Castle: A Questionable End


(I wrote this a while back, when it was timely but never posted it. I felt I needed more time to digest the series finale before publishing it, but in the end, I still feel the same. So, here it is at long last.)

Last night, the final episode of one of my all time favorite shows aired, and I came away disappointed. I understand that there were cast problems, or at least rumors of such, in the last weeks of filming, but the whole episode was something of a mess.
The thing that bothered me most about the episode is that both Castle and Beckett not only looked a bit odd but behaved that way too. There was just something about their individual appearances that just didn’t look right, and I suppose it could be traced back to the rumors, whether true or not, of the fights Fillion and Katic had been having. Or maybe it was a deliberate action on the parts of the makeup department in an attempt to show the stress the two characters were experiencing. I can’t say. Hell, I can’t even say what it is about their appearances that didn’t look right. But the characters’ appearances were wrong and there was something about both the script and performances that didn’t gel well either.
The whole episode felt forced, which I suppose it was. The ending was especially bad; while they triumphed over yet another bad guy, both were shot and, in my opinion, appeared to be mortally wounded. Yet, seconds after they clasped hands while bleeding out on the floor, we got an ellipsis, passage of seven years, and little children running about the happy couple’s home.
I don’t know whether to consider that trite, a stab at a choose your own ending storytelling, or an indication that the narrator is unreliable. In any case, the explanations fall short for me.
Though I would have loved to have Castle and Beckett live out their lives with children, everything after them bleeding on the floor rang even more hollow than the rest of the episode.
Frankly, this was not the ending I expected or feel the fans of the show deserved, whether or not the couple lived or died. This was a very u n-Castle episode, and I can only be happy there will be no follow-up to explain what really happened there. Like a novel, the book of Castle is closed for me and I’ll remember the many chapters with great fondness, though I’ll forevermore wish I’d never read the ending.

Hack Bait


Not that I want to be hacked, but I just made a post on my newly revitalized home page discussing the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, High Sparrow, and why the execution Jon Snow performed wasn’t murder. The reason I might get hacked or attacked has to do with Kit Harington’s comparison of the execution his character performed to the beheading murders that ISIS has been performing. If I disappear off the web, at least you know why…

Daredevil and Powers: Good Versus… Not So Bad?


With the upcoming release of Marvel’s Avengers 2, Ant Man, and Fantastic Four this year, and a cubic fuck-load of them coming up in the subsequent years, television, one way or another, has begun to embrace superheroes again. There’s been Smallville, is The Flash and Arrow, and both Gotham and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have built up very loyal, very large fan bases not only for the universes in which they take place, but for the quality of their writing and productions. Hell, I find myself seeking out every little tidbit of information I can find on what’s going on in Agents so I can try to glean some insight into the upcoming films. But… That’s not what I’m here to write about.

What I am here to write about are two newcomers to the scene, Daredevil and Powers. The former, as I’m sure you’re aware, is based on the Marvel comic of the same name, of which a certain Affleck sort of disgraced a dozen years ago. Actually, I take that back, that film wasn’t his fault. He’s an actor, there’s only so much you can do with the shit you’re handed. As the trailer for Batman Versus Superman: The Dawn of Justice just dropped today, it’s not getting my blood pumping, and I’m hoping that very same Affleck can pull it off. If he doesn’t, then maybe it is him after all; then again, the premise for it seems a bit weak to me, but it remains to be seen exactly how it develops… I’m getting off topic again… Similarly, Powers is based on an Image comic of the same name developed by [Sony] PlayStation Originals,  and is a fundamentally different sort of superhero story.

Because it’s much more fresh in my mind and simpler to explain, I’m going to start with Daredevil. To sum up Daredevil in the most simplistic of terms and as quickly as possible, Daredevil is essentially Batman with a couple of key and important differences. Difference #1, Matt Murdock is not rich (at least here in this Netflix Originals series), doesn’t have a warehouse full of gadgets or a secret lair other than his home. Difference #2, while Bruce Wayne doesn’t have any super powers, Murdock does; albeit it’s kind of a lame power in the spectrum of super powers. His power is, essentially, the ability to see. How is that a super power? Well, it is when you’ve been blind since you were a kid…  I’m not going into the details, but that’s his super power, and I know I’m vastly oversimplifying everything about the differences between Murdock and Wayne, but in all honesty, those are the big differences. They’re both vigilantes that stalk the bad guys, doing whatever it takes to put them out of commission, and both have rules against killing. (Though frankly, that hasn’t been the case in the Batman films since Tim Burton’s original 89 film, the comic still sticks to it.)

I’m going to go slightly off topic for a moment to explain my background with Daredevil. It’s at least tangentially related, I promise. Many years ago, in my late teens and early twenties, I had a pretty good friend that I played role playing games with as part of a group of friends. Most of us attended Martin L. King, Jr, Senior High School here in Detroit together, though a few were from other schools. This particular friend went by the name Dizzy, and he was the biggest fan of Daredevil I have ever met. I still don’t know any one that liked Daredevil as much as he did, and he would talk to us about him as we’d discuss the Avengers, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and a whole host of other characters in and out of the Marvel Universe. Despite all our protestations that this character was the best, or that one was awesome, Dizzy stuck to his guns that Daredevil was the best.

I lost touch with him around 95 or 96, and only saw him once during that time when I happened to run into him at Fairlane Town Center while I was skipping a class at the nearby Henry Ford Community College. He’s a good guy and I’m sure he’s out there, holding the faith even after the Affleck film. Honestly, after watching the complete first season of Daredevil in the last 26 hours or so, I’m much more inclined to agree with him now than I was those twenty something years ago.

I went into this Daredevil series a little wary and certainly little positive expectations. While I respect Netflix’s production value on House of Cards and what little I’ve seen of Orange Is The New Black, I wasn’t sure they were going to put the same effort into a superhero series about a character that — in my opinion — wasn’t an A-list top draw character. Well, I was fucking wrong. Everything that I’ve seen in these episodes was extremely well crafted, and aside from two moments that kind of irritated me, I was very satisfied with it. (One of the two moments really isn’t the show’s fault; I was watching while doing my job, and I missed the message of an extended conversation in a foreign language because I was too busy focusing on work to read the subtitles. The other was Murdock peeking at what was under his bandage when he damn well should’ve known what was under it.) The attention to detail was on par with all the other Marvel Studios productions, and even the fight scenes came off as being very realistic and visceral. Nothing was particularly over the top as you sometimes see in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (don’t get me wrong, I love those moments) or Black Widow’s combat in any of the Marvel films thus far; in fact, I’d go so far as to say they were about as good as you can expect a normal man to do. And believe it or not… I really appreciated that authenticity. Daredevil isn’t shown as a godlike character, all capable, all knowing, but as a man that is struggling just as much as you or me. And it’s not just him. All the characters seem to have their flaws and faults, and are seen to be struggling with them, including the villain, Wilson Fisk (The Kingpin). To be brutally honest, I think I liked him and his right hand man, Wesley, the best of all. (I’m a sucker for a villain that knows he’s the villain, and loves his job. Heath Ledger’s Joker is probably my all time favorite villain for that portrayal and reason.)

All of these things come together to build a very compelling story and television series that I would gladly watch again.

Powers… not so much.

I had no expectations going into Powers at all, because I wasn’t familiar with the comic in the least. The only thing I took with me going in was that it was a Sony produced series and I had seen a preview or two that made it look kind of interesting. As I watched the first episode, I cringed at a few badly done things, and got a feel for the overall plot, which I’m going to more or less ruin here, and the shockingly low production value. The basic premise of Powers is that there’s a downside to a world full of superheroes; they too have their faults, addictions, self-confidence issues, and cross the lines; sometimes not even realizing that they’re causing as much damage and death as the supervillains (and not so super villains) they seek to stop. The show follows Christian Walker, a superhero who lost his powers, and his partner Deena Pilgrim as they work for the Los Angeles Police Department’s “Powers” division which is responsible for bringing in super powered villains mostly without the help of superheroes. Frankly I love the concept. As my buddy put it in a conversation with me yesterday, the big picture looks great, but it’s when you start looking closer, at the day to day stuff, that it starts to look bad.

And he’s right. I told him a couple weeks ago that Walker looks like he was carefully crafted to look like David Tennant in Broadchurch. My guess is they wanted to make him look haggard and hung-over at all times as he struggles to deal with the loss of his powers, the loss of his relationship with his his one time super powered love, Retro Girl (who, according to Wikipedia, is actually supposed to be dead as that was the first case he investigates in the comic), loss of essentially all of his friends except his partner prior to Pilgrim, who, by the way, dies stupidly in the first few minutes of the first episode. The “Downtrodden Song” by Denis Leary pretty much sums up Walker’s life.

Sharlto Copley as Powers' Christian Walker

Sharlto Copley as Powers’ Christian Walker.

The sad thing is, I actually don’t mind Walker all that much. He’s pretty much completely unlikable, but stepping back, resisting the urge to just slap the labels “cliche” and “rip-off” on him, you can respect what he’s been through. I can’t say that he is a rip off of Broadchurch’s Alec Hardy (Tennant) because the comic has existed for 15 years, and I don’t think Broadchurch was a comic or book prior to become a BBC television series a few years ago. So technically, this crap that has affected Walker is original, and he just happens to look a hell of a lot like Hardy. But you can definitely see the design influences from Broadchurch on Walker regardless of whether anyone at Sony/PlayStation Originals wants to admit that fact.

David Tennant as Alec Hardy in Broadchurch

David Tennant as Alec Hardy in Broadchurch

Putting characters aside for a moment, I’d like to talk about something that really bothers me in Powers. Although it’s trailed off, the first episode looks like a commercial for Sony products as they’re all over the place, clearly displayed. Yes, Sony is a major brand name, and I’ve had more Sony products than I care to count at the moment, but everywhere you look, people were using Sony smartphones and tablets and Vaio computers and PlayStation 4s and televisions. I get it, it’s a Sony production and it’s smart to self promote, but that level of representation is not realistic nor representative of the real world. I am very much an Android device user and developer, but throw a fucking iPad or iPhone in there, because we all know those are way more common than Sony’s phones and tablets. Product placement is important, there’s no question about it, but the ubiquity of a single brand in a film or television series is not only unrealistic, but it’s jarring and becomes a point of focus in a bad way.

Back to characters and plot… Perhaps the biggest problem for me with regards to the series thus far, is that I don’t have a sense of who the real villain really is. That would be good if this were a mystery, but we have two very obvious bad guys: Johnny Royalle (played by Noah Taylor) and Wolfe (played by Eddie Izzard). While it’s made very clear that Wolfe is the overall major villain, and he’s played well by Izzard (but then I’m biased, I love the guy), there’s the question of Royalle. Royalle has been teleporting in and out of, I kid you not, “The Shaft” prison to harvest blood or something else from the regenerating Wolfe to make into a drug called Sway. (Let me comment on something completely unimportant for a second; when I imagine characters teleporting in or out of a room, I imagine an aggressive popping sound or a boom of some sort, or hell, even just silence, not the adorable little Snapple-lid-just-popped-up-as-you-open-it sound. Thanks guys, well done.) Royalle has been doing his cutesy teleporting thing for  a while to make the drug, and it’s spreading among the “Powers Kids” that either have low level powers or are groupies of those kids, and gives them an enhancement to their abilities or kills them. Depending on which of the two they are. An unforeseen side effect is that anyone that takes Sway is apparently getting linked to Wolfe which will undoubtedly play out in some horrifically written way in an upcoming episode, as they’ve already forewarned us in at least two episodes by episode 8. Naturally, desperate to get his powers back from Wolfe without knowing how it was made or the side effects, Walker took Sway to put Wolfe back in his cell.

You would think that the drug alone would be enough to cement Royalle as the primary villain, and even though he taunts his former best friend, Walker, repeatedly through the first few episodes, he ultimately still cares about him and knows he’s in over his head. Frankly, Royalle is more wishy washy than a soaked wash clothe. He can’t decide if he’s really a bad guy or a champion of the under privileged Powers Kids as he keeps flip flopping all over the place, then begs Walker to help him fix his mistake, extracting whatever from Wolfe, by killing their former mentor. Yeah, that’s right, Wolfe was their mentor back in the 90’s on how “Powers” (as super powered individuals are called in case you haven’t gotten the drift) get their abilities, refine them, and should act. Then he ate a bunch of people, freaked them out, and they gave him The Shaft. Sorry, couldn’t resist. I wonder if it was throbbing… Anyway, Walker, the fine upstanding good cop that he is has agreed to help Royalle put Wolfe down…  Note that in earlier in the exact same episode, Royalle first teleported Walker into a sealed room then teleported out with all the air, then later teleported them to the edge of a balcony, and pushed him off; rescuing him in both cases. Naturally, these kinds of actions engender friendship and trust, right?

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, there’s the the production itself. Everyone is pretty damned well dressed, even the poor people. All of the women’s hair and make-up are perfect at all times. While most of the powers’ visible effects are decent, those characters that can fly look like ABSOLUTE SHIT while doing it. It almost emphasizes the wire-rigging frequently used to demonstrate flight; in particular Walker during his fight with Wolfe in the Shaft; he looked a thin version of Fat Bastard from Goldmember hanging in mid-air. It looked terrible. It still looks terrible.

Here’s the thing,while PlayStation Originals undoubtedly is a separate production entity from Sony Motion Pictures, there absolutely positively has to be some cross-talk between the two houses. There’s undoubtedly a sharing of resources, crew, equipment, editors, special effects, make-up, costuming, and production teams. Correction, PlayStation Originals would be absolutely stupid if they weren’t trying to take advantage of essentially in-house resources, advice, and expertise, even if they had to pay for them. I don’t expect that Sony Motion Pictures would try to charge [Sony] PlayStation Originals the going rate for their help; actual cost maybe. Even if they did have to charge full price for it, it would be a steal for PlayStation Originals. Sadly, to me, it looks like they’re going it alone, trying to prove that they don’t need any help at all, not even from their bigger, more experienced brothers and sisters.

Walker and Royalle talked, among other things, about pride being the problem in dealing with Wolfe, that it was pride that was letting him control them. Maybe it’s pride that’s also ruining this golden opportunity for PlayStation Originals… If so, then that, like Powers, is just too bad…

A Good Weekend for Television


No, I didn’t watch The Walking Dead. Frankly, I was impressed with the one or two episodes I saw, but it isn’t my show. I more or less gave up on the undead when they started twinkling in the sunlight… Not that I even want to hint that TWD zombies do, but I stopped caring about the whole genre or movement at that point.

What I am talking about are the other two major players, a couple of other [dark] dra-medies, and one hell of a twist in a favorite of mine, that blew me the hell away.

Lets start with the obvious: two shows this weekend hard their season premieres… In chronological order, no pun intended, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. Lets not kid ourselves, these were probably the two most anticipated shows on television this weekend, and frankly I don’t think either one disappointed. Mind you, I don’t think either one impressed me or made my jaw drop, but they were pretty damned good. I won’t talk about either show because I probably would literally receive death threats over the lack of spoiler warnings for either or both, even though my average readership is about 5 people per month, and I personally know 4 of them… Still, I’m pleased with the Doctor & Oswin, and she’s gotten hotter since her previous two appearances. On Thrones, I barely recognized some of the key characters I love (and one I despise though it’s not the actress’ fault) because they gained weight since last season, and I was pleased that a character survived a seemingly imminent death though it wasn’t explained how… I could have stood to have seen my favorite characters a bit more in the episode (one of which I don’t think was seen at all) but I have nothing negative to say at all about it.

Don Cheadle and House of Lies continue to impress me, though I really do miss the fourth wall breeches from the first season!! There have been some, and more importantly, there have been some looks that Don has given the camera that have been priceless, but I admit that I’m feeling a little disappointed that the lightheartedness in the face of the serious situations the characters were going through last season isn’t quite there… There are some serious issues going on with them, and it’s undoubtedly going to come to a head in the season finale, which I believe is next week, but that spark has been missing this season… I believe I heard it got picked up for another season, and I’d hate to see it go, but if that spark doesn’t return I’m not sure viewers like myself will…

Californication… Well, needless to say I continue to wish I was Hank Moody… That’s all I’m going to say about the show.

So that brings me to the show that most impressed me this weekend. Strictly speaking, it’s out of chronological order in terms of air time, but I did watch it last, so my timing counts. When I realized that this weekend was going to be the season premieres of Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, I immediately decided that there was no way in hell I was going to miss the first run of the new episode of Thrones, and I set this surprising show aside, deciding I’d either watch it at its encore time or later in the week. While I’m not sorry I watched Thrones, I really wish I had been able to watch both it and Shameless at the exact same time, so that I could’ve watch Shameless again during the encore presentation.

Ever since I watched Shameless when it debuted on Showtime a couple years ago, I enjoyed it. I thought it showed a beautiful little cross section of the fucked up realities of this world and a family doing what was necessary to survive. I’ve loved the cast since minute one episode one, and while I concede that the second season didn’t feel as good as the first, and this third season at times has been as much a struggle for me as it has been for the characters, I still watched it regularly, and pulled for the characters.

I said no spoiler warnings on this site, and I’m keeping to it, but I will tell you honestly, watch this fucking episode if you can, even if you don’t regularly watch.

To give you a quick series summary and briefer, Fiona Gallagher takes care of her younger siblings because her alcoholic drug addict father neglects and steals from them and her equally fucked up mother is mostly absent from the series. The family has a knack for petty crime and theft, selling drugs, and doing other crimes more or less to survive, and they have a knack for not getting caught and avoiding serious punishment when they do. The second oldest child is Lip a brilliant high school student resigned to play the role of a streetwise criminal and following mostly in Fiona’s footsteps, making his family his priority in his life over all other things, though he is caught between his love for a pain in the ass slut that recently returned to Chicago that he thought he was over and a psychotic girl that literally tried to kill the rival for Lip’s affections by running her over. Just a little younger than Lip is Ian, who is in love with Lip’s psycho girlfriend’s brother and the idea of being in the military. Ian is just as focused on the family as Lip and Fiona, but takes a more practical approach to most things except the men he cares about, in which case he chooses the hopeless romantic routes. Carl and Debbie are the comic relief pre-teens and exact opposites of one another: Carl isn’t very bright and is constantly getting into trouble, Debbie is smart, a little mischievous but otherwise a good kid if a bit naive. Then there’s Liam, the baby brother that proves that the Gallagher bloodline is a little more colorful than people would expect… Fiona has a boyfriend Jimmy that used to go by the name of Steve while he was being a car thief. His secret problem this season is that he’s married to a druglord’s daughter and was trying to help her get her green card. I’ll discuss this situation more in a moment. The family’s best friends are Kevin and Veronica, neighbors from a couple houses down the street. They may as well be blood relatives, because they couldn’t be any more family otherwise.

Then there’s Frank, the patriarch. Frank, honestly, is the asshole that has somehow wormed his way into my heart as a viewer and time and again, as evidenced by the pained expressions on everyone’s faces on the show, found a way to abuse just about every major and minor character on the show in some way, shape, or form, and yet remains popular and likable enough that no one has killed him yet, but no one is ever happy to see him. He’s played masterfully by William H. Macy. If I ever write a movie about my dad, I want Macy playing him, even though there is a slight racial difference… Frank has done many, many, many terrible things to his family in the course of this show, including calling child protective services on them to get back at Fiona for kicking him out of the house. There are many reasons to completely hate him, but you find yourself drawn to him, and I think that’s a testament to Macy’s performances. And because Frank was the most surprising element of tonight’s episode, I’ll come back to him…

Back to Jimmy… Jimmy is from a well to do Chicago family, had gone to the University of Michigan Medical School, and somehow became a car thief in Chicago when we meet him in the first season. Fiona had the opportunity to run away with him at the end of the first season, but chose her family over him, and he left. When he returns in the second season, we discover that he’s married to a woman but we don’t know much about her or why, we just know that while she likes him and in particular to have sex with him, that neither one is particularly interested in their marriage. This year, we find out that it was arranged by the druglord to allow his daughter to have an education in the United States and get a green card. All season, we’ve felt bad for Jimmy because he’s caught in this terrible situation: he can’t dump his wife and be with Fiona, the woman he loves, because his father-in-law would have no qualms in killing him. He loves Fiona and wants to be with her, but he can’t tell her about his wife. He struggles to help make ends meet, but at just about every turn he’s essentially getting kicked in the balls by life. And now, it looks like Jimmy is about to go away permanently, because his wife got deported and her father was none too pleased.

That was big enough on its own.

That could have made this episode all by itself.

But it’s not the highlight of tonight’s episode. Hell, it’s barely a side show by comparison.

Tonight, we got to see that Frank actually does give a damn about his kids, at least to some extent. Although it was purely selfish, he caught up with Carl on his way to school and asked to see if he could stay the night at the house, and Carl said yes. Mind you that Frank convinced Carl earlier in the season that he had terminal cancer so that he could somehow score money and possibly a signed basketball from the Chicago Bulls, though none of that panned out. Carl, not being the brightest of the Gallagher children, still hasn’t figured out that it was a scam that Frank pulled. But Frank and Carl got to talking later that night about how Frank’s father had pulled a heist with him when he was Carl’s age, and Carl liked the idea enough that he proposed that they rob the couple that had taken him in for a few days or weeks as foster parents. (Let’s just say that Carl wasn’t happy to be there.) They go and do the heist, and appear to have gotten away scott-free, and Carl is very pleased with himself and his budding relationship with his father.

That is, until, the police show up in the final minutes and are carting him off to jail. Lip and Ian try to defend their little brother and get the police to leave him alone, but it’s Frank that wakes up and willingly and happily takes the blame for the theft, swearing that Carl didn’t have the brains to tie his shoes, that gets the kid freed and yells encouragement to the boy as the police drive off down the street.

Needless to say, Lip and Ian were just about as stunned and shocked as I was over it. To quote Lip, “hell just froze over.”

I love Doctor Who. I love Game of Thrones. I enjoy the hell out of House of Lies and Californication. But tonight, maybe even this weekend, belonged to Shameless! A great fucking weekend for television, but Shameless made me write this post.

Something Wicked Yadda Yadda Yadda…


(Disclaimer: It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m hungry for success and a good Philly cheesesteak.)

April 28, 2012. That was the official date of my graduation from Oakland University. It was the date that I officially received my Bachelors of Arts in Cinema Studies (Criticism). It was and is a far cry from where I thought I’d be twenty three years ago. On this date precisely twenty two years ago, I was attending — flunking out of, really — Michigan State University, addicted to CNN’s coverage of the [first] Gulf War, eating Gumby’s Pizza, while trying to figure out how I could recover from the mess I was making of my life. I’d abandoned the Air Force R.O.T.C. as I felt the detachment never had its act together. I abandoned my major, because electrical engineering simply wasn’t what I wanted to do but there was no computer science program at MSU dedicated to churning out programmers, at least as far as I was able to discover at that time. In reality, while I was — and am — fascinated by programming, it ultimately wasn’t and isn’t what I really wanted to do with my life. As I told a friend recently, I only really got to be good with programming because when I was a kid with my Atari 800XL computer, I didn’t have a word processor nor did I know what one was for several years, and so I took to trying to create something that would just let me write.

Writing… In all honesty, it’s the only thing I’m truly good at. I personally don’t think that I have the vision of some of the greats; I don’t think I could write thirty or forty novels with the same characters like some authors have. I tend to think that my stories are simplistic and often immature, that there needs to be a moral that I’m failing to add.When I read my stories, I find them entertaining, but I often feel they’re missing something… Something to move them from good to great.

So when I finally gave up on the tech industry after it abandoned me yet again, I decided to shift gears and move from my logical, technical side to my more creative side, and hope to build a career in writing. When the film industry started picking up and all the stars aligned and the Cinema Studies program became available at Oakland University, to which my mother is an alumnus, I enrolled thinking about screenwriting as a potential career.

During my three years at Oakland University, I’ve had some truly great teachers, and I’m going to name names here for all of you out there. If you’re lucky, you’ll be fortunate enough to have one or all of them as your teacher one day. Dr. Kyle Edwards, head of the Cinema Studies program, accepted me in with open arms despite my technical background, and taught one hell of a class on Sound Era Films. Dr. Ross Melnick was only there for a single year, but I was fortunate enough to have him for three classes, and I’m astonished at how much film and theater history there is to learn courtesy of that man. I’ll never look at or think about a Roxy theater without thinking about the man behind the name now. Dr. Doris Plantus-Runey is an eccentric genius and I looked forward to every damned minute of her screenwriting and adaptations classes. Hunter Vaughan is not quite as eccentric but no less a genius, though I must confess that film theory beyond montage is not my forte. I must also thank him for exposing his students to Last Year at Marienbad and a few other esoteric films that really make you think, and don’t just entertain. Expect the unexpected! Dr. Heidi Kenaga is another slightly eccentric professor, but I don’t think there’s anyone that knows more about films. Name a film and she can discuss it in detail, and I was very fortunate to be taught by her in each of my three years at OU. There are others as well, including some outside the Cinema Studies program such as my Japanese teacher, Masae Yasuda — who moved on to the University of Michigan — that are more than worth noting. They’re worth thanking and appreciating. To all those I’ve left unmentioned, thank you!

I seem to have left the rails of my original train of thought… Or have I? Without these people, these classes I’ve taken, and the opportunity to sit and stew on all that I’ve learned, I don’t think that it would be remotely possible for me to embark upon a writing career, let alone do it successfully. Not that I’ve gotten there yet, mind you, but I needed to be shaped and honed. I certainly look at every television show and film with a more critical eye, identifying the things I like and dislike the most about them. I can now spot themes I never would’ve consciously noticed before, and I can question and appreciate the choices made in the writing phase more than I ever could before. I may have earned at BA of Cinema Studies, but what I really did is build a set of tools to help me achieve my goals. They can’t be given, they have to be developed. When combined with the skills I already possessed, I have no excuse for not succeeding. My stories may still lack something of a moral character, in my eyes, but that doesn’t mean they’re unacceptable. The point of many stories, like mine, is to entertain, and so that’s what I’ll do.

I have the tools, I just have to use them.

To that end, I’ll bore you for another few moments with a brief discussion of some of the things I’ve watched recently, and what drew me to them. First and foremost are the shows that I love because they simply make writers look cool, Castle and Californication. I watch both of these shows because of the writer connection, the fact that I’m living vicariously through each of the central writer characters which are wildly successful compared to myself, the humor, the writing, and the actors playing the writers in question: Nathan Fillion and David Duchovny. Perhaps I read too much into it when I draw a parallel between the two actors as both were on wildly popular if not successful sci-fi shows at some point before they took on these authorial personae, but given the “mundaneness” of their current characters’ career choices, I like to think there’s some hope for myself. Similarly, I watched Midnight in Paris earlier this evening, starring Owen Wilson as a screenwriter aspiring to be an author. Besides the obvious parallel to my own life, or desired life, this film was intriguing from many different points of view, even if you don’t like Owen. Frankly, it seems that Woody Allen might make me a fan if he keeps this up! Then there’s House of Lies starring Don Cheadle. There’s no good excuse for watching it other than I enjoy it, but there’s something that was done often in the first season that is so far largely missing from the second, and I hope it returns before they lose my viewership: breaking the fourth wall. Marty, Cheadle’s character, would regularly talk to the viewer, hold up cue cards, and do bizarre things that none of the other characters would notice during every episode, and I loved every single moment of it because he was an acknowledgment of the absurdity of his character’s situation. It’s been used sparingly so far this season, but I hope that’s because they’re saving it for something really good. The final thing I want to mention is House of Cards, a Netflix produced series available exclusively (for now at least) on their service. Like the other House I mentioned here, the main character — Francis Underwood played by Kevin Spacey (another one of my favorite actors, by the way) — frequently breaks the fourth wall, bringing a bit of levity and insight to the otherwise deep and heavy political angling and pressure of the show. I’m not saying I’m a fan after watching the first two episodes this evening, but I love what I see, and I have to admit that I am beyond fascinated with Underwood’s relationship with his wife. He may have the political power and ability to scheme like no one else, but he appears to be as deadly loyal to his wife as she is to him, though it is clear that she holds some measure of power over him. I think the thing that caught my attention in the first episode was when she said to him in no uncertain terms “My husband doesn’t apologize to anyone, not even me” which forced him to reevaluate his reactions to a political snub. There’s an oddness to their relationship that I can’t quite define yet, but it’s going to have me coming back episode after episode.

So I’ve rambled on for almost exactly fifteen hundred words. (Well, exactly that at “words.”) Why? Because I’m not where I thought I would be more than two decades ago. Because I have developed the tools to put me where I want to be two decades from now. Because I know what I like, what I want to capture, and what I’m going to give you. It’s time to stop delaying and panicking and start writing and crafting. I may not get there this year, but I will get there. I’m now putting forth the effort to get there, and if I fail, well, that’s fine too. But I’m not going out without trying. Clancy Brown, in his role as Kurgan in The Highlander, said “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.” I get that now. It’s better to give it my all and fail than to have never tried at all. Perhaps I’ll have a brief but brilliant career. Perhaps I’ll have a long and amazing career. Perhaps not. But if there’s no effort, I’ll never know. If I can’t put a moral in my stories, then I’m going to put sin in. Just know that something wicked this way comes!

My First Doctor Who Experience


Since the summer premiere of Doctor Who, BBC America has been asking viewers to tweet their first Who experience. While I’m following the spirit of the campaign, I’m afraid I can’t stick to the letter of the law. (Well, they’re really more like guidelines…) You see, I’ve had several first Doctor Who experiences. I think the Doctor would be proud that I violated the rules and kept to the spirit; the show and the Doctor deserve as much…

When I first heard of Doctor Who, I was a teenager in the mid eighties growing up in Detroit, Michigan, where I once again reside. There were no American broadcasters showing the TV series here in Detroit, however, on the occasional random evening, without any sort of rhyme or reason, a Canadian station would periodically come in just clear enough that I could watch whatever they happened to be broadcasting at the time. Until the U.S. digital television switch over, we in Detroit could easily pick up CBC channel 9 from Windsor, but this channel of which I speak was decidedly not channel 9. If I remember correctly, it was somewhere in the 30s… Anyway, I recall one day stumbling across Doctor Who and watched two or three episodes in a row trying to figure out exactly what the hell it was all about. I couldn’t pick out the Doctor any of the episodes, at the time, and couldn’t understand why. I now realize that the station had been running a marathon at the time, and showing different Doctors played by different actors. But at the time it left me very confused and I didn’t try to figure it out. So, for the next twenty years or so, I’d hear murmurings of Doctor Who and the TARDIS, but I really didn’t get it. I respected it, but I didn’t get it. It just wasn’t my thing.

 

When the channel formerly known as the SciFi Channel started showing the rebooted — or should I say, regenerated — incarnation with Christopher Eccleston, I decided to give it another try. I don’t remember which episode was my first episode… It might have been Dalek or Father’s Day, I’m really not sure. I just remember thinking that I once again didn’t understand it, and I didn’t watch it all the way through. There were other shows on, in the same time slot that I knew something about and cared more for. Looking back on that first season, however, I think the problem was that I never latched on to Eccleston, though I certainly liked Billie Piper as Rose. I kept wondering why he kept treating her like an idiot. Now, it’s no fault of Eccleston’s, but I think that incarnation of the Doctor was intended to be something of a jerk, but nonetheless, I’ve generally disliked the actor ever since.

 

At this time, I still didn’t know much about the show in all honesty. Hell, I’ve been watching Doctor Who since 2010 and understand a tremendous amount about it now, but I still don’t know everything. That goes to show that there is an incredible amount of depth to it and its mythology. I love depth and history in a show. Especially one that bounces around real and imagined history…

 

If I had to, if I absolutely positively had to pick a single moment as a definitive first experience with Doctor Who, I think it would have to be the David Tennant and Martha Agyeman episode Gridlock. That is the earliest specific episode I can honestly recall that I watched any significant portion. I still didn’t know what was going on, but I found it fascinating. I thought Tennant’s performance was spectacular, and it was written in such a witty and zany style as to just mock criticism of the absurdities. I still wasn’t hooked, per se, but I started to see the beauty of the show.

 

Sadly, I didn’t get hooked on the show until after Tennant’s term was up. By that point in 2009, I’d moved back home, gotten laid off from my job, and got enrolled at Oakland University, in its Cinema Studies program. On mornings when I had a late class, I would get up, turn on the TV and browse around the channels looking for something to watch while I got ready for class. And that’s when I fell in love with the show and David Tennant’s performances.  Tennant’s energy, activity, underlying excitement, warm embraces and occasional cold and calculating performances drew me in day after day, even when it was an episode I’d seen several times before. Not to mention the Scottish accent… I’m not a Scot nor am I homosexual, but there are times listening to David talk — usually as the Doctor but not exclusively — that make me wish I were… But, I digress… Regardless of the companion du jour,  I’m a Tenth Doctor Man. David’s performances varied from excited to cocky to tired to moody depending on the companion and the situation, but Piper, Agyeman, and Catherine Tate all felt perfectly at home by his side. And to this day, I get choked up watching the final minutes of The End of Time, especially when he says his final words as number ten: “I don’t want to go.”

 

So that brings us to my final first Doctor Who experience, with the most recent incarnation, the eleventh Doctor played by Matt Smith. My experience with this Doctor, however, really isn’t about him. I like Matt Smith, and I think he’s doing a great job as the Doctor, and frankly, I love the feel that his Doctor is a paradox in and of itself: an incredibly old being lying beneath the surface of a young body. Matt does an outstanding job, but my final first experience isn’t about him or the Doctor. It’s about his companions. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as Amy Pond and Rory Williams are the first companions I have genuinely loved as characters. Their relationship and interactions with each other and the Doctor have been absolutely amazing since day one, and I am so very, very sad to see them leave the show. As the summer finale just went off a little more than an hour ago, I’m not going to comment on it, but Amy and Rory have been the most spectacular characters I could have imagined on the show, and considering they were “merely” companions of the Doctor, as many have been before, I find myself wondering how anyone could possibly fill their shoes or the spots they left in my heart and the Doctor’s hearts. As clear as it is that the Doctor was in love with Rose, it’s clear to me that the Ponds will be missed much, much more. Clara Oswin, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, will have two pairs of really big shoes to fill by herself… While I loved her early appearance in the show, I think it’s too early to really say how well she’ll mesh with the newly heartbroken Doctor.

 

And so, those are my first Doctor Who experiences… Decades after my earliest experience, I can now say I’m a fan of the show, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the Doctor. Mr. Moffat, Mr. Davies, Mr. Smith, Mr. Tennant, Ms. Tate, Ms. Piper, Ms. Agyeman, Ms. Gillan, and Mr. Darvill: THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH FOR ALL THE ENTERTAINMENT THAT YOU’VE PROVIDED ME!

 

Ms. Gillan and Mr. Darvill, I hope to see you both in something else in the very near future, preferably together if you can swing it!

“The Look” or Another Fine Episode of Castle!


I think we already established the fact that I’m a Castle fan. I watch the show religiously. I follow both Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic on Twitter. I’ve gotten friends hooked on the show! I’ll confess that my heart has a special place for television shows and movies that make writers look far more interesting than I think we probably really are: that means I love Castle, and I love Californication. (Yeah, Duchovny, if you’re listening, I’m still a fan of yours after all these years!) So, it’s not unexpected that I saw tonight’s episode.

Out of respect for the West Coast, I’ll invalidate my normal truth, the whole truth, and damn the spoiler warnings and actually not reveal anything about the episode. Except one detail.

There was a moment, one single intensified moment when everything that needed to be said by Beckett and Castle was said, and neither of them uttered a word. It was as plain as day on Beckett’s face, and while their lover’s dance has not yet reached its end, Castle would be a fool indeed if he didn’t get the message.

Westies… You’ll know the moment when you see it… Trust me…!

Warehouse 13 Returns!


As much as I hate Siffie, I have to respect some of their choices over the last few years. One of those choices was to kill Stargate Universe. The other was to bring Warehouse 13 into existence and to continue to renew it year after year. If you’ve never heard of Warehouse 13, I strongly suggest you take a look at it; I’ll even give you an idea of what it’s like by comparing it to a probably much more popular show: J. J. Abram’s Fringe.

The first thing you need to know is that WH13 is the funny twin of Fringe. Both shows debuted in the same season, focus on weird occurrences in a X-Files sort of way, and seem to possess nearly identical character hierarchies: the main characters (a white male and female) are employed by a major government law enforcement agency, supervised by a mysterious black character (Broyles in Fringe, Mrs. Frederic in WH13), coupled with a cranky and weird older white guy (Walter Bishop on Fringe, Artie Nielsen on WH13) who is assisted by a young woman (Astrid Farnsworth in Fringe, Leena) of questionable ethnicity. WH13 adds a few more characters, but as you can see there are really strong parallels between the two series, and the key difference is that while Fringe is generally a very serious show, following in the footsteps of Fox’s X-Files franchise and Abrams’ Lost, Warehouse 13 goes the other direction, refusing to take itself seriously at all.

In fact, last night’s season premier made me laugh harder than I have all year, with lines from main character Pete Lattimer such as “I once put on Abe Lincoln’s hat and had an uncontrollable urge to free Mrs. Fredrics.” The chemistry between characters and actors on the show make WH13 one of the best acted and alluring shows I’ve seen on Siffie or many other channels all year, and they should be proud of the work they do.

Over the last three years, WH13 has even snagged some fairly big names as guest stars. Among those are Tia Carrere and Lindsay Wagner. Mark Sheppard, whom you know as Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica and as Crowley on Supernatural, was a regular on the show as Benedict Valda until his character’s self-sacrifice in last year’s season finale.

Warehouse 13 combines science fiction with humor in a way that hasn’t been seen since Firefly, and I, for one, am glad that it’s on the air and pray that it will be for a long time to come. It doing the one thing that so much of television is failing to do these days, and that is entertain me. I enjoy watching a lot of my favorite shows because I’m curious how the plot points are going to work out, or I’m trying to solve the puzzles that the characters are confronted with as they are, but so often I’m not actually entertained by the show so much as fascinated by it. Warehouse 13 does both, and I’m thankful to the writers, producers, cast and crew, and even Siffie for this show.

In short, go watch Warehouse 13 on Monday nights on Siffie. Oh, and this doesn’t change my view point that Siffie needs to stop dissing me and all the rest of the geeks and nerds that got it to where it is.

Jewel Staite and her References to Firefly and Stargate: Atlantis


A recent visitor to this site got here courtesy of a search for “what firefly reference does jewel staite get to drop atlantis.” I’m not sure what exactly they were looking to find, but Jewel Staite gets to make just about whatever Firefly and Stargate: Atlantis references she wants… She was on both shows, and I think fans of both franchises really wish that both were still on the air…

That’s all, just wanted to respond to that…

MTV’s Skins Canceled


So, uh, it took a little longer than I expected, but I think I called this months ago? Again, is anyone really surprised? I never watched a single episode, but I can draw two possible conclusions on the reasons behind the cancellation: first, in usual MTV fashion, they pushed the line of decency a little too far and the television watching masses just weren’t buying it; and/or secondly, American audiences simply are too prudish to handle a television series based around teen sex and drug use. I’m going to skip the first candidate because it’s fairly obvious: if it’s not extreme, MTV doesn’t give a shit about it these days. However, with the second one, I’m sad to say that the United States has reverted to being prudish about sex and drugs even though we claim to be a free country, with free media, and free speech. We allow drugs in our television shows as long as it shows the negative connotations, and we frown on teen sex though we glorify sex in every way shape and form in every medium where there’s the possibility of making money from it. Still, do you know how prudish we seem about sex?

Let me put it this way, when Janet Jackson went and exposed one of her breasts on television at the Superbowl (yeah, admit it, you know the “incident”), millions of Americans freaked out and had the FCC clamp down on nudity and sex in a harsh way on television. Hell, incidental profanity on television and radio now days can cost the broadcaster hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines! Yet you know what’s on British television just about every night? For lack of a better description, topless phone sex infomercials. That’s right, women baring their breasts — and displaying them uncensored! — on public television while wearing either nothing at all or skimpy panties, soliciting customers for phone sex lines. Just about every night. Public television. Oh, did I mention that British television doesn’t censor half of the profanity that we do?

When did the stiff, prudish Brits become more liberal and free than Americans? Why is it that we hide from sex and profanity in some ways while the rest of the world acknowledge them? You know why teen pregnancy is so damned high in this country? Because we want our kids to think that sex doesn’t exist until they’re eighteen… For thousands of years, right up until we really got to be “civilized” in the early 20th century, children were either in the same room — separated by a flimsy curtain perhaps — or even the same damned bed as their parents when their parents were having sex. They knew about sex. They were probably disgusted by it. They certainly didn’t want to have it until after they hit puberty and hormones started to demand it. But over the last hundred years or so, we want to deny them the education and exposure, to prevent them from knowing about it, and guess what! They’re trying it younger and younger as a result…

Grrr…..

That’s not to say I support what MTV probably did with Skins, but this country has some fucking issues to work out…