Friday, January 31, 2014

The Seven Wonders of American Horror Story makes me hope they've got a series in the works

I looked forward to American Horror Story: Coven every Wednesday night because it was the kind of garbage that I really like to watch and sadly, it's over. So now I feel I must weigh in on the season finale called "The Seven Wonders" because I have oh so much to say about it.

To get the good out of the way, AHS: Coven was as insane as its predecessors and that's a good thing. Chicks casting magical spells and dying only to come back to life to just die again was done in grandiose and oftentimes ludicrous fashion. And how can you go wrong with Stevie Nicks just randomly turning up for a music video of "The Seven Wonders" to hand out shawls to all the girls who are trying to become the Supreme? And that's basically where the good ends.

The bad (as usual) starts with questions. I know...why must I ask questions? Why can't I just watch and be done with it? I guess that's just how my brain works, so here they are:

Why was Stevie Nicks even there? She's not a witch, yet she randomly shows up to hand out shawls? Maybe it was for the benefit of Misty Day who had a real honest to god chance to be the Supreme, only she died and her body became dust. Which leads me to my second bone to pick with this series. Why oh why was a character as cool as Misty Day just allowed to die and turn to dust? This is the same witch who brought alligators to life so that they'd eat a camp of hunters, the same witch who healed Frankenkyle and who brought Myrtle back after she got burned at the stake. This is the same witch that kicked the sh*t out of Madison when Madison buried her alive.

Coven was also as disjointed as HBO's True Blood (that has six-hundred different characters). Was this show supposed to be about a magical sisterhood? Or was it supposed to be about an ancient rivalry between an immortal witch and the most powerful witch of her generation? Or was it supposed to be the story of a young girl cast out of her home to find solidarity with others who are like her? Or was it supposed to be about a Bible-banging, husband-murdering woman with an incredibly handsome and innocent son that she abused by giving him borax enemas only to kill him and burn his body to ashes? Or maybe it was about trying to find some kind of redemption for a truly rotten woman that didn't quite work out? Or last, maybe it was about witches gathering together to take a stand against an ancient order of witch hunters who own a billion dollar corporation and want nothing more than to stamp magical women out of existence?!

And oh the extraneous characters! Why did we even have Luke? What purpose did he serve other than to be some lame love interest for Nan who ended up getting sacrificed to the ruler of the underworld: Papa Legba? And Luke managed to uncover something terrible his mother did right before she murdered him, only to get murdered by Nan. And Marie Laveau died by falling down some stairs? Seriously? Honestly, there was no point to any of this. And why did Cordelia end up being the Supreme? She was completely useless all season, and in the season finale, Myrtle turns to her and just randomly says, "It must be you" or something like that and of course she is. The whole "Supreme" reveal was lame. Half of the coven died off under Cordelia's watch, she stabbed out her regrown eyeballs to get her powers back (and that didn't happen), and she was so incompetent she didn't know her husband was a witch hunter.

Coven was ALL of these things all at once, and that's probably why it felt like there was too much going on at times. Any one of these stories could have been a great season unto itself, but I think it tried to do and be everything when what it needed was more episodes and more focus.

However, I did love the idea of the witch coven, and I thought the test of the seven wonders was brilliant. Who knows, maybe there's enough material here to warrant its own series in the future. I think that might make me happier (and maybe I'd stop referring to it as indulgent trash fiction).

Did you watch American Horror Story this season? If so, what did you think of it?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Helix has a MacGuffin and I think I know where the show is going

No, Doreen! You can't be dead. This really did kind of suck. Sigh.
So, I've been watching SyFy's Helix on Friday nights (yes I know my social life is just banging) but as one who is all too familiar with "income inequality," it's the more affordable mode of entertainment for me (that and cooking my meals at home really does save money). However, since it premiered about three weeks ago, I've been a little "meh" about the series as a whole (wrongfully comparing it to The Walking Dead at times). I have my reasons for my immediate eye-rolls in watching the episodes. For example, I don't really like anyone in the cast, the weird "elevator" music when the title credits roll took a bit of getting used to, and I was kind of primed for this to be a twist on zombies in the arctic. Either that or a really cool Outbreak-esque apocalyptic tale. But both of these scenarios never really materialized, and I think that's a good thing.

In addition, it turns out that the whole "zombie breakout" thing that I expected turned out to be a MacGuffin. Do you guys know what this is? In fiction, a MacGuffin is a plot device that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. MacGuffins are usually the central focus of a film's first act, and decline in importance as the story progresses. This is exactly what's going on in Helix, and the result has finally piqued my interest (if just a wee bit).

Now, I don't think that I have an unusually short attention span. In my defense, I tend to hold onto a series a lot longer than I should (this is happening with Almost Human, which has just about reached the intolerable level in the "boring" department). But I was just about ready to give up on Helix when the episode this last Friday aired and everything seemed to coalesce.
Dr. Peter Farragut infected with the Helix Vector (they call the zombies "vectors".)
Mysteries in Helix are plentiful much in the vein of Lost, but by far the most intriguing thing about the show are the characters themselves. At the center of this evolution are characters who may act like psychopaths but may in fact be on the side of good. Peter (brother to Alan) is one of these as it turns out that he was doing grunt work, i.e., he knows nothing about the disease. Hiroshi was the one running the show the entire time, and Hiroshi has this whole creepy fascination with Julia (which seems oddly compelling). This "creepiness" gets another layer when Julia comes to a realization that she's been to the arctic laboratory before and doesn't remember any of it. Why?
Hiroshi Hatake with the strange glowing eyes that he hides behind contacts. It's
another mystery that needs some explanation. But then I'd also like to know about
all the frozen monkeys and about the message supposedly encoded in the RNA
strands of the Helix Vector disease. Sigh.
Is it possible that Hiroshi used Julia as one of his experiments? And what do we know about Hiroshi? One, he has many secrets. He has a secret scrapbook of all things Julia, a secret stairway down to the quarantine level, and has the ability to stare down one of the zombies (and they just let him walk on by). He's also a cold-blooded killer, willing to murder unarmed men over clean air (when they could just open a window to get clean air).

Then we have Sergio who murdered Doreen and fed her to hairless rats right after a great bonding moment. WTF? For the record, I really liked Doreen. She was the one true scientist on the show, given that Alan is self-absorbed and incompetent and Sarah is just useless. It's unfortunate really that she pretty much had a target on her back, being the one that got close to Sergio and being fat and unattractive (as deemed by Hollywood). This show also has other problems: the "zombies" are all black people with the exception of Peter, and the "villain" is turning out to be a Japanese guy. It makes me wonder if the show's being written by paranoid white men who secretly wish we could return to a time when it was okay to sexually harass a young attractive woman (and suffer no repercussion).

I hope they explain the black goo before the series finale though. I have so many questions about it.

TL;DR: Helix has a MacGuffin, and I think I know where the show is going.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dear New York Times Magazine, was your other option Hillary's face on a giant testicle?

I try not to get political on my blog. My regular readers know I'm a democrat and that's that. However, the New York Times Magazine (a publication that usually has great covers) just published the most shocking one I've ever seen, and Hillary Clinton looks absolutely terrible in it. Seriously, this whole theme of "Planet Hillary" is so ugly it makes me cringe every time I see it.
I take some validation that I'm not the only one that thinks this is terrible. I can't explain how anyone with any taste would take a look at this and think, "I'm going to print this as the cover for our magazine."

For one, it's incredibly unflattering extending the sides of her face in fleshy wrinkled overtones to make her resemble something straight out of Dr. Who (Cassandra anyone)?
Cassandra and Rose (one of the Doctor's companions). Cassandra in this
episode is the last human. They've managed to keep her alive through 800
surgeries, and she's basically stretched skin, veins, and needs to be misted
to prevent from drying out. She's also incredibly vain.
And two, the whole premise of it: that Hillary has got an irresistible pull likened to gravity and is somehow sufficient to bring stars into her orbit is absurd. Planets orbit stars, NOT the other way around. But even aside from scientific inaccuracies, the thing is a mess and is rightfully being ridiculed. 
Planet Hillary Spoof 1: Wrecking Ball ala Miley Cyrus
Planet Hillary Spoof 2: E.T.
Planet Hillary Spoof 3: Hillary as the Death Star
Planet Hillary Spoof 4: The Annoying Orange
What a train wreck. It makes me want to ask the editors of The New York Times Magazine, "What exactly were you thinking by publishing this? Was your other option a picture of her face on a giant testicle? Please don't answer that."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rejoice horror fans because vampires are about to be terrifying again

The FX Network has really surpassed my expectations with American Horror Story: Coven, and now, I have finally watched the first official trailer for Guillermo del Toro's The Strain. I've talked about this show before HERE. Even though there's really not much to see in this video, I am excited. Vampires are about to be vampires again, and that means "TERRIFYING!"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Natural organic food is filled with chemicals you can't pronounce

So my unique friend Eli has gone with this all vegan, all natural, raw food diet complete with cleansing enemas and for all the trouble he's going to in order to stick with it, I'm left scratching my head and asking the question, why? He is not the first person that I've known that is into extreme diets either. But his excuses for eating healthy (and wanting to live in some Third World country in the southern hemisphere) are amusing enough to keep me interested with a "Is this conversation really happening?" face more than anything else. Unfortunately, the answer is yes: this conversation is happening. I've easily lost 20 minutes of my life in listening to the evils of:

1) Fukushima. The radiation spilling into the oceans is mutating all the fish and it's slowly going to kill us all unless we can move to a corner of the earth that's safe from Fukushima irradiated fish.

2) Anything that's exposed to over 115 degrees Farenheit experiences a change in which all the good enzymes, vitamins, and nutrients are destroyed.

3) Non-organic foodstuffs are filled with harmful chemicals. So only eat organic!

This last part (3) is especially annoying because organic food is incredibly expensive. To those of you who are turned off by chemicals, here is what the ingredients of four common foods would look like if they had labels on them like other stuff (images courtesy of chemist James Kennedy)

THE LESSON: Don't be afraid of chemicals people. Our food is full of them.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter is coming and that of course means Sochi and not the White Walkers

This trailer for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics is frickin' awesome. At first I thought I was watching a trailer for HBO's season four "Game of Thrones" especially since it's narrated by Charles Dance who plays Tywin Lannister. Well it turns out that this is just superb marketing. And yeah, despite the fact that Putin is a complete bigot, I'm excited for our athletes to bring home some gold. 

Had you seen this commercial? If so, what did you think of it?

I won't be posting Monday (as its a holiday) so I'll see you next Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

SyFy's Being Human is an expert in taking a cliffhanger and resolving it as blandly as possible

Yay Being Human is back on SyFy. Above: Family Portrait of ghost, two werewolves
and a really old and powerful vampire. Do you know which is which? This series
is all about family values, only the family they have is not anything like the kind
you or I can relate to (at least I hope that's the case).
Yay, Being Human is back on SyFy. As much as I love this series, however, I have one small bone to pick: it's an expert in taking a good cliffhanger and resolving it as "meh" as possible. This is not how cliffhangers should pan out people! If you blow up a planet, the next season shouldn't be, "Now that was just a hologram. Good thing it didn't really happen..."

Allow me to explain further:

Last season, the American Being Human series ended with ghost Sally being dragged into what looked a lot like Hell by the witch Donna. This left me on the edge of my seat shaking my fist at the screen. And seriously that's where it ended. It was just as bad as season 3's ending that had Aiden buried in the ground, Sally lost in Limbo with her voice coming over the radio, and Josh in a fatal gunfight with the werewolf that made him.
I guess I should just celebrate that Sally is back. Only I wish it had been just a LITTLE harder.
I waited a whole year for the resolution, and this is what I got: Sally's consciousness basically couldn't handle the purgatory in which she got imprisoned with Donna so naturally she created a "happy place" that resembled a day spa where she could get massages and lounge by the hot pools. So there had to be some trick to escape from this horrible place, right? Well it turns out...not so much.

See, Sally is a very "powerful" ghost (as expert witch Donna has labeled her) and all she had to do to get out of said place was come to the realization that she had all this power and could leave anytime she wanted. Just like that, she found the exit and got away from Donna. And thus we are off to a whole slew of new episodes and plot lines. Sadly, Sally's dilemma is resolved in like five minutes (if it even took that long) and I'm feeling very unsatisfied.

The writers behind Being Human are far from "inventing the wheel" on taking the easy way out to what looks like a difficult situation. Author George R.R. Martin made the most infamous cliffhanger in fantasy when he wrote (in A Feast For Crows) that Arya wakes up blind.

Martin seriously did this and then made us (the patient readers of the world) wait eight fucking years for the conclusion in A Dance With Dragons! The answer (major spoiler ahead) was that it was only temporary. Meh. She gets her eyesight back in just a few pages because it's induced by this stuff she drinks in the House of Black and White in Braavos (which is training her to be an assassin).

I LOATHE this kind of cliffhanger: the kind where the stakes are so high that it seems everything in the world has now changed yet is resolved in one paragraph of text.

If you still can't relate to what I'm saying, imagine reading the following words of a beloved character: "The woman clutched her chest, fell back, and her face filled with intense pain." Only to turn the page a year later and read, "A horsefly bit her, she squashed it, and went back to drying the dishes."

What the hell? Who does this? Why are writers using these kind of cliffhangers? I'm at a loss to explain the phenomenon, but it really is starting to bother me. Could it be that they have no ideas in their heads and want to write something so that it comes across way more interesting than it actually is?

Can you think of other examples of cliffhangers that turned out to be way over-hyped and anticlimactic? Does this kind of thing bother you or am I the only one?

As a side note, I do like the whole Ladyhawke-esque thing that SyFy is doing with their version of Being Human. In Josh's storyline, the role of his human part has flipped 180-degrees with his wolf part and he is now "human" only once a month, and this single day just happens to coincide with the only day his wife must turn into a wolf. So they can only be together for 30 minutes. The heart aches with how awful this must be, which is why I must watch the entire season to see if Aidan, Sally, and Nora can find a solution for poor Josh.
Ladyhawke. I hope that you guys have seen this show.
Oh and I'm also glad that Kenny is back and isn't the horrible monstrous looking Kenny and back to being cute. I just hope he isn't a bad guy. He seemed like a really sweet person last season and maybe it's time that something went right in his life. But if I know this series, no one can stay happy for very long.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Berke Breathed's vision of the Grinch looked so much better than what we got with Ron Howard.

Now that Christmas is over, I of course stumble across a Christmas topic that piques my interest and makes me a little sad.

You see, Dr. Seuss's widow, Audrey Geisel, decided to choose Ron Howard's vision of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (ala Jim Carrey) over Berkeley Breathed's vision of it (as revealed in his concept art). I just can't see how she thought the Jim Carrey version would be better.

For those of you who don't know, Berkeley Breathed was the comic artist who gave us Bloom County. Sure there was Outland that started up after the very popular Bloom County ended. But I liked loved Bloom County. Outland just didn't have the same feel.

I know Mr. Breathed felt that he needed to end Bloom County because he didn't want it to become...well...Garfield. And for those of you who still like Garfield, I guess I'm sorry (not really), because I think Garfield stopped being funny twenty years ago. Seriously, Garfield needs to die.

I still have a cut-out of "Bill the Cat" at work tacked to my wall board. It's a before and after thing meaning "before work" and "after work." The "Before" picture is one of "Garfield" and the "After" is Bill the Cat (used to illustrate how I feel after a long day's work). If you aren't familiar with "Bill the Cat" I seriously recommend picking up Bloom County Babylon. That book had me in hysteric fits because it was so funny. However, part of what made Berke Breathed so laughable was his ability to play off of political headlines and other important things present in pop culture (like Michael Jackson). So its "time" may have passed as (I think) a good joke has to strike a nerve with its audience, and a conditon for this is that they must be "in the know" before a joke can land properly.

Anyway, take a look at this concept art. Hopefully you are as sad as me that this didn't get made. *Shakes fist at Hollywood. Oh and the voice of the Grinch would have been none other than Jack Nicholson. That's a way better choice than Jim Carrey on any day that ends in a "y."

Friday, January 10, 2014

The first 15 minutes of Helix is cut awkwardly in parts but still manages to reel me in

Notice the black goo dripping from this guy's left ear. Chilling, isn't it?
So Helix starts tonight on SyFy, and if memory serves me correctly, we get another episode tomorrow night as well. But don't quote me on that (I think I saw something on my DVR).

My first impression in watching the trailer and then the first 15-minutes was that it has a setting I like, i.e., Antarctica, and it looks to kind of be an end of the world thriller about a disease that turns your blood black, leaves its victims disfigured with horrific black veins all over their body (and bleeding from every orifice), and also imbues them with maddening strength and just sheer crazy.

There were parts of it that are cut awkwardly to truncate conversation and maybe not reveal so much to the audience. That's okay as I'm willing to watch the uncut pilot tonight. I know that they're just trying to pique my interest, and I consider this "mission accomplished" by the cliffhanger left in the last few seconds.
This is my favorite story that takes place in Antarctica. It was remade by
John Carpenter into a great all male film that still leads me to question
which of the survivors at the end was the Thing and which wasn't? Maybe
Helix is going to take this question and say that the disease is going to
have some kind of outer space origin. That would be really cool.
There are a few questions that come to mind. Most notably, I ask, "So is this a reinvention of the whole zombie apocalypse?" If it does turn out to be that I won't care much. I love zombie-esque stories. I also love stories where the stakes are incredibly high (as in the movie "Outbreak" with Renee Russo and Dustin Hoffman).

Additionally we are treated to a real science fiction atmosphere with the base in Antarctica. This is no remote all male outpost with the survivors of The Thing from Another World eeking out an existence amid sled dogs and low technology. The base more than anything, resembles the facility you saw underground in Cabin in the Woods, with glass elevators that descend into the ice for thousands of feet to vaults where dangerous disease strains are held in cryogenic storage away from the population centers of the world.

So here is the question of the day: Are any of you out there going to either record or watch Helix tonight? I've been excited about it for a few months now, but still don't know much about it. I guess I shall see soon enough.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The most empowering commercial of 2013 addresses insecurity in a remarkable way

About a year ago I saw a commercial for Allstate insurance (of all things) that was "extraordinary." Is it weird to say that an advertisement touched me emotionally? This one did, and I agree with everything it says about insecurity and about life.

The commercial is called "Good Life" and here's a transcript of the words (as said by a little girl):

"There are man-eating sharks in every ocean, but we still swim.

Every second, somewhere in the world, lighting strikes. But we still play in the rain.

Poisonous snakes can be found in 49 of the 50 states, but we still go looking for adventure.

A car can crash.
A house can crumble.
But we still drive and love coming home.

Because I think deep down...
We know all the bad things that can happen in life, yet they can't stop us from making our lives, good."

So empowering, and that is what overcoming insecurities of all kinds is all about.
Let's make life good for 2014 and shatter through all of our fears together.

I'm changing my posting schedule for 2014.

I will only be posting three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And yes, I'll still be as random as before. Thanks for following along.