Monday, January 31, 2011

Castle - "Knockdown"

Season one gave us some tidbits. The season two episode "Sucker Punch" gave us the first part of the story. In this week's episode of Castle, "Knockdown", we get the next big chunk of the mystery.

I'll get to the rest of the episode in a moment. But first, a recap of what we know so far about Johanna Beckett's death.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Flogging a dead horse - in 3D!

James Cameron announced via EW today that he's in the process of writing the next two Avatar films. At the moment, they're due out at Christmas-time of 2014 and 2015.

My first reaction, I have to admit, was apprehension. On the whole, I trust James Cameron to deliver an entertaining movie, but the last time someone rushed out two sequels at once to cash in on the franchise, we ended up with The Matrix: Revolutions and Reloaded.

First reactions to Castle's "Knockdown"

Ha! I was right.

But, they also did a beautiful job of building the intimacy between them through the episode, so that a kiss was almost inevitable anyway, what with all the feelings flying around.

I'm curious, though, with them having taken the relationship that teeny step forward whether they'll choose to backtrack, to keep the new status quo, or to be daring and let it go forward.


(I'll write more on the episode later in the week. I'd like to watch the episode again. And possibly "Sucker Punch" also.)

Who killed Beckett's mother? Recapping what we know so far.

I was watching The Big Bang Theory this evening, and CTV was busy promoting the heck out of Castle. There's a new episode tomorrow, in which [spoiler] happens. And, according to the trailer...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

a little bit of Star Wars geekdom

I stumbled across a couple of things this week that made my geeky heart go pitter-pat. Apparently, there are cut scenes floating around out there from the original Star Wars movies.

Rumour has it that George Lucas is intending to add the deleted scenes as extras on the Blu-Ray release of the movies in the fall of 2011. Rumour also has it that he's planning to make even more changes to the original trilogy, including replacing shots of Vader out of his helmet with shots of Hayden Christensen. (There is an interesting article in the Guardian about George Lucas' extreme and nauseating hypocrisy on that subject.)

The first scene is from A New Hope. There was, apparently, an earlier cut of the movie that was quite different from the one that was released. In it, Luke spots the fighting going on above Tatooine and runs to tell his friends. He runs into Biggs who is home from the Academy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

more bits of interesting: The Big Bang Theory and Firefly's Jewel Staite

I should have waited another day before posting. I have two more bits of interesting!

First of all, The Big Bang Theory has been renewed. It has been renewed, in fact, not for one more season, but for three more. The quality of the episodes this season has been a little uneven, but for the sake of the occasional episode that makes me pee my pants, this is a definite HURRAY!

On a marginally related note, if you've ever been curious about what those vanity cards at the end of each episode of The Big Bang Theory actually say, you can find them all here. They're written by the producer, Chuck Lorre, who is also responsible for Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly, Dharma & Greg, Cybill and Grace Under Fire. Vanity cards for those episodes can be found through links at the same site.

Secondly, Jewel Staite, who played Kaylee the mechanic on Firefly, is going to be blogging semi-regularly on Blastr. Today's post can be found here. It's a nice mix of information about her life and answers to reader questions. She also talks about why watching Serenity makes her cry.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

little bits of news: Ghostbusters III, The Hobbit and Castle

A few things have filtered down the pipe over the last couple of days.

Ghostbusters III is still moving forward. According to Ivan Reitman, there is a completed draft of the script and it has been sent to Bill Murray. Murray, it seems, is the last of the original cast who hasn't yet agreed to appear in the movie. Other than that, Reitman says all the gossip that has been circulating on the internet about the project is wrong.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Star Wars had nothing to do with it

I stumbled onto this article the other day. "Shoulda Been Bigger: How Star Wars Killed Babylon 5." It posits that science fiction fans were so wrapped up in the Star Wars prequels that they had no attention left to spend on science fiction television like Babylon 5. And that in a world with no Star Wars prequels, presumably, Babylon 5 would have launched into a hugely successful franchise.

I call bullshit.

Friday, January 7, 2011

True Grit

I went to see True Grit last week. I didn't know much about it going in - Firefly aside, I'm not really a 'western' kinda girl. The trailer my friend sent me looked funny, though, so off we went.

I really enjoyed about 90% of it. It had a good story, and kind of a dry sense of humour, and I got a huge kick out of that. I did feel, though, that it fell apart a little toward the end. Still, on the whole, an enjoyable experience.

For anyone who hasn't seen it, it's the story of Mattie Ross. Mattie is a 14-year-old girl whose father has been killed by his former business associate, Tom Chaney. Mattie travels to the town where he was killed, sent by her mother to collect the body and put his affairs in order.

She does as she's told, but sends the body home with a friend and stays on to hire a U.S. Marshal to help her hunt down Tom Chaney, who has escaped into Indian Territory, and bring him to justice. She looks for the Marshal with the most badass reputation, and finds Rooster Cogburn, an aging one-eyed alcoholic.

They set out into the wilderness, and along the way their mission is complicated by the arrival of LaBoeuf (pronounced throughout the movie, I'm afraid, as LeBeef), a Texas Ranger who also wants Tom Chaney. Tom Chaney, it turns out, has a string of similar misdeeds in his past and is generally not a nice man.

Jeff Bridges as Cogburn was wonderful. Crusty and crochety as he was, you really came to love him. And his relationship with Mattie was complicated and beautiful. His rivalry with Matt Damon's LaBoeuf, on the other hand, was hilarious. LaBoeuf himself was kind of a whiny little shit, but in a wonderful way.

The most amazing thing, though, was Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie. Good Lord. If is to be believed, this little girl is actually fourteen years old. Fourteen years old! And she carried the entire movie. And she was brilliant. I can't even wrap my head around that. My car is fourteen years old. I was kind of assuming she was another of those early-twenty-somethings playing fourteen. Clearly not.

Mattie was an enormously interesting character. She always said exactly what she thought. She was very direct, and very, very smart. You could see she was scared, but it never stopped her. She was a tough negotiator, and for the most part she got exactly what she was after. It did lead to some interesting consequences, though.

There was one scene where LaBoeuf actually does what he threatened to do and takes her over his knee and spanks her. The scene was set up to be funny, and I found myself laughing at it. Until the politically correct part of my brain piped up that, technically, this man was beating a child, and it shouldn't be funny.

I found myself thinking about this after the movie. Basically, was I a bad person for laughing at it. And in the end, I decided no.

Mattie was walking around a frontier town, alone, acting for all intents and purposes as an adult. She was getting in the faces of some very powerful and not-so-nice people, and she was - deliberately or not - counting on her status as a child for protection. And in an environment like that, she was just lucky the consequences of her actions came back to her as a little girl and not as a woman.

Also, LaBoeuf wasn't actually doing her any harm. He spanked her and he struck her across the legs with a switch a few times. I'm sure it hurt, but she wasn't injured in any way. And her tears, I think, were more for the humiliation of it than for the pain.

(Please don't take this, by the way, as an argument for corporal punishment. This was not about a parent disciplining a child. This was about a Texas Ranger in the wild west lashing out at an antagonist. It was the best out of a series of bad options, is what I'm trying to say.)

And on an only tangentially related note, I wanted to comment on the courtroom scene in the movie.

Mattie's goal was to bring Tom Chaney back to stand trial for the murder of her father. So, early in the film, we have a courtroom scene for an unrelated case, which has the double purpose of showing us the legal system that Mattie is so attached to, and of introducing us to the questionable tactics of Rooster Cogburn.

And it played exactly like a scene from Law & Order. I was riveted.

Like I said, I'm not a western kinda girl, so I don't know if it's like this in all the movies. The image I have in my head, though, is of the lone sheriff, or the vigilante in a lawless territory. Seeing that sophisticated Law & Order legal system in action in that context was just awesome.

So... yes. On the whole, I enjoyed it. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has seen it. What did you think? Particularly of the ending. It didn't really work for me, but I'm looking for other opinions.

Firefly references in Castle

Here at last!

I am a huge Firefly fan and I adore Castle as well. I get such a kick out of all the little Firefly references that they've been sneaking into Castle over the last couple of seasons.

And the good news is, I've finally put my little notes together and created what will be a comprehensive list of all the Firefly references in Castle, with details, explanations and clips!

Have you noticed any references that I've missed? If so, I'd love to hear about it. Want more details? Have any questions? Drop me a comment! I'm very excited about my little project.

Check it out here!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The King's Speech

I went to see The King’s Speech this afternoon and loved it. It was just utterly beautiful.

The story, on the surface of it, is very simple. Albert (called Bertie), second son of King George V, a man destined to lead a public life in an age where radio was the new phenomenon, has a serious speech impediment. He has struggled with it all his life, but now, as the country moves through the tumultuous 1930s, he needs his voice. His wife finds a speech therapist for him, Lionel Logue, who will try to help him in spite of himself.

The true and complete joy of this movie, however, is the characters and the actors who play them. Every single character on the screen was a real person. They were complicated and three-dimensional. They were human. And they brought their humanness to these huge historic events in a way that made them understandable. And your heart broke for them, and soared with them.

And Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth were both outstanding. Outstanding. For Colin Firth, it was not only the replication of the physical disability, but the frustration, the fear, the humiliation, the anger, and the very kind and honourable man underneath. And Geoffrey Rush brought his immeasurable skill to creating the one ‘everyday’ man among all these giants. A man who could stand up to kings.

I don’t want to get into the whole Oscar thing, but if they should win, it would be immensely well-deserved.

Helena Bonham Carter, playing Bertie’s wife, was also excellent. The friend who went with me to the movies commented that it was nice to see her be not-crazy, for once. Hers was a very delicate performance here, creating a strong and complex woman. And her relationship with her husband was just perfect.

The supporting characters were equally wonderful. The two little girls playing Elizabeth and Margaret were very good, and nothing about them was overly precocious. The same goes for the boys playing Logue’s sons.

Jennifer Ehle, who last starred with Colin Firth in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, played Logue’s wife in The King’s Speech. It took me a minute to recognise her, but she is always a delight.

And Guy Pearce as David was a little bit mind-blowing. I saw Priscilla: Queen of the Desert again only a couple of days ago, and it took my brain a minute to stop screaming “It’s Felicia!”

The cast is rounded out with such British powerhouses as Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi and Timothy Spall, among others.

One of the things that fascinated me most was the shorthand that the movie was able to use. The script spent no time, at all, educating the audience about the war or the politics or the consequences. It was all about the characters and their reactions to the immediate struggles in their lives. So, if you don’t know anything about World War II, you would still be able to follow the movie and appreciate it.

But the more you know about what’s coming, the more the movie expands, the more it becomes epic, and desperate, and tragic. And a shot of three young men sitting in the parlour with their mother goes from being just another piece in a montage to being unbearably sad.

And the most beautiful moments were so subtle, so deftly done. The characters were so complete, so real, that the slight change of expression on a mother’s face had such a world of meaning. And, understanding that what I’m about to say has nothing to do with historical accuracy, the movie made it feel real. It made me feel like I really understood what it felt like to be there. Like I went through it with them. The sign of an excellent film.

That said, this movie is not for everyone. It falls into the general category of stodgy British costume drama, and it was decidedly more about the characters than the plot. If you’re not big on anything that doesn’t contain giant killer robots? This movie is not for you.

If you do like a really good drama, though? Definitely check this one out. It’s a thing of beauty.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Troubled Waters, by Sharon Shinn

Ignore the cover. Ignore the official blurb on the back of the book. Neither of them do this book any justice. If you enjoyed Sharon Shinn's Angel books, I recommend you pick up this one as well.

The main character of Troubled Waters is Zoe Ardelay. Her father was once a respected member of court, but he fell out of favour and was exiled from the capital when Zoe was 13. For the past ten years Zoe has lived in a small village in the far western reaches of the kingdom.

As the book begins, Zoe's father has just died, and shortly after the funeral, an emissary from the king arrives to take Zoe back to the capital to become the King's fifth wife. Zoe is too overwhelmed by her grief to object. But when the emissary turns his back as they arrive in the capital city to deal with blockages in the road, Zoe steps out of the carriage and disappears into the city.

Zoe has always had an affinity for water, and makes a life for herself among the vagrants who live along the river's edge. Over time, she comes to terms with her grief and begins to learn more about her family heritage, both her father's and her mother's. And she comes into power, both political and physical. And, as with most of Shinn's novels, this one is also a love story.

I really enjoyed this book. Sharon Shinn tends to be my go-to author for comfort reading, and this turned out to be the perfect book to curl up with over Christmas. That said, it wasn't just fluff. The characters had depth and edges. There were interesting questions raised about the use and abuse of power.

And there developed a truly fascinating relationship between Zoe and the memories of her late father. As she moves through the story, she begins to learn things about her father and herself that she never knew. Things that are complicated and upsetting. She discovers the lies he told her. And she can't confront him, can't talk to him about any of it. And Shinn allows Zoe to embody all of the complexity that that entails.

And all of that is encased in another delightful world that Shinn has created. It's incredibly detailed, and as with the Angel books, this one contains a religion that is simple but also holds great depth. And there is a similar mixture of an old world feeling with new burgeoning technologies. I really enjoyed spending time there, and I hope this one isn't just a stand-alone. The world Shinn created here has breadth enough to support a series of books. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed.

Troubled waters is a good read; it's comfortable enough to immerse yourself in with enough substance to keep your mind engaged and Shinn's deft touch of romance. Recommended.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Adopting an ancestor

My grandfather's father, John, was illegitimate. We know his father's name, Mathew, and that he was a seaman, but that's all.

Two members of my extended family and I have been searching, independently, for more information about this man for years. We've found someone who could possibly be the one, but we have no way to prove it. He was of the right age, living in the right city at the right time. But given Mathew's occupation was listed as seaman, he could also have been a sailor in port on leave, in which case we'll never find him.

In case, some day, the missing link shows up that will definitively tie this Mathew to our family tree, I've been looking into his. I've found his parents, his siblings, their spouses and children. And I was hoping to find some direct descedants from Mathew himself.

What I've found, though, has just made me sad.

Mathew had two sons, born in 1867 and 1868. His wife died in 1870, when their children were only toddlers. The older boy, also called John, died of scarlet fever in 1871. Mathew himself died in 1875, leaving his younger son James orphaned. Mathew's father, James' grandfather, died that same year. Mathew's mother had died three years earlier in 1872, and James' grandparents on his mother's side had died before he was born.

James' brother John's death was the last piece I uncovered, and it's just so immeasurably sad. One by one, little James lost every single member of his family within a five-year span. What kind of mark must that have left on him?

He survived it all, though.

The 1881 census has him living with his unmarried aunt and uncle, attending school. In 1891 he is attending the University of Glasgow, from which he graduated with a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Divinity. After that, he sailed for India to work there as a missionary.

It's not surprising, somehow, that he turned to religion, with so many losses in his life at such a young age. It's also not surprising that he travelled so far away. He had very few ties left to keep him at home. I'm sure he was looking for somewhere he could belong.

The last piece of information I have is a record that he sailed from India to London in 1918. I don't know if that was the end of his travels, if he returned home to visit his cousins, or whether he went back to India or on to some other exotic place. I don't know if he ever married, or when or where he died.

I do plan to keep looking though. I would feel bad leaving him all alone after this.

And it's a shame that, if we are related, he never knew he had a half-brother not so far away.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tasteless? I'm not sure...

I'm watching a show called Finding the Fallen on BBC Canada. Not a show I've seen before. It seems to consist of a team of archaeologists who dig in former war zones to find fallen soldiers who never got a proper burial.

The episode I'm watching centres around three German soldiers who were found in a field in Ypres, where they fought and died in 1914.

Having found these three boys, the archaeologists want to re-enact their journey from the training camp to the field where they died. Which, conceptually, is a wonderful idea. It is certainly bringing the lives of these boys to life and giving tragic context to the pile of bones that has been dug up.

What's making me a little uncomfortable, though, is that the archaeologists are re-enacting this in costume.

Partly, I feel like this turns it into a game. Scholars playing dress-up. It lets them think they really know what it was like, and they cannot possibly. I feel like this cheapens it, somehow. Like they're not showing respect.

But, also, part of me feels like it's tasteless for British men, who were the victors in that war, to dress up in the uniforms of the army that lost and parade through the streets of a German town.

On the other hand, it has been more than 90 years since that war. No one who was alive then is around to see them and be offended. Is it purely history now? Or is it still too close for this to really be in good taste?

I'd be curious to know what other people think.