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.

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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 09/03

There now. Isn’t your day instantly better?

I don’t even need to do an opener this week, because MORGAN FREEMAN being RIDICULOUS is enough, right?

Books

None of this week’s genre releases really captured my eye, but the one that came closest was The Rapture of the Nerdsby Cory Doctorow. It’s a tale of humanity in the future, when most of us have left the planet for the stars, and traded in our humanity for technological upgrades. Described as “a tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations,” it seems tailored for our generation. Might be worth a read.

Comics

This month, as the first anniversary of DC Comics’ epic reboot, sees the release of the “#0” issues – which look to fill in a bit of the back story of the new status quo. Since I couldn’t pick just one, here are the two I think look most intriguing.

Action Comics #0 – The tale of how Superman got his start. We should see how he came to Metropolis, how he was inspired to fight crime, and maybe even how he met Lois and Jimmy.

Green Lantern #0 – I’m years behind on Green Lantern by now, but I’m still hearing tons of buzz. There’s a new mysterious GL in town, and now we get to meet him. This should hopefully raise some new questions and answer some old ones before the next sprawling epic – “The Rise of the Third Army” and Hal’s destiny as the greatest Black Lantern.

Movies

Jack. Crap. It’s depressing really.

Music

Sondre Lerche – my boy from Norway – has a live album out this week! In general I don’t prefer live albums (I want my albums to sound perfect, and my concerts to sound live), but I may be willing to give this one a try. The guy’s music is fun and off-beat, and really chill. I feel like this video captures his sound and style pretty perfectly, so give it a watch and see what’s up!

Television

Now that Breaking Bad has ended – and what an ending, post to come – for the year, there’s only one show on my heart, mind, and TV – DOCTOR WHO! To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan until this summer, when I got caught up on the Matt Smith/Steven Moffat era, and absolutely fell in love. This season’s opener wasn’t my favorite (Daleks ugh), but I intend to treat each episode as precious because these are the last ever episodes with Karen Gillan (my future wife) and Arthur Darvill (my future BFF). Plus, this next episode on Saturday? DINOSAURS ON A SPACESHIP!

 

And that’s it for the week. Those are my recommendations, take ’em or leave ’em. I hope to have a post on this half-season of Breaking Bad on Wednesday or Thursday, and hopefully a post from Stephen on Friday! Have a great week all, and do something to enrich yourselves! Read a book, go for a run, learn something new. Or don’t! Whatever!

For the Week of June 7th

What’s up guys! Welcome to another edition of “This Week In…” – my weekly column that breaks down the big things happening across the Pop Culture spectrum this week. The first week of the month is always crowded, which means there might just be something for everyone. So sit back, relax, and keep your arms and legs inside the carpet at all times.

Music

Well guys, according to Metacritic and Wikipedia, there are a TON of new music releases out this week. But unless you’re a fan of Alan Jackson or Bobby Brown, there really isn’t much out that I’ve actually heard of. Which – granted – doesn’t mean a whole lot, but still. The only two releases that even remotely piqued my interest were from punk (ish?) rock bands The Hives and The Melvins.

The Hives are from Sweden, which I try not to hold against anyone, but having lived in and loved Norway, I make no promises. They are most famous for this song, which was basically a flash in the pan for most people. I enjoy them, but really only in small doses.

And then there’s The Melvins, who formed in 1983. That’s basically thirty years ago guys. Thirty. Years. This week will see their NINETEENTH studio album release. NINETEEN. What. I have no opinions on them at all, but WOW. That is a LOT of music.

Movies

I love when two very different movies come out the same week. In some ways they’re competing (what with resources being fixed for the average movie-goer), but at the same time, they are clearly going after audiences that rarely overlap. This week, the two major releases are Madagascar III: The Reckoning Europe’s Most Wanted. I enjoyed the first Madagascar movie, despite my overall opinion that it’s just too… big… What I mean by that is really hard to explain, unless you’ve seen that episode of The O.C. where Summer starts dating a rip-off version of Seth, whose comedy is described as “big.” The Madagascar franchise has increasingly gone that way, by hiring more and more big name actors, devoting more time to lemurs dancing, and now – in the single most obnoxious trailer I have ever seen – Chris Rock. I swear, I’m only excited about this movie coming out so that that trailer will die.

I am vastly, categorically, geometrically, INFINITELY more excited about Prometheus, a sort of pseudo-prequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal ‘Alien.’ This is Scott’s first return to the franchise he started, and his first return to science fiction since the even more seminal ‘Blade Runner.’ Oh, and did I mention that it’s written by Damon Lindelof – co-creator of LOST? And if that wasn’t enough, Charlize Theron is there for the men and Michael Fassbender is there for the women/gays. Guys. I am freaking out over this.

Television

Monday – Eureka is back after a couple weeks off! I recently caught up on this series (finally), and by that I mean I watched four seasons in like five days. It isn’t perfect, and there are a lot of things I’d have done differently, but you can’t argue that it’s entertaining and generally light, with flashes of brilliance and a TON of heart. Tonight’s episode feature my uber nerd-crush Felicia Day, and the team’s attempts to pull her out of the “Matrix” she’s trapped in. If that isn’t your jam, you can always watch the beginning of a new season of Hell’s Kitchen, or a new episode of the fantastically awful Teen Wolf.

Tuesday – TNT kicks off its lackluster summer programming with Rizzoli & Isles, which is somehow starting its third season? Do people love not-so-subtle lesbian overtones that much? And speaking of overtones, there’s also the start of Franklin and Bash. Which is just so bad y’all. It’s not even laughably bad like Teen Wolf. It’s just awful, and there’s no enjoyment to be had from it. So please don’t. There’s also MORE Hell’s Kitchen, and the return of Tosh.0, which has started relying even more – let that soak in – on gimmicks like fashion. W/e.

Wednesday – Duets. Which should really be called “Totally NOT The Voice, How Could You Say That???” Also new eps of Royal Pains and zzzzzzz look I’m sleeping because I’m bored already.

Thursday-Saturday – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday – Sunday. Thank you, TV gods, for Sunday. We’ve got the season 5 finale of Mad Men. The show has always had phenomenal finales, and I’m sure this one won’t disappoint. Will we see Peggy again? Will Don make it a year without cheating? How will the firm move past the shocking Event of last night? Will Betty, inspired by a sudden upsurge in motherly ability, lose those last 20 lbs? Will Pete ever come clean about his affair with Rory Gilmore? I DON’T KNOW so watch.

And then of course, there’s True Blood. Ah True Blood. Waiting for me with open, overly-muscled and/or puncture-wound-ridden arms. Willing and eager to fill the void left in my week – and my heart – after Game of Thrones ended (spectacularly btw). Will the return of Russell revitalize the show, and return the delightfully campy mood of season three? Will the return of Reverend Newlin bring back the high quality of season two? Will the death of Tara free the show from her bad acting and overly-depressing storylines and incoherent actions? Will the inclusion of The Authority be sufficiently menacing, and catalyze action, or will it only serve to bog us down in EVEN MORE boring vampire politics? Only time will tell, but I’m hopeful.

Comics

DC Comics – Action Comics kicks off its “summer storyline” with Clark being hunted by Earth’s foremost hunter, looking for the ultimate game – aliens. More controversially, we’ll also be getting the first of the Watchmen prequels. These were met with intensely violent fan reaction, in the adorable way that only Internet/comic nerds can muster. I have no doubt however, that these will be blockbuster titles despite/because of that, and I truly believe the company has thrown its best talent at the challenge. And then Animal Man continues its apparently phenomenal run that I totally promise I will definitely read someday soon for realz.

Image – Morning Glories #19! The last issue was – as always – epic, revealing, interesting, and confusing. As Season One/Year One draws to a close (I think) this year, the book should be moving to some sort of momentous reveals, questions, cliffhangers, and shakeups in the status quo. So do yourselves a favor and get the trades and Marathon Mode this beast.

Marvel – Most “importantly,” we have a new installment in the Avengers vs. X-Men saga, with Issue #5, the end of Act One. So far the story has been pretttttty boring, so maybe moving into a new act will help? Maybe? Fingers crossed? There’s also a SLEW of tie-ins, and the always satisfying X-Factor

Books

And finally, books! This week has two releases I could get excited about. From Sword and Laser:

Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon’s Children) by Alastair Reynolds
The first of three novels in a series called ‘Poseiden’s Children’ set at different points over 11,000 years of future history. Blue Remembered Earth focuses on an industrialized Africa as humanity settles the rest of the Solar system.

 Alastair Reynolds is a time-tested author, both of novels and on io9.com, a sci-fi/fantasy blog I read daily. This book interests me because it sees Africa as the center of the world, rather than America or China or Russia or India. It’s a refreshing change, and the idea of looking at different points, rather than telling one long story, is also pretty cool.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

If you’re a fan of Star Trek, you know what the term “redshirts” means. If not, allow me to explain. In the early days of Star Trek, the crew would encounter some new Space Mystery each week. They would invariably send down a team to investigate. Since the show was about the officers on the bridge, they couldn’t just send some grunts with actual, you know, qualifications down there, so they would send the bridge crew. The captain, the first mate, the head doctor. The people that run everything. I’m pretty sure this is bad leadership. Anyway, once down there, there would always be some fighting. Since the show is, again, about these people they can’t die. So how do you show that The Stakes are REAL? You bring along some nobody (in a red shirt), and kill them. Every. Episode. And so the term “Redshirt” was born. Redshirt: aka Cannon-Fodder.

Anyway, I like that this book plays with the idea, and shows some characters getting genre-savvy. I’m very interested in this one guys.

And finally, if you’re like me and enjoy the Sword and Laser podcast/video show, they/we are reading “Tigana” this June. I haven’t bought it yet, because I’m still in denial that May is over and that I failed to finish “Hyperion” on time, but I’m sure I’ll get over that soon as Summer Boredom sets in. So, won’t you read it with me? You can find all the pertinent information on http://www.swordandlaser.com

And that’s it for today! Come back on Wednesday when I discuss Comics! Not sure if I’ll be discussing the DC Universe’s newest/oldest gay hero, Green Lantern (not the one you’re thinking of), or the Watchmen Prequels, but I guess we’ll see huh? And then on Friday we should get a post from Will on movies! And, if you’re lucky, I may just review Snow White and the Huntsman, which yes, I saw on yes, opening night. Peace!

State of the Universe: Thoughts on DC’s New 52 (pt. 2)

So yesterday I talked about DC’s New 52 – DC Comics’ historic rebooting of 52 of their comics, from Batman to Aquaman. In case you didn’t read, the general gist was that I found the whole idea somewhat frustrating. Comics blame their increasingly poor sales on the inaccessibility of the books rather than their quality – or better yet on their COMPLETE LACK OF MARKETING.

I didn’t really address that point actually. But this guy does it better.

All that being said, I was really intrigued by this relaunch. I mean, how could you NOT be? Or at least, how could I not be? One of the main selling points for me was that Grant Morrison, one of my favorite comic book writers of all time, would be writing Action Comics, telling the new story of how Superman got started in Metropolis. I was also eager to reconnect with the Green Lantern franchise after hitting budgetary and emotional burnout with them during all the hype for the big movie. So, let’s talk about the New Issue #1s I picked up.

Action Comics

To be totally honest, I was pretty disappointed by the first issue of Morrison’s run. I mean, I liked seeing a Superman that was reckless, arrogant, totally vincible, and running around in jeans. I also liked seeing a Clark Kent that was just as concerned about justice – a young, crusading journalist and blogger, exposing corruption in Metropolis. But otherwise, the origin felt pretty by-the-numbers, and hardly revolutionary. By Issue #5, however, I am singing a totally different tune. Having seen the destruction of Krypton – which was very Last Days of Rome, the story of the Kents, the reveal that Brainiac is now the A.I. to Superman’s ship, the sacrifice of Krypto, the Phantom Zone criminals, and the mysterious time-travelling villains, I am really intrigued, and newly confident that Morrison has got tons of story to tell.

Green Lantern

The Green Lantern franchise was pretty solid before the relaunch. In the hands of Geoff Johns, how could it not be? This man almost single handedly transformed Green Lantern from a fringe comic into one of the mainstays of the DC Universe, in terms of creativity, critical review, and sales. As a result, pretty much NOTHING has changed from before the relaunch. Except that all that history has now taken place in five years rather than ten. So, Hal Jordan has been stripped of his ring. He’s struggling to lead a “normal” life, messing it up at every turn. Sinestro has been given a ring, and he’s equally unenthused. So obviously, they team up, with Sinestro loaning power to Jordan – that he can take away at any time. I must say, I was intrigued by the sort of buddy-cop vibe going on here, as well as the role reversal. But it never really GRABBED me. Maybe this is just GL-ennui from the movie, maybe it’s my very strapped budget, maybe it’s that I find Hal Jordan unbelievably boring. Obviously it’s all three. So I dropped it with a twinge of regret.

Green Lantern Corps

GLC was one of my favorite DC books for a while. It was more of an ensemble book than Green Lantern proper, and was also unabashedly weirder. The artist was unparalleled in creating horrifically bizarre aliens from the edge of space, and the author was a master of capturing different voices and telling stories with both action and resonance. But again, nothing really captured my attention this time around. And with the reboot being so hyped, I felt like that was really crucial.

Green Lantern: New Guardians

OK, so out of the FOUR Green Lanterns from Earth, Kyle Rayner is arguably my favorite. Maybe. Guy Gardner is hilarious. And Kyle’s mask is DUMB. But he’s been the main Earth Lantern most of my comic book life, so I have a sweet spot for him. For a while, New Guardians looked like the GL book for me. I mean, the concept was intriguing: Kyle Rainer all of a sudden finds himself with seven different colored power rings, transforming him into a nearly god-like entity. This in turn threatens the other 6 Corps, as well as his own god-like bosses. I really did like it, despite dropping it mainly for budget reasons. But out of all the Green Lantern books, it was easily my favorite.

Red Lanterns

The source of a Green Lantern’s power is his or her Willpower. But there are six other Corps, powered by different emotions: Rage, Greed, Fear, Hope, Compassion, and Love. So far, only Rage has gotten its own comic. The Red Lanterns are fueled by rage, which pumps their hearts and replaces their blood with acid. As a result, they are somewhat less than rational – with the exception of their leader. The first couple issues feature Atrocitus redefining his raison d’etre – from vengeance for him to justice for the victims of the universe. It’s a really interesting idea, but when most of the supporting cast can only speak in yells, hisses, and the occasional word, it gets a little old.

Superboy

I. Love. Superboy. He’s a clone of Superman, and he’s a clone of Lex Luthor. He’s trying to discover which “parent” he’s going to follow. He’s trying to discover if he has an identity outside of either. He’s a teenager with all of Superman’s powers, plus raging hormones. There’s something really endearing about him, that makes him one of my favorite heroes.

Until now. The relaunch took him back to square one, as a creature grown in a vat. He seems to be even more powerful than before, but almost completely devoid of emotion. He lives in a tube, analyzing the world around him, and basically sounding like a computer. Except that sometimes he lives in a simulated Smallville, complete with crushes and homework and peer pressure, acting just like a normal kid. It’s jarring, and doesn’t make much sense to me.

Ultimately, they took everything I loved about Superboy, threw it out the window, and started over with an awkwardly-written, unrelatable character I have no desire to interact with again. Easily my greatest disappointment from the relaunch.

Wonder Woman

Oh Wonder Woman. Every bit as strong and virtuous as Superman. By far the most powerful and well-known woman super hero. Consistently lumped together with Supes and Batman as “The Big Three.” But time and again she is relaunched, rebooted, and revamped. The audience has to be TOLD that she’s awesome, rather than seeing it. She’s just never really clicked. Maybe it’s because she has no real mission. She isn’t the last of her planet. She isn’t a traumatized orphan. She isn’t a space cop. She’s an “ambassador for peace” from an island of sexist women… who fights everything. Her arch-villain is… a woman dressed like a cheetah? Really? Her weakness is… being bound by a man? Because that isn’t fetishistic. Well, dear readers…

NO MORE.

That’s right. Wonder Woman is suddenly AWESOME. By tweaking ONE thing about her, they have completely revitalized her, and opened up the door for endless villains, allies, and stories. Instead of being formed from a lump of clay by her mother, she is the illegitimate daughter of Zeus, who has been lied to her whole life. Now, she’s enemies with Hera. Now she’s sister to Hercules and Perseus and Strife and Athena, and SO MANY MORE. Now, she is the protector of Zeus’ latest conquest – who is being targeted by Hera as well. Wonder Woman has suddenly entered the most dysfunctional family in history, and it is fantastic. The story is dark and tense and mysterious and ominous and I really can’t praise it enough.

I, Vampire

OK, so I’m more or less over vampires. Which I say every year until True Blood comes back. So I was loathe to check out a comic called “I, Vampire,” despite the consistently stellar reviews I was seeing on the internet. But eventually [aka after I got a Kindle Fire] I decided I would download the first issue (for a dollar off regular price) and try it. And I actually really liked it. The story is about Andrew Bennett, and his progeny, Mary Queen of Blood. Andrew is an ancient vampire who basically hates vampires. He’s your classic Vampire with a soul. Or at least a conscience. Mary, on the other hand, woke up screaming about how she was going to slaughter all humans. So there’s that.

Mary has been secretly creating an army of vampires. She is tired of cowering in the shadows from the superheroes – whose leader just happens to be SOLAR POWERED – and hopes to conquer. Her tone wavers between Marxist revolutionary/champion of the oppressed under class and the quintessential stalker ex-girlfriend. For even as she is sending an army to kill Andrew for his “traitorous” way of life, she is trying to seduce him and bring him around to her way of thinking.

While this story hasn’t impressed me in the way Wonder Woman or recent Action Comics issues have, I do really enjoy it. It’s brilliantly executed and technically flawless, and the scope just keeps expanding with every issue as supporting cast is brought in and guest stars appear. This is definitely one to watch.

 

OK, so even though I only tried nine or ten of the 52 different comics, I feel like I got a decent sampling. Overall, I would say the relaunch was a resounding success. For one thing, sales were HUGE, which is always nice to see. Many of the books are benefiting from the new status quo, and very few seem actively HURT by it. But the best thing about the reboot was the awareness it brought. It was talked about online and on the national news. If DC can just find a way to keep marketing their books and putting out quality product, I think they could turn around the comic slump.