Holiday stuff of various media, roughly worst to best:
- Legend stars Tom Hardy as real-life twin criminals from 1960s London. I had high hopes after seeing Brian Helgeland wrote and directed it, but lowered when I saw that it was based on a true story. Being based on reality usually doesn’t do much for me, and I think Tom Hardy playing fictional twin criminals could have had a more satisfying story.
- Fences features good performances from Denzel and especially Viola Davis, but it’s an adaptation of a play, and I wonder if they really gained anything by not just filming a production of the play. Denzel riding on a garbage truck for 2 minutes in the beginning is the only time there’s any on-screen movement, otherwise it’s people sitting/standing around talking the whole time. Also a shit ending.
- Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is an Australian series available on netflix, kinda Murder, She Wrote in the 20s in Australia. Except she’s not a writer, and kinda hot (pictured), and kinda promiscuous. But it’s the same kind of feel, where people get murdered all the time, yet it somehow remains generally lighthearted and fun. I get a little annoyed that they give the title character entirely 21st century values, to both look down on her nose at her 1920s contemporaries, and to make the 21st century audience like her. But they actually make up for it with her promiscuity. A male lead in this kind of show, bedding a different woman in most every episode, that would be mundane, but a female lead sleeping a different dude every episode? That feels borderline revolutionary. It’s not salacious or anything, which is good because I thought the murder mystery/period costume aspect made it something my mother might like, so watching something borderline pornographic with her would have been awkward. But it is oddly refreshing to see a little equity in the one-and-done romance department.
- The Undoing Project is Michael Lewis’ book on two Israeli psychologists from the 70s who revolutionized the study of how people make decisions, with impacts on economics and lots of other disciplines. It touches on a lot of things I already knew about, but also introduced new concepts to me. And Lewis (Moneyball, The Big Short, and husband of MTV News‘ Tabitha Soren) has a knack for making complex stuff accessible and entertaining.
Normal is a Warren Ellis novel serialized as four $2 e-books, about a new patient at a mental asylum for people who know too much. Specifically, it’s based on the idea that certain people, futurists and strategic thinkers, inevitably go crazy (they “stare at the abyss too long”). It’s a great setting, full of unhinged characters with the kind of technological paranoia Ellis can write really well. And just random interesting asides (the zombie fungus is real and unnerving). Oddly, like Elektrograd, it’s a pretty simple trope for the main plot, which turns out to be locked room mystery. I enjoyed this a lot.
It made me think I should read more books, but when I came back from vacation to a week of unwatched TV and the “1K+” unread count in Feedly, I got the sense that probably isn’t going to happen.
Elektrograd: Rusted Blood is a novella by Warren Ellis, semi-planned as the first of seven (though it’s doubtful it’ll ever progress beyond this), each taking place in a different part of a futuristic city of experimental architecture. This one is basically a murder mystery set in the city of 50s scifi future, but ~60 years on when things are starting to fall apart. It’s really there for a few choice Ellis lines and the atmosphere of the city. If those two things don’t appeal to you, I wouldn’t bother. But they do appeal to me, so I enjoyed it.
By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain is a digital short story by Joe Hill, which given the cover I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say it’s sort of about Champ, the monster that supposedly lives in the lake. It’s not the greatest story ever, but for 99 cents it’s hard to complain. You’d think at some point I’d read one of his novels, since I like his writing. But it really is rare for me to work up the attention span to tackle a novel.
Twittering from the Circus of the Dead is another one of these 99 cent short stories which amazon calls a “kindle single,” this one by Locke and Key‘s Joe Hill. It consists of the twitter feed of a girl on a family vacation that goes horribly awry, but from the title you can imagine it is not the wacky-family-comedy sort of awry. The twitter gimmick is not as annoying as I worried it would be, and it was a reasonably interesting story.
Dead Pig Collector is a digital-only short story by Warren Ellis about a guy who kills people and disposes of their bodies. He calls it a “novelette” which I guess means it falls between short story and novella, but that’s not a term I’d heard before. It took me like an hour and a half to read, even with frequent workplace interruptions. It’s short and disturbing but interesting and my kind of disturbing and also only 99 cents. Joe Hill also put out one of these recently, which I’ll probably check out soon, since it’s an easily digestible length story for someone with my attention span.
I’m a Warren Ellis fanboy to the point that I pre-ordered Gun Machine months in advance. It arrived Saturday and I read it basically non-stop once I opened it. I really enjoyed the hell out of this. This probably means I should read Crooked Little Vein too, but I might save that for summer, since TV’s about to start occupying a lot of my time again.
For the book, I went in completely cold, knowing only that it had something to do with guns (duh). They made a trailer, featuring Wil Wheaton’s voice and Ben Templesmith’s drawings, which I’d avoided but it’s not particularly spoilery, it’s just an excerpt from the 2nd or 3rd chapter that gives the basic gist of the discovery that drives the plot.
Knowing what the book is about now, I’m quite confused by the idea that it’s being optioned for a TV series. While the first few chapters would translate to a great opening for a pilot, the plot of the book doesn’t lend itself to any episodic storytelling at all, so they are going to have a lot to change.
Random aside, I read non-comic books so infrequently, that despite cataloging basically every bit of media I’ve consumed over the last 2.5 years here, this is the first one.