The White Queen is a BBC/Starz series about the war of the roses. It’s basically Game of Thrones, but without the sex, violence, dragons, sense of humor, and instantly compelling characters. Who has the rightful claim to the throne? Let’s stand around and talk about it and also have two people fall in love. So… I didn’t even make it to the end, because this is definitely not for me.
Amusingly, the writer of The White Queen is Emma Frost, who shares a name with comics’ White Queen. She gave an interview to the comic character’s fan site where she gave some backstory on it. I was hoping the show started as a joke but somehow ended up getting greenlit, but alas that was not the case.
Man of Steel has some cool superhero action, though not much better than in a couple of Justice League Unlimited episodes, and it is pretty well cast with likable actors, but the story really lost me on several occasions. Which I can only discuss in a very spoiler-filled way, so proceed with caution:
King & Maxwell is a TNT show (you can tell by the “name & name” title) which is roughly the billionth entry in the two-people-solve-crimes-with-sexual-tension genre. This time, featuring Rebecca Romijn and the guy who played Fritz on The Closer. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the show, it’s just too much like every other show ever to waste my time watching.
Marvel Heroes is the free-to-play Diablo-esque game set in the Marvel Universe. It’s close to a perfectly playable game, but it has a number of problems.
The biggest is that it’s done as an MMORPG, which as far as I can tell adds nothing to the game but annoyances. In certain locations, your screen is littered with other players. But there’s no real reason to interact with them at all. No trading system that I’m aware of, hardly anyone talks, an auto-party system that forces you into a group with 3 strangers but doesn’t force you to cooperate at all (most of the time, half your party races through the big crowded open areas, while the other half stops to fight any enemies they encounter). As far as I can tell, the only real benefit to having anyone else around is that they can revive you when you die. Which saves you the minor inconvenience of starting over at your last save point. What the other people do more than anything is slow your game down. Something they call “event villains” occasionally puts a boss (Venom, for example) in a big open area and it prompts dozens of people to go fight him. And then all those people on the screen at once makes the game lag pretty badly (my computer is not particularly fast, but I dial all the video options down and it’s still an issue, so I’m fairly confident it’s either taxing the server or the network connection).
Another problem is that they chose a particularly low angle from which to show the action, presumably to get a better view of combat animations. But that means any time you walk past the north side of a building, the building has to become partially invisible for you to see yourself. Which mostly works out fine, but it can be a real challenge to figure out where a door is, because the roof doesn’t become invisible early enough.
There’s also the issue of using one story for a bunch of characters. The free starting characters are Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Thing, Storm, or Daredevil. Since he is my favorite Marvel character, I naturally went with Daredevil. And within the first 30 minutes or so, I, as Daredevil, had to ask Wonder Man and Valkyrie to tell me about Hell’s Kitchen and the Hand. Which makes no sense at all, since that’s my neighborhood and fighting Hand ninjas is kinda my thing.
On a related note, the Daredevil voice actor is all wrong. He sounds like Wolverine, which is almost the opposite of Daredevil (though fighting Hand ninjas is also Wolverine’s thing). I get the instinct to go with a tough guy voice, because Daredevil stories frequently involve horrible things happening to Matt’s loved ones and him getting angry and all the things you normally associate with a tough guy sort of person. But that’s not who he is at all, he’s a charmer both professionally and personally, so the idea that he’d have a hoarse, intimidating voice just doesn’t make sense. Also, I don’t think he’d want to be an Avenger ever, and even though he did join the New Avengers for about 15 issues, I like to pretend that never happened, so him taking orders from Nick Fury and Maria Hill seems all wrong.
There are other heroes you can either buy or acquire through gameplay (I played 3-4 hours and picked up Scarlet Witch as well). But it’s a really weird selection of characters. 2 of the Fantastic Four, Cable is one of the X-Men choices, they included Squirrel Girl and Rocket Raccoon but not Iron Fist or Iceman or Beast or Wasp or Hank Pym or Kitty Pryde or Vision or Valkyrie (though some of them appear as NPCs).
After an opening cinematic, the story is told through motion comics written by Brian Michael Bendis. The art/animation is a little iffy, but not the worst (it was really only bad in one spot, where Elektra. And a lot of the voice actors were pretty good. Keith David voices Nick Fury and I’m pretty sure they used the Spider-Man from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. These were decent enough that I pushed forward despite my reservations, but then the end of chapter 3 or 4 basically undid everything that happened, returning the MacGuffin to its original owner, basically stopping the story dead. And then you get diverted into an Mutant Growth Hormone story, something that Bendis has been trying to make a thing forever, but I don’t think anyone else cares.
So that pissed me off and I’m definitely done now. I demand my $0 back!
Graceland is USA’s new series about a beach house full of various federal agencies’ agents. I wondered going in what is the purpose of having all these undercover feds in out house, and unless I zoned out for part of the show, no one bothered to ask that question. They’re just some vague open-ended undercover operation run jointly by the FBI, DEA, and ICE because why not, I guess.
The pilot opens with a “this is based on a true story” bit of scrolling explanation text, ending with “a house unofficially known as….” with a giant wait for slow readers to get to the ellipses followed by the title logo. This felt extremely 1980s to me. And then they ended up with kind of a Point Break vibe to the pilot. Not what I was expecting.
The cast is actually pretty good (though I understand my favorite of the bunch will be replaced in the second episode), with that Puerto Rican guy from Rescue Me and the long time DA from Law & Order: CI and apparently soon the girl from Breakout Kings who looks like Lindsey Lohan’s hotter sister (but that still doesn’t make her exceptionally TV-hot). But overall I didn’t really like the pilot very much. Not that it was bad, I was just unimpressed. Which is the 2nd straight USA pilot I haven’t liked, which bodes poorly for a network that had a really long track record of getting me to watch their original series.
Once again, a top 10 everything at the end of the TV season (having picked June 1st as my arbitrary cutoff date).
Half hour TV
- Parks and Recreation is consistently funnier than anything out there.
- Arrested Development produced the most complicated season of a TV comedy I’ve ever seen, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
- Archer was not quite as good as seasons past, but its fourth season was still excellent.
- Louie is still good, but the most recent season wasn’t all that funny. The trip to Miami and the three episodes about The Late Show were interesting stories, but almost no laughs.
- The Thick of It went out in top form, and Malcolm Tucker probably goes down as one of the better characters in the history of television.
- Legit is too offensive to be sappy but still manages to handle difficult topics in an interesting and thoughtful way. And it is still very funny.
- Wilfred‘s second season was so long ago I had to look it up to remember what happened in what season, but from what I remember it was pretty good.
- The League is just stupid fun. I care nothing for the characters or plot, but the show makes me laugh.
- Peep Show had a good 8th season, just not as good as the first 7.
- Modern Family is just a generally well-made sitcom.
Almost made the cut: Don’t Trust the B…, 30 Rock, Cougar Town, It’s Always Sunny….
Notably absent: Community (this season was not very good), Venture Bros. (for the 2nd straight year, they only managed 1 episode, but the 5th season begins just after my 6/1 cutoff for this list), or anything on Showtime (Californication is absurd, House of Lies is ok, and Episodes isn’t very interesting except for Matt LeBlanc)
- Breaking Bad, duh. My only complaint is that I’m still waiting for the latter half of season 5.
- Game of Thrones, or “dragons and titties.” Technically, this includes the season 2 finale and the first 8 episodes of season 3, but I continue to enjoy this series a lot.
- Justified just seems to get better and better every year.
- The Newsroom is a show I kind of want to hate, because so much of it is bullshit. But it is bullshit for which I am a sucker. And Aaron Sorkin writes possibly the snappiest dialogue around.
- Suits is actually a pretty stupid concept for a show, since our non-law-talkin-guy hero could do 99% of what he does now as a paralegal, and it would be legally and ethically just fine. But putting that aside, the show is damn entertaining. And also every episode, Donna the redheaded secretary seems to get hotter.
- Shameless was really, impressively good this season. The show gives you so much over-the-top insanity that you forget it’s sometimes a drama, and they completely blindsided me with an absolutely heartbreaking season finale. Emotional kick in the balls. I’m really looking forward to the next season.
- The Americans had a really exciting pilot and then the actual show turned out to be quite different. Very little action, mostly taking place in suburbia, but the show’s take on cold war spy games was really fascinating. And Keri Russell is still a good looking lady.
- Lost Girl is a show where I hate how much I like it. At first I just watched it because the lead actress was hot, but then the hotness of her sidekick grew on me, and now I actually give a crap about the show. It’s kinda dumb but I can’t help it.
- House of Cards was quite good. And Kate Mara is hot. And I will totally watch a second season. But I’m also not super excited about it. I don’t know why.
- Psych was a little bogged down by some relationship drama for a bit, and I think it may be close to time for this show to end, but I enjoyed the newest season (which was a full 10 months after the previous season ended on a cliffhanger).
Almost made the cut: Homeland (pretty good, but a letdown after season one), White Collar (I can’t think of a complaint or a compliment), Person of Interest (a huge improvement over season 1), The Walking Dead (big improvement over season 2)
Notably absent: Misfits (I still watch it, but meh)
- Saga is funny and vulgar and exciting and basically everything I want in a comic.
- Hawkeye is basically everything I want in a superhero comic. It’s slickly designed, has tons of action, and even though he’s a character I never cared about, it makes Hawkguy pretty interesting. And also Kate Biship is badass.
- Locke and Key would be higher on this list if the wait between issues wasn’t so excruciating. It’s slower to come out than most comics by quite a bit (4 issues of the 7-part finale have come out since November), and each issue leaves me desperate to read the next.
- Daredevil is really well made and deserves all the awards it’s been getting. I’m late to the Mark Waid bandwagon but as I check out more of his earlier works he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite writers.
- Witch Doctor: Mal Practice is the second Witch Doctor mini and it’s just as good as the first. That a mix of Lovecraftian horror and comedy works so well is impressive.
- Manhattan Projects is losing a little bit of momentum but I still enjoy it quite a bit.
- The Legend of Luther Strode, the second Luther Strode mini, is still underway, but it remains the bloodiest comic out there, and it’s damn entertaining too.
- Indestructible Hulk is the first concept for a Hulk book that I’ve been interested in: Banner gives up on stopping the Hulk, and gets S.H.I.E.L.D. to give him a lab and a staff to do whatever he wants, in exchange for S.H.I.E.L.D. getting to drop him like a bomb on places they need wrecked. And it, like Daredevil, is written by Mark Waid.
- Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific was not my favorite Atomic Robo miniseries, but it’s still a good one.
- Wonder Woman has been pretty good from the start, but even better with the introduction of Orion.
Just missed the cut: Grim Leaper (a surprisingly good romance/death comic), Batman (lots of people loved Death of the Family, I thought it was only ok), Captain Marvel (very hit or miss), Stumptown, Daredevil: End of Days (might be great, but a lot is riding on the “Mapone” reveal), Private Eye (only 2 issues so far), Five Weapons (goofy but fun), Avengers and New Avengers (both good, but both still early enough that I haven’t decided how good), Fatale (consistently good, rarely great), Nowhere Men (mostly because it’s a wonderfully designed book)
Notably absent: Blackacre (the first issue really impressed me, since then not so much), Fables (it’s maybe better than that toyland arc, but still not that great), Nonplayer, Secret, and S.H.I.E.L.D. (those last three have had major delays… Nonplayer #1 came out in early 2011 and we still don’t have a #2, but it was so good I’m still holding out hope).
- Django Unchained is a funny and exciting and action-paked movie. I just wish QT’s pointlessly bad Australian accent wasn’t in it.
- Iron Man 3 is really damn good. Rumor is Robert Downey Jr. is asking for $100 million for a 2 picture deal to play Tony Stark some more, and crazy as it sounds, he’s worth it.
- Brave just makes me wonder what Pixar knows that everyone else who makes family-friendly movies doesn’t.
- The Dark Knight Rises is flawed in a lot of ways, but it’s still a grand and exciting conclusion to Nolan’s Batman. And Catwoman was badass. Why is that so hard for comics people to do?
- Dredd really surprised me. It sounded like the possibilities for a sequel were dead, but during Star Trek promotion, Karl Urban made it sound like there was still some chance. Here’s hoping.
- Argo was very good, but still puzzling how the Oscars decided it was the best of the year.
- Skyfall is a beautifully filmed movie. The action and plot and things don’t stick in my mind as much as the cinematography.
- Looper has done the reverse of Django, I think my initial reaction was so positive because original science fiction stories are all too rare in movies. I still like it, but the plot is extremely contrived. So many people have to be irrational idiots for things to be the way they are.
- This is 40 is not only a funny movie, it understands my deep and personal relationship with Lost
- The Amazing Spider-Man may only be in this space because of Emma Stone. I don’t think Andrew Garfield had the pre-spider-bite Peter Parker right in the slightest. He’s an awkward nerd in this sense of the term. I may have wanted to punch Tobey Maguire in the face, but at least I found it believable that his Peter Parker couldn’t get laid.
Just missed the cut: Butter (Olivia Wilde makes out with Ashley Greene in this movie, it is by default good), Ted
Notably absent: The Hobbit (it wasn’t bad, and the HFR 3D thing may have been more to blame than the movie itself, but I don’t remember this movie particularly fondly), Star Trek (also not bad, but using Benedict Cumberbatch as you-know-who and then having him be a pretty bland villain is very disappointing), and all the things from the past year I still haven’t seen.
The Hangover Part III is a terribly unfunny movie and should be seen by no one. Most bad comedies have a series of misfires but manage one or two big laughs, this does not.
Safety Not Guaranteed is the movie based on the time travel classified ad (which apparently was written as filler) with Aubrey Plaza and that guy from The League. I was extremely disappointed that “Push It To the Limit” wasn’t on the soundtrack. Also extremely disappointed with the predictable ending. But it was actually kind of an interesting movie up to that point. If only because it sort of took the “manic pixie dream girl” trope and swapped the genders, with Aubrey Plaza kind of trapped in a normal life and then the cooky guy showing her how to enjoy life.
It was weird that Mary-Lyn Rajskub, Jeff Garlin, and Kristen Bell were in this movie, for like a combined total of 3 minutes.
The fourth season of Arrested Development is very strange but ultimately very good. It’s a format that is impossible on network TV because it basically requires filming the entire season first then editing the whole mess together. And probably near-impossible on cable, just because of how confusing it could be if doled out in 30 minute chunks a week at a time. I was a little worried at first, to be honest, since the early episodes felt so radically different from the original series. But the later episodes, as they started to tie all the plot threads together, felt a lot like the earlier seasons. Or at least like the sometimes manic endings of episodes that brought various elements of the episodes (and past episodes) together for something big. Just that this time, they spent several episodes telling relatively traditional stories, but unbeknownst to the viewers, they were setting up jokes for later. And sometimes punchlines before the setups.
I understand that part of the reason for the odd format was because it was difficult to schedule the main cast to be around at the same time, but the results are actually pretty interesting to me. I think it might be really off-putting to non-hardcore fans, though. It’s easily the most complicated season of a comedy series I’ve ever seen. And it’s more complex than nearly all dramas. It jumps around in time a lot, shows you the same events from a bunch of different angles, and relies on you keeping a lot of it straight to understand not just the jokes but some major plot points. The narration helps out, but sometimes things are pretty frantic, and even with Ron Howard telling you what’s happening, you can miss things. Plus, the general thought was that one of the reasons that the show didn’t catch on was that the characters weren’t likable except Michael and George Michael. And Michael, at least, is a ton less likable here.
I’m not sure it’s quite as good as the first three seasons, but it’s still something I enjoyed. And will re-watch at least a few more times to make sure I’ve picked up everything.
A really long list of things I noticed in the first re-watch or otherwise found interesting. With obviously lots of spoilers:
Parker is an adaptation of one of Richard Stark’s Parker movies starring Jason Staham. I was interested in seeing this, and only found out in the past week or two that it was out in theaters months ago and was already released on video. I like Jason Staham movies and I like the Parker stories, but combining them results in something dissatisfying. I haven’t read the book this movie was based on, but I felt like they made the Parker character a little too nice (he has a certain set of ethics, but he is mean to basically everyone) and they made the action scenes a little too over-the-top (but not so over-the-top that they were Crank levels of ridiculous fun).