Top Things for 04/08/13

What’s up guys! Welcome back to another edition of “Top Things,” in which I try to regulate your lives, one blog at a time. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out this week, so let’s get right to it, yes?

Books

This week sees the release of Blood of Dragons, by Robin Hobb. I haven’t read the series yet (Dragon Keeper), but it’s got pretty decent scores up on Goodreads. So maybe check that out. The only other books I see coming out are diet books, so…

Comics

If, by now, you don’t know that I’m going to recommend SAGA each month, well you clearly don’t know me. Last issue ended on a powerful, if somber, note. And as much as I’m sure our characters could use a minute to grieve, it looks like Prince Robot IV will be making his return to the series.

Over at Marvel, the new Hawkguy issue is out, which promises to be as fast-paced and fun as it has been since the first issue.

Movies

42 comes out this week, if that’s your jam. I don’t typically care for sports movies (with a few notable exceptions), nor do I care at all about baseball. That being said, Jackie Robinson is an important historical figure, so there is a story to be told I’m sure. At this point I’m really just biding time until Iron Man.

Music

Paramore is coming out with their fist album since two founding members left the band. From what I’ve heard/seen, the reviews have been pretty positive, but this could potentially be a make-or-break moment for the band. Will they use this opportunity to shake up their sound, or will they try to reassure long-time fans by sticking to what they’ve done so far?

Television

We’re really living in a sweet spot, television-wise right now. The network shows are still on and ramping up to their season finales. At the same time, cable has started rolling out some of their summer shows, such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men. This week, we’ll be seeing Cece’s bachelorette party on New Girl, Community will be a puppet show, and Leslie takes on the animal control department in Parks and Rec. And as always, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Doctor Who on the weekends.

 

On the blog this week, I hope to have a review of Mad Men‘s premiere, or else maybe Game of Thrones‘ season so far, up on Wednesday, and a movie post from Will on Friday!

Top Things For 4/01/13

I hope you’re all surviving your April Fool’s Day, everyone. I personally hate this stupid day each year, as my patience for outlandish articles and “shocking” tweets grows thinner and thinner. More and more, today seems like a day to just avoid everyone/the Internet. But worry not, fair reader, for you will always have a safe haven here! My lies will always be comforting and/or self-preserving, and never malicious! So without further ranting, let’s get to the best of this coming week! Because it can only go up!

Books

On Tuesday, The Sword and Laser is kicking off their discussion of The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. While I won’t be reading this month, I always enjoy listening to the podcast, watching the YouTube videos, and creeping on the Goodreads forum. If you want to see this month’s sci-fi/fantasy releases, they have a calendar here. If you have any interest in their discussions, or want to see which six books I am currently reading, head to Goodreads.

Comics

This is actually a pretty light week, for once – for which I am immensely thankful. The last several weeks have been jam-packed with releases, and it was getting tiring. Probably the most notable release on Wednesday is the new Action Comics #19, which sees Andy Diggle taking over from Grant Morrison. Of course, Diggle walked away from the title almost immediately, and artist Tony Daniel will take over for at least an issue. Apparently more info on what’s next for the Superman series is forthcoming. So while there’s drama behind the scenes, Daniel’s art looks pretty amazing, and hopefully worth the price of admission so to speak.

Movies

This week sees the release of the Evil Dead reboot, but honestly I could not care less. The original is a cult classic – though I’ve never seen it. A roommate in college tried to get me to watch one of the sequels, but I just couldn’t get through it. Some of that might be because this guy had the worst. Taste. In movies. EVER. I mean, Daredevil, Electra, and Ghost Rider were unironically two of his favorite movies. His favorite actors included Nic Cage. So maybe I didn’t give the movie the chance it deserves. That being said, this reboot just looks… meh. Like a Cabin in the Woods without any sense of self-awareness or humor.

The movie I am actually excited about, however, is the re-release of Jurassic Park in 3-D. In general, I’m pretty cynical when it comes to these 3-D re-releases, as they seem like the absolute laziest way to make money. On the other hand, Jurassic Park is a phenomenal movie that still holds up twenty years after its initial release, and the chance to see it (again? I can’t remember) in theaters is just too great to ignore.

Music

My frankly embarrassing lack of investedness in the world of music is well documented. I mean, I probably spent $10 on music last year. And the year before that. And probably the year before that. I’M NOT THAT HIP YOU GUYS. But if I had to point out an album release this week, I’d probably have to go with The Band Perry. I don’t love them, but the only other artists I recognized were Rilo Kiley and NKOTB. And I couldn’t name a song by either. Rilo Kiley brings back really embarrassing memories of a phase I went through in college where I was really into indie folk music. So… yeah.

Television

I warned you guys. GAME OF THRONES GAME OF THRONES GAME OF THRONES holy crap did you see when they cut that guy’s nipple off and did you see the dragons eating fish and oh man Cersei wants to totally strangle Margaery Tyrell and she and Loras are her worst nightmare because she can’t seduce them and when are Jon and Ygritte gonna get DOWN and where was my homegirl Arya?

Sorry. Deep breaths. Calm.

Anyway. If epic fantasy isn’t your thing, Parks and Rec is coming back on Thursday after a few weeks off! And New Girl has been moved to Thursday too, where we’ll get to see Nick and Jess try to have a first date as Schmidt and Winston attempt sabotage! AND APPARENTLY MAD MEN IS BACK ON SUNDAY??? How did I not know this??? And Doctor Who is back on Saturday! SO MUCH TV YOU GUYS I CAN DIE HAPPY.

OK, well I just managed to make my own day with those last few revelations. I hope you guys find something to enjoy this week in the world of pop culture. Or in your fulfilling lives with your real jobs and stable incomes and significant others. NOT THAT I’M BITTER. Anyway. Peace out.

Top Things for 03/18/13

‘Sup. I’m back, flush with patriotism after my week-long excursion to our (well, my) nation’s capitol. And also fresh bunions. Because, in case you didn’t know, D.C. is mostly just stuff to see so basically it’s just walking for like five hours a day. So let’s get to it!

Books

There’s a new book by Orson Scott Card but really eff that guy. I don’t care about Ender’s Game, and the dude just lost an artist on a Superman comic because he’s so homophobic. So eff that guy.

Comics

This week, the most note-worthy release is almost certainly Action Comics #18, the conclusion to Grant Morrison’s rather polarizing run. While I have not been the series’ strongest supporter, I am reserving judgment until the end. Regardless of how it turns out, I’m sure it will be noteworthy.

Other notable releases: Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, and SAGA!

Movies

This week looks like a bit of a competition to see what can be the worst release. The Croods, while likely to please the kiddos, does not appeal to me in the slightest – despite the inclusion of Emma Stone. Then there’s Olympus Has Fallen, which looks like a truly spectacular waste of time (and I can’t wait to read the racist tweets about Asians after people see it). InAPPropriate Comedy looks even worse than those terrible parody movies and includes Adrian Brody (blugh). So, for what it’s worth, Admission looks like the best option. I love Tina Fey unconditionally, and I desperately want Paul Rudd to be my best friend and/or platonic life partner.

Or, you know, go see Oz the Great and Terrible. It was pretty good. Review forthcoming.

Music

Ummm, there’s a new Brian McKnight album?

Television

Well, after this week I’m basically going to be recommending Game of Thrones non-stop, so enjoy this while it lasts. That being said I’m not really sure what to recommend! The Biggest Loser finale is on right NOW, Girls just ended, there’s no new Parks & Rec… what to do!?! I guess I’ll suggest Community, even though it hasn’t been quite itself this season. BUT it has been finding its feet, and even zombie Community is better than no Community.

Basically, Winter Is Coming, so deal with it.

Top Things for 01/28/13

Guys, I’m back. I’m not making any promises, but hopefully I can be more consistent than I have been the last month. That whole “post a day for like a month” thing was weirdly exhausting. Plus I just started contributing to Nerdspan.com, which I LOVE, but it means writing three more blog posts or so per week, so I put this site on the backburner while I adjusted. So, let’s go forward and just see where this thing takes us, baby.

Books

HyruleGUYS! The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia comes out this week!! I am such a HUGE nerd, but I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE in the biggest way possible. Zelda was one of the first games I EVER played. I got a Gameboy when I was four years old (not because I’m spoiled, but because we were moving literally halfway across the globe and my mom needed something to entertain me on planes), and I got The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (PS it was super hard and took me ten years [not consistently] to beat and I felt such deep an abiding accomplishment I still get goosebumps thinking about it [hyperbole]). Anyway, I need a hardcover compendium. Deal with it.

Comics

Hawkeye

Hawkeye #7! It’s just so fun. So so so much fun. Snarky teen girl Hawkeye, snarking at snarky carny adult Hawkeye, fighting Russians in tracksuits that say “Bro” way too much. Plus a one-eyed dog, occasional cameos from Avengers, and stakes that feel real and important and appropriate to a non-powered hero. Win/Win/Win.

Movies

Warm_Bodies_Theatrical_Poster

Warm Bodies comes out this weekend, and I’m actually kind of excited about it! This is the time of year for crappy movies, so I’ll basically see anything that looks decent in comparison. But this movie actually seems pretty cool! The story of a zombie slowly coming back to life as a result of love? A romantic comedy set against a zombie apocalypse? Rob Corddry and Dave Franco? Basically I’m sold.

Music

destiny

Longtime readers will know that I hardly pride myself on my music taste. It’s evolved over the years from grunge and metal, to mellow alternative, to a weird indie folk phase in college I’m not too proud of, to now where I’ll basically listen to anything. It’s sad. Which is why I hate recommending music. Because if I don’t respect my choices, how can you? But one thing I’m not ashamed of? DESTINY’S CHILD. That’s right. A greatest hits album is coming out this week. Right after I spent my iTunes gift card too. Dang it.

Television

archer

Basically I was just going to type “ARCHER IS BACK ARCHER IS BACK” around a million times, but figured it might get old. So basically Archer is back and you should all watch the animated love child of James Bond and Arrested Development. DO IT.

 

And that’s all for now guys. I don’t know what the week will bring, but I’m sure it’ll be great.

Twenty-Five Days of Feelings: Day Twenty-Three

This year I’m undergoing a bit of an experiment: Thirty straight days of doing/watching/listening to/reading something that makes me feel – however fleetingly – like an actual human being, in the hopes that this will thaw a layer of ice off my frozen shriveled little heart, and allow me to not be such a buzzkill this year. So let’s get to it.

Day Twenty-Three: Friday Night Lights

I guess it was kind of inevitable, huh? I mean, only a few days ago I was talking about the soundtrack, and now here I am to talk about the show. I fought for so long against Friday Night Lights y’all. I really did. So many people told me I’d love it, even though I don’t really care for sports movies. Some of them assumed I hated football itself because I only went to like six games in five seasons of college. [Sidebar: I had a roommate once come in and catch me watching ESPN and you would have thought it was porn the way he was freaking out. Seriously, he was yelling and getting shrill and saying things like “You CAN’T like football! What are you doing?!?” It was really bizarre]

Anyway, there’s only so much Netflix, am I right? And I thought I was scraping the bottom of the barrel with FNL, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I found was the television “Little Engine That Could.” It was essentially cancelled after the second season, but thanks to a vocal and passionate fan-base a deal was made with DirecTV that allowed it to continue for three more seasons.

Now, I’ve only just finished the third season, and will probably take a break, what with it being Christmas tomorrow and doing some travelling, and having a ton of end-of-year blogging to do (assuming I ever finish this God-forsaken blog series labor of love), but I will say that it has already more than earned all the praise I heard about it.

Being a suburban kid, I don’t quite relate to the small-town dynamic going on, but I think I understand it. See, in my town, there’s an Old Town. The kids who go to that high school have grandparents who went there. Kids like bale hay during the summers. There’s a Rice Harvest Festival every fall. And football there is a LOT like in Dillon, TX (the town from the show). I’ve met people exactly like Mr. Garrity, who ignore their wives while worshipping football, praying to God for wins as if He really cares about the score. [Sidebar: I’m not saying God doesn’t care about sports, I’m saying He probably cares more about how you conduct yourself before, during and after the game, and that you use it to bring Him glory somehow] I’ve seen athletic departments that get shiny new gear every year while teachers get cut. I get Dillon.

Only being a substitute teacher (right now), I don’t quite relate to the struggles of Connie Britton’s character Tami. I don’t yet know what it’s like to deal with kids who want to get into college but are weighed down by their white-trash roots (other than my cousins that is). I don’t know what it’s like to see racially-charged fights erupt in your school and try to create dialogue. I don’t know the first thing about taking a special interest in a couple kids and motivating them to turn their lives around and forge a new future for themselves. But I want to.

Being me, I don’t quite relate to breaking my back in the first game of the season, or watching my parents get divorced, or being raised by a semi-alcoholic brother, or a grandma with dementia. And I am so grateful for that. But I don’t have to have experienced any of that, because these fantastic writers, directors, and actors bring crazy awful things like that to life. I feel how trapped Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) feels, surrounded by her stripper sister and co-dependent doormat mother. I feel how lost Tim (Taylor Kitsch) feels, abandoned by both parents, afraid of failure and even more of success. I feel how shattered Lyla (Minka Kelly) feels after her future is destroyed by one injury and her family collapses. I acutely feel the teenage loneliness of Landry (Jesse Plemons) who is smart but awkward. And so on. Every character has their issue, and you can’t help but pity them, hope for them and with them, and get invested in their futures.

The real standouts of course are Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as Coach and Tami Taylor. They have, hands down, the best relationship I’ve ever seen on television. Sometimes they snipe at each other, but they always end with a quick kiss and an “I love you.” Sometimes they fight and yell, and someone has to cool down or sleep on the couch. But they always talk it out like calm, rational adults who listen to each other. Sometimes they have to wear a lot of different hats – such as Wife, Teacher, and Friend – but they stay consistent to who they are. They dance together, and say things like “I like you. I respect you. I’m proud of you.” They get excited about stealing hotel robes. They argue with their daughter. The Taylors are just so real. Flawed, yes, but deeply good people who love each other more than anything and become a foundation for a whole town. I feel like I’ve legitimately learned things about marriage by watching them, if that doesn’t sound too weird.

Other than that, the show is fantastically shot. There’s a documentary style to it, which would be really annoying if they ever looked at or talked to the camera. Luckily, they don’t and it feels more like Battlestar Galactica than The Office. When there isn’t shaky-cam and quick-zoom though, there are wide, sweeping shots of stadiums, towns, cities, and schools. It goes back and forth from intimate and personal to epic and grande really easily. As does the music, which I’ve already discussed.

Obviously, there’s a misstep here and there. There’s a plot-line in Season 2 between Tyra and Landry that feels more One Tree Hill than anything else, but it’s done a lot better. Cast cuts and episode reductions make some story lines feel a little rushed, or largely resolved over the time-skips. But overall it handles every curve ball it’s thrown with grace and poise and comes back stronger.

At the end of the day, this is a show about good people, and good people getting what good people deserve: good things. It may not always be their ultimate dream. It may be smaller than they wanted, or maybe just a little different, or change completely. But it is fun to root for these people, because they are rewarded for doing the right thing and corrected when they don’t.

Bottom line: this is an intelligent, topical, well-executed show with an amazing cast that tells positive stories about interesting people and will keep you coming back for more.

Twenty-Five Days of Feelings: Day Twenty-Two

This year I’m undergoing a bit of an experiment: Thirty straight days of doing/watching/listening to/reading something that makes me feel – however fleetingly – like an actual human being, in the hopes that this will thaw a layer of ice off my frozen shriveled little heart, and allow me to not be such a buzzkill this year. So let’s get to it.

Day Twenty-Two: Sam Gamgee

After my family went to see The Hobbit last weekend, we got onto kind of a Lord of the Rings kick. And yesterday, as I was making my lunch, I teared up as I heard this exchange going on at the end of The Two Towers:

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

How beautiful is that? I mean really, read it again. How much does that apply to life? To this messed-up world we live in? Full of darkness and danger, and how can the world go back to the way it was? But even darkness must pass. There is good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.

And at the end of the day, that’s all we can do. Maybe we’re not taking a stand on social injustices, or raising awareness on hate crimes in Africa or something. Maybe all we’re doing is blogging about what makes us happy, or sad, or angry. Maybe we’re taking a beautiful picture each day, or sending a note to someone we love each week, or taking one weekend a month to visit a friend somewhere. Life is long, and hard, and brutal at times, and if we don’t fight to hold onto whatever joy we happen to find, we might go crazy.

So I just challenge you in this new year to find a passion. Something that gets your juices flowing. And pour into it. Invest your time and energy into it. Maybe it’s baking something for the fire department every weekend. Maybe it’s working at a vineyard every other Saturday. Maybe it’s growing heirloom seeds. Or volunteering at an animal shelter, or doing something cultural once a week, or starting a game night with your friends every month. I don’t know what it’ll be for you. Hell I don’t even know what it’ll be for me yet.

But there’s some good in this world y’all. And it’s worth fighting for.

Twenty-Five Days of Feelings: Day Twenty-One

This year I’m undergoing a bit of an experiment: Thirty straight days of doing/watching/listening to/reading something that makes me feel – however fleetingly – like an actual human being, in the hopes that this will thaw a layer of ice off my frozen shriveled little heart, and allow me to not be such a buzzkill this year. So let’s get to it.

Day Twenty-One: Big Fish

Here’s the deal: Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and I have a complicated relationship. By which I mean “I like Tim Burton movies that don’t have Johnny Depp in them, and I like Johnny Depp movies that don’t involve Tim Burton,” at least generally speaking. There are exceptions – Alice in Wonderland, or the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies for example. Basically it means I like Alice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and James and the Giant Peach. 

And Big Fish.

Big Fish is the story of a father and a son. It’s about death, but also much more about life. It’s about lies, and also about truth. It’s a fairy tale, and it’s also got a deeply human core. It’s really kind of a masterpiece.

Will Bloom (just now getting the importance of that name, sadly), gets a call one day that his father, Edward, is dying, so he goes home to spend time with him. Edward and Will don’t really get along, because Will is tired of all the stories his father has told over the years – stories which Will believes are all lies. He no longer believes that his father has any real truth to him. What ensues is the story of Edward’s life (as he tells it), which involves witches, giants, werewolves, conjoined twins, mermaids, circuses, mysterious Stepford towns, and of course, a really Big Fish.

There are a LOT of things to love about this movie. First of all is the cast. You’ve got Ewan McGregor as young Edward, and he is just about as charming as possible, whether it’s befriending everyone he meets, working at a circus just to learn a new fact about the love of his life each month, or fighting wars. Albert Finney plays old Edward, and he does a great job of bringing the myth into reality. We see young Edward in him, but also the weight of age and sickness. Marion Cotillard plays Will’s wife, who is curious, somewhat innocent, and willing to push Will. Billy Crudup plays Will, and he does a really great job conveying the bitterness you can take into adulthood when you have a parent you resent. Danny DeVito, Helena Bonham Carter, and Steve Buscemi also do fantastically with their somewhat smaller parts. But for me the standout performance was Jessica Lange as Edward’s wife Sandra, and Alison Lohman as her young counterpart. They both lend a great deal of weight to their performances, and every time they cry in the movie I cry right along with them.

Then there’s the visual component of Big Fish. Have you ever seen Sweeney Todd? You know when Mrs. Lovett imagines her future with Sweeney Todd? And everything is super-saturated and the colors are ca-razzy? All the story parts of Big Fish are like that. It’s like Pushing Daisies up in here. Which is absolutely perfect. This is a movie about tales. Fairy tales. Myths. Archetypes. And if there’s one thing Tim Burton can do, it’s create mood through visuals. I just wish he’d do more fairy tale and less gothic nightmare. But this movie thrives visually. There’s a beautiful scene where Edward sees Sandra for the first time, and time literally stops. Or when he fills Auburn’s quad with her favorite flowers. There’s a town that reminds me of the Lotus Eaters from The Odyssea. The lights glow more than they should, and the grass is greener than it should be. It’s so perfect it becomes creepy. But what shocks me is how much Burton nails the quieter moments, like when Young Sandra hears that her husband died in Korea. Or when Old Sandra gets into the tub fully-clothed with her husband who feels like he’s drying up (side-effect of treatment). The movie balances quiet and loud really well, which is an underrated ability.

I could keep going on, honestly. Danny Elfman turns in a fantastic performance. The use of archetype is excellent, especially if you’ve read things like The Odyssea or other quest epics. It plays with genre, ranging wildly from Fantasy to Crime Drama and back to Horror and RomCom. There’s symbolism, and a lot of things coming full circle. But by far the most important part of this movie is the relationship between a father and a son.

We all have different relationships with our fathers. Some weren’t there from the beginning. Some left halfway through. Some were always there but distant. Some were weak, and others were too strong. Some were idiots, and some were intimidating geniuses. Some were liars. But I don’t know that any of us have perfect relationships with our fathers – not all the time. And even if you do, we’re all going to lose our fathers at some point. So this movie is something a lot of people can relate to. It’s about reconciling the Man and the Myth – what you’ve heard about him and from him, with what really happened. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about looking for Truth even in the little lies. It’s about meeting someone halfway, and walking in their shoes, and finally trying to understand them.

This is a movie about quests. Quests to make your fortune. Quests to get the girl of your dreams. Quests to fulfill dreams and rebuild towns. Quests for Truth. And when you go on a quest, you’re going to go in different directions than you planned. Life is going to lead you to circuses, and wars, and heartbreaks. But it can also lead you to wives, and children, and stories that will live on long after you die. Stories about giants, and witches, and werewolves.

And Big Fish.