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.

Mad Men’s S5 Finale

So as it turns out, my weekly preview feature – “This Week In…” – is a lot of work, but is consistently the least-viewed part of the blog. I could be bummed out about it, but honestly it’s kind of refreshing. Because now I can have a consistent place to talk about, well… whatever! Like all the movies I’ve seen but not reviewed! Or specific TV shows! Or albums I like that are probably eight years old by now! The world is my oyster. Bitches!

Anyway, I want to talk about Mad Men. No, not some sweeping commentary of the show and what its popularity says about our culture. Why would you think that? No, I want to talk about last night’s finale, and a bit of the season as a whole.

Last night’s episode was fairly scattered, although not as much as some episodes have been. There was no Betty, which at this point in the show is always a good thing. Joan was barely featured, and Ken was completely absent. Peggy and Roger had maybe a minute each. So the major focus of the episode was Don, Megan, and Pete Campbell.

Don’s story revolved around a “hot tooth,” aka a toothache, that he refuses to get checked out. At first I thought it might be a symptom of some psychological issues, such as Don suppressing his guilt over Lane’s death or his increasing frustration with his marriage. I’m glad this wasn’t strictly the case, although he did experience hallucinations of his dead brother. I’ve read some complaints that this story line was NOT subtle, with Adam appearing and showing off his noose-bruise, and making hanging puns, right after Lane has hanged himself, but well, whatever. I didn’t notice his other appearances in the episode, so I guess the lack of subtlety was for my benefit.

Anyway, throughout the episode, Don is stuck dealing with Megan, who has become increasingly whiny this season. She has gone from confidently singing French in a sexy gogo dress, to dominating at advertising, to quitting to pursue her dream of acting. Since quitting SCDP, she sits at home, drinking, yelling, sulking, and fighting. As her own mother says, that is what happens when you have artistic dreams but aren’t an artist. She also tells Megan that she is a spoiled bitch and needs to stop chasing phantoms. While this is pretty harsh, there’s an element of truth to it. The world can’t support a billion ballerinas, and at some point you need to face reality and find the next best thing. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s part of growing up.

Megan ultimately sells out her friend – looking for a part in a SCDP-backed commercial – and asks Don to get Megan the part instead. Don (correctly, I think) refuses initially, claiming that Megan should want to be someone’s discovery, not someone’s wife. She doesn’t care, and Don gets her the part. As she begins filming, he walks away, finds a bar, and immediately is hit on by a sexy younger woman. She asks, “Are you alone?” And as the show ends, we see that look in his eyes and that smile creep across his face.

Meanwhile, Pete Campbell hooks up with Rory Gilmore again, who is depressed and going for electroshock therapy. Again. She claims that after the procedure, she will forget a lot, and hopes not to forget Pete. When he goes to visit her after, she has no idea who he is, but visits with him nonetheless. He tells her about “his friend” who keeps searching for happiness in one thing or woman after another, but can’t, because it’s all just “a temporary bandage on a permanent wound,” which is a beautiful image, and great thesis for the show as a whole. He then gets in a fight with Rory’s husband, kicked off the train, and goes home to Trudy – who tells him he can finally get an apartment in the city. And thus Pete’s transformation into Don Draper from Season One is complete.

Ultimately, the episode was solid. It looks like Don Draper Classic™ is back in stock, which will probably be more interesting than New Don Draper™, is also incredibly defeating to any optimist watching the show hoping for redemption. Pete Campbell and Marie Calvet both sum up the show nicely – the temporary fixes for permanent pain, and the consequences of not getting your dreams. I liked seeing Peggy Olsen, finally getting to fly on a plane… to Virginia… where she sees dogs humping instead of a city skyline. But the episode was still fundamentally unfulfilling. There was no big speech on nostalgia to wrap up the season. There was no coup of the evil corporation. There was nothing either incredibly uplifting, or heartbreaking. There was just… kind of more of the same. And while I think that the next season will still be fantastic, and the season as a whole was phenomenal, and some of the best episodes of the series have taken place this year, it just ended on a bit of a wet fart. If you know what I mean.

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!

The Cure for Weekly Summer Ennui

Good morning afternoon everyone! I hope we’re all feeling fit and full of vigor today, and not sunburnt and sore from an excellent but thoroughly exhausting weekend. Wait. I mean… I hope you had weekends of such intensity and entertainment, but I ALSO hope you feel fine, fresh, and fancy-free. I KNOW I DO.

Currently listening to: Monuments and Melodies, aka Incubus’ Greatest Hits album.

Music

Alright so there are a few releases this week, but most of them are SO off my (admittedly under-developed) Cool Music Radar™, I’m not even going to mention them at the risk of sounding so dangerously unhip that you all feel as little respect for my taste in music as… well… as you should. The one release I do feel qualified to talk about is John Mayer’s new one: Born and Raised. It was at some point streaming on iTunes, so a lot of y’all have probably already heard it. From what I gather, it’s more Battle Studies than Continuum, which for some (including a former roommate) is pretty much the worst thing conceivable. It’s less bluesy, and more country, and while I certainly prefer the blues sound, I’ll confess to not missing guitar solos – which I find to be both banal and showy at the same time. So strap in for some emoting, some whining, and some “how the hell am I a grown up?” I will be.

Movies

You may not know this about me, but I hate horror movies. Not because I hate being scared. In fact, I love being scared. I hate being surprised. Things jumping out at you? That’s a cheap thrill. That’s Family Guy humor. That’s fart jokes and making fun of Sarah Palin. It’s easy, and it’s been done before. I want to be scared. I want to drive home with my interior lights on. I want to need a night light. I want to think back to it years later and still look around me for monsters. I want Slappy the ventriloquist’s doll from Goosebumps. I want IT from Stephen King. I want the Truman Show. Ok that last one wasn’t a horror movie, but it EFFED ME UP FOR LIFE. So with that in mind, you should be able to figure out where I stand on this whole “found-footage” genre that really came to prominence with Blair Witch and has been succeeded by Paranormal Activity. And if you can’t, allow me to spell it out for you. N. O. No.

So this weekend sees the release of the Chernobyl Diaries, from the director of Paranormal Activity. Basically, this movie takes six college kids to the site of an old tragedy, getting abandoned, and hunted by a monster. So basically, it’s everything Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard hate about the modern horror genre, and sought to combat with the excellent Cabin in the Woods.

Then of course there’s Men In Black 3, which Will is excited about but I am not. I’m not even sure I’ve seen the first movie since the second came out. It was that bad. And honestly, I’m just over Will Smith, and not invested in the story of Jay and Kay saving the world from aliens. I’ve put all my Alien Movie Excitement Eggs in the Prometheus basket.

And finally, in case you missed it, Will went against medical advice and saw Battleship this past weekend. His review can be found on his blog if you’re interested.

Television

Monday: Eureka – a disaster preparedness drill goes wrong! But of course the bigger news is the SERIES FINALE of House. This is a show I’ve gone back and forth on over the years, ultimately getting too frustrated with the whole Status Quo is God thing, by which I mean “If House has these poignant moments of self-realization EVERY WEEK FOR EIGHT YEARS, how is it possible that he hasn’t changed in any sort of lasting way?!?” And of course the loss of Cuddy and Olivia Wilde after last season was basically the last straw for me. That being said, I’ll probably be watching to see how everything wraps up, because I was once highly invested in the characters.

Tuesday: Glee – graduation. Woo.

Wednesday: On Modern Family, Cam and Mitch look to be taking more steps in the search for a new baby. I wish this had been a more consistent plot thread this season, but oh well. Alex goes to prom, Jay and Manny watch Lily – which should be HYSTERICAL, and Hailey makes an announcement. College? Marriage? Who knows?? On B23’s first season finale, it’s James Van Der Beek (JVDB, natch) vs. Dean Cain over the size of their Dancing With the Stars dressing rooms, plus June tries to party hardy but obviously can’t. And finally on Revenge’s season one finale, it’s Emily vs. the man who killed her father. Last week’s episode was SOLID and left us on a lot of cliff hangers. I am DYING to see which get wrapped up and which are left to dangle in the summer breeze until next season.

Thursday: Awake has its (sadly) series finale. I’m still about five episodes behind, but this makes me sad nonetheless. And then it’s a night for dance fans everywhere: the SYTYCD (So You Think You Can Dance, DUH) premiere!

Friday: Nothing! Supernatural and Fringe are done for the season, so Fridays are pretty jank.

And as always, Game of Thrones and Mad Men. GoT has The Battle of the Blackwater, which is written by George R.R. Martin himself, and promises to tank the budget for the rest of the season.

Comics

DC is having a huge week, but here’s what I’m taking away from it. Batman: The Dark Knight continues the Night of the Owls event (probably along with some other books, but whatevs). Batman: Incorporated by Grant Morrison returns, which everyone says is awesome, and should begin the end phase of his six year Bat Story. Aquaman continues to look into the past of Atlantis. New Flash, plus new I, Vampire. And also, one of my favorite series: the Unwritten! I think I’m a few issues behind on that one, but I really wish I weren’t, because it has heated up so intensely it is pretty much melting my face off biweekly.

Marvel: Couldn’t find anything interesting, but to be honest I didn’t really look too hard. I’m so tired y’all.

Books

From Sword and Laser:

2312 By Kim Stanley Robinson

The year is 2312. Scientific and technological advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer humanity’s only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons, planets, and in between. But in this year, 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future.”
Sounds pretty sweet, though I am SWAMPED by Hyperion et al. so this may have to wait a while for me to pick it up.
And with that, I leave you. This week is, I believe, a sports post from Jordan on Wednesday, and a scrumptious food post by Griffin, so let’s get pumped for that, shall we? Now, I’m going to desperately wrestle with my conscience over whether to nap or work out, and probably compromise by watching more Mad Men with the director commentaries on.