Wednesday
Oct222014

What We're Watching: Constantine Pilot Review

Constantine
NBC

Starts Friday, October 24, 8PM Central

I don’t really know much about the character of Constantine, outside of the not-that-great Keanu Reeves movie from 2005 and his bit part in Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic graphic novel. I know he’s a grey character that dabbles in magic and fights demons, so a television version of that should be right in my wheelhouse. We were lucky to see the pilot earlier this summer at Comic Con, while the rest of the world gets to see it this Friday, October 24 on NBC.

Knowing I have don’t have much of a background with Constantine or the Hellblazer comics, please forgive me any inaccuracies in cannon.

With that said, the powers-that-be try to cram what feels like a whole bunch of comic canon into 42 minutes of television. That alone bogs down what could have otherwise been a very fast-paced introduction to a darker comic book character. John Constantine has a checkered background and regularly gets taunted by both angels and demons. He’s a bit of a grumpy guy and doesn’t appreciate suddenly getting roped in to protecting the daughter of an old friend.

That’s basically the plot of the pilot – a demon wants the friend’s daughter, Constantine feels obligated to protect her from being dragged into hell. There are some toss ins about previous cases going horribly wrong, leaving Constantine with figurative (and a few literal) demons haunting him so that the only place he can get some rest is in an institution. An angel played by Lost’s Herold Perrineau regularly stops by and threatens Constantine with un-angelic things and hammers home that there’s a bigger mess of things happening than some demon wanting this 20-something year old girl.

Matt Ryan as John Constantine is some good casting. He has the look perfect and his grumpy standoffishness is well-balanced with a sense of humor, so that he doesn’t come out as a complete asshole. Lucy Griffiths (True Blood) plays Liv, the friend’s daughter, and she is equal parts whiney and useless, which is probably why the character is written out after the pilot to be replaced with a different female character. A few secondary characters show promise of building out an intriguing cast.

The special effects are hit or miss with a couple of scenes looking pretty dodgy. This is balanced out by some honestly surprising moments that continued to pique my interest at just the right moments. This pilot feels like it was made for fans of the comics, but there’s enough inside to leave the casual or new fan interested in seeing more. Matt Ryan is a charismatic lead and a fair number of Easter eggs are dropped throughout the pilot episode. If it realizes even half of the potential it hints at with this pilot, this should be a fun Friday night diversion, though I don’t know if it will have the staying power of some of the other comic book-based shows currently on the air.

Tuesday
Oct212014

Random Tuesday: October Lootcrate - The Unboxing

Today was a mediocre day until I went to the grocery store and found a wall of caramel apples. Then I came home and found this lovely sitting in my mailbox.

Whoo hoo!! I never even got an email saying my Lootcrate had shipped, so this was a very pleasant surprise. I know the theme was Fear, so I was a little scared to peek inside.

That looks like a robot in that creepy shack, so this box can't be too bad, right? And are those cats on that t-shirt?

Yep, those are cats. I've already heard a couple of people say this shirt is lame, but I think it's cute in a silly way. Granted, those people who say it's lame are guys, who probably wanted zombies or something gorey. At least this one I can wear outside the house and not fear scaring small children.

What else do we have in here?

A weird zombie-killing gizmo from the videogame Dead Rising 3. Hmm... but is it just what it looks like?

It looks like Lootcrate believes that old adage about the pen being mightier than the... well, sledgesaw zombie killing thingy. This is a neat little exclusive.

They must have gotten the memo that I'd signed up! This month we have reading material, including a book to help survive a Sharknado and other extraordinary disasters and a Lootcrate exclusive variant cover The Walking Dead issue 132. Nice.

Here is the miscellaneous items for this month, including the monthly button. The October magazine has some nice 3D features and those temporary tattoos might come in handy for our Halloween costumes. If we ever decide what those are going to be.

And finally my favorite part of this month's Lootcrate?

This piece of art of Daryl and Meryl from The Walking Dead is both adorable and depressing. It gives conflicting feelings, but I kind of love it all the same.

So that's the latest Lootcrate. What do you think about the Fear box? Are you expecting a box in the mail yourself?

Monday
Oct202014

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn

Crown Publishers
Released June 5, 2012
419 pages
Thriller

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Oh man, I actively avoided this book in 2012 when it was the big “It” book of the summer. I do things like that – purposely avoid things that are popular. I’m not really sure why, but in this case, a thriller about married people just did not press any of my buttons. I didn’t read much about it or know anything about the plot. For some reason I thought it was about college a missing college student for a while.

But then they made it into a movie and the previews looked very intriguing. So several years late, I got the book from the library and dived in. I figured a change from my usual YA / science fiction / fantasy rotation would be good for me. So how’d the change work out for me?

BIG GIANT SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK – LIKE THE BIGGEST OF ALL THE SPOILERS

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct162014

Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die
Danielle Paige

HarperCollins
Released April 1, 2014
464 pages
YA / Fantasy / Twisted Classic Stories

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and I've been given a mission:

REMOVE

The Tin Woodman's heart,

STEAL

The Scarecrow's brain,

TAKE

The Lion's courage,

And then—

DOROTHY MUST DIE.

I can only imagine the look I had on my face as I zipped through Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. It would have been something between “I’m not sure I like this.” and “What am I even reading?” It turned out to be one of those books that, while I rated it four stars after reading it, it lost some of its luster as time passed. Now that I’m a few weeks away from having read it and my book club has had their monthly discussion about it, I’m kind of indifferent to the whole thing. Let’s see if we can try to figure out why.

Dorothy Must Die is a continuation of The Wizard of Oz in a way. It follows Amy Gumm, a down on her luck girl from Kansas, whose life can’t get any worse. Then she finds herself caught in a tornado and ends up in a desolated Oz, a place where magic is being mined for the dictator-ish Dorothy. See, Dorothy returned to Oz and went a little wrong in the head. Now she wears slutty versions of blue gingham dresses and tortures anyone that remotely gets on her bad side. Meanwhile a group of witches are trying to rid Oz of Dorothy for the good of the people. Amy gets roped into this battle and finds herself in some precarious situations after given the task of killing Dorothy.

Some could consider what lies ahead to be some vague spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct152014

What We're Watching: Sleepy Hollow Season 1

Sleepy Hollow
On Monday, 8PM Central
FOX

Back when Sleepy Hollow started in August 2013, we didn’t watch it even though it should have automatically made it onto my “must try out list”. I mean, it was a supernatural, sorta-horror thing with a British guy and a leading character that was female. The supernatural-ness of it all should have put it on the list on its own. But then I heard the plot. And I saw the trailer.

It looked bloody awful.

No, I’m not British. That’s just how awful it looked. I figured there was no way it would possibly last. It would be a huge bomb and the first cancellation of the season. I was obviously wrong. It got pretty great ratings from the get-go, most likely because it debuted in August when nothing else was on and ended after a short 13 episode season. By the time I realized this thing was going to last and I started hearing the comparisons to Supernatural, it was already several episodes in and I was still a nay-sayer.

Well, we finally gave it a shot once the first season came out on DVD, mainlining it like it was a rare commodity. For those of you unfamiliar with Sleepy Hollow, it’s a fantasy show on Fox about Ichabod Crane, who died in the American Revolution after being slashed in the chest by an axe carried by a man whose head he chopped of and yet did not die. Some 250 years later, Ichabod rises from his grave in modern day Sleepy Hollow, where he meets up with Lieutenant Abbie Mills, a young beat cop headed to CIA boot camp in a few days. When Mr. Headless starts showing up and popping off other people’s heads, Abbie’s plans change and she sticks around to help Ichabod unravel the crazy.

It’s Supernatural without the car, with two sisters replacing the brothers, and a heavy dose of fictional American lore. You even have a daddy figure, who leaves the siblings a treasure trove of research that help them in their fight against the supernatural creatures. Trying to explain much more of it will just sound like madness, so let’s just say there’s a headless horseman killing people, a demon trying to kick start the apocalypse and Ichabod and Abbie are stuck with the position of witnessing it all.

This show is highly enjoyable, though I never got as addicted to it as I did Supernatural. It has a pretty solid first season, introducing the characters of Jenny, Abbie’s institutionalized sister, and John Noble (Walter from Fringe) plays a “sin eater” whose extreme reluctance to get involved just means he’s going to get dragged even deeper into the crazy. Orlando Jones is a doubtful yet rational in the face of crazy police chief, who inadvertently gets pulled into the apocalypse, while Ichabod’s wife, a witch who cast the spell that allowed him to rise from the dead, helps them on occasion from her place trapped in purgatory.

Most episodes of the first season have a keen “monster of the week” feel to them, though with a scattering of mythology that builds upon itself as the season goes on. It’s very much Supernatural season 1 in that nature. The monster effects are great, if occasionally a bit unnerving (though that’s probably what they were going for).

 

Nicole Beharie plays Abbie as a rational woman in an irrational place, never doubting the crazy she sees in front of her. She doesn’t break into hysterics when a headless man with a giant gun shows up in her path. She barely even doubts Ichabod’s story about being from the American Revolution. She’s reasonable and good in a stressful situation. She has a ridiculous amount of Bible knowledge that’s a little off-putting, but she’s a fantastic leading lady. Not too serious, while at the same time, not treating the crazy as a joke. Meanwhile Tom Mison as Ichabod is hilarious in his straight man act, having to figure out the 21st century while implementing his knowledge of the 18th to save the entire world. He occasionally has some really ridiculous lines that he plays off with the right amount of conviction that they don’t seem so ridiculous.

The cast in general is fantastic at what they’re doing. Lyndie Greenwood is a badass as Jenny Mills, playing things as though she’s a tip-toe away from being unhinged while Katia Winter’s Katrina is a nice enigma that I hope might have some additional motivations to what is obvious on the surface.

I can understand why so many people were upset after the season finale because it’s a pretty gasp-worthy ender with cliff hanger upon cliff hanger. Much like with Supernatural season 1, I was very happy that I didn’t have to wait so long to see how things turned out. It’s a decently shocking ending with twists that I didn’t foresee, so that always makes me happy.

So what do you guys think? Have you watched Sleepy Hollow? Do you love it, hate it, think it’s super silly?

No spoilers for anything past the first episode of the second season. We’re still a few eps behind!