TV

American Horror Story — Halloween parts 1&2

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This two-part episode packed in a lot of information, while somehow raising more questions than it answered. Look out for AHS Murder House spoilers ahead.

First, it’s time to celebrate, because I was actually right about something! One of my (many) speculations about Tate is true–he is Constance’s son! That small tidbit was overshadowed by the questions about him brought up in this Halloween two-parter. For example, in one of the scenes he was wearing the rubber suit. Does that mean he is always the guy in the rubber suit? I’m hoping not, because gross. There’s a weird discrepancy with him. He seems to understand the minutiae of the Murder House, and appears to be able to manipulate some of it to his will (as in the episode in which he scared Violet’s bully). But then we are introduced to the dead high-schoolers who claim to have been murdered by him, and he unravels into genuine bafflement. It’s difficult to reconcile these two parts of Tate. More importantly, is he one of the many walking dead on the show? (I’m guessing probably yes).

I was absolutely shocked by Addie’s death in this episode. Addie was mowed down by a car whilst trick-or-treating, in such a casual way it almost seemed an afterthought. I wonder if it will ever be revealed how the dead function in the show. Will Addie be able to come back because Constance pulled her to the Harmons’ lawn? If she can come back, it seems like it could be difficult to keep this secret from Tate.

Hayden returned in this episode. I find her storyline tired, but I did like her better as a vengeful spirit, and the scenes between her and Vivien were powerful and needed. Vivien is really starting to get on my nerves. I’m glad that she finally had the guts to kick Ben out, but SHE was the one who wanted to leave that house, and with good reason, so why was HE the one who left? Wasn’t that a good opportunity to get her and Violet out of there? Why do the characters in AHS have that typical horror-themed lack of good judgement?

Wild speculation time. Because I can’t take any normal people for granted, I’m going to say that there’s something off about the security guy who Vivien is becoming attached to. I fully expect everyone to die by the end of this season, but I still have my fingers crossed that Violet will make it out.

Addie and the dismembered baby delivered to the original house owners bring the House Death Toll to 16.

Sailor Moon vs. Sailor Moon Crystal

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It’s the fight we’ve all been waiting for. Even though a few years ago we didn’t even know we wanted it.

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Sailor Moon vs. Sailor Moon Crystal

Reactions to the new Sailor Moon series have varied wildly, ranging from excited to horrified after Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal began airing worldwide on July 5th. As the third episode was released on the second of August, and we have another week to wait for the fourth, it seems like an appropriate time to analyze the two series in a completely professional and unbiased manner.

Manga Faithfulness

Though the original series added some lovable elements to the Sailor Moon franchise, it’s no secret that the majority of the anime was ridiculous filler. The primary motivation for the remake is to make a series more faithful to the manga’s source material. I’ll miss getting to know the villains better, but filler was taken to a criminal level in the original, stalling character development and plot. The first three episodes of Crystal each correspond to the first three manga chapters, in which we meet Sailor Moon, Mercury, and Mars respectively. To compare, Sailor Mercury isn’t introduced until the eighth episode of the original. That’s an extreme delay to plot, even if the manga is a bit too fast-paced at times. The obvious winner of this round is…

Sailor Moon Crystal!

Transformation Sequence

Sailor Moon’s transformation sequence is iconic, and it’s important for it to be perfect because we have to watch it so many times. There’s no better way to compare the transformation sequences is than watch them. I’m not a fan of the new CGI transformation. Why are her limbs so… noodly? Toei Animation also managed to make it longer. I don’t know how anyone could have watched the original and thought, “Well, we clearly need to see the main character spin in circles for more time before we get to the action”–even if they did cut it down in episode three to allow the other girls some air time. The winner of the Transformation Sequence Award has to go to…

Sailor Moon (the original series)

Music

Related to the transformation sequence is the importance of music. I don’t dislike the opening theme of Crystal, it’s pretty epic with decent lyrics and some whirling guitar solos. I also like the choir that accompanies the most epic moments of the show. On the other hand, coming from a girl who has the original series’ transformation sequence as her ringtone, the old show’s music was catchy as heck. Though I like the suspense the new music creates, I miss the theme songs that would get stuck in your head for days, and I think a series that is ultimately made for kids should have that sing-along quality, so this award also goes to…

Sailor Moon (the original series)

Art & Animation

Here’s where I’ve seen the most contention about the new series. I will admit, Crystal seems to have missed the mark when it comes to animation. In the very first scene you can see the frames stagger, and there have been a few times I’ve winced to myself because the face proportions were so bad. Some of those close-ups make the girls look truly inebriated. The shading is snappy, though, and it has a much more modern feel. There’s something about the lengthened, looser style that embodies the manga better (at least to me) though why they thought it was a good idea to draw the lips in is beyond me, as that always looks creepy in anime. The old series certainly feels dated in comparison, and some of the drawings in it are just plain bad, too. Whether or not it was good for its time seems irrelevant.

I have to get serious for a moment, because I feel this is where Crystal is receiving the most criticism. People aren’t happy with the quality of the animation, some refusing to watch the new series. I have to point out that maybe Sailor Moon isn’t being remade for you. By you, I mean the other 20-somethings who wanted it to be the high-budget remake that encapsulated all of their dreams while still reveling in the power of nostalgia. Sailor Moon Crystal was made for two reasons–to closer follow the story and character development presented in Naoko Takeuchi’s manga, and to bring Sailor Moon to a new audience. I want a new generation of girls and boys growing up with the feminine power of this set of magical girls. I want them to be introduced to the non-censored version of the content in Sailor Moon, and I want it to be theirs. Sometimes, a show will feel too dated to be relatable to a younger audience, but I don’t think kids will notice the animation quirks in the new anime as much.

Sailor Moon Crystal

So I’m giving this category to Crystal, which makes this competition a tie, and I think that emphasizes my points. There will always be people who prefer the quirk and fun of the original, but dismissing the remake because it isn’t perfect is unjust, and I think in the future there will be people just as loyal to the new series as they were to the old. In the meantime, we can enjoy the influx of Sailor Moon swag that will be in stores, and be content knowing that a new generation will learn that girls can be intelligent and powerful on their own.

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An old hero of mine, Emma Peel.

Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel–We Are Needed

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Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel: We Are Needed #1 by Edginton, Cosentino, et al Review by Prof. Jenn

An old hero of mine, Emma Peel.

An old hero of mine, Emma Peel.

Imagine my delight when I saw this title pop up on BOOM!’s forthcoming comics list! I didn’t know they were making comic versions of this old favorite of mine! Now these, kids, are the real Avengers, as far as I’m concerned, and I had high standards going into this first issue. The TV show was a delicate combination of weirdly out-there almost sci-fi and taut spy thriller/detective procedural, which is a difficult balance to get right (*cough* the 1998 movie *cough*). This writer/artist combo has nailed it.

We begin issue #1 by seeing a murder, not knowing who is involved or why, only that there are dollhouses about. Then we are introduced to our two heroes the way every Steed/Peel episode did on TV: the phrase “Mrs. Peel, we are needed” revealed in a cute and clever way. The story in this first issue unfolds and by the time we get to the end of the issue we definitely are clamoring to see what will happen next. Which is the way the TV show was, too.

The art is colorful and rather “mod” in style, which is perfect for the setting and characters. As you’ve heard me say many times before when reviewing Doctor Who and Firefly comics, it’s a special trick to comic-book-ize a live TV show, as you don’t want to do just an actor portrait, but you don’t want to draw the characters so unlike their actors that they are unrecognizable, either. This issue nails it, again.

Bottom Line: I highly recommend Steed and Mrs. Peel: We Are Needed (why aren’t they calling it The Avengers? Copyright w/Marvel?) and can’t wait for the next issue.

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American Horror Story — Pilot, Home Invasion, & Murder House

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I’ll start off by saying that I was not expecting to like American Horror Story as much as I seem to. The first episode was suspenseful and exhilarating and seemed to pack a, well, mansion’s worth of story into 52 minutes. I was going to start out with two episodes, but ended up accidentally watching three. That’s a good sign.

(Obviously if you’re somehow like me, hiding under an AHS-less rock, you will have events from the first three episodes spoiled for you in this post).

I took notes as I watched, so here are a few samples of my immediate reactions to scenes:

- STUFF IN JARS ALWAYS BAD.

- “We’re the Adams family now,” was a perfect line. I love Violet.

- Tate is the boy from the crying GIFs! He’s already crying and I’m already happy.

- This guy is naked a lot.

- Masturcrying, this show is brutal.

I was completely mistaken when I assumed the show would be episodic horror stories, and I’m ecstatic that I was so wrong. Each episode does seem to have a loose theme of its own–the introduction to the Harmon family in episode one, the serial killer saga in episode two, and the backstories of a handful of other characters in episode three. But the show is ripe with underlying plot and momentum, with a slow burn of suspense rolling underneath it all.

Here’s how the characters are ranked in my estimation currently:

Violet Harmon – I can’t help it, I love her. Her sarcasm, blunt honesty, and unique style are great. She also won points expressing her preference for the East coast.

Moira- I find her incredibly interesting, especially that women see her as a strange old lady and men see her as an object of lust. The men “see what they want to see; women, however, see into the soul of a person,” line was perfect. I am interested to know what kind of spirit she is, and how that works in this universe, since it seems strange that she died as a young woman but now shows age. I hope that is explored later.

Tate- I can’t help it. I adore him. It’s not surprising. I have a thing for screwed up young dude characters. Most of my speculation has to do with him so more on that later.

Vivien Harmon- She’s ending up on the middle of this list and that seems about right. There are some things to like about her as a main character, but she’s a bit bland, too. She seems to have the best instincts out of all of the Harmons–but not quite good enough. The pregnancy story line kind of bothers me.

Larry- Idk I guess this show is great for me because I like all the psychos? I think he might actually be trying to help, so that’s nice, and he reminded me of Mr. Rogers in that sweater vest in the flashback of him killing his family, so points for that creepy imagery.

Adelaide- I don’t like her or really know what to make of her yet. Her supernatural connection to the house is appropriately creepy. I like that she tried to help the Harmons that one time.

Constance- What to say! I love to hate her? I don’t know what to make of her. Mostly I’m curious about why she was trying to poison Violet with those cupcakes. Unless she knew about the hostage situation and everything that would be happening? It would be neat if she has some clairvoyant connection to the house like Addy does.

Hayden- Glad that whole situation was taken care of quickly (thanks, Larry!) I felt bad for the situation she was in, but her unraveling mental state while trying to cling to Jerkface Ben was just awkward.

Ben Harmon- Are we supposed to like him? Does anyone root for this guy? I’m assuming there will be lots of people dying this season and I kinda hope he’s first.

So let’s throw out some wild speculation. Tate. All the supernatural elements are linked to the house, so I’m curious about his connection to it. When he attacked Leah in the basement there were flashes of a monster that looked a bit gobliny to me. That was the same monster that killed the twins in the first scene of the show. So, I’m wondering if he is that goblin-thing? Or perhaps has some control over it? I’ve also briefly entertained the idea that he is Constance’s son who was mentioned at some point, especially since they all seem to know each other.

I wonder if it’s possible to get through this season with a Harmon or two still intact. Since this is the Murder House season, I will leave off with the current House Death Toll: 14.

 

American Horror Story: An Introduction

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That is some pretty cool cover art right there.
I have a summer assignment. It’s to watch a show as if I’ve never seen it before. Because I haven’t.

The selected show is American Horror Story and I am proud (see: slightly ashamed) to say that I know next to nothing about it. Here’s what I know:

1. The cover art on Netflix is pretty sweet

2. GIFs on Tumblr?

3. A tip that each season is entirely different

With the disclaimer that I really, honestly, know almost nothing about American Horror Story, I will share some thoughts about what I expect. I’ve only recently started watching Supernatural, and I had previously lumped the two together. I was imagining two shows with episodic plots that revolve around rehashings of traditional stories of horror and mythology. Which is, roughly, how Supernatural started before it deviated from this formula and found its own plot-based momentum.

I’m expecting to be surprised by AHS, but what can one expect when one is expecting a surprise?

I’ve set a few goals for this blind watch-through of the show. Firstly, I am going to try, with what little willpower I have, to remain spoiler free. (I am expecting an inevitable decline into curiosity that I will be unable to quell, as I almost always spoil shows for myself, but I will try). If I can do that, then there is some hope that my speculations will continue to amuse long-term fans. I may catch myself up on the fandom’s thoughts midway, or once I’ve completed the season. I’ll be posting reactions a few episodes at a time.

I’m especially curious about the characters. Who will I get attached to? Who will annoy me? Who are the bad guys? Is evil in the show unequivocal or dynamic? I don’t even have the faintest idea who any of the characters in the show are, except for one teary-eyed youth whose scenes seem to end up as GIF-sets that I see around.

What will happen? I don’t know! And may my ignorance be ever in your favor, because it should be a little amusing at least.

 

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In Which I Squee About The New Korra A Lot

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First off, I’m going under the assumption that everyone was glued to their TVs from 7-8:30pm last night and won’t mind a few specific details (otherwise known as spoilers). Second, I’m way too excited about the concept for this new season to hold back. Consider this your warning… If you didn’t watch then 1) I don’t get it. I know your office let you out early on Friday and no one goes to the bar that early, 2) you’re about to get spoiled on pretty much everything so you might want to stop and either watch it on your DVR or online. I even provided you with a link, so there are NO EXCUSES. Go watch it. Right now. Cause it was really good.

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*Ahem* Now that we all know where we stand on things, let’s begin the actual rambling about the awesome things. First off, I loved Bumi’s excitement at realizing he could airbend and how the only way he could prove it to his family was one of the precocious little children throwing a plate at his head. I don’t know if he was the only one to believe his uncle or just being a mischievous little devil (more likely the second option), but it was funny either way, and a great start in what would prove to be a tense time in Avatar Korra’s life.

As the story unfolds, it is obvious there will be two main storylines for the season. One is that Korra and the group are out searching for all the new airbenders. Obviously there have to be obstacles, one of which will be how surprisingly difficult it is for them to convince people to follow the group back to the air temple. The other obstacle seemingly will be the other storyline for the season: the four prisoners whom we watch escape their respective personal prisons. (Side note: it was great seeing Zuko again, and his dialogue with the twins about their respective attempts to kill the Avatar back in the days when they were enemies. Yay referencing the past!)

We don’t know much about these prisoners except they seemed to once be part of a gang together. My guess is that at some point they will come after the Avatar and she will have to fight them with a hopefully semi-well-trained airbending army. So far all they have is one recruit, and he doesn’t seem to be the most trustworthy sort (although I’m hoping that changes over time and he really does become part of the family like they mentioned when first meeting him). Anything else is just speculation, but I’m sure all will be revealed as we continue on the journey.

PS – I know there were a lot of moments I could’ve talked about but honestly there was not a single minute of the 1.5 hours which aired last night that I didn’t love. That is rare for any show, but especially cartoons these days. I’m genuinely grateful this show exists and that kids have some good quality television to grow with and obsess over. So here’s to Korra – the one show that sometimes makes me wish I was 5 again.

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Comic Review: Samurai Jack

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Comics Review: Samurai Jack Classics vol. 2 by various
Review by: Prof. Jenn

The second volume of Samurai Jack Classics is a series of short, snappy, bright, and all around cheerful snippets from the world of Samurai Jack vs. Aku. As in the wonderful animated TV series, each episode is a standalone story (origin/backstory not necessary, though it is fascinating). This volume collects a passel of colorful tales not immediately in the timeframe of the TV “canon” but set in that abstract future time when a time-displaced samurai must end the evil that brought about the downfall of his time and the imageempire of Aku.

This collection includes the variety of diverse characters and themes from the show, and boasts the same bold black outlines and stylized art that made the TV show stand out. Samurai Jack’s stoic nobility and Aku’s gleeful evil stand true. The art shows the fantastic action scenes’ movement in a dynamic fashion, showing the almost superhuman martial arts of Jack without having too many “jump cuts” or busy-ness to obscure the action.

The one and only (and, IMO, important) drawback to this volume is the lack of the Zen-like sublime that made the show so unique and entrancing. Each episode in this collection seems structured around a joke, ranging from the bright and humorous to the downright silly. This to me isn’t really Samurai Jack: though of course there were myriad moods in the show, the subdued minimalist art and the long stretches of quiet, coupled with the moments of slow zen is what made the show so much richer than just a cool swordfight heavy show made for children. This collection feels very child-directed. Although the one episode where Jack has hiccups that won’t go away is admittedly pretty hilarious.

Bottom Line: I would recommend this volume only to kids or to completist collectors.

 

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Comics Review: Serenity–Leaves on the Wind

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Comics Review: Serenity–Leaves on the Wind #1-2 by: Zack Whedon, various

Review by: Prof. Jenn

 

…and if the title of the new comic series set just a little while after the events of Serenity doesn’t make you cry, go back and watch the whole series of Firefly, then the movie. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Tragically, it won’t take long…

Also: SPOILERS if you’re not a Browncoat, so be warned.

 

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The first two issues of Dark Horse’s new series Serenity–Leaves on the Wind takes up just a little while after Serenity the movie left off: River is still odd but much stabler in her new role as pilot, Zoe is about to have her baby (and is haunted by the ghost of her beloved husband), and everyone’s favorite Firefly-class ship and its denizens is in hiding. The ‘verse is reeling from the exposure of what the Alliance had done to Miranda, and rumors (and rebellions) abound. Some of the spunkier rebels will do anything to lasso Mal and co. into joining their cause, including conscripting Jayne (who’s not still on the ship but doing who knows what when we encounter him again, though apparently money still talks when it comes to Jayne) to run Mal to ground.

The storyline is engaging of course–I mean, who hasn’t been wanting to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT in the ‘verse–and the dialogue is written masterfully, with that same unique cadence heard in the television series. The art is what I would call “posh-comic” style: a semi-realistic look with muted colors amid the dark outlines. Overall as a sweeping statement, I would say the series is very high quality, and is shaping up to be an excellent mollifier to all of us still wanting to live in “the black.” One teensy little nitpicky thing I can mention is that sometimes the characters don’t look, well, like them. It’s a tricky balancing act, the comic based on a TV show, as I’ve been saying about the Doctor Who comics: there’s a fine line between doing actor-portraits and just portraying the character himself. In this series so far, it works most of the time, but every once in a while when we look at Mal or Simon especially we get yoinked out of our suspension of disbelief. This is a minor point, however, in light of the exciting tension and warmth of character continuing in this series. I cannot wait till #3!

Side Note: such a cute moment when Zoe reveals what her newborn daughter’s name is. That scene could have been right out of the TV show, if it had continued (/sniff).

Bottom Line: This series is highly recommended, though I would not start on it till after you’ve enjoyed Firefly in its entirety, including the movie Serenity. You’ll get spoilers and just won’t understand what’s going on unless you do.

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Comics Review: Doctor Who Skyjacks and more

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Comics Review: Doctor Who: Skyjacks Vol. 3 by various

Review by: Prof. Jenn

This is a fun TARDIS-dimension-loop story which are enjoyable because of how timey-wimey theydownload get. This is an 11th Doctor/Clara story, and we get more about the Time War, information and fun images re: the various rooms in the TARDIS, and get to hobnob with some valiant WWII soldiery. There are various references to the previous Hypothetical Gentleman storyline, but not so much they’ll get in your way if you’ve missed it.

There’s an extra, unrelated story attached to this volume called “In-Fez-Station”, which is an 11th Doctor/Amy & Rory tale which involves the Slitheen, and mind-controlling fezes. Yes, you heard me, the fezes are evil. Or at least tools for such. Really bouncy and light-hearted fun after the epic, timey-wimey feel of the longer Skyjacks story.

Bottom Line: recommended, especially for fans of the 11th Doctor.

 

Bonus Review: Dead Man’s Hand #3 by various

Now I haven’t had the pleasure of catching the first two in the Dead Man’s Hand story, so admittedly I was a tetch lost re: who’s who and what’s happening. What I can say is that this is a fun romp in the Wild West with a meta twist, referencing Westerns all over the place. It does get a tad long-winded, as all the Doctors explain his philosophy to Sondrah. But oo, look: the War Doctor actually makes an appearance!

Bottom Line: definitely only if you’ve been following the story till now. But I do recommend it.

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Comics review: Doctor Who Prisoners of Time

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Comics Review: Doctor Who Prisoners of Time #9-12 by various

Review by: Prof. Jenn

The Prisoners of Time storyline that continues with the recent Doctors and concludes pre-Capaldi with a twelfth issue is a fitting and compelling cap to the story up till now. What has been highly entertaining about the whole series is the dedication of one “episode” each per Doctor, with a thrilling, classic episode-like throughline for the whole thing. In general, the stories are varied enough yet coherent to the throughline that it reads like an actual series you’d find on TV. The art is also varied as per each artist, yet maintains a high quality we’ve come to expect from the Who comics and again makes us almost think we’re watching favorite episodes on TV.

#9 is of course starring the 9th Doctor (and Rose). It’s a fun megalomanaiacal villain who captures Rose both as a selfish romantic interest, and to trap the Doctor. (Incidentally, is it me or are you sick of Rose as a romantic interest?) The art is very Lichtenstein, very cinematic.

#10 stars the 10th doctor and Martha, and is a charming story set in 1950s Hollywood, where Martha is recruited as an actress. Lovely cute moments, including one where Martha declares: “I’m acquainted with Shakespeare.” Ha! Of course, it’s an alien invasion of Earth. Because you can’t have too many of those.

#11 centers around the 11th Doctor’s climactic attempts to stop Adam’s machinations through time. At this point, Adam has captured all of the Doctor’s companions and it’s finally time to put a stop to it. Wonderfully dramatic moment when the villain pontificates (as Doctor Who villains are wont to do) on why he hates the Doctor so, and poof! Who’s he in league with? The Master! Thanks SEP130396-03to the artists for making him the Delgado Master, too.

#12 is the conclusion to the whole story, which I won’t spoil, other than in #11 the Doctor was posed with a moral conundrum and in this concluding issue must solve it. What I will say, though, is that this is the Three/Five Doctors episode all Whovians fantasize about, that could never happen on television: all 11 Doctors and *all* companions facing the evil Master in an over-the-top, dramatic showdown. All of them, that is, as we knew them on TV. In comics, apparently, one can time-travel just a little better than on TV.

Bottom Line: I recommend this whole storyline, but especially had fun with the conclusion.

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