the beginning of the story. By the time the climax rolls around the reader is still only mildly interested in the case and also only mildly interested in the romantic entanglement of Bernie. The lackluster emotional draw could have been ignored had the draw of the dog’s voice itself have been more interesting. As it was, we come to problem number two: the dog’s voice gets old, fast and isn’t consistent. There are problems with Chet himself… at times he seems to have an almost human knowledge base while other times we are reminded rather lamely that he in fact a dog by his confusion with idioms or short attention span. He doesn’t understand money but he totally gets the idea of sending someone to jail. He gets distracted by sounds and smells at the drop of a hat early on but later when the plot needs him to be super dog, lean, mean, and concentrating he suddenly is all business.

While I can appreciate the new voice aspect and the almost childlike way in which Chet sees the world I found his voice to be grating and frustrating.

Maybe I am more of a cat person than I realized.

That isn’t to say that the book was badly written or not worth the handful of hours that it took to get through it. Should you be in need of a low-brain-impact sort of fluffy reading material perhaps as you sit bored on an airplane or half dozing in a lounge chair at the pool, this book will surly fill that void. However, if you are looking for something that you can sink your teeth into, a book with real staying power and a voice I would recommend looking elsewhere.

Note: It has come to my attention that the shtick of Chet has become strangely pervasive. He has a Twitter account. He has a blog. No, I am not going to link to them here. If you really are that interested, knock yourself out. In my own humble opinion, I think that this is an example of Viral Marketing gone to the dogs.*

In other words… an overexposed weak idea is still a weak idea.

*(Oh come on, you knew I couldn’t make it through a whole book review of a dog book without at least one pun right?)

If you are interested in reading this book for yourself and agreeing or disagreeing with my review, feel free to use this link to buy it on Amazon!

Who I am

I am not a terribly smart person. I was a rather average student and I have a tendency to not bother to even attempt to learn something unless either a)I think it will came in handy later or b) I actually wish to know it.

Of course I have vastly different measures of both a and b now then I did back when I was fourteen or even twenty-two. What this means is that there are hundreds, no wait, thousands of things that I didn’t care enough about or deem important enough to bother with learning when I had the chance.

And now that I am older, wiser, and have the luxury of looking back in time a bit, I realize how much of my potential education I squandered.

Not just my education…. My potential education.

The idea that youth is wasted on the young isn’t new… but my appreciation for the truth in the adage is.

Which is why I am picky.

I am picky when it comes to what I read (books, blogs, news, etc). I am picky when it comes to what I watch on TV (or the net version of TV called Hulu). I am picky when it comes to who I have intellectually stimulating conversations with. I am picky when it comes to how I use my time.

Because there is always this faint echo in the back of my head that is asking me if this is really the best use of my time, my energy, my failing eyesight, my internet bandwidth, my energy….

Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t like I think that people need to forgo all fun and fluffy type actions and only concentrate on the hard, the disciplined, the productive and self improvement activities.

I think there are benefits to entertainment. There is relaxation, there is escapism, there is the building of shared cultural context,… and these things are essential (at least for me) to obtain happiness.

And I am also not deluded enough to think that just because I happen to feel that TV Show A is worthy of my time but anything written by Author X is insipid tripe and should be avoided at all costs, that I have any claim at being RIGHT or that what works for me will work for everyone else. The converse is inherently true as well.

Keep all that in mind if you chose to continue to read my blog. Or any blog entry I have written or may write about books, movies, music, art, sports, pastimes, education….

I might be a literary snob and a snotty sycophant who is in love with pseudo intellectualism and the not quite dead idea of deconstruction… but at least I am self aware and make no claims to genius.