Category Archives: Culture

Martian Summer

Binge watching became a thing when DVD releases of full TV seasons appeared. Got a free weekend? With 22 episodes to watch at about 45 minutes per, that’s about 16 hours. Eight hours a day. Easy peasy. Watching episodes back-to-back really does let you sink into the situations and characters, and it’s a particular boon if there’s a complex backstory that you need to keep straight as the season progresses.

I think our first such binge (not actually over a weekend, but maybe spread over a month) was season one of Heroes, a show dripping with brilliance and originality. Too bad it completely lost its way after that classic first season.

Fast forward to the present: The summer of Veronica Mars. Having only vaguely heard of the TV show, my curiosity was piqued when the Blu-ray of the 2014 movie generated a lot of great reviews. I purchased the pilot episode from iTunes and was hooked. Then I discovered that all three seasons were on Netflix Canada. Score.

Veronica MarsVeronica Mars is the daughter of Keith Mars, a private investigator and former sheriff of the fictional town of Neptune, located somewhere between L.A. and the Mexican border. Veronica, a 17-year old high school student, is no slouch in the detecting department herself. In the setup for season one, her boyfriend dumped her, she was ostracized at school, raped, and then her best friend was killed. But by whom? Sounds pretty dark, doesn’t it? But this a show that is alternately dark and humorous, with three-dimensional characters, great drama, and layer upon layer of mystery. The ensemble cast is nearly perfect, in particular, Kristen Bell as Veronica, Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars, Jason Dohring as the troubled and always in trouble Logan Echolls, and Francis Capra, the motorbike gang leader with a soul.

Creator and writer Rob Thomas, with his ability to handle an ensemble cast and provide high-quality stories with a mix of humour and drama, was starting to make me think he could give Joss Whedon a run for his money. And oddly enough, just as that thought occurred to me, who should make a cameo in one of the season two episodes but Joss Whedon? Maybe Joss was checking out the competition.

Looking for a writer for the Avengers post-Whedon? Rob Thomas gets my vote. Meanwhile, you could do a lot worse than check out this great show. My wife and I are nearly finished season two. Once we finish that and blast through season three, I’m quite looking forward to the movie. And then, well, it’ll be time to get into series-canceled-before-its-time mode (*cough* Firefly *cough*) and pine for the day when they might make Veronica Mars 2.



As I’ve been offline for a while, a bunch of random thoughts have bubbled to the surface. So, onward.

Give Godzilla a miss, or at least wait for it to show up on Netflix. You’ll thank me.

The next 50 years of Doctor Who start in August. While it was probably wise to have a hiatus after the madness of last year, still, one does go through withdrawal after a while.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is well worth seeing. (Minor spoilers ahead.) It strives valiantly to tidy up a number of messy plot threads from the other X-Men movies and succeeds for the most part. It features an unbelievably strong cast, some of whom are limited to little more than cameos. Most importantly, it wipes the travesty that was X-Men 3 off the map.

I’m starting to wonder: Is it any less work to world build for a short story than a novel? I suspect not. Developing the backstory for my original fantasy story, an urban fantasy but with elements of classic mythology, has been a fascinating experience.

Next up on my fanfic list is a sequel to the Firefly/Castle crossover, “A Firefly in the Castle”. This one will be called “Castle Serenity”. And yes, this time Castle and Beckett travel to the future.

I recently spent a night in Philadelphia due to a missed connection. A few people expressed disbelief that I neglected to take full advantage of the layover by not sampling a Philly cheesesteak. Will correct that next time.

The same junket that stranded me in Philadelphia also netted an opportunity to meet Mary Robinette Kowal in San Diego at a book signing. It was quite a treat as I believe she’s the first professional author that I’ve met. And not only does she write very well, she has a rich, multifaceted voice that’s a joy to listen to. It’s a voice that serves her well in her other profession as puppeteer. She also reads audio books.

On the topic of books, I find myself going back to re-read old favourites, mixing them in between new publications. The current old book may take a while, Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby. Not just because it’s long, but because I read Dickens very slowly, savouring each beautiful phrase. Ah, to write like that…

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Movie Review

Let’s get down to it. Is Captain America: The Winter Soldier as good as The Avengers? To me, it’s an apples and oranges comparison. The Winter Soldier is a different kind of movie. Though hardly lacking in action sequences, it’s a slower paced, more human movie. The quiet moments are my favourite. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) commiserating, soldier to soldier, with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) asking Steve whether that was his first kiss since 1945. And Steve’s heartbreaking reunion with an elderly Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

Still, the action sequences are quite something. The hand-to-hand fight scenes are breathtaking, Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) long chase sequence is highly entertaining, and the big action at the climax is satisfying, though a bit predictable.

winter soldierAnd there’s more. SHIELD may have been infiltrated, but by whom? And to what end? The answer will have reverberations throughout the Marvel Universe, and will have to have some impact on TV’s Agents of Shield. Cap, the Black Widow, and the Falcon are on the run, hunted down by their own. They can’t tell the good guys from the bad, except, as Cap points out, if they’re shooting at you. Yes, there’s humour in the movie as well.

The Winter Soldier allows the actors to more fully develop their characters, has an interesting story, great action, and changes everything. What more could you ask for in a “comic book” movie?


The Wolf of Wall Street Movie Review

In the spirit of better late than never, here are some thoughts on Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Generally accepted as one of America’s greatest directors, it’s worth taking in any Scorsese movie just to see what he’s up to. After viewing this movie, though, I found myself asking, what was he thinking?

To start with, what was the point? Why make the movie in the first place? One is tempted to guess that Scorsese, too, succumbed to the sales charm of Jordan Belfort, the former Wall Street stockbroker whose rise and fall is the subject of the movie. It would only be fitting. Given the movie’s commercial success (at the time of writing, over $110M), it may prove to be yet another Belfort windfall.

After all, is anyone surprised at the portrayal of stockbrokers as greedy, decadent, overgrown adolescents? This is hardly new territory. Then add to it’s pointlessness the punishing length of this movie. At three hours long, they could easily have had cut an hour’s worth of material. How many scenes did they really need to demonstrate the greedy, decadent and adolescent behaviour of the brokers? By the time the credits roll up, the movie has succeeded only in making nudity, sex and drugs utterly boring. This is perhaps its greatest sin.

Are there any positives? Well, yes. There is some very fine acting, and Leonard DiCaprio displays some brilliant physical comedy. Is it worth suffering through the whole movie for this? Not really.

Every great artist is entitled to a miss or two. This one is definitely a miss. Let’s hope Scorsese hits it out of the park next time.


Music Has a Name

A revelation came to me.

Not all at once, but gradually,

as when the day brightens slowly

with the end of a rain, and the clouds, kissed by the breeze,

blush, then shuffle away, letting the light shine in.

I exited the bar at closing time, kissed Marianne goodbye,

and stood on the banks of the Saint-Laurent.

In the clear, cold light of the moon,

as the final mists were blown away,

amidst the church bells ringing in the distance,

it came to me, what I had always known but not known,

that Music has a name.

And it’s name is

Leonard Cohen.