Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sympathy Butters No Parsnips

I was going to put a post about Downton Abbey here but my cable box punked out on me again and I can't really access anything that is on it, including four or so episodes of Downton, several episodes of Million Dollar American Princesses, and the U.S. National Championships of Figure Skating, featuring a VERY SPARKLY Johnny Weir. Clearly the universe hates me something fierce.

So I decided to turn my attentions to Netflix instead of calling Time Warner to come fix it/replace it because the latter would require motivation and the former only requires my bathrobe and me new slippers.And upon the Netflixes there did appear to me some MUHDUH mysteries! Yay!! And the people did rejoice! There was singing and dancing and a sacrificial goat.

Okay. Maybe not a goat.

Maybe it was a llama.

Hinterland/Y Gwyll

Do you like beautiful and unforgiving landscapes that are also bleak and terrifying?

Then you should visit scenic and desolate Wales.

Visit lovely Wales! Come for the scenery. Stay for the sheep.

Do you guys remember that Friday I spent watching the entire series of Broadchurch on Netflix? I found myself completely lost after I finished Broadchurch, and I went searching the Netflixosphere for something in a similar vein. I eventually lighted upon Hinterland/Y Gwyll. Why does it have two names, you ask? Because the BAMFs who created this show filmed it TWO TIMES: Once in Welsh, and another in English. I am all over this like that Welsh chick in the Henriad was all over that one guy. 

Hinterland (as I shall henceforth refer to it here since I watched the English version, because you  know, 'Muricka and whatnot), follows the exploits of the popo department in Aberystwyth (say that five times fast), Wales. Detective Chief Inspector Tom Mathias is the main protagonist, and DCI Tom Mathias' life sucks. How much does DCI Tom Mathias' life suck? DCI Tom Mathias lives in a trailer in Wales.

I live in a trailer in Wales.

Chickens, this show is DARK. If you are not a fan of grisly murders and people wandering around in overcast landscapes looking for seriously unhinged killers, this show is not for you. But if you like all that crap, and people being moody, and having their romantic aspirations thwarted in the worst of ways, then get on the train to Cardiff. 

Mathias is estranged from his wife and children for some unknown reason, thus the trailer living. He has a female partner, DI Mared Rhys, and I wouldn't say there is a whole lot of interest between the two of them, although Detective Sargent Sâin Owens has taken a fancy to him. Mathias doesn't really notice her and more or less treats everyone like crap while he obsesses over his latest murder. So, you're looking for a romantic side to go with your MUHDUH like on Castle, you won't find it here. 

Although, if I do say so myself, I am hot in a depressed way.

Also, the Chief Super is SHADY and has it in for Mathias, and I expect that to be addressed further in the planned series that has been scheduled to air this year. There are four episodes in the first series, and each are about an hour and a half to two hours in length, so it should keep you occupied for an afternoon or so. 

Pardon me while I brood in this field.

Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries

Okay, I have to admit that I have dropped the ball here. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to watch Miss Fisher.  It kept coming up in my Netflix suggestions and I kept ignoring it because it's Australian and they talk funny. Also from my anthropological research through watching teevee through the internet, I've discovered that they appear to be stuck in the 1920s. Poor dears. We really ought to drop some freedom bombs on them so they figure out how to 2015 and talk American.  

Although I applaud their use of proper headbanding.

This show is awesome. It makes me happy in my murder place. Miss Fisher takes place in Melbourne in the late 1920s. We don't get a lot of Australian series (read: none) stateside, so this show is a bit different than the usual fare that is to be had. 

This ain't your mama's Downton Abbey.

I spent about two weeks watching all of the episodes that are available on Netflix, and I finished them the other day and now I feel a deep and existential void. I am really not sure what to do with myself now that I am out of Miss Fisher. Fortunately, the good people in Australia are planning a third series.

Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries is based on the book series by Kerry Greenwood. The Hon. Phryne Fisher (pronounced fry-nee) is the daughter of a lesser English nobleman, who inherited an estate in the UK after the intended heirs were all killed off in the Great War. Phryne is a FLAPPER who carries a PISTOL and DRIVES A CAR and KEEPS COMPANY WITH MEN AT ALL HOURS. Fortunately, Phryne's Aunt Prudence is around to disapprove of all of Phryne's scandalous activities. 

Oh, deary me. Oh, deary, deary me.

In addition to Phryne's escandelo lifestyle, she often finds herself present when there has been a MUHDUH in need of some serious solving. Phryne's day job is as a private Lady Detective, and she has insinuated herself into the Melbourne Police Department and caught the attentions of the very married DI Jack Robinson, who is hawt. Jack finds himself interested in Phryne in spite of his initial disapproval of her interference in police work, and he finds himself conflicted over the fact that Phryne flaunts the gentleman callers to her boudoir under Jack's nose. Anyway, they are adorable and make me squee. 

It's complicated. 

In other squee news, Phryne has a housekeeper/cook/sleuthing companion that she rescued during her first case: Dot, who is a Nice Catholic Girl. 

"Miss Fisher is corrupting me. And I'm afraid of telephones."

As a result of their Cagney & Laceying it up, Dot meets Lt. Hugh Collins, and they fall in the lovez. But alas! He is a Protestant! 

"Darling, let's go to hell together!"

Phryne's entourage also includes Cec and Bert, general handymen and communist sympathizers, and her butler, Mr. Butler, who is ex British intelligence and who keeps a handy collection of machine guns in the upstairs broom closet. Phryne also adopts an orphan.  Miss Fisher actually kind of reminds of Castle before Castle before they got together and it got all jumped-the-sharky. My only suggestion is this show needs moar koalas. MOAR KOALAS. MOAR. 

Koalas: Nature's original tree-hugging stoner.

If Hinterland is noir and meditative, Miss Fisher is zany and fun. If you find the untimely deaths of random people to be zany and fun. Which I obviously do. 

Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries and Hinterland/Y Gwyll are available on Netflix streaming. Both are slated for new episodes this year. 

Love me, Jack Robinson. Love all the wacky and life-threatening situations I will get you into.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's Time For The Annual Super Bowl Post You Won't Read!

Welcome back, everyone!  Let me just say that this is the Super Bowl post that I didn’t want to write.  I was going to boycott the game this year due to the heinous, heinous I say, miscall during the final seconds of the first round playoff game between the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys that effectively stole the game away from Detroit, depriving my home team of their rightful chance to compete in the Big Game.  (I managed to come back around after almost the exact same call went the opposite direction for the Cowboys the following week, eliminating them and proving that he who lives by the pass interference call dies by the pass interference call.)  But then Deflategate happened and then it was the Seahawks defending their title against the Patriots, the douche-bro-est team in the country and, frankly, there just wasn’t a lot else on TV that Sunday night so I decided to watch.  Plus, I heard that Katy Perry was going to BURN Taylor Swift in the halftime show, and even though I don’t care much about either one of those people, I’ve always liked effigies.

Having watched the game, with its first 30 minutes mind-numbingly dull and its second an exercise in athletic what-the-fuckery, I’m not sure I made the right decision.  But I get ahead of myself. 

Go...home team? 

As I’ve said many times before, Super Bowls are all about spectacle.  They are not stunning examples of amazing athleticism or daring competition.  For that, we have the Olympics and Dance Moms.  It’s for that reason that the entire first half of the game was such a letdown.  This Super Bowl pitted the Seattle Seahawks, who won last year’s Super Bowl so decisively over Payton Manning and the Denver Broncos, against the powerhouse coach/quarterback/douche-nozzle combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. 

To give a sense of the match-up, going into the game both teams had exactly the same record (14-4) and throughout the first half played with almost identical statistics such that going into halftime, the score was tied.  And not even an energetic tie.  It was a relatively anemic 14-14.  Ho hum.  It was so boring that even Bob Costas had to come on just before the second half and deliver a three-minute commentary on how everyone needed to shut up on Twitter about how bored they were and remember that Super Bowls are often decided in the second half, they’re not meant to be exciting, and for God’s sake stop posting pictures of your food all the time.

Needs more pinkeye.

Then the second half started (actually, there was a halftime show in between, but I’ll get to that in a second) and things finally started to pick up. Seattle started putting points on the board, scoring 10 during the third quarter and shutting out New England.  Moving into the fourth, New England began to rebound, scoring a touchdown and putting themselves within three points of a tie.  Then Patriots Quarterback and human equivalent of crashing your uncle’s Porsche into the pond at the country club after you drank too much Boones Farm  Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass with two minute left in the game that put New England up by four points, 28-24. 

And now, finally, we had, as they say, a football game as Seattle took possession of the ball and drove it fearlessly down the field.  Things got tense for folk from the Emerald City when Seattle managed to somehow both fumble and catch a critical pass at the right time, almost losing out on their chance to score.  Nevertheless, they eventually found themselves on New England’s 1 yard line, literally three feet from victory.  And that’s when they shit the bed.

Not photshopped.  This is an actual picture showing what it looks like to fuck everything up.

Here’s the thing.  Seattle was on the 1 yard line.  They could have tripped and fell into the end zone and won the game as long as whoever tripped was holding the ball when he fell and managed to cross the line before his knee hit the ground.  But for some reason, Seattle called what has been referred to as the worst play call in the history of the Super Bowl.  They decided to pass.  And that pass was intercepted.  For those of you not familiar with what happens in football (and for the smaller number of you for whom that’s the case and still decided to read this post), that was a very bad thing for Seattle.  To make matters worse, Seattle has arguably the best running back in the country in Marshawn Lynch.  Hand Lynch the ball, and even if every New England player is ready to pounce on him he’s still going to cross the line and make it in.   Alas, none of that happened and Tom Brady, who is in fact that guy you knew in high school who started bum fights in the basement and never got in trouble for it because his dad was on the school board, got another thing aside from his super model wife and multimillion dollar per year job to brag about.

And yes, that’s all Seattle’s fault.  New England didn’t win; Seattle just lost spectacularly.  Seattle won the Super Bowl last year and they haven’t shut up about it since.  They’ve been on constant news reports talking up their greatness, which makes them the sports equivalent of that weird guy who once drunkenly made out with a model in a bar and now believes that it means he’s way hotter than he is.  Winning the Super Bowl once actually is not that difficult.  There are plenty of teams that win once and then either not again or not routinely.  Like so many things, it’s performance over time that counts.  Seattle wanted to be thought of as the new powerhouse and instead handed those accolades over to New England, the team that’s self-importance is so inflated it could float a zeppelin despite being a team that has employed, shall we say, questionable practices to get what it needs.

Factual?  No.  Representative?  Definitely.

What happens next, however, is what may be the most interesting thing yet.  The NFL entered this game in a state of turmoil due to the news-making events with Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice’s videotaped beating of his then fiancée, Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito’s racially-motivated harassment of his fellow players and staff members, and Arizona Cardinals’ Jonathan Dwyer beating his wife and son.  As such, it wasn’t a surprise to see many, many commercials in this Super Bowl that sounded more like “The More You Know” style PSAs about what it means to be a “real man” and encouraging men to maybe, like, not beat up women or something.  The last thing the NFL is looking for is more evidence that the ship that Commissioner Roger Goodell is sailing may not be so shipshape after all.  And now the league will have to contend with the evidence that the Super Bowl winning team, in theory the best team of the year, only got there because they cheated in an earlier game, deflating their own footballs to make their passes easier to throw and catch.

So yes, there are a lot of things that disappointed me about this year’s Super Bowl, but perhaps one of the biggest ones is the cruel twist of fate whereby one of the two competitors this year wasn’t New York if only for the reason that now I can’t legitimately make a Sharks vs. Jets joke.  This year, the Pepsi Halftime show gave America the public figure it has craved more than anyone else; a figure of style and beauty, of hope and inspiration, of talent and verve.  I refer, of course, to Left Shark.

No discussion of this year’s Super Bowl would be complete without considering the cultural icon that is Left Shark, seen here with his backup singer, a young woman who was not identified at press time:

 Since his emergence onto the national stage, Left Shark has inspired artwork, lawsuits challenging that artwork, historical retrospectives, and thrilling investigative journalism. There is at least a little bit of Left Shark in all of us, and yet none of us can every truly be Left Shark.  Except for Left Shark himself, of course.

No matter who plays in the game, Left Shark wins.  Left Shark always wins. 


Wheel of Time: Winter Dragon

Yesterday my Facebook feed began blowing up with news of the Wheel of Time pilot tv episode that was going to air overnight on FX or one its sister channels. This was news to me--I've been a long time fan of the Wheel of Time book series (written by Robert Jordan and finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan's death), but I hadn't heard anything about a tv show in the works.

I did some poking around on the internet and on the FX website, but couldn't find anything confirming that a Wheel of Time pilot was going to air. I went to bed without giving it another thought. 

And then! When I woke in the morning it was to the news that the pilot episode had aired, but in the middle of the night on FXX, under the guise of paid programming. So what does it all mean?

Well, to make a long story short (too late), the company that owns the film and tv rights to Wheel of Time was going to lose them on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 unless some action was taken. In order to prevent the rights from lapsing back to the Jordan Estate, the company quickly and on a shoestring budget produced a 15 minute "pilot" episode they dubbed Winter Dragon. Buy some air time on a little viewed cable channel and BOOM. You get to keep your media rights and hopefully sell them to someone for huge amounts of money in the post-Game of Thrones fantasy market. While it's not clear if the gambit will be successful, you can catch the "pilot" on You Tube or at the blog linked to above. 

In case you don't have 15 minutes of spare time sitting around (there's about 10 minutes of commercials to pad it out to 30 minutes), never fear, dear readers, because I have watched the episode and am happy to report my thoughts!

First of all, let's not call this a pilot. It's more of a prequel or an introduction. In fact, it only covers some of the prologue of the first book, and even then leaves out a lot. The show is basically Lews Therin Telamon (the Dragon) wandering around his mansion looking for his family in a madness-induced fugue. He keeps bumping into Ishamael, the right-hand man of the story's Dark Lord, who is like, "Dude, you are so crazy. You know you killed your family, right? But me and the Dark Lord can totally bring them back if you join us." Lews Therin finally comes to his senses (when Ishamael heals him) and decides to kill himself instead.

There's some other stuff, including a somewhat nifty voiceover before and after the action takes place, but all in all...not a lot happens. Unless you could the revelation that it is BILLY FUCKING ZANE playing Ishamael.

The script isn't terrible, the acting isn't terrible, it isn't even bad. It's just kind of there. It's just...completely unnecessary. I'm not going to worry/freak out/expend any more mental energy on it. I think this is just one of those weird things that happens when you're dealing with media rights and if something ends up coming of it, well, I'll withhold judgment until then. I always thought of the Wheel of Time as basically unfilmable, but with the success of Game of Thrones, who knows? 

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the First Age by some, called today by others, there was a secret 30 minute Wheel of Time based episode, put on in the middle of the night. Called Winter Dragon, the episode was a bit of a mixed bag." From io9.